No trip through South East Asia would be complete without visiting Thailand. It’s such a popular destination for backpackers and tourists that it almost felt like I was the last person to get around to going, if my Facebook news feed was anything to go by. We flew into Phuket late on the 15th, and were whisked to our stunning hotel in Patong (courtesy of Jake’s wonderful mum Karen) by our own driver. After our rather tying time in the Philippines, we were more than a little excited for some luxury and relaxation in a place that didn’t look and smell like a garbage pile.
For the next few days we hardly ventured out of our hotel, and you can’t blame us because it was beautiful and we got incredible buffet breakfasts included. We did however meet up with a friend of Jake’s from the Sunshine Coast named Ellery for a night out in the infamous nightlife streets of Patong, namely Bangla Road.
Every stereotype you have of Thai nightlife was being played out on this road. Go go girls dancing on bars. Ticket sellers trying to get you into the ping pong shows, ladyboy cabarets and seedy strip clubs. Cheap drinks being sold by the bucket, shots of dodgy alcohols and of course the road beers from 7/11 to get you started. Sadly Jake and I extremely underestimated the potency of the alcohol and maybe had one too many vodka/whiskey buckets. We didn’t last the night and had a pretty rough time the next day! This overwhelming experience kiiiinda put us off drinking for a bit (maybe forever) so we changed our minds about going to the full moon party on Koh Pha-ngan in a week’s time. Probably for the best…!
The after effects of this ill fated night lasted several days so we stayed in Patong a little longer to recuperate. In this time we ate our way around the night markets and watched Deadpool in the cinema. After researching our next destination (and being quickly put off from Ko Phi Phi), we opted to catch a 5 hour minibus to Ao Nang, a beautiful beach town near Krabi and Railay.
Ao Nang was considerably less touristy and suited us much better as a base to explore from for a few days. Before we’d even had chance to check in, two Canadian guys had asked us if we fancied catching a cab that afternoon to the nearby Tiger Cave Temple, which apparently promised amazing views of the area. With no other plans we agreed, and with these two (Dan and Jake) and a Swiss guy we called G because his real name was too complicated, we headed to the temple.
The scenery around Ao Nang is extremely beautiful and serves as one of the major draws of the area. Limestone karsts – huge hill/cliff things that rise up dramatically from the landscape make for stunning beaches and views. It’s a feature I’ve not seen anywhere else in the world and it really is amazing.
So the Tiger Cave Temple was located right on top of one of these karsts. And the only way up was by climbing 1260 very steep steps. Not easy! However the views were awesome and after being so sedentary for the past week it was good to get some exercise.
We spent our other couple of days here hanging out on beaches and in food markets. One day we took a long tail boat to nearby Railay beach, which was legitimately the most incredibly beautiful beach I’d ever seen. Whilst there we hung out with people from our hostel, including the Canadians, as well as Americans, British and French backpackers which was good fun. The food here (and in Thailand generally) is absolutely awesome and great value. Dishes range from 50 to 100 baht (£1 – 2) from the food stalls and just like Malaysia you can get your freshly blended fruit shakes for 20 to 40 baht. Also with freshly made banana pancakes being commonplace and costing 50 baht I am literally in heaven.
Whilst in Ao Nang we hoped to do some tours around the nearby islands and maybe some kayaking. However reading reviews of the companies that offered these activities swiftly put us off. Stories of overcrowded boats, tourists being left behind on islands, bad snorkeling because of devastated coral reefs, and altogether very irresponsible tourism in the area meant we were really dissuaded from spending money on those experiences.
It was quite disappointing and to be honest we found a lot of Southern Thailand to be waaay over commercialised. Yes it’s easy to get around but you’re kind of trapped inside a bubble, making it hard to really experience any authentic culture. It feels like the inhabitants have sold out their country’s natural beauty and being a tourist here is enabling that. It’s quite ironic because we craved it after how rough and ready the Philippines was, but now it’s gone too far the other way! Consequently, we shortened our time here, and are heading to Bangkok early. We’re not really that big a fans of beaches anyway 😝