A Week in Thailand, Exploring the Beautiful Tropical Islands
Whenever I told friends and family I planned on visiting Thailand’s beautiful tropical islands, they assumed that I’d probably want to stay there for a few months or until the officials ask me to leave. I also thought the same but when I got there things were very different. Basically, the main reasons I only spent a few days on each island:
1. Expensive to stay there
2. You could do most activities in a few days (except maybe diving)
3. I didn’t want to get sucked into staying there
4. I met people who only planned to visit for a few days and have lived on an Island for half a century
Working at a bar in Koh Phi Phi
Not many travellers are aware that a great way to save money while still having fun is to work at a bar. I literally got a job within minutes of arriving on the island. They offered free accommodation and a few drinks as well. The job involves handing out flyers and excessive pointing. The later it got in the day, the easier it was to persuade tourists to have a visit. It also allowed me to meet a couple of interesting girls who were eager for a free drink. I told them that I had strict rules (unless they showed some good stuff).
I didn’t work all day (if you can call it work). After a few hours handing out flyers I made my way to the Tiger Bar for a free bucket of whiskey and coke (yes, free!). I could chill by the beach and watch fire shows, and Thai boxing matches from a few meters away. I was trying to stay in the party mood, but I had spent the morning feeding sharks and snorkelling at Maya Bay (the famous beach from The Beach movie).
The next day, I jumped into a kayak at Wang Long Bay but could only manage an hour due to the intense heat. The hot weather made me hungry and thirsty. I took a quick trip to the local market at Tonsai Village, scoffed down a selection of moderately priced Phad Thai and coconut water, then darted towards Monkey Beach for sunbathing and swimming. The beach is unbelievable, and the only negative aspect was monkeys trying to steal my ray bans. Damn you monkey!
Before leaving the island, I strenuously hiked up the Phi Phi Viewpoint for sunset. It is surprisingly one of the few uncapitalised things on the island.
Phuket felt like a different country
Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island with many smaller islands off its coast. I took a minivan towards Phuket town but not before the bus driver stopped unannounced in front of a tourism agency. Everyone was hurdled in like sheep, asked where were staying and for how long. The local guide even told us that it would be “more expensive” to pay for tours on the island. I thought if this was the first scam after only arriving 30 minutes ago, things aren’t going to look good. I hesitated with divulging too much information and told them I was visiting a friend. They continued their pursuit of selling me a tour package, so I started talking in German, that showed them!
I was fortunate to be friend with a Russian fire dancer. He had lived on the island for a few years. I saw him practising on the beach, and my curiosity got the better of me. He recommended that I avoid the majority of tourist traps on the island and do as the locals do instead. This included visiting Wat Chalong temple (where you can get blessed by a monk), a trip to Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park (lots of endangered animals to gawk at), and Thalang National Museum (full of old relics when Phuket use to fight with Burma. Btw, the entry is only 30 baht).
I figured I should really visit one of the islands though. After a few experiences with scammers, I was reluctant in going. I went on a cruise around Phang Nga Bay, and as I had suspected, vendors were waiting on each island with their overpriced frivolous souvenirs. I mean, who brings money with them to a desert island, not me. At some point during the tour, everyone got into kayaks. These were operated by local Thai guys who kept asking for tips even though they never talked. I assumed I would be the one doing the kayaking initially.
It was getting late at night but not too late. With a few friends I made on the cruise, we descended towards Patong, an area of Phuket notorious for being naughty. There were no families there unlike the dozens I came across during the daytime, only older gentlemen lots of older gentlemen. Phuket also has a number of viewpoints, the best being Promthep though expect large crowds.
Enjoying this article so far? Check out my day trips from Bangkok without a tour guide here.
Full moon party at Koh Pha Ngan
There’s no better way to end a week than with a party, a substantial crazy beach party with neon paint, buckets, partial nudity and jumping through fire hoops. The origins of the full moon party are questionable. Some locals say that a group of friends had a birthday party on the beach in the late 80s. The event was so successful that they decided to have it again a year later and more people came along. Thanks to the iconic travel movie “The Beach”, the full moon party really established itself on the island. The party is usually on a full moon, so I had made it just in time. However, accommodation skyrockets the closer it is to the full moon.
When you are anywhere in Thailand, 711 is your saviour. You can make your own whiskey and coke bucket for a fraction of the price at the party, the same goes for food.
I knew that I would probably feel a little hungover the next day so I should get any tourist activities out of the way such as skinny-dip in the waterfalls, take snaps of Siamese fighting fish at The Pha Ngan Heritage Garden and have a quick dive at Sailrock (the most popular spot). Koh Pha Ngan has a few other activities available, but it’s a small island, and idealistically, most visitors spend two days there.
Finally, if you are planning to visit Thailand, do as much research as possible before you’re landing. Check Thailand’s nearest events here. Be safe and have a wonderful trip!