Island Wars: Where to Stay in Thailand

White sand beaches. Crystal blue waters. Green hills. Insane parties every night. Sound like paradise? It is, kind of.

The islands in Thailand’s south are notorious as romantic getaways and places to party until you drop. This is a gorgeous part of the world and most islands do offer, in one form or another, a bit of serenity, luxury and relaxation.

But a lot of other things go on there, too.

Koh Phi Phi is a particularly big draw for the backpacker set and it’s easy to see why. It’s fairly inexpensive – usually less than $15 a night for accommodations, the beaches are gorgeous (and going topless is allowed here, if you’re into that kind of thing) and there are plenty of day trips and booze cruises to keep you occupied during your stay. The bar scene is almost overwhelming, with establishment after establishment offering up drink deals and promoting their nightly parties, whether you’re looking for live rock music, a rave on the beach, or a beer pong tournament.

Photos of Ko Phi Phi Le, Ko Phi Phi Don
This photo of Ko Phi Phi Le is courtesy of TripAdvisor

But all the tourism has affected Phi Phi. Yes, it’s still pretty but it’s disheartening to hang out and see people littering the shoreline with empty beer and wine cooler bottles or seeing them bob along in the water. It takes just a little bit of the charm off of this paradise to see litter being thrown everywhere and be perpetually surrounded by drunk partiers.

Koh Phi Phi has its good points, including Monkey Beach, where you will find yourself surrounded by monkeys who are not shy about trying to steal away your food and drinks when you’re not looking. But for a more versatile island experience, Koh Phangan is a better bet.

The island is most often associated with the Full Moon Party and that certainly is a draw. But Koh Phangan is big enough that you can fully indulge in all the partying and debauchery, but still find quiet beaches to hang out on instead.

Haad Rin and Haad Yuan are two of the best known beaches on the island. Haad Rin is where the Full Moon partying takes place and is packed around the time of the full moon. It’s not the best place to stay, because while it is convenient for stumbling home at night, the odds of getting your things stolen from your guest house are high and you don’t want to find yourself in that position – puts a bit of a damper on the stay.

You can go diving and snorkeling on quieter parts of the island and find that balance of getting crazy and relaxing that everyone hopes a Thai island vacation will bring.

Koh Samui is another popular island, though it’s often described as being over developed and over commercialized. Many people stay at a resort on Samui and take a boat over to Phangan for the night of the Full Moon Party.

An alternative to the extreme tourism on these lovely and lively islands is Koh Samet. This island is only two hours from Bangkok, and is popular among Thai travelers. There’s a relaxed vibe here, with less crazy nightlife and more getting back to basics.

Whatever you choose, it’s hard to go wrong with a vacation on a Thai island, right? Decide for yourself, then come see what all the fuss is about!

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