The first time I visited Thailand I was curious as to what type of experience I’d have. I wanted to relax but not be bored, I wanted to have fun but not be surrounded by party people, and I wanted to indulge but not end up completely broke. I expected it might be too much to have all of these experiences, but to my surprise and delight I soon discovered that in Phuket you could have whatever experience you seek.
If you’re the kind of traveller who likes a hint of adventure but appreciates the need to unwind, look towards Phuket’s islands.
Phi Phi Islands
Don’t let Phi Phi’s popularity put you off. It may have celebrity-status compared to others in the area but it still maintains that laidback island vibe. There are a few islands in the Phi Phi collection but it’s the largest two (Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Ley) that draw in the crowd.
If you’re a traveller who likes to have amenities at hand and to let your hair down a little then pick Ko Phi Phi Don – it’s set up to accommodate tourists for longer periods. If you’re looking for something truly remote however, then head to Ko Phi Phi Ley. I was surprised to learn that Ko Phi Phi Ley is actually uninhabited even though it’s here that The Beach was filmed.
Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi
These two large islands are set directly between Phuket and Krabi and are described as a refuge in comparison to the busier parts of Phuket. While many people stay over, it’s not for the nightlife – the island’s inhabitants are more focused on offering a laidback lifestyle based on restaurants and relaxation.
The islands are quickly developing to accommodate holidaymakers with accommodation options including spa resorts but it’s still advisable to come prepared with some cash on hand as the facilities aren’t always reliable.
The tourists here are those in need of some relaxation and appreciate having freedom to wander around at their own pace – many even hire motorbikes to go exploring. There’s also the opportunity to hire canoes and of course, snorkel.
Koh Hae (Coral Island)
Surrounded by beautiful coral, hence its name and its popularity with snorkelers and divers, Koh Hae is one of the closet islands to Phuket and can be reached by speedboat in around 15 minutes.
Plan ahead if you want to do something more adventurous – parasailing, banana boating, kayaking – on the island. Without these options the island is limited to just two, albeit beautiful, beaches (Long and Banana), which are perfect for long, lazy, sun-soaked days. If you get itchy feet however, as I do, then you may want to look into some all-inclusive tours with water activities.
Those with a passion for diving should have the Racha Islands on their agenda. These two large islands are located around 12 km south of Phuket and are easy to get to with plenty of time spare for a full day of diving in crystal-clear waters.
It can get a little congested with dive boats so it’s usually suggested that you arrive earlier rather than later to take advantage of the big blue and less choppy current. As with all diving around the islands, it’s best to check on conditions before setting off.
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is home to a number of protected islands and it’s here that you’ll catch a glimpse of another island with huge celebrity status: James Bond Island.
Known locally as Ko Ta-pu or Nail Island, this precarious rock was featured in the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun. With a huge flat top and a skinny bottom, it’s hard to believe it’s actually still standing. Many tourists venture this way to witness it for themselves, so research your tour options thoroughly as it can get extremely busy.