Adventures of a Solo Indian Traveler in Thailand
Episode 1: Thailand (Part 1)
“Once you go brown, trust me, you’ll never frown.”
All Indians must use these words at will when on a trip to any corner of the world. The notion of travelling solo can be a daunting one for the first-timer, raising a number of unsettling questions: will I be safe? What route should I follow? Who will take photos of me staring off into the distance atop scenic vantage points? Pretty common concerns for an Indian guy or girl. I’m sure Columbus’s fellow villagers asked him similar questions, but he came back with answers and people followed. I hope this blog serves my fellow Indians in the same way.
Frustrated with my job and life, I booked tickets to Thailand as soon as my October salary got credited. It was an impulsive decision which became the greatest experience of my life. A life changing experience which made me feel comfortable with myself. Thailand, the land of smiles has something for every kind of traveler. Even though Thailand is famous for its sex tourism, trust me it has much more to offer than just sex! After all it’s a tropical country which makes money purely out of tourism. This blog could have been a book, but just keeping it short so that I can reach out to all the people who think solo traveling is not their thing, as there is a possibility that you actually might need it. This blog is a mix of my fifteen day long Thai itinerary along with my experiences and adventures during the trip.
Chapter 1: Koh Pha Ngan (or Koh Phangan)
When people in India talk about Thailand, they talk about Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. If someone asks me about Thailand the first place I would name is Koh Phangan.
From north to south, the Gulf of Thailand has three islands known to almost every backpacker visiting Thailand. They are Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui.
Backpackers spend months on these islands, but the big day is when party going, hippie-like, backpackers from across the world come to the island of Koh Phangan. Yes, it’s the Full Moon Party!
If Tomorrowland seems costly, one can fly down to Koh Phangan for the surreal Full Moon Party on literally every full moon. With no fancy stages like most of the music festivals, the Full Moon Party would seem normal to most, but it’s the people who make this music festival a Tomorrowland experience.
With millions of people with crazy-ass neon paints dancing to various kind of music played by various bars/shacks on the beach, sipping away the alcohol buckets and getting high on whatever gets them high, the Full Moon Party is an experience of a life time.
Well, officially the venue for the Full Moon Party is Haad Rin Beach, but there is a party going on at almost every hostel on the island. My hostel was a beautiful property, it was bang opposite a small lake and the common area was more of a restaurant and bar, where people would just be partying all the time.
Early mornings would be a nice breakfast and Chang with a magnificent view and late night would be Chang and Bucket with magnificent people and the beach. Other than the Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has something super interesting to offer. Slip n’ Fly ladies and gentlemen! Slip n’ Fly is a one of its kind water slide which towards the end throws you in the air and you drop into a ten feet deep pool.
After spending the day at Slip n’ Fly and possibly getting a good vacation tan, you may head to the Amsterdam Bar! This bar is located on top of a hill with a panoramic view of the sea. Reach an hour before the sunset to get a good place because as the sunset nears, more and more travelers flock in to see the amazing view this bar has to offer. After the sunset you may choose to rest, have some good Thai dinner and head out to Haad Rin for the Full Moon party!
Koh Phangan also welcomes travelers to eat various cuisines. Be it a Pad Thai or Schnitzels, Koh Phangan has a restaurant which serves the yummiest in Thailand. The best Thai food found its way to my tummy at a restaurant with a pretty innovative name — “No Name Thai Food”. Indian travelers on the other hand, who are not so comfortable with foreign cuisines need not worry — Koh Phangan has an authentic Indian restaurant cum hostel called Om Ganesh Indian Restaurant, just for you!
Getting There: Once you land at any major Airports in Thailand, take a flight to Surat Thani Airport. From Surat Thani Airport, a bus (the cheaper option) or a cab can drop you at Surat Thani port from where you can hop onto a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan. Lomprayah is one of the most famous high speed catamaran company which provides you with a bus + ferry package. Stay: Any hostel near Haad Rin beach if you are here for the Full Moon Party. Getting around: Hire a scooter/motorbike as soon as you reach Koh Phangan.
Chapter 2: Koh Tao and Koh Samui
Koh Tao or the island of Turtles, is more of a day trip or Scuba-diving excursion place. It is calm, peaceful and at the same time an epitome of a tropical island. Some people stay here for months healing a broken soul or just getting some peace in life. I had traveled to Koh Tao for a Scuba diving trip while I was staying at Koh Phangan. The boat ride from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao was a task. The sea was rough and we were going against the current. My fellow divers puked but since I had nothing in my tummy, I had nothing to throw out! It was an hour long ride to Koh Tao in a speed boat. We then did two dives at different locations, one of them was Sail rock, also called “Hin Bai” in Thai, where the infamous Whale Sharks could be spotted. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any but the dive was good, definitely not as good as the Andaman Islands (Shhhh! It’s a well kept secret by the Indians).
The dive was followed by some Thai food and an entire afternoon to chill at the beach. This was the first time in three days that I found solitude! I was sitting on the beach chair with my portable speaker and Chang of course. Koh Samui is another such island where you could find peace amongst the beautiful tropical sea with white sand and a lot of coconut trees.
One of the best adventure sport one can find at Koh Samui other than diving ofcourse is Flyboarding! Skip the Flyboarding at Pattaya as they do it in a shabby lake there. In Koh Samui they take you a bit deep inside the ocean to experience the feeling of being Iron Man! It was on my list but I had to make a choice between Koh Tao and Koh Samui due to my choice of dates. I chose Koh Tao as I’m more into diving but Koh Samui is totally worth it and I’ll definitely be visiting there on my next Thai trip.
Getting There: Once you land at any major Airports in Thailand, take a flight to Surat Thani Airport. From Surat Thani Airport, a bus (the cheaper option) or a cab can drop you at Surat Thani port from where you can hop onto a ferry to any of these islands. Stay: Both the islands being small in size with very less annual visitors have lesser number of hostels but offer chic and modern villas and hotels for a perfect weekend getaway. Getting around: Hire a scooter/motorbike as soon as you reach the island. Cycling around is also a great option.
Chapter 3: Phuket
A ferry from Koh Phangan can take you back to the Port of Surat Thani. It was almost empty. I found company in a Spaniard girl I met at the Koh Phangan ticket counter. A four hour long bus ride from Surat Thani will drop you to Phuket. One can even take a flight from Surat Thani airport. Do consider that sometimes, the ferry to or from any of these islands can get cancelled indefinitely due to bad weather. I was staying at Lub D Phuket, very close to Patong beach and the infamous Bangla Road.
It was a Monday so I didn’t really expect much from the city. My expectations were left awestruck when I reached Bangla Road! It was huge and the road with its many by-lanes was full of restaurants, bars, clubs and yeah, strip clubs! Just before entering Bangla road I walked around this lane serving some interesting food. Tried Crocodile, Duck, Deer and Squid barbecued and served hot!
After filling up my tummy I went to Club Illuzion. It was a full house on a Monday as well as the next day! Other than the crazy nightlife, Phuket has a lot of other touristy places to offer. There is the infamous Patong Beach, Tiger Kingdom, The Big Buddha, Shooting Range among other places.
My hatred for crowded beaches and love for wildlife and especially Tigers prompted me to visit the Tiger Kingdom. As soon as I went in I noticed that the Tigers were heavily sedated! One should visit this place to see up to what extent man can go to earn a few bucks. I was in a cage with five huge Tigers and all of them were sleeping! Like they literally couldn’t even open their eyes!
It was a ten minute gig but every second felt like an hour. I just wanted to get out of the place.
I decided to forget about it — for now — and went to the shooting range right opposite the Tiger Kingdom to blow some steam. I tried the 5mm Automatic Pistol and the Shotgun. They let you take the target home!
Next up, I rented a scooter and left to see the Big Buddha. A wonderful ride through Phuket Old Town leads you to a mountain on top of which lies a monument as tall as fifteen storey building. It’s a pure white color Buddha statue over looking the Indian Ocean with a smile so peaceful and serene, one would immediately fall in love with. It has a Buddhist temple on the ground floor and another smaller, golden Buddha statue at the backside. This being a holy place, inappropriate clothing is not tolerated.
But don’t you worry ladies, just in case if this part of the blog skipped your mind and you went in with a spaghetti top and shorts, they’ll provide you with a scarf and something to wrap around your waist (like a long skirt), which you promptly will have to hand over back to them while leaving.
I was hungry after my trip and was craving some sea food. I visited this small restaurant tucked away in the by-lanes of Patong beach called Sea Hag. I was the only guest at the restaurant and I was treated well. The food was amazing! I chilled with the owner for sometime and found out that big cities like Phuket are the perfect place to eat seafood. One might think that she will get better seafood on the islands but that’s not true. Everyday huge fishing containers drop off enormous amount of sea food at the big ports like Phuket whereas the fishermen on the small islands usually fish for their personal needs. I spent rest of my evening chilling with my dorm-mates and fellow hostel-mates, drinking Chang.
The same night my Russian roommate took me around the Strip Clubs at Bangla Road. We went to a Russian Strip Club called Moulin Rogue, which gave me a complex as all the girls were 6.5 feet tall! We then decided to check out Thai strip clubs and Go-Go Bars (Suzy Wongs and Harem). Thai strippers are the bubbliest of all and less demanding! One can get the feel of “His Highness” at these Thai strip clubs for dirt cheap.
Getting There: Phuket is accessible from almost any corner of Thailand by air. Stay: A hotel/hostel near Patong Beach or Bangla Road is highly recommended for travelers looking for a happening holiday. For travelers looking for peace in an old world charm, Phuket Old Town is the best place to stay. Getting around: Hire a scooter/motorbike as soon as you reach the airport.
Chapter 4: Koh Phi Phi
Wait what? It’s 7:20 am, I’m in bed and the car will be picking me up at 7:30 am! Plus, the cruise to Koh Phi Phi is at 8:00 am and there no faster way to reach! Also, I haven’t packed my bags yet! After realising, I jumped out of my bed, packed my bag and ran straight to the reception where a Thai dude was waiting for me. I quickly hoped into the car and reached the port. Today was the day, I learnt that ships have bathrooms! Once the ship was mid sea, with due permission of the Captain, I used their staff bathroom to take a hot shower, and even shaved! As the ferry nears Phi Phi Islands, you are treated with a mesmerizing view of the limestone cliffs of Don Phi Phi and Phi Phi Leh.
I noticed that a lot of Indian travelers come on a day trip to Koh Phi Phi. Do not do that! Phi Phi islands has more to offer than a picture of the long-tailed boats parked on the beach.
One can book a cruise to the various parts of the island like Maya Bay, Monkey Beach, Viking Caves etc. or can attempt a small hike to the Koh Phi Phi view point. I chose to go with Captain Bob’s Booze Cruise. It is a one of its kind cruise where you get drunk while going around various parts of the island. A perfect gig to meet international travelers and open up the introvert in you, Captain Bob’s Cruise doesn’t leave anyone disappointed.
Just like Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi is also famous for its beach parties. Slinky hosts an amazing fire show where you can find a date, limbo or just get drunk and shake a leg with the backpackers.
Phi Phi is a small island unlike Koh Phangan where you can go around in a tuk tuk or a scooter. You can get to any location in Phi Phi on foot or on a bicycle. Try Aroy Kaffeine Café at Phi Phi Don for some amazing Thai Food. Also, don’t forget to click a picture of the long-tailed boats parked at the beach. Hehe.
Getting There: Phi Phi islands are a short boat ride from Phuket Port. Stay: One can choose to stay at one of the hostels/hotels on Koh Phi Phi Don or unwind at one of the beautiful infinity pool villas near Koh Phi Phi view point. Getting around: You can get to any location in Phi Phi on foot or on a bicycle.
Here is a walk through my Thailand trip. I call it, the Chang-over ;)