Every person that you speak to who has been to Thailand will say that it has stayed with them long after they left.
At least once every day a blissful memory is stirred of my time there and I have to fight the urge to book another flight.
I think it’s the incredible energy that is in the air as thousands of back-packers head out to explore. It’s clear that you’re in a new country and a vastly different culture, but at the same time it feels so safe, familiar and unforgettably fun. It quickly feels like home.
You’re constantly meeting new people from all over the world no matter where you go. The breathtaking beaches are lined with vibrant bars playing reggae music, the huts are decorated with chilled coconuts and merchandise and travellers mingle without cares, worries or woes.
Thailand comes with this unforgettable sense of freedom. You feel invincible as you jump on a moped to explore one of the islands and full to the brim with adventure as you smear neon paint on your face ready for the Full Moon Party.
Me? I owe everything to Thailand. I took my first steps towards my new life as I landed in Bangkok in January 2015 (with absolutely no idea I was doing it). I fell in love. With the people, the food, the scenery, the parties – and most importantly I found the love of my life as I was bar crawling around Ko Tao! We danced, we flirted and now we are building a life together in Canada.
Travelling took me away from the mundane and violently showed me what is possible. How the world we live in is so beautiful and diverse. How possibility is endless and waiting around every corner.
I crave that feeling of freedom and pure happiness every day and it was Thailand that did it all.
So here is what I got up to in Thailand (North to South) – With bonus accommodation and transport advice!
The famous Khao San Road is a MUST-DO when visiting Bangkok.
During the day, the road is lined with market stalls selling colourful clothing and delicious Thai food.
At night, it transforms into a crowded bass-pumping street party where tuk-tuk drivers sell you tickets to the infamous (and slightly traumatising ‘Ping Pong Show’) and bartenders hand out cheap buckets of cocktails (sorry liver).
If you’re not too sore from a night on Khao San, you can then grab a tuk-tuk to visit the nearby Royal Palace.
For about £10/$15 per ticket, it is expensive in the scheme of things but definitely worth it to behold a thousand mosaics, golden tiles and dragons decorating the multiple buildings in the large complex.
Tip: Dress respectfully and arrive early as the queues can be deadly!
If you have extra time in the area, seek out a local travel agent through your hotel/hostel or on Khao San as they offer day trips to different areas just outside of the city.
I booked a tour to Ayutthaya Historical Park, and despite the sweltering heat, I was so glad I did. Dating back to around 1350, the ruins of the old city consist of several temples and Buddha statues, including the famous Buddha head slowly enveloped in a Banyan tree root.
($$$) Lebua State Tower – If you’re looking to treat yourself and avoid the hostels for a night, this amazing 5* hotel is worth every cent (around £80/$110 per room). Despite being around 15 minutes tuk-tuk from Khao San Road, you can sip cocktails on the glass stairway where they filmed the movie ‘Hangover 2’ and take in the breathtaking views over Bangkok from your room’s balcony. Sometimes a backpacker just needs a little luxury, OK?
($$) Dang Derm – If you’re on a tighter budget but would still like a comfortable private room, you can’t get any more central than at Dang Derm! The hotel is simple, clean and comes with a tasty breakfast. It’s also located right in the middle of the energetic Khao San Road, so prepare for pumping bass until the early hours – All the more reason to go out to the party!
($) Back Home Backpackers – This was officially my first ever hostel I slept in, so it will always have a place in my heart. There’s a great communal area and plenty of that super cool reggae-feel to take advantage of and easily make friends. Not only this, you can walk to Khao San in 5 minutes and save serious money with their cheap fees.
I booked a flight from Bangkok to Phuket which cost around £35/$50 per ticket and lasted about an hour. You can of course jump on one of the cheap buses in Bangkok if you’re on a tighter budget.
During the day, the main beaches of Phuket are filled with families and tourists towel to towel. Because of this, I found that the backpacker atmosphere is definitely lost and it quickly starts to feel like your average vacation destination.
At night, however, Phuket redeems itself in the form of Patong Beach! An amazing nightlife erupts in the darkness as the nightclubs open their doors and drinkers dance in the streets.
3. Phi Phi Island
Boats leave regularly from Phuket and head across to Phi Phi Island. No need to pre-book, just simply turn up on the day and pay your fare.
OK, so THIS is where those vacation magazines and holiday brochures get their paradise photos! Pure white sand, colourfully painted fishing boats floating in the gentle waves, crystal clear ocean lapping at my feet – Check. Check. Check.
The most popular tour offered by hostels on Phi Phi is a full-day on a boat to the most famous sites around the island. Get your selfies with the local wild monkeys who play on Monkey Beach, visit the set location for the movie ‘The Beach’ at Maya Bay, and snorkel with tropical fish throughout the trip.
Finally, follow the crowds as they head to the popular lookout and enjoy one of those gorgeous SE Asia sunsets!
Tip: Avoid any water products on the island (ice, smoothies, even rice!) as I got really bad food poisoning here…
Blanco Beach Bar. Don’t expect any sleep at this party hostel! It’s located directly on the beachfront where you can spend all night dancing to the music with fellow travellers, playing intense drinking games and watching the crazy fire performers. Then, when it’s all over, you can rest your sore head the next day sunbathing in paradise – What better way to nurse a hangover?
4. Ko Pha Ngan
After boating back across to the Krabi mainland, you can hop on a bus across Thailand to Donsak Pier. From here, there are regular boats that take you to the nearby islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Ko Tao – Super cheap and booked on arrival!
For every full-moon (and half-moon if you can’t coincide your timing), Ko Pha Ngan completely transforms from an empty, quiet island to the place where thousands of people gather for a night-long celebration.
Buy your tie-dye shirt and neon paint from the many market stalls on the island, use your body as your own art canvas and prepare for the most insane night of your life. Walk down the long beach and try out each of the stages pumping different types of music and dance with people of all nationalities and cultures.
I’m quite an introvert and I have never been the last person left on a night out… When I realised the sun was rising above the ocean, it was 7 am and I still hadn’t left the beach, I knew Full Moon Party was something special!
Yoghurt Home 3. We were clever enough to pre-book our hotel for the Full Moon as many people told us it gets extremely busy and accommodation quickly sells out. The hostels on the island are 10+ people per room and get quite dirty so I was relieved to be able to get ready before the night in plenty of space and then collapse in my private room right by the main beach strip. I would definitely recommend doing the same.
5. Ko Tao
After the full moon, a large percentage of revellers jump on the boats that head across to the neighbouring island of Ko Tao to recover and relax.
Swing gently in the hammocks along the beach, detox with a local smoothie and read underneath one of the awesome low-hanging palm trees.
Ko Tao was probably my favourite place in Thailand. There are loads of low-key bars where you can chill out along the beachfront and the island is so small you can get to know both the locals and other backpackers so well that it almost feels like family!
Tip: If you’re interested in deep sea diving, Ko Tao is actually one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI certificate! Multiple companies offer taster sessions and training courses so definitely shop around and grab the best deal.
Finally, you may have seen the famous viewpoint that features on everybody’s Instagram – Nang Yuan! A small island nearby that you can ask local boats to take you across to. Trek up to the hilltop to take in the view of 2 points of the ocean meeting together – Unforgettable!
Did Thailand have a powerfully lasting effect on you too?