Hmmm… what to say about Thai Island hopping…
Yes, it should probably be on most traveler’s bucket lists. Yes, it was a lovely time. No, I’m not dying to revisit most of the islands I’ve been to. Maybe Koh Tao, but likely only for the diving. And we can get on to that in another post. Today let’s just focus on the bigger picture of the Thai Island hopping. (Koh in Thai literally translates as island.)
First, Do your research!
Your experience will vary greatly by the islands you choose to visit, the places you stay on the islands, and obviously the people you are with. Each island has it’s own charm but they certainly have different vibes. Before leaving Thailand the first time I ferried from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi and on to Koh Lanta. When I returned the following month I did Koh Phangan, Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan, before island hopping across the Malaysian border to continue in Langkawi and right on down through Malaysia.
I can’t stress enough that there is a good chance you will be disappointed if you don’t know what to expect.
All I knew about Koh Phi Phi Don was that Maya Beach was a short boat ride away (on Koh Phi Phi Le) and that that was where “The Beach” with Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed. That picture you always see of the boats moored up on the beach between two beautiful rocks was the picture that had first made me (and admit it- lots of you too) want to visit Thailand.
Before my first trip, I thought Thailand = Beaches. I had no idea I would fall in love with the jungles and the villages and the lesser known spots, and the beaches would leave me feeling rather empty. I should rephrase that- not empty per se, but… they just didn’t feel like the Thailand that captivated me. A beach is a beach. It felt like it could have been anywhere. Beautiful? Sure! Worth doing? Of course! But leaving I can honestly say that for me Thailand ≠ beaches.
So here’s my little break down of my experience on each of the islands. I have full blog posts about each for more details. Have I mentioned you should read the details?
Koh Phi Phi Don: it’s a young man’s island. Or maybe a spring breaker’s island. Or maybe it’s the perfect island for someone who wants a getaway that will make them forget everything back home (and likely everything from the night before). If you are headed to Koh Phi Phi, prepare for lots of beaches, plenty of beer, bucket drinks and a boat tour (or two). The boat tours will take you to Monkey Island and Maya Beach and are totally worth taking a day to experience. I will go into all the details in the Koh Phi Phi post.
Koh Lanta was the opposite of Phi Phi. Laid back, relaxing and perfect! We arrived at our resort, checked into our two-bed bungalow and never left that beach. Restaurants lined the water behind every resort and we would walk until we were hungry or thirsty, stop for a bite and then keep going. We read, wrote and soaked up the sun in hammocks. Everything about it was heavenly! I could have stayed for weeks, but Australia was calling.
Koh Tao is a diver’s island. It has a young and beachy vibe, full of tourist shops, restaurants and bars, and great beaches. It was probably my favorite island, in part because of the day trips to Koh Nang Yuan which is small but lovely, and has a great hike that gives beautiful vistas of the island.
Koh Phangan gets it’s reputation from the full moon parties where everyone paints there bodies with dayglow paint and drinks until they pass out on the sand. We weren’t there for a full moon… or a half moon, or a quarter moon (all excuses for the wild parties) and we actually found the island quite peaceful and somewhat abandoned. I loved it!
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.