6 incredible photo opportunities near to Krabi Town

Most tourists arrive at Krabi Airport and are whisked away by hotel minivan to their beachside hotel and never visit the tiny provincial capital, Krabi Town.  However, Krabi Town is a great place to stay. It has 6 beaches less than 40 minutes away and has some cheap but lovely accommodation and restaurants. It’s also a base to do some hiking and kayaking to see some awesome panoramic views. Here are 6 locations close to Krabi Town which are wonderful photo opportunities and life changing experiences. We are starting with the most difficult to access and ending with the easiest. There is something here for everyone. Enjoy!

1. Khao Ngon Nak – Dragon Crest Mountain

Khao Ngon Nak – Dragon Crest Mountain

Located in a National Park 30km from Krabi Town, at the end of Tub Kaek Beach, there is a beautiful woodland walk to a waterfal and/or a challenging hike to the peak of Ngon Nak for stunning views. The woodland walk takes 2 hours while the full trek takes about 3-4 hours depending on your fitness. You should only attempt the full trek if you exercise regularly, have good shoes and plenty of water.  The entrance to both walks is behind the Amari Vogue Resort. You can go as part of a tour, hire a car with a driver, or rent motorbikes.

This picturesque trail has a stream, two viewpoints, a waterfall and the summit.  After about an hour and thirty minutes the first viewpoint comes into sight and is spectacular. Overlooking the Andaman Sea between Krabi and Phuket the ocean view is beautiful. As you carry on the trail winds eastwards away from the ocean, and you get the second view which is of jungles, plantations and mountains.  A fork in the path soon appears and you can take the path on the right and visit a pretty waterfall or keep left and climb to the summit. From the fork in the path it takes about 40 minutes to reach the summit which is 565 meters above sea level. Perched at the top is a large boulder which makes a great seat and provides a fabulous photo opportunity that you can see in the above photo. It’s one of the best views in Thailand for sure.

2. Tiger Cave Temple – Wat Tham Sua

View from the top of tiger cave temple
View from the top of tiger cave temple

Only 3km from Krabi town is one of Thailand’s finest temples and really worth visiting. The temple gets its name from a legend that says that a tiger used to live in the biggest cave. This could be true since tigers used to live in this area only 100 years ago. The temple consists of beautiful caves within an old jungle setting and many monks call this place home. The temple caves and jungle footpath is very enjoyable but the main attraction is the temple on top of the mountain. 1,237 steps up a steep limestone mountain takes you to the summit. It is a challenging climb and takes around 1 hour.

The panoramic views from the top are stunning. You get to view 360 degrees of ocean, tropical islands, limestone mountains, rainforests and plantations. The views are particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset which is also the best time to climb up and avoid the heat. You should only undertake this climb if you are physically fit because the steps are steep and not even.

The Tiger Cave Temple is easy to reach, you can take a taxi, hire motorbikes or take a public bus known as a songthaew from either Krabi town or from Ao Nang. The bus stops at the road next to Wat Tham Sua and from there it takes about 20 minutes on foot.

3. Ao Thalane

Ao Thalane

Ao Thalane or Thalane Bay has one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in the whole of Thailand and is wonderful for a kayaking adventure. Only 20km north of Krabi Town, this section of coastline has small inlets, caves and hidden lagoons which can be explored by kayak throughout the year. Huge limestone karst mountains provide the backdrop for an adventure through a network of channels that meander through the dense mangrove.

The area is undeveloped and tranquil and you do not have to be especially fit to take this trip. It is best explored through a local tour guide which can be booked by many agents in Krabi Town or online.  Ao Thalane provides great photo opportunities such as the cliffs, canyons, lagoons and also the diverse wildlife including kingfishers, lizards and monkeys.

4. Emerald Pool/Crystal Lagoon

Emerald Pool, Krabi

The Emerald/Crystal Lagoon can be found in Thung Teao Forest Natural Park about one hour’s drive from Krabi Town and Aonang. The lagoon is situated in a lowland forest rich in biodiversity and forms part of a gentle 2.7km nature trail.

The emerald waters are warm and clear making them great for swimming. This spring originates from a warm stream in the lowland forest of Khao which is supposedly one of Thailand’s last pieces of virgin forest. The intensity of the pool’s turquoise water varies according to the light and time of the day so visitors who want to get the best emerald colour should visit early in the morning. When the light is right it makes for a stunning photo opportunity.

5. Khanab Nam and Crab Sculpture, Krabi River

Khnab Nam Karsts in Krabi Town

 

The stunning Khanab Nam Mountains are one of Krabi’s most famous landmarks. These two mountains sit either side of the river, and are a widely photographed beauty spot. You can take photos by walking down to the river in the centre of Krabi Town. Here you will also find the large sculpture of a crab which is also photographed a lot.

If you want to take a closer look, Khao Khanab Nam can be accessed by hiring a long-tail boat from Krabi’s Chao Fa Pier which is also in the centre of the town. It takes just 10 minutes to reach them by cruising up the river. You can also visit the local mangrove forest and enjoy a walking tour of the pretty Muslim fishing village called Koh Klang as part of this trip.

Crab Sculpture in Krabi Town near the river

 

6. Wat Kaew Korawaram Temple – Centre of Krabi Town

Wat Kaew Korawaram, Krabi Town

This large Buddhist temple is situated on a hill overlooking Krabi downtown and dates back to 1887. The most photographed section of the temple complex is a beautiful white temple which can be accessed via a majestic staircase lined by golden Naga sculptures. The white temple sits in the centre of a 2,500sqm terrace which overlooks the main shopping street of Krabi. Behind this white temple are other buildings that make up Wat Kaew but not all these are open to the public since it is a working temple with residing monks and a crematorium.

We hope you found this blog useful. If you are intending to visit Krabi Province, you might also find our blog on the best beach areas of Krabi interesting and useful.

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Photos courtesy of Flickr. Featured image, Dragon Crest Mountain, Crab, Khanab Nam and Emerald Pool by BORShopComputing, Tiger Cave Temple and Ao Thaland by Alan Graf and Temple by Robert Kolsek

Bangkok Airport Info: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK)

Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)

Travelling in and out of Bangkok can be daunting but it needn’t be. Here we give you all the information you need to get to and from Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) airports, which are the two airports of Bangkok, and also give you some helpful maps, timescales and tips. This information was last updated on 17 March 2015.

The first and best tip we can give you is that if you arrive into either airport between 00.00 and 05.00am and need to either transfer airports, get into the city or transfer to a mainline train or bus station, we recommend you take a taxi. Make sure you take a metered taxi as a private taxi service (which is heavily touted) will cost you 3 times more.

A metered taxi is relatively cheap and will cost you a maximum of 350 baht to take you anywhere within the city limits of Bangkok or to the other airport. If you don’t want to splurge on a taxi there are limited buses that run through the night and they are covered below via the official airport websites. Bus/mini van prices range from 5 baht to 100 baht but take care getting dropped off at your destination in the early hours of the morning. Buses and minivans are a really great budget option during the day.

Transfer between Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) Airport

If you need to transfer between Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, you can take a free shuttle bus which takes about 50-60 minutes to get from airport to airport, and runs between 5.00am and midnight, or for a quicker transfer time of 30-40 minutes take a metered taxi.

The free shuttle bus leaves Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 2nd floor outside door 3. The free shuttle bus from Don Mueang leaves and arrives outside the terminal and is easy to spot. When you arrive at Suvarnabhumi the bus stops on the 4th Floor near Gate 5. The service is ‘first come, first served’ and if the bus is already full you have to wait for the next one so factor that into your transfer time.

Transfer between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Bangkok City

Inside Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
Inside Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)

Suvarnabhumi Airport is located in an area called Bang Phli, about 25 kilometres east of downtown Bangkok. Motorway no.7 connects the airport to Bangkok City. There are lots of options for getting into the city but again, if it is after midnight your options become pretty much limited to taking a metered taxi or navigating the limited (but much cheaper) night time bus and mini van system. You queue for a metered taxi on the lowest level of the airport.

1. Bangkok Airport Rail Link (ARL) –  Suvarnabhumi Airport

Map of the ARL Link

ARL Link from Suvanabhumi Airport
ARL Link from Suvanabhumi Airport

The easiest and quickest route into downtown Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi Airport is the clean, airconditioned Airport Rail link which will drop you off in the heart of the city and close to lots of transport options. Here are some key facts:

  • The ARL operates daily from 6:00 a.m. to 12.30am and costs between 25-45 baht
  • Suvarnabhumi Airport Link (ARL) line is 28km long and runs parallel to the No. 7 Motorway
  • A non-stop Express Line trains terminates at Makkasan Station
  • A stopping City Line terminates at Phaya Thai Station, calling at 8 stations on it’s way.
  • City Line trains leave every 12–15 minutes
  • Express Line trains leave every 60 minutes, takes 20 minutes and costs 45 baht
  • You can find the ARL Link by following the signs within the airport
  • This trainline does not go to Don Mueang Airport

 

This map shows the Skytrain, (BTS) underground metro (MRT) and Hua Lamphong Train Station which is where you take the train to Don Mueang Airport.

Map of Bangkok showing key stations to embark on trains to both Airports

2. Other ways to get from Suvarnabhumi Airport into Bangkok

You can take a mini van, a public bus or an air conditioned bus and the best way to find out which route you want to take and what time they run is to check out the official Suvanabhumi Airport website. They keep the information up to date and it is the most comprehensive listing. You should view the pages for Bus Bor Khor Sor, Bus BMTA and Public Van. These mini vans and buses also travel directly from the airport to other cities within Thailand. Prices start from as little as 5 baht.

Transfer between Don Mueang (DMK) and Bangkok City

Don Mueang is the smaller airport of Bangkok mainly serving the low cost South East Asian carriers and domestic routes. It is 25km aways from Bangkok which is around a 40 minute drive north from the main city of Bangkok. If it is after midnight your best option is to take a metered taxi to the city. The approximate fare from the airport to the city of Bangkok will be about 350 baht. Don Mueang Airport is 55km away from Suvanabhumi Airport and the transfer between them is covered in a section above.

1. Taking the train from Don Mueang Airport to Bangkok City

Hua Lampong Train station
Hua Lampong Train station

A train service runs from Don Mueang Airport between the hours of 06:00-21:00. The station is 500 metres from the airport and is clearly signposted. From Don Mueang Train Station you can take a train to Hua Lamphong (Central Railway Station) in central Bangkok (see above map). Trains run every hour and take around 1 hour to reach Hua Lamphong Train Station. These trains are not air conditioned and are busy because they come in from well outside the city, so this is not the most comfortable option but can be fun.

2. Taking the bus from Don Mueang Airport to Bangkok City

During the daytime taking the bus is the best option for getting into Bangkok. The ideal option is to take a 20 minute bus ride to Mo Chit Skytrain Station (BTS) and then take the cheap and airconditioned Skytrain (BTS) for the rest of your journey. The official website for Don Mueang airport gives you the bus options, including a bus to Khao San Road, although doesn’t tell you what time they stop running in the evening. If you want to get from Don Mueang to Khao San Road, taking the bus is logistically simple compared to other options (apart from a metered taxi) but make sure to ask the driver to tell you where to get off. Bus/minivan fares range from 5 baht to 100 baht.

Final Tips for Bangkok Airport Transit Success

Don’t get flustered once you arrive onto the concourse, get your bearings and look around you for well placed signs. Leave plenty of time to get to and from the airports of Bangkok and if you are heading to the airports for a flight out of Bangkok, double check which airport you are flying out of.

Recently bloggers/forum members have suggested that the best option for getting to Don Mueang Airport is to take the ARL Link to Suvanabhumi Airport and then take the free shuttle transfer bus. This is not the case as they are located in totally different areas of outer Bangkok. Try the train or bus to Don Mueang, it’s not that difficult if you read all the above info and check out the map. Best of luck!

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bangkok airport info- suvarnabhumi airport (bkk) and don mueang airport (dmk)

Images courtesy of Flickr.com – Featured image courtesy of David McKelvey, Inside Suvanabhumi Airport Concourse by Vyacheslav Argenberg, and Hua Lamphong (Central Railway Station) by  David McKelvey,

My Top 10 Easy To Order Thai Noodle Dishes

Yam Mun Sen - Glass Noodle Salad

This ‘top 10,’ lists my absolute favourite Thai noodle dishes starting with number 1 as the all time favourite. From noodle soup to glass noodle salad, here are some of the most delicious Thai noodle dishes around.  They are easy to find and (mostly) readily available in restaurants that serve tourists. There really is more than Pad Thai when it comes to noodles. Enjoy

1. Yum Woon Sen (glass noodle salad)

Yum Woon Sen - Thai Glass Noodle Salad
Yum Woon Sen – Thai Glass Noodle Salad

‘Yum Woon Sen’ which translates as ‘Glass Noodle Salad’ is made with mung bean glass noodles. They are clear, thin and slippery, and because they are made from mung beans are low calorie. Yum Woon Sen is full of fresh veggies, like spring onion, lettuce and coriander. Sea food, crushed peanuts and sometimes minced pork also are added. The reason why this is so tasty is the sauce. It is a fresh lime based spicy/sweet dressing that is wonderful and fragrant. The whole dish is just delicious and almost all restaurants catering to tourists can make it for you even if it is not on the menu. If they don’t have glass noodles try ‘Yum Talay’ which is a seafood salad without the noodles that you can have with rice.

2. Rad Na (noodles in brown gravy)

Rad Na - Noodles in brown gravy with poached egg
Rad Na – Noodles in brown gravy with poached egg

Rad Na is a non spicy Thai noodle dish made with a thick, tasty brown gravy and wide rice noodles. You eat it with chicken or pork and it comes with Chinese broccoli. The sauce is made of stock and cornstarch and is seasoned with sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and pepper. When it is served to you, you can add some additional sugar, fish sauce, sliced chillies preserved in vinegar and dried chillies. My favourite twist is when the cook adds a nice soft poach egg in the middle. It’s usually finished with a generous serving of white pepper powder. I always add the chillis preserved in vinegar.

3. Khanom Jeen ( vermicelli noodles with coconut curry sauce)

Khanom Jeen - thin noodles with a curry sauce and raw veggies
Khanom Jeen – thin noodles with a curry sauce and raw veggies

Khanom Jeen or (Khanom Jin) is ususally sold in a restaurant or street stall which serves only this dish. If you walk by and see people chowing down on a dish that looks like the photo above and in the centre of the table is a wide selection of raw green veg and herbs, whole boiled eggs and fried anchovies, then you have stumbled across the cheapest and most delicious street meal in Thailand. It’s always served with thin white noodles that are pre cooked and then there are 2-3 sauces to have over the top. It’s really, really great and an easy way to eat 3 of your 5 a day by helping yourself to lashings of free raw veg.

4. Khao Soi Soup ( crispy noodles with coconut curry)

Khao Soi - Crispy Noodles with Coconut Curry
Khao Soi – Crispy Noodles with Coconut Curry

Khao Soi is a soup made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and regular soft egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, ground chillies, and meat (usually chicken) in a curry sauce containing coconut milk. It’s from the northern region of Thailand but can be found all over in speciality restaurants and sometimes street markets. It’s very mild, full of rich coconut flavours and the chicken is usually served on the bone and is very tender.

5. Pad See Ew (stir fried noodles with kale and egg)

Pad See Ew - Stir Fried Noodles with Kale and Egg
Pad See Ew – Stir Fried Noodles with Kale and Egg

Pad See Ew is a delicious Thai noodle dish made with flat, wide rice noodles fried in soy sauce with meat, egg, and Chinese broccoli. It sounds simple but trust me, because of its simplicity it’s almost impossible to replicate exactly at home. Watch a Thai street vendor make it in under 2 minutes, then pour a little pickled chilli and vinegar over it and it is simply divine. If you have it as a takeaway item it is usually wrapped in paper, and when you open it at home and add the chillis in vinegar, it gives off an awesome smell like adding vinegar to chip shop chips.

6. Kuey Teaw (noodle soup)

Kuay Teaw - Noodle Soup with Fish Balls
Kuay Teaw – Noodle Soup (this one is with fish balls)

Noodle Soup (Kuay Teaw) can be found on almost every street corner of Thailand from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.  Naam Sai is a plain broth, Naam Tom Yam  is the same recipe as Nam Sai, but chili paste, peanuts, lime juice, chili powder, sugar and fish sauce are added. Naam Tok is broth where blood has been blended into the stock. You can also get your noodle soup dry by using the term ‘heng’ (dry). We wrote a whole blog on how you can try them all with confidence and order them in the Thai language if you want.

7. Pad Kee Mao

Pad Kee Mao - Similar to Pad See Ew but with mixed meat and seafood and with chilli
Pad Kee Mao – Similar to Pad See Ew but with mixed meat and seafood and with chilli

Literally translating as ‘Fried Shit Drunk’ this dish is Pad See Ew with a twist. It’s got chilli in it, a little less soy sauce than Pad See Ew and also has the added surprise of there being any kind of meat or seafood in the dish, literally added on a whim as if the cook was ‘shit drunk’ It differs from cook to cook but is almost always delicious.

8. Yen Ta Fo Soup

Yen Ta Fo - pink coloured noodle soup served with fish balls, prawn balls, squid, morning glory and fried dumplings
Yen Ta Fo – pink coloured noodle soup served with fish balls, prawn balls, squid, morning glory and fried dumplings

Yen Ta Fo is a pink coloured noodle soup served with fish balls, prawn balls, fried tofu, squid, morning glory and fried dumplings (giaw). The pink colour comes from adding red bean paste to the broth. The soup is a little sweet and it’s always a surprise as to what ingredients you will find in there. You can buy Yen Ta Fo at some but not all noodle soup stands on the streets of all towns and cities around Thailand. The fried wontons go chewy in the soup and are delicious but this soup is a little sweet for me.


9. Pad Thai

Pad Thai
Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a stir fried noodle dish made with rice noodles with ingredients including egg, peanuts, shallots, lime and bean sprouts and meat or tofu. It is one of the most well known Thai dishes, and is very popular with tourists for being light in taste. It is available at roadside stands and in casual eating places all over Thailand. It has a lot of ingredients but it is very light, not oily and often comes with a wedge of fresh lime to pour over it. The best Pad Thai tends to be cooked on a giant flat pan nearly a metre in diameter. Of all Thai noodle dishes, this dish comes near the end of my top ten list because I prefer Thai dishes with a bit more kick.

10. Pad Thai inside an Omelette

Pad Thai inside an omelette

What more can we say about this other than it is Pad Thai inside of a very thin (usually square) omelette. I found a video of a Thai woman making Pad Thai Omelette on her street side stall in Thailand. I like to add bottled chilli sauce to this dish as it goes really well with this Thai noodle dish, or if you really don’t like spicy food you can add Heinz tomato ketchup and that tastes really good too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6MZubAn-zA

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my top 10 easy to order thai noodle dishes PI

Fly from Bangkok to mainland Southern Thailand for quiet beach resorts – 45 minute transfers guaranteed

Thong Nian Beach, Khanom, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand

In this blog we will show you that by ditching island destinations in favour of mainland Southern Thailand, you can fly to Bangkok, take a domestic flight south and be checked in to your secluded beach resort in under 14 hours. 

If you want to skip this blog here is a great website with details of all domestic airports in Thailand along with links for online booking – http://www.sawadee.com/thailand/transfer/ but we hope you enjoy our 4 picks too.

Does it get more adventurous than Koh Samui or Phuket?

Absolutely, and you don’t need to sit on a bus or take a 5 hour taxi transfer to get off the beaten track in Thailand. Most tourists flying to Thailand for a short beach holiday will opt to take a domestic flight from Bangkok to either Phuket Island or Koh Samui Island.  Phuket and Koh Samui are the only islands that have airports but if you fly south within the mainland, you can find some amazing and much less developed beaches for your holiday.

How can I use domestic flights in Thailand to get away from it all?

Why not fly south from Bangkok to either Chumphon, Surat Thani, Trang or Hatyai.  Then ditch the transfer to the islands and stay on the mainland of South Thailand.

You would normally fly to:

  • Chumphon Airport to take the ferry to Koh Tao Island
  • Surat Thani Airport to take the ferry to Koh Phangan Island
  • Trang Airport to head to the islands nearby
  • Hatyai Airport to take the boat to Koh Lipe Island

Fly into any of the above airports and it will still take another 4-6 hours to get to your resort on any of the islands. However each of these mainland Thai airports are close to some undeveloped, local and beautiful beaches. Ideal!

The main benefits of being on the mainland are:

  1. You can really explore the local culture
  2. You can make some authentic Thai friends
  3. You can visit provincial capitals
  4. You can avoid the crowds
  5. You can avoid that lengthy island transfer

As usual there is a helpful map at the bottom of this blog which shows you all of Southern Thailand.

Chumphon Airport direct to Thung Wua Laen Beach

Beach close to Chumphon
Beach close to Chumphon

Chumphon is where you catch the ferry to the island of Ko Tao, however the beaches surrounding the town of Chumphon are great places to step off the bandwagon and try something more local and less crowded.

14km south of the town are the 3 beaches of Pardaorn, Sairee and Makham which are on a little peninsula and are easy to get to by public transport or motorbike. A little further south are the bays of Makham Yai and Makhan Noi. Makham Yai has a small fishing village along the beach area, but Makham Noi is uninhabited. Both bays are sheltered so are calm all year round and islands just offshore are good for snorkelling too.

North of Chumphon and heading towards the airport is Thung Wua Laen Beach. This wide bay has several resorts and restaurants and is the busiest beach area on the mainland of Chumphon. Further north and close to the airport is a stunning beach area that is hardly developed called Pathiu. It is on this beach that you will find our recommended resort for the area – Sara Resort. There are lots of backpacker and 2 /3 star places to stay in  Chumphorn but Sara Resort is a much loved 4 star that has found a place in many tourists’ hearts for it’s beauty, seclusion and friendly staff.

Surat Thani Airport and Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport direct to Khanom Beach

Khanom Beach, Thailand
Khanom Beach, Thailand

Surat Thani is the big town you go to if you want to take the ferry from the mainland to Koh Phangan, (and the ferry to to Koh Samui if you don’t want to splurge on flying in direct.) However, only an hour away from Surat Thani airport or even closer, 45 minutes from Nakhon Si Thammarat airport is the mainland beach area of Khanom.

Halfway between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat, Khanom is overlooked by tourists who flock to the islands. This pristine coastal beach area is a great option for those wanting a fairly well developed beach setting without big brand hotel chains.  The beaches are long, sandy and unspoilt and yet close enough to a domestic airport to be a great option for a short stay. Don’t expect to find nightclubs or aquaparks here, just peaceful secluded resorts and friendly locals.

The long coastline which stretches over 18km is generically called Khanom but is actually made up of many beaches including Na Dan Beach, Nai Phlao Beach (which is the largest beach of Khanom,) Thung Yi Beach and Thong Yang Beach which are all stunning. Thong Yang Beach can only be reached by boat, and it is easier to take the boat from Sichon Fishing Village which is to the south of Khanom Town. There are also some remote beaches around Sichon Villlage.

As with Chumphon you don’t need to book your whole holiday before you arrive. Book online for a few days and then explore the area. Our recommended place of stay in Khanom is Leeloo Paradise

Hatyai Airport direct to Samila Beach

Samilla Beach, Songkhla, Thailand

If you look at the map of Southern Thailand (below) you can see that Hatyai (or Had Yai as it is sometimes called) is situated close to both the eastern and western coastline. You’ve probably only heard Hatyai because it is one of the drop off points if you are on your way to the famous Koh Lipe on the west coast. Koh Lipe is the only inhabited island in the group of National Park islands called Turatao. Koh Lipe and the surrounding marine national park is stunning but takes a long time to get to. It is a 90 minute drive to get from Hatyai to the ferry port and then another 60km by boat to the island.

However, on the opposite coast –  the east coast of the Thai mainland, there are some lovely and quiet beach resort options about 45 minutes from Hatyai Airport.

Near the town of Songkhla are some pretty and often almost deserted beaches that are pine fringed and have a laid back atmosphere that is authentically Thai. The main beach is Samila Beach which is good for swimming.  Just 3km south of Samila is Kao Seng village, and the beach here (also called Khao Seng) is long, straight and although dotted with rocks, is fine for swimming and also very quiet.

If you really want to get away from it all, also one hour from Hatyai and also on the less famous east coast is the quiet and beautiful national park area of Sathing Phra where you can find the our recommended beach side resort called Ao Thai.

Trang Airport direct to Pak Meng Beach

Pak Meng Beach, mainland Trang, Thailand
Pak Meng Beach, mainlaind Trang

The final mainland region this blog covers, that has flights direct from Bangkok, is Trang. Like the other regions we covered it is in South Thailand and is also is often overlooked in favour of it’s famous islands.

Just north of the town of Trang, and only 30 minutes from the Trang Airport is the beach area called Pak Meng, which is 5 km of pristine white sand, surrounded by limestone cliffs and woodland. Pak Meng is the most beautiful stretch along the coastline of Trang. Pak Meng Beach has some good accommodation to suit all budgets and a few restaurants. 9km north of Pak Meng are the beaches of Chao Mai and Chang Lang which are also very pretty and even quieter.

The mainland of Trang is ideal for exploring the local islands via half day and full day boat trips. Our hotel choice on mainland Trang is the 5 star luxury Anantara Si-Kao Resort. It’s simply stunning.

How do I book my domestic flights in Thailand?

We found this really helpful website which shows all the airlines, where they go and links directly to their website for online booking. Remember that if you fly from a foreign country into Bangkok you will fly into the international airport called Suvarnabhumi. Most (but not all) domestic flights leave Bangkok from a smaller airport 25 minutes away called Don Muang. There is a free shuttle bus between the 2 airports. Check which airport your domestic flight leaves from and give yourself enough time for the transfer.

Should I book my entire stay?

There is no need to book your entire holiday in this area as no where is ever full. We recommend you book yourself into a place for 2 nights, hire a motorbike or car and find your own piece of paradise for the remainder of your stay. If it is all too quiet for you, you can always take the ferry to the islands afterall.

Map of Southern Thailand

Map of Southern Thailand
Map of Southern Thailand

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fly from bangkok to mainland Kai 'Oswald' Seidler PI

Pictures courtesy of Flickr.com – Featured image is of Khanom Beach by Kai ‘Oswald’ Seidler, Beach near Chumphorn by Ringo Ichigo, Khanom Beach by Phuket@photographer.net, Samila Beach by FGMB and Pak Meng beach by Vyacheslav Argenberg.

 

 

 

Phang Nga – The most beautiful province in Thailand?

View of Phang Nga Bay from Koh Yao Island

Imagine a stunning coastal and national park area of Thailand that sits roughly between the long coast of Myanmar (Burma) to the north and the island of Phuket to the south. Imagine lagoons, caves, jungles, white sandy beaches and uninhabited islands with world class diving.

You are imagining Phang Nga Province.

Read on if you want to find out more. There is a handy map of the entire area at the bottom of this blog.

Phang Nga, pronounced ‘Pang Na’ is both the name of the province and the name of the capital town. There are several national parks here, the main one being Ao Phang Nga National Park which is where you will find the world famous Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island.

Phang Nga is less than 100km from Phuket so perfect for a day trip but also ideal as a holiday destination in it’s own right. It’s also the next province along from Krabi, so a handy next stop for anyone travelling from there.

The 4 most famous attractions of Phang Nga Province are: the Khao Lak, The Similan and Surin Islands, Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island which is also in Phang Nga Bay. We’ll describe these and 8 more attractions below.

4 most famous attractions of Phang Nga Province

1. Khao Lak

Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak, Thailand
Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak, Thailand

Khao Lak refers to 30 km of coastline which has dozens of amazing 4 and 5 star hotels lined across it’s white sandy beaches. It is a peaceful, family friendly place and is the perfect destination for beach lovers who want to eat in nice restaurants, do a spot of shopping but also want to avoid any dodgy nightlife. Read more about Khao Lak in this blog.

2. Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay has a comparable beauty to Halong Bay in Vietnam. Huge lush green limestone cliffs soar out of turquoise water making a dramatic visual impact. It is a geological gem with islets, lagoons, mangroves, caves and sunken caverns. The bay is sheltered and therefore ideal for sea kayaking all year round. You can also see some 3,000 year old rock paintings. Phang Nga Bay is the main attraction of the province and gets busy with day trippers from Phuket so we recommend you visit early. There are many boat trips that can take you to all the key highlights and we highly recommend sea kayaking through the area too.

3. Similan and Surin Islands

Beach on the Similan islands
Similan Islands

The beautiful island groups of Surin and Similan are both uninhabited national parks and are renowned for their unspoiled beaches, clear waters, marine life and coral reefs. Similan Islands and Surin Islands are one of Thailand’s most famous diving sites. Near the Surin Islands is the famous Richelieu Rock, one of the best dive sites in the whole of South East Asia. The best way to see these islands is by a taking a day trip or if you want to dive, then a liveaboard is the best option.

 4. James Bond Island

James Bond Island, Thailand
James Bond Island

James Bond Island (Ko Tapu) is a famous photo opportunity. It is a limestone karst tower that featured in the 1974 James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun and after that became very famous. It is always part of any boat tour you choose to take in Phang Nga Bay and is one of the most photographed attractions in Thailand.

More attractions in Phang Nga Bay

 Ao Phang Nga National Park

Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island are part of this national park which covers 400 square km and contains 42 islands. Over 80 % of the park is covered by the Andaman sea, including islands such as; Maprow Island, Boi Noi Island, Boi Yai Island, Rayaring Island, Phanak Island, Hong Island (with it’s famous lagoon) and Phing Kan Island.

Ko Hong, Phang Nga Bay
Koh Hong Lagoon, Phang Nga Bay

 

Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay
Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay

Ko Panyi – Sea Gypsy Village

Also in Ao Phang Nga National Park is Ko Panyi a Muslim Sea Gypsy village built entirely on stilts in the ocean. It used to be an authentic homestay experience but is now more of a tourist attraction rather than an actual glimpse into real Asian Sea Gypsy Life. Most of the alleyways that are open to tourists are lined with over priced trinkets and real village life happens elsewhere.

Tham Lod (Lod Cave)

Tham Lod is a large cave in Phang Nga Bay about 50 metres long and there are beautiful stalactites and stalagmites inside the grotto. You can normally see this cave when you go sea kayaking.

Khao Khien

Khao Khien is an opportunity to see rock paintings on the cliff of animals which are at least 3,000 years old.

Attractions outside of Phang Nga Bay

Lam Ru Waterfall – Lamru National Park

Lam Ru (Nam Tok Lam Ru) is a pretty five level fall that flows throughout the year. A small path trail leads to the top of the waterfall and it is a very pretty walk with lots of nature to see along the way. Lamru National Park is an ideal place to trek and to go rafting.

 Ton Chong Fah Waterfall – Lamru National Park

Ton Chong Fah Waterfall is a pretty 5 large level waterfall which also flows all year round. It is about 10 minutes east of Bang Niang beach in Khao Lak and is a beautiful walk through quiet nature.

Raman Waterfall Forest Park

Raman Waterfall Forest Park features a nature trail which includes a medium sized multi tiered waterfall with water flowing all year. The tiers of the waterfall result from the different elevations of the area that the stream flows by.

Best places to stay in Phang Nga Province

We recommend that you stay on one of the beaches of Khao Lak, or if you really want to get away from it all you can stay on Koh Yao Noi Island. Khao Yao Noi is only 30 minutes off the mainland and is very quiet and unspoilt. The featured image of this blog is the view of Phang Nga Bay from the beach at Koh Yao Noi. Stunning!

Map of Phang Nga Province

 

Map of Phang Nga Province
Map of Phang Nga Province

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Images courtesy of Flickr.com – Featured image by Jason Wesley, Nang Thong beach by Kullez, Phang Nga Bay by Jeff Gunn , Similan Islands by Andrew K Smith, James Bond Island by Carrie Kellenberger , Koh Hong Lagoon by Steve Cornish , Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay by Jeff Gunn.

Getting the best of Khao San Road

Dreadlocks on Khao San Road, Thailand

The famous Khao San Road has become a backpacker’s paradise, with cheap and friendly guest houses/hostels, street food, cafes, bars and rowdy nightclubs. It’s not the real Thailand, but it’s pretty much unmissable in most people’s eyes because it’s just such a famous little road.

Everything you could possibly want as a backpacker/traveller is here; it’s a great place to party and meet fellow travellers who are usually on their way south to the islands.

Here’s how to get the best out of staying in Khao San Road and how to find some authentic areas nearby. There’s a handy map at the bottom too.

Top tips for Khao San Road

  • There is no Skytrain in this area so play it safe and take a metered taxi until you are familiar with the area.
  • If you buy anything expensive on Khao San Road – it will either be overpriced or fake.
  • Quieter areas around Khao San are: Rambuttri Road, with little bars and restaurants, Phra Athit Road with colonial-style houses and riverside hotels; and Sam Sen Road with small guest houses and vegetarian restaurants.
  • Beware of scams. Buy onward travel and tours online or from a shop –  not off the street.
  • For really authentic Thai food, try other areas of Bangkok or read our recommendations below.
  • Nightclubs tend to ask to see your passport before they let you in.
  • Don’t ask tuk-tuks to do wheelies……seriously….

Bangkok Tuk Tuk

History of Khao San Road

Khao San Road is located a block away from Chao Phraya River in the area of Bangkok called Rattanakosin which is in the heart of the ‘old city area’, known as Banglamphu. ‘khao san’ means milled rice and the road was thus named due to the role it had in the rice trade from the 19th Century until the 1970’s.

Khao San became famous internationally when hippies in the 1970’s stopped off here while making their way along the four Ks of Kabul, Kathmandu, Khao San Road and Kuta. The first official guest house called Bonny, opened in 1982 but now the Khao San vibe has spilled over the entire area with hundreds of places to stay, eat, shop and party. There’s even some 5 star hotel action near the river.

The area has become an actual tourist attraction rather than just a place to stay due to the novel and movie “The Beach”  set in the early 90’s but it has come a long way from how it was represented then. Accommodation all used to be basic but now many guest houses have upgraded, funky fresh hostels have opened and there are quality hotels now too.

Good Bars and Clubs near Khao San Road

There are some great bars and clubs actually on Khao San Road but here are 4 more quality live music venues and clubs nearby. Each has has link to their Facebook pages.

  • Adhere the 13th – 13 Sam Sen Road. Open, 18:00–00:00. This is a small blues bar that is all about the music. There is always a band playing and the atmosphere is intimate.
  • jazZ happens! – 58 Phra Athit Road. Open 18:00–00:00. This bar features live jazz played by Thai students and is a collaboration with Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Jazz. Very popular among the locals and is now being found by foreigners.
  • Café Democ – 78 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. Open 11:00-03:00. A restaurant at daytime, this place really gets going around 20:00 when it becomes a nightclub. Great mix of locals and foreigners and ideal for the indie crowd that are into house.
  • Dickinson’s Culture Café – Phrathit Road. Open from 23.00-02.00. With a strong connection to the Ministry of Sound and the above Cafe Democ this is THE club of choice in Bangkok with world class dj’s and awesome events.

Where to eat good Thai food near Khao San Road

The international mix of travellers means that if you are craving cheap international food, particularly Middle Eastern, or Indian this is the place to come. You can even find Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway here. However, the road has a reputation for poor quality Thai food but I would just call it distinctly average. You can find really authentic Thai eating places very close by if you know where to look.

  • Madame Musur – 41 Rambutri Road.  This upmarket bar/restaurant has great Chang Mai style Thai food and cocktails with a local Chang Mai twist. Bamboo decor, paper lanterns and day beds will make you feel as if you are in one of Chiang Mai’s trendy neighborhoods.
  • Newlight Thai Tapas Bar  – Rambuttri Road. This upmarket bar is in a beautiful old Thai house and you can eat central Thai and Isaan food served in distinctly tapas style. Not quite authentic Thai but delicious all the same.
  • Street Food Stalls – Rambuttri Road. This collection of cheap street buffet stalls with seating is ideal for foreigners wanting to try cheap but authentic, fresh Thai food. A large variety of traditional Thai dishes are available here and most of the servers can speak English to help you.
  • Local Food Market –  Chakrapong Road. This is an area to see real takeaway Thai food for the locals including local sweets and desserts. It’s a good place to try “Thai food on a stick” which is almost always awesome.

Khao San Road

Getting to and from Khao San Road, Bangkok

While the Skytrain is the most convenient way of getting around Bangkok, there is no connection to Khao San Road or to anywhere else in that area including Wat Arun and The Grand Palace, so your choices are boat, bus or taxi.

Boat to Khao San

The Chao Phraya Express Boat is the cheapest way of getting to Khao San Road. If you’re coming from the city centre, take the Skytrain (BTS) to Saphan Taksin Station and get on the Express Boat at Sathorn Pier. Ride the boat to Phra Arthit Pier which takes about 35 minutes. It’s only a short walk from the pier to Khao San Road. The Chao Phraya Express Boat stops running around 18:30.

Bus to Khao San

The bus system in Bangkok is not easy to navigate but is very cheap, usually around 10 baht per trip. Here are some useful bus lines for travellers at Khao San Road:

  • Bus 2 goes from Sukhumvit Road to Sanam Luang, and passes Ratchdamnoen Klang Road, which is close to Khao San Road. The route is handy for connections to the Skytrain (BTS) and the Eastern Bus Terminal. It runs 24 hours a day.
  • Bus 3 goes to the Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) and passes by Chakrabongse Road near Khao San Road. This bus also stops near the awesome Chatuchak Weekend Market.
  • Bus 509 starts at Mo Chit Bus Terminal, passing through Victory Monument which has a SkyTrain station. It also passes by Ratchadamnoen Klang Road near Khao San Road.

Taxis and Tuk Tuks to Khao San

Some taxis will try to charge you an expensive flat rate to take you to Khao San Road but the meter is always cheaper. The majority of taxi drivers are reasonably honest, though, so opt for a taxi instead of a tuk-tuk and make sure the meter is on before you get in. Most trips will cost you less than 100 baht unless you are going to either of the 2 airports which on a meter will be about 300-400 baht maximum.

Tuk-Tuk drivers will often quote a price that is more than an air-con metered taxi so bargain hard with tuk-tuk drivers. Any person offering to help you get a tuk-tuk will quote a higher price to cover their commission. Be wary about taking a tuk-tuk very late at night to a nightclub of the driver’s recommendation because there are several scams that you could unwittingly get involved in.

Should I stay in Khao San Road?

If you’re young, on a budget and looking to mingle with other backpackers, staying around Khao San is a no-brainer, but keep in mind that there are other parts of Bangkok that have some budget places to stay and have travel agents, fun shopping and bars nearby etc. Why not stay 2 nights in the Khao San area and visit all the tourist attractions near the Grand Palace while you are there and then spend a few nights in Sukhumvit or Silom to see the real Bangkok and also go shopping in the malls. 1 night in Bangkok is simply not enough!

Map of Khao San Road

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Images courtesy of Flickr.com – Featured image by ‘R’, tuk-tuk by Chochlik and view of Khao San Road by Guillén Pérez. Map found on Google Images, commercial use allowed.

The historical beach city of Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Antiques and Art

Hua Hin is a beach city in Thailand that is like no other tourist destination in this country. Filled to the brim with affluent expats, turn of the 20th century villas and also 1990’s condos, if you choose to stay here you will have an experience like no other. It does have it’s seedy side, it’s tacky souvenir shops and tatty hotels but it is also steeped in history and romance. Here is our guide to the Thai elite’s weekend getaway from Bangkok, Hua Hin.

Don’t confuse Hua Hin with Pattaya

Due to the large amount of high rise condos, it’s close proximity to Bangkok and its wide arched sandy bay, you might confuse Hua Hin with Pattaya, however Hua Hin has a completely different vibe; an affluent expat community, an art scene and a whole lot less of all things ‘seedy’. It’s a beach city only 220km from Bangkok and while it was overdeveloped in the 1990’s it still retains a charm that other beach cities in Thailand have totally lost. Why? Mainly due to Thai Royal influence.

The Royal Influence in Hua Hin

Hua Hin is Thailand`s oldest beach resort, located on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand.  At the turn of the 20th century, Prince Chakrabhongse came to Hua Hin on a hunting trip with Russian nobility on the Royal Steamer and liked the area so much he returned to build the first beach villa in Hua Hin. King Rama VI then built a summer retreat here and later King Rama VII built another palace, ‘Klaikangwon’ which means “far from worries”. This Palace is still in use today by the Royal Family. There are also many other beach villas built around this time (1910-1930) by Thai Royals and the Thai Elite, many of which survive and reflect a time when Hua Hin was the number one weekend destination to escape the heat of Bangkok.

The Development of the Thai-Malaysia Railway

In conjunction with royal interest in the area, Hua Hin began to develop in the early 1900s because of the new Thai-Malaysia railway line and the opening of Hua Hin’s train station in 1911 as part of that development. Hua Hin became an ideal stopover on the way to and from Malaysia prior to the launch of sleeper cars.

Hua Hin Railway Station

In 1921 the Director of the Thai State Railway, Prince Purachatra built the famous Railway Hotel close to the beach and also nearby he built Asia’s first 18-hole golf course. From there the popularity of Hua Hin increased dramatically. Opened in October 26, 1922, Hua Hin’s Railway Hotel featured 14 luxury bedrooms, a lobby, lounge bar, restaurant, billiards room and wine storeroom. The building was similar in appearance to the Marukhatayawan Royal Residence in nearby Cha-am and boasted many new European trends such as room service and a European restaurant.

Sofitel Hua Hin

The legacy of Hua Hin’s Railway Hotel

In 1986 the State Railway of Thailand granted the Central Group of Hotels and Accor restoration rights to the and the historical building was preserved including the Siam style exterior architecture, interior decoration and its old lobby. It has also been extended to include more than 200 rooms. Interestingly it was used as the Hotel Phnom Phen in the movie The Killing Fields

 Things to do in Hua Hin

Hua Hin Beach extends 7 kilometres south to a headland called Kao Takiap. Popular activities in Hua Hin include fishing, kite-boarding, martial arts, Thai massage, spa, cooking courses, trekking, walking, cycling, diving, snorkeling, handicrafts, water sports and pony-riding on the beach. Many boat trips are available such as touring the river or cruising the Gulf of Thailand on a teak boat for great views of the Sam Roi Yod National Park. Golf in particular is especially popular, with Hua Hin increasingly being recognized as Thailand’s premier golfing destination.

Wat Khao Takiab‎, Hua Hin

The area around the headland in the south, Khao Takiab has a hilltop temple and has become a quiet village where long-stay foreigners have made their home.  On the other side of this headline is a lovely beach and just a little further on, there is Suan Son beach is owned by the Thai army, but open to anyone of the public who want some peace and quiet.

The Hua Hin Art Scene

Just north of the main downtown area of Hua Hin you’ll find the very cool bars, cafes, galleries and boutique hotels that have a very artistic vibe. The Hua Hin Arts and Centre is situated in this area in an old house and has a collection of many contemporary works of Thai artists, as well as antique Thai furniture and pictures about Hua Hin’s history.

Markets in Hua Hin

  • Hua Hin Bazaar is 100 metres west of the beach and features lots of souvenirs.
  • Pae Market is open each Tuesday near the Royal Hua Hin Golf Club and is a traditional Thai market.
  • The Night Market in the centre of town is a great place to eat.
  • Sam Phan Nam Floating Market has 40 shops on the boats, selling local food, hand made products and souvenirs.
  • The famous Cicada Market sells handmade art such as the fashion clothing, jewellery, Art and food. An outdoor stage also has many free shows such as concerts, plays, theater, and more.

 Events and festivals

  • Thailand’s International Kite Festival is held during March, April, and May every other year
  • The Hua Hin Jazz Festival Jazz is held on the beach every June
  • The Hua Hin Vintage Car Rally is a drive of vintage cars from Bangkok to Hua Hin every year in December

 Should I go on holiday to Hua Hin?

The locals are extremely proud of their heritage and Hua Hin can offer visitors a real glimpse back into Thailand’s history with its old colonial buildings, fishing heritage and quaint streets. There is also a lot of nature to be seen just a short drive away such as Sam Roi Yod National Park and there are plenty of activities to do for people of all ages. However, the town is very busy not all the development is pretty. There are more than 450 hotels in the area so that will give you an idea of how busy it gets in high season. Hua Hin still caters for those looking for pole dancing and the like too. However, if anyone in your group loves golf, history, beach time and hustle and bustle, and a great expat vibe then you should give this place a try. There is also an excellent selection of villas for rent in Hua Hin which can be very affordable.

Hilton Hua Hin and Hua Hin Beach
Hilton Hua Hin and Hua Hin Beach

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Images courtesy of Flickr.com – featured image by Heiko S, Railway Station by Cher Vernal EQ,  Khao Takiab by Heiko S and Hua Hin beach by Kamren B

The most affordable Thai food in Bangkok under one roof

Eathai logo

There are dozens of food courts in Bangkok, usually located in an air con shopping mall where in self service style you pick from a range of tasty dishes from food stalls, all prepared quickly and at low cost. So when Central Embassy, the new ultra-luxury lifestyle mall opened in Bangkok in May 2014 it was clear that they were going to do something different with their food court. And they did.

CentralEmbassyNonth

Central Embassy Bangkok boasts an impressive collection of high-end designer stores, fine-dining, a luxury cinema and a six-star hotel due to open in 2015. It has become one of the world’s leading shopping destinations with its minimalist white interior and huge space. However, it also contains the most delicious and affordable Thai food in Bangkok. If you can’t afford to shop at Prada or Vivienne Westwood, trust me, on lower ground floor of Central Embassy is the most wonderful and affordable Thai food shopping and eating establishment imaginable.

Local Dry Thai Goods

‘Eathai’ is the concept of offering hundreds of classic Thai dishes from across the entire country in a beautiful setting. This place is like a Thai food kingdom and spans 5000 square metres. They have assembled signature dishes from all 4 regional cuisines – central, southern, northern and Issarn food, which means massive variety. There is also a vegetarian, seafood, and a street food area; a bar, a cooking school and a supermarket with awesome produce you can pack into your suitcase to take home. Care has been taken to source the best brands but at affordable prices.

ShoppingAtEatThai

Unlike classic food courts, your meal is served to you at a table and also unlike classic food courts, the decor of this place is just wonderful. Yes, you are inside an air con mall but the best has been done to authentically recreate the old style food stalls, the cooking implements and comfortable wooden seating. Many of the most famous food stalls in Bangkok have been invited to recreate their same signature dishes inside this lavish arena. Dishes start from around 80 baht up to 400 baht and despite the wide range of choice, ordering is made easy since most dishes are laid out in example with detailed English descriptions.

When you add the draw of the supermarket with it’s impressive range of organic toiletries and cooking pastes, I could literally stay here all day.

Vegetarian Kitchen, Bangkok, Thailand

I totally put this food court into the bracket ‘affordable’ because although you can find all these dishes 20-30% cheaper out there on the street – this really is value for money and won’t break the bank no matter how many dishes you order. It’s also educational; I live in the South and love Issarn food but the Central area was a whole new discovery for me. I was also ending a Vegan month in January 2015 and found their vegetarian area awesome. The laab tofu in the photo below was very very tasty.

Laab Tofu Thai Food

EATHAI

Central Embassy 1031 Ploenchit road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

5 min walk from Phloen Chit BTS station or Chit Lom BTS station, (Skytrain) over a comfortable walkway.

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Photo of Central Embassy’s Atrium courtesy of Flickr.com – By Nonth. All other images courtesy of Eathai’s Facebook Page. Laab Tofu taken on my phone.

 

The Essential Guide to The Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party, Thailand

The Full Moon Party happens on the evening of every full moon (every 29.53 days) on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. If you are reading this blog you probably know already that you really really want to go to the world’s most famous beach party! So here we’re going to give you the best advice on getting in and getting out without delay and at the right price. Firstly, book your accommodation well in advance. A list of official dates for the Full Moon Party can be found here.

What is the Full Moon Party?

The Full Moon party is Thailand’s most famous backpacker event/attraction and began in the 1980’s at the Sunrise Bar at the North end of Haad Rin Beach, on the island of Koh Phangan. It has since spread all the way up the 800 metre beach and throughout Haad Rin. Around 20,000 people go each month and there are dozens of bars set up all along the beach to cater for everyone. There are also different dance areas.

Haad_Rin_Beach_Map
Map of Haad Rin Village and nearby beaches including Sunrise Beach where the Full Moon Party takes place. This map represents a small area at the bottom end of Koh Phangan.

Make accommodation the priority

As I am writing this blog, the next Full Moon Party is a full 3 weeks away and yet when I check www.booking.com, there are only 15 resorts left in the area of Haad Rin that have rooms available. Thats out of a total of 67 resorts that Booking.com list. It really fills up fast even if you are planning to stay outside of Haad Rin, so get that room locked down. Also know that even if you stay in a really basic room, it will be expensive in and around the Full Moon Party. The prices will go up rather than down as the time gets closer – there are no last minute deals. Even a bed in a dorm room could cost you more than £30 a night.

Map of Koh Phangan
Map of the Island of Koh Phangan where the Full Moon Party takes place. It is 48 square miles of lush land and has a small population of around 25,000 people.

We recommend you come to the area a couple of days before and leave a couple of days after to avoid the huge crowds on the ferries and the higher prices you will be charged for flights. It also gives you some time to enjoy the really good shopping in the pretty little village of Haad Rin and you could perhaps do some half day trips around the island? There are also some pre and post Full Moon Parties to attend for those who want to party for more than one night.

Where should I sleep when I go to the Full Moon Party?

The party happens on Sunrise Beach in Haad Rin so if you want to get some sleep we suggest you stay a 10 minute walk away on Sunset beach. It will be substantially quieter. If you are not bothered about sleeping then stay on Sunrise Beach which will be cheaper due to the noise. Even if you think you are staying far away from the main action, take some ear plugs just in case.

An area close to Haad Rin where you will you get a quietish night is called Ban Tai. There are taxis that will take you to and from Ban Tai all night long and will only cost around 150 baht each way for the 15 minute journey. When you are booking a room online check where your potential room is on a map of Koh Phangan (see above) because if you are really far away a taxi could prove expensive and slow. The island is actually deceptively big and taxis are quite expensive.

You can also stay on the island of Koh Samui since there are speedboats that travel back and forth from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan throughout the night and you will definitely find cheaper accommodation here. Speedboats leave from The Big Buddha Pier and Bo Phut on Koh Samui regularly. They arrive at Haad Rin Pier 20-30 mins later. Lots of hotels will arrange for you to be picked up from your hotel on Koh Samui and taken to the pier. Please, please wear a life jacket and stay on Koh Phangan if you may suffer from motion sickness after a hard night of partying. Don’t lose your friends!

Getting from the mainland or other islands to the Full Moon Party

Getting to Koh Phangan involves taking a ferry or speedboat because there is no airport. Ferries to Koh Phangan start at either the neighboring islands of Koh Samui or Koh Tao or from the mainland ports of Chumphon or Surat Thani.

However that doesn’t mean that you need to waste time getting to these ferry ports. You can fly to Koh Samui airport or to Surat Thani airport to really cut down on wasted travel time. Air Asia fly from many airports to Surat Thani and can be cheap if booked well in advance. Then it is just 1 hour to the ferry port by bus and 3 hours to Koh Phangan on the ferry. (If you fly into Koh Samui, transfer time to Koh Phangan is much quicker, only 40 minutes on a ferry)

If you don’t want to take flights and are heading to the island directly from Bangkok, you can take an overnight bus or overnight train to Surat Thani. The bus and train options from Bangkok take approximately 14 hours, ferry included. If you are coming from the Krabi/Phuket/Phi Phi side of Thailand, it is around 4 hours to Surat Thani on a bus or minivan and then a 40 minute transfer to the ferry port from the city of Surat Thani. Then you have the 3 hour ferry.

The easiest way to get to Koh Phangan is flying from Bangkok to Koh Samui, and then a 40 minute boat ride from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.

Basic Map of Thailand showing Koh Phangan
Map of Thailand, showing the sister islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. This area is around 14 hours from Bangkok by road and then boat

 

Checklist for 2 weeks before the Full Moon Party

  • Book your accommodation
  • Book your flights or overnight bus or train
  • Book the ferry/speedboat to the island
  • Book the ferry/speedboat off the island
  • Book your transport to your next destination

Checklist for the night of the Full Moon Party

  • If you are staying outside of Haad Rin, negotiate taxi’s early if at all possible and fill it up with friends otherwise it may not leave until it is full
  • Don’t take any valuables to the party
  • Do your best to make pickpockets jobs as hard as possible
  • Have a plan if you lose your friends
  • Don’t start too early – the highlight is dancing until dawn
  • Drink plenty of water
  • More than 20 people die each year at this party so don’t be reckless with any aspect of your safety including swimming in the ocean, taking drugs and getting into fights
  • Don’t be too scared of the bucket – they are fun if shared

Should I go to The Full Moon Party?

The Full Moon Party no longer resonates with the hedonism depicted in Alex Garland’s 1996 novel The Beach, but it’s still fun and very very messy. The Full Moon Party starts at dusk when the beach totally transforms: bars and clubs set up tables, chairs, pillows and lamps; DJs set the mood, and food carts are everywhere. 30,000 people covered in body-paint, drinking buckets and/or high, dance until sunrise, although an awful lot of people also pass out. Then after the morning brings hot sunshine you can head into the village for a big fried western breakfast. If you like that idea then head to Haad Rin during your holiday in Thailand for the Full Moon Party.

Full Moon Party Thailand

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Images courtesy of Flickr.com – featured image by Joe Stump and Party Girl image by Maria Gabriela

Our recommended luxury hotels in Thailand

Pimalai Resort, Ko Lanta, Thailand

Not all 5 star luxury hotels in Thailand are created equally. Some are simply in a class of their own. Here is a selection of wonderful 5 star resorts, hand selected by us, so that you can see the wide variety available. From the classic luxury of the Four Seasons, to a 19th Century Teak House, or an eco friendly resort and honeymoon couple’s paradise, it’s all here. And while some of these villas are weighing in at over £800 a night, there are some quite affordable places listed too, especially if you are coming out of season (June-November) Enjoy!

Bangkok – Siam Kaminski

Siam Kampinski Hotel, Bangkok
Siam Kampinski Hotel, Bangkok

Siam Kempinski Bangkok is a 5 star luxury hotel in Bangkok with 303 rooms and suites, and despite being in the centre of a city has a resort feel to it due to the large and beautiful gardens. It has a grand lobby, multiple pools, fine dining, a fitness centre, kids’ club and a world-class spa. Small pets are also permitted. This hotel is very close to the world class shopping mall of Siam Paragon so it perfect for those looking to get some shopping done. Their complementary golf buggy service to, from and around the mall is ideal for those with any mobility issues.

Siam Kempinski is most famous for its awesome concierge service and the Sra-Bua restaurant, beautifully deconstructed degustation menu paired with great wines which makes it one of the best dining experiences in Bangkok.

Chang Mai – 137 Pillars House

137 Pillars Hotel, Chang Mai

137 Pillars House, is on this list because not only is it a stunning hotel but it is also one of the few historical buildings in Thailand that has remained intact and been converted to a hotel.

137 Pillars House is a teak house built in 1896 and it was the residence of the Manager of the British owned East Borneo Company until 1927. After World War Two it became a much loved family house and in 2002 was sold and lovingly converted into the boutique hotel that it is today.

With only 30 rooms, most of which are spacious suites, this place is a real treat to stay at. Each suite has beautiful garden views, walk in closets, a balcony, spacious living area and better yet, each bathroom comes with a Victorian bathtub as well as on open air shower. You really feel the luxury when you stay here.

Just a 10-minute walk from the Chiang Mai Night Market, it has an outdoor pool, a spa and gym. It is an architectural treat with exceptional customer service.

Koh Samui – Four Seasons

4 Seasons Koh Samui, Thailand
4 Seasons Koh Samui, Thailand

The Four Seasons on the island of Koh Samui is a stunning resort with 73 villas and private residences each with their own private pool. This resort has all the luxury that the Four Seasons has a reputation for, along with one of the best locations on the entire island and the wonderful Thai style customer service.

There’s tennis, a fitness centre, world class spa, Muay Thai training, a kids club, yoga, cooking classes, private cruises, scuba diving, sports on the beach, or simply relax in the sprawling and beautifully designed gardens. While there’s plenty to do, this luxury hotel in Thailand is also very spacious and quiet and the beautiful beach is also quiet.

Koh Samui – Conrad

2 Bedroom Oceanview Pool Villa, Conrad, Koh Samui, Thailand
2 Bedroom Oceanview Pool Villa, Conrad, Koh Samui, Thailand

Spread over 25 acres, the Conrad Koh Samui is a luxurious and private beachfront getaway overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Their villas all feature wonderful views, its own infinity pool,  a decadent marble bathroom, large lounge area and stunning views of the ocean. The Conrad has 5 restaurants, and The Jahn is an award winning Thai restaurant which has delightful cuisine and a world class wine list.

Some have described this resort as bordering on a 6 star due to the seclusion of the villas, the large rooms, the quality food options and the excellent service.

Phuket – Kata Rocks

Kata Rocks Villas and Resort, Phuket, Thailand
Kata Rocks Villas and Resort, Phuket, Thailand

Kata Rocks is a stylish boutique villa resort on the island of Phuket offering a minimalist vibe, an excellent spa, beautiful rooms, private infinity pools, fabulous sea views and spectacular cliff-side location. It also has a highly recommended restaurant which has excellent reviews.

Designed to make you feel like you are on a super yacht, Kata Rocks exudes luxury in every way. There are 43 one, two, three and four-bedroom villas stacked across the hillside and they are all big, bright and beautiful. Each comes with fully-fitted kitchens, living and dining areas, and large glass doors opening onto large private infinity pools.

This resort only had its soft launch in November 2014 and so the customer service still needs to be improved, but this place is simply stunning and is one of the best new luxury resorts to open in Thailand in the last 12 months.

Khao Lak – The Sarojin

Sarojin Resort, Khao Lak, Thailand
Sarojin Resort, Khao Lak, Thailand

The Sarojin is located in Khao Lak overlooking a very long and beautiful white beach. Surrounded by national parks and rainforests, it is a secluded retreat only 1 hour by car from Phuket and is less than 1-hour by boat from the famous diving spots at Similan and Surin Islands. This is a boutique resort with 56 suites and is a favourite with those on their honeymoon.

This resort exudes understated class at every level. Wonderful food, beautiful gardens, incredible attention to detail and a staff who are wonderfully helpful and hands on. If you want peace and quiet, wonderful Thai smiles at every turn and a stunning beach, then this is the place for you.

Kao Yai Island (Phuket) – 6 Senses

Six Senses, Kao Yai Island, Thailand
Six Senses, Kao Yai Island, Thailand

Six Senses can be found on the very quiet island of Yao Noi not far from Phuket. It is mainly built from wood and natural elements and  is spread over 24 acres of beautiful natural habitat. Overlooking the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, it has 56 luxurious air-conditioned villas with thatched roofs, each with a private pool, a dining area, sun loungers and even a private butler. The living areas are large, rustic in decor but equipped with a flat-screen TV, free high speed internet and plenty of electric sockets . There’s even a luxurious outdoor bathroom.

Golf buggies can take guests up and down the hillside, while bicycles, kayaks and boats are available to explore this secluded island. In addition to the sheer luxury and seclusion of the place, visitors tend to come for the yoga, availability of delicious vegetarian food and the world class holistic spa.

Koh Lanta Island (Krabi Province) – Pimlai

Pimalai, Koh Lanta, Thailand
Pimalai, Koh Lanta, Thailand

Pimalai (featured image) is set within 100 acres of lush green land on the island of Koh Lanta. While each villa is large and comfortable, the resort was developed without disturbing much of the surrounding jungle, so it remains green and secluded. Pimalai has deluxe rooms, suites, pool villas and beach villas, which despite being 5 star, are actually well priced. The beach at Pimalai is fabulous, almost 1km of pristine white sand and it is the beauty and seclusion of the location that most people come for.

Pimalai has many of the facilities associated with other 5 star resorts such as a tennis court, a spa and 3 very good restaurants, however visitors normally come for the peace and quiet, the beautiful beach, large accomodations and world class diving.

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