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!
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 useful information!) It’s a sleepy spread out village with a small amount of accommodation and mostly advertises pink dolphin watching.
With so many beaches in Thailand it makes it very challenging to decide which are the best ones. There are beautiful islands around Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and the Gulf of Thailand too. However, for me there are a few untouched Thai islands 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. Koh Lanta is much less touristy that some other islands and in off-peak season there are barely any people around. You can book a ferry using this website, and get discounts for more than one ticket.
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 one of the best secluded beaches. It’s 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
Is it possible to have ethical animal experiences in Thailand?
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 tourists 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 activities involving both people and wildlife.
Many tourists want to ride elephants when visiting Thailand but first hopefully they can ask the following questions and do some research into elephant abuse in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Is it ethical to ride an elephant in Thailand? Where can we ride rescue elephants in Thailand? Is riding an elephant bad for its back?
Riding an elephant is animal abuse. Tourists ask me where to ride an elephant in Thailand, where is the best place for elephant riding and about elephant riding costs and please just stop there. The truth about elephant riding is that it is animal abuse. All elephant riding with seats is a widespread form of animal abuse in Thailand, it deforms the back of the elephant and elephant riding is cruel. Alternatives to elephant riding include visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary (my recommendations for no riding, ethical elephant sanctuaries are here)
Ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand
When I first visited Thailand in 2013 I could only find 2 elephant sanctuaries that refused to offer elephant riding. Nowadays many sanctuaries are refusing to offer elephant riding and it is the tourist demand that has made this change. Your actions can make a difference so let’s make decisions that will help protect elephants rather than harm them. My favourite alternative to elephant riding, and I recommend as even better than a sanctuary is to see wild elephants in Thailand which is, after all, where they belong. Seeing wild elephants in the jungle is one of my bucket list experiences and you can see them in a national park just a few hours from Bangkok – Khao Yai National Park. Read here for more details about Khao Yai National park – one of my favourite national parks in Thailand that has a good chance of seeing wild elephants in the jungle.
The truth about tigers in Thailand
Is it ethical to visit Tiger Kingdom in Thailand? Where can I take photos with tigers in Phuket or Chiang Mai? Are tigers drugged in Tiger Kingdom?
The cruel truth is that there is no such thing as an ethical tiger experience. Tigers are wild, dangerous animals and belong in the jungles of Thailand, not in some sort of petting zoo. Visit a tiger temple in Thailand or take pictures with tigers means you are participating in animal abuse. The infamous tourist temple “Tiger Temple” fortunately has now been closed down but there are many other “sanctuaries” appearing. When Tiger Temple 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 and therefore I believe the drugging theory is likely. Read more about the truth about Thailand’s tiger temple on the BBC website.
The dark side of Thailand’s sex tourism industry
I strongly recommend avoiding going 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, men and even children 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.
Dos and Don’ts in Thailand: Respecting Thai culture should be an important consideration when visiting on vacation or backpacking. Sunbathing in the nude, women going topless on a beach and males riding around on scooters without shirts is not considered appropriate or respectful behaviour by the majority of Thai people. 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. I have always felt it is important to be respectful when visiting other countries where the culture is very different to our own.
Another important rule in Thailand is about being respectful to the ocean. Standing on coral reefs damages them and coral reefs are already under severe pressure from climate change and rising ocean temperatures. 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 and inform any other visitors of the same. I feel many tourists stand on coral because they are ignorant of the fact they are damaging it. Please spread the word and don’t be shy about letting other tourists know not to stand on coral! I also think tour operators should be informing tourists so make sure to include them if their boat of tourists are not behaving respectfully towards the ocean.
Dos and Dont’s in Thailand: 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.
If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to some of Thailand’s National Parks. This is, by no means, a full list of National Parks in Thailand but the most impressive ones I have been to so far and am still marvelling at the photos. Read on for the best National Parks in Thailand for waterfalls, swimming, beauty, nature and wildlife.
Out of all the national parks in Thailand that I have been to lately, this is the most recent. You can go to Sai Yok waterfalls as part of a day trip from Bangkok or you can organise your own transport. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall, which was crowded when I was there but I believe it would generally be a quiet non-touristy area to visit in Thailand. For more quiet areas around Thailand, check out these off the beaten track beaches in Thailand. You can even stay overnight on floating bungalows in Sai Yok National Park.
Getting to Sai Yok National Park: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators around Khao San Road
Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free (at time of writing, Oct 2017)
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. I strongly recommend renting a scooter here and exploring all the different caves and viewpoints. It’s an excellent place to practise on a scooter if (like me…you’re kinda nervous/shit scared). About 10 cars will pass you throughout the whole day and the area is flat which is really great for confidence building! I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort*, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel!
Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous and has a small but striking blue temple inside an enormous cavern. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time! The views from the hike are magnificent though!
Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon!
Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite high up views in Thailand so far! It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view but bring a flashlight! I went during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.
Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: Take a minivan from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok to Pranburi and then motorcycle taxi into Khao Sam Roi Yot.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Entrance Fee: 200 baht for foreigners
Khao Yai National Park
This is one of my favourite areas of jungle to visit. Visit the various waterfalls, do the visitor trail near the visitor office, keep your eyes peeled and ears open to see macaque monkeys, gibbons and there is a high chance of elephants, particularly in rainy season (June-Oct). Remember wild elephants are extremely territorial and dangerous so do not get too close! They are best to see from the road side or from the look-out point near the lake. It’s a great place to stop and chill for lunch too!
Getting to Khao Yai National Park: You can take a minivan about two hours from Bangkok from Ekkamai bus station to Pak Chong. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself. I recommend taking a map from the visitor office while shows the waterfalls and camping grounds.
Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee: 400 baht for foreigners
Camping in Khao Yai National Park: For the super adventurous, ask the visitor office about camping. For around 250 baht you can rent a tent at one of a couple of camp sites and stay the night. Bring your own food and drink as there are no shops available in the park. The entrance fee is expensive so I recommend staying inside the park to make the most of your money.
Tours of Khao Yai National Park: Alternatively take a guided tour with Greenleaf tours, they will collect you from Pak Chong and take you into the park in songtaew trucks. Tour includes trekking, guide, lunch and transport and lasts the whole day!
Khao Sok National Park
Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi. From your accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and pootle around trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even the odd elephant! (or so I’m told!). We saw fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons on one of our boat trips around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda * for hotel bookings in Thailand.
Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park: arrange an overnight stay through your accommodation inside the park or from Krabi
Doi Ithanon National Park
These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a Doi Ithanon day tour from Chiang Mai which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. Book through a tour operator in Chiang Mai.
On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars. The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers and a riot of colour.
I’ve written about this place before but it is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Bring your own food and water as there is little on offer here You will also find it quieter the higher up you go as the lower and closest steps are often full of local children playing! It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town.
Erawan National Park entrance fee: 200-300 baht
Erawan National Park tour: book a day trip from Bangkok, many tour operators on Khao San road can offer this which also includes some history and museums in Kanchanaburi town first.
Don’t Forget to Take:
Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag
GoPro – I’m a total gopro convert and love making videos of all my trips! The colours come out really vibrant and as they are waterproof you don’t need to worry if it rains or goes in the sea. Buy yours from Amazon using this link: GoPro HERO4 BLACK I’m currently using the Gopro Hero 4 after my Entry Level Hero gave up the ghost in India (advice: they are not smash proof when dropped on a stone floor while ziplining!)
Here are 12 reasons why you should never visit this awful country! The first time I visited Thailand was 4 years ago and after all these terrible activities I’m still unsure why I moved back to Thailand 3 years ago. Please avoid visiting Thailand because you may just get addicted…
You will mostly likely get sunburnt while snorkelling the clear waters off of paradise islands
6. You’ll get so used to cockroaches in Thailand you won’t feel bothered by them any more… (just me?!). The big ones that run at your feet and the small ones hanging out by your toothbrush in the (slightly) dirty hostel, you are officially a real backpacker now. For wild animals you actually want to see, check out this post
7. In rainy season you’ll stroll through puddles the height of your knees trying not to think about what might be floating around in there
11. You will get seasick on a boat and possibly think you are about to die, probably on the way to Maya Bay ” The Beach” beach where there never seem to be enough life jackets for everyone… #youcanswimthoughright
For when you do decide to travel Thailand, consider these items to help deal with the above issues:
I’m a recent convert to the humble backpack as you can always fit in a bottle of water comfortably (that just never happens with my handbags!) I love this turquoise Everest Backpack from Amazon
2. Alternatively, if you might be here in rainy season (May-October) then I recommend a dry bag as you will definitely get caught in a thunderstorm at some point! I love these dry bags Dry Bag (5L) from Amazon
3. Mosquito spray is definitely one thing I recommend buying at home before you arrive in Thailand as I have never been able to buy stronger than 15% DEET here. Try this Repel 40% DEET Pump SprayRepel Insect Repellent 40-Percent DEET from Amazon