20 Jan Discover: Southern Thailand
Not the entire Southern Thailand, though; just Phuket and Koh Phi Phi – primarily focused on the beaches (Maya Bay!!!) cos why not. I have plans of coming back to the other parts and islands of Southern Thailand, hence the post title. Expect this article to be updated as I see more of Thailand. LAST UPDATED: February 2017
Note: “Wide” photos are screengrabs from video footages filmed using my GoPro.
The trip to Southern Thailand started out with a really cheap offer for a flight to Singapore via Singapore Airlines in early 2017. I visit Singapore every year for the Laneway Festival which happens every second or third week of January and knowing my travel-hungry self, I booked a two-week trip to Singapore with the intention of going somewhere in between for a full week.
Maldives, Burma, and other countries came to mind, but I figured it’s best to finally give in to the invitation of the Phi Phi Islands, especially given the limited time I have (which proved to be actually too short).
About Southern Thailand
Thailand is a backpacker’s haven – it’s cheap, tourist-friendly, and with high regard for culture (amidst globalisation and all that technical stuff). Southern Thailand is home to a lot of cities; Hat Yai, Surat Thani, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Krabi to name a few. The last three are the more touristy ones, which also mean they’re a little jacked up in terms of costs of living, but despite these places having these notions, I still found Phuket and Koh Phi Phi cheap.
From Manila, you have to fly via Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok. I flew to Phuket through Singapore – was my cheapest option considering I’m attending the Laneway Festival in Singapore in between the two weeks I booked. There are a lot of other options for cities to fly to if you’re headed to the beaches, but your best bets are Krabi and Phuket; the latter was my choice as it fit my connect times and schedules better.
Note that as of writing, flights from Manila land only in Bangkok. Phuket flights have been suspended due to low volume of passengers. Fly-through is the only option to see the Thai beaches, sadly.
I had a 7-hour layover in Singapore, majority of which was spent having Indo Chicken at Somerset and some iced Kopi at ION Orchard. To Phuket, I flew with Tiger Air. Which was delayed due to runway closure, which then resulted to an airport mess upon arrival.
An important thing to consider when booking your flights to the islands is the ferry times to Koh Phi Phi. My flight times meant I had to stay a night in Phuket, which was the intention (either a night in Thailand or in Singapore, and Thailand is the cheaper option, so).
I had my ferry ticket sorted at my hostel. I may have paid a little more than the usual, but I can’t dare miss the last ferry for that day so. And to avoid a possible mess at the ferry terminal, too. The ferry tickets seem to be available online, but I’m not sure how reliable these online agents are. Whatever the situation is, save yourself lol; it’s Thailand – a lot of things can happen.
It’s a big ferry and you have two (+1) options – sit inside the AC-ed cabin at the bottom of the ferry or enjoy the sea breeze and get a tan on the top deck, or be that tourist who pays extra for “business class” in a point-to-point ferry (though to be fair, the premium class had their own outdoor top deck). Obviously, I went on the top deck (the regular top deck, not the premium one).
TOP TIP: Stay on the left hand side for the best view of Phi Phi upon arrival at the port.
If you want a proper tan, stay away from the sun or otherwise remove whatever top you’re wearing; otherwise you’ll end up with a bad tan line you have to fix at the beach later on in your trip lol (I kinda made that mistake .. ish #ineverlearn)
Oh and if you can travel with a backpack, it’s best you do. Porters are available, but I never trust them with my things so I recommend you travel with a backpack or a suitcase small enough that it’s easy for you to carry by yourself through ferries and makeshift ~bridges.
Where to Stay
I stayed in three places in Southern Thailand – Phuket Town, Loh Dalam Bay (Koh Phi Phi Don), and Patong Beach (Phuket); plus a night of sleeping on a boat.
Phuket Town. In my first night, I decided to stay at Phuket Town nearest the ferry terminal cos the only agenda was to get to Koh Phi Phi. I had initially booked a bed in a dorm room at Bandai Poshtel in Phuket Town, but after a delayed flight and a ridic mess at the airport, I thought maybe it’s better I top up and get a private room instead – saves not only tired ass but also the woken up souls in the dorm room. Sadly, there weren’t any single rooms available at Bandai, but there was one twin room left for taking and ToMo was generous enough to give it to me at no extra cost (thank you, my friend!). I LOVE THAILAND AND ITS PEOPLE!!!
Quick bit on Bandai Poshtel – it’s a relatively new hostel well-located in Phuket Town (near the ‘old’ bus station). Interiors are in an industrial “unfinished” homey vibe, comes with clean shower stalls and toilet cubicles, and then topped with free breakfast of all-you-can-eat (ish) toast and coffee. Single, twin, and dorm room options are available, but all room types have a shared toilet and bath. Towels are provided; bring your own toiletries.
ToMo is a great host, too! I arrived past midnight, but he was there waiting for his last confirmed guest to check-in and I think that’s great (also: free upgrade, lol thanks my friend!) Oh – I had my ferry ticket to Koh Phi Phi sorted at Bandai (450THB) the morning before check out, just in case it’s a mess at the ferry terminal. Apparently, I should have asked them to fix it the night before so it took them awhile, but ToMo was able to secure me one anyway – even offered to take me to the ferry terminal.
Bandai Poshtel is building a second Bandai, plus a cafe among many others, so that’s something to look forward to. 101% I’d stay again; it’s a shame I only had a night with them.
Koh Phi Phi. Phi Phi Don is the biggest island in the Phi Phi group of islands, which also means e v e r y t h i n g is there. It has two main sides – Tonsai Bay (where the pier is at) and Loh Dalam Bay (where I stayed at). Phi Phi Don is also home to Long Beach, Loh Lanna, Loh Bagao, and Laem Tong, which are all further (but I think still near?) away from the pier.
I stayed at Slinky Hostel – also home to the famous Slinky Bar. No fuss 18-bed dorm rooms hostel, but beachfront AKA waking up to the good life. Towels are provided; bring your own toiletries.
Just behind Slinky are rows and rows of restaurants and food places – cheap and good – and a small convenience store for your emergency needs. 😉
Patong Beach, Phuket. I would stay for another night in Phi Phi (after the night on a boat), but I found a really nice hostel in Phuket – affordable, only a few metres from Patong, and with amazing facilities – so I decided maybe I should get two nights at Lub D Phuket. To chill and get some work done (or so I thought).
I booked a mixed door room. No fuss; shared bathroom, comes with your own lockable cabinet and wardrobe area. Towel and toiletries (and other hygiene stuff) are provided in the bathrooms. Beds are individually powered (so if you need to charge / use your bed lamp, you need to insert your card even if your roommates are already in).
Lub D is wonderfully located; only a few meters from the beachfront. They have private room options, a swimming pool, and an in-house restaurant (which isn’t very good, but you can try if there’s no other choice lol). It falls in the upper scale of hostels and it’s perfect for all you poshpackers. A word of caution, though – the room door doesn’t really lock up lol so assuming you’re the only one in the room, lock it or not, anyone with a valid keycard (your roommates, obvs) can still enter. Stay clothed, lol!
Any regrets? None, but I wish I was able to check out the other parts of Phi Phi Don; Long Beach looked really interesting when I passed it while cruising on a boat. Bandai Poshtel is a highly recommended hostel – really homey. Lub D Phuket is great, especially with the facilities it comes with. There are cheaper options, though – come only if you’re willing to spend. Although I say it’s worth it.
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Don has a pretty chilled out vibe – with the typical quiet days and alive evenings. Asians are a minority; it’s an island dominated by .. non-Asians? Lol, but everyone’s really friendly so there’s that.
And the reason why Phi Phi Don does not feel like Thailand and Asia at all – it’s flooded with Western restaurants. Pizza, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, they have it. And it’s great! Tourist-ready, I guess – but as someone who was constantly craving for Thai food, it was quite a challenge finding a Thai place to eat at.
Food is quite cheap, though – at an average of THB120 per meal. Coconut ice cream is a must if you’re here; THB100, possibly served in an actual coconut husk. And Thai pancakes; don’t forget about them Thai pancakes.
TOP TIP: NEVER buy alcohol at the beach bars; I made the mistake of buying a bucket in the bar of my hostel for THB350, forgetting that it’s just THB150 in the bar carts where all the restaurants are. Your best bets are these alcohol trucks and 7/11. Buy from either, and then go to the beach bars for the vibe!
Loh Dalam Bay. The sun sets on the left in this part of the island and the tide recedes per usual. It’s pretty laid back in the morning until late afternoon, and then it becomes alive at night.
The Party Island is a name Phi Phi is famous for, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be called as such. I was invited by my hostel roommates (I’ve forgotten their names, except for Maya cos she’s coming to PH soon lol. Great people, too!) to go out and I thought why not; won’t hurt to give the night scene a try. I don’t regret a bit of it, except that I bought an expensive bucket by mistake lol
Drunk man’s food is readily available, too. This guy can save you (just make sure your chicken is cooked or else you’ll say hello to the toilet the morning after).
Koh Phi Phi View Point. Do not dare skip the view point, but also maybe don’t do it in the 12NN sun, though. I was, of course, in the best state of mind; decided to go and trek at around 1130AM. I crave for the sun … jk but I had no other time, so lol. Make sure you’re hydrated!
There’s a cafe when you reach the viewpoint, but I have no idea how overpriced they are; I didn’t bother. A minimal fee is also collected upon reaching the viewpoint, about THB30.
Shout out to the guys I met at the “summit”, @thefantasylist and @gowman_t! They meant to visit Boracay, but involved “too many flights from London” so they thought of going to PP instead. Come next time, mates; I’ll show you around!
P.S. You will survive trekking in flip flops, but if it worries you, trek in trainers. Also – this is the view (again), at high noon.
Maya Bay Sleep Aboard. Maya Bay (“The Beach” / Phi Phi Leh) is famous and you must go there. I paid $100 (you don’t have to, but) for it, including sleeping on a boat. Best. Experience. Ever. Details here.
Patong Beach (Phuket) is just as touristy, but touristy always means interesting and something worth seeing (unless you hate the crowds). Also a non-Asian city, but it feels more Thai than Phi Phi, lol.
TOP TIP: Head out early to avoid crowds.
I really meant to bike around the city and visit the Big Buddha, see the town, etc but food was good and my bed was too comfortable .. so I pretty much chilled the entire three days.
Had some beach time.
Some Pad Thai.
Went to see Bangla Road.
Some more Pad Thai and Chang.
And then some life conversations with Koyea, who reminded me of what it means to travel and see the world. Read more here.
That was pretty dope, Southern Thailand! Even if I only went to Phuket and Phi Phi, lol.
I will be back for the other islands, and this time for longer. Solid shoutout to the people I met along the way – especially those I really got to speak and hangout with; cheers to our travels, yeah? See you guys wherever in the world!
Find the good in getting lost,