Maya beach
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More than a party resort?

I traveled with a German guy named Yannick through Sri Lanka. I was quite surprised he wanted to backpack through Thailand, but he did not wish to visit the Southern islands of Thailand.

Why would he not want to go to a place with one of the finest beaches in the world? The scenery at Krabi and the Southern islands (like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Khao Phing Kan) is incredible.

Visited most Southern islands, I do understand my German friend now. The South of Thailand is a complete party resort for backpackers nowadays. It is a fun place to go if you are in for incredible parties – 24/7. It ís a bit overcrowded though. Most islands you won’t visit for inner peace and culture. The mystique of the local culture made place for loud (and mostly drunk) Westerners.

However, the incredible scenery makes well up for this. In my opinion, you cannot backpack through Thailand without making a visit to some of the Southern islands.

 

Me and Tiago on a boat trip

Koh Phi Phi boat trip

 

Which islands to visit?

I took the bus (and later ferry) from Bangkok to Koh Tao. From there on I took the ferry to Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket. Underneath you will find my personal opinion about each of the islands:

 

Koh Tao: relaxed backpackers island

Koh Tao, also referred to as ‘Murder Island’ or ‘Kill Tao’ since the murder of two backpackers in 2014 by the local mafia. Western media picked up this story big time, creating all kinds of horror stories about the island. Fact remains, the murder was an incident. Sadly enough, these kind of things happen all over the world – on a daily basis. The island remains a safe place to visit.

In fact, Koh Tao was one of my favourite islands in the South of Thailand. There were not too many tourists, making Koh Tao a nice place to relax. I liked the relaxed backpackers vibe on this island. Koh Tao is a great island for couples as well.

Every Monday, a pub crawl is organized from the Choppers bar, which you should definitely join. Koh Tao is also one of the best islands to take a low-budget dive course.

  • Tourist level: Medium. Mostly backpackers.
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Party: 6/10 (during the pub crawl: 8/10)
  • Recommended hostel: Koh Tao Central hostel

 

Relaxing beach of Koh Tao

Koh Tao beach

 

Koh Samui: more for families

Koh Samui is built to facilitate more high-end tourists and families. The Ark bar made nightlife quite good (read more about this on Tiago the party wizard part 1: Trampoline night at Koh Samui). However, if you do not have time to visit all the islands mentioned in this chapter, this island would be the first one I would skip.

  • Tourist level: High. Mostly high-end tourists and backpackers.
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Party: 7/10
  • Recommended hostel: Liquid Lounge

 

Besides backpackers, a lot of families visit Koh Samui

Kid on Koh Samui beach

 

Koh Pha Ngan: home of the famous Full Moon party

Koh Pha Ngan is home of the famous Full Moon party. If you are thinking of attending this event, definitely read the guide about the Full Moon party for useful insights. Koh Pha Ngan is mostly visited by backpackers during this party, but facilitates more bungalows than hostels.

Nice island to party hard. Not more, not less.

  • Tourist level: High, especially during the Full Moon party. Mostly backpackers.
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Party: 8/10

 Incredible sunset at Koh Pha Ngan

Koh Pha Ngan sunset

 

Krabi: scenic beaches and nice parties

I will mostly remember Krabi for the nice time I had at the Slumber party hostel. Take a boat to Tham Phra Nang and Railay beach. There are plenty of other beaches to discover that are also worth paying a visit.

  • Tourist level: High. Mostly high-end tourists and backpackers.
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Party: 8/10
  • Recommended hostel: Slumber party hostel (there are two, both great).

 

Railay beach at Krabi

Krabi beach

 

Koh Lanta: romantic laid back island

Koh Lanta is a more laid-back island, great for couples. Koh Lanta is the best place to relax and interact with the locals, of all islands mentioned in this chapter. Do not expect too much of a party. Most backpackers go to this island to rest. Loud and drunk Westerners are seldom to be found here.

  • Tourist level: Low. Mostly backpackers and couples.
  • Party: 5/10
  • Scenery: (stayed too short)

 

Koh Phi Phi: beautiful island full of sin

Koh Phi Phi is incredibly beautiful, but overcrowded with loud, misbehaving Western tourists. Nothing wrong with that of course, but do not expect to find a nice and quiet spot on the beach. Shared bedrooms are not recommended if you are not joining the party.

Despite the overcrowded beaches, Koh Phi Phi remains my favourite island of Southern Thailand. Take the time to climb all the way to the top for the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint: it is worth the effort. Second must see of Koh Phi Phi: Maya beach. Maya beach is well-known worldwide, since being featured in the movieThe Beach‘, starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Do not hesitate to book one of the island hopping or snorkeling trips: they are incredible.

Insider tip: If you are going on a snorkeling trip, book a small snorkeling boat. The big boats cannot reach the bay of Mosquito island. Although this island sounds unattractive, this is thé place to be to see loads of tropical fish. During snorkeling, there were no mosquitos to be seen – don’t worry.

  • Tourist level: Very High. Mostly backpackers.
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Party: 9/10
  • Recommended hostels: Stones Hostel & The Rock hostel

 

Koh Phi Phi viewpoint

Koh Phi Phi viewpoint

Boat trip at Koh Phi Phi

Boat trip at Koh Phi Phi

 

Phuket: Access to the incredible environment nearby

The town of Phuket is not that special, but a nice place to party. However, there is definitely a lot to explore close to Phuket. Taking a boat trip to Koh Khao Phing Kan (also known as the ‘James Bond island’, featured in the movie ‘The man with the golden gun‘ starring Roger Moore) is a must!

  • Tourist level: High. Mostly high-end tourists and backpackers.
  • Scenery Phuket: 9/10
  • Party: 8/10

Take a boat trip to James Bond Island

James Bond island Thailand

Screenshot: The same island getting blown up in the James Bond movie ‘The man with the golden gun’ (1974)

James Bond Island in the movie

 

Were the Southern Thai islands ‘Bucket list worthy’?

Yes.

The scenery around Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Krabi is incredible. Although mystique has made place for loud party-goers, this area is still home of a few of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world.

 

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