Think of Thailand or Malaysia and tropical islands are sure to spring to mind. Beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets and cold beers are going to top of most people’s wish lists. Cristina and I were no different and we picked out four islands for our trip that we were sure would include all of these; Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Penang and Langkawi. Each of them were different but all with so much to offer.
Below is a 75 second highlights reel or you can read on for actual words.
Koh Phangan is famed for it’s full moon parties, but when there aren’t 18 years olds running around with face paint on its a pretty quiet place and without doubt the least developed of the four we visited. Our hotel, Sea Garden Resort, was on the west of the island, near Secret Beach (it’s not that secret by the way). Although basic it had a fantastic infinity pool, which was perfect for watching the sun set each evening.
Right across the street was a really cheap cafe that did lovely food each lunch along with a couple of other restaurants.
Secret Beach was the star of the show though. Featuring beer shacks, tables and chairs and palm trees to escape the sun it was the classic Thai cove. I easily could have spent two weeks at this one place with a book in one hand and a cold bottle of Chang in the other.
Connected to the beach was an incredible bar/restaurant that stretched out on to the headland with swings coming down from the canopy, hammocks to rest if the beach was tiring you out and a dive point where the crystal clear seas showed thousands of brightly coloured fish. The perfect adult playground.
Just a couple of hours by ferry was our next stop, Koh Samui, one of the most visited Thai islands. And it’s certainly busier and much more developed. Our hotel, Escape Beach Resort, was a stunner, and extremely good value as you could sneak next door and use the beach at the W. Another infinity pool, more sunsets and a generous happy hour. Again, it would be easy to watch time slip away here.
Wanting to do a bit more exploring on this island we booked trips to see the Sitting Buddha and the Samui Elephant Sanctuary (read a full review here), both of which were well worth it. Despite a couple of epic thunderstorms, which were great entertainment, the weather was perfect for watching the world go by from the sun lounger.
Next stop, after two long days on the road, was Langkawi. Langkawi has a reputation for luxury, stunning beaches and the cheapest alcohol in Malaysia. Due to my birthday falling at this time we treated ourselves to an upmarket resort for a couple of night, the Frangipani. To be honest it was very nice, but was it that much better than other previous hotels? I’m not so sure. The beach was golden and long, but busy and loud with jet skis and boats running up and down all day long.
For me, the stand-out attraction in Langkawi was the cable car which is the steepest in the world. The views on the way up and from the top are just incredible, as long as you don’t have a fear for heights. Not a bad way to see in 34!
Our final island stop was Georgetown in Penang. This was, without doubt, one of my favourite places in Southeast Asia. The first thing to do is grab a map with all the street art highlighted and try to tick off as many as possible. It makes for a great, and cheap, day’s exploring the back streets of the city when you can admire the architecture and interact with the art. Perfect for an Instagram story as well.
As good as the street art is, nothing compares to the food on offer in Georgetown. The sentence, “this is the best day of food I’ve ever had,” left my mouth on at least one occasion. Every single cafe offers incredible fare and street markets open up at night with inspiration coming from China, Malay, India and further afield. The choice, and taste, is spectacular, and all at incredibly good value. The dim sum, washed down with a Tiger, was a particular favourite.
My other food recommendation for Georgetown is 20 Chulia Lane Cafe. Run by a lovely father and son they had two things close to my heart. Firstly, air conditioning. Secondly, two of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted (and if you follow this blog you know my passion for those!). Make sure you drop by if you visit.
Beer, sunsets, infinity pools, cable cars, street art and stunning food. All in two weeks. Not bad eh?