There’s a whole country outside of Koh Samui and Phuket and for that reason you won’t find anything about them here. We visited some of the slightly less well known resorts but the overwhelming feeling I took from South Thailand is that it’s already become ‘touristy’. Sorry.
If you’re looking for the unspoilt paradise of The Beach and earth pics accounts on Instagram then you’re probably not going to find it – at least not on a 2 week break. That being said, no amount of McDonalds and throngs of tourists can detract from the beauty of Thailand.
We flew down from Bangkok to Phuket on an internal flight for about £40 return. It was a little hairy on the landing but hey; I’m still here aren’t I? Rather than stay in the really touristy Phuket, we hired a car and took the road around the bay to the Krabi province and Ao Nang. The journey took 2 hours and that’s including a massive detour trying to find James Bond island. We found the ferry but we’d missed it. Shit happens.
One thing you absolutely should NOT miss on the Phuket to Krabi road is the Wat Manee Si Mahathat temple as seen on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It is definitely the most beautiful temple we saw; you absolutely cannot miss it and the huge statue of the Buddhist monk.
We stayed in Ao Nang beach first which is in the Krabi province and about 45 minutes outside of Krabi town. I was surprised at how commercialised here was especially – roads full of McDonalds, Subway and tacky souvenir shops. The beach was nice enough but nothing like the beautiful Thai beaches I was waiting to see.
My favourite part about Ao Nang and possibly my favourite part of the south was the hotel we stayed in; The Poonsiri Resort. It was a brand new resort of little wooden houses built around a man made lagoon. It was about a five minute drive outside of Ao Nang centre so it was quiet, idyllic and with the most breathtaking backdrop. This was the Thailand I’d been expecting.
Each hut had its own balcony with a swing over the lagoon which was just the perfect place for morning coffee or watching the sun go down over the mountains in the evening. The minibar prices were ridiculously cheap just like everything else in Thailand so you didn’t mind raiding it for ice cold Chang beer.
The cocktails were no more than £3 or £4 each and were the perfect accessory for making people back home jealous while you laze by the pool. Take me back please.
One thing you absolutely must do if you go to Krabi (and I assume throughout most of the country) is sample the street food. From around 5 or 6pm huge markets seem to spring up out of nowhere serving all kind of amazing delicacies – pad thai and green curry are always going to be your staples (and they really do taste so much nicer in Thailand) but they have lists of dishes that go on for miles. You eat on little plastic tables and chairs. We ordered 3 main courses and two of the massive bottles of chang and it came to 250 baht which is less than £5. You can’t argue with that.
Phi Phi Don
We booked a nights stay on Phi Phi Don for Valentines Day in a hotel with an infinity pool and a dreamy view over the beach. Got there and found there was an all day pool party on with house music blaring and drunk idiots everywhere – which pretty much sums up Phi Phi Don. If you’re in Thailand travelling and want to party and meet people then Phi Phi Don is for you. You can get the ferry over from Krabi town for around £10. There’s a couple of ‘monkey beaches’ here but in all honesty it wasn’t a nice experience. The monkeys are gorgeous but the tourists taunt them, we saw one dickhead throwing ciggies at them. It was pretty upsetting. If you want to see monkeys in the wild then I’d visit the Tiger Temple.
Phi Phi Lay
This is the smaller island next to Don and it’s where they filmed The Beach. You can visit the enclosed bay where they all swam in the film, it’s called Maya bay, but in real life it’s not enclosed, they CGI’d extra cliffs in. It’s also not deserted, it’s very very crowded.
Things to do
The Tiger Temple
The tiger temple no longer houses real tigers unfortunately, so sorry lads you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want your Tinder profile pic posing with a drugged up giant cat. It does however have a mountain to climb with 1237 steep steps, atop which you’ll find a huge gold Buddha and a place of worship. Not to mention 360 degree views of the Krabi province.
If I could sum up the physically demanding climb in three words it would be these: Not. Worth. It. Yes the temple and the views were lovely but poor fitness levels, blistering heat and heartburn due to the fact I was doing some extreme exercise right after having a thai green curry for lunch, meant the climb to the top was pretty hellish. I nearly vomited twice.
What was worth it though was on the way back down I stopped for a rest and this cute little baby monkey came out of the trees and started playing with my toes and pulling threads off my dress. I honestly never believed in my life I’d be naturally that close to a wild animal, and a cute baby one at that. Look at the little cutey!
He was having a whale of a time until his mate turned up and they started wrestling.
A little further down the mountain we came across this little guy who’d obviously been fighting, properly fighting though. It was so heartbreaking, he kept holding up his tail and showing it to us as if we could help. The Buddhist monks take care of the monkeys even though they are essentially in the wild. You can buy bananas to feed them.
Worth a visit? Definitely. Worth the climb? Only about halfway up until you see the monkeys but unless youre desperate to see a giant gold Buddha, not so much.
This is a controversial one. You’re either in the camp where they’re being mistreated and it’s cruel or you’re not. Some of the places you’ll go to I’m sure they are mistreated but the place we went has a great reputation and we didn’t see evidence of it. In Asia, people have been riding elephants for thousands of years in the same way we ride horses. Here horses are whipped to race and perform tricks in dressage but to us it’s normal, because horses are a normal thing. Elephants are considered exotic and so we seem to regard the rules as different. Either way the only thing we saw that anyone could possibly take issue with is when one of the elephants was veering off course, his trainer gave him a little ‘doink’ on the head with a stick, bear in mind that elephants have famously thick skin and an even thicker skull so to him it would have been no more than a tap. They’re well fed and protected from brutal ivory hunters too.
Being up close with them was amazing and an experience I’ll never forget – just do your research on which elephant reserves are reputable.
In Thailand there are hundreds of naturally occurring hot springs, especially in Krabi. They can range in temperature from slightly warm to really hot bath. The one we visited here was crowded but even so, I didn’t want to get out! Love a roasting hot bath. We stayed a couple of nights in a hotel called ‘nattha waree hot spring resort and spa’ which had loads of hot pools that you had all to yourself but the hotel and grounds itself was looking a bit tired. You could tell at one point it had been gorgeous but it was a bit run down and really far out of town – not one I’d recommend.
Emerald and Blue lagoon
The emerald pool is a famous beauty spot which is perfect for swimming and as the name suggests it’s a perfect green colour. The water runs down from the blue lagoon which is about a 15 minute walkaway and is NOT for swimming in as it’s extremely deep and full of quick sand. Both worth a look beauty wise.
We did an excursion to see the tiger temple, the hot springs, the pools and the elephants for about £30 each. No mess. Best £30 I’ve ever spent. You can see the tour and similar ones here.
This has the reputation for being the best beach in Thailand. You can get to it via longboat from Krabi harbour for about a fiver. There’s two beaches, Railey East and West. The longboat will drop you off at Railay East and you’ll be all wuuuut? This isn’t nice! A short walk through the streets will lead you to Railay West which is exactly what you’ve been waiting for…
On the drive back to Phuket airport you’ll reach a junction where if you turn right you’ll be at the airport. Turn left. You find a really cool abandoned hotel. Spooky. We couldn’t work out if it had been abandoned during construction as some of the rooms are fully decorated or it had been damaged in a hurricane/tsunami. Walk around it at your own risk.
Overall, Thailand is well worth a visit, it is as amazing as everyone says it is. That’s the only problem, EVERYONE is saying it. If you’re looking for somewhere unspoilt and peaceful then try elsewhere…