Thailand Gap Year: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phi Phi & Krabi
Thailand was a major destination for my first gap year because of its beautiful islands, people, culture and nightlife. I arrived in Bangkok after a short flight from Mumbai and decided to stay away from the backpackers area of Khaosan Road. I booked a single room in a youth hostel and met an American guy who showed me some of the sights and introduced me to Thai street food which was clean, safe and very tasty.
On the second day, I met Jane from England. We spent a few days visiting the main sites including the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Sukhumvit, Silom & finished with a boat tour along Bangkok`s Chao Praya river.
Bangkok had a reasonable transport system with it`s BTS Skytrain, limited underground rail network, tuk tuks, motorbike taxis, water taxis, buses (some air conditioned) and metered and non-metered taxis. After five days of sweltering heat and pollution, I decided to move on and took an airport bus to Don Muang airport (replaced recently by the brand new Suvarnabhumi airport) and flew out to Koh Samui via Bangkok airways.
I met a French man from New Caledonia at Koh Samui airport and we found some bungalow accommodation on the outskirts of Chaweng beach. Koh Samui is a stunningly beautiful island but is rapidly becoming over commercialised with the hugh influx of tourists and rapid building program. We toured the island on motorbike and it is relatively easy to travel around the whole island in one day. Koh Samui has many beautiful beaches including Bo Phut and Lamai beaches. Other attractions include water sports, diving, day trips to full moon party island Koh Phangan, elephant trekking, waterfalls, great Thai food together with many international restaurants of variable quality and accommodation to suit all budgets but prices have rocketed over recent years. We spent the days on the beach and visited the bars and restaurants in the evenings. Koh Samui was a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.
After a few days, we met two Thai sisters on holiday from Chiang Mai and I made travel plans with one of them to visit Krabi and Koh Phi Phi. We took the ferry from Nathon to Surat Thani on the mainland and then by bus to Krabi. Ao Nang beach in Krabi was not as pleasant as the beaches on Koh Samui but fortunately, Ao Nang had many short boat excursions to nearby islands and beaches. Railay beach was very beautiful with it`s huge cliffs surrounding the beach. We spent a few days in Krabi and then took the boat to Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Phi Phi is one of the most beautiful islands in the world with its` crystal clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, tropical palms and mountain scenery. Koh Phi Phi is divided into two islands - Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley. The former island has all the accommodation, shops and businesses while Phi Phi Ley is fairly unspoilt and includes Maya bay where the film `The Beach` with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. We took a boat trip to Maya Bay and except for some tourists, the whole island was unspoilt and deserted with no roads or buildings. Unfortunately I visited Maya Bay in 2007 and the number of tourists and boats visiting the island has more than tripled and spoilt the isolated feel of the island.
After a magical month in Thailand, I decided it was time to catch a flight for the next destination on my gap year - Japan.