Azure blue lagoons, leafy cliffs, white sand, an authentic yet modern culture, majestic wildlife, littered markets, ladyboys – throw in a beach party and some illuminous paint and you have arrived. Welcome to Thailand.
The first stop on anyone’s list should be Koh Samui where mopeds and jeeps swarm the narrow streets in what seems like acceptable chaos. Walk down a side street and the noise subsides slightly to reveal the Ark Bar Beach Resort where a large orange sign hangs over a contemporary outdoor reception area.
The surrounding buildings look shabby, but fairy lights and neon signs brighten up the dim street. Service in any hotel on this island is top notch; staff are even willing to carry your bags be it to your room or down a creaking wooden pier.
Ark Bar is the place to stay if you visit this quaint island, the bedrooms are modern and clean with patio doors onto a pebbled path that leads you to the pool and bar area. A DJ box sits over the pool waiting for the regular pool parties to begin while the large bar and lounge area that lead on to the beach are lit up with lights at night. Eat giant corn on the cob and ripe fruit on the beach while sipping a cocktail before hitting the local nightclub Green Mango.
Koh Phangan, Full Moon party central, depicts the stereotypical Thai summer party scene. Cheap hostels and comfortable bungalows are close to all of the amenities and most importantly the beach, where everything happens.
Not the cleanest island, Phangan is simply memorable for wild nights, illuminous paint, fire shows, endless markets and of course the Kangaroo Bar. Be sure to get to the island a few days before the full moon party as hotel rooms tend to fill up fast.
During the day, jet ski on the clear water and drink fresh fruit smoothies to keep cool or take a taxi boat to the other side of the island just to say you’ve been in a taxi boat.
If you’re looking for fun, hop onto a jeep that’s heading to one of the many pool or jungle parties scattered around the hilly island. Recovery days can be spent in ‘The Lazy House’, a slow service restaurant with comfy seating and a large projector screen showing films such as Magic Mike to prepare you for the next all nighter.
Tone things down a tad in Koh Tao; an island famed for scuba diving and great local food. This mellow sanctuary is the ideal place to relax. Thai spas are plentiful with low prices and excellent service. Every treatment is followed by a complimentary green tea and pineapple slices.
Take things up a level once again by attending the infamous xxxx pub crawl, where you will meet a variety of nationalities, mostly fellow Irish men and women. You’ll even experience some ladyboy cabaret on the way.
Thailand’s claim to fame is the glorious Maya Bay. Made famous in Leonardo Di Caprio’s The Beach, this flawless bay is flooded with tourists touring the unforgettable area. The island of Koh Phi Phi was once severely damaged by a tsunami but is regaining its natural beauty once again.
Hop on an ancient dinghy with a fearless ‘sailor’, avoiding crashing waves in order to reach the peaceful bay. Turquoise water laps against the soaring cliffs; the swim and climb to the top of the cliff is a challenge worth accepting. A real life tropical jungle forms the path to the bay’s famous white beach. Swim in the clear warm water and snorkel beside your creaky boat to see shimmering fish inhabiting the depths of the sea.
Bangkok may be dirty and daunting but it is not to be missed. Khao San Road is where to stay in the middle of the extreme chaos. Crowds litter the markets lining the street, buying everything for dirt cheap prices.
The humidity and thrilling atmosphere of Bangkok will complete your Thai experience and a trip in a tuk tuk will help too. Do as I did and make friends with a local market salesman called ‘Roy’ who likes the Irish but for some reason scowled at Canadians and sold us dodgy Beats headphones – a real-life Mr Chow!
Tours to the Tiger Temple and Elephant Trekking are essential. Situated two hours outside of the city, the trips are available to book through most hotels. Sit on a towering elephant while he roams green hills and get shockingly close to the beautiful tiger.
Most of all enjoy the Thai people; they are happy, kind and extremely laid back and will make your Thai experience a memorable one even if you never leave your hotel.
By Shannon O’Sullivan