Thailand is the home to a vast amount of beautiful islands, turquoise warm waters, chill vibes, beautiful people, and the largest, wildest beach parties. It's also home to lady boys, secluded beaches, fire dancers and buckets (no one drinks out of cups or glasses)! Whatever you fancy, Thailand has it, and that's why many people will argue it's one of the best countries in the world.
Bangkok is your gateway to island paradises such as: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Similan Islands, and more.
The thing about Thailand is that it is always fun and packed with parties. There are popular SCUBA diving communities all over the islands, and getting an education in Koh Tao is highly recommended as it contains some of the cheapest PADI and SSI certification Thailand. If you can't dive, no worries, because snorkeling is always an option. We can't forget to mention the scrumptious beach-side seafood BBQ's and the plethora of spiced-up curries for palates of all kinds.
Country Crawl has been all over Thailand, so let's get to our thoughts and recommendations!
Well, where do we begin? What do you want? What do you need? Bangkok has it all, and then some! This sprawling smorgasbord of neon lights, food markets, ping pong shows, nightclubs, rooftop lounges, clothing districts, temples, and delicious restaurants makes for endless days of extravaganzas. There is no shortage of anything in Bangkok, and you will soon find out why people travel to here from all over the globe.
If you are a backpacker, you will most likely want to stay on or around Khao San Road. Some have described it as the "backpacking universe." Here you will find endless street vendors, reasonably priced hostels, and a buzzing atmosphere. Whatever accessory or article of clothing you may need, look no further. There are loads of bars that line the streets which provide nightly musical entertainment. You will meet an infinite number of backpackers to swap stories and drinks with. The vibe you get on Khao San Road is unmatched anywhere in Asia. Anything goes in Bangkok, and this is surely a great starting point for your trip.
When the sun starts to set, freshen up and hit the streets. The local restaurants provide a wide array of delectable options. Fresh whole fish is a favorite among the travelers as it is cheap and well-prepared. Grab a table with some friends, spark up a hookah, drink some beers, and catch the music until around 10-11 p.m. Once you see midnight on the horizon, it's time to lace your boots up and put your big boy pants on. If you've heard and searched about Bangkok, you know what's in store. There are many different clubs, lounges, and activities to partake in past midnight, so be prepared. If you are more of the laid back traveler, staying on Khao San Road is probably your best bet for a good time. If you are looking to for an wild night, the other buzzing area is about 3-4 miles away. You can reach it by taxi or Tuk-Tuk.
There is no shortage of anything in Bangkok: your wish is its command. The only thing that Bangkok lacks is a brilliant beach scene. For that, we will have to make way down south to the Gulf of Thailand. Our first island of recognition is Koh Tao.
One of the most underrated islands in Southeast Asia, Koh Tao presents a myriad of options and activities for the traveler. First and foremost, Koh Tao is the place to get SCUBA certified. It is one of the cheapest places in Southeast Asia, and there are many different SCUBA shops you can choose from. Brilliant diving locations and reefs affords you the opportunity to pick and choose your destination. The tranquil and serene environment of Koh Tao is perfect for those who want to have lazy days in between the intense partying of Koh Phangan, Bangkok, and Phuket.
Another amazing quality of Koh Tao is the abundance of beach bungalows. It is very difficult to find a place to reside that is NOT within 100-200 yards of the beach. The prices are fantastic and it is possible to acquire beachfront property for $20 a night. You can step out of your front door and walk five feet to the sand. Bring a football, Frisbee, a book, and some sunscreen, and soak up the rays the entire day. Beachfront bars and restaurants provide beautiful views of the ocean while you eat and drink breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The point of Koh Tao is: EVERYTHING is beachfront!
One of the highlights of Koh Tao is the world famous pub crawl. It is the original pub crawl of Koh Tao, and one of the most exciting and friendly crawls in Asia. Country Crawl has participated in over 10 combined crawls, and each time is more and more wild. The organizers of the crawl have been putting this together for a long time, so they have perfected each leg of it. Free buckets, Lady Boy cabaret shows, bar hopping, and poolside merriness fill the night.
There are many other activities to partake in on the island including hiking, mountain biking, 4-wheeling, beach volleyball, and snorkeling. Beautiful restaurants and cafes are entrenched in cliffs on the south side of the island with stunning views of the Gulf of Thailand and neighboring islands. The sedated vibe of Koh Tao brings only the best backpackers from around the world. Everyone is amiable and there are no worries here. At night time all of the restaurants provide entertainment ranging from fire shows, fire jump-rope, and local DJs. Dance throughout the morning, and finish off with a toasty from 711.
The island of many parties, beautiful beaches, and lovely people, Koh Phangan brings a different energy to the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao has its laid-back vibe, while Koh Samui is more suited for families, tourists, and resorts. Koh Phangan is a tale of two faces. On one hand, the western side of the islands presents travelers with a more relaxed and less-chaotic stay. Refined, private beaches sprawl across the coastline, and beachfront bungalows are lazily peppered between lush surroundings. Here you can crack open a beer and a book, and lounge in a cozy hammock. In order to reach the crazy atmospheres of Haad Rin Beach and other parties, you must commission a Tuk-Tuk; it's relatively cheap so don't fret too much. The location is prime if you are not wanting to engage in everyday raucous behavior.
If however, you are indeed itching for the wild atmosphere, staying on or close to Haad Rin Beach is the place to be. The world famous Full Moon Party erupts every month on Haad Rin, and the location is also close to the Jungle Party, Black Moon Party, Waterfall Party, and Half Moon Party. Each party provides a different ambiance, but all provide the same like-minded attitude. All of the parties are located up in the jungle with proper music, drinks, and transportation. Tuk-Tuks to each venue are only $3-5 per trip which allows you to spend more on whatever you decide. The massive Full Moon Party brings travelers from all over the world as Haad Rin Beach is teeming with thousands of people. All along the entire beach there are different bars, parties, and fire shows which last well past sunrise. Fluorescent bodies swarm the sand, and locals and backpackers rage.
The days after the big parties, people lounge on the beaches, smoke hookah, and chill out. Restaurants provide chairs, beds, and pads for those who are interested in taking it easy. Jet skis and wooden boats fill the captivating ocean, while travelers joyfully play catch with the Frisbees and football. The lovely thing about the beaches of Koh Phangan is the omnipresent mountainous surroundings. There are many hidden beaches and parties that are not visible to the naked eye. Country Crawl knows these spots, and will guarantee multiple trips there during the stay.
The variety of Koh Phangan brings back travelers for numerous visits. This island has everything and is your one-stop destination in the Gulf of Thailand. It is located conveniently between Koh Tao and Ko Samui, where you can fly directly into. The food is nothing to scoff at, and the living is easy. The combination of partying and beaches is almost unmatched in the region. However, if you are looking for complete seclusion, you might want to try the sequestered islands of Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi.
Relaxation and separation at its finest. The islands of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai contrast the insane environment of Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya, and most of its Thai contemporaries. Here you will find hammocks and kayaks, beachfront massages and spas. There is no shortage of water activities, and local boats escape to give private tours to surrounding hidden gems. Charter your own rig for the day and see what the vast ocean has to offer.
The Ko Yao islands are very small, and getting around is very easy. The majority of travelers choose to rent scooters, as cars and Tuk-Tuks are almost non-existent. On your scooter you can visit different tiny downtown areas, secluded beaches, and local people. Ko Yao Noi is underrated for its food. Beach and cliff side restaurants are scattered across the island, and each provides its own local flavoring.
You can find meals for under $3, or you can decide to get fancy and splurge; either way there will be no disappointment. Fresh fish is caught daily and the chefs at the restaurants will help you choose the best way for it to be cooked. Combine the delicious seafood with cheap, tropical drinks, and you'll understand why the islands of Ko Yao are popular destinations for couples and families alike. This equation is synonymous with serenity. The beaches are brilliant, and during sunrise and sunset, there views are absolutely spectacular.
On Ko Yao Noi, you can catch the sunset from most of the beach bungalows as the resorts are perfectly situated on the Southeast side. Beachfront bungalows range anywhere from $12-40, depending on the location, and immaculate cliff-dwelling resorts can reach as steep as $700/night. It is recommended to book in advance if you are visiting the islands of Ko Yao as there is a limited amount of sleeping arrangements. Ko Yao Noi is more inhabited, so if you are looking for complete seclusion and invincibility, head to Ko Yao Yai.
Travelers looking for a different Thai experience other than the beautiful beaches and crazy parties of the south, must make their way north to Chiang Mai. Mountain trekking is still the #1 activity in the area because of its unique cultural interaction between backpacker and the local hill-tribe peoples. If the full immersion of a few days trek in the jungle isn’t appealing, then a day spent elephant trekking or zip-lining with the gibbons might be more suitable. Chiang Mai will even test the limits of the more extreme travelers with 50-meter jungle bungee-jumping, snake farms, tiger kingdoms, caving,and Muay Thai boxing lessons. For those non-adrenaline junkies, the city is full of museums, parks, golf courses (10 located around the city), cooking classes, markets, and day/night cruises down the Mae Ping River.
The backpacker friendly city has hostels located within quaint Thai neighborhoods making it a unique experience. Chiang Mai provides the feeling like of home away from home. When the sun goes down and the daytime activities are finished, the bars open their doors and the smell of Thai dinner saturates the air. Just about every street has some form of local cuisine with Thai roasted chicken, curry noodle soup, and Pad Thai making mouths water.
The night life begins promptly when dinner ends. Some bars close at 1 a.m. and others push the limits of authority to stay open until the party is finished. THC Rooftop Bar is the most known for its shoe-off backpacker vibes and city view. When the rooftop is closed, but the party doesn't want to stop, Spicy bar will be open and waiting to serve all like-minded travelers. Chiang Mai is a must see when visiting the north of Thailand.
Just a 25-minute flight or a 4-hour bus ride north from Chiang Mai is the new backpacker hotspot called Pai. If you haven’t heard about this place don’t worry, because it only began booming in 2006. The largest attraction to the town is the variety of locals and visitors who are made up of Western hippies, Thai Rasta’s, and Muslims. Traditions have changed and this new mixture of people has transcended the town into a harmonious community welcoming of all travelers.
Getting around is easy because feet are all that’s needed. For those not anxious to walk, bicycles and motorbikes are always for rent and convenient for day trips to nearby waterfalls and Chinese hill tribe villages. Some come for the nature and some come for the vibes. Those looking to feel the laid-back vibes of this jungle town must find and experience the Reggae Bar which is frequented often by Western hippies. There is never a shortage of music because people just bring their own. Yellow Sun Bar is easier to find and filled with travelers during the high season, so making friends shouldn't be a problem with so much love in the air.
So if you are a little groovy and want to find your hippie roots, look no further than Pai.
Remember that movie The Beach? Or maybe you’re a James Bond buff? If so, then you’ve seen Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay and James Bond Island. This island paradise was ravished by the 2004 tsunami that struck the west coast of Thailand, but now it is back in full effect. Koh Phi Phi has everything a backpacker wants from cute western girls that lure you into casual restaurants, to beach-side bottle service while watching the best fire dancers in SE Asia. SCUBA diving and beach sight-seeing will give travelers photo-ops and experiences to remember forever. This island will keep you entertained every second you're there.
This is a very convenient and walk-able island that serves up food from all over the world including the best and spiciest curry at Papaya Restaurant. Now that is one place a Thai food-loving traveler can’t miss. During sunset most relax with a cocktail and a smoke while watching a movie on Banana Bar’s rooftop. After a long night of beach parties, adult beverages served in buckets, and fire shows, the best place to relax is Stones Bar on the main beach.
Ko Phi Phi is an island made for travelers, and one that is almost impossible to leave once you’ve indulged.