Does anyone have some advice on what islands in Thailand to visit in January 2013? We are hoping to spend 1 week on the islands after travelling the rest of thailand for 2 weeks. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
Hoping to steer clear of Phuket and Phi Phi.
#1 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Jeez, not knowing your preferences makes this so difficult. Do you want scenery, laid back, party, good snorkelling off the beach, diving, climbing?
Or an island which offers all of these?
Believe it or not, Phi Phi does. And Phuket ticks most of the above boxes except good snorkelling and climbing.
Anyway if you post your preferences I'm sure I and others can come up with a list of possibilities.
We want scenery, snorkelling and laid back. We just want to relax on a gorgeous beach to end our trip, we also want to do it relatively cheap - we're staying in hostels for the rest of our time.
Any help would be great!
#3 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Thailand hardly has any hostels outside Bangkok and Chiang Mai and single rooms are only $10 a night. Not sure why you'd be staying in hostels.
Phi Phi is expensive but they do have some run down huts for 500 baht.
January is high season so hard to get cheap then on the islands.
#4 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Sorry I wasn't quite precise enough - I mean we will be staying in hostel-price accommodation throughout South East Asia.
We want to go to an island that doesnt have too many tourists on it so we can just chill out.
When i say cheap, i just mean as cheap as possible :)
#5 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Do you mean $10,$20 or $30?
Define cheap. January on the islands you are really pushed to find much under 500 baht.
Lanta is a nice big island with chilled out beaches but it's high season so won't be so quiet. Still a lot better than say Phuket.
#6 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Ko Chang offers some cheaper accommodations and is only an 8hr bus ride from Bangkok. A few years ago there was some pretty regular accommodation for between 5-700 Bht. Not much snorkeling right around Ko Chang, but you could take a night or two to Ko Wai and snorkel around there - very small island, Paradise Resort there is very laid back and hostel like. The big island offers some escape into the interior as well, and you've got a variety of different accommodation options along the west coast.
Only 8hr bus ride? That's an awful long time. Been there myself and it only takes about 4 hours on the bus plus a 15-20 min ferry and a 15-20 min songthaew ride to resorts.
It is a good laid back island though.
#8 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Try the islands in Trang (Koh Mook, Koh Ngai, Koh Turatao). Sounds like they may tick all of your boxes.
#9 guava_girl has been a member since 21/10/2010. Posts: 252
i'm probably mixed up on the bus ride time - we caught an overnight from Chiang Mai and dropped off down at Khoasan Road, waited there a while to catch an a.m. connector bus to Ko Chang ferry . .. by that time the ride felt like 8 hrs and that is how I remembered it - could certainly be wrong though.
(Ed: interweb says 5-6 hours I see - think the overnight-er and the smelly morning on Khoasan caused it to feel a few hours longer)
Okay, the east coast of Phi Phi had all your wants except relatively cheapness.
Long Beach on Phi Phi has all (Nomad's Phi Phi Hotel has dorms) except is gets busy in high season - to get your laid back secluded beach take the road up through The Beach resort and hang a right down thru the village just past the top of the saddle to gorgeous Loh Modee on the lower east coast - 10 minutes total walk. Nicest beach on Phi Phi imho, no resorts, one small beach restaurant, fewer than half a dozen people sunning and swimming all the times I've been there. Okay snorkelling out on the fringing reef too.
But Phi Phi IS expensive - Nomad's dorm may not be any cheaper than one of Beam Bungalow's nice outside bathroom jobs on Had Thian (Tien) - the east coast one - on Ko Phangan. Thian has all your wants with a plus that 2 nice adjacent beaches are a short walk away. Had Wai Nam to the north is probably even more laid back, has one bungalow joint - the snorkelling isn't quite as good. Had Yuan (east coast one) just to the south is busier but not over the top, but the snorkelling isn't great.
These 3 beaches have become my favourite Thailand beach location.
Mae Had also on Phangan has good snorkelling by Thai standards and relatively inexpensive bungalows at Mae Had View resort.
As said, Ko Wai Paradise fits your asks and still had some 250baht outside bathroom bungalows when I called by in February. However the main beach gets busy with daytrippers from Chang - no worries, they never find the 3rd (most northern) beach. Hell, I didn't find it my first stay there.
As a point of interest the 0930 govt bus from Bangkok's Ekkamai bus station to the Ko Chang piers my February trip took the best part of 6 hours (the minibuses are faster). And I spent way over 2 hours more to my south-west Ko Chang resort including a 30 minute wait for the next ferry.
Ko Wai has fewer ferries/speedboats and is a fair bit further south so I can't see the total trip from Bangkok taking less than 9 hours.
Not that Phangan is closer. Although an excellent way to save beach time is to catch the overnight sleeper train to Chumpon or Surathani for the Phangan ferries. Saves a night's accommodation cost too.
No night trains go near Krabi for Phi Phi. I have taken an overnight bus but lotsa people can't sleep on buses. Neither can I, but I value my beachtime and I'm a tight-wad.
Better off getting a mini bus to Chang. Save a few hours and more comfortable. Spend your extra time at the beach!
#12 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Wow thankyou so much for all your advice!! For the time of year we are going (January) would there be much difference between Ko Chang and Ko Phangan?
We have to fly back to Australia after the islands, either from Phuket, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur (international airports basically). Should I just choose the closest airport to where we are? or are there things to avoid?
#14 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Work out your flights first. Thai islands are all pretty good.
#15 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
I don't think there is a great difference in weather. Statistically early Jan can be wetter on Phangan but I don't think this is a big deal. Crowds should be about equal providing your visit does not coincide with the Full Moon Party on Phangan. Even then you can avoid the mob on the quieter beaches. Maybe not Had Yuan which is a bit close to Had Rin.
Kuala Lumpur is too far from if you don't plan to spend some time there or at other Malaysian destinations.
Bangkok is the obvious one if you are at Chang.
If Phangan the choice between which airport depends a lot on where in Australia you are going - Jetstar have direct budget flights into Sydney from Phuket (if you book on Qantas you will end up on Jetstar with inferior service) and budget flights into Melbourne from Bankok. A whole bunch of other airlines fly into many Aussie airports from Bangkok.
Phuket airport is closer to Phangan than Bangkok but time-wise I don't think you would save a lot.
well...south is wet and hot
and needs lotta time get there
for instance bkk - phuket 14 hour air-bus trip
go ranong to hot spring g.h.(4 euro or less)
if you english football freak give discount!
8 hours air-bus and best place mid-south!
No one has mentioned Koh Tao. If it is the quite life you would like then this should be the island for you. The island is so chilled out and is also close enough to Samui and Phangan if you want to do some island hopping. It has the cheapest diving in Thailand and the snorkling is also pretty good. It can be a mission to get to but if you are staying a week then this is not a problem.
I would stay away from phuket as much as possible to be honest. I arrived there at 1am, went out for a drink and left as soon as possible the next day, this was enough time for me.
Although Phi Phi is busy and can be crowded at peak season you can find some cheap dorm rooms for about 200 baht a night on the island but it doesnt sound like the type of islan you are looking for as it can be an all night party type of destinantion and a local thai person describes it as being Bangkok on the beach.
As for the flights go with the airport that is cheaper, you can fly from Phucket to Bangkok for 2000 baht anyway so if it is cheaper for you to fly out of Bangkok than Phucket then do that althernaivly if you really are on a budget you can always get the overnight bus back up to Bangkok which costs you about 800 baht. It is not that bad just long but is the best for those on the budget and when your asleep you dont know where you are anyway.
Hope that helps anyway. I hope you enjoy your trip.
Thankyou all so so much for your helpful replies! Has given me a lot to think about! Thinking we will probably go to ko Tao, it sounds more like the relaxing place we were looking for but with things to do too! And we will fly out of Bangkok because it is cheaper than Phuket. Thankyou all again :)
#19 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Bangkok isn't cheaper than Phuket , unless you mean flights. Tao is a very small island and Phuket offers loads of tours and attractions. I wouldn't write the island off because Patong beach is overtouristed. Sairee beach on Tao is seriously overdeveloped itself.
#20 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Sorry i do mean for flights, it is cheaper to get back to bangkok and fly from there than from phuket.
We want a small island, and we have heard to many bad things about phuket we just want to steer clear of it, plus we dont really care about tours and attractions, we will have been travelling for 9 weeks already so we just want to relax :)
#21 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
Phuket/Krabi have some of the best tours in Asia. Phang Nga bay area is stunning.
#22 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
I loved Koh Chang and Koh Samui. It's great views in feel.
#23 Vickyjin has been a member since 15/4/2012. Posts: 15
Claire, from the description of what you're looking for I'd recommend spending a few days on Hin Wong Bay on Koh Tao. It's a beautiful secluded bay with fantastic snorkeling. While there in April I stayed at View Rock Resort which had rooms from B400 to B800 per night depending on how close to the water you were.
We stayed in their B800 room which had a huge patio with an unencumbered view of the bay. It had A/C which you could pay extra to use but we did OK just using the fan. While the bay is stunning their are a few caveats: there's no sandy beach as the coast goes from rocks directly to deep water, there's zero night life to speak of (bars, restaurants, shopping, etc..) and it's a steep walk between bungalows. The food at the resort's restaurant was pretty good and the service was friendly. They have good snorkeling gear to rent as well as kayaks if you feel like paddling to the other side of the bay for more awesome underwater views. 2 or 3 days here is plenty.
After that hop over to Koh Phangan where I'd recommend Mai Pen Rai Bungalows on Thansadet on the east coast. Get a beach front bungalow for around B700. The sandy beach and swimming is perfect but sadly no snorkeling. The resort relies on a generator for electricity which is available from 11am - 4pm and again from 6pm to 2am. As a result you may get a bit hot when your fans stops turning at 2 in the morning but we survived.
Again, no night life to speak of but a great secluded beach that at times you have to share with a resident pig that loves having her ears scratched.
Wow, this has become a multi-strand thread.
CLARE - Tao is a fine choice. You originally stated snorkelling off the beach and this Tao does better than most. It also has secluded areas you ask for - eugene's suggestion of Hing Wong Bay is excellent bar the lack of beach (great coral by Thailand standards last time I was there). Mango Bay is very similar. For a secluded beach with good value bungalows try the island's south west bays of Gul Jea and Sai Nuan 1 or 2. But yeah, give the crowds of Sairree and Mae Had the miss. The nice beach and snorkelling at Ao Leuk may be better avoided - there is a post down page suggesting the owner of one of the bungalows is going postal again with daytrippers and guests. Ko Nangyuan Dive Resort 1km off the north west corner of Tao ticks all the boxes if you can afford lower midrange - non-divers are welcome.
A few Tao caveats: it it more expensive than a lot of islands in both accommodation and transport - I put this down to divers who are used to paying over the top. But it is still considerably cheaper than Phi Phi.
Note too that Tao is real popular in January - you will be able to find places unbooked but maybe not where you ideally want and it might take a bit of searching. I'm never against using the touts on the ferries and piers at such times - I've had good deals off these people and they can often lay on free or cheap transport so you avoid the scrum and high charges at the pier.
JAY - the best place for climbing is the spectacular Railay/Ton Sai area of Krabi . You can do good kayaking from here too. I don't know of any bungee anywhere but at least one of the climbing outfit offers free-jumping - where you climb one of the big offshore karst stacks and then jump off into deep water way down there. Raily/Ton Sai doesn't have good snorkelling off the beach but pretty good stuff on the 3 and 5 island daytrips to places just off the coast offered everywhere. The more distant Phi Phi daytrips will do the same.
The Krabi area can offer most activities and I wouldn't be surprised if there were parasailing and skydiving somewhere. Bet Phuket can do the latter and when I stayed a few days last month at Nai Yang - a nice relaxed beach right near the airport - the kite surfers were there in abundance and ripping.
Fish pedicures are these days offered in just about every Thai town of any size which gets tourists - I bet you can find a place in Ao Nang close to Railay/Ton Sai. And they will be all over Phuket although I don't remember seeing any at Nai Yang.
You ask WHAT'S WRONG WITH PHUKET? Um, well the pluses outweigh the negatives IMHO. I'm sure all the Phuket knockers never step out of Patong/Karong/Kata. Okay, these places may be a bit too much Miami Beach for some (although I don't mind them) but Phuket is a huge island with a beach for everyone including those who want visually endless kms of seeming unbuilt beach- front (Mai Khao north of the airport). Phuket also has the most and best daytrips of any isand (the Phang Nga Bay daytrip is the best I've done in Thailand), and excellent shopping. Plus the best transport connections of any coastal place bar Bangkok.