After living in Koh Samui, Thailand for nearly a year, we ferried to quite a few tropical islands off the both the East and West coasts for weekends, our honeymoon and holidays. And the beauty of Thailand is that there are so many isles to choose from depending on what you’re keen to do. We’ve put together a list of islands we feel you can’t miss out on and those you can happily skip.
Islands you can’t miss:
1. Koh Lanta
This glorious, laid back island is just an hour ferry ride from its rowdy neighbour, Phi Phi. The party animals looking to get drunk daily disembarked at Phi Phi, whilst those looking to relax in peaceful, exquisite surroundings continued onward. It’s an island where locals seem to forget about tourists and go about without constantly hustling for your money. Scooting around the island we found empty beaches such as Bamboo Bay without a soul in sight, beach bars where we lounged for hours enjoying a local band and hammocks beckoning you beneath the palms. For more- Koh Lanta.
2. Koh Nangyuan
This tiny island is literally a slice of heaven situated in the Gulf of Thailand only 10 minutes by longtail boat from Koh Tao. It’s the tiniest enclave I’ve ever stepped foot on and a slither of beach is all that connects two mountain peaks. There is only one resort on the island, so most people just go for day trips and pay an entrance fee which goes towards preserving the island. I relaxed on a one of the many bright beach chairs lining the sand, hiked up through the muggy forest to the viewpoint and had the most magical snorkeling experience in the turquoise waters. For more- Koh Nangyuan.
3. Koh Tao
This is a place you want to reserve some time for. Getting around is a bit tough as it’s extremely hilly, but once you’ve braved the steep inclines and winding downhill’s on a scooter ( or more expensive option of a quad bike) you’ll land up in blissful coves of palm trees, boulders to jump off and clear ocean to snorkel and dive in. It’s most popular for its underwater treasures and you’ll see many a diving boat anchored just off the shore. I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean feel of Hin Wong Bay, picture pefect Tanote Bay and the transparent waters of Aow Leuk Bay. For more- Koh Tao.
If you have the time:
1. Koh Phangan
Aside from the one night a month when the moon is full, this island is still pretty rural and unspoilt. We could drive on a scooter for ages before spotting another soul in the tropical forests. If you’re there for the full moon party, you’ll probably stay in Haad Rin, the dirty little town that exists purely to supply alcohol and accommodate party goers in basic accommodation. If you go at any other time, leave Haad Rin immediately and stay elsewhere. There are some places only reachable by 4×4 and others with their own beaches far from the bustle. For more- Koh Phangan.
2. Koh Samui
This was our home for 10 months and as a result I’ve got a lot of love for it. There are lots of elements I didn’t enjoy such as a burgeoning Russian population starting to outweigh the local residents, really expensive shops/restaurants and a high accident rate. This island is fast becoming one a giant in the luxury market and as a result all local vendors imagine all foreigners are loaded. We struggled to find decent prices at restaurants, resorts or clothing stores and still got charged high prices after living there for a while. Like so many foreigners before us, we came short on a scooter but likely got away mildly with only skin missing. It’s a stunning place with so many beaches to choose from, waterfalls to see and lots for families to do. But it’s a bit more challenging to find peace and quiet here. For more- Koh Samui.
3. Angthong National Marine Park.
This archipelago consists of over 42 islands dotting the warm ocean. Sailing past countless amounts of rocky limestone outcrops is one of the most breathtaking sights to behold. We kayaked, snorkeled and jumped off off our moored boat. You won’t be able to go out in a small group as only certain boats and tours are authorized to visit this protected region. Be prepared for crowds and a small piece of sand on the beach to call your own. There are a few bungalows and tents on the main island where you can overnight and be collected in the morning. This is a great option should you wish to wave goodbye to the tons of day visitors. For more- Angthong National Marine Park.
You can happily skip:
1. Koh Phi Phi
I stayed on this popular island in 2007 and fell for its narrow little pathways where no cars or scooters were permitted and I could dance the night away at a Reggae Bar whilst the ocean lapped at my feet. Stopping in front of Phi Phi recently was quite a shock as all the tropical palms once lining Tonsai Bay have been replaced with tall hotels and resorts to accommodate the increasing amounts of drunk backpackers who now lay claim to the island. If you’re keen on a party, people doing the nasty on every beach and lounging on the sand with those nursing hangovers, do pop in. Sadly, most people say it’s a shadow of the island it once was.
There is nothing in Phuket that you cannot find on any other island. Most visitors to Thailand feel that they have to go there as most flights land there and many special packages involve hotel stays here. If you’re curious, do the walk down Bangla if you must. It’s not the only dodgy street of ping pong shows, strippers and animal slavery you’ll encounter in Thailand at all. Shops and restaurants anywhere near the beach front are highly overpriced and if you don’t speak Thai, it’s likely that you’ll severely ripped off. Out of all the islands, you’re most likely to encounter crime and petty theft here. By all means use it as a springboard to visit nearby islands, but there’s no need to linger.