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Island circuit - advice appreciated!

  • fushica

    Joined Travelfish
    26th January, 2013
    Posts: 7

    Hi there,

    I am flying in to Phuket on the 1st March and flying out again on the morning of the 9th. I was thinking of going up to Khao Sok for a couple of days, and then wanted to do a brief loop of the islands... I was thinking:

    - Down into Phang Nga Bay
    - Day trip of Ao Phang Nga
    - On to Krabi (is this a big day trip or just a couple of hours?)
    - Then on to: Ko Lanta? Ko Phi Phi? Railay? (are they all easy to access? easy to get back to Phuket from there? nicer than others?)
    - Then on to Phuket to fly out.

    My priorities are not to be too rushed, but to try and get a good look at the islands and relax for a bit. I am hoping to stay relatively cheap (250 - 500 baht) and somewhere not too touristy; chilled out but not deserted; seeing the landscape and nature rather than parties and shopping. But am travelling solo, so a couple of places to meet people would be nice!

    Based on all that, does that sound like an achievable loop and do you have any recommendations on which of those islands might be best?

    Any advice welcome, many thanks!

    #1 Posted: 12/2/2013 - 09:55

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  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1592

    The circuit sounds ok, but doubt you'll find much accommodation for 250-500 baht especially on Phuket and Phi Phi and you may end up spending a lot of your precious time searching for anywhere in that price range. Take ferries between the islands/beaches and don't be too dismissive of touts on board offering a free look at their rooms. Lanta, for example, is a big island so getting a no-obligation free ride to some lower cost bungalows can be very time/cost-saving. Touts also wait at the pier on arrival.

    #2 Posted: 12/2/2013 - 13:01

  • tezza

    Joined Travelfish
    13th April, 2006
    Posts: 1301
    Total reviews: 61

    Sounds like a good plan to me. Bob's suggestion of using touts on the ferries and at the piers is a good one - I have often had good deals from these people. They can show pix and particularly on ferries come back later if your first counter-offer on price was rejected. They often lay on free or cheap transport to the bungalow which can be a plus at bigger places like Ko Lanta.

    Phang Nga Bay to Krabi is not a big trip - you will probably do your Phang Nga Bay daytrip with Mr Kean or Sayan Tour both with offices in the Phang Nga town bus station compound - plenty of buses going to or thru Krabi call in - I'm thinking an hour will get you to Krabi bus station. Maybe a bit less.

    Railay is easiest to access from Krabi being part of the Krabi district mainland (although having no roads into Railay you have to take a short longtail trip from Ao Nang - cheapest if you share with all the other people wanting to get over to Railay or Phra Nang beaches which are by far the best in the district or to the climbers' beach Ton Sai).
    You will find some guesthouse rooms in Krabi town within 500baht (songthaew to Ao Nang takes about 40 minutes), ditto a few in Ao Nang itself. I don't think you will get any at Railay, but the adjacent beach Ton Sai will have a bunch, particularly if you go inland up the track from central beach and take the right branch about 300m in - towards the top are some very good value budget bungalows. Ton Sai is one of the better social beaches because it is the climbers' beach and they tend to be pretty outgoing - and its good value bungalows also attract backpackers who are usually not all that reserved in nature. It has scenery as spectacular as Railay but the beach is not all that hot at low tide. You can climb the headland over to West Railay in about 10 minutes, wade around at low tide or continue on that inland branch track for abt 20 minutes over the high saddle to East Railay. Phra Nang beach, maybe the best mainland beach in Thailand, is 10 minutes walk from the northern end of East Railay. West Railay is 5 minutes walk across the isthmus.
    You will also find bungalows for around 500 on Hat Ton Son, the north-western extension to Hat Noppharet Thara which is one beach north-west of Ao Nang. However this is a very quiet beach - will take some time to get to Railay although for social interaction there is plenty of lively activity at night in Ao Nang town which is maybe 10-15 minutes away. Main problem is you have to cross the small creek between Noppharet Thara National Park HQ and Hat Ton Son every time you need to go into Ao Nang (there is a much longer back road if you have a motorbike).

    Nicest out of Phi Phi, Lanta and Railay? Um depends on your definition of nice. I've always thought the less visited east coast of Phi Phi is one of the nicest areas in the Andaman (getting damn expensive these days though!) although the southern beaches on Lanta are pretty serene. Downside is these places are pretty isolated - not too bad if you have a lively bunch of guests staying at your place, but that's the luck of the draw.
    Liveliest nightlife would be in Ton Sai village on Phi Phi (lotsa Ton Sais in Thailand) but this place is noisy and over the top for many visitors. Phi Phi is expensive and most places are over 1000 (although March is getting into shoulder season and prices should moderate a bit) - you may find a 500 room up the paths on the eastern slopes of town (see travelfish's section) and a bed in a dorm for that at The Rock in town. Out of town beaches are way more relaxed but accommodation is expensive - however Long Beach is a good mix of nice beach and social and Nomads has taken over the old budget Long Beach Bungalows and there is now a dorm there.
    Best scenery is around Railay although Phi Phi aint too far behind. Lanta aint exactly shabby either but isn't as spectacular as the others.
    Both Lanta and Phi Phi are equally easy to reach from Krabi town and also from the Krabi beaches where ferries leave Ao Nang and pick up off West Railay and Ton Sai.

    It's easiest to get back to Phuket from Phi Phi. You need a double ferry trip from Lanta (via Phi Phi - on the one ticket) although there is a direct minibus service which is less expensive but because it has to loop around Phang Nga Bay, takes about the same time. There is a direct ferry from Ao Nang/West Railay/Ton Sai to Phuket but it runs only once per day and takes longer than Phi Phi to Phuket. A bus from Krabi bus station to Phuket bus station will be way cheaper, very frequent but probably take longer because of the circuitous route. One advantage of the ferries coming into Phuket is that they usually include free transport from the pier to the big 3 beaches which can be quite time consuming otherwise.

    Under 500 on Phuket? Yep, if you look around for upstairs rooms in from the beach a bit at Patong, Karon and Kata I reckon you might just do it. Definitely Phuket Backpackers in Phuket town will have a dorm bed for less - sonthaews leave for the beaches just up the road. Phuket Backpackers is a very social and squeaky clean joint. Have a google for Jamies Phuket Blog for suggestions re cheap Phuket accommodation. Of course travelfish's own Phuket section will have good info too.

    #3 Posted: 12/2/2013 - 20:48

  • fushica

    Joined Travelfish
    26th January, 2013
    Posts: 7

    Wow, thank you very much! That's incredibly helpful and just what I was looking for :)

    #4 Posted: 14/2/2013 - 08:14

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