Tom and I flew back to Thailand after our two-week adventure in Vietnam. This time we by-passed Bangkok completely, heading straight for the coach and ferry to Koh Phangan. It was a LONG 24-hour journey, but totally worth it when we arrived at our little beach-side bungalow, as the sun was setting over the horizon.
Like most backpackers, we went to Koh Phangan mostly for the Full Moon Party. It’s a bit strange actually, because Tom and I aren’t exactly a crazy party couple. In England we’d call it a big Saturday night if we had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner! Nonetheless, the Full Moon Party is a bit of a rite of passage for any rooky backpackers and we felt like we shouldn’t miss out!
For those who don’t know, the Full Moon Party is a huge event that takes place every month (on the evening of the Full Moon, funnily enough). The most famous one in Thailand happens along the Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan island, with all the bars along the strip staying open until sunrise of the following day. Think loud music, neon paint, fire-breathers and alcohol/cocktails sold by the bucket.
It was quite an experience, partying with around 10,000 other tourists on a beach. We had a great time even if we didn’t drink as much as everyone else seemed to be! There was lots of dancing and Tom enjoyed showing off doing backflips off the pull-up bar.
Our bungalow was about a 20-minute drive away, as we’d decided to stay in one of the quieter parts of the island. We spent three days altogether on Koh Phangan, alternating between sunbathing on our little private section of the beach and hiding from the torrential thunderstorms that would suddenly start with no warning whatsoever!
Koh Phangan is pretty westernised, probably due to the tens of thousands of tourists that flock there every single month. There are TONNES of vegan and vegetarian places, I had falafel for the first time in forever from the food market at Thongsala pier and we had more than a couple of amazing Pad Thai’s from there as well. There’s a place called Phangan Homemade Ice-cream which did the best Banana ice cream I’ve ever tasted – so I’d definitely recommend a trip there (even if it’s pouring with rain!).
The day after the full moon party, accompanied by hundreds of bleary eyed, worse-for-wear backpackers, we caught a ferry back to the mainland, and then a bus to our next destination – Krabi.
I’m not going to lie. The main reason I chose Krabi, which is on the other side of the country on the Andaman Sea, is because I’d heard that the weather would be better. Koh Phangan was gorgeous, but when it’s rainy season in Thailand you really do spend the majority of your time drenched from head to toe!
Thankfully my prayers were answered. The two days we spent in Krabi had glorious weather. We decided to make the most of it, and booked a boat tour to the Hong Islands for one of the days that we were there.
The Hong Islands are a short, 20-minute speedboat journey away from Krabi’s main pier and they’re pretty much exactly what you imagine when you think of a deserted island. Turquoise waters, white sands, limestone rocks. We snorkelled and sunbathed and finally got that beach-time we were after. There were quite a few tourists of course. We genuinely had to wait in line to get a photo on the wooden swing that looked out over the sea, everyone clamouring for that perfect Instagram. I didn’t mind though- it was too beautiful to care. It turns out we didn’t really have enough time to go and stay on many of the Thai islands, so I’m glad we got that chance to experience a little patch of paradise!
The rest of our time on Krabi was spent wandering along the beach and taking advantage of the gym at the fancy hotel across the road. It was 100 baht (£2.30) for a day pass. That included unlimited access to the hotel facilities, including a very fancy swimming pool, pool bar, and a poolside massage deck. The gym wasn’t bad either!
Our final night we went to the Krabi Night Market, which I’d definitely recommend going to. It was just the right amount of busy, it had a huge street food section and the vendors didn’t hassle you too much as you were walking past. I bought some postcards and we had a couple of drinks to prepare ourselves for a very long mini-bus journey to Phuket the following morning.
Unfortunately, the first thing we really saw in Phuket was the Police Station. Like an idiot, I’d managed to leave my bum-bag on the minibus from Krabi. My bum-bag that contained my wallet, phone, chargers and passport. We managed to locate the bus driver, with a lot of help from the lovely staff at our hostel. He was too far away already to turn around and come back – but he agreed to drop it off at the local police station. Without even stopping to go to the toilet, Tom and I went to the nearest scooter rental, and before we knew it we were back on a motorbike (just like old times) and heading to Phuket Police Station 40 minutes away.
Thankfully, it all turned out fine. The bus driver had stuck to his word and delivered it to the police – although he had also taken the liberty of emptying my wallet in the process. I think he felt that a few hundred baht was an appropriate payment for the inconvenience! By that time though, I didn’t even care. I was just so relieved to have my passport back as I really didn’t fancy a trip to the Embassy!
After all that excitement on our first day, we really didn’t fancy going too crazy in Phuket. We had just enough time to explore the town, play on the beach and find a favourite food stall at the local market.
A lot of what Thailand is about is its street food (I’ve mentioned it in these posts enough times!). I am a little bit wary about that sort of thing, and actively avoided some of the stalls in Bangkok, where everything seemed just a little too dirty. Our favourites were the ones in Chiang Mai, where there was a lady who insisted she would make anything off the menu “in vegetarian”, and Phuket. The market that we found in Phuket was just down the road from our hostel and it was massive. It was also reassuringly clean. Tom and I basically went there for every meal as it was so much cheaper than all of the restaurants. One of my favourites was the Thai-style ice-cream stand, where they’d hand mix your choice of fruit and either milk or yoghurt into freshly made ice cream rolls that you could add unlimited toppings to. Watching your ice cream being custom made in front of your eyes is almost as good as eating it!
We were both actually very excited to leave Thailand. Not because we hadn’t loved it. Our experience there had been amazing and I’d love to go back one day, perhaps to explore more of the islands. However, it was getting so close to our final flight- the one to Sydney- that we were a bit like children impatient for Christmas. We had only 7 days before starting our new life in Oz and it was starting to get very real.