For this insider guide article, we had the chance to sit down with Marek from IndieTraveller.co to discover his top tips on visiting Thailand, the country where his travel blogging career began in 2012. He always aims to inspire others to travel more — and shares honest budget travel guides from around the world.
After several setbacks in the corporate world in London, Marek planned on taking a two-month trip to Thailand to figure out his next move. Little did he know, this two-month holiday would transform into a two-year journey around the world. As such, Marek has always had a soft spot for the place that started it all, and was excited to share his insider tips on visiting Thailand.
Read our full interview with Marek below.
Firstly, I know Thailand is where your travel career started, and you have recently updated your guide. Why would you say holidaymakers should visit Thailand?
As I mentioned in my Thailand guide, it’s just such an easy destination to travel to! Many people go to Thailand only to stay in one resort and hang out on one beach, but the low travel cost and amazing tourist infrastructure make it so easy to have all kinds of adventures in Thailand. It’s not just about sun and sand, but you can have so many cultural, culinary and active experiences as well.
Phuket may be the biggest tourist destination in Thailand but I actually like Krabi a lot more. The coastline is more unique and filled with dramatic karst cliffs. You also have some great opportunities to see spectacular nature, such as in Khao Sok National Park, where you can hike through dense jungles and stay the night on a floating bamboo house in a lake.
If a holidaymaker only has a few days in the region, what would you say is one thing he or she absolutely shouldn’t miss the chance to visit or see in Krabi?
Railay beach is definitely a Krabi highlight – it’s famed for its beaches ringed by tall karst cliffs and the traditional longtail boats that get you there from Ao Nang. The best time to go though is in shoulder season when there are fewer people. I visited in late May/early June for instance and it had a much better vibe than at the height of January when it was difficult to find your own spot sometimes!
Tourists tend to find themselves eating at all the obvious places, but which lesser-known restaurant gems do the locals love in Krabi when it comes to dining out?
Not sure if this is locals-approved, but on the island of Koh Lanta – in the Krabi region – I loved the traditional Thai food at Patty’s Secret Garden. You enter through a tunnel of plants and vines and then get to a patio with a homely atmosphere where the food is super delicious. It was a lovely little discovery.
I know Phuket is a popular Thai destination for the sun, sand and All Inclusive stays, but why would you say Krabi is better for experiencing the local culture?
I always love to recommend it, I’d say it has more opportunities to experience the local culture than Phuket.
I like the island of Koh Lanta a lot, where the atmosphere is more relaxed than on other Thai islands. You can visit the local sea gypsy community or learn about the Chinese merchant history of the island in its local museum. The island is also the perfect place to do a Thai cooking course, and given its relative proximity to Malaysia you can sample some great Malaysian dishes as well.
Krabi is also home to some little-known gems, such as the island of Koh Hai!
Are there any places you’d recommend to really immerse yourself in that local culture or Thai history?
I think the best way to truly immerse yourself in the culture is to time your trip with one of the local festivals. For instance, there is the Lanta festival which celebrates its rich ethnic heritage, or the Buddhist Sat Duan Sip festival which honors the ancestors.
Krabi is all about the natural scenery, beaches and islands, are there any natural sightseeing options that you’d consider can’t-miss?
The two best spots for natural sightseeing are surely Khao Sok National Park as well as the Ao Phang Nga National Park, which home to the famous ‘James Bond island’ seen in The Man with the Golden Gun.
What’s the best way to get around when travelling in the region?
Travelling around Thailand and the Krabi region is pretty easy! There is virtually always a minivan service to where you need to go, and in some cases you have to get an island transfer by boat, which are usually hourly or bi-hourly. You can get tickets at lots of local travel agencies.
For travellers that don’t want another souvenir pen or postcard, what cultural souvenir would you recommend taking home from Krabi?
This one is hard for me to answer as I’m usually not someone to buy many souvenirs, though I hear that you can pick up some great locally crafted jewellery in Ao Nang and Krabi Town. On some of the Krabi islands you can also find traditional hand-tied batik textiles.
Do you have any other suggestions for alternatives to the tourist trail or typical tourist activities in the region?
Koh Klang is an island with a very rural character and some beaches that are always empty save the shellfish hunters. It also home to some mangrove forests where you can spot many tropical birds. It makes for a great day trip from Krabi town. Not so many people go there, but it’s a great place to see a bit of authentic Thailand!