Friday, February 15, 2013

Thailand's islands

A view of the Ao Chalok Ban Kao bay in southern Ko Tao.
Coming back to the northern shores of Ko Phangan after a day of diving.
One of the many rocks jutting out of the sea near Ko Phi Phi.
Monkeys are fierce along Monkey Beach in southern Ko Phi Phi.
Firedancers are prevelant in Thailand, and these dancers gave us a private show in a cove on Ko Phi Phi.
With all the cliffs on Ko Phi Phi there has to be some rock climbing and cliff jumping.
Sail Rock is the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand but takes a bit of a drive.  There's potential to see whale sharks and huge schools of fish. 
Maya Bay is a gorgeous beach on Ko Phi Phi Leh and the filming site of the movie "The Beach."
A view from my hostel on Long Beach, Ko Phi Phi, which sits away from the throngs of tourists in Tonsai Village.
The red box in the top right contains the famous Gulf of Thailand islands of Ko Tao, Ko Phangan, and Ko Samui. A smaller red box in the bottom left houses Adaman Sea islands Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, and Phuket.

The most well traveled section of Southeast Asia is Thailand.  Temples in the north, Bangkok, and tropical islands in the south are an exotic locale and give enough interest for over 20 million visitors to come to Thailand in 2012.  While people recall the glory of “Hangover 2” in Bangkok or see the jungles of Chang Mai, nearly every tourist ends up in the southern islands.  These tropical islands and beaches are separated by the Gulf of Thailand islands in the east (mainly Ko Tao, Ko Phangan, Ko Samui, and Ko Samet) and the Andaman Sea islands in the west (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Similan Islands).
There are three main things to do on the islands: party, beach, and dive. 

1.     Party:  Ko Phangan is home to the world famous full moon and half moon parties on the southern section of the island.  Ko Phi Phi’s main center comes alive at night with fire dancers, a fire limbo competition, fire jump ropes, and amateur boxing where you can get free drinks for a couple rounds in the ring.  Ko Tao has bars and happy hours all along the island. 

2.     Beach:  Where to start?  Ko Tao has Sairee Beach in the west and several smaller coves along the island.  Ko Phangan’s famous beach houses the full moon party on the very southern end of the island.  Chaweng holds a long, sandy beach on Ko Samui.  Several different turquoise water beaches line Ko Phi Phi’s coast.  Ko Lanta is basically one long beach.

3.     Dive:  Ko Tao is home to the most dive shops in the world and conducts more open water PADI dive courses than anywhere else on earth.  Ko Phangan is near Sail Rock’s coral sections and large amount of underwater life.  Ko Phi Phi has tons of dive sites with excellent visibility.  There is almost no off season in Thailand which guarantees quality diving year round.

Other activities include elephant treks, sea kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, rock climbing, BBQs, and a full Wipeout course.  If none of this is of interest then you can lounge in the beaches or several of the top end resorts.  While there is a general mystique that Thailand is super cheap, it shouldn’t be expected that you’ll be living off nothing.  While way cheaper than Hawaii, Thailand is still more expensive than the surround Southeast Asian countries.  It’s easily accessible from Bangkok or Krabi and a highly recommended place for tropical island tourism.  

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