Posted by: thoughtfulnomad | October 5, 2010

Leaving the Islands

It’s interesting how different each island or coastal city is. The first beach I went to was Ao Nang, which was a small town that was based solely off of tourism. There were lots of resorts and expensive restaurants marketed for foreigners. It wasn’t a big party or backpacker place; it was a more laid back beach for families and a slightly older than college crowd. The reason I went there was because I wanted to find a quiet place. I could have gone to the other coast of Thailand and experienced the most famous party in Asia, the “Full Moon Party,” but I was looking for a perfect secluded island that I knew existed somewhere in Thailand. While Ao Nang wasn’t exactly secluded (it wasn’t even an island), it was still relaxing and a fun place to stay for a few days. It’s also the low season here because of rain that comes every few days in the evenings, so everything was cheaper and I was able to afford it. 
Near Ao Nang was Railay beach which is a mecca for rock climbers. There was just a small stretch of white sand in between cliffs that jutted straight out of the water. Railay is also part of the mainland, but the only way to get there is by boat because the mountains and cliffs surrounding it keep any roads from reaching the pristine beach. Railay was seriously quiet when I went there. Only a few people shared the quarter-mile stretch of beach with me. A few restaurants and resorts bordered the beach, but other than that, it was me, a few other tourists, and some Thais combing the beach for people interested in massages or cold drinks. I didn’t stay the night in Railay, so I’m not sure what else besides a beautiful beach and endless rock climbing the place offers, but it was definitely worth a day trip by boat. 

Phi Phi Island was next, which I still can’t stop raving about. I had read that a lot of people didn’t like Phi Phi, but I think it’s because they were looking for secret untouched bays like the ones that Leonardo Dicaprio found in the movie “The Beach.” Visiting the bay where the movie was filmed puts you amidst crowds of people, even in the low season, but I thought that it was beautiful nonetheless. Granted, like I said, I went during the low season, so I can’t comment on what it’s like when the real crowds are there. During my visit, though, I found quiet beaches with crystal clear water and soft white sand. There were no cars which kept traffic jams limited to luggage trolleys crowding around bikes and pedestrians. I found a 26 bed dorm room for about $4.50 a night, but there only ended up being about 3 other people in there with me. The island was a mix of foreigners running dive shops and Thais running guest houses and restaurants. Every single one of them was welcoming and more than willing to sit down and talk about anything and everything with you. I ended up staying longer on Phi Phi than I had planned to, and to be honest I would love to go back, but my Thai visa is running out, so I’ve had to force myself to move on. 

From Phi Phi I took a 1 and a half hour ferry to Koh Lanta. (Koh means “island” in Thai, so sometimes I refer to a place as “Koh Phi Phi” or “Phi Phi Island,” for example, but they both mean the same thing.) Lanta was a bit farther south and was like a different world compared to Phi Phi. The island is very big, which means that cars and motorcycles are allowed. There is only one main road that goes from one end of the island to the other, though, so even with the cars it seemed very quiet. It’s very obvious that it’s the low season when you’re in Lanta. Almost all of the businesses are shut down and you are maybe one of 5 people staying at your guesthouse or resort. The good thing about that, though, is that I got the seclusion I was looking for in the first place. I found a resort through some recommendations that ended up costing me about $9 per night. With that $9 I got my own room with a TV and fridge, a pool, and a staircase leading straight down to the beach. I stayed there for 3 nights and saw about 5 other people the whole time. The people were so friendly, and it was an amazing way to just sit back and enjoy life. It’s hard to worry about much when you have absolutely nothing to do besides walk down the road to buy fruit, hang out on the beach, or lay by the pool. It was interesting to see the culture change when I went to Lanta, as well. The farther south I go, the more Muslim Thais I see. In Lanta most of the Thais are Muslim, which means that they’re extremely reserved, but very genuinely welcoming and friendly. Everyone was very modest, so you didn’t see people walking around in bikinis or swimsuits, and in the Muslim/Thai culture you typically take your shoes off when you go inside a home or family run shop, so every time I walked into the “Fresh Mart,” which was a small convenience store owned by a Muslim family, I had to leave my flip flops at the door. 

I’m en route to the east coast of Thailand as I type this. I took a mini bus from Lanta across two ferry passings and back into Krabi town, which is where I first started exploring the islands and beaches. I was dropped off at a little travel agency office in the middle of who knows where, and am waiting for some sort of transportation to take me across the mainland to Surhatthani. I’m supposed to arrive there around 11 pm tonight and will take an overnight ferry to an island called Koh Samui. From there I’ll explore the east coast islands and eventually find my way back to Bangkok to catch a flight on the 5th into Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At least that’s what I’m hoping for because that’s also the day that my visa runs out. 

So it’s a week later and I’m back in Bangkok. I made it to Koh Samui after having to spend a night in Surhattani; the ferry couldn’t cross overnight because of storms. I ended up staying on Koh Samui the whole time. The vibe was very different there. I stayed on Chaweng beach in a cheap guesthouse surrounded by huge resorts. I thought Ao Nang was a resort town, but Koh Samui has the real resort scene. The coast was actually so packed with resorts that I had to walk through one to get to the beach (which was amazing, by the way). The beach had clean white sand with clear water that had a slight green/jade color to it when you looked out over the ocean. While standing in the water, though, I could watch as little gray colored fish gathered around my feet, probably wondering if I was food or not. I stayed in a cheap dorm every night except on my birthday, when I felt that a resort was necessary. I stayed in Nora Buri Resort which was about a ile away from Chaweng beach and what felt like a completely different world. The resort was secluded and took up an area that stretched from the beach all the way up a hillside. There were two infinity pools that looked out over the ocean, and my room was about half the size of my house at home. I’ve said this before, but it’s amazing what your money can get you in Thailand. What would have bought me a normal and basic hotel room in the US got me ultimate luxury on a Thai Island. A shower with hot water, air conditioning, and a comfy bed were very much welcomed. 

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  1. I continue to be amazed at what my granddaughter is doing. It all sounds so beautiful. I hope that you are taking alot of pictures so that you can explain each area . I am printing your blogs and enjoy going over them again. Love you much.

  2. What an adventure you continue to have! These pictures are among my favorites, Kristen.

  3. Beautiful pics Kristen!

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