I have to admit… on my way to Thailand I was not sure I actually wanted to be there. I had a lot of mixed emotions for many different reasons. But by the end of my trip I was wishing I did not have to leave and now I am four days away from catching a flight back and already plotting and planning when I can make it back again next year. I think its safe to say, Thailand has my heart.
I spent my first few days in Bangkok before beginning my trip around some of the islands. I found that each island I visited was unique, and unlike the others. They each have something different to offer, meaning their is and island for everyone. Here are the highlights from the places I visited.
Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, south of Bangkok. It is part of the Chumphon Archipelago. It’s the smaller of the three popular islands in this area. (The other two being Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui.)
Koh Tao, meaning turtle island, is known for its snorkeling, diving and white sandy beaches. But I also found that it had a lot to offer on land as well… And by a lot to offer, I mean within a thirty minute walk from the main pier (Mae Haad), you can find a variety of vegan restaurants, and restaurants with vegan selections. Here are my favs…
By far one of my favorite plant-based restaurants ever. Stephanie, the owner of delicious, has put her all into this place. The food is phenomenal, always taking an extra step to leave you wanting more.
The Coconut Monkey
Tofu Scramble and a green juice with a breathtaking view? That’s how I spent mornings at The Coconut Monkey while on Koh Tao. This is not a fully vegan restaurant but more than half of its menu is vegan and they have a few favorites from different countries around the world.
Gecko Republic Jungle Hostel + Cafe
An eco-friendly hostel with a vegan cafe? Count me in. Gecko Republic has a great selection of comfort foods. I opted for the sweet potato wedges, French toast and their speciality: Butterfly Pea Flower Iced Tea. The best way to cool down on a hot day.
Helllllo salads! I loved the huge salads and delicious smoothies Vegetabowl has to offer. They also have some other selections such as their packed, mouth watering tacos. Warning: the dishes here are pretty big, go with an appetite.
The Factory Cafe
Although The Factory Cafe is not a vegan cafe, it has a great selection of smoothie bowls, perfect for a hot day.
A few other things to check out on the island:
- High Bar, Baby Rasta + Natural High Cafe
I’ll let these names speak for themselves. But each of these places are worth a visit for
their chill atmosphere. Baby Rasta really brought me back to my days in the Caribbean…
- Snorkeling + Diving
There are a few good snorkeling spots around the island. You can rent snorkeling gear and
check them out on your own (cheapest option), or book a tour around the island.
Renting snorkeling gear and paying for taxi boat to take you around is a good option.
- Rent A Motorbike
I did not do this myself (driving on the opposite side of the road with no motorbike
experience was not on my list of things to do), but I got a few rides around. It is the
easiest way to see a lot of the island and its pretty cheap for a bike with insurance, 400
baht for 24 hours (about $13 USD).
- Stay at Bed & Ink Hostel (or at least stop by) to see their two pigs. They also usually have a few cats running around too. I was in heaven playing with them all day!
Koh Pha Ngan
The second biggest of the three popular islands in the Chumphon Archipelago, Koh Pha Ngan is known for its Full Moon parties in the south west and its yoga and healing centers in the north west. I didn’t have a lot of time to check out all that I wanted to here, but I plan to go back to fully experience it. Here is what I recommend for now:
Orion Healing Center
The vibe you get the second you arrive at Orion Healing Center says it all. Yoga, meditation and a fully plant-based restaurant with an incredible view…What more could you need? The menu is filled with goodies. I tried the pumpkin raviolis (raviolis are my fav and not always easy to find good vegan ones) and I was blown away. I also had a green juice and their Hot Chocolate Pudding. Everything gets a 10/10 from me! Orion offers various detox programs, reiki training, and yoga retreats. You can book yours here.
Eat Co. was my everyday breakfast spot. There are two locations on the island. One in the north and one right by pier. I cannot speak for the one in the north because I have only been to the one by the pier, but…wow! Everything was amazing! Pancakes, french toast, cream cheese toast, smoothies, juices… you name it, Eat Co. has it. As I type this my mouth is watering for the cream cheese toast!
Deli Devi is a plant-based cheese and chocolate shop found in the North Western part of the island. This shop is owned by Jeromine Navi who originally came to the island to practice yoga.
Beach Coconuts Bowls
Refreshing, nutritious and delicious! It can be hard to find vegan ice cream in Thailand, which is always good on a hot day, but Beach Coconuts has something even better. Using frozen bananas and other frozen fruits, they create their amazing coconut bowls. They also have smoothies, juices and some toasts. (Not fully plant-based).
Relax during the day and watch the sunset fade into the night sky while you dance to the rhythm of hand drums playing somewhere on the beach. Zen Beach is the top spot for sunsets so it gets crowded around this time. Get there early to find a cozy spot! It is a beautiful white sand beach with blue water.
Malibu Beach is a popular beach on the island. Whereas the beaches in the south have rocky sand and not so clear water, this beach is the opposite. It also has a beautiful back drop of the mountains.
You’ll get more water depending the time of the year that you go, but as I went towards the end of the dry season there was not much. However there were still a feel little falls and they are so refreshing. The hike up is beautiful as well.
Just like Paegan Waterfall, the amount of water you get will vary depending on the time of year. But towards the top of Paradise Waterfall it is one of the most beautiful views I have seen. It looks like someone put up a green screen or maybe you just walked on set of Jurassic Park. B r e a t h t a k i n g. This waterfall has an entrance fee of 100 baht.
After Koh Pha Ngan I took a ferry, then a van and another van, then a speed boat and a long boat to arrive at my next destination located on the West Coast off of Ranong.
There is not much to say about Koh Chang in the way there is to say about the other islands I visited. I stayed on the south side of the island where there are no roads on the island, only trails (that occasionally disappear) throughout the jungle. There are no restaurants, except home cooked meals from the few bungalows that you can find scattered around the island with no WiFi, limited electricity and the most serene views. If you are looking for someone to truly escape from the world, this would be the place. It is not for everyone though, as there really are no attractions here. Just a beautiful, peaceful escape.
Directly across from Koh Chang you will find Koh Phayam. This is one of the less touristy islands but more populated than Koh Chang. There are no hostels, but there are plenty of Bungalows to choose from. The island also has a few great bars to check out and nice beaches.
Sabai Sabai Bungalow
This bungalow is located about a five minute walk from the pier which makes it an easy location and it is at the end of the island so it is a bit more secluded (however it is a long way from some of the more busy areas like Buffalo Bay). It is a on beautiful beach with white sand and clear blue water. There is a restaurant and bar as well and they play movies on a projector on Sunday nights. It is a beautiful place to stay if you don’t mind being a little far from the “main attractions” and you can easily rent a bicycle or scooter from the bungalow.
I actually never had the chance to really visit Hippy Bar, I only saw it from the boat, but I was told by many, many people to check it out so you should too! And I will when I make my way back!
I spent my first night on Koh Phayam here. They had a reggae cover band playing and the guy I stayed with on Koh Chang played the drums and didgeridoo with his friends who own the bar. It brought me back to Jamaica with all of its positive reggae vibes. If this is something you are into, this is a must stop. Try to go when they have live music. Its an amazing time!
Cha Chai Home
I would go back to Koh Phayam just for this restaurant. It is vegetarian with many vegan options and it all so healthy and delicious! They even have one to five day liquid detox options and you can buy superfoods in bulk! The menu is filled with nutritional information and there are signs with positive sayings/quotes around the tables. It is all outside but covered with tents. Just altogether an amazing place for a nutritious meal with a great atmosphere. I ate here everyday!
There are a lot of other islands to visit throughout Thailand and a lot more things to do (such as the Full Moon parties on Koh Pha Ngan). They’re all unique in their own way. If what I shared here is not of interest to you, don’t cross Thailand off your list! Just look around and see what you can find that would be of your interest. If you do plan to visit the islands, I would recommend giving yourself about three to four days on each island and plan a little extra time just in case you find one you love and want to stay for longer!