A guide to the famous Mae Hong Son Loop

Mae Hong Son Loop by Alexis Gravel

The Famous Mae Hong Son Loop is a fantastic motorbike adventure. Found in North west Thailand, its one of the most spectacular sealed road loops in the world. You’ll drive past beautiful rice fields, through forests, over hills and mountains, passing water buffalo on the way. Local people wave as you pass their villages, and you’ll see things that few travelers in Thailand do. The Mae Hong Sone loop takes a minimum of four days, but we suggest you take some time out in the towns along the route. Here is a proposed itinerary for this amazing bike route. 

Chiang Mai to Mae Sairang (185km)

When you leave Chiang Mai, the start of the route is fairly simple. Exit out of the South Gate of the Old City then follow Thipanet Road until you get to the airport. Mae Hong Son is well sign posted.

Follow Route 108 towards the town of Hot, this should take around an hour. It is a straight road and simple to follow. Once you have turned right at the roundabout you will continue on Route 108 and the town of Mae Sairang is well sign posted. At this point the scenery becomes very beautiful.

Things to Do in Mae Sairang

 

 

Mae-Sariang by Ken Marshall
The Town of Mae Sariang

Mae Sairang is an authentically beautiful town which benefits from the cultures of both Myanmar and Thailand as it borders both countries. Less popular than Pai with tourists and travellers, this makes it a more peaceful and less commercial experience.

If you are looking for a quiet yet culturally rich place to visit then look no further than Mae Sairang. There are amazing treks to the Karen & Lawa Hilltribe Villages if you are seeking a little adventure. Otherwise, just renting a bicycle and exploring the town is a great way to absorb the ambience. There is also plenty of opportunity to buy wonderful handmade jewellery and other local crafts.

Why not visit a temple while you are there such as Wat Phrathat Chom Thong. It is one of the oldest temples in Thailand with the ancient golden Buddha clearly visible from afar. Once up on the hill you get a stunning view of Mae Sariang Town and the Yuam Valley.

Mae Sairang to Mae Hong Son (181km)

Mae Hong Son Loop ViewPoint by John Shedrick
Mae Hong Son Loop View Point

When leaving Mai Sairang the road is quite curvy and you will pass through dense forest which eventually clears to a clear road with views of spectacular farmland. The traffic becomes much quieter at this point and you will pass through lots of small villages that are welcoming for a rest and refreshment along the way.

As you get closer to Mae Hong Son, the roads become very curvy again and the views are fantastic.

Things to do in Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son by Ken Marshall
The Town of Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son City is nicknamed “the city of three mists”. Being the most mountainous province in Thailand makes this place pretty spectacular. It is much bigger than Mae Sairang and a little busier. There is plenty to do here.

If you are interested in art and history then visit Wat Jong Klang where you can view glass Jakarta paintings that are over a hundred years old and a museum with ancient wooden dolls from Myanmar. The temple is lit up at night and is reflected in Lake Nong Jong Kham which is quite stunning.

There is also trekking to be done here and a visit to the Long Neck Karan Tribes is popular with tourists (but ethically, not for everyone.) Sutongpe Bridge is another lovely spot to visit. The original bridge made completely of bamboo crosses over beautiful rice paddies and fields. It makes for great photo opportunities and a delightful place to see the sunset.

Mae Hong Son to Pai (117km)

The road to Pai is a short but winding one. It goes round in one big curve with lots of twists and turns along the way. Route 1095 has 762 bends in total. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the Mae Hong Son Loop. The motorbike certainly beats being cramped up in a sweaty minibus with other tourists. It’s best to take it slow, some of the corners are very tight and besides you will want to take in all that gorgeous scenery. There are plenty of nice eatery’s and bungalows along the way if you want to spin out the ride.

If you are feeling really adventurous you could visit the Tham Pha Mon cave which is located near Soppong en route to Pai.

Things to do in Pai

Pai by Claire Backouse

Pai is a very popular spot on the travellers routes and not without good reason. It is a beautiful little town nestled up in the mountains with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly people. Pai is probably one of the most chilled out places in Thailand or indeed the world.

There are many cosy and quaint little cafes and bars just waiting to be discovered by you with the most delicious food. One fantastic place definitely worth checking out is The Container which has hanging egg chairs that look out onto the most beautiful view of the hills. Pai is also very popular with musicians with a lot of good reggae coming from this part of the country. If you are lucky you may be able to check out a local band such as Rasta Flower.

Artists and musicians flock to this town and makes it a wonderfully vibrant place to be. Pai Circus School is a hostel that has become popular among travellers looking for a fun and unique experience. One thing’s for sure; you will not find it hard to party in Pai.

Pai to Chiang Mai (140km)

If you can bear to prise yourself away from Pai, be sure to wear fully protective clothing (including your feet) and a decent crash helmet as the first 40km of this journey are probably the most treacherous on the Mae Hong Son Loop.

After that it tends to get a bit easier but there are a whopping 762 bends to contend with along the way. It’s all good fun though. There is lots to see and do on the way including the Tha Pai Memorial Bridge. You will find it 9km along from Pai on the way to Chiang Mai. It was built in World War Two by Japanese soldiers and is a very popular place to take some amazing photographs.

You will find many friendly villages on the way to Chiang Mai who will welcome you with that famous Thai smile and a decent coffee to boot. Once you hit the highway you will be able to relax in the knowledge that Chiang Mai is only a short easy ride away.

Things to do in Chiang Mai

Wat Bupparam, Chiang Mai

 

There is so much to see and do in Chiang Mai you should try and spend at least a week there. It’s such a culturally rich and fascinating city that is steeped in history. It was once the capital of Thailand, in fact until 1558. Just renting a bicycle and exploring the city by yourself can be a wonderful way to get to know Chiang Mai.

You may want to stay within the city walls where the hustle bustle of the city gives a vibrant and fun energy.

The markets are fabulous and if you can fit in a cooking class, this is a great place to do it as you will be shown around the food markets first. There are hundreds of fantastic temples to visit in Chiang Mai. Check out our guide here.

Have the best experience of the Mae Hong Son Loop

The Famous Mae Hong Son Loop is the experience of a lifetime. Here are a few safety tips:

  • Be sure to rent a bike from a reputable company
  • Make sure the bike is powerful enough to see you through the long and sometimes tough journey.
  • Make sure that your insurance covers motorbikes.
  • Protective clothing and a full crash helmet are essential
  • Find some travel buddies to join you on this epic journey. It is always good to have support on the road.
  • Always wear sunscreen even when it is overcast.
  • Make sure you have plenty of cash before you set off
  • Charge your phone between stops.

So there it is, our guide to one of the Mae Hong Son Loop, one the most amazing trips of your life. Have fun and take lots of photographs.

Images courtesy of Flickr members: Featured image Alexis Gravel. Other images by John Shedrick, Ken-Marshall and Claire Backouse

Save this image and a link to this blog to Pinterest

Mae Hong Son Loop

How to Practice Yoga on a Budget in Thailand

Yoga on the beach

Do you want to practice yoga in Thailand, eat healthily and make the most of the sun? At first glance it seems to be an expensive holiday option, but it really doesn’t have to be. The key to practising yoga on a budget in Thailand is not to book yourself into a retreat.

There are many yoga centres in Thailand that offer high quality and affordable drop in classes. You can eat, sleep and do your yoga classes for as little as £25 a day. So in no particular order, here is a selection of yoga centres we recommend.

Chiang Mai City

Yoga Mats by Tonya and Debbie via Flickr
Yoga Mats by Tonya and Debbie via Flickr

Yoga Mind, Yoga Body

Gernot Huber, is the Principal teacher at Yoga Mind, Yoga Body, in the city of Chiang Mai and he has been practising yoga since 1996. His teaching combines the best practices from Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Anusara Yoga and classes include pranayama, partner assists, detailed alignment cues, and hints on anatomy and injury prevention. The centre hosts one drop in class per day Monday to Friday and he also offers private sessions. You can see his wonderful yoga style on his Facebook page where he keeps everyone up to date on workshops

The Yoga Tree

The Yoga Tree is a beautiful centre located on the outskirts of the city and offers 3 sessions per day of yoga, qi gong, dance and meditation. On Sundays there is only 1 session which is a gentle yoga. Classes only cost 300 baht so this is a great place to practice yoga on a budget Thailand. This centre has a wonderful reputation and Gernot Huber from Yoga Mind, Yoga body also holds classes here. They have a real community feel and an active Facebook Page

Koh Tao

Photo by Dennis Yang via Flickr
Photo by Dennis Yang via Flickr

Grounded

This is an awesome yoga centre with four excellent teachers. Just a a short distance from Sairee Beach on the island of Koh Tao, each class is only 200 baht, and drops to 150 baht per class with a 10 class loyalty card which is really great value. They run four classes everyday:  10am, 1pm, 3pm, 7pm. The reviews for this quite new venture are excellent on TripAdvisor. Check out the different experiences and styles of the teachers on this Facebook Post

Ocean Sound Dive and Yoga

‘Ocean Sound’ offer around 3 yoga classes a day, either Hatha, Vinyasa or Yin. Each class is 300 baht and there are discounts for purchasing in bulk. While this place is fundamentally a dive centre, they take their yoga very seriously, having world class guest teachers and plenty of workshops. Dive Centres and Yoga Centres fit well together and if you don’t believe me, check out this stunning video by Ocean Sound Dive and Yoga Centre on YouTube

Koh Phangan

Yoga on The Beach by Taro Taylor via Flickr
Yoga on The Beach by Taro Taylor via Flickr

Orion Healing Centre

Koh Phangan is a hot spot for yoga centres, detox centres, meditation centres, Reiki and all things zen and is probably the best place to practice yoga on a budget in Thailand.

Far too many people avoid this pretty little island because of the full moon party but trust me, this place is perfect for those who want to practice yoga, detox or meditate. Like many centres in this blog, Orion Healing Centre offers retreat packages which are quite inexpensive, and they also offer 6 drop in classes a day for 300 baht each. One of the big draws of this place is the vegan/vegetarian restaurant. It is delicious!

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary on the island of Koh Phangan is only accessible by boat and although it is a short distance from Had Rin Town, most people choose to stay at the resort in order to take their yoga classes. The Sanctuary offers 3 daily classes at 8am, 10.30am and 4pm. 90 minute classes cost 350 baht each or you can buy 7 class tickets for 2,100 Baht. No booking is required but you must book your accommodation. The resort has a great range of affordable accommodation, a restaurant with great vegan options and a lively evening atmosphere on what is essentially a private beach.

Koh Lanta

Photo by Patrick Saville via Flickr

Sri Spa and Yoga Centre

This yoga centre on the quiet and beautiful island of Koh Lanta offers Vinyasa Yoga at their beautiful beach front sala. The classes are 500 Baht for 90 minutes including a towel, yoga mat and bottle of water. There are 1 or 2 sessions a day and you should contact them in advance to let them know you are coming. The location of this yoga centre is stunning as Klong Nin beach is a delightful location.

Sabai Sabai Yoga

Also on Koh Lanta, 2 lovely ladies called Julia and Suzi run Sabai Sabai and they offer yoga classes in two ocean view locations: Kantiang Beach and Long Beach. They offer morning flows, meditative evening movement, and occasional candlelit yoga classes. Schedules vary so it is best to email them or message them on their Facebook Page but there is always at least one session a day.

Oasis Yoga

Oasis Yoga is based on Klong Dao beach and they offer, Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin with at least 2 sessions hosted per day for people at every level. Each session is 400 baht and there are discounts for bulk booking. Oasis Yoga also have a delicious juice bar. They are not associate with any resort but have a lovely space not far from a large choice of accommodation.

Pin this to read later

how to practice yoga on a budget in thailand Playa la entrada PI

Featured image courtesy of flickr.com – Playa La Entrada

 

Exploring the small islands around Phuket

Koh Lon, Phuket

The island called Phuket is surrounded by dozens of little islands and this archipelago is large and beautiful. Much of it is national park area and is a diver’s paradise. Here we list our top picks of small islands around Phuket, primarily for day trips. We are listing them alphabetically and leaving of ‘koh’ at the beginning of the name, which means island. As usual there is a helpful map at the bottom of this blog

Bon

Koh Bon, Phuket
Koh Bon, Phuket

Koh Bon is a beautiful little island that is quick and easy to reach, and so is perfect to take a boat for a day or half day of sunbathing and swimming. Koh Bon is only a 15 minute boat ride from the Phuket area called Rawai. The white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters, make Koh Bon and ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. There is a lovely little beach side restaurant called ‘Bon’ here, which is the only commercial enterprise currently open on Koh Bon. This restaurant is a simple place but world famous for existing on a deserted island paradise.

Coconut Island/Maphrao

Koh Maphrao or Coconut Island is only a 600m boat ride from the Laem Hin Pier area of Phuket. It is a small, unspoiled island, with mangrove forests and palm-fringed sandy beaches. It currently has only two resorts built on it and a small local population. Between Phuket and Koh Maphrao are floating restaurants, which are worth a lunch time visit. If you don’t want to stay at the resorts here, it is perfect for a full day or half day trip away from the main island of Phuket. Coconut island is also great for kayaking especially around the mangroves.

Coral Island/Hae

Koh Hae is well known for its coral reef so it is often referred to as Coral island. In addition to the excellent reefs there are two beaches here called Long Beach and Banana Beach and also some hotels, restaurants and watersports companies. Boats leave from Rawai and Chalong.  Koh Hae can be reached by speedboat in around 15 minutes. This island gets busy during the day with day trippers, but it is still a lovely place to visit. Since it is close the the main island of Phuket, it is perfect for a day trip, or you could consider staying at one of the resorts.

Dok Mai

Koh Dok Mai, near to Phuket and Phang Nga
Koh Dok Mai, near to Phuket and Phang Nga

Koh Dok Mai is a little limestone outcrop located just over 1 hours boat ride east of Phuket. In Thai its name means “Flower Island” and it gets this name from the stunning “flowers/coral” that lie beneath the surface of the water. Koh Dok Mai is a well-known dive site since it has one of the best wall dives in the area.

Kai Nok

Koh Khai Nok, Phuket
Koh Khai Nok, Phuket

Koh Khai Nok is a very pretty island off the east coast of Phuket. It is has a pristine white sandy beach and is surrounded by a shallow reef which is ideal for snorkeling, even for kids. The water is very clear here and wonderful to photograph. Koh Khai Nok is uninhabited and only used for day trips, however there is a restaurant on the island. It only takes around 15 minutes by speedboat to get to the island, or 30 minutes in a longtail boat. It is a great place for relaxing on the beach, swimming and snorkeling. Again, it can get busy with day trippers so you could arrange for a private boat to take you there early to miss the crowds.

Kaeo

View looking out our Koh Kaew Yai and Noi, Phuket
View looking out our Koh Kaew Yai and Noi, Phuket

There are two Khaeo Islands one big/yai and one small/noi.  At Koh Kaeo Yai you can see a replica of Buddha’s holy footprint on the beach and also a large  and very beautifully situated Buddha statue, that looks back towards Phuket. The Koh Kaeo islands are a few hundred metres offshore from Phuket and is a great spot for snorkeling and kayaking. These two islands can be seen from Promthep Cape viewpoint on Phuket.

Lohn/Lon

This large, mountainous island is only 20 minutes by boat from Chalong Bay, in the south of Phuket but is very secluded and undeveloped. There are lots of Thai inhabitants here who make their living from fishing, rubber and coconuts. If you are after some serious relaxing a visit to the island is an ideal way to do that. The best place for relaxing is the island’s northwest tip where a couple of tranquil resorts offer bathrooms and food. Koh Lohn is also great for trekking along the interior trails or along its beaches at low tide.

Mai Ton/Maiton

This tiny island off Phuket’s southeast coast has fine white beaches and crystal clear water; ideal for swimming, diving, snorkeling, diving or fishing. There are only two resorts here, is the 5 star Mai Ton Island Resort and the Honeymoon Island hotel. Koh Mai Ton, is 9 kms from Phuket and is perfect for lazing around in the sun for the day. You can take a boat from Ao Makham Port in Phuket.

Naka

There are two Naka Islands one big/yai and one small/noi.  They are 20 minutes by long tail boat from Phuket. Koh Naka Yai is the larger of the two islands with beautiful views across Phang Nga Bay. Koh Naka Noi is situated south of the larger island and is also known as the “pearl island”

Racha

Koh Racha, Phuket
Koh Racha, Phuket

There are two Koh Racha’s – one big/yai and one small/noi. Koh Racha Yai and Noi are a 35-minute speedboat ride from Chalong Bay in Phuket. Those with a passion for diving should have the Racha Islands on their list of dive sites for sure. Both islands have wonderful clear water, snorkelling opportunities and perfect white sand. It can get busy with dive boats so if you want some peace, arrive earlier in the morning.  Ko Racha Noi  has an area of 3.06 square kilometres (1.18 sq mi) and Ko Racha Yai has an area of 4.5 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi). There is a luxury 5 star on Koh Racha call The Racha.

Rang

There are two Koh Rang’s – one big/yai and one small/noi. Koh Rang Yai is a peaceful island lying about 5 kms off the east coast of Phuket and is covered in rainforest. Its western side has a 1 km long beach with fine white sand. The shady, tree-lined interior has several paths along which you can walk around. It is perfect for a day trip, when relaxing is what you have in mind. There are a variety of activities to do such as kayaking, windsurfing, mountain biking, mini-golf and volleyball.

Sirey

Koh Siray showing the Westin Resort, Phuket
Koh Siray showing the Westin Resort, Phuket

Separated from the mainland of Phuket by a shallow mangrove swamp, this island is connected by a causeway to the east side of Phuket City, and so feels more like a cape than an island. Infact because you can walk/drive here a lot of people don’t realise they have left the mainland.

This is a quiet backwater with little development, and a string of coarse sand beaches. While the beaches here are not perfect, they make up for it with tranquillity. There is just a single hotel on this island, the luxurious Westin Siray Resort. It has its own beach and a small headland to give it elevation, and has great sunset views over nearby Phuket City.

Driving along Koh Siray’s leafy coastal road with its rubber plantations is a pleasure.  There is an abalone farm that hosts a very nice restaurant with views out over Phuket’s east coast islands. Wat Koh Sirey, is a large temple on the hill and has a large reclining Buddha. This vantage point also provides lovely views of the area. Phuket’s largest settlement of Sea Gipsies or Chao Lay as they are known, is found on Koh Siray. They have their own unique culture and language and there are not many settlements left any more.  Ko Sirey’s area is  8.8 square kilometres (3.4 sq mi)

That’s our top picks of little islands that can be found around the big island of Phuket, we hope you enjoyed it and can use it to pick your trips out on the Andaman sea. Here is a map to help you locate your paradise tropical island near to Phuket!

Map of the islands around Phuket
Map of the islands around Phuket

 

Pin this to read later

exploring the small islands around phuket PI

Images courtesy of Flickr and Wikepedia – Featured image of Koh Lon by Cruiser Island Resort, Koh Bon by Del Adams, Coral Island by Kevin Poh, Koh Dok Mai by asiva. Koh Kai Nok by Diego DelsoWikimediaCommonsLicense CC-BY-SA 3.0, view over Koh Kaeo by %%%%, Koh Racha Yai by Eustaquio Santimano and Koh Siray by  Westin

Thai Culture: Basics of Thai Classical Dance

Thai Dancer

When you are on holiday in Thailand you may be lucky enough to see some Thai dancing. It is always so beautiful with exotic costumes and I love it. It’s also a big part of Thai culture and a much effort has been made to keep it alive but also to modernise some of it too.

But what are it’s origins and what type of Thai dance are you watching? In this blog we’ll give you a bit of background to Thai Classical Dancing so that you can distinguish it from Thai Folk Dancing and, well, generally sound savvy to the other tourists around you.

What is the difference between Thai Classical Dance and Thai Folk Dance?

Basically until the 20th Century Thai Classical Dance was only permitted to be performed in the Royal Court but now thankfully it is open to everyone. Thai dancing is either a folk dance or a classical dance and then there’s a couple that fall in between. You will probably recognise a folk dance as being a more relaxed dance, with less elaborate costumes, less makeup, with fresh flowers as long garlands or men with drums…. it’s a bit hard to explain since there are dozens of styles but Wikipedia does an excellent job of listing them.

However, if you are at a resort or at a large show, it is more likely you are watching the Royal Classical Thai Dance style which will showcase dancers in beautiful gold jewellery and headdresses.

Bangkok November 2010

The history of Thai Classical Dance

Thai Classical dance dates back more than 500 hundred years when the area of of present day Thailand, Cambodia and Laos was ruled by various kingdoms, one of the most notable being the Kingdom of Siam. With little tradition of spoken theatre, dance was the main dramatic art form in the whole area. Classical dancers were coveted members of the royal courts and treated with prestige. Their costumes were extravagant and unbelievably expensive. Performances interpreted the folk stories and religious epics of that era, mainly the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana.

There are generally 3 kinds of Thai Classical Dances

 The Kohn Dance of Thailand

 If you attend a big show with lots of performers, musicians, dancers, some dressed as monkeys or devils than you are going to be watching the highest art form of Thai Classical dance, Kohn. Each performance involves many Thai artists including: narrators, performers, dancers, musicians, mask-makers, embroiderers and makeup artists. A huge amount of effort has been made to keep the style authentic and alive. While the uber traditional Kohn included only male dancers in masks, the style has adapted and there are different types of authentic Kohn around, plus creative attempts to make it more modern too.

Traditional Kohn is performed by dancers who mime/dance while the story is being sung or narrated by a chorus. Khon characters include demons, monkeys, humans, nypmhs and gods. One of the classic roles for male dancers is that of the mischievous Hanuman, the Monkey General who comes to the aid of hero of the tale.

Left, Kohn Dance and right, the Thai Fawn fingernail dance
Left, Kohn Dance and right, the Thai Fawn fingernail dance

 The Lakhon Dance of Thailand

Lakhon is less formal than Khon and the dancers do not wear masks. Dancers are usually female and perform as a group rather than representing individual characters. Lakhon plots feature a wider range of stories drawn from the Ramakien, (the Thai Ramayana) the Jatakas and other folk stories. I don’t know too much about Lakhon but here is some great information about all the varieties and the history too.

The Fawn Thai Dance

Another type of Thai Dance, which is part classical/part folk is called ‘Fawn Thai’ This is the most frequently performed dance for tourists because it is more of a small showcase and less of an opera style event. There are 5 types of Fawn dances and my favourite is the fingernail dance. Apparantly there is no story behind these beautiful gold fingernail extensions, they are just worn for their beauty. The costumes are spectacular and echo past Royal Courts.

 The 5 types of Fawn dance are:

Fawn Leb (Fingernails Dance),

Fawn Marn Gumm Ber (Butterfly Dance),

Fawn Marn Mong Kol (Happy Dance),

Fawn Tian (Candle Dance)

Fawn Ngiew (Scarf Dance)

Thai Manohra Dance

Manhora Dance from the South of Thailand
Manhora Dance from the South of Thailand

Finally, in this brief outline of Thai Classical Dance is Manohra is lovely dance that is unique to the south of Thailand and to the North of Malaysia. It is a dance that tells of the famous Jatakas love story between a Prince and Kinnari Manohra a half-bird half-woman. They fall in love and marry. While the prince was away at war, corrupt court advisors trick the king into believing that the sacrifice of Manohra will be prevent his imminent death and so the story is a tragedy.

Pin this to read later

Basics of Thai classical dance PI

Pictures courtesy of Flickr.com

Featured image by AlainLimoges, dancer in gold and silver headdress by ThomasQuineedit, YouTube video footage of a Kohn performance by ช่องของ tonnum53, Male and female dancer posing by Akuppa John Wigham, Golden fingernails by Garry Knight and Manora dancer by jkmar1220

The Best Beach Locations in Krabi Province, Thailand

Aerial Shot Railay Peninsula

The Thai province of Krabi has 15 amazing beaches on the mainland (7 are described here), and it also has 3 wonderful island groups which are world famous. Krabi Province is this writer’s favourite part of Thailand too. Many people come on holiday to the Krabi area and don’t have much idea where they are, so this blog is here to help. It has a simple map at the bottom showing the beaches and islands and also has a clear description of the best beach locations in Krabi Province.  We start at the top of the map and work our way down the coastline so it is easy for you to follow. Enjoy!

TubKaek Beach

Tub Kaek Beach, Krabi,

TubKaek beach is a quiet place about 30 minutes drive north of Aonang and a 40 minute drive from Krabi Town. The accommodations are nearly all 5 star, self-contained resorts that are right on the beach, making it one of the best beach locations in Krabi Province. With restaurants, spas and shops within the grounds, there is no need to ever leave the the resort, which is lucky because apart from the hotels there is very little here.  TubKaek is perfect for those who want a quiet, luxury break, but it is still possible to do all the local tours from here, such as kayaking, the 4 islands tour, the hot springs and the Tiger Cave Temple. There are also shuttle buses to Aonang so that you can go shopping and try cuisine outside of your hotel.

Conversely, since there are no private beaches allowed in Thailand, and this beach is open to anyone, if you are staying in busy Aonang and want to head out for the day, give TubKaek a try because it has a private beach feel. Swimming is not particularly good as the coast is quite rocky and shallow but it is fine for swimming at high tide.

There is a stunning little National Park at Tubkaek Beach where there is a forest walk to a waterfall and you can continue further to the peak of a mountain with amazing views. The mountain trek takes 2 – 3 hours but is well worth it if you are fit and healthy.

And did you know that this was the beach used for filming the wedding in Hangover 2?

Klong Muang Beach

Klong Muang Beach, Krabi

Less than 1km south of TubKaek Beach is Klong Muang Beach. This is my least favourite beach of Krabi Province because there is a quarry at the top end and so the little road running through the area has lots of lorries travelling back and forth. You won’t notice this if you stay in your resort, which will most likely be a self contained 5 star resort,  but if you wander around the little village it will become apparent.

Klong Muang Beach does have stunning views and lovely sunsets and this beach is strewn with excellent resorts such as The Sheraton and Sofitel. There is more of a village atomosphere here than TubKaek, but again, come here if you want peace and tranquility in a luxury setting.

Nopparat Thara Beach

Nopparat Thara Beach, Krabi

Noppharat Thara is a a 5km long sandy beach, which you can walk to from Aonang Beach. It is split into two halves by a river. The side closest to Aonang is the most developed because it has the coastal road running alongside it. Access to the other half of the beac is by longtail boat or by a dirt track off the Klong Muang road and is very secluded as a location.

The main beach itself has very few resorts and is a favourite of Thais who come here to sit under the trees with a picnic, but there are plenty of guesthouses in the village nearby which is a good location for longstay travellers and budget conscious expats. Noppharat Thara beach is wonderful for walking at low tide and has lovely sunsets too. There are also some really good local seafood restaurants here.

Nopparat Thara Beach is 18km from Krabi Town and 28km from the airport and is a 2 minutes drive from Ao Nang, or a nice walk. In high season there are tourist ferry connections from Noppharat Thara Pier to the islands of Phi Phi, Lanta and Phuket and you can also arrange all the longtail day trips from here too.

Aonang Beach

Ao Nang Beach

Ao Nang is the centre of the tourist scene on the Krabi mainland, with lots of hustle and bustle near the main beachfront road,  You’ll find souvenir shops, clothing shops, art galleries, spas, tour agents, and ATM machines along this stretch, as well as restaurants, bars and a huge range of hotels, some of which are really lovely despite Aonang being developed quickly and without much planning.

The quietest and prettiest part of the beach is beyond where the longtail boats dock, it is a lovely strip with a beautiful steep cliff as a backdrop and is great for swimming all year round. The view across the whole 3km wide beach is stunning especially at sunset, in fact it is one of the best sunset locations on Thailand. Despite it being a busy resort town, you won’t find the beach clogged up with hawkers and jet skis like you do in Phuket, and despite all the hustle and bustle, the area remains friendly and safe.

The tourists in Ao Nang are mixed; it is family friendly but there is also a small area of bars that are hosted by bar girls. Aonang also has a vibrant live music scene that plays until 1am. As mentioned in earlier sections, many people stay here or even in nearby Krabi Town to make use of the cheaper accommodation and then set off each day to see other, more exotic/secluded locations, such as the 4 island tour and The Railay Peninsula.

If you find the main strip of Aonang a little mediocre, there are some gems to be found nestled in the hills behind, such as The Hilltop Restaurant which is a stunning location and excellent food. There are also sunset cruises and booze cruises run from Aonang which are enjoyable too.

Railay Peninsula

Railay Peninsula

 

Railay is a beautiful peninsula between Krabi Town and Ao Nang, on the mainland, however you can only get to it by boat due to high cliffs cutting off access. It’s only 15 minutes from the mainland by boat, but once you arrive you feel very secluded. This area is extremely beautiful and increasingly expensive, however you can find some cheapish accommodation and some really fun nightlife too. Accommodation ranges from fan aired bungalows on Tonsai Beach, 2, 3 and 4 star resorts at East Railay, many amazing 4 and 5 star resorts on West Railay, plus the infamous 5* resort called Rayawadee.

There are three beaches on the peninsula, Tonsai, still with its hippy vibe and home of many rock climbers, Railay West, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and Phra Nang Beach, also totally beautiful. Railay East is also a beach of sorts, but is full of rocks, mangroves and boats so is not suitable for swimming. This area has some really cool bars and great seafood restaurants though. Be aware that you are in a tourist area on the Railay Peninsula so everything will be more expensive than the mainland, but it really is one of the best beach locations in Krabi Province, in fact probably THE best!

It is possible to come here for a day trip if you want, since it is only 15 minutes by boat and costs less than 100 baht each way. It is possible to walk between all beaches in less than 20 minutes, although getting to Tonsai from Railay takes a bit of effort. In high season (November-May) you can take a boat to the Railay Peninsula from Ao Nang Beach, Krabi Town or a little pier in the village of Ao Nammao. In low season very few boats go from Ao Nang Beach.

Railay Peninsula – Tonsai Beach

Tonsai Beach. Railay Peninsula

At Tonsai Beach there are 3 main three draws: the world-class climbing opportunities, the secluded location and the laid back chilled bars playing old school reggae. This is the place you come, to learn the art of reclining and hanging out with local dreadlocked Thais. The beach is a little rocky but still nice too. The crowd is young, but unlike Ko Phi Phi, the atmosphere is mellow. Tonsai has lots of cheap bungalows but like everywhere is going mainstream rather quickly. As with all beaches on the Railay Peninsula, the only way to get to it from the mainland is by boat. Read the section above to see details on that.  Tonsai is cut off from the other beaches on the Railay Peninsula, but at low tide you can walk around the rocks or there is an hour long jungle route if it is high tide. It’s simpler to take a boat though.

Railay Peninsula Railay West Beach

Railay West Beach

Railay West is a beautiful beach of white sand and shallow water and is great for swimming and sunbathing. At dusk there is usually a game of beach volleyball and football going on and at sunset everyone comes out with their cameras as it is simply stunning at this time. Due to the limestone cliffs at either end of the beach, this place is one of the most beautiful on earth. It is a shame that over the last 10 years the building work has turned parts of this area into a concrete jungle but hopefully there will be an initiative to replant some trees in the near future. However despite this, Railay West Beach is still a stunning location and worth stopping off for 2 or 3 nights at least.

Pra Nang Beach, Railay Peninsula

Phra Nang Beach. Railay, Krabi Province

Phra Nang Beach is another wonderful beach only a 10 minute walk from Railay West/East with a fine white sand, massive cliffs framing each end of the beach, and a lovely cave too. There is only one hotel there though which is the 5* star resort of Rayawadee. It is probably one of the best swimming locations in the whole of Krabi Province.

Phra Nang Beach can be reached by walking to the far end of Railay East and following the footpath around. Don’t be surprised to meet lots of monkeys on the way. Phra Nang beach gets very busy everyday but is not polluted by the noise of jet skis or partying as you might find in Phuket. It does have Thais selling drinks and barbecued food, offering massages and foot scrubs, so if this sounds pretty nice then give this beach a go. The cave is host to a shrine to fertility and is a unique photo opportunity in itself, if you want to see dozens of giant wooden penises!!

Koh Jum Island

A beach on the island of Koh Jum, Krabi Province, Thailand
A beach on the island of Koh Jum, Krabi Province, Thailand

There are two words to describe Koh Jum Island: Chilled Out. Situated between Krabi Town and Ko Lanta Island (about 25kms from Krabi Town)  this island has around 20 resorts that are generally basic and it also has a few chilled beach bars. The one luxury resort on this island is Koh Jum Villas. This island only got electric in 2008 and is developing nice and slowly. It still has dirt roads and virtually no cars.

The beaches are not pristine but are swimmable despite the rocks and a key highlight is that they are quiet and lined with hammocks courtesy of the resorts.  The island’s most popular beach is Long Beach which is connected to Golden Pearl Beach. Further north are remote and more rocky beaches with 4-5 low key resorts. Many islanders refer to the north of the island as ‘Koh Pu’ which is where the highest peak of the island is. Climbing this peak is a great jungle trek to embark on. Strong winds and choppy seas mean that Ko Jum becomes super quiet from May to October and many resorts close.

Most travelers get to Koh Jum via the tourist ferries that connect Ko Lanta Island and Krabi (see the travel info in the Koh Lanta section of this blog) and in less than an hour you disembark from the big ferry onto longtail boats which take you onto the shoreline. From there you wade onto the beach. The tourist ferries do not run in low season (May-November) but you can easily get to Koh Jum by a different route. Go to Laem Kruat Pier in a blue and white songthaew (truck) which leaves near the 7/11 shop opposite Chao Fah Pier in Krabi Town. It takes around 30 minutes to get to the pier and then it is a 40 minute boat ride to Koh Jum on the local ferry.

Koh Phi Phi Island (including Maya Bay)

Ko Phi Phi Islands are considered to be one of the most beautiful group of islands in the world. There are six islands of Phi Phi but most are uninhabited. They lie 50km east of Phuket and 41km west of Krabi and are part of Krabi Province. Koh Phi Phi Island gets a bad rap because of overdevelopment in the area of Ton Sai Beach. The ‘village’ is full of pubs, bars and clubs which operate into the early hours of the morning. Accommodation is expensive and resorts are cramped together. But Ton Sai Village still has its own charm and really is a great party area. If want to avoid it, there are dozens of other beaches that have an awesome secluded island feel. Koh Phi Phi has a young, party vibe which means you don’t see lots of seedy bars with Thai girls as ‘hosts’, and this also adds to its attraction.

Ferries leave from Phuket and Krabi everyday throughout the year (from Krabi – 09:00, 13:30, and 15:00 and from Phuket – 09:00, 11:00, and 14:30 (11:00 high-season only).

There’s lots more to say about Koh Phi Phi Islands but we’ll save that for another blog. The video above should whet your appetite and show you that beauty can still be found here. Enjoy!

Koh Lanta Island

Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta, Krabi Province, Thailand

Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta, Krabi Province, Thailand

Located 70kms from Krabi Town, Ko Lanta is a large, quiet island 6 km wide and 30 kms long. It has 12 attractive beaches all along the west coast, and the west coast means great sunsets! The other coastline is mainly mangroves and fishing villages which are perfect for kayaking. The island is very peaceful with white sandy beaches, more than 60 tiny islands and many coral reefs.

Koh Lanta Island is popular with an older set than Ko Phi Phi Island but there is some nightlife to be found which tends to be frequented by residents as well as tourists so it’s pretty authentic. The 12 beaches have a massive selection of places to stay and the coastline is so long that despite lots of tourists being there in high season, it will still seem uncrowded. You can stay in a fan aired bungalow for less than £10 a night or stay in a 5 star epic resort for £500 a night. It’s a honeymoon location, a retreat, a restaurant lover’s dream, an excellent diving location, a place to make friends, get to grips with a scooter and find your zen.

The nearest airports are Krabi or slightly further away, Phuket which both have road and boat connections. Most 5 star resorts will pick you up from the airport and transport you directly to your resort, sometimes by private speedboat or even seaplane! For the regular traveller however, the tourist ferry takes about an hour and a half from either Phuket or Krabis’ ports. Once you arrive on the island, if you have a booking at a resort, there will be a person at the ferry exit with a sign waiting for you.

These tourist ferries run November to April so in low season a minivan/car ferry duo is the only means of transport. It will take 3-4 hours by minivan due to the 2 car ferries your minivan must take. The minivan will drive down the entire coast, dropping everyone off at their destination which is very handy but a bit slow if you are on one of the last beaches.

There is plenty to do in Koh Lanta provided you are not looking for cinemas, shopping centres, water parks or the like. There are also no international restaurant chains here. You can visit the Sea-Gypsy village, attend a Muay Thai gym, get a Thai Massage at one of the many spas, go sea kayaking, mangrove kayaking,  diving, snorkelling or take the 4 island trip which includes visiting Koh Mook’s Emerald Cave. There are also some amazing local restaurants such as The Red Snapper

Map of the beach locations of Krabi Province

Map of Beach Locations of Krabi Province
Map of Beach Locations of Krabi Province

 

Images courtesy of Flickr.com

TubKaek Beach  – Pietro Motta, Klong Muang Beach – Conrad, Nopparat Thara Beach – Michael Jiang, Aonang Beach – John Abel, Tonsai Beach – Alexanr Zykov, Railay Peninsula – Nicolas Vollmer, Railay West Beach – FabioAchilli, Pra Nang Beach, Railay – Mazime, Koh Jum Beach – Tara Lucile, Kantiang Beach – Koh Lanta – Petter Salveson, Featured Image – Railay Peninsula, krabidiscovery.com

Destination Weddings: Thailand – Perfect beach wedding attire

Beach Wedding at Merlin Phuket

Destination weddings are hugely popular and a wedding on the beach can be magical.  If you are in a dilemma about how to pick the right dress, jewellery, hair style, footwear or menswear, here are our top tips for the bride, groom and guests. The perfect beach wedding look is within easy reach.

Your guests’ comfort and style

Your wedding in Thailand will be a big affair for all your guests who are flying in to watch two of their favourite people get married. Make sure you keep recommendations on their wedding attire as simple as possible. Clothes should be non crease, simple to pack items. Perfect beach wedding attire should be cool enough to wear in the heat and easy to layer up and down as the daytime cools into evening. Shoes are a nightmare to wear on the beach so encourage tan or black leather sandals for the men and make sure everyone knows it is okay to go barefoot.

Encourage your guests to integrate a colour you select

Beach weddings can be a little dull without a strong swathe of colour to contrast the pale surroundings, so perhaps encourage guests to incorporate orange, red or a vibrant blue for a tie, a hairpiece or a shawl? Just a hint of colour can make the perfect contrast. Many people go for a white linen theme for everyone attending and it can look a bit washed out.

A wedding dress, not a beach dress

Yes, it’s a beach wedding but don’t under dress. While you need to look in harmony with the beach, your outfit needs to be distinguishable from a regular sundress. Wearing a sundress with a flower in your hair will look fun on the day but later, you may realise that you didn’t look anything like a bride. However, don’t be afraid of trying a coloured option.

Make sure that your dress is light and breathable since not all fabrics work for a beach wedding. An airy sheath is most beach friendly, but if you want to wear a full skirt, make sure you choose a dress constructed of a lighter fabric that allows for movement. If you really want to go all out for a large ballroom type dress, make sure it can bustle easily. Dresses with lace trim can be difficult because they pick up debris from the beach. Instead, choose a lightweight fabric like chiffon or charmeuse so your gown flows in the breeze and drys quickly if you take a paddle.

Hair style and decoration

Hair and Jewellery, perfect for a beach wedding
Hair and Jewellery, perfect for a beach wedding

While choosing a hairstyle remember that beaches tend to get windy and hot. Wear a braid or bun that won’t get messy in the wind. Perhaps you could decorate your hair with flowers and wreaths made from local flowers? Tropical arrangements can be understated and still be stunning. Choosing to wear your hair down or wear a veil is a bit risk because of the strong gusts of wind that occur on the shore. Also, if you wear your hair down, you might get a sweaty neck.

Makeup

Do not go for heavy makeup as the humidity won’t support it and you will look smudged in no time. Go for softer eye shadows and keep lip colour to softer pink or nudes. Have a plan in place for mopping up perspiration and adding a light transluscent powder throughout the event if you tend to perspire//shine a lot

Jewellery

Your jewellery needs to be in harmony with the views around you. Refrain from  large ethnic jewellery and go for delicate statement pieces. Intricate silver or pearls look beautiful with the tropical light of Thailand.

Flat shoes, bare feet or foot jewellery

Foot Jewellery
Foot Jewellery available on Etsy by Passion Flower Jewelery

There will be lots of sand, so let your feet breath in summer flip flops, sandals or barefoot. There are also some wonderful foot jewellery that you can buy from sites such as Etsy. They look like bejewelled shoes but in fact you are bare footed and they can be a perfect addition to nailing the ‘beach wedding’ attire look.  A French manicure on your toes will make your feet look totally vibrant on a Thai beach. If you and your guests are barefoot, have a runner made of fabric or thick flower petals to help keep the soles of your feet cool. Flower petals won’t be the best option if there is a strong breeze.

High heeled shoes are possible

I would recommend going barefoot on the beach and then wear flats elsewhere. If you switch from barefeet to heels you may worry about your dress looking too short. If you insist on heels, keep them on throughout and have your wedding planner arrange for a little runway for you to walk down along the sand so that the heels won’t sink.

A wrap/shawl

It’s always advisable to carry a light wrap or summer shrug with you in case the weather cools, or it turns to night before all the elements of the ceremony are done. You can opt for a light weight pashmina in natural tones or go for a bolder cotton scarf. If you love florals, a pashmina with flowers will be lovely too and will help to keep the sun off your shoulders and keep you warm as the evening kicks in.

Time of day

Plan on having your wedding commence as the sun is beginning to set, or an hour before if you have lots planned. This will give you the best light for photography/cinematography and a good level of coolness for you and the guests. However, even at 5pm you and your guests will need sunscreen. As a side note, if you sunbathe prior to the wedding, watch those straplines!

Flowers

Flowers also don’t like the hot sun and can be tricky to work with. Choose a ceremony design and flowers that can hold up in the heat. Orchids, chrysanthemums, and plumeria are surprisingly hardy and hold up well in almost any kind of weather, but consult with someone who has organised many Thai weddings and they are sure to offer the best advice.

The Groom

Perfect beach wedding attire for the groom
Perfect beach wedding attire for the groom

Grooms often wear linen suits, but if it’s really hot, men can forgo the jacket and wear a loose shirt and pants.  Tan sandals or flipflops look just fine as long as they are matching for all men involved in the main ceremony. If you expect your groom to turn up in a full tux, be prepared for most of it to be removed in under an hour. Unless you are not bothered about those all important keepsake photos, don’t have your fella show up in boardshorts to get married! On a final note, men don’t like sweat marks either, so cool, light coloured, loose fitting pants and shirts are ideal.

Final tips

Collage of a Thai Beach Wedding

Make sure there is plenty of shade on the beach for you and your guests. You can make a simple cover with 4 wooden poles and a white cotton cover. Make sure any little ones running around are wearing sun screen and are well hydrated, in fact that goes for you and all your guests. Sending round trays of water every 20 minutes will be well received. Keep the ceremony fairly short and always, always have a back up venue very close by in case of a downpour. Source as much as you can locally to save on money and on the environment. And finally, be very wary of having an elephant in your ceremony. Elephants are treated very badly in order to ‘break them in.’ and get very hot on the beach too. Let them live as free as possible.

That’s it! I hope you enjoy your wedding in a Thailand paradise!

 

Pin this to read later

wedding attire 2 PI

Khao Sok Floating Bungalows

Khao Sok Floating Bungalows

Khao Sok floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park, Surat Thani province is a fantastic place to visit in Thailand. Once you have marvelled at the temples in Bangkok and sampled the sunny beaches and islands of the south, you need a totally different change of scenery. A lovely boat ride from the main land is just a taster of the wonderful scenery in store for you. Watch as the mist floats across the lake and you peer up at the huge limestone mountains. You may feel like you’re in a Jurassic Park movie! Amazing wildlife and fascinating history make this place so unusual and enchanting.

Khao Sok National Park will take your breath away. It is the largest area of forest in Thailand and has an abundance of wildlife and breath taking nature. In fact it boasts more diversity and longitude than the Amazon rainforest! You will be sure to make many happy memories with your loved ones here. With epic adventures to be had in this tranquil and serene setting, it is an incredible way to recharge your batteries.

Khao Sok floating bungalows

For an authentically Thai experience you must spend a few nights in the Khao Sok floating bungalows. It makes for a simply blissful getaway. Electricity is provided for only a few hours in the evening by generator. Just enough time to enjoy your evening meal and then retire to your lovely but basic bungalow. Remember to bring a torch! You’ll be thankful for it on nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Nothing can be more refreshing than waking up and going for an early morning swim straight out of the door of your cosy bungalow. Kayaking is also highly recommended to catch the stunning sunrise and you might find it fun to bring your own inflatables too. Khao Sok floating bungalows are a great place for families and groups of friends. Read about this blogger’s memorable experience here. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served up by your hosts and consist of delicious yet simple traditional Thai foods. Fresh fish caught from the river, healthy soups and tasty curries will all make up your diet whilst on the trip.

There are no shops close to the bungalows so be sure to take plenty of sun cream, mosquito spray and snacks like cookies and crisps if you can’t live without them! It’s also a good idea to take your own supply of booze if you are planning to have a little tipple whilst there as there is unlikely to be very much on offer when you get there.

The cost of a bungalow will set you back around 700-900 baht per person per night including food. The boat trip there may set you back around 3,500 baht for a round trip but it’s totally worth it of course and can be shared out between your group.

A historical masterpiece

Before Cheow Lan Lake (also known as Rajjaprabha Dam Reservoir) was home to Khao Sok floating bungalows it had a different life altogether. 385 families of The Ban Chiew Lan village were rehoused and settled inland by The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in 1982. EGAT decided to build the dam as a source of electricity for the south of Thailand which was becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination. They created the 165 square kilometer lake by flooding the area and blocking the Klong Saeng River. It took about one year to completely flood the area and they had to capture thousands of animals. They were moved by boat and helicopter to avoid being drowned or stranded without food on islands.

The area of Khao Sok itself dates back over millions of years, when tectonic plates shifted and reformed the land. Around 250 million years ago, pieces of limestone began to form. This established a coral reef that stretched from Borneo to China. It was thought to have been five times the size of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. When vast amounts of Ice melted at the end of the Ice Age, sea levels rose and the marine ecosystem was buried under more deposits of matter. Consequently resulting in a high pressure environment which forms the dazzling limestone rocks that we can appreciate now.

Walking with nature

khao-sok-by-hassan-humayun

Khao Sok is one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world with around 200 types of foliage. These include; Rafflesia, fig tree, bamboo, banana and Dipterocarp Tree. The Rafflesia flower (known locally as Bua Phut) is a parasitic plant that produces the largest flower in the world. It can grow up to one meter in diameter. Due to its inability to photosynthesise it lives off the wild grape vine Tetrastigma. Its rotting, meaty smell attracts flies and beetles allowing it to pollinate and has given it the nickname, ‘Corpse Flower’. This gruesome but captivating bloom is rare but can be seen in January and February with a good tour guide.

Gigantochloa balui is a bamboo species usually only found in Borneo. It can be seen here in Khao Sok and is a testament to the ancient history of the region. Bamboo is an important material used in Thailand. It is home to around 40 of the 1200 types that are found in the world.

Khao Sok is home to many magnificent creatures, with around 48 species of mammals alone. There is the aardvark like pangolin, Malayan sun bear and shy mouse deer to name but a few. Gibbons swing freely from the trees in most parts of the forest. You may not be able to see them but you will certainly hear them from the Khao Sok floating bungalows! You may even be lucky enough to wake up to their calls at sunrise. Avid bird watchers will be excited to know that there are over 300 different species of birds in this rainforest. The ashy drongo, the blue-winged pitta and the crimson sun bird have all been spotted here.

Adventures in wonderland

A trek to one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the park is a must for your trip! The Sip Ed Chun waterfall is always fun. Your bungalow hosts will be happy to arrange a tour for you. Remember to take trainers or hiking shoes. There are also many interesting caves just waiting to be discovered such as The Nam Taloo Cave. You will need a qualified guide to take you into the cave but this should be provided as part of your trek experience.

The Khao Sok River is a great place to kayak or try tubing and bamboo rafting too. This is the perfect chance to take in some of the spectacular nature that the park offers, with wild elephants, monkeys, snakes and lizards often seen on the journey. You may also spot a slice of local life, with village folk catching fish, washing clothes and collecting water to drink on the banks of the river.

The nearby elephant sanctuary, Elephant Hills is a fabulous place to stay and meets our requirements for treating elephants with the love and respect they deserve. The rainforest camp boasts 35 luxury tents with real beds and en suite bathrooms all made with natural materials. Thai cooking demonstrations are also available at the resort.

If scuba diving is your thing then Cheow Lan Lake is definitely a place you should go and explore. The history of the lake makes it a superb place to go diving as remnants of the old village can be seen far below the surface. Furthermore, you can discover many wonderful relics such as old trees, colossal caves and sea life that has survived the transition.

PIN TO READ LATER

Khao Sok Floating Bungalows

4 of the best beaches on Koh Phangan

Bottle Beach one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is one of the most magical islands in Thailand. It’s notorious for its partying reputation, but there’s a serene side too: you just have to know where to go. There are around 30 beaches on the island, with a narrow hilly road climbing through the jungle of the island, making most of them accessible by road. In this blog we’ve selected 4 of the best beaches on Koh Phangan to visit and stay at. So we hope you enjoy these top picks.

Bottle Beach (Haad Khuad)

Bottle beach (featured image) is located on the north side of the island, and is absolutely stunning. You get there by boat from Chaloklum beach or travel by road through the jungle. Once there, you won’t be disappointed. The white sand and laid back atmosphere is serene. There are many resorts on this beach and they range from simple bungalows like Smile Bungalow to the high end Chantaramas Resort and Spa. For something mid range, we recommend Bottle beach 1.

Bottle Beach is frequented by chilled out travellers and families looking for a peaceful getaway. Many visitors return to Haad Khuad year after year for the relaxed vibes. It isn’t the easiest of beaches to get to, but well worth the effort. And the snorkeling here is also fantastic, which is why we consider this one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan.

Bottle beach 2, is a great place to eat on Haad Khuad. Best of all, in the evenings they often have a barbecue beach party with a campfire.

Haad Wai Nam

Haad Wai Naam one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan

Some of best beaches on Koh Phangan are actually close to the busy area of Haad Rin. Take a boat Haad Yuan to or Haad Tian and from there take a pleasant walk over to Haad Wai Nam. This is our 2nd pick for the best beaches on Koh Phangan. As you come over the hill, visitors are rewarded by a wonderful view of the beach. Wai Nam is Thai for ‘swimming’ and this is the perfect place to do just that. Nestled in its own little cove, it’s a serene spot where you will find just a few lovely bungalows that book up fast.

Haad Wai Nam is arguably one of the most secluded and beautiful spots on the Koh Phangan. Not only is the beach stunning, but the surrounding jungle is amazing too. There are no shops, bars or restaurants on Haad Wai Nam, which adds to the peaceful nature of the location.

For a great dining experience, eat at Bamboo restaurant which is located in between Haad Yuan and Haad Tian, high up in the rocks. From this viewpoint there are spectacular views of the ocean. 

If you want to experience yoga in a wonderful beach location, head over to Haad Tian. Because this is the location of The Sanctuary. Not only is the yoga centre famous, but they also have an impressive vegetarian restaurant. Therfore this is a great place to feel healthy and relaxed.

Make sure you take out plenty of cash prior to travelling to any of these beaches because they have no cash machines.

Thong Nae Pan Yai and Noi

Tong Nai Pan Beach, Koh Phangan
Tong Nai Pan Beach

Thong Nae Pan is a special part of the island. And it’s our 3rd pick for the best beaches on Koh Phangan. And best of all, you get 2 beaches! You could spend your entire holiday in this one area and be completely satisfied. It’s located on the North East side of the island and is accessible by a very hilly road. You can also take the Thong Nae Pan Express boat from Haad Tian, Than Sadet and Haad Rin. 

Yai means large in Thai and Noi means small, so that tells you something about the size of these 2 beaches. Thong Nae Pan Yai is quieter and more relaxed than Thon Nae Pan Noi. We prefer Thong Nae Pan Yai for its peaceful nature.

Longtail Beach Resort is on Thong Nae Pan Yai. The rooms here are nice but the main attraction is the wonderful beachside restaurant. They serve their food on beautiful little dishes shaped like longtail boats. Try the Gai Thod Phanaeng (deep fried chicken with Penang sauce). It never disappoints.

Candle Hut is at the opposite end of the beach and has modern bungalows, a swimming pool and the comfiest beanbags to hang out in too. The restaurant at Candle Hut serves specialises in healthy food.

Thong Nae Pan Noi is a totally beautiful beach and also great for snorkelling and swimming. It’s also host to some of the best hotels on Koh Phangan, like Anantara Rasananda Villas, which is a wonderful 5 star experience. 

Koh Raham

Koh Raham, one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan

our 4th and final pick for the best beaches on Koh Phangan, is Koh Raham. This beach is located on the North West side of the island. Haad Son and Secret beach are also worth a visit, but nestled in between them is the very lovely, and very special beach called Koh Raham.

Access to this remote beach is via Secret Beach. Simply walk to the end of the right side of Secret beach and walk up the stairs and into Koh Raham Restaurant. This is arguably one of the coolest beach bars ever, by the way.  There are hammocks to relax in when you are full of Phad Thai and Massaman curry. And best of all, there’s a tiny bridge that leads to a rock platform where you can jump off and swim with the fish. From there you can access the secluded Koh Raham.

In addition to being a beautiful beach, Koh Raham is one of the best places on the Koh Phangan to catch the sunset.

So that’s it for our blog about the 4 best beaches on Koh Phangan. Did you agree with us? What are your favourite beaches on Koh Phangan?

Images courtesy of flickr.com – Featured image, Bottle Beach by Fabio Achilli, Haad Wai Naam by Zillah Dee, Tong Nai Pan by Fabio Achilli and Koh Raham courtesy of www.edtguide.com

Pin to Pinterest to read later

4 of the best beaches in Koh Phangan

Loy Krathong – a wonderful Thai Festival

Thai couple float a Krathong at Loy Krathong

On the twelfth lunar moon of the Thai calendar there is a very special Thai festival, known as Loy Krathong. The festival occurs in November and this year (2016) it will be on 15th November. Thai people celebrate that the rainy season has ended and the main rice harvest has begun.  They give thanks to the Water Goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha, for the abundance of water in the past year and also apologise for the pollution ensued.

The name ‘Loy Krathong’ loosely translates as ‘to float a basket’ which is the main activity of the celebrations. On the night of the full moon, people light candles on their ‘krathong’ full of flowers and release it out to sea or onto the river. Coupled with the party atmosphere, the twinkling lights and flowers make a truly magical sight.

People put a lot of effort into decorating the baskets, with beautiful flowers and candles. Krathongs are traditionally made from banana leaf.  It is best to avoid ones that are made from polystyrene as these are damaging to the environment. Want some extra luck to go with your Krathong, then include a lock of hair or nail clippings and some small coins. Because the belief is that bad energy from the previous year will float away with the floating basket.

The krathong symbolises the release of bad energy that you have acquired in your life over the past year. Therefore if the candles on your Krathong stay lit until they out of sight, it is said that you will have good luck for the year ahead.

Where can I celebrate Loy Krathong?

Lantern Release during Loy Krathong

Anywhere there is water…. This festival is second only to Songkran in the Thai calendar, so expect it to be a big occassion. Most tourist areas and hotels will celebrate the festival with shows of various kinds, plus their own place to release your krathongs and lanterns.

Notably, Sukhothai was the first place to celebrate the tradition and is a wonderful place to see the festivities. Infact it is our top pick of locations. Sukhothai was originally the capital of Thailand, and its name translates as ‘the dawn of happiness’.

The legend behind the festival

The legend of Loy Krathong is around the story of first person to float a krathong. Her name was Nang Noppamas, a beautiful consort of the king of Sukhothai. King Ramkhamhaeng was so impressed by beauty of the consort and the krathong floating that he made the ritual into an annual tradition. Beauty contests known as ‘Noppamas Queen Pageants’ are held in her honour every year. The traditional Thai costumes and dancing associated with the pageants are delightful.  

Chiang Mai has a week-long celebration during the festival and this city is the location of the largest gathering of people in Thailand for Loy Krathong. There is also the Yee Peng the festival of lights, where thousands of Thai lanterns, are released into the night sky. People attach small coins and locks of hair to the lantern before releasing it. Bad energy from the previous year is thought float away, just like with the krathongs on the water. Firecrackers are even attached to the Thai lanterns add a bit more excitement!

If you intend to visit Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong, book early since train tickets, flights and accommodation will almost certainly sell out. If you want to release a lantern for the heavily attended Yee Peng, you must also book this in advance.

Amphawa is another great location for the Loy Krathong Festival. Amphawa is a famous and historical town close to Bangkok, with an amazing riverside location. Large scale folk theatre productions are put on alongside the Mae Khlong River which are magical.

Is Loy Krathong romantic?

Yes very. Many couples will make their krathong together or choose one to buy one that they both think is beautiful. They add locks of their hair and nail clippings, then light the candles and incense and release the krathong. The couple watch together as it floats away. It is said that if the candle stays lit until the krathong is out of sight, then the couple will have everlasting love together. How’s that for romance?

Loy Krathong is one of the most romantic Thai festivals, with spectacular visions of light. It is hard to deny the beauty and love that is found on this most wonderful day in the Thai calendar. The traditional Thai music and dancing are sure to make your evening with your loved one very special indeed.

What about the kids?

Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong is enjoyable for the whole family. Children enjoy taking part in the making of the krathong and then seeing who wins a prize for the best one. There are often arts and crafts activities that children can engage in too. Getting dressed up in traditional Thai costume is also fun for kids.

Many resorts have raffles, face painting and even a fun fair.  At night there is entertainment, fireworks and music to mark the occasion.  Also, Loy Krathong involves typical Thai style markets in all the bigger towns, selling souvenirs, kitch, crafts, clothes, jewellery and deliciously sugary snacks. Try local fruits and juices such as Guava, lychee and mango. There are even the deep fried crispy insects on offer! Also, traditional Thai sweets known as ‘kanom’ made out of coconut and sticky rice and can be found wrapped in banana leaf in little triangles of joy.

Wherever you spend this year’s festival, be it at a huge party in Bangkok or a small local village, you are sure to capture the spirit of the Thai people. Thais enjoy this favourite of festivals and you will be thrilled at their kindness and generosity.

Images courtesy of Flickr. Pics by John Shedrick

PIN THIS TO READ LATER

Loy Krathong

Cities and Towns near Chiang Mai that are wonderful to visit

Mae Hong Son by Ken Marshall

Many people come to visit the historical northern city of Chiang Mai, but never extend their visit to travel into the hills and mountains surrounding it. Even fewer visit the charming neighbouring cities of Nan, Lampang and Lamphun which have an even older history than Chiang Mai. In this blog we will give you a taste of cities and towns near Chiang Mai, that you can visit as a day trip, stopover, or long stay.

Lamphun – 40 min

Lamphune. Thailand
Lamphun. Thailand

Lamphun is a beautiful small city 26km from Chiang Mai. It was founded nearly 500 years before Chiang Mai so  there are plenty of historical sights to see. Lamphun is one of Thailand’s oldest continuously occupied towns and was founded in 660 by Queen Chama Devi, the queen of an ancient kingdom predating the creation of Siam or even Sukhothai. The most important sight of Lamphun is the temple Wat Phra That Haripunjaya, which sits in a lovely location near the river, and was founded in the ninth century. Many people come here just for the day, but if you are in no hurry, this is a perfect spot to stop over and relax in for a few days as there is plenty to do and see.

Thaton – 2 hours

Thatom. Thailand
Thaton. Thailand

Thaton is a town near Chiang Mai and close to the Burmese border. The main draw for tourists to Thaton is that there is a river pier here where boats take you on a 4 hour trip to Chiang Rai. This river boat trip is famous and offers stunning scenery along the route. Thaton is a quiet town without much tourism or nightlife, but is beautiful, friendly and surrounded by some amazing countryside. Thaton also has a large old temple on top of a mountain just outside the town. After an hours walk to the summit you are rewarded with a gorgeous panoramic view over the surrounding beauty.

Lampang – 2 hours

Lampang, Thailand
Lampang, Thailand

Lampang is a charming small city near Chiang Mai that is famous for its horse drawn carriages and home of the king’s stable of white elephants. Of all the cities and towns near Chiang Mai, Lampang has the most distinctive character.  The rooster is a very old symbol of Lampang, derived from a local legend about a white rooster that was sent by the Brahmin God Indra to wake the locals so they could give alms to the Lord Buddha, who was travelling through the town.

Since Lampang is more than 1,000 years old (older than Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) it is rich in archaeological and historical sites from the kingdoms of Hariphunchai, Lanna, and Burma. There are also some nice riverside restaurants and a friendly local population. Just outside of the city, on the road to Chiang Mai,  is the ‘Thailand Elephant Conservation Centre’ which is a famous government run centre. Again, with places like this, please research thoroughly their reputation for animal care. Any centre that makes elephants perform tricks or take people onto their backs for rides are not elephant friendly according to WWF and many other animal welfare organisations.

Chiang Rai – 3 hours

Chiang Rai is a relaxed city within the area famously known as the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge. This area became synonymous with poppy growing and trafficking of opium back in the last centuries, and has become romanticised in many people’s eyes.

Chiang Rai is quite busy and full of tourists year round. It has many traditional Thai temples and also temples with a distinctly Burmese influence due to a long Burmese occupation of the area. There is also the famous White Temple one of the most distinctive temples in the world.

The region is home to many hill tribes including the Akha, Lisu, Mien and Hmong and Chiang Rai is famous for selling handicraft items such as fabric, wood-carvings and silverware produced by the hill tribe people. Doi Mae Salong Mountain is home to another traditional people who come from China and here you will find that Chinese is a commonly spoken language. Be careful in the area of Chiang Rai about participating in ‘hill tribe shows’ which are fake and exploitative.

Mae Sariang – 4 hours

Mae-Sariang by Ken Marshall

Mae Sariang is a rural non-touristic small town near Chiang Mai situated in a pretty green valley and surrounded by hill tribe villages and nature. Sitting on a largely undeveloped riverside and surrounded by forested hills and rice paddies, the town still has many old teak buildings, some Burmese and Shan style Buddhist temples and is authentic in almost every aspect. There are far fewer tourists in Mae Sariang than Pai, Chiang Rai, or Chiang Mai so you will also get a much more authentic experience of hill tribe life in this area. For instance there are no “hill tribe shows”. Despite being less touristic, there are some nice hotels and guest houses here, so it really is a win win experience.

Nan – 5 hours

The City Walls, Nan, Thailand
The City Walls, Nan, Thailand

Nan is the former capital of an ancient small kingdom and is filled with history and surrounded by mountains, perfect for trekking. Nestled in Thailand’s northeastern corner, on the border with Laos, Nan is a remote small city to be explored at your leisire. Because of its proximity to Luang Prabang, (the historical capital of the Laotian Lan Xang Kingdom), the earliest settlers in the area were Lan Xang’s Laotians. After that in the 13th Century, the King of Nan aligned himself with the Lanna Kingdom.

Nan’s ethnic groups are another highlight and differ from those in other northern provinces. The main hill tribes are Mien, Hmong, Thai Lü, Mabri, Htin and Khamu. Nan province also has six national parks, including the Doi Phukha National Park, which contains mountains nearly 2,000 metres high. These parks are filled with awesome natural beauty and are much less touristic than the areas closer to Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Mai.

Mae Hong Son – 5 hours (featured image)

Mae Hong Son is a remote and very pretty little town set in a mountainous valley with a strong Shan influence who make up the majority of the population. The Shan used to be rulers of a vast kingdom, have their own language and own ethnic tribes within their own culture. There are thought to be around 5 million Shan people in the world, and many of them live in this area of Thailand and still live by their traditional culture which originated in Southern China and they traveled south around 1,500 years ago.

Mae Hong Son has a border town feel and is a real experience. It is not totally cut off from the rest of the world though and has been hosting tourists for many years who come to take boat trips and go trekking in the gorgeous mountains, which are actually the foothills of the Himalayas. If you come here in the cool season, you will need to wear a sweater in the evenings.

Pai – 5 hours

Pai by Claire Backouse

Pai is a beautiful little town near Chiang Mai. Set in a stunning valley surrounded by nature, Pai has become a tourist town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveller and backpacker scene. There’s plenty of budget accommodation and places to study yoga, eat vegetarian food and view the nature. Whilst Pai has become very touristic and even boasts a small airport now, it is still full of charm, friendly locals, peace and quiet and is surrounded by nature.  Since it is nestled into the foothills of the Himalayas, expect cool nights and wonderful views.

Mae Hong Son Loop – 5-8 day trip

And finally, the Mae Hong Son Loop! – North west Thailand is home to one of the most spectacular sealed road loops in the world: the Mae Hong Son. It’s especially well-known amongst motorcycle tourers as it features over 4000 bends, taking you up and over mountains, through forests and across bridges for its entire 660km length. Apparently you climb the equivalent of Mt Everest one-and-a-half times. The trip starts in Chiang Mai then makes a loop through Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, Pai and finishes back in Chiang Mai.

Map (left) is SE Asia in the 17th Century and (right) – current major towns and cities of Northern Thailand

Map of the Lanna Kingdom and present day Northern Thailand

That’s it for this blog. We hope it has given you some ideas for your travels and is some good advice for visiting cities and towns near Chiang Mai. Good Luck!

Pin this to read later

cities and towns near chiang mai Ken Marshall- PI

Image courtesy of Flick.com – Lamphun by Deepak Bahtia, Thaton by Kris Dhiradityakul, Lampang by RuckSackKrueme, Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son by Ken Marshall, Nan by James Antrobus and Pai by Claire Bachouse