The coastal town of Newcastle was our last overnight stop before arriving back in Sydney, and although we had heard the beaches were something special, we had still completely underestimated them. Arriving late we checked into the YHA, it being too dark to take in our surroundings. The next morning we were dazzled by the beauty of the coastline!
What do you want? Actually, no need to answer – whatever it is, just head to the Weekend Market. Approaching Chatuchak Market (or ‘JJ’) from Mo Chit station can be slightly intimidating; sprawling stalls line the edge of the park from the very bottom of the BTS steps to the entrance of the main market, and hoards of hungry shoppers swarm to find the cheapest knick knacks.
These stalls outside the official boundaries of the market are open longer and can be fantastic value – the vendors do not pay to be inside the market and prices often reflect this. Our favourite purchases here have been small leather bags for 80 baht (about £1.70) and white work shirts for 100 baht (about £2.10).
The market itself is a shopping heaven for some (Sarah), a disorientating sauna with no escape for others (Charlotte)! Widely known as the largest market in Thailand, and one of the biggest open air in the world, it is a huge maze. Although there are maps that attempt to help tourists find their way around the 27 sections, prepare yourself for getting lost anyway, and never seeing the same stall twice!
Yoga in Koh Samui was at the top of our must-do list, so when we became friends with Betti, a yoga teacher on the island, we had the perfect opportunity. Originally from Germany, Betti trained in India when travelling around Asia and now works at one of Koh Samui’s prestigious yoga retreats. Hearing that we’d been doing some yoga back home, Betti invited us to join one of her hatha flow classes for free.
We jumped at the chance and whilst we’d had to check out of our hostel at 8am to make it to the class, had got lost and then turned up very sweaty with our big rucksacks, Betti had us finding our inner poise pretty quickly, aided by the sounds of the waves as we overlooked the ocean.
We cannot recommend this class highly enough. It’s suitable for people of all abilities and Betti offers variations for more advanced students. If you have the time and money, the resort itself looks beautiful and is an absolute sanctuary.
We met up with Betti the following evening at Bo Phut Farmer’s market where she was very amused to see the effect her class had had on our out-of-practise limbs; she definitely encourages you to push yourself to the best of your abilities!
Find out more about the stunning Vikasa Yoga Retreat, here.
Charlotte & Sarah x
Koh Samui is the island for us. Just a bus ride from the pier to our hotel was enough time for us to be completely smitten with the place. Firstly, it’s beautiful. There’s the mix of jungle and beach that is prevalent throughout the Thai islands, but with the curving hills and shadowing cliffs, a postcard view is almost guaranteed with each twist of the road. Yet alongside the flora and fauna is a modern city vibe. We’d have hated this except that Samui has maintained a very Thai feel and appearance. The island offers the luxury of boutique shops, bars to suit every type of crowd and urban coffee shops, whilst with a knowing turn in the right direction you can be amidst the local market throng, engulfed by percussion music.
Even in the busiest areas of Cheweng the beach is still clean and stunning, whilst the capital, Na Thon, offers quality clothes and food markets. The many yoga retreats that you pass are a constant reminder of the serenity of Samui, but if you ever fancy a party, you need not look far. Our friends who live here explained that their love for Samui stems from its mix of characters, religions, scenery, amenities and lack of judgement, describing it as ‘a place to be who you are’. There seem to be fewer scams around and everything (except the taxis) is more reasonably priced.
Just to confirm, it’s love. We’ve ended up staying in total for 10 nights, enamoured by each region of Koh Samui…
Na Thon: Retail Therapy
As the main pier for Samui, Nathon sees hundreds of backpackers travel in and out, but rarely stop, as they head straight for the Chaweng party scene. It’s a small town but the main attraction for us were the affordable markets full of patterned trousers and elephant shaped trinkets. Whilst staying with a couch surfing host, we saw a Chinese festival take place, where the streets of Nathon were full of performers who danced, threw fireworks and pushed metal spears through their cheeks! We also had a full body massage that left us sleepy for the rest of the day, before we feasted on fantastic Thai meals whilst watching the sun disappear into the sea.
Chaweng, though the main tourist area, had us returning again and again; the brightness of the beach, the bars and the souvenir shops drew us in like magpies. There are world class resorts side by side along the front of the bay, but affordable hotels are also easy to find along the main Chaweng Beach Road for about 800 baht a night (between two). The main side street had clubs with dancers on different levels, creating waves of pumping bodies. We spent an unforgettable night dancing around, a drink in one hand and our fake Havaianas flip flops clasped in the other. Continue reading
Whilst in Krabi town, we met loads of people who were just passing through for one night. The backpackers we spoke to seemed to see it as an opportunity to touch base with home, catch up on some sleep, and avoid spending too much money. It is a midway point between the Andaman Coast and the Gulf of Thailand, as well as being perfectly placed for those doing visa runs to Malaysia or flying to Bangkok. It has large ports and an airport, naturally making it a transport hub. Lonely Planet pretty much reiterated this, calling it ‘a necessary transit link’ – such an injustice!
We’re too scared of the motorbikes, the weather was overcast and we blew the budget back in Koh Phi Phi, so we rented bicycles. It was a chance to have some guilt-free fun and get some exercise after the buckets of noodles we’ve been scoffing.
Obviously it was mayhem. Terrified of the roads and constant beeping, irrelevant road markings and traffic lights, along with the scooters that came head on at us down the wrong side of the road, we boarded the pavement pretty sharpish. Spending a good 20 minutes walking alongside our bikes, weaving between market stalls, cats and hurried Thai people who found us very amusing, we eventually confronted our fears and took to the road.