Koh Phangan Half Moon Party 2023: Everything You Need To Know!

When we first started planning our trip to Thailand, we were on the fence about visiting one of the famous Koh Phangan island moon parties. We’d heard wild stories of the Full Moon Party from friends who had traveled the area: tales of over 30,000 backpackers packed on the beach, drinking buckets of the local rum mixed with Red Bull syrup (which, by the way, is illegal in most countries), dancing the night away to giant speakers pumping electronic music. We wondered if maybe we were getting a little old for this type of scene (spoiler alert: we weren’t!). So that’s when we started researching the Koh Phangan Half Moon Party.

Half Moon Party Thailand


Half Moon Party at Koh Phangan

The more we researched the Half Moon Party, the more it seemed like everyone not only recommended it, but many said that it was actually better than the Full Moon Party. We found that the Half Moon festival is a bit more low-key than the Full Moon. But don’t take that is a bad sign, it’s still a raging party.

The Half Moon Party at Koh Phangan is located in the middle of the island in the jungle, as opposed to on the beach. The Half Moon is also a properly organized festival ran by a private company called Half Moon Festival, as opposed to the free-for-all atmosphere of the Full Moon. The organizers have been running this festival for a while now and put on an awesome show!

Because it’s properly organized it does mean there’s an entry fee, but it also means that there are amenities that you’d be used to at any other festival around the world. There are proper bathrooms (I shudder hearing stories of the bathroom situation at the full moon, or lack thereof). There’s festival security to keep things safe when you’re partying until the early morning hours.  And because of it’s structure event there’s just an overall festival vibe. Think of a tiny version of Coachella on magic mushrooms (but a hell of a lot cheaper!)



Half Moon Party Dates 2023

Although raging parties on Koh Phangan happen year round, in order to fully experience a Half Moon Party you need to get to one of the official events. Here are a list of Half Moon Party Koh Phangan 2023 dates:

  • January 13th – 14th and January 27th – 28th
  • February 14th – 15th and February 27th – 28th
  • March 15th and March 30th
  • April 12th and April 29th
  • May 12th and May 27th
  • June 10th and June 24th
  • July 10th and July 24th – 25th
  • August 9th – 10th and August 25th – 26th
  • September 9th and September 22nd
  • October 7th and October 21st
  • November – CLOSED
  • December 8th and December 22nd – 23rd


Where to Stay for The Half Moon Party

If you’re looking for a hostel, don’t miss Baan Thai Backpackers. It’s been one of our favorite hostels on our trip so far and the perfect place to stay for any Koh Phangan party. One of the biggest benefits of staying in a hostel is having the chance to meet people to go to the party with, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Baan Thai put on an amazing pre-party, we almost didn’t want to go to the Half Moon Party! They had UV body paint, drinks, music and tons of fun! We made a great group of friends at the party, and the hostel organized transportation to the party so we all went in together. It was awesome. You can read our full review of Baan Tai Backpackers here. 



If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale accommodation, check out la plage beach resort & club, which is right on the sand. This place has a gorgeous pool, great beachside lounging and a super fun atmosphere! 

Sea Love Bungalows is another great choice of hotel for the Half Moon Party. Located in Baan Thai, this beachside resort is perfect for couples who want to have fun at the party and come back to a chill, romantic atmosphere.

The Half Moon Party is the best if you have a bit of a crew to go with. Definitely check out whatever pre-party your hostel puts on to meet people. Not only is it safer to have a buddy, but getting down with your new group of friends is a bonding experience like no other. We were lucky to meet an incredible group that took our Half Moon experience from amazing to one of our favorite dance parties ever! Hey, we even ended up with matching Half Moon tattoos! Party safe and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!



What To Expect at The Koh Phangan Half Moon Party

As soon as we entered the festival we knew we’d made the right decision to go to the Koh Phangan Half Moon Party. There was a certain buzz and energy around the entrance that was just willing us in to party! The entrance to the festival was relatively organized (it’s still a jungle party in Thailand!) and you could tell the organizers put a lot of thought into the set-up.

When you first enter through the gates there are a number of stalls to your left and right. There, artists are available to do black-light body painting at a cost, but it’s much more economical to do that at your hostel before-hand. It’s also a lot more fun to do it yourself! Close to the entrance is also where you claim your free drink, so you can get the party started nice and early!

There are three stages at the Half Moon Party: the Tribal Stage, the Funky Stage and the Urban Stage. The Tribal Stage is the main stage, offering the biggest acts of the event. There you’ll find international DJs playing the best electro, psy-trance and underground bangers. Mix in some epic lights, pumping tunes and a huge dance floor and you’ve got one hell of a party!

The Funky Stage is your place to go for House music and has a more mellow feel to it compared to the Tribal Stage. The Cave, which is the Urban Stage, plays your classic hip-hop and R&B tunes in an underground cave of lights, smoke and UV paintings.

Along with the stages there is also a section to buy food and snacks. The food is simple with pizza, Thai food, etc. and it’s actually pretty reasonably priced for a festival. If you’re planning on a big night you might want to eat before you get there to avoid cutting into party time, as well as pre-lining that stomach!



“Close to the entrance is also where you claim your free drink, so you can get the party started nice and early!”


The Music

We were a little nervous about the music because neither Jules nor I are massive fans of electronic. We can get down to some Groove Armada and Tiesto, but the more obscure psy-trance stuff is not really our favorite. Thankfully, whether you’re in our boat or love to get down to the hardcore stuff, you’re in luck.

The festival has a good mix of music to meet everyones needs. Because of the three different themed stages, you can find exactly what you’re looking for. When we first entered the festival around 11:30pm, DJ Rio Vegas was just coming on. He was introduced as one of the best DJs in the world, which was a pretty big stretch, but he was actually pretty good. He mixed mainstream songs, including some old-school, with electronic beats that everyone seemed to enjoy. It made for some great dancing and singing along.

The Half Moon Festival also announces which DJs will be playing at the upcoming party, so check out their website to see what’s in store for you!



The Half Moon Party Atmosphere

The crowd at the festival is a good mix, with more regular backpacker types than super hippie folks and hardcore trance fans. As Koh Phangan is a big tourist destination for all types, the Half Moon Festival also gets a variety of party-goers. As the night continues the music at the main-stage become much more psy-trance to keep those partiers awake and moving.

If you prefer mainstream electronic music, I would recommend heading to the festival a bit earlier, maybe around 11, or checking out the other stages. We were told the party doesn’t really get started until that time anyway. If you’re a big psy-trance fan, get excited to party all night!

Because the main stage was pumping so hard, we totally forgot about the other smaller stages until the end when were exhausted from all night dancing. As we were leaving we went past the smaller stage and heard the DJ was pumping some great electronic tunes with R&B features and a saxophonist accompanied him.

We had to stop by for a 5 minute dance because the music was that good. Unfortunately it was also about 6:30am at this point and our legs were on strike from dancing for so long. If you are bored with the music at the main-stage at any point, definitely check out what’s going on at the other stages!



” Not only is it safer to have a buddy, but getting down with your new group of friends is a bonding experience like no other “


Other Things to Know for the Half Moon Party

Getting to Koh Phangan

Getting from Bangkok to Koh Phangan usually involves a bus down the coast and a ferry across to the island. If you’ve got a little extra budget to spend you can always board a flight to the neighboring island of Koh Samui and then catch a ferry across to Koh Phangan.


Half Moon Party Entrance Fee

As this party is an officially organized event, and not a free for all on the beach, there is an entrance fee. Tickets cost 1,500 Thai Baht, which is about $45USD, if you buy them at the gate. We’d recommend buying them online, or through your accommodation if you can, to avoid longer lines. They’re also cheaper if you buy them online, costing 1,390 Baht ($41USD). Both tickets come with a free drink and a Half Moon Party neck strap.


VIP Half Moon Party Tickets

For those looking for a little more comfort in the jungle you can also buy VIP tickets to the festival. These go for double the price at 3000B ($90USD), or 2750B ($82USD) for online, but offer a bunch of extras.

Along with your VIP entrance you also get VIP access to your own bathrooms, 2 free drinks, a Half Moon Party t-shirt, a private bar and a VIP zone next to the main stage. For those that like to party it up, but also have a bit of personal space, this might be a better option if you have the extra cash.


What to Do in Koh Phangan

If you’re heading to the Koh Phangan Half Moon Party, we highly recommend having a few days either before or after to check out the rest of the island. There are so many things to do in Koh Phangan, such as exploring beautiful beaches, fun moto rides and gorgeous jungle hikes. The island receives a lot of tourism from the parties, but there is a lot more to do than just down buckets.

Nang Yuan Island Cruise and Snorkel Tour – You came to Thailand to get out on the water, right?! This tour is a perfect chance to see a bit more of the area than just the bottom of a beer bottle. Check out Nang Yuan Island, a private set of 3 islands connected by a gorgeous sandbar. You’ll spend the day snorkeling, cruising around on a catamaran and enjoying a buffet lunch on the island. 

From Koh Phangan you’re also a short ferry ride over to Koh Tao, where you’ll find some amazing diving, entertaining ‘cabaret’ shows and plenty more partying!

What to Do in Koh Phangan | A Thailand Travel Guide

Wondering what to do in Koh Phangan? Then you’re in luck as this article highlights some of the best events and must-do activities on the island.

Koh Phangan island is one of the most beautiful destinations in Thailand with its golden beaches, turquoise waters, and verdant mountain landscape. While the island is frequented by party-goers for its epic music festivals, much of it is secluded and quiet – particularly during the off-season.

Whether you’re a party-goer or a couple looking for a relaxing getaway, Koh Phangan has it all. It’s also super easy to get to Koh Phangan from the capital Bangkok, so be sure to include this lovely gem when planning your Thailand adventure.


How to Get from Bangkok to Koh Phangan Island

Wondering how to get from Bangkok to Koh Phangan? While there are a few options to make this trip, the cheapest and most authentic experience is by combining a bus from Bangkok and then a ferry to the island. We’re not gonna lie, it’s a long trip, but you’ll save money this way instead of taking the pricier flight option. Traveling by bus is the cheapest option with fares starting at around  $30-$40 USD.

Another night-travel option is the train which will cost you around 1600 Baht ($51 USD). Note that going from Bangkok to Koh Phangan involves several transfers so the journey will last at least 16.5 hours and is a bit more of a pain.



5 Things to do in Koh Phangan, Thailand

From the amazing parties to the picturesque beaches, there is so much to experience on this beautiful island. To ensure you have an unforgettable stay, here are five of the best things to do in Koh Phangan.


1.   Hit Up the Full Moon or Half Moon Party

Let’s start off with the most obvious one, the infamous Full Moon Party. Attracting between 10,000 and 30,000 party-goers each month, this event is one of Koh Phangan’s most popular attractions. Here, people from all over the world gather and party from dusk till dawn. The event takes place each month when the moon is at its fullest on Haad Rin Beach – the southernmost point of the island.

One of the party’s biggest draws is that it’s absolutely free – all you need to do is budget for drinks and you’re good to go! For accommodation near Haad Rin Beach, check out the amazing Phangan Bayshore Resort, one of the best places to stay in Koh Phangan.

If you’re unable to make the Full Moon Party on your trip then the Half Moon Party is a great alternative. Smaller in size, this party generally has a capacity of around 4,000 people. The event takes place one week before and one week after the Full Moon Party at an open-air venue in the forest, north of Baan Tai. The cost to enter is around 1500 Baht ($45 USD). It’s just as crazy as the Full Moon Party, but a little more organized with stages and perfomances.



2.   Snorkel and Dive Around Koh Phangan

Snorkeling and diving are both a favorite activity among tourists visiting Koh Phangan. There’s a lot going on in the waters surrounding the island including the tropical colored fish, coral and other marine life.

Snorkeling is offered on almost any beach situated along the west and north coasts. A popular beach to snorkel at is Mae Haad Beach. Here you can hire snorkel gear for just 100 Baht ($3 USD).

For a fun diving experience suited to all experience levels, visit Sail Rock in the Gulf of Thailand. The rock is just an hour away from Koh Phangan by boat and is one of the best diving spots for an epic diving experience.



3.   Visit Thong Sala Night Market

Night markets are a popular attraction among locals and tourists in Thailand. In Koh Phangan, one of the best places to visit is Thong Sala Night Market. If you’re unsure about what to have for dinner then this is the perfect spot.

At this lively market, you will find an endless array of delicious foods. From traditional Thai food to pizza, falafel, sushi, and some fresh seafood dishes, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your appetite. The Thong Sala Night Market takes place every night and is open until 11 pm and entry is free.



4.   Go Hiking

The entire middle of Koh Phangan is a protected forest reserve and as such, the island is home to some of the best hiking trails in Thailand. Whether you’re into chasing waterfalls or finding the best viewpoints, you’re sure to find the perfect outdoor adventure.

Koh Phangan has a number of noteworthy hikes, the first being Phaeng Waterfall in Than Sadet National Park. This short 20-minute hike follows a steep 250-meter trail towards the island’s largest waterfall. At the base of the waterfall is a large pool where you’ll be able to swim and cool off – perfect to escape the Thailand heat.



For those seeking a challenge, hike up Khao Ra – the highest peak on Koh Phangan. This 3-hour hike begins at Khao Ra Terrace and follows a mixed dirt and jungle path up the mountain. While the hike is fairly strenuous, the views from on top are most certainly worthwhile.


5.   Visit the Koh Phangan Beaches

During your stay in Koh Phangan, a visit to the island’s beaches is a must. While the island is small in size, with a perimeter of around 40 kilometers, it is home to over 30 beaches. The beaches here vary in shape and size but all boast some of the most beautiful shorelines.

Some noteworthy beaches on Koh Phangan include Haad Mae, Haad Rin Nok, Koh Ma, Leela Beach, and Bottle Beach. Regardless of which beaches you end up visiting, you’re guaranteed a relaxing, fun-filled afternoon. A great and cheap way to go beach-hopping is to rent a motorbike which will cost you around 125-300 Baht ($4-10 USD) per day.



Best Koh Phangan Things to Do – Final Thoughts

Regardless of how you travel, one thing that is certain is that you’re bound to arrive at one of Thailand’s most beautiful treasures – a beautiful little island rich in culture and packed with adventures.

If you’re island-hopping in Thailand, be sure to check out this article on what to do in Koh Tao besides diving.

Eating Up Thai Vegetarian Cooking Classes in Chiang Mai

With a metal ladle in one hand, the wok handle in the other and my May Kaidee cooking school menu book tucked under my arm, this is starting feel more like a shoddy one-woman vaudeville act than a cooking class. An overly ambitious swirl of the wok and my peanut sauce goes flying, leaving orange-brown streaks across my notebook. I try to convince our instructor that I’m not usually this clutzy in the kitchen (a lie) and she just shakes her head laughing, assuring me she’s seen worse. And I don’t doubt it.

Nim, our small, but fiery Thai cooking teacher has been working for May Kaidee for many years: long enough to see many spilt sauces and more than a few small fires. The May Kaidee vegetarian restaurant and cooking school, our culinary institution for the day, has been teaching the secrets of Thai cooking for over 20 years in Bangkok and several years at this Chiang Mai location. We’ve been invited to participate in the class by Cookly, a marketplace connecting foodies with chefs and cooking schools to learn and enjoy a unique culinary experience.

At Cookly they believe that learning to prepare authentic meals is the perfect way to dive straight into a new culture. And because we love authentic travel, and eating, it was a match made in heaven. Cookly has classes throughout Southeast Asia in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand and will expand to other regions including Australia, Europe, India and Morocco throughout 2016. For our experience today we chose the well-respected May Kaidee vegan and vegetarian cooking school in Chiang Mai to learn the classic dishes of Northern Thailand.



Our instructor Nim teaches cooking classes every day, sometimes three times a day and usually the same dishes. To say that she could do this with her eyes closed is an understatement. With such expertise comes the right to adapt hundred-year-old dishes to suit your liking. Measurements are flexible, if not downright instinctual. Nim gives us instructions like one “lady hand” (literally the amount of product that the average Thai women could hold in her hand) and fry till fragrant. It’s these instinctual processes that separate her perfect Pad Thai from our decent one. I know that going back to the United States and repeating these meals for my family will be one level further removed from the tastes of Thailand, but I’m determined to do my best and learn the secrets of authentic Thai cooking.



Visiting a Thai Food Market

Our day starts with a trip to the local market. Several other small Thai cooking classes crowd around stalls and I feel grateful that our class includes only Jules and I. Nim shows us the ingredients we’ll be cooking with today. She brings out a pre-organized basket of fresh produce and points to what looks like a green pea no bigger than a blueberry.

“Do you know what this is?” she asks.

After a series of guesses, Nim shakes her head. “Eggplant!”

Jules and I peer into her palm and try to sensitively correct her that this tiny vegetable could not possibly be an eggplant. Just as patiently she insists that she is sure it’s an eggplant.



“Eggplant. Or maybe you called it aubergine?” she asks. Okay, clearly she knows her stuff.

The market lesson continues with a series of herbs that she places in the palm of our hands to smell. Lemongrass. Coriander. Sweet basil. All the smells of our favorite Thai dishes come alive in our palms, as our appetites begin to grow.

As we continue the market tour Nim teaches us Thai versions of ingredients we cook with at home. Kaffir limes and their leaves. Galangal ginger. When we ask if we can simply replace galangal with our regular ‘ol American ginger, she responds with a resounding no! When we ask what we should use if we don’t have galangal, Nim nonchalantly states that we should just skip ginger, but she seems like she really wants to say don’t bother cooking the dish at all. As relaxed as Nim is about cooking, there are certain non-negotiables when it comes to mixing up these classic dishes.



May Kaidee: The Best Chiang Mai Cooking Class

Back at May Kaidee we start preparing our dishes for the day. Today’s lineup includes: fresh chili paste, Tom Yum soup, Green Curry, Papaya salad, peanut sauce, Pad Thai, spring rolls, pumpkin hummus and mango sticky rice for dessert. As we begin cooking we notice that most of the dishes are some combination of same 10 or so ingredients. Two lady hands of onion, tomato and carrot. Two tablespoons of soy sauce, combined light and dark to taste. Brown sugar, juice from two lime wedges, heaping scoops of coconut milk. And yet, somehow, each dish comes out looking and tasting vastly different. Tom Yum has that salty sour taste, where as Pad Thai comes out salty sweet.



Cooking Thai food really is a five senses experience. Simply tasting a dish to assess its quality isn’t enough. Scent, sight and even sound play a huge part. Most recipes we learn today include a step like “fry until fragrant” or “grill until you smell garlic.” Dishes should have a certain color, as well. If your green chili paste isn’t quite green enough, add sweet basil to double the color. Nim assesses our chili paste by its color just as much as its taste. Even sound plays a part. Heat the oil until you hear the sizzle of onion when it hits the wok.


Book a Chiang Mai Cooking Class


Ah yes, the wok. Thais certainly have mastered the one dish meal. But what looks like a simple cooking utensil, actually takes quite a bit of finesse to handle. Our first few attempts see us throwing a lady hand of onion a bit too forcefully into the wok, releasing a retaliation of hot oil spat in our direction. Gracefully sliding the ingredients down the side of the wok yields much better results.



Vegetarian Pad Thai Cook Up

After making homemade peanut sauce, we move on to a personal favorite, Pad Thai. This dish is a staple of Thai street carts and, quite frankly, the perfect 2 am drunk food. We’ve seen an infinite amount of locals whipping up this dish, four plates at a time in great big woks, and it seemed pretty simple. It seemed!

The recipe starts off easy enough, steaming rice noodles until soft. Then add oil, chunks of tomatoes, onion, garlic and cubes of tofu. Fry until fragrant. We are then instructed to push these ingredients to the side of the wok to make room for the egg. The egg is cracked directly onto the hot metal surface and begins to cook immediately. This sounds easier than it is.



My heat is turned up too high and my vegetables immediately start burning. The wok tips from the uneven weight distribution, meanwhile my egg is frying into a crisp. Nim steps in and sorts me out, turning the heat to medium-low and skillfully scrambling the egg. Crisis averted. The noodle and veggie mixture is tasty enough, but the toppings are really what makes the Pad Thai: fresh, crunchy bean sprouts, hot chili flakes and roasted ground peanuts for extra flavor. Yum.


Culture and Cooking: A True Authentic Experience

Throughout the class our cooking is punctuated with singing. In the back of our recipe booklets is a traditional Thai cooking song. Nim has a lovely voice and Jules and I follow along, attempting to mimic, but inevitably butchering almost ever word. After all the cooking the day is wrapped up with dancing, but we’re absolutely stuffed with food. Nim teaches us a traditional Thai dance, middle finger and thumb together, wrists held outwards, arms gracefully gliding up and down. We dance in the middle of the restaurant where other patrons have just sat down for a delicious lunch. We dance despite being absolutely stuffed and we dance until we’re laughing out loud.



The staff send us home with full bellies and take away containers filled with curries, spring rolls and a Pad Thai that tastes just as good eaten cold in bed later that night. And while we may not have mastered Thai cooking from one class, we do have a few simple, tasty meals under our belt, as well as a greater understanding of the Northern Thai cuisine.


Book a Chiang Mai Cooking Class


A big thanks to May Kaidee, the best cooking school in Chiang Mai, and Cookly for inviting us to such a special experience. Jules and I love eating, but as vegetarians, food has always been just as much of a challenge as it is a pleasure while traveling. With a fully vegetarian menu, however, we were able to uninhibitedly nibble, savor and relish every dish and ingredient. Our class gave us a taste (pardon the pun) of traditional Thai culture and we loved learning a new skill that we can take back to our families to give them a taste of Thailand.


4 Tips for Being a Tool in Thailand (What Not To Do)

So you’ve just landed in Thailand on your first trip overseas and you’re pumped! And so you should be, Thailand is a hub of excitement along the backpacking trail and a perfect place for backpacking newbies and seasoned veterans alike.

It’s a country full of adventure, cultural experiences and other travelers, so naturally you’re chomping at the bit to get stuck into it. But before you hit the road you should have a think about how you want to be perceived along the way. Are you going to be the culturally aware traveler, or the tourist who treats this new country like your own personal playground?!

To hell with all that, you’ll do what you want! You’ve earned this trip, so no one is about to tell you what to do. Forget the local’s advice, here’s the only tips for Thailand travel you need!



Treat the Whole Country Like a Beach Resort

You’ve been lazing about the beach for the last week, working on your tan and now it’s time to show it off. Board shorts or bikinis have been your main go-to since you  arrived, and you’re not about to change that for anyone. Rock up to that Wat or sacred temple baring more skin than a Miley Cyrus video clip, the Thai people won’t mind. Surely they’re used it by now.


Ride a Scooter Like It’s a Toy

Back home your country works tirelessly to reduce the road toll by enforcing strict rules like drink driving, wearing a helmet and such. But hey, you’re on holidays and in Thailand now, none of that matters anymore. It’s not like Thailand has the highest road tolls in the world anyway (actually it’s ranked 2nd), so why should you worry.

Forget about protecting that head with a helmet, you know how to handle the chaotic roads of Bangkok or the anarchic give-way system at roundabouts. Take the scooter to a bar, down a dozen shots and then drive home. Surely all those other bandaged travelers just don’t know how to ride as good as you!



Assume No One Speaks English

You’re in a foreign country, so naturally no one is going to understand English. Forget the fact that English speaking tourism has dominated the country for decades and the business savvy Thai are surprisingly handy with their English. If you get to a restaurant and it looks a bit different or funny compared to back home, feel free to bad mouth it willy nilly. Comment on the weird food that the locals are eating while you chow down on some French fries and a Starbucks coffee. If you do need to communicate with Thai people, make sure you speak really loudly. They only understand English at an extremely high volume. Just yell and they’ll understand you.

Skip the Cultural Crap and Get Drunk Everyday

Forget the fact that you’ve come half-way around the world and that you could get drunk everyday back home if you wanted. Now beers and shots are so much cheaper, so what else are you going to spend your money on? A visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok costs 500 baht, that’s at least 8 beers at Happy Hour! Besides, walking around in the sun when you’re hungover sucks, you’d be better off staying in that cool bar and nursing your head with a few extra brews.



If you can’t tell, this article was written in jest, based off some of the outrageous things we saw while traveling through Thailand. Even though this article is a joke (and we ourselves have had our fair share of cheap beers and scooter rides) it’s important to remember that when you come to a foreign country you should be respectful of local customs and laws. After you’ve come and gone, real people with real lives are still here. Do your part and travel responsibly 🙂 


What do you think about our tips for Thailand travel? Got any others? Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Skipping Scuba: What To Do in Koh Tao Besides Diving

If you’re traveling through the Southeast Asia circuit, chances are you’ve bumped into someone who has gotten their diving certificate on Koh Tao. As one of the cheapest diving spots in the world, it’s no surprise that backpackers come to the island in droves for a taste of underwater exploring. We heard mixed reviews on the diving, some complaining that the sheer amount of tourists has ruined the sea life, others raving about their memories swimming with sea turtles. But no matter how they felt about the diving, we heard the same thing from everyone: don’t miss Koh Tao!

Since I’ve already done my diving certificate in Honduras and Jules is waiting for the Philippines to grab his, we were hoping that Koh Tao had more to offer than cheap diving. Fortunately we were in luck. From the gorgeous beaches to the fun nightlife, the island had plenty going on. Here’s what to do in Koh Tao besides diving:

Planning a trip to Southeast Asia and want to know what to pack? Check out our Girls Packing List for Southeast Asia and Guys Packing List to Southeast Asia!

Hire A Water Taxi

Hiring a water taxi is an awesome way to spend the day with a good crew of travel buddies or new friends from your hostel. Our group of 5 Pioneers rented our own private water taxi for 3 hours for 350 baht each (roughly $12). The driver included a big cooler (which we promptly filled with beer) and snorkel masks. We spent the afternoon drinking, snorkeling and cruising around the ocean. Although the drivers have set places they can take you (Japanese Garden Bay, Nang Yuan, etc.), we pretty much directed him where we wanted to go. If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend just having a water taxi take you directly to the gorgeous island of Nang Yuan. But if you want to splurge, setting out on your very own party boat with a cool group of friends is a pretty sweet way to spend the day.

Nang Yuan

Normally we try to avoid popular beaches only accessible by water taxi. Our day trip to Maya Beach (from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the Beach) left us scarred after we were stuck for hours on a small stretch of sand with literally a thousand other tourists. Shudder. So when we were bombarded with offers to go to the nearby island of Nang Yuan, we turned them down. Finally we decided to add it as a stop on our party boat taxi. And thank goodness we did! Nang Yuan is absolutely gorgeous!


“The water is some of the clearest I’ve ever seen on my travels. And that’s saying something because we’ve been to some of the prettiest beaches on earth.”

I recommend having a few hours to spend exploring the area. When you first arrive, resist the temptation to lax out on the white sands. Instead hike up to the lookout point first. This 15-minute climb can be a little steep, but the view is more than worth it. It’s breathtaking. Now that you’re nice and sweaty, head down for a refreshing swim. The water is some of the clearest I’ve ever seen on my travels. And that’s saying something because we’ve been to some of the prettiest beaches on earth. Definitely take a mask for snorkeling and check out some of the gorgeous parrot fish that will come right up to your legs. I recommend checking out the island in the late afternoon and catching a sunset here. It was a bit overcrowded when we first got there around 3:30 but cleared up after an hour. The 100 baht fee to enter the island is well worth it.

Queen’s Ladyboy Cabaret Show

How do I even begin to describe the ridiculousness of this show? If you’re doing the infamous backpacker pub-crawl on the island, they put on a show for the group. We recommend going to the proper show at 10:30pm. The entry is free, but you have to buy a drink when you first arrive. Drinks are on the pricey side, averaging around 150 baht, but definitely worth the price to see the show. Also the drinks are super strong which helps loosen up the audience before the entertainment starts. The show starts out pretty classy. The ladyboys are dressed to the nines- full makeup, wigs and scandalous showgirl outfits. After a drink or two you really have to remind yourself that these ladies are really ladyboys.

“I have to admit, I never thought I’d watch a group of “women” grind up on my boyfriend and just sit there cracking up”

Towards the end of the show, things start to get a little rowdy. They pull up one lucky male from the audience, plop him in a chair in the middle of the stage, take off his shirt and dance all around him. And since we were sitting in the front row, guess who they choose? Yep, Jules! I have to admit, I never thought I’d watch a group of “women” grind up on my boyfriend and just sit there cracking up. At the end of the show, a few other male audience members come on stage for a drag show. Jules and our good friend Gabe volunteered for this, giving us girls a good laugh. Ladies, if you go with male friends or boyfriends, get ready for a great night!

Party On The beach

After the ladyboy cabaret show, you should be sufficiently loosened up for a crazy night ahead. Luckily the show ends right around the same time that the nightlife gets started. From Queen’s Cabaret head directly down to the beach for the festivities. The beach bars usually kick off the party with some fire limbo. Because what better combination is there than drunk people and fire? If you’re feeling rowdy (or just cheap) take advantage of the free bucket deal. Guys who go naked and girls who go topless get a free bucket. Just leave your clothes and your inhibitions at the bar.

The party rages until about 2 am and then all of the sudden the music switches from hip hop and electronic to slow jams. The music change is basically a sign that everyone needs to get the hell out. If you’re gearing for a big night, better save it for Koh Phangan or elsewhere. It seems Koh Tao residents can party hard, but like to get a good night sleep for early dives the next morning. Fair enough!

If you’re looking for some other awesome places to visit around Southern Thailand be sure to check out the our Phuket Backpacking Guide, as well as this great article about things to do in Ao Nang from our buddies at Nomadasaurus.

Phuket Backpacking Guide: More Than Just The Resorts

Flying into Phuket we weren’t sure what to expect from this well known and very well worn tourist destination in southern Thailand. Most of the people I know that have been to Thailand have visited Phuket at some stage on their trip; from long-term budget backpackers to flashy holidayers and romantic honeymooners. So it seemed like a place for everyone and anyone to enjoy, and we were ready for it! With that in mind we entered Phuket with an open mind and a willingness to experience everything that was on offer.

Phuket is an island off the south-eastern coast, which is regarded as one of Thailand’s prime tourism destinations. With its lavish beachside resorts, stunning coastline, adventure activities, local culture and family friendly atmosphere, it’s no wonder herds of people from all over the world pack this spot throughout the year, particularly in high season when the weather is best.



Getting to Phuket

The most common way of traveling from Bangkok to Phuket is taking a flight or a bus. A bus, the more economical of the two, takes over 13 hours and is a long journey, while a flight is only an hour and a half direct from Bangkok. If you’re able to book in advance you can get some really cheap flights and at the expensive of losing a day to travel we would recommend taking a flight to give you more time on this beautiful island.


Traveling Around Phuket

Phuket backpacking has many things on offer, some more exciting than others. For the beach lovers the coasts of Patong, Karon, Kata and Rawii, among many others, are superb. That’s if you can beat the masses to secure a spot. For the adventure seeker there is anything from shooting ranges and Muy Thai training camps to zip-lining and riding ATVs. There are quiet local bars or rowdy international hot spots full of live sport, go-go dancers and plenty of tattoo shops.

And while we’re not here to preach, I would recommend against those monkey shows, elephant rides and Tiger temples. Unfortunately tourist money often trumps animal welfare at these types of attractions.

So far Phuket backpacking might sound pretty touristy, but there are many more cultural activities you can enjoy with a simple tour of the island. If you’re game we recommend hiring a scooter from the abundance of rental stores scattered throughout Phuket. At 200-250 baht ($7-8) a day you really get the best value for money, especially if there are two of you to split the price. One single ride taxi per person could cost upwards of 200-300 baht depending on where you’re going, so if you want to get around and see all the sites, a scooter is easily your best option. Either way, here’s a couple of fun activities to do around Phuket…



Big Buddha

The drive up to Big Buddha is roughly a half hour from Phuket Town, and takes you on a really nice windy backstreet ride through more of rural Phuket. Scale the mountain side and climb to one of the best viewpoints in all of Phuket. You get a picturesque 360 degree look at the island. Aside from a really beautiful viewpoint of the city you can marvel at some stunning Buddhist statues and see the ongoing construction of Phuket’s 45m tall Buddha. For those wanting to pay tribute, or simply be a part of the action, you can purchase your very own construction tile and write a message on it. It’s a nice touch, albeit a little touristy.

As a side note, remember that this is a religious site for the Thai, and that you’re a guest to their country and culture. Ladies you’ll need to cover those shoulders and knees, guys you won’t be asked to, but it’d be respectful to dress appropriately anyway. Although they’ll provide you with shawls to cover up if you forget, don’t be like some of those people we saw show up in just a bikini and board shorts 30km from the beach. And we’re not even kidding!



The Beaches

The beaches of Phuket are stunning, even if they are crowded. That being said, if you’re looking for a quiet spot you can still find one. For some reason most people crowd into the same spots along the beaches of Patong, Karon and Kata, but you can find quiet spots to yourself if you take a walk outside the tourist zone. We’d recommend the long stretch of Karon, where we found isolated sections all along the sand.



Phuket Town Weekend Night Market

Situated about 30mins walk from town, or a short taxi ride, you can get right into the market mix with the Phuket Town Weekend Night Market. It’s a hustle and bustle of cheap knock off clothes, tantalizing smells wafting through the air and people packed to the rafters. Considering how touristy it is, if you’re looking for a bargain buy it’s decently priced compared to other spots on the island.

If you’re not interested in shopping we still recommend checking it out for the food and the experience. Think of it like a Thai version of tapas, where you can walk up and down the aisles picking at loads of different foods and sampling everything. If you’re new to Thailand food it’s a fantastic way to try everything in a night! Don’t forget to try the mango sticky rice for dessert!


Siray Sea Gypsy Village

If you’re staying in Phuket Town there’s a pretty cool half day trip you can check out only 20mins from town. Just 6km from Phuket Town, into nearby Ko Siray, you’ll find the sea gypsies, a small community of people famous for their nomadic wandering throughout the Andaman Sea. Due to development around Phuket they’re not as nomadic as they used to be, instead taking up temporary residence in a small shanty town on the coast of Koh Siray.

It’s an interesting contrast to the flashy resorts and development off the west coast and if you’re going to check them out try and head there earlier in the day when the fisherman are getting back in with their morning catch. Admittedly when we showed up around 1pm most of the men were asleep out the front of house (or drinking), and the women were gambling at the back of the house.



3 Beaches Viewpoint and Promthep Cave

On the west side of the island there are some terrific cliff top spots to take in the scenery and catch the sundown. From 3 Beaches Viewpoint (often called Karon Viewpoint or Kata Viewpoint) you’ll get an awesome view of Kata, Karon and Patong beach all in a row. It’s a pretty amazing sight!

At Promthep Cave Viewpoint you get another perfect look up the northern coastline, with all its jagged coves and peaks on display. This is a particular crowd favorite for sunset, and you can expect to see a lot of people here. The 3 Beaches Viewpoint is considerably quieter in terms of other tourists, and you’ll definitely have a bit more room to move compared to Promthep Cave. Both are free to view, so if you’re not impressed with one, check out the other.

Overall we found Phuket to be a really enjoyable first stop on our year long adventure. Staying in Phuket Town was a nice break from the crowds and we really enjoyed staying at some of the hostels there, like Ananas Hostel and Eco Hostel. If you’re headed to Phuket Town, be sure to check out our review of each place.


Observations from a Backstreet Bangkok Hostel


Sitting in a smelly, stuffy and crowded backstreet Bangkok hostel I take a second to look up from my computer and have a glance around. I scan the room for all the unusual, yet somewhat classic, characters that Bangkok drags in. It feels like no matter where you go in the Thailand there’s always the same combination of people that fill up these grungy budget residences. Same story, same background, just a different name and face. I’m starting to see where the phrase ‘same same but different’ comes from.


 – Not the lady from my observation, but another on the street –


I look to my left. There’s a young attractive Thai lady in the corner, dressed to the nines in 6 inch heels and a tight black dress at 1pm in the afternoon. I wonder what she’s up to, and as I watch her from afar she catches my eye. Even behind the dark tint of my cheap knock off Ray Bans she can tell I’m looking at her; it’s like she can see straight through them. She gives me a wink, I smile politely, and then look away. I don’t want to judge, but I have a feeling I know why she’s here.


I wonder if this is her territory, and then my mind trails off on lots of different thoughts about the intricate politics and etiquette of street prostitution in Bangkok


She goes behind the counter and takes a drink out of the fridge with an air of confidence that tells me she either works here, or has done this a few times. I wonder if this is her territory, and then my mind trails off on lots of different thoughts about the intricate politics and etiquette of street prostitution in Bangkok. I think of the documentary Whores’ Glory about prostitutes in Thailand that we watched before arriving and I’m even more fascinated in knowing her story.

I try not to stare, instead intriguingly observe from afar as a man approaches the woman, who is now casually sipping on a can of Coke and playing a game on her tablet. He’s middle aged, and I’d been watching him before she arrived. He was dotting around on a WordPress dashboard, which is what initially drew my attention. Is he a website creator, an IT guy, or maybe even a blogger? He doesn’t look a like a blogger, but then I started thinking, ‘what does a blogger look like anyway?’



The man casually chats with the Thai lady about a couple of things and shows her some kind of brochure he has in his hand. I try to listen in, but the story jumps all over the place. I get the impression he’s doing a really bad job of picking her up, or he’s working up the nerve to inquire about her potential services. Whatever he’s doing, it doesn’t seem like he’s very good at it. She becomes frustratingly bored of his attempts to get her email address to ‘send her some pictures’ and after a while he gives up and goes back to his computer.


They’re wearing all kinds of obscure garments with big smiles on their faces, which I’m assuming were created by this tailor.


Behind me is one of the ever-available suit tailors of Thailand that constantly line the tourist streets, which for some reason are never operated by Thais. So far the vast majority of them appear to be from Myanmar, India or Nepal. I take a scan of his shop, Smith’s Fashion. It looks pretty standard in terms of street tailors, with its pictures of foreigners proudly displayed in the windows. They’re wearing all kinds of obscure garments with big smiles on their faces, which I’m assuming were created by this tailor. There are also pieces of paper in the shop window with writing from languages all over the world singing the praises of this particular business. You can tell by the presentation that he takes his job very seriously, even if he is a little annoying with his persistence in selling you a suit.

As I round my full circle of the room I spot in the far corner the resident hostel travel operator. She’s a 30-something Thai lady sitting behind a wide glass desk, with a look of extreme boredom on her face. She stares out the front door into the distance and I watch her for a while to see if she’s looking at something in particular or just drifting off. Behind her desk the back wall is full of old Thai tourism advertisements, with faded and tattered locations made famous along the tourist trail.



I wonder how much business she could be making, and whether it’s enough to warrant her time. Surely it must be, or she wouldn’t be doing it, but it doesn’t seem like she pulls in many clients. Just then she snaps out of her trance, gets up abruptly and grabs her purse. Where is she going? Maybe, just like me, she’s suddenly realised how hungry she is. And with that I close my computer once more and head out to get some delicious street Pad Thai.


Have you ever had a backstreet Bangkok hostel moment like this? Tell us all about it and we’ll share the best on our Facebook and Twitter!


Our 5 First Impressions of Thailand

We’ve now officially been in Thailand for three weeks! So why has it taken us so long to get a post up? Well, after spending two years in Latin America, and then a year in Australia, we’re still digesting being in a new place. And we gotta tell you, it’s wonderful and exciting and challenging all rolled into one. It finally feels like we’re traveling again, experiencing new sights, sounds and smells. Jules has been here before (although 8 years ago) and this is my first time in Asia.

We’d been anticipating this trip so much that it almost didn’t feel real when we first arrived. Not until we entered noisy Phuket Town, ate our first plate of Pad Thai, and felt the sticky air envelop our skin, did Thailand start to come alive. Although the crowds of tourists can be frustrating and the motos make it almost impossible to cross the roads, we feel a sense of ease here. We can’t wait to continue exploring the country, but for now here are our 5 first impressions of Thailand.




I’m actually pleasantly surprised about how good the food is here. Don’t get me wrong; I love Thai food. But often times foreign food in the US or Australia is different to the food in that particular country. Mexican food, for example, is very different in the states than it is in Mexico. So I was stoked to find out that Thai food at home is actually pretty authentic compared to the amazing plates we’ve been served up so far.

In saying that, the food in Thailand is still a more delicious version of the dishes we’d order at our local Thai joint in Melbourne. Not only that, but there are so many more vegetarian options! In many parts of Latin America, the concept of vegetarianism isn’t fully understood. Here they understand it right off the bat, and no meals arrive with chunks of chicken or sprinklings of ham. We’ve been stuffing ourselves with Pad Thai, fried rice, spring rolls and endless types of curries and soups. Although the food can be a bit spicy (curry in particular), we’ve learned to say “mai ped” no spice, which usually ends up being the perfect amount of spicy. I still have my burrito cravings from time to time, but we haven’t gotten sick of Thai for breakfast, lunch and dinner yet!





Looking back at my packing list, I don’t know what I was thinking. I packed three sweaters and a pair of blue jeans. I should have just packed a bikini and called it a day. It’s fairly hot and definitely humid. Luckily we’ve spent the past couple weeks around the Southern Coast which has been surprisingly breezy. It’s also been a bit hazy here, which is a nice change from Australia where it felt like the harsh sun was always beating down on us. My hair on the other hand has completely rebelled and turned into a giant ball of untamable frizz. Oh well.





After spending years in Catholic Latin America, where Jesus stickers were posted on everything from tuk-tuks to children’s lunch boxes, we’re enjoying a change of culture. We’ve only been here for a few weeks so we’re still learning about the Buddhist and Muslim religious influences, but it’s super interesting. Sprit houses, miniature temples set up to appease the spirits, dot the busy streets of Phuket. In the South women in hijabs and burqas drive around on motor scooters and sell delicious Muslim curry at the night markets. It’s fascinating to see these religions co-exist side by side. One day we went to visit the giant Buddha, a popular religious site in Phuket, and then later that day heard the call to prayer in a small Muslim community.





It’s no wonder Thailand has become such a popular tourist spot, because it is gorgeous. The humid weather gives the countryside lush greenery. Along the coast, limestone rock formations tower over the blue water. I have the luxury of being on the back of the motorbike while Jules drives us around, leaving me plenty of time to soak up the landscape. The interior of the islands are thick with bush and trees, perfect for exploring. The beaches are quite pretty, although the nicest ones seem to be overrun with tourists. We’re hoping to get off the beaten track soon to find some undiscovered coastline.





As most of our travels have been in Latin America, it’s hard not to compare the two. In Latin America we could speak the language, which made traveling in general way easier. In fact, I think we took for granted how many advantages and opportunities were available to us by speaking the language. We were invited into houses to chat for hours over tea. We joined impromptu soccer games and went to children’s birthday parties. Knowing Spanish was our key into so many authentic and awesome situations.

Here we’re back at square one. Which is good, in a way, because it’s reminding us how most backpackers travel. Taking local transport is much more difficult and we can’t haggle prices as well. Thanks to the influx of TEFL jobs in the region, most locals that work in the tourism industry know at least some English and our grasp of the Thai language is growing a bit with every conversation. Communication is still difficult though, but it reminds us of one key aspect of traveling that we maybe started missing in Latin America – getting outside our comfort zone.




Travel bloggers have a bad habit of romanticizing the places they visit. So when I say that the people of Thailand are some of the kindest that I’ve met in all of my travels, that may seem like an exaggeration. But it’s not. In our short time here we’ve been met with such a warm sense of hospitality. Even in touristy areas where our faces would just blend in with all the other backpackers, locals have been so polite.

Small things like thanking us for looking at their menu even if we don’t eat at their restaurant, or apologizing profusely when they accidentally overcharge our meal by a dollar. Of course there are nice people and mean people in every country, but so far we’ve had overwhelmingly positive experiences. They don’t call it the Land of Smiles for nothing!


Have you traveled through The Land of Smiles? What were your first impressions of Thailand? Drop us a comment below or come find us on Facebook or Twitter!


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