- What to expect
- Koh Samui – info & sights
- Phuket – info & sights
- Phi Phi Don Island – info & sights
What to expect
This 10-days trip was only beach orientated – I know that in each place I have been there are also very interesting on land sights, but I was only interested in a relaxing boat and snorkeling vacancy.
Koh Samui – info & sights
The journey started in Koh Samui where I spent 5days. Koh Samui was granted Municipality status in 2012 and is now locally self-governing. It is Thailand´s second largest island and its economy is based on the tourist industry and the export of coconut and rubber. There are various suggestions about the name derivation, but none has been confirmed yet. We stayed in Bang Po, but I do suggest staying near the Fisherman’s Village, Chewang or Lamai especially if you do not intend to rent a car or motorcycle. The reason why I say that is that in Bang Po there is not a lot to do therefore in the evening you need to be prepared to spend money for the transport as well.
Koh Tao & Nagyuan Snorkeling Trip
Anyway, we started with a Koh Tao and Nangyuan Snorkeling trip. This trip was on a speedboat and we decided to sit outside at the front of the boat (by the end of the trip we regretted our decision which previously seemed to be a good one!).
The first stop was close to Koh Tao where we spent an hour snorkeling – I do suggest you bring your own mask and snorkel to avoid losing time adjusting the mask.
After lunch we moved to Koh Nang Yuan which was one of the highlights of this 5days in Koh Samui. We started with the Hike to reach the viewpoint. The guide told us it would take around 50minutes to go up and down – it takes not more than 10minutes to get up but considering that just one person at the time can stay on the viewpoint there is a queue to reach the top. We stayed almost 20minutes in line. Consider that the hike is made by steps and that just the last section is made by 2 rocks that you will need to “climb”. I did it with my thongs, but for children and elderly people I suggest bringing some shoes. Once up there it started to get cloudy, but the view and the colors were still gorgeous and corresponding to the pictures I had seen on the internet. After that we spent some time snorkeling on the beach.
The water is crystal clear – please be aware that the sand is made by corals which made it hard to walk on it (at least for me). If you have the same problem just bring some close shoes to avoid issues in walking or getting cut.
The boat ride took 1 and a half hour to reach Koh Tao and 1 hour and 45 minutes to get back to Koh Samui. On the way back, it started to rain, and the ride started to get a bit bumpy. We had 3 terrible jumps that we felt on the back and on the neck. A man who was sitting outside with us had to get back inside because his back was hurting. If you have back problems avoid sitting in front because you never know how the sea is going to be on that day.
In the evening we decided to stroll around Fisherman’s Village which is full of nice restaurants on the beach. We felt in love with one restaurant called “Happy Elephant” and with its delicious cooked food – we ate there 3 evenings out of 5. The fish is shown outside of the restaurant – so you can choose it, they weigh it in front of you and cook it as you wish – simply delicious!
In Fisherman’s Village you can find some typical Thai shops but if you wish to spend the evening shopping you are better of going to Chewang (will tell you afterwards about it). In Fisherman’s Village you can find a few shops at good prices (but with not that much choice -no shoes shops at all and a few tourist offices) but also a lot of shops at higher prices. Shops and restaurants close at 10pm.
There is a bar which organizes fire shows on the beach – these are not done every day, so you should inform yourself before arriving there in order not to get disappointed.
There are a few street foods as well but here you can find only dessert like mango sticky rice, ice cream made at the moment and pancakes.
We opted for a 40minutes foot massage which I personally loved – it was so good and relaxing that I almost fell asleep. I do recommend doing massages while you are in Thailand but please be sure that the once who are making the massages are professionals. This is very important especially if you have back problems – you want to feel better after the massage and not worse!
We spent the day after at Chewang beach which is said to be the longest beach in Koh Samui. The beach is a long sandy beach, but I was disappointed because I expected a paradisiac beach but instead I found myself in a normal sandy and crowded beach. If you travel with kids or you get annoyed to spend a day chilling on the beach this is probably the best option for you because you have loads of activities to choose from such as paddle board, jet skiing, flyboarding, parasailing, towable floats, banana boats and doughnuts and water skiing etc. From 5pm to 7pm almost all bars offer happy hours and some of them offer the buy 1 and get 1 for free option. We opted for a bar with pouf on the sand to sit on.
Regarding the accommodations you have plenty of options – you find hotels with a private garden right on the beach, luxury rooms with ocean view etc. Mostly all hotels have their deckchairs right on the beach where guests can relax and enjoy a drink. Due to a thunderstorm we had to leave the beach quite early (we managed to get back after a while) and we strolled around Chewang. Here you can find loads of shops and bargains. We decided to eat something light and opted for a papaya salad, which despite we had asked for the mild version, was almost hell. By the end we were not able to tell the taste of the dish because the only thing we could taste was the spicy flavor. After the salad we had to run to eat an ice cream because our taste buds were insensitive. I suggest that if you like a bit of spicy, but you do not or simply just can’t eat as spicy as Thailand’s are used to, just tell them that you want it not spicy/ with the spicy at the side. In this way either they put just a bit of spicy or they just bring it to you separately and you can add as much as you like.
Back to the beach we decided to walk all the way to the end of one side and to the end of the other side. If you wish to do that it takes approx. 1hour all the way round. For dinner we found a nice restaurant in the shopping center (expensive prices in comparison to what almost everyone expects when going to Thailand – I have to say that in the shopping mall you can find a lot of brands, but the prices are the same as in Europe) – the food was not bad but not as good as the food of the Happy Elephant restaurant.
Ang Thong Marine Park
Ang thong Marine Park was designed National Park on November the 12th 1980 and was the tour of our third day. These 42 islands are simply amazing and cover an area of 102 square km. You can’t get off on most of the islands, so we stopped at Mae Ko Island for the Ta Le Nai, the Emerald salt water lake which can be reached with a short hike consisting of steps, small steps. You should calculate around 20-30min return. In my opinion the hike can be done with the thongs but as I said the steps are small and steep so if you are not that confident with tongues bring your shoes – just in case. On the way up, you have sneaky peaks of the Ang thong Marine Park. Ta Le Nai is said to have appeared 30 million years ago. Our next stop was at Ko Woa Ta Lab where we had lunch before starting our short hike on the Pha Jun-Jaras Nature Trail.
On the way up there are 5 viewpoints before reaching the last one. The hike takes around 1hour with enough time to stop to take pictures – to be honest with you the hike can take a lot less time -in 40minutes you can manage to do it. I tell you that because when you get there you have 2 options: the hike and a kayak adventure. Due to the fact that the guide told us that there would have been no time to do both things we ate our lunch very slowly – the hike took us 40Minutes and we arrived just 10minutes after the start of the Kayaking Adventure therefore I can definitely tell you that if you wish to do both things you can definitely manage to do it.
At the end of the beach there is another trail – our tour guide did not tell us anything about it and by the time we found it, it was too late. This is the reason why I can´t tell you anything about it. From the info that we found on the beach it looked interesting – so please consider this as another option.
Khanom Coast: the Pink Dolphins & Koh Tan
Our last full day on Koh Samui was spent on Khanom Coast to spot the pink dolphins.
We´ve seen dolphins but not pink one or better said we have seen grey dolphins with some pink fins. The guide told us that these dolphins are a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins and that the newborn dolphins are grey changing to white or pink with grey spots as a juvenile and white or pink as adults. They change their colour due to the presence of blood vessel near the skin which are used to control their body temperature. I found the tour very dolphin friendly – the boat does not chase the dolphins – once you reach the place where dolphins are spotted they turn off the boat close to the coast and the only way to see dolphins close by is if the dolphins decide to get up close to the boat. We spent at least one hour there, and we had the chance to spot at least 5 dolphins.
The snorkelling on Koh Tan was very disappointed – there was not much to see and therefore we decided to get back on the boat to get some tan. To be honest with you I must tell you that Koh Tan is said to be a good spot for snorkelling therefore it could just be that the spot in which we stopped was simply not the right one. We spent our last evening at the Fisherman´s village and after dinner we went for an hour full body massage. I must admit that for the first time I have heard my bones snapping but afterwards I felt good – “lighter”.
Phuket – info & sights
The next morning, we flew to Phuket island where we spent one night. Phuket island is part of the Southern province of Phuket which consists of Phuket (the largest Thai Island) and 32 smaller islands off its coast. Phuket West coast was damaged by the 2004 Tsunami but nowadays everything has been restored.
James Bond Island Tour
We booked the James Bond Island Tour for the day after. Due to the heavy rain we thought the tour was cancelled. When the driver picked us up (1hour later) we thought he just wanted to give us the money back. Instead he started driving through Phuket which was completely stuck. People were walking with the knees into the water. It took us 4 hours to reach the pier where they told us that the tour was not cancelled. Unfortunately, at this time I have to say that I would not recommend this tour company. I do understand that they can´t do anything “against” mother nature but at least they could have told us what was going on and their intentions. The bus driver simply did not reply to my questions about the arrival time/tour etc. He just kept on driving and people started getting frustrated in not knowing what was going on and where we were going. After this excurse I am going to start talking about the tour. The boat ride, at least at the beginning, was quite rough. We reached the James Bond Island when it stopped raining, so we went on a canoe trip around the island before jumping in the water for a swim. What we call since 1974 James Bond Island (due to the movie The man with the Golden Gun) was originally called Khao Phing. At about 40metres from the shore lies Koh Ta Pu or Ko Tapu which originally was also part of the island.
We then visited Panyee Island and the Muslim village. We had lunch here and then had a look around. Koh Panyee is a floating fishing village. The local people are 100% Muslims of Java descendants. They settled here over 200Years ago.
Banzaan Market & walking around Bangla Walking Street
We spent the night having a look at the “Banzaan Market” and walking around Bangla Walking street which in my opinion is exactly what you see on movies/expect from Thailand. This street is crowded and full of bars, restaurant and clubs. There are on street performances of all kinds – we happen to see some breakdance and magicians shows. There are loads of young people trying to sell you tickets for loads of shows as well as the ping pong one.
Phi Phi Don Island – info & sights
The ferry on the next day took us on Phi Phi Don Island which in my opinion was the best part of this holiday. I do simply think that this place is gorgeous but consider that the island is small therefore you need to love boats, beaches, snorkeling or diving otherwise do not stay here more than 2days.
Phi Phi Don forms part of the Phi Phi Islands which are part of the Hat Nopparat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park – it is the largest one of the 6 islands. Before becoming a coconut plantation, it was populated by Muslims fisherman. The 2004 Tsunami destroyed around 70% of the constructions. On January the 6th 2005 Emiel Kok decided to found “Help International Phi Phi” a voluntary organization. He recruited staff from the refugee camp and backpackers and started clearing and rebuilding it. A second organization “Phi Phi Dive Camp” was founded on February 18th, 2005 and started to remove the debris from the bays and coral reef. By December 2005 a lot of hotels were reopened, and a Tsunami early-warning alarm system was installed. Nowadays paved roads cover most of the roads that can only be used by pedestrian. Bags and goods are transported by push carts – the only permitted motor vehicles are reserved for emergency services.
Longtail Boat Trip
We started our adventure on Phi Phi Island on a Longtail boat. I do recommend you hire one of these boats first because it is a typical Thai boat and second because you are the one who decides where to go and to stop (mother nature is the only one that can work against you). Our first stop was Monkey Beach a tiny beach which is famous for monkeys. I did not like the fact that tourists were giving them food, cans of coke etc. but this unfortunately happens everywhere where ignorant people are – simply all around the world! Laem Thong Beach was the last stop before Rantee Bay where we stopped for lunch and for some snorkeling – it was really a gorgeous place to snorkel with clear water, corals close to the surface and lots of colorful fishes.
Snorkelling at Shark Point & Maya Bay view from the beach (boat trip)
The day after we had booked a Snorkeling tour which started at Monkey Beach before heading to Shark Point where we got the chance to snorkel with harmless blacktip reef sharks which are called like this because of their black tips on their fins. These sharks with an average length of approx. 1.6m prefer the shallow and inshore waters therefore you get the chance to see them while snorkeling. On that day the water was not that clear therefore the visibility wasn´t that good but to be honest with you seeing the blacktip reef sharks made it worth it anyway.
We passed by Viking Cave which is one of the most profitable industries: the harvesting of swiftlet birds’ nest which are sold at an average price of USD2,500 per kg. Mostly prized in China these nests are believed to promote good health and to be good for the skin. There is a legend saying that sailors got stuck during a storm and that the men survived simply because they ate these nests.
After that we stopped at Loh Samah Bay where we had lunch before heading to Bamboo Island (no bamboos grow on the island – casuarina trees cover most of the island and were mistakenly translated in Bamboo).
Pi Leh Lagoon was our last stop which is a bay surrounded by limestone cliffs. On the way back, we stopped to take some photos outside the entrance of Maya Bay well known for the Movie “The Beach” (due to National Park regulations, MAYA BAY was closed).
In the evening we were lucky enough to meet an Italian girl who was working for a diving company on the island who convinced us to book a “Discover Diving” Tour for the day after which was also our last ½ day on Phi Phi island and our last day in Thailand.
Discover Scuba Dive with amazing Mirla & Jamie
On the boat we were given an introduction of the scuba equipment and we were shown a few very important basic skills such as clearing of the mask, some hand signals, equalizing of the ears and the regulator recovery and purge. The instructor was simply fantastic – I had told her about my bad experience (Down Under that happened 10 years before) and she was really calm making me calm down as well. I must admit that at first, I was really scared and that I kept on breathing heavily. We had to surface 3 times before I got rid of my fear and manage to dive and see loads of fishes (moray, starfish, sea snake and loads of beautiful corals). Unfortunately, we could not dive for a long time due to the plane we had to take to fly back home, but this was one of the highlights of this trip. As said before she was fantastic and the reason why I managed to dive was just her. She told me not to let my head mess with me and make me give up on something that I really wanted to do. These were the words I kept on telling myself at the beginning of the dive – once I was diving and looking at all the wonders of the sea I simply forgot all the fears and had a great time. She came along with her boyfriend which meant that we had an instructor each. We had such a great time that we decided to enroll in an Open Diving Course once we got back to Italy. On the same day we went back to Phuket from where we departed in the evening.
If you happen to be on the Maldives please check “Drop Dive Maldives” owned by Mirla & Jamie. To read more please refer to Maldives on a tight budget (Dive & Relax on a local island – Christmas & NYE 2019/2020)