So you’ve booked your trip…well your flights. ‘We’ll sort it out when we get there.’ ‘We’ll just stay however long we want in each place and move on when we feel like it.’ ‘We’ll seek recommendations from travellers on the way.’
Although in an ideal world this sounds perfect, it can’t always be a reality due to a little something called time. The freedom to travel for long periods of time with no sense of commitment sounds like absolute luxury, but in the real world you have certain responsibilities. Stepping onto the rickety career ladder that you thought you’d never find after years of university, you’re hardly going to want to throw it all away to travel the world, so for me, a jam-packed two-week trip to Thailand not only gave me a little bit of freedom I wanted, but also fitted perfectly with work.
So here’s where this guide comes in. When you travel half way across the world, you really want to experience everything you can, and that’s what we did. Starting in Bangkok and then heading north to Chiang Mai, we finished our trip by visiting the South and experience the beauty of deserted beaches (plus a well deserved bake in the sun).
If you plan on visiting Southern Thailand soon, here are my top 10 must sees and dos that you shouldn’t miss out on:
1. Research your travel
Don’t go for the first option. When travelling by plane, train, overnight coach or boat, always research your options. Just a short walk down the road from our apartment, we found ferry tickets from Koh Lanta to Phuket for half the price than the hotel was offering.
2. Hire a car and explore Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is a beautiful island and known for being the most traditional. With no traffic lights and a road which pretty much circles the whole island, hiring a car is simple and pretty safe. Driving on the same side as the UK made things nice and easy. As much as the allure of testing a scooter looked like the ideal thing to do both on cost and fun factor, trust me – those things are not safe! Testing one out each in our apartment’s car park, we soon realised these weren’t toys. For hardly any more baht, we had the safety of a lovely green automatic car, complete with air-con! Bonus. Along the way you’ll find lots of secluded bays and restaurants with wonderful views across the ocean.
3. Watch the sun set in Koh Lanta
The photos say it all really. Actually, they almost don’t do it justice it was so lovely. After a busy day of site seeing, nothing beats watching this with a cocktail in hand.
4. Take a boat trip to Bamboo Island
Possibly my favourite place in all of Thailand. Bamboo Island is a National Park, so you can only visit if you pay a toll (unless it’s part of your trip). Its peaceful beaches and crystal clear waters were almost unbelievable. Set upon the backdrop of a tropical forest, zone out and you’ve got your very own desert island.
5. Visit Maya Bay
Although not as secluded as I’d hoped (and the well known novel and film suggest) the famous Maya Bay is still a must see. Avoid the crowds by visiting in the morning. It may be a little off-putting to cram into a boat with big groups, but hiring a long boat comes at a ridiculous price, so avoid at all costs.
The water is crystal clear and you’ll see lots of multi-coloured fish and look ridiculously fit in the process.
7. Say hi to the monkeys at Monkey Point
As part of a boat trip which combined Maya Bay and Bamboo Island, a quick visit to Monkey Point was also included. Not knowing what was actually happening, our boat pulled up to a secluded bay, which seemed to be pretty empty. As we got closer, we saw creatures hopping about and jumping from the walls. We soon realised Monkey Point had gotten its name from its inhabitants! We were warned not to get too close, but of course you get one stupid family who let their daughter feed the monkeys!
8. Experience a cooking class on Koh Lanta
Lanta Cookery School was a ideal for someone who was so interesting in learning new skills and picking up some tips from the locals, which we both were. In a group of six, we had an intense three hour class where we picked four dishes from a menu and cooked them all from scratch. (Food post to follow.)
9.Visit Patong Beach at night
Yes it’s tacky, but it’s hilarious! You’ll drink far too much, but is the hangover worth it? Of course.
This was something we thought long and hard about. We did a lot of research after hearing mixed reviews as to what actually occurs when you sit next to a tiger. Of course in the wild this isn’t something you’d ever consider doing, so why is it something Thailand offers? Tiger Kingdom, Phuket read as being a place where tigers seemed calm, yet awake and active. Treated well and in large enclosures, we decided to check the place out before deciding whether this was something we were willing to do.
I can honestly say, the tigers looked extremely playful and happy. We had to read lots of health and safety notices and signed an agreement, before deciding which of the tigers we’d like to meet. The young cubs were adorable and very quick on their feet.
Then we move on to the big guys… I thought I’d feel far more shaken entering a pen with not one, but three huge tigers going about their business. Sitting behind one, we were told to pat them firmly, which was something they enjoyed. While sitting with one, another couple played splashing about in the pool.
From visiting the tigers, I don’t believe they’re drugged as some rumours suggest, as they seemed far too active. The trainers explained how they are well fed on hearty meat throughout the day and have known human contact throughout their whole life. Of course, these are wild animals, so technically anything could happen. If you are thinking about visiting but you’re unsure like I was, do your research and see how you feel when you get there.
If you have any questions about visiting anywhere in Thailand, feel free to drop me a comment or a tweet! It really is a wonderful place and an experience I’ll never forget. Over and out!