Quirky Experiences to Try in Southern Thailand
Thailand has gained a reputation as the ultimate backpacker hangout for the past decade. Mention the word Thailand and you’re likely to hear a chorus of,
Yes, the Thai islands can be the promised land for devoted partiers, and it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the typical loop where backpackers migrate from one hostel to the next in herds, National Geographic Style.
Despite the amount of tourists, Thailand oozes diverse landscapes and one doesn’t have to venture too far off the typical trail to find a totally unique experience. My six weeks in Thailand with took me to the most beloved tourist spots like Ko Phi Phi and Koh Phangan, but I also found myself doing things I never would have planned! Here are some of the great, the random, and the downright humilating things I did in Southern Thailand!
1. Float in the Mountains
One of the obvious draws to Thailand is spending time on the water. Usually this means beach-bumming on one of the seemingly endless islands, so when I was told that we would be leaving the world class beaches to go to a freshwater lake, I had a serious pout face going. After dragging my reluctant arse to the mainland we arrived in Smiley’s in Khao Sok National Park, and I officially lost my mind after seeing the view from my treehouse. Yes that’s right, my treehouse. I found myself surrounded by the most lush jungle imaginable with limestone karsts filling in the background. If you ever want to feel like one of those blue guys from Avatar (and don’t we all), this is the place for you.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we were loaded onto a speedboat and driven into the heart of Chieo Lan Lake which has all of the beauty of Khao Sok, TIMES INFINITY. We stayed on Smiley’s floating bungalows and I seriously thought that I was going to have to learn how to write poetry so that I could live out a Ernest Hemingway- style existence and stay forever. If you drilled me for my absolute favourite place in Thailand, this could be it.
2. Swim in Phosphorescence
Right now you’re probably trying to sound the word phosphorescence out in your head- don’t worry, it took me about fifteen tries. Don’t ask me about the science behind it, but phosphorescence is when the ocean is disturbed and lights up at night like Times Square on New Years Eve. You seriously won’t believe your eyes at first, but splashing around in the water to make the water glow was pretty amazing! It only happens in certain places throughout the world, and I was so lucky to be able to see it first hand on Ang Thong. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Live the Baller Life on a (Sort of) Private Island
After realizing that my rapping career was never going to take off, I lost all hope of ever staying on a private island. With all of the gorgeous islands we were visiting, I was okay with sharing my space with the masses and not living my life like a T-Pain video. This was all ruined after visiting Ang Thong Marine Park. Accessible by ferry from Koh Samui, this island is an extremely popular day trip for snorkelling and conquering the stunning viewpoint hike. This also means that from 12-4 p.m., the island is a total zoo! After the tourist hours end, you’ll look around and realize that you more or less have the place to yourself. The island’s only accommodation consists of a single dormitory, a string of a few bungalows, and a small area to pitch tents. Outside of our group, I never saw more than two or three other tourists after hours and we were left to the peace and quiet we had missed on every other island. My recommendation is to pitch a hammock, pop a Chang, and wait out the tourist hours- the serenity afterwords is well worth it!
4. Get There By Sexy Bus
When I think of busses, the word sexy does not exactly come to mind. Uncomfortable? Yes. Sweaty? Sure. But sexy? I was a pretty skeptical customer when it came to that one. Of course, I was wrong. One peek at a sexy bus and I was sold. I’m taking disco balls, speaker systems, and some seriously cool art on the outside. Apparently the bus could sense my lack of sexiness and straight up broke so I was unable to actually ride it, but be sure to check it out if you spot one on your travels! If you want an idea of what to look for, imagine something like these chicken busses from Guatemala!
5. Start the Party at a Pop-Up Bar
Khao San Road is not for the faint of heart. This is where seemingly every tourist in Bangkok gathers to let out their pent-up hedonism and drink enough rum to qualify for pirate status. If this sounds like your worst nightmare come to life, steer clear. But if you need one night to let loose, you’ve found your Eden. My favourite thing about Khao San is that what starts as a single picnic table selling buckets and cocktails can easily turn into a raging party spot within twenty minutes, with the right crowd. If you really want the street bar experience, ask around for Bucket Bar- a street stall that quickly transforms into a party that blocks the entire road.
6. A New Island Every 20 Minutes
Kayakers, paddle-boarders, and boaters, I’ve got you on this one. Koh Lipe is the ultimate paradise for anyone itching to get out on the water and explore new territory. The water is some of the clearest blue in all of Thailand, and the island is surrounded by a seemingly endless array of tiny islands and beaches to land on and explore. For those who want to put in a little elbow grease, renting a kayak and hopping from one island to the next is the perfect way to spend the day! If you want to see more and do less (Lara style), ask a local guide to take you out on their long tail boat. They’ll show you the best spots and take you to the best snorkelling in the area!
7. Slip N’ Fly
You know how I mentioned humiliation earlier? This is where that comes in. Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan is obviously one of Thailand’s biggest tourist destinations. When the party winds down, the tourists tend to follow, leaving some of the island’s quirkiest attractions behind. Case in point: Slip n’ Fly. Imagine launching yourself off of a giant waterslide into a pool full of people watching and ranking you for style points. Still onboard? Check this place out. It might not be the height of your cultural experience, but it’s definitely a unique stop for all of you thrill junkies out there!
BEWARE: As I quickly learned, there is no place for a strapless bathing suit at the Slip n’ Fly.
8. Hike to Vegan Heaven
I like meat. Seriously, I really really like meat. So when it was proposed to hike for an hour to reach an iconic vegan restaurant, I considered running into the trees and just hiding for a day.
Haad Yuan is a beach on Koh Phangan that is only accessible by boat ride from Haad Rin, making it feel like an entirely separate island. This is where yogis and free spirits alike have formed a community to meditate, work on their practice, or just enjoy a more peaceful side of Koh Phangan. With this mindset, it’s no surprise that Haad Yuan would be home to the most famous vegan food around. Putting my carnivorous bias aside, I decided to give this place a whirl. The hike took us to Sanctuary, located in the heart of this community on Haad Tien beach. Once there we were able to see how this community lives and eat our hearts out. The food definitely lived up to the hype and feeling healthy for the day was a welcome change.
None of these experiences are something I had planned for my time in Thailand, but that’s the great thing about traveling. It’s easy to get swept up in not wanting to miss any of the highlights in your guidebook, but sometimes it’s important to do something a little unexpected, random, or just downright strange.
What is the quirkiest thing you guys tried in Thailand?