After my semester abroad in Australia, in 2016 I had the chance of backpacking through Thailand. This trip was the idea of a friend of mine and me, more her than me to be honest. Nonetheless, last minute she couldn’t join due to visa issues and off I went alone. I think my mom really got a little worried when she found out about my plan. Here are some of my impressions of backpacking through Thailand on your own and where I went. This post is not sponsored nor advertising but just my experience.
The journey of backpacking through Thailand started in Bangkok. I arrived late in the evening and used an Uber to get to my hotel. I felt Uber was often a good option, especially in countries where there might be language barriers as you can easily find the address on the app. Then the driver knows exactly where to go. Uber has since left Thailand, but Grab is also an alternative which also offers tuk-tuks in many places which is an interesting experience.
I stayed at a nice hostel called the Oldtown hostel which does not exist anymore. These capsules are always a great experience, everyone has little capsules with a curtain, a power plug and a light. The bathrooms were nice and the café in the bottom very cosy. A shame it closed. This style of a hostel with its capsules is very common in Thailand and very enjoyable as a solo traveller. In Bangkok, I visited a few temples, looked at the ghost tower, wrote a ferry on the Chao Phraya River. The ghost tower is this empty construction site. It was fascinating to see this empty building which was so big. Many urban explorers go into the site and explore it which is illegal though. As this was one of my first days in Thailand, I did not want to push my luck and therefore did not follow this path.
My next stop on this backpacking journey through Thailand was Phuket. I flew from Bangkok to Phuket with AirAsia. Even though I am not a massive partier I was curious about this destination. I stayed at the Eco Hostel Phuket. This time I had a room to myself and it was a great place. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the hostel. It was located in the old town of Phuket and far from the busy area.
So, I took a tuck-tuck to get there. It was easy finding one going to the busy streets but back was more difficult as it was quite a journey and not as profitable for the drivers, but I managed after a lot of persuasion. Phuket was a surreal experience. so many tourists flooding the area, everyone speaking English and a lot of sex-tourism such as strip shows and ladyboys approaching tourists openly. It was interesting to see but a bit much for me personally. Too busy and hectic. I had my first Thai ice there which is rolled up rather than scooped which was super good made with all kinds of fresh ingredients. Also for the first and only time I had my feet eaten by fish there, the fish is called garra rufa, and it was an interesting experience. Nonetheless, due to the over-tourism, I would not return to Phuket again.
Phi Phi Islands
After Phuket, I left on a Phi Phi Islands tour which included Chicken Island, Poda Island, Maya Bay, Koh Tub and Koh Mor. We left on speed boats to explore these islands. At first, I was really excited to see them but soon also there I realised how busy it was. We were not the only boat going to these places. Some we were 10 or more boats at the same time. Especially Maya Bay, known from one of the Bond movies was so overcrowded. It was sad to see how this idyllic place was so overrun by tourists.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation decided to close down the bay to tourists at least till 2021 which I think was a good choice. It was too overcrowded and not worth the impact these tourists left. In the pictures below you can see of my impressions of the over-tourism I experienced on these islands, but especially Maya Bay. Koh Tub and Koh Mor were also very interesting as they were two islands connected by a sand bed that could be walked over. They were beautiful and not so crowded.
In the evening I arrived in Krabi and stayed there for two days. In Krabi, I stayed at the Hometel Hotel which was decent. It was nice once in a while to have my own space when backpacking but sometimes that made it harder meeting people. In Krabi, it was located close to a local market which was really nice to visit for some snacks and experiences. When travelling now with my boyfriend we never stay in shared rooms but when travelling alone I actually really enjoyed it as you would so easily meet other travellers. Often, I checked in a shared room met people and we would go out and discover together. Nonetheless, sometimes it was nice to have some privacy and your own bathroom for a day or two.
The first day in Krabi in the afternoon I went to the Tiger Cave Temple. Which is still one of my favourite memories of Thailand. So, I took a tuck-tuck to the bottom of the temple where I met other backpackers and we made the journey up together. As a woman going to a Thai temple you have to cover your knees and shoulders which I always tried to respect. Nonetheless, this day all my clothes were in the laundry and all I had left were shorts and a tank top. So, when I arrived at the temple, I had to rent a coverup which was this blue kind of dress covering my shoulders and knees, completely made of polyester. I think that was the day I sweat the most in my whole life. Under this tarp of plastic in humid 35+C, I had to climb 1260 steps to reach the top of the temple. I felt bad to return this sweaty coverup after the climb. It was a challenging but also really rewarding experience. I cannot remember how long it took me to get up there but the view and following sunset was just amazing and one of my favourite memories of Thailand. If you are ever in this area you should really check it out. It is a one in a lifetime experience, that is for sure. Upon the top, I chatted with some travellers and we enjoyed the view. The monks of this temple collect donations daily from the top of the temple and I was impressed by their fitness.The next day I met some girls also backpacking through Thailand on a tour and we explored more of the islands as well as Ao Nang. It was fun, we saw a monkey forest and got to go on one of the traditional Thai fishing boats. Further, we snorkelled and relaxed at a beach. It was a good day also not as crowded and therefore much more relaxing. We also saw a cave filled with phallus symbols which was supposed to bring fertility to whoever visited.
After visiting Krabi I took a bus and then ferry to Koh Samui. It is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, and it had beautiful beaches as well as temples. On the first day here I found out about a temple called the Big Buddha which I really wanted to see. To get there I took a taxi there which actually was a bike which was an interesting experience. I don’t have a licence so I never drove in Thailand but I was on the back of bikes or tuk-tuks a lot. I think my mom would have been a bit worried if she knew but I always felt safe, more or less. This temple was on a peninsula and just beautiful to visit. Visiting temples was always a great experience as it gave me a lot of time to process what I have seen and to reflect.
In Koh Samui, I stayed at a hostel called the Liquid Lounge Koh Samui. It was a fun place to stay at again with capsule-style beds. I met some people who were going to an ice bar so I joined them. Prior to that, I had never been to an ice bar and it was a crazy experience. It is now closed even though there seems to be a similar one there now. It was so crazy how everything is made out of ice. We got onesies to keep ourselves warm and had a cocktail there. It was a fun night and I thought it was a crazy experience considering it was shorts and tank top weather outside.
My last real stop was Koh Tao. It was a little more off the beaten track and I really liked it for this reason. First I stayed at a campsite in a very deserted area in Koh Tao. They also offer climbing and it had a great view while staying in small tents with proper bedding. It was exactly what I needed. Some time for myself in the middle of nature. I enjoyed it a lot but was only there for a night. Nonetheless, it was very refreshing being there.
The next night I spend at the Goodtime Beach Backpackers hostel where I met a girl from Slovenia. We bonded over the fact that I had a friend from Slovenia, and we went on a long hike all day. To a very secluded beach getting lost along the way. It was a fun experience and when we returned to the hostel in the evening, they had a fire show. It was impressive to watch what these artists were able to do with the fire. We enjoyed sitting at the beach watching this. It was also kind of my last night as the next day I took a ferry to Chumpon. From there I flew back to Bangkok and on to the next adventure but more next time.
Overall I liked the Tiger Cave Temple and Koh Tao. It was a great experience and Thai massages were a blessing after walking hours with my backpack or having a bad night of sleep. I am glad I experienced some solo travelling in my life as well as backpacking as it really changes you. I would do it all again even though now I feel I like a different kind of travel for myself. As a 23-year old it was just what I needed to lose and find more of myself. Also I can only recommend to visit Thailand and also try all the amazing food the country has to offer. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. Have you ever been? Do you want to go? What was your favorite (if you have been)?