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The Healthy Guide to Chiang Mai

The Healthy Guide to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

 

Sleepy late mornings

when guesthouses open their doors

 

Chiang Mai-2

 

ladies sweep the streets

like flower carpeted floors.

 

Chiang Mai-3

 

Gilded roof temples

glisten in the sun

 

Chiang Mai

 

orange robed monks

catch the eyes of everyone.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Blocks alternate businesses

but it’s pretty much same same

 

Chiang Mai

 

massage, temple, guesthouse

that’s the name of the game.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Though it may be discovered

and touristic to the T

 

Chiang Mai

 

Old Chiang Mai still lives

on off the grid little streets.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Escape the city buzz

in dozens of veggie cafes

 

Chiang Mai

 

graze through the markets

and give it all a taste.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Lay on floor cushions

and sip on ginger tea

 

Chiang Mai

 

rest your weary traveling body

in a house for Thai herbal steam.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Yoga, meditation, and healing

consciousness abounds

 

Chiang Mai

 

no matter where you put yourself

there’s someone interesting around.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Yes I suffered in such a small space

with nowhere to relax in nature

 

Chiang Mai

 

so I saw that to find the source

I would have to dig deeper.

 

Chiang Mai

 

With my eyes closed dancing

I traveled to other dimensions

 

Chiang Mai

 

where the world is alive and pure

and all beings sense their connections.

 

Chiang Mai

 

With my eyes open wide I focused

on what I wanted to see

 

Chiang Mai

 

wise old trees lining the river

plant vines swallowing the concrete.

 

Chiang Mai

 

At night as streets lit up with mopeds

and bright neon signs

 

Chiang Mai

 

I looked out to the purple mountains

and the pink painted skies.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Beneath the hectic I felt the silence

watching the fiery red sun die

 

Chiang Mai

 

soaking up the magic

in the Old City of Chiang Mai.

 

 

Where to Eat Healthy in Chiang Mai

 

Health conscious travelers, rejoice! Chiang Mai is an absolute mecca for healthy foodies, especially vegetarians and vegans. That said, you do need to consider that many of the delicious vegetarian restaurants are still using poor quality table salt, sugar, and processed vegetable oil in the food. Here I’ve listed my favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai, along with some of the healthiest items you can get there. Most are in (or very close to) the Old City.

 

KhunKae’s Juice Bar

The best, and cheapest, local juice and smoothie bar in Chiang Mai. All are made without sugar (make sure to ask for “no sugar” when you go elsewhere) and many have greens. My favorite post yoga or dance meal is a shot of wheatgrass, a young coconut, and the Number 7, which is a spinach, avocado, kale, banana, lime, ginger smoothie. You can also get fresh pressed green and vegetable juices to-go. I recommend ordering them fresh and taking them in your reusable bottle instead of their plastic bottles.

 

Free Bird Café

When it comes to a mix of Northern Thai and healthy western dishes, nowhere does it better than Free Bird (in my humble opinion). You’ll see printed clearly on their menu that they do not use harmful ingredients like white sugar and vegetable oil, and they use the best quality products they can find. With such a huge menu of delicious food and drinks it’s hard to make a specific recommendation, though some standout treats include the green smoothie bowl, the golden milk, and the Burmese Salads. This is also the only “good cause” restaurant I found in Chiang Mai, donating 100% of their proceeds to their community learning center Thai Freedom House, which offers arts and language education for indigenous people and Burmese refugees. They have a nice shop with goodies like white sage, Himalayan salt, and second hand clothing. (Insider tip: the owner Lisa sells yoni eggs by appointment only.)

 

Amrita Garden

Looking for healthy, clean, and simple? Look no further. Amrita garden serves Japanese fusion food that’s mostly organic and free of additives. I especially love the location and atmosphere with outdoor garden seating and big floor cushions. I recommend the house made kombucha, the vegan platter with different salads, the soba noodle salad, and the veggie burger (which I requested on homemade low gluten probiotic sourdough bread). They also have a shop with some raw desserts, coconut oil, and more.

 

Fruit Pulse

Open EARLY, unlike many of my fave places in Chiang Mai, Fruit Pulse has excellent (although small and expensive) green juices, and even a cacao bowl. I haven’t tried their Thai food, but I hear it’s good. I recommend getting a quinoa salad, which is rare to find in Chiang Mai. They also offer juice cleanses where they deliver the juice to your guesthouse, though frankly I couldn’t justify using up so many plastic bottles that will just go in the trash.

 

Bird’s Nest Café

For atmosphere this is my favorite café in Chiang Mai. It’s the kind of place you could lounge in all day, read a book, journal, do work on your laptop (if that’s your life), and definitely meet interesting people. The food is also delicious and consciously chosen. Some of the dishes are healthier than others, and I’m not sure what kind of oils or salts they are using. I do love the Thai Hash which is kinda greasy but so good, with stir fried potatoes, veggies, and thai herbs and spices, topped with poached eggs. For something healthy get one of the salads, add avocado and enjoy a cup of their pumpkin soup. I’m also crazy for their banana, cacao, peanut butter, coconut milk smoothie. They have a shop with some nice goodies like raw honey, charcoal soap, magnesium spray, and natural shampoo.

 

Dada Café

I mostly dig this café for the smoothies and juices. They have every combination you can imagine, and you can also design your own. I recommend the fresh pressed ginger, lime, cayenne, honey tea (especially if you get sick), and the almond, mango, cacao, avocado, coconut smoothie plus spirulina for a decadent treat.

 

Juicy 4U

Simple fresh pressed juices and salads. I mostly like this place for the Thai reggae vibes, and nostalgia’s sake. I came here daily on my trip back in 2013.

 

Bodhi Tree

Down a small side street in the Old City, with big floor cushions and low tables, I love the atmosphere of this family owned vegetarian restaurant. I’m not sure what quality of ingredients they’re using in their Thai Food, but they do have a whole raw menu, including big raw, satisfying salads, and cacao bliss balls. Not sure how healthy it is, but the Phad Thai is out of this world.

 

Imm Aim

I especially love the fresh spring rolls here, with so many colors and textures, and a light dipping sauce. I heard a rumor that you can ask for no sugar, no salt, and no oil in any of the dishes. I didn’t request the omission, but my food tasted very light, so I’m not sure they even used it. I also hear great things about their smoothies.

 

Cat House & Cat Shack

For deliciousness alone, these two restaurants (same owners) win the prize. I had the gift of enjoying their breakfast, lunch, and dinner, catered at Om Waters (one of my favorite places in Thailand) during a retreat through The Yoga Tree. All of the food is incredibly flavorful. I especially love their Burmese salad, maybe my favorite salad I’ve ever tasted, and the babaganoush. Not sure if it’s on their regular menu, but they also make gluten free pancakes from bananas, coconut milk, rice flour, and seeds, with homemade tahini and jam. Go there.

 

Pun Pun

Sadly I never made it to any of the Pun Pun locations, though I hear it’s one of the best restaurants in Chiang Mai. They use mostly products from their farm (you can buy some of their products at shops around Chiang Mai) and are meant to have delicious food. Visit their location near the Old City, or make a trip out to their farm.

 

Rustic & Blue

This trendy restaurant outside the city walls in Nimman has nice outdoor seating and a wide variety of yummy smoothies, green smoothie bowls, and cacao bowls. The whole menu is beautiful with quality ingredients, mostly with meat and gluten, but you can still find some delicious healthy choices. (FYI it’s pricier than most of the healthy places you’ll find in the Old City…)

 

Angel’s Secrets

One of my favorite Thai restaurants in the city. Vegetarian, big bowls of fresh veggies, lots of flavor. Again, I’m not sure about the quality of their ingredients or how “healthy” it is in that regard, but the owner speaks English very well and I’m sure can make modifications if necessary. She also has fresh raw salads.

 

Aum Vegetarian

 

The oldest and funkiest vegetarian restaurant on the list, I love Aum for the hippie backpacker Chiang Mai vibes. Feels… nostalgic. It’s right across from the Thaipee Gate, always full of people, and has an enormous menu. Try to sit upstairs at one of the low tables. You’ll find a wide variety of Thai food here, some healthy some not so healthy. Their healthiest options include fresh green juice, fresh spring rolls (I always request no tofu, because conventional tofu has toxins and doesn’t digest well), homemade tempeh with sprouts, brown rice avocado rolls, and their big salads. The less healthy but really yummy dishes include the fried samosas, fried tempura, and the vegetarian khao soi (traditional dish in Chiang Mai).

 

Taste From Heaven

 

Again, not necessarily the healthiest option on the list, but really delicious and vegetarian. They do have fresh pressed juices, including green juice, and I love their sweet potato fries. They also have hummus, really yummy curries (especially the Panang), and vegan brownies and vegan coconut milk ice cream.

 

(For more info on eating vegan in Chiang Mai, check out my friend Amelie’s post The Complete Chiang Mai Vegan Food Guide.)

 

 

Health Stores

 

Stock up on your health and beauty needs, Chiang Mai has got it all. From supplements, to cleansing herbs, to superfoods, you can replenish your stash before traveling to more remote places. Note: I’m sure there are less expensive and perhaps better places to find these items around Chiang Mai. For sake of convenience I’ve listed the easiest to find ones in and close to the Old City.

 

Good Health

If you’re looking for specialty oils, toxic free toiletries, special herbs, or supplements for cleansing, this is the place. I consider it almost a natural pharmacy. I’ve purchased moringa seed oil, jojoba oil, raw coconut oil, and sacha inchi oil here. They also have a selection of essential oils. Their toiletry selection is vast, though check the labels many still have parabens in them. I especially like their selection of supplements and herbs, and was able to buy detox quality coffee here for coffee enemas. They even have coffee enema bags and kits if you feel called to do a cleanse or need to flush out food poisoning. The food selection is not as extensive, but they do carry Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar and sacha inchi seeds (best snack and not easy to find.)

 

Blue Diamond

For superfoods, Blue Diamond has the biggest selection I’ve found. Every kind of seed and powder imaginable, raw cacao nibs, pink Himalayan salt, you name it. They’ve also got a great selection of raw desserts, coconut water kefir, coconut milk yogurt, and coconut ice cream. I also like their vegan bakery and organic produce section.

 

Da’s Bakery

My fave place for fresh pressed almond milk, raw treats, raw nuts and seeds. They have some nice bakery items too like gluten free bread, vegan muesli bars, and raw muesli.

 

Wellness Treatments

 

Everywhere you look in Chiang Mai you’ll find spas, massage, and wellness centers. Thai massage originates in this area and there are many fantastic teachers and healers. To get the “in” on local healers to connect with, I recommend asking around when you get to Chiang Mai, or inquiring through some of the Chiang Mai Facebook groups. I know there are good Chinese Medicine doctors too, but I don’t have personal references. Below are my favorite places to cleanse, relax, and release in the city.

 

Thai Herbal Steam House

 

Ok, so it’s kinda funky, and not exactly clean, but I love, love, love the Thai Herbal Steam House. There’s two locations, one near the Chiang Mai Gate, the other near the Somphet Market, and both have the feeling of the old Chiang Mai. They offer massage, but I come for the herbal steam sauna, which I find to be more therapeutic than even massage. The sauna was especially helpful for me when I got sick with a cold, I sweat it out almost immediately. Plus you can’t beat the price, 200 baht for an hour.

 

Fah Lanna Spa

One of the fancier, more expensive spas in the city, but if you want to pamper yourself it’s still a good deal at around 2000 to 3000 baht for spa packages. I did the Thai herbal sauna and then enjoyed an aromatherapy oil massage in my own private room with a huge bathtub and shower. Frankly, I’ve had better massages, but it was still good.

 

Chiang Mai Ayurvedic Center

Love this neighborhood Ayurvedic center right in the Old City. If you’re interested in getting an Ayurvedic assessment, a healing massage, or do a full detox (around 3000 baht per day), this is a very affordable way to do it. Most detox centers in Thailand are immersion retreats, where you stay onsite and do an intensive program. Frankly, this is probably the most effective way, as you have support and very little distraction. However, if you don’t have the time or money to pay for a detox retreat, you can do drop in sessions at the Chiang Mai Ayurvedic Center. They have colonic irrigation sessions for just 1000 baht, so if you did your own juice and coconut water fast (you could do it very cheap in Chiang Mai with juices for 40 baht and coconuts for 50 baht), it’s possible to do deep cleansing inexpensively. I love the ladies here too, they are so sweet and fun.

 

 

Yoga & Consciousness

 

Yogis, tantrikas, meditators, personal development junkies, spiritually curious, there’s a place for all in Chiang Mai. It’s a wonderful place to deepen your practices, do trainings, take a retreat, and learn new skills. As a yoga teacher and retreat leader, I came to Chiang Mai for the DANCEmandala training at The Yoga Tree. Here are some of the more reputable places to dive in.

 

The Yoga Tree

My home in Chiang Mai and one of the most welcoming communities I’ve ever encountered. This all inclusive space emanates such love and has one of the biggest, most peaceful green spaces in the city. There’s classes for every flavor, from Vinyasa Fusion Flow, to Restorative, to Laughter Yoga, and of course DANCEmandala created by the owner Areeradh. I highly highly recommend at least coming in for a session of DANCEmandala, a practice that changed my life 3.5 years ago… so much that I came back to do the facilitator training! I also recommend their ongoing events like BioDanza, SheDANCE, and other retreats and workshops.

 

Other yoga studios include Namo Yoga, Wild Rose Yoga, Bodhi Tree, Mahasiddha Yoga (also a Tantra school), and I’m sure there are others. There are also plenty of workshops and retreats happening all of the time. Pop into Bird’s Nest Café where there’s a bulletin with retreats on offer.

 

Community Connection

 

Chiang Mai has a wonderful community of conscious locals, expats, and long term travelers. I highly recommend connecting through some of the Facebook groups like Chiang Mai Digital Nomads and especially Chiang Mai Nomad Girls. There’s a weekly lunch for ladies traveling in Chiang Mai held at Free Bird Café, shared through the Chiang Mai Nomad Girls group.

 

Nature Getaways

 

No matter how clean my food is, how many hours I spend doing yoga, and how many massages I get, nature is still where I feel the healthiest. Unfortunately there’s not many spots in the Old City to relax and just be in nature, but there are some beautiful places within a reasonable distance.

 

Om Waters

My favorite one being Om Waters in the Sri Lanna National Park, about an hour from Chiang Mai city. The park has a big lake, with a few floating wooden houses where you can stay and do little more than watch the sunrise and sunset, kayak, and rest. What makes Om Waters so special is… many things. It’s tucked away from all of the other floating guesthouses, which makes it very peaceful. There’s a large yoga platform for stretching, dancing, or holding workshops. The atmosphere is so relaxing and peaceful, thanks to the owner Joe who created such a beautiful place. Retreats are held here often, I came with Areerat from The Yoga Tree as part of my DANCEmandala training. You can also come to stay on your own and bring your own food to cook in their kitchen.

 

Mala Dhara Eco Resort

It’s not as deep in nature as I’d like, but Mala Dhara offers a close refuge from the city, with many luxurious comforts. Retreats are often held here, but you can stay in one of their luxury eco huts or the affordable dorms. You can also come for one of their events open to the public and enjoy the swimming pool, big steam sauna, and cacao, coconut, sugar scrubs in the rice fields.

 

Hiking near Doi Suthep

Admittedly, I never made it up to Doi Suthep, which I hear is actually very crowded with tourists. However, the park that surrounds it is meant to have some nice hiking trails with waterfalls. The deeper you go the more you can have the place to yourself. This is probably the closest nature to Chiang Mai city.

 

Pai

A three hour nauseating ride away, Pai is much more chill than Chiang Mai… but it’s changing. Actually, it has changed a lot since I was there 3.5 years ago. Pai is no longer the little hippie enclave it was 3, 5, 10 years ago, and has become quite popular among backpackers and also Chinese tour groups. If you go, stay outside the center across the river at Sabai Gardens or Ing Doi Guesthouse to enjoy the quiet side of Pai with just rice fields and water buffalo. Definitely, definitely eat at the night market (find the Burmese salad roll lady and the Queen Falafel) and treat yourself at Earth Tone (one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to in the world. For more info on Pai, read this post (3.5 years old, but still helpful.)

 

Chiang Dao

My Thai friend told me to skip Pai and head here. “Pai is over,” she warned me. I didn’t listen. I hear great things about Chiang Dao, with allegedly a lot more nature and local culture than Pai.

 

Over to you, care to share your favorite tips for healthy travel in Chiang Mai and beyond?

 

Which Thai Island is Right for You?

Which Thai Island is Right for You?

koh tao

 

The mythical islands in Thailand conjure vivid images of paradise. Limestone karsts emerging out of the glassy turquoise sea. Palm trees swaying over white sand beaches. An underwater world teeming with colorful coral and tropical fish.

 

koh phangan

 

Indeed I’ve had wanderlust for the beaches in Thailand since the first time I saw a postcard of the legendary Koh Phi Phi. However what the postcards don’t show are the airports, resorts, and bucket drinking backpackers. Thailand has certainly changed from the paradise it was a few decades ago.

 

koh phangan

 

Heeding the warnings of other travelers, I set out to find the bits of Thailand where I could still feel the magic. Seeking escape from the development, the crowds, and the insanity, this is what I found:

 

koh tao

 

Koh Tao

This small island in the Gulf of Thailand is one of my favorite places I visited during nine months in Southeast Asia. Granted, its coastline is quite developed and touristic, however I doubt I’ve ever had as much fun. Koh Tao is world famous for diving, but every beach had rocks and reef close by, which meant all I had to do was rent a snorkel mask for a dollar to immerse myself in the underwater world. Staying down on the south side of the island I escaped the huge crowds in Sairee Beach but could easily take a taxi or motorbike in the evening for sunset and fire shows. Despite the small size of the island there was an incredible variety of food from authentic Italian to healthy vegetarian to some of the best Thai I’ve had anywhere. All this aside, what I loved most about Koh Tao was walking the tiny, rugged jungle trails that wrapped around the island and up to viewpoints. I rarely saw another soul and it reminded me how much I love adventure and exploration in nature.

 

Why You Might Love It

Most popular place on earth for dive certifications

Wide range of accommodation from backpacker to luxury

Amazing variety of food

Great snorkeling opportunities right off the beach

Awesome parties starting at sunset on Sairee Beach which incredible fire shows

Many viewpoints for great photos

 

Why You Might Not Love It

Like many of the Thai beaches it’s quite touristic

Finding accommodation can be difficult and expensive for people who aren’t diving (most hotels are dive resorts offering accommodation to their dive students)

Many roads are steep and unpaved making motorbike accidents common

 

Read my guide to Koh Tao

 

 

koh phangan

 

Koh Phangan

A short ferry ride from Koh Tao, this is the island that invented the infamous full moon party. Per the recommendations of other travels I sought to find the quiet spots on Koh Phangan where the magic still lived. After heading to nearly every beach on the island I never found them. Every beach was completely covered with people and hotels playing trance music. Still, this island is one of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen. Crowds or no crowds I had special moments on my bike overlooking palm covered hills, walking out at low tide on the sandbars, and watching some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

Why You Might Love It

Stunningly gorgeous nature and jungle

Many health conscious restaurants, stores, and detox centers

Wide variety of yoga studios and yoga training programs

Big music scene with DJs from all over the world throwing parties every night of the week

The infamous full moon party

Newly paved roads make for easy exploration

 

Why You Might Not Love It

Crowded beaches

Accommodation can get very expensive especially during full moon parties

A lot of development and busy streets with traffic

 

Read my guide to Koh Phangan

 

 

Lonely Beach Koh Chang

 

Koh Chang

Other bloggers really built up Lonely Beach on Koh Chang. I read about bonfires parties with reggae and fire dancers, beautiful quiet beach days, and cheap wooden huts on the beach. Unfortunately I didn’t find any of these on Koh Chang. I stayed in Lonely Beach, where resorts lined the entire strip of sand playing loud music day and night, never found cheap accommodation, and the parties resembled Ibiza more than the Caribbean. Though when I explored beyond Lonely Beach I found peaceful, quiet spots that were indeed, lonely. I saw the sunset on a bay nearby an orange robed monk, watched fishermen cast their reels in completely deserted bays, and heard rumors of spots with gushing waterfalls and mangrove bays.

 

Why You Might Love it

Makes a good stopover on the way to Cambodia

Lots of untouched jungle on the island to explore

Small town feel, friendly locals

Deserted islands nearby

Beautiful sunsets

 

Why You Might Not Love It

Treacherous roads for driving on

Limited restaurant options

Expensive accommodation for solo travelers

Crowded with loud parties (or maybe you would like that?)

 

Read my guide to Lonely Beach on Koh Chang

 

 

Tonsai Bay

 

Tonsai Bay

It’s not technically an island, but Tonsai Bay in Krabi certainly feels like one. With no cars and scant electricity it offers the laid-back island life not easily found in Thailand. During my time on Tonsai I slept in a rustic wooden hut in the jungle, climbed over rocky karsts to explore different beaches, met many interesting world travelers, walked slack lines, practiced acro yoga with strangers, and danced all night to reggae. While I enjoyed the vibes on Tonsai, it felt limiting to me in how small and crowded the beaches were, and ultimately I headed to a different island where I could find long isolated beaches to clear my mind.

 

Why You Might Love It

Easy to access by boat from Krabi Town

Connected to Railay and other sandy beaches

Shockingly stunning scenery with limestone karsts and a turquoise bay

Mecca for rockclimbers

Laid back hippie vibes

Inexpensive local Thai food

 

Why You Might Not Love It

Very rustic and/or expensive accommodation

Difficult to use wifi if you need it

Small, crowded beach with many rocks

 

Read my guide to Tonsai Bay

 

 

Koh Lanta

 

Koh Lanta

I feel a deep sense of nostalgia for Koh Lanta. The week I spent there was one of the most transformative and blissful of my life. Every morning I woke up at sunrise in my tiny rustic wooden hut and ran for miles on Long Beach. The trees still cast a shadow over the shore at this time and the only other people awake were a few runners or early swimmers. When I reached the end of the beach I swam in the crystal clear water and walked back slowly under the sun as the restaurants began to open. I took out a motorbike every afternoon and rode for miles and miles across one side of the island or the other. I stopped along the way at undeveloped, deserted beaches where I napped and swam, napped and swam. Roadside Thai restaurants served cheap, local food and the servers didn’t speak any English. My heart aches a little when I recall the sunsets on Koh Lanta. The orange ball of fire that melted into the horizon, the sky becoming an explosion of purple and pink. I felt magic in Koh Lanta.

 

Why You Might Love It

Empty, undeveloped beaches all over the island

Great range of accommodation from backpacker dorms to rustic huts to luxurious resorts

Muslim Thai community with authentic little restaurants on the roadside and open air food markets

Stunningly beautiful sunsets

Long beaches for taking long walks or runs

Calm clear water for swimming, kayaking, or stand up paddleboarding

 

Why You Might Not Love It

Less jungle covered than some of the other islands

Need to take day trips to other islands for snorkeling

Some of the beaches are pretty overrun with “vacationers”

Some really good restaurants, but not a huge variety

 

Read my guide to Koh Lanta 

 

There are many other islands in Thailand and in two months I hardly scratched the surface. I’m looking forward to discovering even more of what this amazing country has to offer. For tons more information on Thailand, and ways to plan a vacation there, check out a travel agent site like First Choice which creates great getaway packages.

Thank You Koh Tao

Thank You Koh Tao

koh tao

 

There’s no denying

 

koh tao - 02

 

that Koh Tao

 

nangyuan island

 

is incredibly touristic.

 

sairee beach koh tao

 

Backpackers flock from across the globe

to call the underwater world their home.

 

koh tao

 

Every palm shaded turquoise bay

boasts resorts restaurants reggae.

 

koh tao

 

Italian and French, green juice and English tea

American BBQ lines the beach in Sairee.

 

koh tao

 

Happy hour mai tais and sex on the beach

 

koh tao

 

fire dancers display their skills

for drunk tourists seeking thrills.

 

koh tao

 

But sometimes even a wanderlust nomad

needs to take a vacation

 

koh tao

 

from her life that looks like an endless one.

 

koh tao

 

So after questioning my future

and considering flying home from Koh Phangan

 

koh tao

 

on little Koh Tao

ironically a former prison

 

koh tao

 

I let myself feel free to run.

 

koh tao

 

Realizing that in the coming days

my time in Thailand would end

 

koh tao

 

I made the most of every moment

I let myself have fun.

 

koh tao

 

I escaped the world on land

for the one down under the sea

 

koh tao

 

where worries flee my mind

it’s just the fish and me.

 

koh tao

 

I hiked along unmarked trails

through the jungle in the cliffs

 

koh tao

 

climbed over massive rocks

looked out at the ocean in the distance.

 

koh tao

 

I dined on Western food

I allowed myself to splurge.

 

koh tao

 

I broke my budget but decided

treating myself is what I deserved.

 

koh tao

 

I spent most of my time

with friends old and new

 

koh tao

 

on excursions to beaches and bars

I felt safe and loved with this crew.

 

koh tao

 

On Koh Tao letting myself

be young and wild and free

 

koh tao

 

I remembered my adventurous spirit

and that I was exactly where I should be.

 

koh tao

 

I felt a stronger will than ever

to continue traveling the world

 

koh tao

 

so I’d like to thank you Koh Tao

for giving me exactly what I need.

 

 

How to Get to Koh Tao

 

Koh Tao is an island with no airport so the only way in is via boat. High speed boats depart Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, and Chumphon twice daily and take a few hours. Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran and Seatran are the fastest and have air conditioning. International flights service Koh Samui and Surat Thani, which is the fastest way to arrive. Buses and minibuses depart Surat Thani for the Andaman side as well as buses and trains up to Bangkok. You can purchase basically any combination of travel you need for Bangkok, Siem Reap, even Langkawi, at a tour office on Koh Tao when you leave.

 

 

How to Get Around Koh Tao

 

The most inexpensive and efficient form of travel on most Thai islands is renting a scooter… unless you crash. Unlike Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, many of Koh Tao’s beaches are only accessible by a steep sandy road. People crash often, so I recommend asking about the road conditions before you drive anywhere. The main paved road that runs from Sairee beach down south to Chalok Bay is a breeze and you can easily travel it by moped. Unfortunately taxis and taxi boats can be quite expensive, so a moped at only 200 baht per day may be your best bet. With some energy and adventure you can hike or kayak to many places on the island, read more about this below.

 

 

Where to Sleep on Koh Tao

 

If you plan to take a dive course while on Koh Tao your dive outfit will likely provide your accommodation. Dive resorts do offer bungalows and rooms for those not diving, and options usually range from very simple and rustic to luxury all at the same resort. There are many options all over the island, but these are the ones I can firmly recommend.

 

Buddha View Dive Resort

Chalok Bay

400 – 3000 baht for rooms

Buddha View is the perfect place to relax on quiet Chalok Bay. It’s right on the beach with a cute café and beach bar and the rooms are clean, bright, and well decorated. I stayed here during my time on the island in a room for 900 baht per night, which I shared with a friend. It had two beds, a balcony with a sea view, and a huge bathroom with a hot water shower. Every morning I had a delicious, strong juice at the restaurant downstairs for only 60 baht! My favorite combinations were carrot, pineapple, ginger and beet, apple, celery. The only downside is that you have to pay for wifi, which I found a bit absurd, for 100 baht for the day. However many restaurants and cafes nearby have free wifi so I took advantage of being able to “unplug” while in my hotel room.

 

Big Blue Dive Resort

Sairee Beach

350 for a dorm bed – 3000 for luxury air con bungalow

If you want to be closer to the action Big Blue is a great option. Their dive courses are well reviewed and the rooms sit slightly back on the beach in a grassy field away from the bars on the beach. Independent travelers can stay in the dorm, a rarity in dive resorts on Koh Tao. The restaurant and bar has a lively atmosphere and beach BBQs nightly.

 

 

Where to Eat on Koh Tao

 

I Love Salad

Chalok Bay

100 – 200 baht

The name says it all. I think I ate here at least once per day all five days I spent on Koh Tao. With a huge menu, healthy options, and delicious execution I can easily say it was my favorite dining option on Koh Tao. They serve a Western breakfast all day with dishes like banana oatmeal pancakes with homemade compote, vegetable omelets with whole grain toast, and my favorite “The Smash” which has two pieces of dark grain bread topped with sliced avocado, feta cheese, and poached eggs served with a side of fried tomato and sautéed mushrooms. They also have design your own salads with many healthy options including raw spinach, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli. For dinner I loved the homemade chickpea burger topped with mango salsa, but they also have meat dishes like lasagna and chicken avocado pasta. For a healthy yet decadent treat try the raw vegan berry cheesecake.

 

Yin Yang

Chalok Bay

80 – 120 baht

Get here early, the place is always packed. The big portions, lots of flavor, and a lively atmosphere make this the perfect dinner spot down in Chalok Bay. The signature dish is the massaman curry, which they cook all day long with lots of spices. I hear the chicken is so tender it falls it apart but being meat free I opted for veggies. My favorite dish here was the curry noodles with lots of vegetables, rice noodles, flavorful curry sauce, and a boiled egg. Probably my favorite Thai restaurant in all of Thailand, don’t miss it!

 

Sairee Cottage BBQ

Sairee Beach

60 – 200 baht

You must spend at least one evening eating beach BBQ, it’s an island after all, and Sairee Cottage BBQ has the best and least expensive options. For 200 baht you can have a big piece of grilled fish with salad and potatoes. If you’re on a budget the Thai dishes are among the cheapest on the islands, with Phad Thai for 60 baht. The setting is phenomenal and they often have live fire shows right in front on the beach.

 

Living Juices

Sairee Village

60 – 200 baht

I try to find at least one truly healthy place wherever I travel to ensure I have proper nutrition. Living Juices was exactly that for me on Koh Tao. I believe everything on their menu is both raw and vegan and they sell a vast array of superfoods you can take home including bee pollen, goji berries, chia seeds, and spirulina. The bulk of the menu consists of super healthy juices made from spinach, broccoli, carrots, and more or satisfying smoothies with banana and cacao. Any juice or smoothie can be made “super” with probiotics, bee pollen, etc. They also have some delicious snacks you can take to go. I went with the raw spirulina granola bar which was heaven on a day hike.

 

Through the Looking Glass

Sairee Village

30 – 150 baht

This darling bakery serves quality treats like shortbread, homemade granola, sandwiches, mince pies, and even English tea. Come by in the morning for some fruit, yogurt, and granola and take a sandwich on homemade bread or a fresh salad to go for your day of adventure. Then of course stop in again in the afternoon for some tea and their famous millionaire shortbread.

 

New Heaven Café

Sairee Beach

30 – 150 baht

A little oasis in busy, bar filled Sairee Beach with healthy, inexpensive, organic options. They have a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, juices, and smoothies. I sipped on a filling avocado, peanut butter, banana smoothie while I did some work in their open-air café with communal seating. It almost felt like being back in a coffee shop in Seattle!

 

Check out more dining recommendations from these bloggers:

Ashely Abroad: What to Eat on Koh Tao

Alex in Wonderland: Where to Eat on Koh Tao

 

 

Where to Drink on Koh Tao

 

Freedom Bar

Freedom Beach

60 – 150 baht

Just a fifteen minute walk from Chalok bay around the rocky cliffs is Freedom Bar on a gorgeous little bay with great snorkeling. This makes for a great sunset spot with a laid back, family vibe and happy hour drink specials.

 

Babaloo Bar

Chalok Bay

60 – 150 baht

Babaloo Bar sits on its own little private beach on the north side of Chalok Bay. The place has a unique pirate shipwreck feel, chilled out reggae music, and lots of hammocks to lay in over the ocean.

 

Lotus Beach Bar

Sairee Beach

60 – 150 baht

We spent a pretty epic night at Lotus Beach Bar. It all started innocently enough with 80 baht cocktails and a gorgeous view of the sunset. The live music began and a talented man sang covers with a gravelly voice. One of my travel companions said that if he were a woman he’d marry him. The night grew increasingly rowdy when the DJ came on, re mixing reggae favorites with electro beats, and the fire dancers came out. Eventually drunk tourists were jumping a rope lit on fire and when the flaming limbo stick came out I joined them. Fire dancers spun wildly in the ocean and the whole scene was unforgettable. My misstep was attempting to jump through the infamous ring of fire. If you spend only one night out on Koh Tao, make sure it’s here.

 

Fizz

Sairee Beach

60 – 150 baht

Laze on big bean bag chairs in this ultra swank beachfront bar that seems more fitting in Bali than on little Koh Tao. I did not get the chance to eat here, but I’ve heard the Thai and Western food is delicious and cheap and you really can’t beat the location.

 

 

What to Do on Koh Tao

 

Dive

Koh Tao is the most popular place to learn to dive on the entire planet. Prices are rock bottom; about $300 for a 3 day PADI certified open water dive course including accommodation. The entire island has a strong dive culture and most backpackers come here to get certified. If you’re interested in diving on Koh Tao, I recommend first reading this definitive guide.

 

Snorkel

Those without the budget or the courage to dive on Koh Tao can still swim with coral, fish, and sharks by snorkeling off of one of the island’s many beautiful beaches. Most dive shops and hotels rent snorkels for just 50 baht per day. Some popular snorkeling spots include Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay, Tanote Bay, Shark Bay and Nangyuan Island. Read more about the beaches in this guide to Koh Tao. Bear in mind getting to some of these beaches can be difficult with a scooter and expensive with a taxi. If you’re traveling with a group consider splurging on a longtail boat for a day and having them take you to all of the best spots. This post gives a great overview of a longtail boat trip.

 

Hike

If you’re willing to be adventurous, the island has plenty of hiking opportunities. A short fifteen-minute hike up from Freedom Beach offers stunning views of Shark Bay to the right and Chalok Bay to the left. My favorite hike I took began in Chalok Bay along the beach past Babaloo, and up the hill into a neighborhood. From there the trail took me into the woods, where I was the only person. It gets hot and sweaty but the views are gorgeous and I feel so energized when exercising in nature. My first stop was at Banana Rock, a cute little swimming and snorkeling spot with a couple of bars, some bungalows, and very few people. From there it’s possible to hike all the way to the main harbor in town.  A popular hike on the island goes to the island’s highest viewpoint over Mango Bay. It’s steep with no reprieve. Read this detailed account of getting up there.

 

Day Trip to Nangyan Island

Many people highly recommended I spend the day on this small island off the North West coast of Koh Tao. While it’s unbelievably touristic and fairly crowded, it’s also unbelievably gorgeous. Most people come in with a taxi boat or longtail boat, but I highly recommend going the cheaper, more adventurous route and getting there from Sairee beach by kayak. The trip should take no more than an hour depending on the wind and costs 200 – 600 baht depending on how long you want the kayak and whether you rent a double or a single. On the island the water is crystal clear for snorkeling and the viewpoint is incredible.
For lots more information on Koh Tao, check out out the Wiki Travel Guide.

 

 

Pick Your Pleasure on Koh Phangan

Pick Your Pleasure on Koh Phangan

koh phangan

 

The island throbs and pulses with energy.

 

koh phangan

 

The moon glows rotund and full

casting its light across the cerulean sea.

 

koh phangan

 

Bodies crowd water vessels

directed by its magnetic pull.

 

koh phangan

 

DJs and backpackers

yogis and healers

 

koh phangan

 

the weary seeking a good time

 

mae haad koh phangan

 

unload onto the sandbar of hedonism.

 

koh phangan

 

Down the styrofoam scattered streets of Haad Rin

lies a white sand cove

 

koh phangan

 

with sex and drugs and sin

where electro vibes, fire throws, flouro glows.

 

koh phangan

 

Decades ago a few dozen souls

first imbibed here on the beach

 

mae haad koh phangan

 

the celebration continued month after month

today it has an international reach.

 

koh phangan

 

The treacherous road

winds over to Baan Tai

 

koh phangan

 

katoys display their goods

for curious men to try.

 

koh phangan

 

Motorbikes and 4x4s own the streets

farangs shop in fancy supermarkets

 

koh phangan

 

gluttons gorge on pancakes

calzones, curries, phad thai

 

koh phangan

 

among all the tourists

local culture somehow survives.

 

koh phangan

 

Beyond the town

jungle covered mountains emerge

 

koh phangan

 

you can feel their mystical force

 

koh phangan

 

yet each idyllic beach cove

 

koh phangan

 

becomes diluted with the vibration

of a sea of resorts.

 

koh phangan

 

Detox centers house hippies

seeking wellness in the land of indulgence

 

koh phangan

 

fairy costumed eccentrics crowd remote beaches

creating quite the scene.

 

koh phangan

 

On this island

once a vacation haven for kings

 

koh phangan

 

pleasure comes in many forms

decide for yourself what that means.

 

 

How to Get to Koh Phangan

 

The only way to reach Koh Phangan is by boat from Koh Tao, Koh Samui, or Surat Thani. Boats from Koh Tao take about 2 hours and cost around 450 baht. Boats from Koh Samui take 30 minutes. Ferries from Surat Thani take 3.5 hours. It’s possible to take a flight from Bangkok or certain international cities to Surat Thani or Koh Samui, otherwise buses and trains connect with Bangkok and minibuses connect with the Andaman Coast.

 

 

Where to Stay on Koh Phangan

 

For many people Koh Phangan is synonymous with the full moon party which takes place on Haad Rin. However the island is quite large with many different beach communities to stay in and explore, far more than the scope of this blog post. Baan Tai has affordable places and is close to most of the parties, the entire West Coast has resorts and simple bungalows, the North side is unreachable except by boat and has affordable beach bungalows, while the quieter beaches on the East side are a short, albeit expensive, boat ride over to the full moon party on Haad Rin. Accommodation ranges from party hostels to shanty bungalows to luxury resorts. Bear in mind you will pay premium prices during the full moon and most hostels triple their rates. Booking early is essential during the high season and during the full moon all year.

 

At Beach Bed and Bar

190 baht – 690 baht (full moon) for dorm bed

I stayed here during my entire time on Koh Phangan and it quickly became home. The hostel sits directly on a gorgeous uncrowded beach, though the beach is not great for swimming as it’s quite shallow and rocky. Rooms are clean and modern with hot water showers , a/c, and private decks or balconies. The bar and restaurant has hammocks and lounges directly on the beach and feels more like a resort than a hostel. However what makes this place my favorite hostel in all of Southeast Asia is the incredible staff. They are some of the friendliest, kindest, and most fun people I’ve met anywhere. Paul, the owner, will treat you like family. One night he had a BBQ to celebrate a friend’s birthday and invited all of us to join. Bella, the manager and probably my favorite lady in all of Thailand, took amazing care of me when I told her I was bitten by a dog and even had someone drive me to the hospital for free. The place attracts a fun, more mature, traveler crowd and I made great friends here. I can’t imagine staying anywhere else on Koh Phangan. They have DJs and plenty of warm up parties for the full and half moons.

 

Mae Haad Cove

400 – 700 baht for a private bungalow

These bungalows are simple, but when you’re right on a gorgeous beach what else do you need? They have a private bathroom and a porch with a hammock. Mae Haad is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island with a long stretch of shoreline and a long sandbar that connects it with a tiny jungle covered island.

 

Cookie’s Salad Resort

850 – 3000 baht for a private room or cottage

The ocean in Haad Salad on the West side of the island glows bright turquoise and sits in a protected bay. Small streets lead down to the beach giving it a community feel with local restaurants and reggae bars. Cookie’s Salad has modern rooms with ocean views, a pool, and a big buffet breakfast. The level of luxury makes it an incredible value for the price. Bear in mind the place is built up on a hill so you’ll have to work for the view!

 

Bottle Beach 1 Resort

400 baht for dorm, 600 – 1800 baht for bungalow

Bottle beach is the most remote, and arguably the most gorgeous, beach on Koh Phangan. Bottle Beach 1 Resort has affordable bungalows for any budget, a beachfront restaurant, swimming pool, and spa making it nearly impossible to ever leave. The beach is only accessible by boat.

 

 

Where to Eat on Koh Phangan

 

Koh Phangan is not my favorite place to eat in Thailand, but you can find some authentic Thai food and several healthy places to take a break from all the fried noodles and buckets in your diet. The island is quite large and there are certainly many more restaurants for you to discover. I focused mostly on seeking vegetarian health food while on Koh Phangan and this list reflects that.

 

Night Market

Thong Sala

$1 – $3 

My favorite way to eat in Thailand is always at food stalls in the night markets. I find it to be the most authentic, inexpensive, delicious food available. In Thong Sala there is a night market daily, with some stalls open in the daytime as well, serving up anything from curries, phad thai, and roti pancakes to raw Vietnamese spring rolls, freshly pressed vegetable juice, and whole grilled fish.

 

The Sanctuary

Haad Tien

$5 – 10 for fresh juice, smoothies, salads, and other health food

The Sanctuary offers a little bit of everything, but their raw health food is really what sets them apart. They have entire detox menus, raw phad thai, and all kinds of superfood juices and smoothies. The apricot, date, and yogurt smoothie is divine. On weekends they have a brunch menu that feels straight out of a boutique cafe in Manhattan.

 

Ando Loco

Baan Tai

$3 – $5 for entrees

Traveling in Southeast Asia it’s pretty rare to find a solid Mexican restaurant. Ando Loco has classic Tex Mex dishes, happy hour margaritas, and a big vegetarian section. I ate the pumpkin soup here which was spicy, flavorful, and satisfying.

 

Green Leaf Cafe

Baan Srithanu

$3 – $5 for entrees

This darling cafe serves mostly organic fare and even sells organic produce and speciality items like apple cider vinegar and himalayan sea salt. In the evenings they have a Thai/Indian vegetarian buffet and even live music. The place has a great community atmosphere on the island’s West side.

 

Siddharta Cafe aka Soul Food Cafe

Thong Sala

$3 – $5 for breakfast and lunch

The lovely owners of this cafe were an absolute godsend when I got sick on Koh Phangan. They set me up with some great super smoothies to boost my immune system and even gave me some new water kefir grains for free! The place is owned by an Italian/Brazilian couple who make healthy, nourishing dishes like quinoa salad, red lentil soup, and even an Italian style antipasto platter. They sell many superfoods in the cafe like chia seeds, goji berries, chlorella, and organic raw nuts. It’s a great place to stock up on health food before you continue travels elsewhere.

 

 

What to Do on Koh Phangan

 

Koh Phangan may be famous for its full moon parties, but the island has plenty more to offer than buckets and flaming jump ropes. The island is best explored by scooter, particularly the West side which has well paved roads for easy riding. Explore the many beautiful beaches on the island. Some favorites include Mae Haad, Bottle Beach, and Haad Salad. There are also several waterfalls and temples on the island. Look for signs on the road up to Chalokum Bay. Mae Haad has a waterfall hike from the parking lot. Tourists and locals go to cool off at Laem Son Lake and jump from rope swings. Definitely check out Wipeout Phangan which has an obstacle course on the lake!

 

 

Where to Party on Koh Phangan

 

Most travelers come to Koh Phangan to party and there is certainly at least one place to do that every night of the week. The most famous parties include the Full Moon on Haad Rin, the Half Moon in the jungle in Baan Tai, the Black Moon, and the Jungle Experience. These parties typically have international electro DJs and fire shows.

 

One Love Bar

This cool, laid back beach bar is so my vibe. They have live music, live DJs, movie nights, and even a free vegan BBQ. The bar has a total reggae feel and looks out onto a gorgeous sandbar that you can walk across at low tide.

 

Amstardam Bar

The Amstardam is the famous place for watching the sunset and with good reason. It sits up in the hills just outside of Thong Sala with epic views of the ocean and nearby islands. Crowds come just before sunset to swim in the pool, eat a burger, or have a mushroom shake. Despite its popularity the vibe remains incredibly chill with reggae music and floor cushions.

 

 

Where to Detox on Koh Phangan

 

Quite the contrast from the hedonistic parties in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan is home to many wellness and detox centers. The most famous is The Sanctuary in Haad Tien, which has all kinds of retreats, healing ceremonies and services, health food, and even free meditation. Another popular spot on the West side of the island is the Orion Healing Center with detox and cleansing retreats, public yoga classes, reiki, and a phenomenal health food restaurant. Ananda Resort also offers assisted cleanses, has a sauna and saltwater pool that outside guests can pay to use, and a healthy restaurant with a huge assortment of Western and Thai specialties.

 

 

Life is Better in Koh Lanta

Life is Better in Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta

 

I awaken to the image of the sun flooded golden shore on Koh Lanta.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I walk the dusty path past bungalows and bars where my neighbors stay swaddled in slumber.

 

Koh Lanta

 

Quiet blankets the beach and shade spills across the sand;

 

Koh Lanta

 

blessed protection from the intense summer sun.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I move one foot, then the other, increasing my speed until I pass the other early risers.

 

Koh Lanta

 

Sweat beads and drips from my hairline

 

Koh Lanta

 

I plunge into the crystalline ocean.

 

Koh Lanta

 

When I return to my bungalow the world has awakened

 

Koh Lanta

 

greeting me for toast and chatter at my beachfront breakfast joint.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I watch couples and families float on water and build sandcastles.

 

Koh Lanta

 

Afternoon approaches and I hop on my scooter in search of adventure

 

Koh Lanta

 

on this gloriously undiscovered island.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I breeze beyond the traffic, beyond the hotels and tourist cafés

 

Koh Lanta

 

until all that surrounds me is jungle

 

Koh Lanta

 

and a few small restaurants run by Thai Muslim families.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I reach the end of the island with a pink-pebbled beach

 

Koh Lanta

 

and a quirky resort

 

Koh Lanta

 

something Wes Andersen might have dreamed.

 

Koh Lanta

 

With no one around me I swim in the cool water

 

Koh Lanta

 

connecting with nature and the magic it still contains.

 

Koh Lanta

 

On the other side of the island development wanes

 

Koh Lanta

 

I look down at the jungle-backed beaches from the hilltops

 

Koh Lanta

 

deciding which to call my own for the rest of the day.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I climb out to the lighthouse at the National Park

 

Koh Lanta

 

the wind blows against me

 

Koh Lanta

 

the views they amaze me.

 

Koh Lanta

 

The sun begins to lower, time to head home

 

Koh Lanta

 

I pass locals shopping in open markets

 

Koh Lanta

 

and hauling in their fishing boats.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I return to the beach for sunset

 

Koh Lanta

 

my favorite time of the day

 

Koh Lanta

 

vacationers sit with their cocktails

 

Koh Lanta

 

I walk for miles along the sand instead.

 

Koh Lanta

 

I meet friends for dinner at a simple, local place

 

Koh Lanta

 

then dance to live reggae and watch fire dancers on the beach.

 

Koh Lanta

 

This is my life on Koh Lanta

 

Koh Lanta

 

sleeping in a simple hut, working in the mornings, taking long runs on the beach

 

Koh Lanta

 

where I feel healthy, productive, and alive

 

Koh Lanta

 

where everything feels easy

 

Koh Lanta

 

where again I feel like me.

 

 

Where to Sleep in Koh Lanta

 

Koh Lanta has a wide range of accommodation from extremely simple dorms and bungalows to luxurious resorts. Long Beach, Klong Khong, and Klong Nin each have a unique vibe and make good bases for exploring. It’s easy to just walk around and find an inexpensive room or bungalow, most range from 350 to 600 baht. I stayed on Long Beach because it had the greatest concentration of backpacker digs and nightlife, but the street was extremely noisy at night with live music until 3am. For those looking for a smaller community I highly recommend staying in Klong Nin or in one of the more remote places on the way to the National Park.

 

Clayzy’s House

200 baht dorm bed, 400 baht bungalow

I spent my first few nights here in the dorm where I was immediately welcomed by some of the friendliest travelers on the planet. The long term work traders make sure everyone feels like family and I truly appreciated that. There’s always something to do or someone to connect with at Clayzy’s and they even host an open mic night where everyone is encouraged to share their talents.

 

Chill Out House

200 baht dorm bed, 400 baht bungalow

Just down the street from Clayzy’s, Chill Out has similar open air dorm rooms and bungalows. They also have a solid crew of work traders and a slightly more laid back less party atmosphere than Clayzy’s. The small bar and restaurant is a great place to meet other travelers.

 

Non La Mer Hostel

400-600 baht dorm bed

This hostel is much pricier than the other options, a dorm bed is the same price as a bungalow at other places, but it has modern facilities for those wanting hot showers, A/C, a clean environment, and the ability to meet other travelers. It’s a clean, comfortable place for those on a budget.

 

Bamboo Bay Resort

400 – 2500 baht for bungalows depending on the season and room

Stay at one of the most gorgeous undeveloped wilderness beaches at Bamboo Bay Resort. These bungalows are on the Southwest side of the island near the national park.

 

Sri Lanta Hotel

$150 per night for a private cabin

If it fits the budget, the Sri Lanta Hotel has gorgeous cabins up on the hill with ocean views and an incredible infinity pool directly in front of the Klong Nin beach. I was lucky enough to swim in the pool while visiting blogger Amanda of A Dangerous Business. It’s the perfect place to recharge or enjoy a romantic getaway.

 

 

Where to Eat in Koh Lanta

 

Small local Thai restaurants are scattered around the island and make great stopping points on motorbike excursions, however here are some of my favorite Thai and Western restaurants with official names and convenient locations close to Long Beach.

 

Kunda Anti Pop Cafe

150 – 250 baht for breakfast, salads, and entrees

With healthy vegetarian food I knew Kunda would be right up my alley, but I underestimated how intensely flavorful the food would be. The restaurant is in Klong Khong, too far to walk from Long Beach where I was staying, so I only had one meal here but it was absolutely delicious. I ordered an enormous salad with grilled eggplant, lots of fresh greens, ripe papaya, a peanutty slaw, and a fresh herb dressing. It was easily the best salad I’ve had in Southeast Asia. The menu had plenty of other enticing dishes and I only wish I could have tasted more.

 

Funky Fish

50 – 150 baht for breakfast and Thai food

I ate here nearly every day because of its convenient location right where I stayed on Long Beach and affordable prices. The staff doesn’t exactly have the best customer service skills but the location is right on the beach and the prices are about as low as you can get on Koh Lanta. I had perfectly poached eggs and whole wheat toast for breakfast most mornings for only 50 baht and the massaman curry is to die for with whole cinnamon sticks and star anise.

 

Mr Green’s

50 – 150 baht for Thai food

This is a popular spot for typical Thai fare in Long Beach and is usually packed and lunch and dinner time. The dishes are excellent but if it’s full you will have to wait quite a while for your food.

 

 

Drunken Sailor’s 

100 – 200 baht for entrees

Somehow I missed out on eating at Drunken Sailor’s during my time on Koh Lanta, but the glowing reviews on other blogs and inspired fusion menu make it a must visit. They have a good selection of Thai and Western food including innovative desserts and Vegetarian dishes like Indian samosas. I will definitely be checking it out my next time on Koh Lanta.

 

Red Snapper

200 baht and up for dishes

This is the place to have a splurge meal. The innovative fusion tapas menu rotates every couple of months and dishes are decadent and delicious.

 

Greek Taverna

150 – 300 baht for entrees

When you need a break from Thai fare, Greek Taverna has generous and delicious greek platters with grilled meat, salad, pita bread, hummus, and all of your other Mediterranean favorites. The portions are huge and you can definitely share.

 

 

What to do in Koh Lanta

 

Take a run in the morning or late afternoon on Long Beach

Explore the remote beaches on the back of a scooter

Take a nature walk at the national park

Visit one of the island’s caves

Have a cocktail at sunset on Klong Khong

Take a snorkel tour out to the Trang Islands

 

For more about Koh Lanta, check out these blog posts:

Neverending Voyage’s Koh Lanta Guide

Frugal Frolicker’s Budget Guide to Koh Lanta

Adventurous Kate’s Guide to Koh Lanta

15 Wonderful Things to Do in Koh Lanta – Nomad is Beautiful 

 

Tonsai Bay Makes Me Never Want to Grow Up

Tonsai Bay Makes Me Never Want to Grow Up

Tonsai Bay

 

In a faraway place

 

Tonsai Bay

 

where limestone crags grow

from a glowing sheet of glass

 

Tonsai Bay

 

where paths weave from the jungle

all leading to the beach

 

Tonsai Bay

 

where tides recede for miles

unveiling the rocky life beneath

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found Neverland.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found the pirates who guard the sea

flashing their gold teeth as I boarded reluctantly.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found the fairies spreading their magical dust

spinning balls of fire at the parties after dusk.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found the mermaids swimming in the bay

laying lazily in tide pools soaking up sun all day.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found the beasts in the trees up high

stealing bananas and wallets from tourists passing by.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found the natives frying noodles and grilling meat

or dancing with flames on the beach.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

Everywhere I looked I found the lost boys

dangling from the cliffs, their natural jungle toys.

 

Tonsai Bay

 

Testing my balance on the slack line

pushing my endurance on a rocky climb

 

Tonsai Bay

 

mingling with strangers in reggae bars

dancing around fire twirlers under the stars

 

Tonsai Bay

 

sleeping in a wooden hut up a hundred stone stairs

forgetting for the first time in a long time all my worries and my cares

 

Tonsai Bay

 

I found myself believing

that if I stayed on Tonsai Bay forever

 

Tonsai Bay

 

perhaps I might also

never never

grow up.

 

 

How to Get to Tonsai Bay

 

From Ao Nang

Boats leave when full from Ao Nang directly to Tonsai Bay and cost about $5.

 

From Krabi Town

Boats leave when full from the harbor and cost about $3. They drop passengers on the east side of Railay so you will need to walk through the town to Railay West to either catch a boat or walk to Tonsai.

 

From Railay 

Boats leave Railay for Tonsai when they have a minimum of four passengers and the whole journey takes less than ten minutes. You can also walk over from Railay during low tide, take a steep climb over the cliff during high tide, or walk the jungle path that arrives in the back end of town, which takes about an hour.

 

 

Where to Sleep in Tonsai Bay

 

Few hotels have websites or online bookings so your best bet is to show up and ask around for the best price. Most bungalows cost about 600 baht for two people ($20) and the cheapest options are around 400 baht ($12). Bear in mind that Tonsai Bay has no official “resorts” and most accommodations are simple wooden bungalows or fan rooms. Those looking for more luxury and comfort will find it next door at Railay.

 

 

Where to Eat in Tonsai Bay

 

Tonsai Bay is hardly a culinary mecca, but you can get some decent and relatively healthy meals in this teeny town.

 

Mama’s Chicken

You’ll find your street food here. Curries, fried rice, phad thai, som tum, spring rolls, and mango sticky rice. The cheapest and most authentic Thai. Why pay double at a restaurant?

 

Green Valley Resort

Every morning they have a huge all you can eat buffet breakfast for 150 baht ($5) that includes fruit, yogurt, muesli, pancakes, eggs, waffles, toast, cereal, juice, tea, and pastries. Eat your heart out. At night they have the best deal anywhere with a salad bar for only 50 baht (1.60$) that you can pile your plate as high as possible with. They also have grilled fish for $5.

 

Pyramid Bar

The cafe across from the rock climbing outfit Basecamp Tonsai has a decent breakfast selection and good wifi. Most places on the island lack wifi or charge you to use it. I recommend getting one of the tropical fruit bowls with goji berries and cacao.

 

 

What to Do in Tonsai Bay

 

 

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is the main draw for visitors and most come equipped with their own gear and explore the rocks on their own. Basecamp Tonsai and The Rock Shop rent gear, offer guided climbs, and give lessons to beginners.

 

Kayaking

Kayaks are available for rent along the beach and are a great way to explore Railay’s beaches and the famous Phra Nang Beach which has a penis shrine believed to bring fertility. On the way to Phra Nang Beach there is a landlocked saltwater lagoon surrounded by cliffs worth exploring, and on the far end of Phra Nang Beach is a cave with a bamboo ladder that leads to gorgeous views.

 

Slack Lining

Several bars have slack lines and testing your balance is a great way to meet other travelers.

 

Bar Hopping

Tonsai Bay has a chill but fun nightlife scene with live music and fire dance performances. Start at the Freedom Bar for sunset that gradually make your way down the beach stopping at Chill Out and Viking or anywhere else that beckons you with good music and cool people.