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Ketchup Series #3 of 3- Welcome To Our Paradise

Sing along if you like:

Welcome to my paradise,

Where the sky’s so blue,

And the sun shines so bright.

Yes indeed, the islands of Thailand definitely fall under the category of paradise. Those who know my sister, Carly, are aware that she absolutely loves the beach so we all set out to find the very best beaches Thailand has to offer.

During our island hopping adventure we explored Koh Phangan, Railay Beach (near Krabi), Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. In the end, I think you may be surprised with our winning island choice. Here’s a little break down of what we came across…

Island #1 -Koh Phangan “Not Just for Full Moon Parties”

I met Carly and Marissa in Koh Phangan after a quick visa run to Malaysia (that’s almost a whole other story, but if you’re traveling South East Asia, be aware that if you enter Thailand by land, you only get a 15 day visitor stamp whereas if you fly, you receive 30 days). The girls got there a couple of days ahead of me and were able to check out a Half Moon Party. They had a blast covering themselves in glow paint and enjoying a few buckets.

Carly and Marissa sharing peace and love on Haad Rin for the Half Moon Party

You'll see lots of these in Haad Rin but actually, there's much more to be found on this island!

Every stall selling buckets has it's own charming slogan

Koh Phangan is known for it’s world famous Full Moon Parties, and that probably deters some travelers from going there, but it had the most beautiful beaches of all of the islands we visited. Hands down.

I have never in my life swam in such crystal clear blue waters.
The sand was white and powdery and the massive rocks all around us, covered in dense tropical greens, made for the most picturesque backdrop. If you’re not the party type, just stay away from Haad Rin during the full moon and visit one of the more isolated beaches on the island. Be sure to check out the Amsterdam Bar for sunset and don’t miss the fire twirlers at the Cactus Bar.

Our go-to night in Haad Rin was listening to the music at the Cactus Bar and watching the mezmerizing fire twirlers.

Island #2 -Railay Beach“Mountains and Monkeys”

Railay Beach was like a little reunion. We met back up with Skott after he did his visa application for Thailand (to do his meditation retreat) and Marissa connected with a friend, Jess, that she used to work with. Jess and her boyfriend Mike are also long term travelers and we joined up with them for our time in Railay as well as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Jess and Mike were a great addition to our crew!!

Getting to Railay Beach from Koh Phangan was a long day. After a taxi from Haad Rin to the ferry port we took a two hour ferry to the mainland, then a bus to Surat Thani, then a little pick-up truck to another bus, an exchange to another bus and finally a long boat trip from Krabi to Railay. We barely had a moment to grab something to eat and lived off of a pack of Ritz crackers for the better part of the day.

Trekking to our long tail boat in Krabi proved to be the greatest challenge of all because the tide was way out so we had to trudge through the dirty, muddy, crab infested shore into the dirty water, lugging all of our bags and trying not to get them wet. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly the greatest introduction to the West side of the Thai beaches.

Wading through the yucky water in Kraby to get to our long tail boat.

Why am I wearing runners? Because "Krabi" isn't just a fun name...there were crabs everywhere on this beach.

Once we arrived in Railay we quickly saw that our efforts to get here were not in vain. We saw the most magnificent limestone cliffs surrounded by another beautiful beach. Railay is world famous for rock climbing and it’s not hard to see why.

Railey Beach-famous for rock climbing.

Arriving on the west side of Railay.

Our highlights of Railay were climbing one the of limestones to get to The Viewpoint overlooking the island, checking out the monkeys on the way to Phra Nang Beach, and hanging out on the triangular Thai pillows at the little bamboo hut bars on the East side.

Phra Nang Beach, a hidden gem!

There's nothing like a triangle pillow to hang out on!

Don't feed the monkeys ; )

Buying corn off the boat at Phra Nang Beach

Nothing like corn on the cob on a hot day!

Hiking up to The Viewpoint

We made it to the top. By the's not that Skott didn't make it but he was still in Malaysia at this time.

View from the top.

If you go to Railay, be aware that the East side of the island has quite a rough looking beach that has a very significant low tide. However, Railay East is where the less expensive accommodations are as well as the cool little bars and cafes to hang out at for cheap food and drinks. Swimming is best to do on the Railay West side and it’s just a ten minute walk from Railay East.

Island #3 -Koh Phi Phi Beach“Sports and Celebrations”

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most well known islands in Thailand. It was devastated by the tsunami in 2004 but they’ve rebuilt so many restaurants, hotels and bars that you would never know it. For the most part, this is a good thing, but we all agreed that they really need to take some measures to manage all of the tourism so that they can do a better job of keeping the island clean.

Koh Phi Phi is very near the location where the movie, The Beach was filmed, so we took a tour boat to check it out. We are happy to report that it is every bit as beautiful as the movie shows.

The Hughes-Enns Clan live it up on the former set of "The Beach". No Leo spottings though.

Inside Maya Bay aka The Beach

During our time on Koh Phi Phi was also had a chance to celebrate Skott’s birthday. We had a blast rock climbing and having a couple of Thai buckets in his honor. He was so pleased about the celebration that he did a post the day after, click here to check it out.

Happy Birthday Skotty!

Island #4 -Koh Lanta“The Perfect Island for R & R”

Koh Lanta is just a few hours by boat from Koh Phi Phi but the atmosphere is completely different. It is much more laid back, much quieter and much less centered around the young, partying crowd. This suited us just fine-we all enjoyed the slow, quiet pace here. We had a favourite little cafe in town that served delicious lattes and healthy lunches. We also found a beautiful spa, built in a house on stilts right on the water. Jess, Carly, Marissa and I had a spa afternoon that costs us each less than $10.

The view from our spa in Koh Lanta

Our favourite coffee shop in Koh Lanta

We did an excursion in Koh Lanta to visit the Emerald Cave and take in some snorkeling. The Emerald Cave was a thrill to visit because you actually swim about 50 meters through the pitch dark middle of the cave to get to a lagoon on the other side. I did my best to convince myself that a shark would never want to live in a cave…full of tourists legs. But the journey was well worth it because the lagoon on the other side was beautiful and it was completely enclosed be cliffs. It was like we were in a secret land, untouched and closed off from the rest of the world.

The snorkeling was also fantastic and I am proud to say that I stayed in the water the whole time and didn’t freak out when I saw the fish-they were just too beautiful to be afraid of!

During our time on Koh Lanta we also checked out Yoga with Mona, a studio about 15 minutes out of town in a quiet little bamboo hut over the water. It was such an inspiring location and the girls and I really enjoyed getting to know Mona.

So which beach was the best?

The best beach was Koh Phangan. It was spotlessly clean and the water was crystal clear and nice and calm for swimming. My ideal paradise would be to combine the atmosphere at Koh Lanta with the beach in Koh Phangan. But I think I was pretty spoiled to be able to visit all of these amazing bits of paradise!

Thanks for taking this fab photo Jess!

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5 Responses to “Ketchup Series #3 of 3- Welcome To Our Paradise”

  1. Vicky May 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Great post! I have been reading about the various Thai islands to plan which one to go to on my trip and this is super helpful! How much time did you spend on each island?
    Vicky recently posted..Soba Noodle Stir Fry with Tofu, Mushrooms, Broccoli and Bok Choy

    • Shawna May 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      Hi Vicky! I’m glad that you found the post helpful! We started on the East side of Thailand and went to Ko Pha Ngan for 4 or 5 days. We decided not to go to Koh Samui because we were really happy where we were and even though island hopping is fairly easy, it’s nice to be settled for a little while. We stayed at the Paradise Bungalows and we were very happy with them-good price, especially split between the three of us and they had a pool too. From Ko Pha Ngan we traveled over to the other side to go to Railay Beach. This was a really long day so we definitely wanted to make it worth our while by spending a good amount of time on that side. I believe we were in Railay for 3 days. Unless you really like to party I would say that about 3 days or so is enough for Phi Phi. Definitely do the trip to Ma Ya Bay-it’s gorgeous. We also really liked the rock climbing there, it was a great place to learn. Lastly, we finished our island hopping in Koh Lanta which was perfect for me because it was so low-key and relaxing. It might be a cool way to end a trip before returning to the real world. It’s definitely less beachy in Koh Lanta but the atmosphere is a nice change. The excursion to the Emerald Cave was well worth it and there are actually some beautiful islands that are as close to “deserted” as we came across that you can stay on (you’ll come across them in the Emerald Cave tour). If you have the time it would be cool to spend a night on one of those and the snorkeling in that area is gorgeous. I hope this helps!! You’ll absolutely love it!!!

  2. Vicky May 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Wow thanks so much for the prompt and thorough response! This has been incredibly helpful!
    Vicky recently posted..Lentil Soup

    • Shawna May 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Hey Vicky! Sorry for the late reply on this…I missed it the first time. I brought my full year’s worth of birth control with me because I was unsure of what it would be like to get it during our travels. I noticed in Thailand they actually sell it right on the shelf…which seems a little sketchy. haha I also had my nurse practitioners info should I need another prescription from her that I could get filled on the road.

  3. Vicky May 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    No problem – thanks for getting back to me. Good to know — this is definitely something I’m always wondering about and most female travelers don’t really disclose this info so thanks for letting me know! I will have to decide what to do… thinking of looking into the iuds (sorry if that’s too much info!)
    Vicky recently posted..Billy Goat Trail Hike – Great Falls Virginia

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