I first visited Thailand in 2011 for a month on my way to Australia. I didn’t know anything about Thailand and although i loved it and it started off my travel bug i mainly visited the most popular and busy spots- Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Had Rin in Koh Phangan and Ao Nang.
When i went back in 2014 where i travelled South East Asia for nearly 6 months i was on a mission to find some quieter beaches, beaches where i could feel like i was in Thailand 10 years ago and with a bit of help from Wikitravel (my bible while i was in Asia) i found them!
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and especially the younger ‘gap year’ travellers then head here:
1) Koh Phayam– This is by far one of my favourite places I’ve visited.. ever! Koh Phayam is an island located to the West Side of the main land. To get here you need to get to Ranong which is the town on the main land and then get a boat to the island.
Once you’re there there are two main beaches you can choose from. I stayed on Aow Yai, also known as long beach (and it is very long) and sunset beach.. because it has the perfect West facing spot. This beach has a fair amount of accommodation (i paid just 200TB for a basic bungalow) which is just behind the trees where the beach ends meaning its likely you’ll be able to hear the sea while in your bungalow and be on the beach in less than 30 seconds but the beauty is that from the beach the accommodations are barely visible. The beach is not only long but very wide so i was never sunbathing near anyone, this beach does have quite big waves which i found was the only down side for me. The second main beach is Aow Khao Kwai. I did visit here during the day and it is beautiful, there’s a bar called ‘hippie bar’ which seems like its great for a party and the bar is a wooden boat. The plus to this beach is that the water is really calm and still and really warm so its perfect for relaxing in. Before going i saw that Koh Phayam was described as ‘Koh Samui 10 years ago’ and this is exactly what i felt it was like.
2) Tonsai– Krabi is somewhere where you’ll probably end up if you’re island hopping but Krabi Town is just a city and there’s not much point in staying there for longer than a night. Two of the most popular beaches that are close to Krabi are Ao Nang; which is on the main land still and is very commercial and busy and Railay Beach. Railay Beach is gorgeous but unless you can afford to stay in a upmarket hotel then you won’t find any accommodation here suiting your budget.
Luckily, just around the corner is Tonsai. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and only accessible via boat, Tonsai really made me think ‘this is what Thailand must have been like’ there were quite a few hippy folk who seem to have been there for a while.. but why not? And its full of decently priced bungalows (i paid 300TB for mine) which lie just away from the beach but as its small it doesn’t take long to walk from your bungalow to the beach. The beach itself is quite thin and it has the strangest tidal pattern (the tide comes right in the middle of the day and then goes out really far at night) but the beauty of this place is that you can get round to Railay beach really easily, either by doing the jungle walk which takes about an hour and is quite tough in flip-flops but you’ll make it, or you can take one of the many tail boats that are coming and going or you can wait until the tide goes out and literally walk across some rocks for free and round the corner where the sea is during the morning. Tonsai attracts climbers due to its amazing Limestone cliffs but has a really laid back feel to it with a few bars lining the beach and playing live music at night and the occasional party. There’s also a great Yoga Studio there too.
3) Haad Yuan– Koh Phangan is so much more than just Haad Rin and the Full Moon Party! It’s actually quite a big island with accessible beaches and bays all around it.
Haad Yuan is just around the corner from Haad Rin accessible by a tailboat. I haven’t been since 2011 and i really hope it hasn’t changed since then as it was so quiet and relaxing. There’s a few restaurants which own bungalows perched up on the hill where you really can hear the sea while in bed, at the time there was no wi-fi although i can imagine that has changed now, there’s no atm and i really felt like i was living out a version of ‘The Beach’.. Except i didn’t see Leo!
4) Thong Nai Pan Yai– A bit of a mouth full but this is another beach i visited on Koh Phangan, i got a moped taxi from the port when i arrived on the island which took about 30 minutes and takes you right through the middle of the island which is packed with trees. This beach attracted a slightly older crowd and the accommodation was slightly more expensive- i got a decent bungalow for myself for 400TB but it was worth it as it was very peaceful. I don’t remember seeing any bars so it’s a place to visit if you’re looking for an early night but it again reminded me of how beautiful Koh Phangan is and i felt a million miles away from Haad Rin.
5) Phra Ae– Also known as Long Beach on Koh Lanta. Koh Lanta is a generally less visited island, maybe because it’s quite far south but once you’re there it’s a really good size with plenty of beaches. Phra Ae is perfect if you’re looking for some bars and some people to be social with but not wanting to feel on top of them. All the bungalows and accommodation on this beach are quite spread out so you will have your own space but not be in total solitude. This beach is also west facing so it has the most amazing sunset and because it is very long its great to take a long walk on.
Now don’t get me wrong, i do love Haad Rin on Koh Phangan, I’ve been to the Full Moon Party twice and without doubt would go again and the night life and buzz of Phi Phi is great but sometimes i like that alone time where i don’t talk to people for a few days and can focus on nothing but tanning, reading and sleeping and these are 5 great beaches where you can do that in Thailand and on a budget!