Why I love Solo Travel and Koh Samui
From Bangkok, the island of Koh Samui was my first stop as I explored Thailand as a solo traveler. Before landing at the island's airport, I had already booked a bed through Hostelworld's app. I made sure to scour the reviews in search of social and relaxing places to stay. I found just that at The Chill Inn, in South Lamai. If you're on your own, read reviews and seek out the kind of social scene you want before booking. You can always change the next day if it's no good.
I happened to fall into a great group of fellow solo travelers, who I continued on with to Koh Tao. Having no agenda or timetable allowed me to go with the flow, meet people, and have travel companions for the next week. Their previous travels informed my next steps, and we could all go our own ways whenever we wanted, without any hurt feelings.
Island hopping is a great introduction to the beauty of Thailand, and is easy to navigate. Low season meant fewer crowds, but incredibly hot, humid weather...a decent trade-off, I'd say. The water is not cool and refreshing, so having air-con in the room is a huge perk in the evenings.
Getting there and accommodation:
Taking Bangkok Airways, I flew from Bangkok to Koh Samui, the biggest of 3 islands along Thailand's southeast coast. There are many stunning (and pricey) resorts, but it's worth considering a more budget-friendly option, such as Sarocha Villa ($31/night) or Chill Inn Hostel ($12/night). The views and beaches are the same, and if you're on your own, hostels are a great way to meet other people and save money. The area near the airport in the north (Chaweng) is busier and more touristy, whereas along the south (Lamai), the pace is slower, quieter and more relaxed.
It's also possible to arrive by train/bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, and then ferry over. It just sounded more complicated than I could handle in that heat, after walking at least 26 miles Bangkok days before.
Mopeds and Taxis will get you where you need to go. Not wearing a helmet could mean a hefty fine, so be sure to stay safe and avoid the fee. Negotiate taxi prices, decide the price with the driver beforehand, and find friends to split the cost.
Red trucks are flat beds, with a cover and a bench on either side. They're cheap and easy transportation all over Thailand, but be sure to find a local and ask what you should expect to pay. Be prepared to negotiate here as well, and stand your ground, if necessary.
From the airport, I took a shuttle bus to South Lamai, but I had to wait for more people to arrive until the bus was full enough to leave. Waiting a couple of hours reading a book at the outdoor airport can save you a decent chunk of change, if you have the time.
Places to visit:
*Silver Beach is a pretty area where you can get a thai massage on the beach, and have a meal or fresh fruit smoothie overlooking the clear blue water.
*You can find local pool access for free or at an inexpensive day rate in the surrounding areas if your hotel doesn't provide one.
*For an all-day activity, Ang Thong National Marine Park was a favorite amongst the people I met, and their photos were beautiful!
*For more ideas, here's a handy page to check out.
(My view from Chill Inn Beach Cafe & Hostel.)
After making friends here, I spontaneously tagged along them to neighboring Koh Tao, a few hours north in the Gulf of Thailand. It was more fun palling around with new friends, rather than flying solo, knowing we'd each go our own way when we were ready.
Bottom line, solo travel means ultimate flexibility in your plans while making lots of new friends. When I travel with other people at the outset, it's too easy to isolate off and not reach out to strangers. Solo travel doesn't mean loneliness, it means quickly finding others in the same boat to enjoy activities with and have lots of like-minded people to join you in your travels. These bonds happen immediately and provide as much (or as little) companionship as you want. Once you're with people you like and trust, you can go places together, having someone who can stay with your things if you need to maneuver to the restrooms without heavy bags. Joining forces can also help when issues come up. Your collective knowledge and resources will help find solutions to problems, you'll have others who will generously share information they've gathered along the way, and people you've met in one place will often show up in other cities on your travels, providing some familiarity in unfamiliar settings. I love the community I've found in fellow travelers, who are bonded by their love of the world and exploring it.