Thailand, South East Asia | Backpack Style

Quit your job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love, never return.

Now, how many times have you heard that one? If it’s one too many -like it was for me July 2014- then my only advice would be DO IT. I finished University and needed to travel (backpack style) before -dare I say it- I had to grow up and enter the real world.

I chose four weeks in Thailand. Why? For a first timer it’s a safe(ish) and eye opening adventure. You’re not thrown into the jungle with a map and backpack and expected to find your true purpose in life, instead you can go on a beautiful journey, learn a lot about yourself, meet people from all over the world, experience cultures and traditions like never before and have the time of your life (speaking from my experience). It’s not without it’s challenges but, hey, it’s worth it.

Here’s some Tips and Trips from my itinerary, place by place.

Code Pricing (these are travellers prices, ok?!)

  • (£) = cheap eg. – Hostel/Hotel per night £4
  • (££) = reasonable eg. – Hostel/Hotel per night £10
  • (£££) = pricey eg. – Hostel/Hotel per night £20…. Get my drift?

LDN < BANGKOK

Head straight to Khao San Road -it’s cray cray and backpacker central. Definitely worth a visit, this is where will you find all your ‘travellers clothes’ i.e. elephant pants (I know they’re a cliché but they are toooo comfy), Ray-not-so-real-Bans, street food (the corn is delicious), tuk tuks and bar after bar after bar after bar. For a place to stay try D&D Inn (£). But don’t be fooled by the pictures this place is basic.

The Grand Palace (£) and other Temples are a must, they are too beautiful to miss.

Floating markets (£££) You’ll need to catch a boat to get to them and that can be a tad pricey. Do your research: locations, prices, times etc. We rocked up midday (it’s an early morning kinda thing) and only saw one lady (normally it looks more like this). Don’t make the same mistake we did.

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Ping Pong Show (££), note this isn’t a typical ping pong show – you might think this is obvious but some of us blondies had no idea.

BANGKOK < CHANG MAI

Travelled by over night coach (££)

Although it pays to be organised, there is something very free and liberating about having no idea where you are staying and just going with the flow…

My guess is that, what ever hostel you end up at there will be a tourism representative pitching you trips. We chose a three day hike (£££).

When they say hike, they mean it!! What’s included? …waterfalls, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, hiking, more waterfalls, more hiking, camp fires, sleeping in huts with a local tribe, sleeping at an elephant park, cleaning elephants, playing with elephants…the list is endless. You might fear for you life as the health and safety laws are non existent, but this trip was so much fun. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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***IMPORTANT*** Riding Elephants in Thailand is an extremely popular activity. That doesn’t make it right. See here. Please, please, purleeeaaaaseee do you research AND if you are going to visit an elephant sanctuary, make sure its a sanctuary for animals who have been rescued from such activities. For instance – The Elephant Nature Park.

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To party – There’s a strip with a few bars (just ask for Yellow Bar). Also the night market here is so cool, and the food is amazing.

DEFINITELY do a Thai cooking course (£££) for a day, here you pick all your veg and spices at a local market and learn lots about the ingredients, preparing food and (obviously) cooking it.

CHANG MAI < KOH SAMUI

Travelled by plane and ferry (££)

Sleep in a hostel (£) near the beach. Visit Ark Bar and you can pick one of the many hostels surrounding it, plus you’ll be around fellow travellers and it’s where all the parties are at…

Eat at Green bird – cheap but yummy local food.

KOH SAMUI < KOH PHANG YHAN

Travelled by ferry (££)

The party island (££): If you have arrived on this island then I’m guessing you have worked out the dates of the Full Moon party (take a look here to see the calendar). There’s also a bunch of other party’s which run before and after Full Moon: Half Moon, Jungle Party, Pool Parties etc – its best to plan these/find out about them once you’ve reached Phang Yhan. I would disregard all the pros and cons you may of heard about Full Moon, it’s something you have to experience for yourself – for us it was the best!

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If you want your beauty sleep, I would recommend some lovely bungalows called Coco Gardens (££). They’re a little out the way but so chilled. You can sleep in the hammocks all day and party all night. *ALSO book waaaaay in advance for full moon as everywhere gets booked up so quickly*.

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KOH PHANG YHAN < KOH TAO

Travelled by Ferry (££)

I said book way in advance for Koh Phang Yhan and you should do the same for the next place. 30,000 people leaving one island to go to one of three other small islands is not going to leave you with much choice.

Koh Tao is so pridddddy. Everyday we would get a boat (££) to a little private island and explore it.

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Massages (£) on the beach are SO worth it here. Beach bars (£££) are also more glam. Perfect place.

KOH PAN YAN < KOH PHI PHI

Travelled by over night ferry (££)

Not to scare you but we had a horrible experience with the over night ferry. To start there wasn’t enough beds so we had to sleep on the floor and then my friend’s money was stolen whilst she was sleeping – be extra careful guys!

Any how, on a more positive note – they say save the best till last- Phi Phi (££) wasn’t meant to be our last island BUT Cupid struck his arrow and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. This island is adorable. It’s so small there aren’t even motor vehicles on it, heaven.

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Whilst here, we stayed at three different places – Adamen Resort ££ (to get a good night sleep), Harmony House £ (to save money), PP Princess £££ (because, well, we are Phi Phi Princesses). PP Princess was our favourite, a little bit more expensive if you are used to dorm rooms but it’s situated right in the middle of the island and by the time we moved here we wanted a “nicer” place to stay for the last few days.

Phi Phi’s not so hidden gem, Maya Beach, otherwise known as ‘The Beach’. YES that one. From the film. The one where we all drooled over Leo. Remember? Yep, thought so… This place is a beauty (even if Leo wasn’t waiting for me like I expected).

So – there are a two ways to enter Maya Beach.

One option (most common) – you can take a long tail boat to the ‘back entrance’ and swim up on to rocks and then drag yourself up using a rope (very ‘survivor-y’ if you ask me) but I heard ALOT of bad stories. If the sea is choppy that day you might have to deal with some sketchy rock faces and scraped hands and feet.

Second option – take a speed boat (££) this will take you right up to the beach front the ‘sand entrance’ or, you can take Bobs Booze Cruise (£££) – ignore the name – again this is by taking the ‘sand entrance’. We opted for this and it was a blast. What’s included?

  • Maya Beach (The Beach)
  • Monkey Beach (Feed Monkeys)
  • Loh Samah Bay
  • Viking Cave
  • Cliff Jumping
  • Snorkeling
  • Lunch, Fruit, & Snacks
  • & Unlimited Free Beer (hand over face emoji) 

Scuba Diving (£££). Yes you need to. There can’t be anywhere better in the world to do it, can there? I did my Padi course @ Island Divers (they say its cheaper in Koh Tao but you have a better dive in Phi Phi). It was just magic, the whole experience.
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KOH PHI PHI < BANGKOK 

Travelled by over night train (££) – recommended.

You start here and you end here.

If you have any money left,  I would shop at MBK (£) – I got all my souvenir’s from here and some good quality materials for crazy cheap prices.

Drink at Sky Bar (£££). Its your last evening – you’re allowed.

Don’ts

  • Don’t over pack – I ended up throwing a lot of unnecessary items away to lighten my backpack
  • Don’t get a bamboo tattoo – especially if you’re drunk
  • Don’t drink more than 3 buckets (they don’t call it a ‘2 bucket blackout’ for no reason)
  • Don’t leave valuables lying around
  • Don’t forget to have your jabs before visiting – mosquitos are not our friends
  • Don’t have a go on the fire skipping ropes, leave it to the trained professionals
  • Don’t go to the toilet on your own (girl code)
  • Don’t rent a mo-ped – I’m sorry but they are death traps
  • DON’T go to Tiger kingdom or Elephant Sanctuaries it is so so sad and unnatural

Do’s

  • Do organise your self!!! Places of where you are thinking of staying, budgets, time – this sounds obvious but honestly it help
  • Do know where you are staying for your first night as you have to give details of this at Bangkok airport
  • Do bring a jumper (it can get chilly), trainers, washing powder
  • Do take copy’s of your passport, do I sound like your mother yet?
  • Do bring padlocks for your backpacks
  • Do be cautious with the street food, I mentioned I had food poisoning, didn’t I?
  • DO DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
  • Do hike, scuba dive, explore – go on lots of adventures 🙂
  • Do find your inner history geek
  • Do barter!!!!
  • Do help the community
  • Do be (extra) careful
  • Do have the time of your life xxxxxxxxxx

If you would like more info, please get in touch I might be slightly over enthusiastic or a tad envious but I’d love to help and hear stories.

Special thanks to my beautiful best friend for putting up with me for 1 month. I love you with all my heart.

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