28 February 2017

5 Reasons Why Koh Phi Phi is the Best Island in Thailand

Thailand Travelling Series

If you're a bit late to this series of travel posts depicting my month-long journey around Thailand, with my dear sister and Chief Travelling Buddy, then please allow me to catch you up PRONTO!

Firstly, we went to the lovely islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan where we had a bit of bad luck (read about it here) before we headed across the mainland to the southern province of Krabi and the cute little beach town that is Ao Nang (read about it here). These initial three stops took us to the halfway point of our trip, which is when we decided that it would be the right time to hit up Koh Phi Phi.

Now, everybody raves about Koh Phi Phi. Yes, RAVES! It's not just a: 'oh Koh Phi Phi is cool.' It's more like 'OMGOMGOMG Phi Phi is INCREDIBLE, it's AMAZING, it's where DREAMS ARE MADE, it's ALL YOU'D EVER WANT IN LIFE AND MORE!' (Okay perhaps the response is not usually quite that enthusiastic - I might be being a little melodramatic. Regardless, people dig it - got it?!)

To be completely honest, Nic and I were dying to see what all the fuss was about. Was Koh Phi Phi going to be as dazzling as everybody makes out? Would it be able to live up to the hype? Would it really change our lives forever? (Spoilers, the answers are: yes, yes and HECK YES!)

Here are 5 reasons why Koh Phi Phi is the best island in Thailand:

1. There are no roads so you cannot drive anywhere.

The lack of roads and cars means that Phi Phi is the most unique island in this sense. I honestly did not realise this was going to be the case when Nic and I showed up off the ferry hot, tired and sweaty with our backpacks ready to hail a taxi to get us to our hotel before we keeled over with exhaustion. As we made our way off the pier into the chaotic streets of Phi Phi, we took a look around and it suddenly dawned on us... Hey, WHERE ON EARTH are all the cars?!

We totally missed that memo. However, luckily, our hotel was only a 15 minute walk away. In fact, the main touristic part of the island is very easy to walk around as the streets are compact and only cover a small area. It gives the island a rather cute, community feel and this make-up is perfect for stumbling home at the end of a drunken night out! (Disclaimer: of course I'm not referring to myself and Nic here, as we are super sensible twenty six and twenty eight year olds who can handle their liquor. Obviously.)

2. The night life is the most lively.

Speaking of drunkenness, there's no denying that the partying on Phi Phi is something else! Don't get me wrong, I'm not a partying expert... and I haven't been everywhere in Thailand. BUT, out of the places I have been to, Phi Phi wins for the night life hands down!

I find it difficult to describe when people ask me why the Phi Phi partying is so good. All I can say is tht it's just a feeling, an attitude, a vibe that you get when you're out there. Everybody is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time, meaning the atmosphere is electric as a result. (Oh and the cocktail buckets are lethal, so you hardly spend any money!)

My favourite night life spot, if you're interested, was a live music bar called Kongsiam. Check it out if you're heading to Phi Phi and you're in the mood for a fun night out! Imagine a bunch of tipsy tourists from all over the world, swaying and singing along to classics such as Oasis' 'Wonderwall' or Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds'. Put it this way, it certainly does not disappoint!

3. The beaches are some of the prettiest EVER.

Forgive me if I sound pretentious here, but I've been to a lot of beaches around the world. (Ooh, LADEEDAH!) Some have been impressive and some - not so much! However, it seems I have a newbie on my favourites list! Step forward, Loh Dalam Bay.

The water is the clearest light blue, the sand is the softest white and the bay overlooks pretty islets on the horizon. The only downside to this beach is the amount of tourists on it at any given time; but, if you get there early before any partygoers have arisen, the view is simply breathtaking!

4. Maya Bay and Monkey Beach are a longtail boat ride away.

Speaking of breathtaking, the island where The Beach was filmed (you know, the year 2000 movie with Leonardo Di Caprio) is a short boat ride away from Phi Phi. You can take a tour there in a small group of about 10-12 people and it not only stops off at Maya Bay, but it also goes to Viking Cave where you can snorkel if you so wish before finishing up at Monkey Beach. Monkey Beach is literally what it says on the tin, a beach where a load of monkeys live and roam around, and it sure is a sight to behold!

Maya Bay itself is unbelievably beautiful - definitely one of the most stunning spots my eyes have ever seen! One of the plus points is you can do one of the tours first thing in the morning before the majority of people are even awake. Yes, it's a bit of stinger getting up at 6am when you're on holiday but, that way, you will have the place to yourself and get some gorgeous photos that will make it all worthwhile.

5. There's a tattoo shop on every corner.

Finally, there is something really important that you need to know about Phi Phi. It's home to the posers - tattooed posers, to be precise. Every man and his dog decides to get a tattoo on Phi Phi because tattoo shops out there are literally like Starbucks cafes in America - there's one on every corner.

A lot of partygoers in Phi Phi think that having a tattoo is the best decision when they've had one too many to drink on a heavy night out. On your walk back to your hotel, you'll see that every tattoo shop is busy in the early hours of the mornings with said poor decision-makers. It's great for business but not for that poor lass who's just woken up with a huge banana on her arm and has no recollection of how or why it got there.

Nic and I were toying with the idea of getting a tattoo for a while and, after some careful consideration, we thought... If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! #wheninPhiPhi

Watch out for an upcoming post all about my first ever tattoo experience but, in the mean time, Phi Phi - you have been AWESOME. It really does not only meet but exceed expectations and I highly recommend the island to anyone travelling around Thailand in the future.

Next up: Chiang Mai and the North of Thailand.


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22 February 2017

How Ao Nang Reminded Me of Miami Beach

Thailand Travelling Series

After spending the first week of our month-long travelling trip around Thailand in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, where we experienced an unfortunate bout of bad luck (read about it here), we were ready to embrace Ao Nang with open arms.

Ao Nang is the touristic hub of Krabi, one of the southern provinces of Thailand. My sister and I had both heard good things about this beach town prior to booking our trip and, as I hadn't quite managed to venture there during my first backpacking stint in Thailand due to lack of time, we thought we'd take the golden opportunity to check it out! Put it this way: it did NOT disappoint.

I have to say though, in a strange way, it reminded me a lot of Miami Beach which we visited last July, but the Asia version of Miami Beach.

It was the layout of Ao Nang that reminded me of Miami Beach more than anything. It has a busy road running parallel to the main beach, not too dissimilar to Ocean Drive which is also packed with shops, bars and restaurants. Although, with the Thailand version, there's stalls rather than shops. BUT I did spot a McDonald's AND a Burger King. (Go, Ao Nang!)

Admittedly, Ao Nang's actual beach isn't a patch on Miami Beach's South beach. It's not a bad beach at all, don't get me wrong, it's just less maintained and a bit rougher around the edges. (For instance, be prepared to sunbathe next to a wad of seaweed and maybe even a few Coca-Cola cans!) However, that being said, I could not help but be enticed by Ao Nang's undeniable character and charisma.

In terms of nightlife, there's a cluster of bars known as Ao Nang Center Point down a back street off of the main road opposite the beach. It is here where you will find fellow backpackers and holiday-makers aplenty. It's true that it takes a little while for the atmosphere to get going at night but, once it does, it makes for a really fun time! Our favourite bar was called Cairo Nights where they had drink offers every night, as well as unlimited Shisha for a couple of hundred baht! (That's about a fiver for all the Thailand virgins out there! *geek emoji*)

Furthermore, the people you come across in Ao Nang are really nice.  You find a lot of like-minded, down-to-earth travellers! Nic and I had a run-in with the sweetest wee girl from Shanghai and two lads from Quebec on the first night and clicked so much with them that we all just kept meeting up! In my opinion, that's one of the best things about travelling: you just cannot top the people you meet. Everyone has such unique and interesting stories and, because we're all in the same boat so-to-speak, it's very easy to bond with people almost instantaneously.

All in all, Ao Nang was a hoot! We only spent three nights there, but could easily have stayed five. We heard of a few people doing the Four Island Tour which we missed out on (this is exactly what it says on the tin, by the way - you visit four nearby islands in one day - and they're supposed to be beautiful). However, other than that, we did manage to cover all bases. After our battle with sickness, flooding and poor accommodation in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, it really did make us appreciate our time in Ao Nang so much more! We LOVED it!

After Ao Nang, it was time to head to, arguably, the most famous Thailand island - Koh Phi Phi... And I don't think we were ready for the carnage that was in store for us!

Until next time...

K xo

(Editor's note: As you're reading this post, I'm packing my suitcase in preparation to jet off AGAIN in the morrow. Green Bay calls, to see my Nathaniel! I can't believe I have to get on YET ANOTHER PLANE - I worked out the other day that I've done around thirty flights in eight months - can you believe it?! Anywho, as I'm far from being finished with the Thailand Travelling Series, I just wanted to let you know that I will be posting regularly when I'm in the U.S., so WATCH THIS SPACE you lovely lot!)

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19 February 2017

3 Bits of Bad Luck That Set Your Thailand Trip Off to an Unfortunate Start

This is my first official blog post in the Thailand Travelling Series.

I desperately wanted to blog whilst I was out there and share my experiences as and when they were happening; however, anyone who's been to Thailand before will tell you that the wifi quality in the country is absolutely SHOCKING. Admittedly, it's not terrible everywhere - but generally in most places.

As an avid lover of having a great wifi connection to be able to blog, use social media and follow the news regularly - I struggled with the Thailand wifi SO MUCH at times. Therefore, I had to ultimately accept that blogging while I was backpacking was just out of the question. Hence why I'm a little late with these posts, but never fear, I would never leave you for long!

Here's 3 bits of bad luck that will set your Thailand trip off to an unfortunate start:

1. When your first port of call, Koh Samui, decides to flood a few days before you're due to arrive.

I spent the last couple of days before we flew out to Thailand frantically Googling the weather forecast at every opportunity. Uncharacteristically for Thailand in January (the coolest and driest month), they had a severe amount of rainfall and flooding this year affecting almost one million people in ten of the country's southern provinces. It's so sad as some people even died. (Yes, it was THAT bad!)

Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand and one of the worst places affected by the flooding, with many of the main streets being engulfed in dirty brown water overflowing from the lakes and rivers. As January is the peak season for holiday-makers and backpackers visiting Thailand, many tourists were left stranded on the islands as several flights, buses and ferries were cancelled. 

At one point, Nic and I didn't think we'd be able to fly out there. Luckily, the rain eased up the day we were flying (we had to do a flight from Manchester to Dubai, then a flight from Dubai to Bangkok, before heading to Koh Samui from Bangkok) and we made it over there in one piece.

We've never been so apprehensive about travelling to a place before though and, sure enough, when we arrived there were definitely some sights to see! I've never EVER seen flooding like that before - there were people floating down the roads on inflatables to get from A to B, for goodness sake! 

A lot of the flooding had been cleared up before we were due to travel onto Koh Phangan via ferry a few days later, so even though the flooding was disruptive while we were in Samui (let's face it, what can you really do when it's tipping it down and it's impossible to get anywhere?!) we managed to make it out in one piece.

Hallelujah, PRAISE THE LORD!

2. When a sickness and diarrhoea bug decides to attack your sister a few days in and then makes it way around to you.

In my previous post, my first one since returning from travelling around Thailand, I talked about 10 things that no one tells you about backpacking (read it here).

Number two read, and I quote:

'Never book an important party at the start of your trip as delayed transportation or nasty tummy bugs are bound to happen meaning you miss out on your party :( SADFACE.' 

Needless to say, this happened to us. When I say us, I'm referring to my sister (my Chief Travelling Buddy) and I. It started with her and then inevitably - as we were sharing the same bedroom, bathroom, toilet, door handles, you name it - I caught the nastiness.

The main reason why tourists visit Koh Phangan (another island in the Gulf of Thailand) is to go to the infamous Full Moon Party. This is, essentially, a rave on the beach. With ten thousand people. Everyone dresses in neon gear, throws on a load of face paint and acts like animals in the jungle.

I've been before and I wasn't a fan because it is super overrated and you get a lot of people off their faces on alcohol and lord knows what else. I was willing to give it another chance, however, for my sister as she's never been and really wanted to experience it.

But the tummy bug had other plans. It struck a few days into the trip and it struck HARD - first with my sister, who had both sickness and diarrhoea, and then with me, but I managed to skip the sickness bit (no idea how)! This meant we had to miss the Full Moon Party, the Waterfall Party and whatever other parties were going on. #gutted

I was more upset for Nic than I was for myself, but I just wanted to be healthy again more than anything. Traveller's diarrhoea is not fun, it's uncomfortable and it really does wipe you out for a good few days. Plus you miss out on FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD and even drinking water is a struggle.

We learned the hard way that it doesn't help matters such as these if you're in a two star resort, which brings me nicely onto number three.

3. When you're staying in a place with bed bugs, mosquitoes and lack of housekeeping.

I'm not really sure if it's fair to name names here or not, as it was my personal choice to stay in this accommodation after staying there once previously during my first backpacking trip in 2014.

The first time around, I remember getting bitten by mosquitoes a little bit. But, this time around, we got bitten to death - and not just by mosquitoes. The islands are well known for their lingering mosquitoes, but we also had a different type of bites this time around... Bed bug bites. (Face palm!)

Bed bugs are horrible. They are tiny but it doesn't make them any less irritating. They live in sheets and bedding and attack you when you're sleeping. I don't remember this particular accommodation having bed bugs previously, so it's such a shame that they have let their standards go. It's possible, of course, that they didn't know that bed bugs were present in our bedding as they're so freakin' TINY. Or, they did know bed bugs are an issue and they haven't boiled the sheets properly to get rid of the infestation.

Anyway the bed bugs, combined with the mozzies and the tummy bug (which was NOT THEIR FAULT, obviously) made our stay at this accommodation absolutely miserable this time around. It didn't help that we were sleeping in a tiny bungalow with no quilt on the bedding (this is awful when you have a fever with the tummy bug and you keep going hot and cold) and you have to go to Reception to request housekeeping, otherwise your room won't get cleaned. You can imagine how badly we needed the room cleaning on a regular basis when we were both pooing for England and my sister was vomiting all over the place uncontrollably. (Sorry to be graphic, but it's true!)

It just wasn't pleasant.

To be fair to the resort, they did clean the room whenever we asked them to (and cleaned it well) and maybe it's our own fault for not having the energy to complain about the bed bugs (because then they might have done something about it)! But you LIVE and you LEARN...

...And we did get to look upon this view every day as the resort was on the beach, so it wasn't all bad!

These 3 bits of bad luck meant that the first week of the four-week backpacking trip around Thailand hadn't got off to the greatest start!

Fortunately we were back on our feet by the end of week one, ready to proceed to Ao Nang in Krabi where our luck was about to change...

Stay tuned, folks!

K xo


13 February 2017

10 Things That No One Tells You About Backpacking

Having recently returned from travelling around Thailand for ONE WHOLE MONTH, which I first mentioned on the blog here, I am just about managing to get the jetlag under control enough to able to start sharing my experiences with you! (Happy dance!)

This first post derives from some key lessons I've learnt from this trip, as well as my previous backpacking trips. Here's 10 things that no one tells you about backpacking:

1. Wifi is like gold dust. If you're not specifically choosing restaurants, bars and cafes because they offer free wifi then you're totally doing it wrong. 

2. Never book an important party at the start of your trip as delayed transportation or nasty tummy bugs are bound to happen meaning you miss out on your party :( SADFACE.

3. You will inevitably spill something down yourself on the first day and then you'll have to spend the rest of your time backpacking in dirty clothes. It's grimy, it's sweaty and it's disgusting but when in South East Asia! #yolo

4. Carting your backpack around in 30 degree heat is like slow torture. ONE LIMB AT A TIME.

5. If you're travelling to Thailand, for example, you will get bitten to death by mosquitoes. And then you have to deal with the itching all day every day, as well as all night every night while you're trying to sleep... OH LORD, the itching! It's enough to drive you insane.

6. You'll spend a good amount of time at the sink in your hostel or hotel room cleaning your dirty pants because you've ran out of clean ones... YET AGAIN! It won't be long before you learn that Fairy soap is like magic!

7. There will come a time where you have no choice but to use the nasty squat toilets. This time will make or break you. You'll either suck it up, tackle it head on and accept that there's a great possibility you might pee on yourself - or cry and refuse to use them, thus running the risk of damaging your bladder by having to hold it until you come across a *proper* westernised toilet.

8. Speaking of toilets, they might not function properly, hence you having to put all your dirty toilet roll (if there is toilet roll as, more often than not, there won't be!) in the same open bin as everybody else's dirty toilet roll. You will see some sights that will scar you for life - GOOD LUCK.

9. In some countries, like Thailand, your plug adapter won't fit into the wall plug sockets properly meaning that charging your phone is a nightmare as it keeps falling out! Say hello to 5% phone battery, your new best friend.

10. For some reason, in various budget hotels, the shower heads are halfway down the wall in the
wet rooms. Be prepared to have to bend your head backwards as if you're doing some strange sort of bathroom limbo dance in order to be able to wash your hair. TRUE STORY. (I am five foot eleven, for goodness sake, give a gal a chance!)

All jokes aside, backpacking is one of the most enriching, fulfilling and, quite frankly, LIFE-CHANGING experiences you will ever have. You will never appreciate your own country and home comforts more than ever following a stint with your backpack. It also puts things into perspective massively in terms of how lucky we are to live in such a wealthy country such as the UK, with all of our little luxuries and privileges that we often take for granted on a daily basis. I have never been so grateful for our cleanliness and hygiene standards, in particular, and how we don't have to deal with the pesky blighters that are mosquitoes! 

We have much to be thankful for. I always very much enjoy my backpacking experiences, as it's good to be out of your comfort zone and do things that unsettle you, but I also very much enjoy coming home. 

There is a lot more to come on the blog regarding my Thailand travelling experiences, so keep your eyes peeled! 

Furthermore, I am so happy to be able to say that I will be visiting my love in Green Bay in a couple of weeks time, for ONE WHOLE MONTH, so I will be able to post regularly and share more with you whilst I'm in the US! It's super exciting! 

Until next time...

K xo 

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