Travel writer, Kirsty Stuart, shares her advice on how to avoid the crowds in Thailand and discover a quieter side to island life on Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan.
Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan are located off the eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand and are best known for their clear blue waters and pristine beaches, which continue to draw in both backpackers and families from all over the world.
If you want to avoid the crowds on these popular islands you should first consider the time of year you visit. The best time to visit weather-wise is usually between December and March, but of course this is exactly when you’ll find both islands particularly busy. If you want to steer clear of these crowds, consider arriving in April, May or June when it’s the dry season but also before the start of the European summer holidays.
Either way you’ll find that both islands remain relatively busy all year through. Many visitors however never venture beyond the main drag of backpacker bars and internet cafes to explore what the less crowded regions have to offer. Whatever time of year you visit, if you’d rather avoid the crowds while still enjoying a friendly beachside atmosphere, check out some of these alternatives to the backpacker party resorts instead.
Avoiding the crowds on Koh Samui
Lamai and Chaweng are the most famous of the beaches on Koh Samui and these can get incredibly crowded in high season – particularly the bold and brash Chaweng. If you want to relax in peace on the beach and avoid the typical backpacker scene in Koh Samui, then your best bet is to head to either Mae Nam or Taling Ngam for your idyllic beach retreat.
Situated in the north of the island, Mae Nam boasts a long stretch of sandy white beach set back so far from the road that disturbance from even the odd sounds of traffic is rare. Here you can relax under a palm tree or swim in the clear calm sea with as many or as little distractions as you please. A number of restaurants, bars and cafes can be found sprawled across Mae Nam and while it’s popular with the more relaxed backpacker crowd, it’s still a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Lamai and Chaweng.
Alternatively, you could head west for the little fishing village of Taling Ngam. Enjoy the pristine beach and still waters in relative seclusion or explore the untouched lakes and marshes inland, surrounded by lush green jungle. While there are a few higher end resorts and the odd restaurant dotted along the shore, Taling Ngam has not experienced the kind of development that many areas on Koh Samui have (yet), and so it’s perfect for taking time out to relax and enjoy the jaw-dropping sunsets.
Ditching the partygoers in Koh Pha Ngan
While this smaller island is also known for its coconut trees and long stretches of sandy white beaches, it’s the full moon parties in Haad Rin that have given the island its notoriety amongst travellers. If partying ‘til dawn while drinking from a bucket of vodka sounds like your idea of a holiday from hell, here are a just a few ways to ditch the partygoers and go off and explore what island life has to offer.
Haad Son is a quiet beach scattered with just a few resorts where you’ll be welcomed by clear waters that make up a small bay. This is the perfect place for those that want to avoid the crowds but still want to mingle with the odd traveller or local and perhaps indulge in a water-based activity or two. Particularly great for snorkelling, Haad Son is home to a live coral reef with vibrant corals and awe-inspiring tropical marine life, all of which lies just seventy metres from the shoreline. Because of this Haad Son provides an ideal introduction to those interested in scuba diving and snorkelling in a secluded and idyllic setting.
If it’s more energetic activities you’re after then you may prefer a trip up to Chalok Lum in the north of the island. There are dive schools and ample snorkelling opportunities as well as trails to climb and waterfalls to visit. While larger than some of the quieter areas on the island, Chalok Lum is pefect for those looking to enjoy beach life as well as livelier activities, while still avoiding the party crowd. It’s also great for food lovers; Chalok Lum is a busy fishing port and the seafood here is arguably the best in Thailand in terms of freshness, variety and taste.
Whatever time of year you choose and wherever you decide to stay there will be always be a sprinkling of friendly locals and fellow travellers to share the idyllic beaches of Koh Samui and Ko Pha Ngan with. However as long as you stay well away from the heavily overcrowded areas that are famed for their nightlife, you’ll be sure to find your own piece of paradise to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery from.
Kirsty Stuart left full time employment last year in a perilous bid to write more and travel more. Her plan worked and these days she enjoys doing just that while also helping other writers and free-spirited entrepreneurs do the same via her website: Freelance Writers Online.
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