Whether it be from personal memory, or from the tales of friends from their teenage years, for many people, Thailand conjures images of Full Moon Party madness, barbecued bugs and buckets of booze – quite literally! While for some of you your wild party days might be behind you but for others, delving into the backpacker world of Thailand offers the opportunity to get in touch with your inner 18-year-old. Let’s face it, they’re still in there somewhere! That’s where flashpacking comes in, a buzzword for those who want all the experiences of a backpacker but also want to sever the restraints of a shoestring budget. Our normal itineraries to Thailand may offer luxury, tranquillity and beauty, but here’s a way you can combine the best of both worlds, and embrace your inner wild child.
Known in Thai as Krung Thep, which translates as the ‘City of Angels’, Bangkok, for me, is the perfect place to begin your time in Thailand. It’s a capital that blends traditional culture and a simpler way of life seamlessly and as a city, it really is captivating. Be prepared for skyscrapers and riverside shacks, shopping malls and floating markets, glittering temples and ancient statues.
During your time here, do as the backpacker does and head to the famous Khao San Road. This area is filled with souvenir markets, street food stalls and local roadside eateries. While it does turn into a street party after dark, it’s located in the heart of the ‘old city’, which feels extremely authentic, especially once you escape into the side streets.
Sala Rattanakosin is just half an hour on foot or 15 minutes by taxi or tuk-tuk from Khao San Road, and it’s a beautiful boutique right on the riverfront. With a chic rooftop bar and contemporary rooms, this is the perfect place to stay if you want to ensure a bit of luxury and comfort.
In the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is a staple on the backpacker trail and there’s good reason for this. Northern Thailand is renowned for its delicious cuisine, stunning mountainous landscapes and ancient walled city of Chiang Mai, which dates back to the Lan Na era. When I was backpacking, Chiang Mai felt like a bit of an oasis for me, as it’s so chilled out and authentic. Try heading to the Saturday Night Walking Market, where you can taste local cuisine as well as pick up trinkets and souvenirs. Or, explore the ruined temple of Wat Chedi Luang, which was originally built in the 1400s.
For me, being located centrally is a must in Chiang Mai and Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is just five minutes from the Walking Market. With a pool to cool off in after a long day out and about and the opportunity to have breakfast overlooking the river, this hotel ticks all of the boxes.
Even though I recommend staying central, it’s so easy to get into the rural surrounds of the Chiang Mai province, whether it be to visit an ethical elephant sanctuary or cycle around the local farmlands and villages.
If you’re travelling during our winter months, the best beaches lie on the south-west coast of Thailand – Phuket, Krabi, and Khao Lak being among the most popular regions. Phuket is a regular haunt for the backpacker – you have Phang Na Bay and the island of Koh Phi Phi just a day trip away, and the Old Town of Phuket is just fascinating. For those wanting a taste of the party lifestyle, Patong is your final destination. The Rosewood in Phuket is a luxury five-star hotel, located on a lovely stretch of sand and just a short drive from the madness of Patong. Why not head out for a wild night before coming back to enjoy the comfort of your own private villa with pool?
For a summer holiday, the eastern islands are your best bet for good weather, and Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have been well trodden by travellers for years. Koh Samui is an island that has been built up in recent years but still generously offers beach bliss, local Thai towns and villages. As well as sun and sea, Koh Samui is also a great place for a party, and Chaweng beach is well known for its party scene, and ladyboy cabarets. While this may not be to everyone’s taste, the third sex and transgender communities have been a big part of Thai culture for many years, and backpacker areas found in places like Bangkok and Koh Samui allow individuals to express their true character, when they may have been ostracised elsewhere.
Anantara Lawana is located right on the edge of Chaweng, so you are within walking distance of the party but can also relax in bliss. This hotel is designed in the style of beach houses but the interiors all have a Thai story behind them. Deluxe Lawana rooms have beautiful first-floor balconies and have the tales of traditional Thai bird-singing competitions subtly brought into the design, with birdcages as lamps and cushions and canvases of birds decorating the bright interiors.
Maybe the ultimate backpacker experience in Thailand, the Full Moon Party on the sleepy island of Koh Phangan is infamous. Taking place every month on the full moon (hence the name), this party takes over an entire beach, with fire breathing, alcohol buckets, dancing with the sand between your toes and a lot of UV paint. While this has become what Koh Phangan is best known for, the rest of the island is much less developed than its neighbour Samui and therefore it’s the perfect place for a holiday. Anantara Rasananda is one of the only five-star properties on the island and where we’d recommend you to stay. This beautiful tropical property offers shuttles to and from the Full Moon Party so you can stay as you please – who could ask for anything else?!