Since I previously visited Thailand in 2013, I focused on the southwest on this trip. I arrived in Phuket on June 4 and left on June 25. Below is a summary of the locations, accommodations, transport, and tours from my time in Thailand.
Phuket (June 4 to 7 and 9 to 15)
- Lub d Phuket Patong. I stayed here twice: I was in a four-bed dorm when I first arrived in Phuket and then stayed in a private room for one night after I finished a sailing course. Lub d is clean and offers unique activities such as muay thai lessons. It also offers great facilities such as coin-op washing machines, a pool, and a lounge with a big-screen TV. It had a restaurant that served good (but expensive) Thai and western food. The hostel is large, so it feels more like a hotel. While the size allowed for more amenities, the hostel also felt a little impersonal, and it was more difficult to meet people.
- Sita, the boat for my five-day, five-night sailing course with Andaman Yachting.
- Transport to Phuket:
- Five-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Vietnam, with a stop at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok.
- Transport within Phuket:
- I stayed on Patong Beach and walked around. I didn’t visit other beaches in Phuket due to heavy rain. I ordered cars from Grab to get to the bus station and airport.
- Five-day, five-night sailing course with Andaman Yachting.
- Blog posts:
Khao Sok (June 7 to 9)
- Accommodation: Khao Sok Good View Resort
- Mr. Bao, the owner of the resort, is the best. He booked a tour for me, answered all my questions, and drove me to the bus stop when I was leaving Khao Sok. My room was clean and had everything I needed. All the rooms have balconies that face the jungle. Wifi was spotty, but I didn’t mind.
- Transport to Khao Sok:
- Four-hour bus ride from Phuket. I had no problem buying a ticket when I arrived at the bus station.
- Transport within Khao Sok:
- When I arrived in Khao Sok, I walked the half mile from the bus stop to the resort. I took a tour to explore the national park.
- Tour of Cheow Lan Lake. Unfortunately, I don’t have more details since Mr. Bao booked the tour, but it was scenic and fun.
- Blog post:
Krabi (June 15 to 20 and 23 to 25)
- Slumber Party Hostel (Ao Nang). This is party central, a.k.a. heaven for guests aged 18 to 24. I normally avoid party hostels (I mean, I’m almost 30, so I guess I should be adulting), but I decided to stay here for a couple of nights when I saw the high ratings. During check in, the staff repeatedly remind you that you’re staying at a party hostel…or maybe they did this just for me since I was older than most of the other guests. The bathrooms were surprisingly clean, and the staff was lively. I stayed in a four-bed dorm, which was cramped and had no windows. I really liked my roommates, so the small space wasn’t an issue. If you want more space, the rooms with more bunks were considerably larger, and a couple even had balconies. Wifi existed, but I wasn’t able to load any sites or access any apps. Don’t stay here if you want to sleep peacefully at night. Do stay here if you want an active social scene.
- Pak-Up Hostel (Krabi Town). This hostel was large, but I still found it charming. It has a school theme, with each room named after a subject (e.g., “History,” “Art,” “P.E.”). The rooms are clean, and each bed has a huge locker. A bar, appropriately named “Playground,” is on the ground floor. It’s easy to play games and meet people at the bar. Each guest can redeem vouchers for two free kebabs every night; it’s not enough for a full meal, but it’s a good snack.
- Avatar (Railay). Travelers visit Railay to relax, and Avatar is a great spot to do so. My room had a huge bed and a rain shower with good pressure. The pool was pristine, and the resort had a restaurant where they served breakfast. Railay is small, so it’s easy to visit the beaches and sights. Everything was within a ten-minute walk from the resort.
- Transport to Krabi:
- On my first visit to Krabi, I took a three-hour bus ride from Phuket to Ao Nang. Again, I had no problem buying a ticket when I arrived at the bus station.
- On my second visit to Krabi, I took a three-hour minivan ride from Koh Lanta to Krabi Town.
- Transport within Krabi:
- Ao Nang, Krabi Town, and Railay are all pretty compact, so I mostly walked. To visit Tiger Cave Temple from Ao Nang, I rode on the back of a motorbike that one of my roommates drove. The motorbike rental cost 240 THB (about $7) for a full day.
- I took a taxi to get from Ao Nang to Krabi Town, which cost 600 THB (about $18). A longtail boat took me from Krabi Town to Railay, which cost 150 THB (about $4).
- Blog post:
Koh Lanta (June 20 to 23)
- Accommodation: Hey Beach Hostel
- As the name suggests, the hostel is steps away from Khlong Dao Beach. The beach faces west, so you’re treated to fabulous sunsets. The staff was friendly, and we could help ourselves to free tea and coffee. A reggae bar is right next to the hostel, which was a fun place to hang out. The hostel’s common area is open to the elements, so bring plenty of bug spray. The mosquitoes are ruthless.
- Transport to Koh Lanta:
- 3.5-hour boat and minivan ride from Railay. The boat took me to a pier called Ao Nam Mao in Krabi, and then I rode a minivan to Koh Lanta.
- Transport within Koh Lanta:
- Koh Lanta is large, so you need a vehicle to see the sights. I rode on the back of a motorbike driven by another traveler at my hostel. We were able to rent the motorbike from our hostel, which cost 200 THB for 24 hours. I walked to Long Beach, the beach south of Khlong Dao, which took about an hour one way.
- Blog post:
During my 22 days in Thailand, I spent about $2,173.73, or $98.81 a day. This total includes my flight from Vietnam to Phuket ($169). Almost half of this ($1,055) was for my five-day sailing course. If I hadn’t done the course, I would have spent about $51 a day. I wince when I look at the difference in cost, but I did enjoy the course. I hope this is the only time I spend so much money on a single activity during this trip.
My expenses were categorized as follows:
- Entertainment: $1,196.40
- My sailing course consists of about 88% of this category. The rest of the category consists of my tour in Khao Sok, spa treatments (inexpensive massages for the win), a small donation to Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, and hiring a guide for Tiger Cave in Koh Lanta.
- Transport: $368.70
- This includes my flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Phuket, taxis, buses, boats, and motorbike rentals. My biggest expense was the flight from Vietnam to Phuket ($169). My second largest expense was a taxi from the Phuket airport to my hostel ($41). This was overpriced, and I accidentally paid an extra $11. I should have gotten a Grab car instead. Bus rides were uneventful and cheap (less than $7).
- Food: $286.65
- There are a few reasons why this category is so large: (1) I usually ate in restaurants and didn’t eat much street food; (2) I often got juice with dinner; (3) I caved in and ate western food a few times; and (4) the islands are generally more expensive than mainland Thailand.
- I experienced slight sticker shock when I first arrived in Phuket. After being used to the cheap prices in Vietnam, I kept raising an eyebrow whenever I had to pay for food in Phuket. Granted, a meal might cost 250 to 350 THB (roughly $6 to 10), which would be reasonable in New York. This was still considerably higher than a meal in Vietnam, which was usually less than $4. I did eat street food at the night market in Krabi Town, which was Vietnam-level cheap (less than $3 for dinner and dessert).
- I started getting random cravings in Thailand. I usually don’t drink juice (let’s ignore the few months when I was a fan of Juice Generation in New York), but I ordered it regularly in Thailand. I also really wanted pizza, which I got in Koh Lanta. I’m happy to report that Sole Mare served a delicious prosciutto and mushroom pizza. It might not have been a New York slice, but it was still satisfying. I was so happy that I went back the next night. I should be ashamed, but I have no regrets.
- Accommodation: $261.51
- I mostly stayed in dorm rooms, but I treated myself to a private room after my sailing course and in Khao Sok. My most expensive accommodation was my room in Khao Sok, which was about $45 a night. My least expensive accommodation was a ten-person dorm in Krabi Town (Pak-Up Hostel), which was about $7 a night.
- Miscellaneous: $60.47
- This includes an AIS SIM card (about $31). I wasn’t expecting to pay this much, but this was the only plan available for a month. It included a ridiculous amount of data; 12 GB, if I remember correctly. I had no problem getting service, even while on the boat for my sailing course. The data also came in handy since a few of my accommodations had spotty wifi.
- I bought an international adapter at the airport in Bangkok since my original one broke. I was annoyed that the original adapter broke so quickly, but I shouldn’t complain since I had gotten it for free.
Finally, below are general observations about Thailand:
- When I first visited Thailand in 2012, it was common to see photos of King Rama IX at sights and restaurants. He was the longest-serving Thai monarch, so he was enormously important. My tour guide told our group to avoid making any negative comments about the king. King Rama passed away in October 2016, leading to a year of mourning. Billboards and photos of the late king were everywhere. Black (or gray, due to bleaching from the sun) banners were draped in front of public buildings. On my flight to Phuket, an announcement was made to commemorate the late king. I met a Singapore expat who went on business trips to Bangkok after the king’s death. He was told to wear white and black/charcoal gray in meetings due to the period of mourning; no colors allowed.
- Touts in Thailand – especially in Phuket – are chatty and borderline flirty. They attempt to engage in conversation instead of simply asking, “Taxi?” They usually asked where I was from, how I was doing, or how long I was staying in Thailand.
- My accommodations in Thailand generally offered more amenities than those in Vietnam, but they were also more expensive. A lot of my accommodations in Thailand didn’t offer free breakfast, while all of the places I stayed at in Vietnam did. I missed the free breakfasts since it was a good way to meet other travelers.
- 7-Elevens are on every street in Thailand. If you meet a backpacker in Thailand, he or she is likely obsessed with toasties from 7-Eleven. These are sandwiches that cost less than a dollar. They’re good for a light lunch or after a night out. Their magical powers are unleashed once the cashier heats them up. Most people go for the ham and cheese, but I was fond of the fried chicken toastie. These are certainly better than the scary, glistening hot dogs they serve at the 7-Elevens in the U.S.