Relaxing on the beaches of Phuket

Phuket is a beautiful spot to chill out at for a few days.  It has the full range of accommodation and eating options, some good opportunities for partying / lash, diving to the south and enough scale to head off on trips all around the peninsular


Yes, its touristy, but it ticks the chill out vibe after a few weeks of travelling or as a simple break from any of the nearby Asian cities


Only a very brief travel entry, so a few high level tips:

  • Even if there for full on partying/ lash – try not to stay in Patong.  It’s great for the nights out, but there are just so many wonderful options slightly further away in the hills and on the beaches for the same prices
  • When in Patong, even if not there for a giant night out, make sure to head to Tiger Bar.  It kind of sums up the Patong vibe with something like 50 different mini bars each with their own theme
  • There are a bunch of islands off the east coast of Phuket that you can visit as part of day tour with a variety of operators leaving from Yamu Pier.  The islands are great, but you just need to be careful who you book with because it is very easy to get rammed into a full tourist boat that won’t quite hit the paradise vibe you’re looking for
  • There are some great spots for scuba diving all around Phuket, in particular the ferry reef dive off Raja Yai in the south is superb, with heaps of large cleaner fish that come up very close

7/8 week itinerary for the highlights of South East Asia

South East Asia has to be the premier world traveling region.  A big call?  For sure, but consider what genuinely world class offerings it can provide:


  • World class beaches and coastal areas – think of THAT beach in Ko Phi Phi and HaLong Bay, one of the Natural Wonders of the World
  • World class food – think Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and the genuine fusion into the mix with the large established Indian and Chinese communities
  • World class ancient sites and history – think of the temples of the “8th Wonder of the World” of Angkor Wat, and the breathtaking site of the pagodas stretching across the plain in Bagan
  • World class cities and party locations – think of Singapore as the city of the future and the Full Moon Parties on Ko Pha-Ngan


And all this in a place that is super safe, outrageously friendly, easy and cheap to travel in.  A must for any keen traveler and the below itinerary will give you the highlights – enjoy!

Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui – mopeds, beaches, ping pong shows and full moon parties

God I’ve been to Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui for full moon parties and general partying a few times and to be honest its always been a bit of a blur!  So this is a very short entry!


My overriding memory though is that the whole experience, whilst getting now very commercialised, is great fun and, if you’re travelling through this part of the world, it is a must.  The islands are surrounded by beautiful beaches, food is great, you have endless variety of accommodation options and its is the easiest country to travel in in SE Asia.  Main tips:


  • Full moon party and half moon parties – the famous Ko Pha Ngan full moon party obvious happens roughly every month, but you do also have the half moon party which can give you an option if your timings don’t work
  • Ko Pha Ngan or Ko Samui – I’ve stayed on both Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui for the full moon parties.  Whilst Ko Pha Ngan is obviously more convenient, there are heaps of regular boats back to Ko Samui throughout the night and the morning
  • Mopeds / taxis – getting around both islands is very easy with the taxis and ubers available, but its also par for the course to drive around on one of the mopeds.  Its great fun, just be careful – many of us have the scars from falls from mopeds on these islands!
  • The bars and clubs on both islands have the full range from all-above-board to about as sleazy as it gets, so you’re kind of going to have to roll the dice to see what you get . . . and you can usually tell within he first 2 seconds of walking in.  The most famous on is Suzie Wong’s (there are now 3 of them right next to each other), which gets a bit of a bad reputation, but I’d say give it a go because, whilst it is a strip joint, you’ll find its quite a tame one and you’ll see many couples in there checking it out for pure curiosity (and staying for several drinks).  A good fun place and you can always leave if you don’t like it

Cycling through Bangkok’s green Phrapradaeng Peninsular

When I first visited Bangkok I remember reading in the guide book, “fasten your seat belts, this is South East Asia’s centre of backpacker energy with all manner of ways to get into trouble”, which I think was fairly accurate and it’s always worth a trip to the Koh San road to get a feel for this energy if it’s your first time in Bangkok.  But it’s not all cheap beer mayhem and ping pong shows – you can also have a surprisingly rural experience right in the centre of Bangkok in its Phrapradaeng Peninsular, aka Bangkok’s Green Lung


Best way to do it is a rent a bike (heaps of places to do so and your hotel / hostel can easily help) and head to the Khlong Toei Pier to take the regular boats over the river to the peninsular.  From there, just head off through the canals, orchards, jungle and have a wander through the Bang Nam Pheung Market at the weekends.  Can easily take a day passing through there and can still give yourself all the time to get loose in the evening in Bangkok’s mayhem

Diving and relaxing around Ko Phi Phi

I remember when returning from my first long trip around South East Asia, that the place that most stuck in my mind as meeting the expectations of island paradise was Ko Phi Phi.  It had white sand beaches, stunning jungle interiors, coral reefs just off the beach and tall jagged karst hills jutting out throughout.  In the middle of all that you had the wonderful Thai people and Thai food,  the ease of travelling, plenty of options nearby for world-class diving and, of course, THAT world-famous beach


That experience is still there to be had, but you just need to plan it a bit more to avoid what, unfortunately, has become a bit of a mess in various parts of the town as the development has been allowed to run riot.  The effect is that large parts of the islands won’t give you that island paradise vibe and, also unfortunately, THAT famous beach is often closed to allow it to recover from what has been years of damage


(I decided, frustratingly, to lose most of my photos from my trip, so this is a very short travel entry)


So, my key tips for giving yourself the best chance of that paradise vibe:

  • Aim for the east coast or Hat Yao area.  It’ll take you longer to get there by speed boat, but once you’re there it’ll be worth it and, to be honest if you’ve chosen the right place, you’ll probably want to stay there and just enjoy for a few days
  • Make sure to still take one of the day trips to Ko Phi Leh (Ko Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Lei are the 2 islands that make up Ko Phi Phi).  Whilst THAT beach may be closed, the island itself is still beautiful and untouched by development
  • Hike the 30mins up to the Phi Phi viewpoint as it will give you unbeatable views around the island and a chance to go for a bit of an explore
  • Give yourself a day or two for scuba diving.  There are beautiful reefs nearby and the chance for whale sharks in February and March
  • Include Koh Phi Phi as the centre part of a trip between Phuket and Krabi – Phuket for its beaches and sophisticated restaurants, hotels and partying / lash; Krabi for the kayaking by the impossibly steep karst towers on the beach.  Boats run super regularly from both spots and only take 1.5-2 hours

Trekking the mountains and jungle around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a good spot to spend a day or so checking out the temples and markets, or a bit longer if you take one of the famous cooking courses.  But the highlight is heading out into the mountains and jungle on a 3 day trek that will let you stay with some of the the hill-tribe villages, interact with the elephants and go rafting down the rivers


The only problem is that these treks have now turned into a bit of an industry and the market is full of companies that provide the “standard package” that most likely won’t meet your idea of adventure and, worse, may be keeping the elephants in very poor conditions


Bests suggestion is to thoroughly do your research for which company you go with; lean more towards a multi-day trek (there won’t be any “authentic” experiences in a day trip of Chiang Mai); or potentially move move a little further north to near the Chiang Rai / Tha Ton area.  It’s worth making the effort though because its a great experience

Climbing the karst peaks of Wat Tham Seua near Krabi

Just outside of Krabi Town you have the wide ranging hill temple complex of Wat Tham Seua. It’s worth checking out for the views for miles around after what is a gruelling steep 1,237 step climb to the top of the impossibly sharp limestone karst formation.  It also has some nearby monkeys to play with and some pounding waterfalls that you can jump around in


It’s certainly worth a visit if you are passing through Krabi, which many do as it is a central transport hub when travelling from the east to west coast of Thailand.  But I wouldn’t prioritise this over time nearby in Railay climbing or kayaking around the limestone cliffs by the beach (which looks to be the real highlight of Krabi), nor over Thailand’s southern islands, such as Koh Samui and Koh Panghan on the east and Koh Phi-Phi and Phuket on the west