We spent 3 weeks travelling from Bangkok to Koh Phi Phi, then across to three other gorgeous islands – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao. Here are the highs and the lows we experienced whilst travelling through Thailand in October…
We’ll get the ‘Lows’ out of the way first..
Bartering and Street Hawkers
The one thing that can get very tiring in Thailand is being constantly hassled or having to barter for your lunch or a taxi ride. One of the reasons the locals do it is because a lot of people holiday in Thailand and they are happy with the original price offered by a taxi oblivious to the fact that the price has been tripled.
Getting a Taxi
When we first arrived we paid 1500baht for a 30 minute taxi ride from the airport. When we got a taxi back to the airport after being clued up it only cost us 300 Baht – on the meter. So just be careful and always ask for the meter.
At the airport get a public taxi (the yellow or green ones) they will put the meter on and you won’t get ripped off.
On all of the islands the meter was non-existent. You shouldn’t be paying more than 50baht per person. If they say no, the best piece of advice is to do the ‘walk away’, - just say thank you and walk off as a group, they almost always say OK to your original price.
The Undertones of Tourist Fatigue
Before I visited Thailand I expected to be welcomed with open arms and for everybody to be super friendly. This wasn’t the case. I’m not sure whether it was because we were there in low season and they were all worn out from the high season, or whether the locals are just sick of Westerners coming in and enveloping their country but we didn’t get much of a warm welcome. Don’t expect to be smiled at a lot (in the touristy places at least). On the whole, if they weren’t selling you something or offering you a service the Thai people were friendly and welcoming. I just think the rainy season brings out the misery in all of us!
The Outrageous Islands
The only thing close to the beauty of the Thai islands I have ever experience was Whitsundays in Australia. The pure white sands and blue seas of Australia were incredible but the diversity of the islands in Thailand totally outweighed Australia for me; Nang Yuan being the best of the lot. The sand is pristine, the sea the bluest blue even when it’s cloudy. When the sun bursts through the clouds and lights up the ocean it turns the most epic turquoise I’ve ever seen.
When you arrive at Nang Yuan you have to pay 100 Baht per person but it’s totally worth it. We spent 2 days frolicking there, jumping off rocks and snorkelling around. If you have the stamina there’s a 15 minute trek to the top which can be quite crowded but completely worth the sweat (and sometimes tears)
We also loved Maya Bay. Watch out when you book your boat for the day, make sure you ask if you have to pay when you arrive at Maya Bay because they might have a mate in an ‘official’ polo shirt wanting 400 Baht off each person for ‘parking the boat’.
Other than that Maya bay was really pleasant once you get passed the numerous variety of posing tourists; we witnessed all manner of photo shoots and vanity but it is a superb place for people watching.
The Endless Fire Shows
On every island you will find fire shows, which basically involve locals spinning sticks and balls on chains all ablaze with kerosene. If you’re lucky they will have fire breathers and a fire canon – this is basically a stick they fill with kerosene, light the end and fire it into the air for an overwhelming fireball that feels like it’s melting your face! The best fire show we saw there was on Phi Phi island in a bar called ‘Carlito’s’. The smell of the flames and the mesmerising tricks will stay with you forever.
Hiring a Private Boat
One of the best luxuries in Thailand is hiring your own boat and driver for the day. Now this sounds quite lavish but it’s the done thing and is very very cheap. When I say boat don’t get too excited it’s not a yatch or a speedboat it’s the classic long-tail boats you see on every picture when you type ‘Thailand’ into Google. They usually cost around 400 Baht (£4 or $6.25 US) per person (after a bit of bartering).
The best place to get one is on the harbour, NEVER organise one from inside the island or from the street hawkers because you will get ripped off for sure. Once you’ve organised a price you can choose where you want to visit and wherever you pull up your driver will wait for you. They always have snorkel sets and life jackets aboard as well so no need to buy or rent your own.
Getting a Tuk Tuk
One of the only places to do this is in Bangkok and it is so funny when you first get on. It’s just mind boggling that you’re on a scooter with a makeshift seat and roof on the back. It’s such a wicked way to enjoy the city and you get to smell some wonderful and stomach churning smells whilst you fly through the streets. One thing I would warn is never get in a tuk tuk outside the Grand Palace. They caught us and told us it was closed for praying and eating so we ended up on a Tuk Tuk tour around all the suit and jewellery shops in Bangkok! They do it because the drivers get coupons for petrol. It’s a bit of fun at first then turns into a headache after the 3rd suit shop. You should pay no more than 100Baht for a Tuk Tuk for 4 people.
The Delicious Food
We were kind of snobby in Thailand and avoided most of the street food. Mainly because when we rushed my brother to the Doctor with an allergic reaction to a Mosquito bite, he asked if he’d eaten any street food…
But the Thai food we did eat was DELICIOUS. In Koh Samui we did a small tour which ended in us having a cooking lesson. The ingredients were all picked fresh and they cooked us a Thai Red Curry which was so so tasty.
The best restaurant we ate at was called ‘The Drinks Gallery’ in Koh Samui. It was a bit pricey but no more than you’d pay for a Nando’s in the UK! If you go there get the Lamb Masaman – DELISH.
You can snorkel practically everywhere in Thailand but the best places we found were off Koh Phi Phi on the boat tour there were some great places, just ask your driver when you arrange a boat.
And of course – Koh Tao, all around the island there is excellent snorkelling, Nang Yuang being the most breathtaking.
Everywhere you go in Thailand, providing you are looking at backpacker style accommodation and restaurants, is extremely cheap.
You could easily do 2 months in Thailand on £1000 if you were to budget. We decided against budgeting and just enjoyed it, so in 3 weeks we managed to spend about £900 each, but we were eating in some decent restaurants and stayed in some sweet hotels too!
Here are some examples of average prices:
- Beer - 60Baht (£1.10 or $1.80 US)
- Bottle of Water – 10 Baht (20p or 30cent US)
- Meal - 200Baht (£4 or $6.25 US)
- An private double room – 500Baht (£10 or $16 US) Per Person
- 8 bed dorm – 360Baht (£7 or $11 US)
As you can see the Highs massively outweigh the ‘Lows’. Our experience of Thailand was so exciting and we would love to go back for a few months to see what we missed; I could have spent weeks just laying on the beaches and snorkelling. I would recommend anyone who can make it to visit one day.
If you haven’t already, we actually filmed our 3 weeks so you can see all the things we saw – check it out: