Once I had heard a student mention about wild pink dolphins in Thailand, I put it to the top of my Thailand bucket list and made it my mission to seek these pink dolphins out. One of the things that continues to amaze me, even after three years of living in Thailand, is both the range of species and wildlife that lives here and also how quiet and untouched by tourism some areas still are. If you are looking for the real unseen Thailand without the built up hotels and crowds of tourists, then consider a visit to Nakhon Si Thammarat province. There is so much more that I want to explore here, so watch this space. I spent a weekend down in Khanom with the aim of seeing the pink dolphins and they did not disappoint!
How and Where to see Pink Dolphins
I recommend staying at Bansonmanee Guesthouse. The woman who ran the place was a foreigner and extremely helpful with all our requests. We had a basic and reasonably priced bungalow (around 600 baht) and we could walk down a small green path and we were on 4 empty km of Nadan beach. I believe that on Saturday and Sunday there would be more open but we were travelling on weekdays and there were about 2 restaurants open for food on the whole beach…not much choice but definitely not touristy either.
Pink Dolphin Tours and Boat Trips
For the pink dolphin trip, I recommend booking through your hotel. If you are lucky or in a group, there is a full day trip costing around 1000 that includes dolphin spotting, waterfalls and some small island exploring and lunch. It was so quiet that this tour did not have enough people to run, so my friend and I paid 700 baht each for a morning pink dolphin spotting boat trip. Turns out no-one else was on the boat so we ended up on a private long tail boat. Remember a tip goes a long way in Thailand and it is always appreciated (even though people may not show it at first!).
The Pink Dolphins
In all honestly, the dolphins did not look SUPER pink, though I have seen some pinker dolphins in photos. Not that much is known about these pink dolphins who are a sub-species of white Chinese dolphins. It is thought there are around 2000 in the wild and around 150 in Thailand – though I’m never sure where people get their numbers from!
I was lucky enough to spot around 8 pink dolphins in two separate places off shore. The only other boats to be seen were longtail fishing boats, and compared with other dolphin trips I have taken in places like Indonesia and the Philippines, it felt really good to a) be the only people there and b) not be ‘chasing’ the dolphins. The dolphins were much bigger than dolphins I had seen before and at one point even came really close to the boat. We could hear them making noises through the blowholes and at one point even heard them ‘squeak’ to each other. We also spotted a baby pink dolphin. It’s magic moments like this that make me fall in love with Thailand a little bit more.
Getting there: I did the ‘fly and ride’ service with Nok Air from Bangkok to Nakhon Si Thammarat airport which then includes a transfer minivan to Khanom itself. (Thanks to Emily for this usefuk information!) It’s a sleepy spread out village with a small amount of accommodation and mostly advertises pink dolphin watching.
When researching a trip I always love to plan outfits and look for recommendations for what I need to pack for backpacking. My first backpacking trip was around South-East Asia and I made many rookie packing errors. I overpacked, everything was far too heavy, it was a nightmare finding things and I didn’t have much room to buy more stuff. Having lived in Thailand and travelled a lot of South East Asia over the last three years I have definitely improved my packing skills.
First things first….A backpack – while suitcases might appear easier with wheels and you don’t have to carry them, in reality a backpack is a better idea. South East Asian cities have mostly uneven pavements blocked by street food vendors, restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalks, clothing stalls and people haggling and queuing which makes trying to get a suitcase down the road very tough work. Sand and suitcases also rarely mix and hopping on and off boats and ferries is much easier with a backpack. I currently use a 40L Dry Bag as my backpack, really similar to this Aquafree Dry Bag, 40L – Blue from Amazon. I love that it rolls down so if I have less items I can make it even smaller and I’ve also used this as hand luggage for various trips too.
What to Pack for South East Asia: Clothing- Women’s Packing List
Dresses – I love short summery beach ones like this and long maxis like this Floral Print Split Maxi Party Dress for classier nights to sky bars and covering up for temple visits.
Denim Shorts – my summer staple and they go with everything
Elephant/Baggy Trousers – if you want to go backpacking then you have to buy a pair to fit in with the backpacking crowd. I prefer to look less like a backpacker and love styles like these Floral Printed Trousers . They are great for temple visits and bus and train travel when you don’t want to stick to cheap leather seats.
Leggings and a hoody – because it does get cold! I’ve been on many buses, trains and planes where they blast the air con and it is not fun. Come prepared. I also pack socks.
Cover Ups – I love pretty crochet cover ups like this Cover Up Crochet Dress (Off White) for looking good on the beach and a sarong is really useful as a beach towel, covering your shoulders to be respectful or to stay out of the sun and even as a lightweight blanket like this great value Cover Up Sarong.
Maxi skirts – great to mix and match with various tops and good for covering legs to protect from evening mosquito bites and for temples, like this one here Summer High Waisted Coral Print Maxi
Chinos – preferably Khaki coloured so you look the part on those jungle treks! Don’t think about doing it in shorts – one word – Leeches.Buy ones similar to these Belted Casual Chino
Bikinis/swimwear – so these may be my downfall and I definitely have way more than I need. I love sporty styles for water sports like this and strapless styles for avoiding tan lines. I also don’t recommend wearing thong/g-string style bikinis around South East Asia as there are still conservative areas and you could offend people.
Playsuits – I love these casual styles to throw on over bikinis or to wear out at night to party. I like styles like this Bohemian Romper
What to Pack for South East Asia: Footwear
Flipflops – easy to get in and out of as in many places you should remove your shoes before entering people’s homes, temples and even some shops where people live above it. These Summer Beach FlipFlops are right up my street.
Walking boots – jungles, mountains, national parks, don’t be the muppet wearing converse and falling over when hiking.
Sandals – I personally dislike wearing flipflops all the time and feel it cannot be good for your ankles. If you want to visit posh skybars or clubs in cities like Bangkok then a dress code applies and you will be turned away for wearing flipflops or even Birkenstocks.
Tom-style pumps – I think these are great if you think walking boots are a little extreme. I always wear these for activities like white water rafting, visiting waterfalls and I prefer to use these when driving a scooter as well.Mine are a similar style to these TOMS Women’s Slip Ons
What to Pack for South East Asia: Accessories/Extras
Jewellery – I wouldn’t recommend taking anything valuable or sentimental as you may lose it or risk it getting stolen. I take a lot of stud earrings like these Women’s Stud Earring (6 Pairs) and a couple of bigger pairs for a night out. I usually buy some cheap rings or bracelets for some party nights. There are some great cheap earrings in markets out here so definitely come planning to buy.
Hair bands and kirby grips– anything to keep long hair off your sweaty neck in hot humid temperatures, I always bulk buy 40 Pack Black Hair Ties as out here buying individual ones in markets can add up!
Towel – Invest in a tiny travel towel that dries quickly. I recommend a cheap one as you will probably have to throw it away because of the smell by end of trip. Buy yours RainLeaf Microfiber Towel before you travel as I have rarely seen them for sale over here in South East Asia
Smallzipped bag to wear across the shoulder like this one Crossbody Travel Bag and/or a small day backpack– protect your items from thieves and big enough to keep a bottle of water in too , like this Casual Travel Daypack
Dry bag– like this 5L one Dry Bag Sack is great for monsoon seasons, boat trips, desert island swimming…
Toothbrush/toothpaste – and gum for when all else fails and you end up without sinks in off-the-beaten-track areas of Indonesia
Baby wipes– these are incredibly useful and very cheap. I use them to remove make-up,sun cream, sweat, dirt and cleaning bags or shoes, buy yours here Wipes Travel Pack
Hand Sanitizer – For those train/bus toilets where they often don’t provide soap, come prepared with Original Hand Sanitizer
Suntan Cream– I never like to go lower than SPF 30. The sun is extremely strong here.
First Aid Kit – after-bite for stings – once out there buy Golden Cup balm – local cure for insect bites!, plasters, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets (and lots), painkillers, the Pill, nail scissors, string (you never know)
What to Pack for South East Asia: Extras and Essentials
Insurance Details (just in case) and visas
Gopro I love my GoPro Hero 4 for all my adventure activities and especially diving. Check out Amazon’s range here GoPro HERO4 BLACK.
With so many beaches in Thailand it makes it very challenging to decide which are the best ones. However, for me there are a few clear winners where the sand is white, the water clear, lots of greenery around and not too crowded. I have in no way been to all of the beaches in Thailand but having visited over 13 inhabited islands and many more deserted ones, these are a round-up of 5 beaches which I think are the best quiet beaches in Thailand.
This is definitely one of the prettiest beaches in Thailand. It has a huge area of white sand, you can see your feet when standing in the sea and the jungle comes down to meet the sand meaning no big built up buildings or roads in the way. It is incredibly calm and when I was there in April time the beach had about five people on it.
Best Quiet Beach Tip: Stay at this amazing accommodation, a slight walk up the hill but well worth it for the views of Kantiang Bay. It also has an infinity pool, spacious rooms with windows from ceiling to floor and a cheeky group of visiting monkeys!
Main Beach, Koh Kradan
This is a tiny island which has limited accommodation and is mostly a National Park. Most island hopping trips around the area of Koh Lanta stop here for a visit or lunch break. The main beach is stunning; white sand and crystal clear waters and the decent coral around offers some snorkelling potential here too.
Best Quiet Beach Tip: To avoid the day tripper crowds, consider staying at a resort on the island
Beaches on Koh Similan
The Similan Islands are some of the most beautiful islands I have ever visited in Thailand. They are extremely old and have smooth shaped rock formations as they used to be submerged underwater as coral reefs. While the snorkelling/diving here is not what it once was it is still worth a visit and the beaches are breath-taking. They have very white sand and transparent water and also some great viewpoints for photos.
Best Quiet Beach Tip: My best advice to avoid the day crowds is to camp overnight through the National Park service here.
Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe
Another winner for the white sand and clear waters, head to Koh Lipe for one of Thailand’s most stunning islands. Unfortunately Lipe does have a battle with litter but the locals work hard to keep Sunrise Beach clear of litter to keep it the paradise beach it should be.
Best Quiet Beach Tip: In the evening, walk round to the very aptly named Sunset Beach for some of the best sunsets that I’ve seen in Thailand
Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is always the island I keep going back to. Mainly for the Full Moon Party but it has so much more to offer as well. One of my favourite beaches on this island it is only accessible by boat and so it is much quieter than other beaches around Koh Phangan. It has a few places for lunch time eating and it’s in a pretty white sand bay. Head here to avoid the crowds, especially around Full Moon time when the island fills up.
Best Quiet Beach Tip: Get a group together to make the longtail boat ride cheaper
Where are your favourite beaches in Thailand? Future contenders are Koh Phayam, Koh Maak, Koh Kut…watch this space!
Top 5 Beach Essentials
Sarong – ditch the heavy beach towel, I find I carry half the beach home with them and buy a quick-drying sarong that does the job just as fast. I love brightly coloured ones like this Amazon one Ayliss Sarong if you’re looking for gifts for travellers or wait until you are out here and head to a market
Dry Bag – Keep your belongings safe from the sea, especially handy when getting it and off boats. Buy yours from Amazon hereDry Bag (Green, 5L)
GoPro – so useful for all your holiday footage. I love the Gopro Hero 4 as you can take it diving down to depths of 40metres GoPro HERO4 BLACK
Thailand is a place of beauty, adventure and there are so many amazing activities to try here, that after three years of living here, I am still finding new activities and places to visit. Unfortunately there are also a number of activities that have given rise to exploitation, both in regard to wildlife and people. I believe that people do have the power to bring about positive change and, particularly in a country like Thailand, where many locals are keen to reap the benefits of tourism, I feel it is important for tourists to do their research into putting their money into ethical enterprises.
·Visit a tiger temple or take pictures with tigers. The infamous tourist temple was closed down last year. When it was investigated, they found dead tiger cubs in a freezer and allegations of missing adult tigers thought to have been sold on the black market to China for tiger bones. This scandal is on top of the commonly held assumption that these tigers are drugged in order for tourists to take photos with them. I personally feel that the claim that people can get close to them because they are domesticated tigers brought up around people does not have any ground. Getting into a cage with a grown adult tiger is dangerous, no matter how the animal was raised. Read more about the truth on the BBC website here
Go to a pingpong show, sex show or participate in any activities relating to the sex industry. Aside from my personal feelings about female exploitation, Thailand is a hub for human trafficking and there is no knowing how the women and men in these industries are treated. 425,500 people are thought to be enslaved in modern day slavery in Thailand. (Source https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/thailand/ )and some of these unpoliced, illegal industries have been found to ‘employ’ underage prostitutes, indicating child abuse and exploitation. Is this really where you want your money going? This article is an interesting and eye-opening read from the BBC website.
Sunbathing in the nude, women going topless on a beach and males riding around on scooters without shirts. Spain this is not. Most of Thailand is fairly conservative, whether the locals are Buddhist or Muslim and getting your baps out on the beach is not acceptable here.
Standing on coral reefs. Coral is extremely fragile and if you touch it, not only could you end up injured, but you are killing this vital eco-system that the ocean relies upon. Please be extremely careful of where you are stepping in the sea.
Touching wild animals- There are regular news stories in local papers here in Thailand about people touching turtles and I am frequently frustrated by the number of Instagram photos of people holding up a starfish. That is a wild animal and you are disturbing it. Remember to always be respectful of wildlife.
Taking photos in the markets or streets with ‘pet’ monkeys or gibbons. These are animals that belong in the wild and should not be used in the tourist industry in this way. Often teeth are painfully removed to ensure the animal does not bite people and they are often wearing nappies and chained up.
·Fishing and squid fishing. This is more of a personal thing as I am super into scuba diving and would prefer to see the fish underwater rather than kill them. However, I think it is important to be aware that Thailand has a massive problem with over-fishing and unfortunately very little is done to stop this. As a result of corruption many fishing boats can still be seen in marine parks which are supposed to be protected and I often sea fishing nets while scuba diving in supposedly protected areas. Don’t add to this problem.
A Chiang Mai local recently said to me ‘but yeah, there’s not much to do in Bangkok..’. Now while I agree that Chiang Mai has lots of adventure activities it left me feeling slightly indignant about Bangkok, my home for the last 3 years.
So I’ve decided to make an epic list of 50 things to do in Bangkok that will never leave you feeling bored in this crazy Thai capital: