When you arrive by ferry, which is the only way onto the island the main boats will take you to Thong Sala the island’s main town. You will be met by lots of local taxi drivers all trying to get your business. Haggling is expected and most of the island can be reached by taxi for around $5 per person especially if you have a group of people going to the same place.
Thong Sala is a nice small town, with almost no buildings over 2 floors tall and wide streets lined with all kinds of local shops mixed with places catering to the tourists. They’re a mix of bars and 2 great food markets. It is definitely one of the best places on the island to come and eat good food at really affordable prices. A lot of return visitors will come to town once a day to get lunch at the main food market right in the center of town.
All the main places to stay and around the coastline and with a bike you can easily explore most of the island in a day taking time to stop and eat along the way.
The East side of the island is dominated by the sunrise and most of the beaches are more easily reached by boat. This is where you come to get away from it all. The West side of the island gets the best sunsets and has a road running all the way along its coastline so there is a lot of accommodation and beach bars to try out here. The south is dominated by a long beach where people kite surf all day and at the southeastern tip of the island you have the famous full moon party beach Haadrin. It’s a beautiful place and its sad that it’s only known for the party these days. The center of the Island climbs up into high peaks covered in thick jungle and most of it is designated as a national park. The north for me is the most authentic place on the island, the fishing village of Chaloklum has a wonderful group of ex-pats and locals and some of the beaches here are the best on the island with incredible snorkelling and swimming.
My first stop as soon as I get off the ferry is to run up north to Chaloklum and see some old friends before dumping my bags which are full of cold weather mountain gear and swiftly getting into island mode. Shorts and flipflops and the only essential items along with some shades for the bike riding as the bugs here that hit you in the face sometimes resemble black golf balls and taking one to the eye when you are on a moped could be a bad experience. I even got hit by a bat at night once which is a pretty common occurrence.
Its only fair to point out that riding mopeds here is convenient but also very dangerous, especially with all the drinking and partying so please be careful and I’d say this is definitely not a place to learn to ride. Always always always wear a helmet when you are on a bike here and make sure it fits and the straps are working. Legally you should own a correct bike licence and possess an international driving permit along with the correct insurance before you even attempt to rent here. If you don’t have that all in place and you have an accident your insurance will certainly refuse to cover you even if you are only a passenger so be careful.
Next stop is off to my old home on the island, on the south east corner in a very special place called Haad Yuan and to get there I’ll need to take a long tail boat. It is a part of the journey I love, arriving on your own beach by boat has a certain kind of magic