On arrival in Samui, we knew there were some things that would definitely be happening; a long overdue catch up with Megsy & Eman, a private apartment with pool and of course the C bomb… Christmas!!
Samui, the island of some of the shittest roads I’ve ever seen. It’s like they’ve started making some of them and then just thought nah.. Literally craters and ditches all over the place, making moped riding a challenge which is worrying as no-one appears to bother with helmets!
On our first evening we went to dinner after multiple games of ring of fire with half the group bailing early doors, too drunk to continue (Dem & Megan) & having to head home. Eman and I decided we weren’t yet done with the evening and discovered a bar run by ladyboys where we had total control of the music so were free to play as much B2K and Usher as we pleased – CLASSIC! Meanwhile, Dem had gone back to our apartment for a swim and had to get hooked out of the pool by a local, for being too drunk and a danger to himself.
Waking up in the morning it became apparent that this kindly local man/woman (he doesn’t exactly remember) had also helped himself to all of the money in our bumbag which was just over £500. Luckily he didn’t fancy our passports and we found these disregarded on the sofa… If you saw our passport pics you’d know why!
We’d been fairly lucky up to that point in regard to stuff going missing and at times like that you can either cry into your cheese and ham toastie or get the f over it. We decided on the latter and headed to the beach for some chilled out vibes and cheap lunch!
Christmas in Ko Samui – just don’t mention the pigs in blankets
I knew it would be a toughie – being away from family at Christmas (1st time in 28years ya’ll) if I’m not wrapping presents in my PJs with mum and half a litre of Baileys in hand is it even Christmas? But knowing we had Christmas lunch booked at Ark bar soothed the blow. I know the perfect roast dinner has as many variations as I have shoes but when the pigs come lying next to their blankets and you’re served up a breeze block of stuffing it’s hard not to compare it to a home cooked roast! Ark bar sits on Chaweng beach complete with pool and DJ smashing out the best of old school RnB and house music you could ask for (no rocking around the Christmas tree here!).
Chaweng beach is great but if you want a more chilled out vibe head to Lamai beach and make a visit to Potato Beach Club – you have to try the sandwiches, my god, they’re amazing! Cocktails are buy one get one free and they also have sunbeds on a raised platform keeping Dem away from the clutches of the evil sand, but still close enough for a dip in the sea.
After 5 fun-filled days in Samui, it was time to head to Koh Phangan for New Years! We were staying on the quieter side of the island (Mae Haad Bay) in a beach bungalow and arrived by Tuk Tuk which had to be swapped for the 4×4 edition due to the horrendous roads and monsoon-like rain. We were then dropped off onto the beach avec backpacks for a short schlep to our bungalow as the road hadn’t been finished yet (only in Thailand!)
I think two words that best describe this island would simply be ‘Full Moon’ – it’s why everyone is there and it is crazy! If you have no interest in neon paint, buckets, dancing on the beach until the sun comes up with 40,000 other luminous peeps? Then, my dear, this island is probably not for you!
We thought it was great though, we’d made friends with another couple, Soph& Dave, so luckily enough when we’d rang in New Years together it wasn’t too bad when us girls managed to lose both our boyfriends for 4 hours. Only once we found them we realised we’d missed our taxi back to our side of the island, so true to form we celebrated a New Years well done with another vodka red bull bucket at 8 am. Let’s just say New Years Day Hannah didn’t really rate the decision making of New Years Eve Hannah. But all was okay in the end with our guesthouse owner providing us with Pad Thai room service.
Personally, I’d recommend staying on the Mae Haad Bay side of the island and travelling into Haad Rin by taxi. Haad Rin, as fun as it was for Full Moon, felt too much like a lads holiday to me and the other side of the island offers some seriously beautiful beaches as well as some well-needed chill!
Koh Tao – flooded
Next on our hitlist was Koh Tao. Home to some of the best diving, snorkelling sites this side of the world as well as the most stunning beaches. I mean I’m sure that’s true, but apart from swimming in the streets and learning, I’m a very bad Monopoly player and a reasonably competitive Scrabble player these were the main takeouts from our few nights here.
The rain and flooding was relentless rendering all water-based activities pretty pointless which was frustrating as I’d almost talked myself into taking my open water diving certificate! On top of this, we’d checked in to our hostel which had no hot water, no window and a beeping noise we couldn’t locate, bordering on prison chic. Although it was frustrating being stuck on what is obviously a beautiful island and not being able to make the most of it, it was more upsetting seeing the damage the water was doing to local shops and houses. & the town had such a lovely feel to it, reminding me of Koh Rong in the size of it and the cute little privately owned bars and restaurants.
We decided to put on our positive (rain) capes and make the most of it. We found a bar with board games and threw ourselves into sampling pretty much everything on the menu. When life gives you lemons… Make lemon cheesecake!! On our accidental stumble into this bar, we met a pair of lovely sisters (Steph & Abbey) who we ended up drinking with and playing Craig Davids greatest hits with until the early hours of the morning which I thoroughly enjoyed, Dem not so much.
Due to the weather, our recommendations are few and far between but Bro&Sis bar (2 min walk from the ferry terminal) offers yummy food, reasonably priced drinks, live music and good wifi. What else could you want when island bound on a rainy day?!
We decided to cut Koh Tao short by a day and head to Koh Lanta in search of some vitamin D (that and Dem was tiring of losing at Scrabble). We jumped on the night ferry which was actually pretty good despite my panicked Googling the evening before to check out if any boats had capsized recently.
Arriving in Koh Lanta there were houses literally blown flat and we were yet again forced into the least flattering ponchos. Added to this the whole island had no electricity, no water and no wifi…
We arrived at our accommodation to realise we’d booked a leaky bamboo hut, luckily with Dem being able to talk the hind legs off a donkey we were soon upgraded to a suite. As we had no lights they provided us with candles and Pad Thai which was probably the least romantic candlelit dinner in history. Luckily the next day the sun shone and we were able to make use of the pool and grab mopeds to explore the island.
Koh Lanta is all about the chill! I loved this island. Yes, the sun came out, the beaches were beautiful, our favourite being Bamboo Bay which was all white sand and no people! The restaurants and shops are predominantly Muslim run so you may struggle to order a beer with lunch which again did wonders for our budget (although there’s always a 7Eleven a stone’s throw away, panic not!).
Chills in Phuket
We were lucky enough to be gifted a week of luxury in a beautiful resort which put a stopper on our spending and allowed us a holiday within a holiday! We had our own kitchenette so we could cook at home and not have to fuss about getting ready to go out for dinner each evening. The struggles are real out here! Embarking on my tri-colour fusilli mission at the local supermarket on our first evening, we got chatting to a guy who asked us how long we’re in Phuket, where we’re headed next etc. After half an hour of male bonding and me stroking his very cute rescue dog, he then invited us to his friends’ boat the next day to help him with the calibration.
This turned out to be a great day spent navigating the seas between the Thai Islands, coupled with fun facts, rum and my phone going for an accidental swim. If there’s one thing that travelling has taught me, it’s to say YES, oh and to top up sun cream when on a boat – Jesus Christ was I Hannah red face the next day?! We also got invited to a BBQ with the local expat community at their local restaurant which was 80baht for a beer and a burger (£2). Everyone was super friendly, suggested remedies for my rouge visage and allowed us to rattle through all our fave travelling stories (yep we are those backpack wankers).
With a lovely apartment and pool, it would be easy to sit poolside for a week and chill. But us being us, we were keen to explore. So we left the beautiful marina setting and headed on to the tourist trail to the Big Buddha and then to the beach. We’d heard mixed reviews on Phuket, so weren’t really very sure what to expect and thus far had nothing but good things to say, until we hit Patong.
How best could I explain Patong?
If you’re into rowdy western men rocking ill-fitting clothes and shit tattoos, falling out of pole dancing joints whilst cradling warm cans of beer then you will LOVE this place. Amongst the sunburn, knock-off Ray Bans, McDonald’s and bad drivers there’s a beach. Getting onto said beach and finding a nice spot to chill and read a bit of Dan Brown? Absolutely no chance, unless you want to be squashed up next to Lee and Gemma who are mid domestic and screaming over the dulcet tones of Tinchy Strider.
If you want a more chilled out beach that doesn’t feel like Benidorm – head to Karon Beach, which is beautiful and also chilled AF with stunning white sands and water sports galore. There are some parts of Phuket which are lovely, there is a lot to do and the expat community is great. But it’s super Westernised and built up (there’s a Hooters and a hard rock café FFS) so if you want to see the real Thailand I’d probably only stay here a night or two and then move on fairly quickly!
Phi Phi – take me to the beach
You know those pics of long tail boats basking in the sunshine on sun-bleached sands and clear blue water – well Phi Phi is that the real deal, the big kahunas! If you’re not blown away by Phi Phi’s movie star good looks you’ll be blown away by the rumbling bass that you can feel as soon as you set foot on the island.
Unfortunately, Dem messed up our hostel booking & booked for Feb instead of Jan. So we were forced to check into a place that resembled a garden shed complete with holes in the wall covered with Thai posters. It didn’t really matter though as we lost our key and managed to find a tattoo shop to sleep in. Which turned out to be someone’s house. Who woke up and told us to get out. So we slept on the floor outside our hostel until Dem spotted someone heading inside, so he chased after him to get a spare key. Turns out to be the tattoo shop owner in the toilet having a shit, who defo didn’t have our key. Also FYI, waking up covered in ant bites isn’t the best introduction to an island I can tell you!
When besties come to visit
Phi Phi brought a reunion in the shape of Lou & El! There is nothing quite like having your besties from home, come and join you so we did as any sane group of people would do and grabbed our buckets and headed to “the fight club”. I’m much more of a lover than a fighter but there is something very satisfying watching two half cut guys attempt to pull their best boxing moves in front of a crowd of a few hundred people in the hope of retaining a cheap gold medal and another bucket (which is let’s face it – the reason they’re in there in the first place).
I don’t know what it is about Phi Phi, but crocs are owning that Island – I don’t think I’ve met someone who actually wears crocs in real life (apart from my stepdad) and they’re everywhere. That’s one trend I’m definitely not jumping on, sorry Mark!
If you visit Phi Phi you absolutely must head to Maya bay – it is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen and of course where the beach was filmed, yes Leo stood on those very sands! To avoid the crowds this meant a 5:30 am start and long tail boat trip in order to arrive around 6:30 am which cost around £60 for 3 hours on the boat split between the four of us. But trust me it will blow you away and you can’t put a price on that view, which almost makes up for having to pay the 800baht fee to get on to the beach (around £18).
Krabi – not so shabby
5 nights in Phi Phi officially killed me off and I could no longer smell red bull without wanting to hurl so it was time to move on to somewhere more chilled. Lastly, we headed for Krabi which isn’t an island despite me being convinced it was up until the day we left!
I need to talk to you about May & Marks House – a coffee and bakery joint that serves Thai and western food and the choice on the menu is insane, lasagne, iced coffee without sugar and the milkshakes, oh my gosh! Is it acceptable to move your flights to sample some more of a menu?!
Rain was forecast for the next few days and as I like my sleep we agreed that if it was sunny Dem could wake me up, but if it looked Iike rain I’d get a lie in. Dems turned into a meteorologist regularly watching the clouds, checking about 10 weather apps and constantly discussing precipitation since we’ve been in Asia. Bloody Brits and their fascination with the weather! Sure enough, Dem coaxed me out of bed with a photo of a blue sky and promises of a beach. It’s the only way to be woken up, to be honest, that alongside an iced coffee!
We decided to visit Railay beach and my god the dis-organisation going on with those long tail boats and the amount of smoke chucking out of them… The western world is constantly blamed for the increase of carbon emissions and yes the over enthusiastic 4X4 drivers in London can take some of the blame. But in Asia there are taxi boats and tuk-tuks billowing smoke all over the shop, making those hospital-esque pollution. masks look like this months must have!
Everything runs on Thai time so when they say you’re leaving in 15, be prepared to still be sat there mins later. The beach itself was stunning, but you do become spoilt, the more beaches you see, the more you get used to sparkly sea and white sand, Bournemouth/Brighton you have some serious shoes to fill! On our return boat journey, we got stuck in a storm. Oh, and the boat broke down. So we had to jump over to another boat in our towels and raincoats, kinda wet, kinda sunburnt.
To mark our last night in Thailand we decided to each get a massage. First, my masseuse asks me to take off my top, fine but I’m not wearing a bra (itty bitty titty committee). So there I am sat in the window of a Thai massage parlour topless.. Not ideal! The funniest thing is the Thai ladies all chat and giggle away amongst themselves whilst they massage you, Dem’s fast asleep and snoring and I’m there like, are my legs smooth, my skin is so dry, that kinda hurts, oh god I should have got a pedicure.. NOCHILLHERE! But afterwards, we got back to our hostel and enjoyed the best sleep we’d had in weeks, well considering we had a 5 am alarm set that is…
Next stop MALAYSIA!