Thursday, December 8th, 2016

On Islands, Snobbery, and Koh Phayam

81

Koh Phayam Restaurant

“I don’t think the bags will fit,” I tell the motorbike driver apologetically.

“No, it’s okay.”

“No, I mean, we tried before and it was too big–”

“No, okay now.”

I had called our lodging ahead of time and asked about transporting our large wheeled backpacks, affectionately nicknamed The Turtle and The Hippo. I had read that there were no cars on this island, only motorbikes, and I wanted to make sure that we would be able to transport our bags.

“It’s no problem at all,” the resort owner had told me over the phone. I took that to mean that there would be simple tuk-tuks or wagons for the motorbikes; instead, he meant that these drivers were simply more determined than others.

The motorbike driver has actually fit Mario’s enormous, 85-liter wheeled suitcase in front of him on the motorbike. There’s just barely enough room for Mario to hop on the back, his day pack extending behind the seat. I follow suit, my huge backpack in the front and my big daypack on my back, gripping the sides of the motorbike tightly.

And we’re off! The paved roads are smooth — but after two minutes, they turn into dirt paths covered with twisted tree trunks, potholes, occasionally planks running over chasms. My driver weaves from side to side, almost at a 45-degree angle. I am freaking out and sweating profusely, begging a higher power to get us to the resort in peace.

Five minutes later, it’s all over. When I get off the motorbike at our ecolodge, my face is white and I can’t stop trembling. Mario gives me a big grin.

Why had I come here?

My first trip to Thailand took me to Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Railay, and Koh Chang – all quite popular and very much discovered islands and beach towns. It would be good for me, both for my own benefit and for my career’s benefit, to see a less-developed sign of Thailand.

On this trip, I wanted to visit some developing islands, the kinds that had infrastructure but were much less visited than the perennial favorites. After poring over descriptions of islands, I eventually settled on Koh Phayam, an island off the coast of Ranong Province near the Myanmar border.

Checking into our bungalow at PP Land Ecolodge made me sigh with happiness. The sound of the waves, warm breezes, sunshine, a hammock of our own – this was the southern Thailand that I had fallen in love with years ago, and I had missed it so much.

Our bungalow was simple and lovely, one of few places on the island with 24-hour electricity. The promised wifi didn’t work whatsoever, but we had phone signal and could tether.

PP Land Beach

The resort’s beach, though, wasn’t what we expected. It was filled with debris – not garbage, but enough branches and broken shells to know that it wasn’t being cared for. In the empty beaches next to the resort, though, the beaches were covered with trash, which inevitably made its way into the ocean. The waves were calm but unusually foamy, as if there were soap in the water.

PP Land’s beach seemed good in theory, but once we saw it in person, we didn’t feel comfortable venturing into the water.

That said, there was far more to Phayam than the isolated corner where our resort stood, and we set off on a motorbike. Mario wielded the crazy roads with aplomb as I squeezed my eyes shut.

We began our exploration at Long Beach, the main beach of Koh Phayam. The maps we had seen made it look like the beach was covered with guesthouses, one after the other. The actual beach looked nothing like that. It was empty, the few guesthouses hidden in the forest just off shore, signs reading “Electricity 6-10 PM.”

Long Beach Koh Phayam

It was high season. Where were all the people?

And then we saw the jellyfish.

Long Beach was absolutely covered with beached jellyfish, a new one every few steps, most of them the size of small dinner plates, some of them the size of hubcaps. Here’s one with Mario’s flip-flop for scale.

Mack Daddy Jellyfish

Three girls ventured into the surf. I shrank back. No way was I getting close!

Back inland, we went exploring on the motorbike.  While the roads surrounding PP Land were rough and challenging, most of the main roads on the island were decently paved.

There were a few bars near the beach and the ferry drop-off, but other than that, this was an island for locals, not visitors. Here we found a very friendly atmosphere, with virtually every islander stopping what he or she were doing to turn and wave to us.

Late in the day, Mario and I took a few random turns when searching for another beach, rode to the bottom of a steep hill, and came upon this peaceful spot.

Hidden Cove Koh Phayam

Clear cerulean waters. Only two other people. No buildings. No trash. No jellyfish.

I walked into the water and submerged myself. After two beaches that were unswimmable, finally slipping into the cool water here was a moment of perfection on Phayam.

Why had I REALLY come here?

Hindsight is a gift. Writing most of my posts chronologically and being so far behind in time has given me the chance to look back and analyze my travels.

It took me a long time to realize it, but then it hit me – I was doing what I thought I had to do. There is a lot of snobbery in travel, period, but especially so in regions like Southeast Asia that were once considered the domain of serious travelers only and are now popular with new and inexperienced travelers.

That snobbery increases tenfold when it comes to Southeast Asian islands and beaches. When it comes to islands and beaches, especially in a region as popular as Thailand’s Andaman Coast, a hierarchy quickly emerges. Islands like Phuket and Koh Phi Phi are met with sneers; the “hidden” islands get all the praise.

Resources – and this ranges from guidebooks and online travel guides to travel blogs, travel literature, and the sixth level of hell (also known as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum), whether they explicitly say so or strongly hint — perpetuate the idea that the quality of a Southeast Asia beach destination is inversely proportional to its number of visitors.

In other words, the more popular the beach destination, the worse it is; the more undiscovered the place, the better it is.

Kate in Koh Phayam

It’s not that simple. Most popular places are popular for a reason, whether it’s Venice or the Grand Canyon. Phranang Beach in Railay is clogged with beachgoers, especially in peak season, but the natural setting is second to none.

Some places, granted, have taken tourism too far. If you look at photos Koh Phi Phi now and 20 years ago, or if you just smell the constant stench of sewage in the air due to the overstressed plumbing, you’ll see that they developed the island too much. That said, Phi Phi is lots of people’s favorite place, and though it isn’t mine, I had a great time there a few years ago.

I ended up on Phayam because people described it with enthusiasm and nostalgia. This was how Thai islands used to be. This was an island that was holding on to its integrity instead of commercialism. Real travelers had to experience an island like this, or else they hadn’t experienced the real Thailand.

I actually let this get to me. I let the opinions of other people make me feel subconsciously bad about my travel choices.

The truth is that Koh Phayam is far too basic an island for me and one nice, out-of-the-way beach doesn’t make up for the fact that I’d never swim at the other beaches.

I don’t regret visiting Koh Phayam at all, because it taught me that I don’t really like this kind of destination. When I’m hanging out in a beach town, I want to be able to find a café or two where I can enjoy a latte and free wifi. I want to be able to get out of a ferry without having to scale a crumbling wall, Bear Grylls-style.

I completely understand why people like Koh Phayam and similarly basic islands. It can be nice to take a break from civilization, strumming your guitar or ukelele and getting to be part of a community of beach bums. As for me, I like electricity. I like wifi. I like being able to work all day and take breaks swimming in the ocean and relaxing on soft sand. I do enjoy visiting pristine, untouched islands – but I prefer to do that on a day trip.

Perhaps that’s why my favorite Southeast Asia beach destinations are Koh Lanta in Thailand and Boracay in the Philippines.

Koh Lanta isn’t nearly as popular as Phuket or Koh Samui, but nobody would call it undiscovered. It’s an island with well-developed tourism for all budgets, filled with tourists (many of them sunburned Swedes) and Western comforts. And I adore it there.

Boracay, on the other hand, is incredibly discovered and is teeming with hotels, shops and businesses. That said, the southern neighborhood of Angol is much quieter and has a great ambiance — but amenities are just steps away from the beach. I’m only two days into my time here, but I adore it here as well.

Both destinations charge fees for the cleaning of the islands, and it shows. The beaches on Lanta and Boracay are beautiful and incredibly clean.

That’s what I love in a beach destination. Nice beaches, connectivity, and decent amenities. And that doesn’t make my travels any less “authentic,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. A barely-discovered island is not the be-all and end-all of Southeast Asian travel. I’m glad that Phayam taught me that.

Do you think less-discovered islands are better? Share away!

Comments

81 Responses to “On Islands, Snobbery, and Koh Phayam”
  1. I couldn’t agree more!! When places are touristy it’s almost always for a good reason, like Interlaken or even Goa. It’s fun to get off the beaten track IF it’s what you’re craving, but I hate the one-upping travelers sometimes do. Goa is the most touristy, westernized place in India and I’ve been here a year with no plans of heading out!

  2. Anna says:

    This isnt so much about islands (I’m not much of a beach person), but I do love wild, off the beaten bath places – in Europe. Because you can always rely on them to be clean, healthy/sanitary and civilized, even if they’re completely ignored by travel guides. In fact that’s my dream getaway.

  3. Caitlyn says:

    Love the nicknames for the backpacks… mine’s known as the Beast 🙂

  4. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this post, it sums up exactly what I felt late last year when visiting a Thai island for the first time. My boyfriend was insistant we get off the beaten path and as a result, we ended up on an island that was not very touristy, granted, but it also had none of the amenities I was hoping for, not least a beach that was actually nice, or a cocktail bar! It’s quite difficult to get the balance right, I find – tourist masses can really spoil what should be an amazing experience, and the absence of tourists can enhance a relatively simple experience. For example, I really did not enjoy the Hagia Sophia when I finally got around to visiting it because of the mass tour groups that destroyed the ambiance and prevented me being able to see anything. Meanwhile I loved visiting smaller towns in Turkey with monuments of less important that felt, however, much more authentic. But that equation doesn’t always apply ……

  5. Sarah says:

    It’s easy to fall in travel snobbery in SEA, especially when you’ve been around the block a few times. Getting a good wake up call like this is what makes travellers grow… Not just as travellers but as people.

  6. Shaun says:

    I can’t stand travel ego…. just because your didn’t like one place or think another has been over run with tourists doesn’t mean someone else won’t enjoy it. In my own experience, off the beatin path happens naturally, I don’t look for it.

  7. I agree that many places are “famous” for a reason – but it really depends on where you go. Comparing it to Tenerife (Canary Islands), where I grew up – I purposely avoid the “famous beaches” (Tenerife has a reputation similar to Phuket for most!) and head to the off the beaten path. Then again, I know where to go because I’m a local. I understand why others would go to the more touristic beaches – which have the advantage of being safe, easily accessible and probably have a cute beach bar serving cold drinks.

    The point is – What suits one person doesn’t particularly have to suit another one.

  8. Couldn’t agree more. Traveling through SE Asia you hear this everywhere. People would tell me about deserted untouched virgin islands that were strikingly beautiful. I’m sure they’re stunning but um, I’m a solo traveler so what am I going to do for days on end at a castaway-esque beach by myself?!

  9. Sarah says:

    Loving the posts on SEA and this one especially was great food for thought for me. I am currently traveling through Mexico a Central America but SEA is quite possibly the next destination starting late this year. As I’ve not bee there yet I’m trying to gather s much info as possible and coincidentally my travel partner and I just had a conversation about going to “popular” spots over the off then beaten track spots. I think there’s pros and cons to both obviously and we like to ty for a balance but as you said the tourist spots are popular for a reason!

  10. “I actually let this get to me. I let the opinions of other people make me feel subconsciously bad about my travel choices.” –> I admire your courage for admitting this. =) Indeed, it is you, the traveler, in the end, who can really judge whether your choice was good or bad. I believe both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations can give authentic experiences to travelers.

    Cheers to more adventures!

    • Alexandra says:

      Agreed Claire! That sentence resonated with me too. I’ve found myself being influenced by the same mentality. Needed reminding of this right now actually as I’m in Colombia.

  11. Karisa says:

    This makes me miss Thailand so much! 🙂 I love every Thai island I’ve been too for different reasons. I loved my resort in Phuket because my mom and sister were with me. I loved my hippie bungalow on Koh Mak because it was so low key and Songkran was happening all around. I loved Phi Phi because it was my goodbye to Thailand. I’ve been to the “undiscovered” islands (Like non-Thais don’t go there) and the huge, flashy famous ones too. I love them all! But I totally agree with you that wifi makes me love an island a bit more!! 😉

  12. Clare says:

    I really enjoyed this post, because it’s so honest – one of the reasons I love your blog. It’s taken me a long time to be brave enough to say out loud that I have no intention of ever being a digital nomad even though I write a travel blog – but I don’t care any more. Life’s too short for snobbery, be it travel related or otherwise. Do what you want, go where you want. And never be afraid of being honest about what makes you happy because you think others will judge you (a lesson that is sometimes hard to learn). Thank you, Kate!

  13. Angela says:

    I am not usually an island hopper myself, nor a beach person. Mainly because beach fronts are over populated. I like interacting with locals and local economies while traveling and now giving money to the big chain hotels. I am not opposed to such travel, but I would prefer that when I am older and need more of a break from life than an adventure or fun journey.

  14. Laura says:

    I don’t have experience with SE Asia, but your post really resonated with me when thinking about travel generally. I love travel blogs and articles and guidebooks (and probably read way too many of them), but the whole comparison aspect of traveling definitely gets to me sometimes – feeling like there’s a “right” way to travel, and if you’re not doing it that way or loving what everybody else is, you’re doing it wrong. Always good to have a reminder that you should go your own way sometimes!

  15. Shardae says:

    I definitely agree that places are popular for a reason. I often feel like an inauthentic traveller because I love Europe so much and it seems everybody and anybody has “done” Europe. But if you love it, you love it. After all, travel is all about chasing your dreams and living a life that makes you ridiculously happy, and whether that’s in Paris or one of Thailand’s famous islands or a beach nobody has ever heard of then, as long as you get what you want from it, then I don’t think it matters. You’re no more or less a traveller for loving the popular spots.

  16. Oh I am so glad you wrote this! I was feeling bad for putting all the dirty tourist spots in SE Asia on my itinerary and felt like it would reflect on how new I am to the whole thing. Like you say people get snobby about it, but I thought the same as you, they must be touristy for a reason. This goes the same for cities in Europe – Yes I will spend a weekend in Paris because in the less touristy little town of unknown there is F all to do!
    Your photos of Boracay look stunning and it’s definitely got me thinking about putting Phillipines on my list!

  17. Great post.

    Any island, or destination in the world for that matter, that you love or want to go to is the best for you. Not what someone else thinks is best. Don’t get me wrong, sharing your opinions and tips with other people is great but ultimately you should do what you want and go where you like.

  18. Awesome revelation about travel! I get frustrated with the constant one-upping travelers who seem intent on discrediting others’ experiences. If you’re doing something and are mostly excited about the chance to tell others about later, you are probably not doing something really worthwhile. And really, sometimes maybe the small island without a tourist population, just living their daily life, don’t really want a bunch of snobbish backpackers invading just to use their life to one up some kid in a hostel in Bangkok. Thanks for offering the alternative philosophy here!

  19. Lucy says:

    Loved this post, completely agree with the travel snobbery you see so much when backpacking. It’s hard not to give in to the pressure to be ‘authentic’ and a proper traveller – I’m on my second 6 month trip and this time around I’m finding it a bit easier to stick to what I know I like, whilst still being adventurous.

    Also – your glowing reviews of Koh Lanta have inspired us to go there in May!
    https://195days0fsummer.wordpress.com/

  20. Katie says:

    I think there has to be a combination of the two. As you say, touristy places are touristy for a reason, but it is also possible to tire of the crowds. I suppose one solution is to visit touristy places at the start or end of the tourist season.

    But I also like to visit the ‘slightly discovered’ places. A few years ago, I visited the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, which are already a hotspot for backpackers and other tourists, and has a good tourist infrastructure. While we were there, we stayed on a number of islands: some with 24 hour electricity and hundreds of guests; some where there were only 4 or 5 of us, and a couple of hours of power a day. As a general rule, I prefered the less visited islands. We spent more time with the families we were staying with, and had the beaches largely to ourselves. They were the less visited corners of the generally touristy region, and I loved them! As with everything, I feel like variety is the spice of life. 🙂

    But I know what you mean about the snobbery. I think it’s good to be able to hold up your hand and admit that, actually, you quite like the touristy places. Why not?! One of my favourite places is London’s Southbank. Very touristy, but I could spend days there!

  21. As soon as a once ‘undiscovered’ island becomes too popular it loses a tiny bit of its magic. It’s sad, but true. It’s also a bit psychological I think. As egocentric as it may sound, the feeling of knowing you’re only one of a few that actually know about wherever you are, does feel so good. The world is still okay though. there’s still so many places to discover, fall in love with, and move away from, but where is all of this leading? Arg I’m getting too philosophical again. Great post Kate, like always!

  22. Cristina says:

    Hi Kate!

    I went to Thailand for the 1st time this past December with a cousin of mine. I have been to 11 countries on my own but it was the 1st trip for my cousin and I was keen on her enjoying it. She had such high expectations from images she had researched, blogs she had read, books she had bought! I was happy for her but having been to Bali and seeing some of the trash that unfortunately can accumulate on the side of a road or near a beach, I advised her that not all is as it is presented online. We had a good time. I found myself loving the grittiness of Bangkok but I absolutely cannot forgive trash that has been left on beaches or even in the so called protected areas like Phang Nga Bay. We actually stayed in a quiet island called Koh Naka Yai. It has one resort and one village. I thought we wouldn’t see any trash here. Not a chance. We walked to a beach that we saw on the island map. It was about an hour walk in the jungle, it was raining, we felt like we were in an episode of “Lost”. I was so happy. I thought “Yes! I’m venturing of the path. This is going to officially make me a backpacker!”. Lo and behold we get to one of the dirtiest beached I have ever seen with broken Jack Daniels bottles. No one in sight but trash all over the place. I took tons of photos and will be blogging about it. We headed back to our resort listening to the rain and the sound of the jungle. Got a great work out and ordered double the Pad Thai that night! It just goes to show that when traveling, it’s a 50-50 chance. You can have a great time in a touristy area or vice-versa. Same goes for the off-the-beaten track option. But in the end make the most of it and have twice the Pad Thai to make up for it!

  23. Renuka says:

    Not just islands, any less discovered place is better than the popular ones. Of course, a place needs to have some buzz and vigor so that people find it inviting, but if it is less frequented, it remains clean and unspoiled too.

  24. Jennifer says:

    This is very well said, Kate. The fact of the matter is that people have different travel styles. We all like different places and different things. I too enjoy my electricity and wifi. If we were all exactly the same, the world would be a pretty boring place don’t you think?

    It’s absolutely okay to have your own opinion and it doesn’t make you more or less of a traveler. That’s the beauty of travel – there is NO right or wrong way to travel. The only quantifier should be whether YOU enjoyed the destination and your time there.

  25. Sofie says:

    “That’s what I love in a beach destination. Nice beaches, connectivity, and decent amenities.”
    Ow yeah!

    I could do with no amenities somewhere in the bushes (I think:p), but in a beach town? No way. I need a shower:D

  26. Audrey says:

    I feel like there are so many shades of touristy. When we went to Boracay there were hardly any Americans. They seemed to be more European or Korean and that definitely made a difference to us, as opposed to going to a Mexican beach city or anywhere in Europe during the summer where you’ll hear more American English being spoken than the native language.

    I respect each person’s idea of a good vacation, but I get snobby too when I hear my friends who go on a Disney cruise or spent their vacation in an all-inclusive resort and never left the compound. And don’t get me started on people who regularly go to Vegas…. that being said, we all have our own ideas of what is a good vacation.

    Also, I live in one of the most touristy places on earth – New York City. I can never imagine someone choosing to not visit NYC just because it’s touristy. Tourists are part of the cultural fabric of this city and one of the sites to see.

  27. I’m so over travel snobbery. I really love Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. It’s very developed and full of ‘tourists’ but it has some of the best water I’ve ever seen and lattes and wi-fi. And, guess what – I am a tourist, even if I do travel more than your average sightseer. These journeys, going places we think we should go, have to be taken, if only for hindsight and clarity, like you say. Travel snobs are unlikely to disappear but everyone’s version of a dream life is different. Snobs can go where they feel they have to. You go where you feel you want to. Great post!

  28. Omg, the “too cool” travelers are the worst. You can spot ’em from a mile away. “Ohhh, you like that island? [Scoff.]” Screw that!

    You hit on a really great point here: travel for you, and you only!

  29. Elaine says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I had a great time on Koh Yao Noi when I visited Thailand last spring. It’s a small, relatively quiet island, but wifi and beautiful clean beaches are abundant. I felt so free renting a bike and peddling around the island alone, and was thankful that it was developed enough that I could stop for gelato along the way and send a few e-mails, or get a massage on the beach! I went for a yoga retreat at Island yoga (literally the cheapest yoga retreat that I could find in the world.) I highly recommend it!

  30. Lynn says:

    I like both kinds of trips, just whatever I’m in the mood for. Most of my trips are climbing or trekking trips so they are much less luxurious. However, I just went to Antarctica on a ship that had wifi, good food, and showers…it was nice!

  31. Amber says:

    I struggle with this as well, and it is why I have spent a decent amount of time writing about the fact that I am the Goldilocks of beaches. I found my perfect one in Myanmar, it is just a pain to get to and there is little wifi, but I am sure that will change quite soon. I struggle with the entire notion of finding a beach in this region that I like. Keep us posted as you find ones that you like, because we seem to be on the same page.

  32. One of my favourite (and yours I believe, as I remember well from one of your previous posts) islands in Thailand is Koh Chang. I think it strikes the perfect balance between visitor services, beauty, and a manageable level of travelers. It’s my paradise, wet season or dry!

  33. Richard says:

    Good article. I agree with most things you write about. I live in Thailand and one thing is for sure. They will and can fit what most can’t on a bike. I have many great pictures of them doing much more than a 85 liter bag. If Mario would have read my article on how to save 50% while traveling in Thailand, he would of read that a 85 liter suit case is a HUGE inconvenience or any bag with wheels generally. I have seen some great backpacks with wheels but they have not hit the market here in Thailand yet.

    • The reason why we’re traveling with such large bags is because 1) we’re traveling in everything from below freezing temperatures (New England in March) to 107 F/43 C (Japan in August), and 2) we both have equipment for our work, but he has more for Someone Once Told Me.

  34. Amen to this, Kate. I’ve yet to make it to Thailand, so I’m unfamiliar with this particular brand of travel snobbery, but I do know what you mean. I went to Choco in western Colombia, a very remote region accessible only by plane. There was a lot of debris on the beaches (not trash, just debris), and after 2 days of no WiFi or electricity, I was bored off my ass. I wanted culture and comfort, not nature, and learned the lesson that I should only go where I WANT to go, not where I think will make me look more intrepid (which is so not my style anyway).

    Anyhow, loving the honesty in this post, and love that you didn’t try and sugarcoat it or sell it as a ‘hidden gem’ or something along those lines. Give me a mocha and an internet connection and I’m happy.

  35. MJ Sailing says:

    Sobbery like that is just as bad for cruisers like me (people who live and travel on a boat). When we first started we were so caught up in all the locations that other cruisers had talked about, mostly basic and untouched islands where you have a beach to stroll, water to snorkel, and one overpriced restaurant to get your food and beer. One season out and we realized that although areas like this held joy for many other people, it was not for us. We like civilization. So, now we’re headed off to the Med this year where we’ll be able to find the best of both worlds. 🙂

  36. teh russian says:

    read your post and found it very well put together. ill definitely be using your blog when i do research on places i want to go. theres just one little thing i dont get. for someone who calls herself “adventurous kate” you sure seem to like the comforts of civilization a lot. wheres the adventure in that?

  37. Megan says:

    Like many others here, I’m gonna offer up a hearty “amen” to this one. One of my favorite Thai island experiences was on Koh Phangan. Rather than head to Haad Rin, we just went northwest until we felt far enough away from the craziness. It was just deserted enough to feel ‘special,’ but close enough to other amenities we wanted. Going all Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island is fun, but not something I want to do all the time just for the sake of bragging rights.

  38. Arianwen says:

    When I was on the Andaman Coast, I visited a few Islands that weren’t so well known. On Koh Chang and Koh Jum, my friend and I were the only people on the beach the entire time. My experience of Koh Jum was very similar to yours in this post. There were jellyfish everywhere (a box jellyfish had found its way over from Oz and actually killed a Swedish tourist a week earlier!), so we didn’t fancy swimming. My favourite Thai Island was Koh Mook. We had to get a local fisherman to take us there and then hitch a lift on a motorbike, and we stayed on a really fun campsite called Mookies, run by an Aussie and his Thai bride. They were really interesting characters 🙂

  39. eemusings says:

    We chose Lanta as our Thai island destination thanks to blogs like yours. We went right at the start of low season so it was nice and empty and everything was cheap – but even so there was still a fair bit of debris along the beach.

    I’m much better in chilled environments, and I think it was the right choice – a party island would not have been the right place for me.

  40. Interesting perspective! In my opinion, I think that the extremely touristy attractions are the best in terms of what to see (after all, millions of travelers go there for a reason) BUT the hidden attractions on the road less traveled are the best in terms of having an authentic experience.

    Sure, the Karnak Temple is amazing but the Ramesseum was the most magical Egyptian experience for me because I had this huge place all for myself!!!

  41. Nina says:

    KATE! OMG! YES! Thank you…. Are you a prophet of some kind? I think so….

    I have felt this way countless times. I have put myself in situations where I was potentially in danger, completely stranded, and possibly borderline nuts with some of the destination I have gone to. All in the name of “finding the untouched.” While all of the situations ended up fine, it comes with regret that I can’t say I enjoyed those places and they lacked everything you mentioned (and more). We kind of need those things people! I would like a normal bathroom, wifi to work, and a darn beach to swim in. Is it asking too much?

    I think it might be fun to go reallllyyyy “off the beaten track” if you are traveling with a knowledgable local, you have your own transport, you have extra money to pay to stay at the swanky places etc…. When you are traveling on a budget, solo, and only hanging on the strings of your feeble little hopes- you won’t get far. Like you said, you let people get to you… and I think I have done the same.

    PS- Lanta is a fav of mine too… I love the Krabi province, that’s why I live here now. Whatever- Everyone else can go shove it. It’s beautiful and popular for reason! 🙂

  42. budget jan says:

    I think everyone should decide for themselves. Snobbery is snobbery wherever it raises it’s head. What is great is that we can try Koh Lanta and Koh Phayam for ourselves and take it from there. I am glad that you have published your feelings on this matter so that others can feel proud about their choices.

  43. Naomi says:

    Oh the snobbery is ridiculous. Whatever travel style suits you is the best. I personally prefer to do lots of trekking and camping and don’t have high needs for connectivity or comfort but that’s me, I would never seek to impose my travel style on others. It’s why I travel solo.. I live on a beach so I rarely do beach holidays, but I totally visit all the great tourist sites of the world when I get an opportunity, and pay top dollar if needed for a bucket list experience. Why wouldn’t you go for a balloon ride over the Serengeti if you ended up in Tanzania for 2 weeks right? And skiing Tasman Glacier in New Zealand on a bluebird day?

  44. Bee says:

    I’d go stir crazy on an undeveloped island!!!! I’ve been to some beautiful off the beaten track beaches and islands but it gets pretty boring once i’ve gotten over the excitement of the scenery. You see, like you, I love a good coffee with some free wifi/power too – if only for the cafe atmosphere and some people watching! But I also love local markets and little shops and some popular culture. I think I’m just a city girl at heart ❤
    I’m currently planning travels to Phuket/Krabi/Lanta/PhiPhi as I’ve never actually made it that far south whenever I’ve been in Thailand, plus the Philippines shortly, so the places mentioned above sound like a good place to start my research – thanks.

  45. Craig says:

    As far as islands in Thailand go, Koh Phayam is pretty obscure. I totally get what you’re saying. You think you want the remoteness, but when you actually have it, you often realize that simple amenities like, say, 7-Eleven and flush toilets are kind of nice. Koh Phayam doesn’t really have the stunning scenery of Krabi or the glamorous beaches of Samui, but it also doesn’t have all the riffraff that tends to come with it. (For the record, Koh Lanta is pretty fantastic, in part because it’s light on the riffraff.) It was cool to visit, but I think I also prefer the trodden path in my beach holidays.

  46. Collin says:

    This really struck home with me, Im about to go on my first trip to SE asia and two of the people in our group are insisting that we go to koh phayam because it’s the ‘Real thailand”

    going to an island without working power or clean beaches to me doesn’t seem all that great to me, sure it will be quiet,

    but honestly i want to make my own decisions and not let someone else make me feel bad about my travel choices, If i want to go to phuket or koh phagnan how is that not the real thailand??

    thanks for this! 🙂

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  1. […] on what it is exactly. Then, just last week I read an excellent post by Adventurous Kate, entitled, ‘On Islands, Snobbery and Koh Phanyam’. Kate hit the nail on the head big time for me; she describes going to the Thai island of Koh […]

  2. […] than other easier-to-visit places, like Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui.  In my research, I had read this article written by Adventurous Kate. She […]



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