As one of the top tourist destinations in the world, Thailand has seen an influx of money and public attention in terms of holiday vacationers. As a result, once untapped splendors like Koh Samui have become the focal point of huge hotel resorts and crowds. There is something to be said for the hot spot tourists destination in the ‘land of smiles’ – they are touristy and popular for a reason, precisely because they are beautiful. But for the globe-trotting world-lusty backpacker, there are still plenty of beaches off the beaten track.
One of the better ones is Railay – although near to Krabi Town which boasts its own tourist boom, Railay has quickly become one of the foremost beaches for young people and rock climbers. The karst rock formations that rise like profound green phalluses from the liquid-blue waters are a playground for both novice and expert climbers looking for a little hang-time. There is one main beach, however a short walk in either direction is often enough to clear the crowds and snag your own private strip of white sand.
Another main destination for beach-goers is Phuket, located in the south, although a quick detour to the west over a small hilly range will land you in Patong. The night-life here is notorious, both in terms of bad EDM dubstep and young women calling after you with “massage, massage!”. But Patong does have an ideal beach nestled against its shores. It’s a great place to catch some sun, and if you’re brave, indulge in parasailing. Don’t be alarmed when your “guide”, without any safety harness whatsoever, climbs onto the ropes behind you as you both lift off into the sky – he’s only there to steer the sail back down to the beach.
This isn’t to suggest that the only good undiscovered beaches are on the mainland – there are a number of islands that still maintain a traditional village way of life, and haven’t been inundated with resorts yet. Of these Koh Yao Yai is one of the cheapest – it’s smaller companion island Koh Yao Noi is starting to feel the impact of tourists, but on the south side of Yai you can, quite literally, have a beach all to yourself. It’s also a good place to try out your hand on a Seadoo, with many locally run agencies offering a trip to one of the smaller off-shore islands.
Another island that is quickly garnering the attention of backpackers is Koh Rok Nok. Protected by the overarching shadow of Thailand’s mainland, and closer to the Cambodian border, this small island has become a favorite for scuba divers and snorkeling enthusiasts, in part because of its extremely clear waters and aquamarine lagoons that cloister at its banks. For the thrifty backpacker, it’s also one of the few opportunities in Thailand you will find to pitch that tent you’ve been carrying for months, and don’t be surprised if you’re awoken by the trilling of exotic bird’s songs.