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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Backpacking in Thailand

Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi

Backpacking is Thailand is a subject very dear to my heart as backpacking was very much how I gained my foothold within the travel industry. Before I came to Thailand I was a trekking guide in Nepal. My first backpacking trip to the land of the smiles was in 1992 and was offered as part payment for the group I had lead by my, not too flush for money, trekking company.

Bed and Breakfast Tibet style 1987.. er halcyon days?

On top of bus in Nepal

I had heard of the South East Asian backpacking scene but has stayed firmly round the Himalaya for over a year as I enjoyed mountain life. When I started learning about Thailand I did what I always did when travelling to a new country and that was tap into the backpacking grape vine. From a few conversations I quickly found out what I was looking for. Khao San Road has been the home for travellers from the 1980s. This street in Bangkok had inexpensive accommodation and a host of cafes and bars in which to plan the next trip. This has all been over taken some what with the advent of the Internet and Facebook but still people still like to stay on  Khao San Road  to work out how they are going to to travel Thailand.

The Beach, Phi Phi Island and Backpacking
Leonardo Di Caprio  made a Movie called 'The Beach ' about an American backpacker in search of the perfect unspoilt beach. Although he found it at Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island it lead him into a dark world of marijuana growing drug barons and primeval fear. It was an interesting what if type movie that made you question the motivation of some travellers who go to the extreme in a narcissistic search for the meaning of their life. Still, what is not in question is that Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island is one of the world's most beautiful beaches and it draws movie lovers and those in love with nature all year.

Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi

On top of rational for going to Phi Phi Thailand, Phi Phi presents the perfect location for hanging with like minded people. Cheap accommodation , a place with no cars, plenty of cafes, restaurants beach bars and generally laid back activities make this a sweet spot for the backpacker or the credit card backpacker. One of the old school guesthouses  is Coco's and here's my review of Coco's.

Coco's Guesthouse, Koh Phi Phi

The credit card backpacker  is the traveller with money but prefers to travel island hopping foot loose and fancy free. Many ex-students in between their first and second job get the old backpack out and travel again but this time backed up with money that a few years work affords. In times of the recent recession their were many professionals and bankers who were backpacking as the corporates companies downsized and shed their youngest staff.

Full Moon Party for backpackers
The monthly Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan is another huge draw.  Similar in mood to the music festivals in Europe, Haad Rin hosts the biggest beach party in South East Asia. It does this every month and now the whole village of Haad Rin is given over  to catering to the festivals of festivals. Bars like the Cactus Bar, The Drop In Bar play music out onto the beach while the moon rises just over the horizon. The atmosphere is uplifting, the beach moves to anthem after anthem, backpackers swear they will come back next month, this is one of the worlds best.

Full Moon Party for backpackers in Koh Phang Ngan

Best time of year for backpacking
The best weather  is on high season from November to the end of April but the accommodation is up to 50% more expensive than in low season. This is the time of the monsoon but not all months are the same. The monsoons move through Thailand in June and September so you can make use of the low season prices till 20th May, 10th July til 15th August and October. See this article on inexpensive accommodation during the low season to get an idea of great value  Low Season saves you money on Phi Phi.