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Island Hopping 3 Ways X Thailand

A diversity of dreamy experiences exists within the hundreds of islands scattered along Thailand’s Southern coast – how do you choose just one adventure to embark on? You don’t. With a convenient and rather inexpensive ferry system, today’s traveller can easily check multiple island extravaganzas off the bucket list.

Known as the “land of a thousand smiles”, there is no doubt Thailand boasts some truly extraordinary experiences – both on luxurious and cultural levels – that can quite literally be consumed using all five senses. Crystal-clear blue seas and white sand shores are inevitable in Mother Nature’s artistry along every shore, and dedicated foodies will have no problem finding truly hands-on culinary experiences that extend beyond the classic Pad Thai or Green Curry.

The Thai word, “Koh” directly translates to “Island”, and precedes the name of each of our recommended Thai hotspots: Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. Take a look at our suggestions below – this island trio is sure to satisfy all of your Thai travel aspirations, regardless of your budget!

Beautiful beach of Koh Tao, Thailand

DIVE IN: Koh Tao

Koh Tao is an ideal first stop of the three islands in Thailand, especially if you intend on obtaining your PADI open water diving license. It is one of the world’s more affordable places to receive this internationally recognized certification, which will undoubtedly come in handy throughout your upcoming island explorations. Expect to come across multiple world-class dive sites as the islands are known to have a wide variety of marine wildlife: from manta rays to whale sharks, to vibrantly colourful fish and coral reefs.

If you don’t have the time to commit to a full scuba diving certification, there is no shortage of prime snorkelling spots around the island that can be experienced either through an organized group tour or on your own. Koh Tao’s Shark Bay is accessible from the beach shore and offers clear, shallow waters for the chance to explore a variety sea life and coral formations – if you’re lucky, you might catch sight of a Blacktip Reef shark or Green sea turtle!

Sleep: With warm and friendly hospitality, panoramic breakfast buffet views and the island’s most Instagram-worthy infinity pool, you can’t go wrong booking a suite at the Aminjirah Koh Tao.

Devour: Sink into massive beanbags and catch happy hour cocktails at Fizz Beachlounge for an unforgettable sunset experience.

Experience: With the island’s natural vibe of pure zen relaxation, yoga retreats such as those offered by Shambhala Yoga Centre can provide you with the ultimate detox to strengthen your body and mind.

Aerail Koh Mae view, Koh Phangan, Thailand

BREAK FREE: Ko Pha Ngan

If you can recall anything about this lively island, it’s likely that Ko Pha Ngan is best known for its famous Full Moon Parties. Once every lunar month on Haad Rin’s crescent-shaped strip of shoreline, a low-key beach by day transitions into a once in a lifetime party that lasts until sunup. In high tourism season, the beach populates with crowds of up to 30,000 neon face-painted backpackers, enjoying mixed drinks in sand buckets and choreographed fire performances.

Accommodations run anywhere from $5/night backpacker party hostels to luxury resorts on the pricier end. You’ll quickly discover this island has an abundance of first-class offerings –Ko Pha Ngan is not necessarily all about a constant buzz of music and expensive beach clubs. The further north, the more remote and quiet the beaches are. Here, you can escape to some of the country’s most luxurious resorts while still having access to Full Moon Party celebrations. 

Rest: Experience utmost bliss with your loved one at Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan Resort & Spa. A true gem to the island, the resort offers a variety of stunning private villas engulfed in lavish greenery and cascading pools – the ultimate paradise utopia in Thailand.

Devour: Known for its service excellence and cultural ambiance, The Bistro at The Beach is considered to be the premier Ko Pha Ngan restaurant. Don’t miss the signature Gai Pad Med Ma Muang – a delectable stir-fried chicken dish topped with roasted cashews, chili jam and Phangan fresh pineapple.

Experience: Learn how to cook like a culinary pro while crafting the perfect Thai plate – whether it be Tom Yum soup, Penang Curry, or Papaya Salad. For the ultimate foodie experience, find a class that includes a tour of the famous Thong Sala food night market.

Tropical beach and coconut palms in Koh Samui, Thailand, Asia

WIND DOWN: Ko Samui

The next piece of paradise in Thailand, Ko Samui is the largest island of the three and is well-known to be suitable for all types of travellers. While it is certainly a bustling tourist hub full of stimulating experiences, Samui still offers the freedom and relaxation for those looking to do their own happy wandering. Whether you’d prefer to explore the land by foot or navigate the twisting highland roads by motorbike, expect no disappointments in this island’s magical scenery.

Samui has several waterfalls, although the two Na Muang Waterfalls are the most picturesque. Tree roots form a natural staircase that lead to the base of the falls where massive purple rocks sit. Other must-see landmarks include the 12-metre tall Big Buddha Temple, locally known as Wat Phra Yai, as well as Lamai Beach, a laid-back community that sits south of Chaweng district.

Sleep: If you don’t mind blowing your Baht, Ko Samui is known to have some truly luxurious accommodation retreats. Ease off in one of Code Ko Samui’s chic penthouse suites to enjoy striking views of the area’s turquoise sea.

Devour: Indulge in fine Thai and European dishes at Second Nature, where East cuisine meets West. Whether you’re looking for special occasion dining or a more casual, bar lounge environment, this Lamai Beach restaurant will suit your fancy.

Experience: If you’re working with a smaller budget, you’ll have no problem finding traditional Thai massage salons every few steps amongst the town with prices as little as 200฿ – or about CAD$7.50 – for a FULL body aromatherapy or reflexology foot massage!

Picture this: All of the culture, cuisine and warm hospitality found in Thailand’s major mainland cities, but accompanied by endless sun-lounging, towering ocean-side cliffs and palm tree-coated shorelines.

If Thailand has been forever on your to-do list, what are you waiting for? With the country’s various offerings, this island-hopping itinerary can be customized to hit all of your ultimate holiday goals. Between Koh Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui, the Gulf of Thailand has everything your dream vacation desires, regardless of your travelling taste.

Best Of Barbados: Our Top 5 Bajan Bites

Barbados is a beautiful island located in the Caribbean that’s 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, or as the locals say, 21 miles long and a smile wide.

The island is rich in culture and flavour, as it boasts both Spanish and British influences. And while Barbados is now celebrating its 50th year of independence, you can still spot some remnants of the colonization throughout.

Barbados is divided into 11 parishes and boasts a lush interior and a stunning coastline that can be seen in all but two of the towns. Simply put, this Bajan beauty won’t disappoint the traveller looking for a beach built for rest and relaxation, or someone looking to add some spice in their life.

If you’re headed to this sunny spot anytime soon, make sure to jot down a few of our favourite places to grab a Bajan bite.

1/ Cutters of Barbados
Crane Beach, St. Philip Barbados (+246) 423 0611

If you’re looking to sample the best rum punch on the island or indulge in an otherworldly flying fish sandwich, you’ve come to the right place. Owned and operated by Roger and Kim, this locals secret is quickly becoming a tourist attraction, and for good reason.

Whether you’re looking for a classic Bajan meal, or you’re looking to experience the culture, Cutters of Barbados has it all. And while this deli is only a few steps away from The Crane Resort, the warm staff at Cutters will personally deliver your meal to you while you lounge on the beach for free.

Just make sure to pop in on Sundays from 1:00 – 3:00PM for live music, dancing and of course a memorable meal.

2/ Surfer’s Bay Beach Bar & Restaurant
Green Garden Bay, Landsdown, Christ Church, Barbados (+246) 262 5483

For an impossibly perfect meal with a view, book a table at Surfer’s Bay Beach Bar & Restaurant. Sit back and watch the kite surfers go by, as you snack on a quintessential Bajan breakfast.

Since this restaurant is slightly off the beaten path, it has remained one of the best-kept secrets in Barbados. Make sure to look for signs that direct you to the hotel from Oistins Town and prepare for colourful homes, surfboard shacks and a beach so beautiful you could cry.

3/ The Atlantis Hotel
Tent Bay, St. Joseph Barbados (+246) 433 9445

Nestled within the rugged coastline of Barbados, the drive to The Atlantis Hotel is almost as epic as the meal itself.

If you’re looking for a traditional West Indian meal, this restaurant with panoramic ocean views has your name all over it. Come with a big appetite, as this lunch buffet serves up the best that Barbados has to offer every Wednesday to Sunday. And if you’re looking just to sip on some coffee and watch the waves roll on by, their breakfast offering is just as tantalizing.

Since this is the first hotel to exist on the East Coast of Barbados, prepare to bask in history, while you devour the traditional taste of the island.

4/ The Crane Resort
St. Philip, Barbados (+246) 423 6220

Located on the world-famous Crane Beach, this resort is brimming with beauty at every turn. With rooms bringing you closer to island life, to several restaurants featuring the best of Bajan cuisine, indulging in every form is almost too easy here.

The Crane has several restaurants to choose from, including Zagat-rated Japanese food at Zen, fresh seafood served with a side of splashing waves at L’Azure, and Southern Italian at D’Onofrio’s located in The Crane Village.

While it’s nearly impossible to choose a favourite, the best breakfasts we ever had was at L’Azure. Between the birds chirping, to the open air restaurant that encouraged both people and wave watching, our morning routine will never be the same.

5/ Champers Restaurant & Wine Bar

Skeets Hill, Christ Church Barbados (+246) 434 3463

If you’re aching for something a bit more elevated, the fine dining experience at Champers is calling your name.

Between the bright sunset facade that cannot be missed, to the sounds of splashing waves as you dine, this experience cannot be replicated. This romantic meal on the water’s edge truly epitomizes island life, and will leave you wanting more.

Make sure to order up one of their fresh seafood dishes, our personal favourite is the Parmesan Crusted Barracuda, served with mash, seasonal veggies, and a truly delectable whole grain mustard sauce.

Malcolm Jolley Talks Flying Fish And Bajan Food Festivals

There is a menu at Mo’s Bajan Grill, but I didn’t need to read it. On my first night on the island of Barbados, there was only one thing my palate desired: flying fish. I was at Mo’s to kick off this year’s Barbados Food & Rum Festival. It’s an auspicious time for the annual event because the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth’s independence from Great Britain is just days away, and I am honoured and grateful to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. for hosting me on this banner year.

Mo’s is one of the restaurants at Oistins, a strip of action on the road between the airport and Bridgetown, right by the sea. Mo’s had the best tables at Oistins to watch the chef and mixologist competitions on a stage the festival had put up in a courtyard. But my eyes weren’t on the stage, they were on the charcoal grills set up by the tables from which orange flames danced and atomized fish flesh wafted. If it tasted half as good as the sea air smelled at Mo’s, then dinner was going to be good.

And it was. What cod is to Newfoundland, or pickerel to Ontario North Country, so is flying fish to Barbados. The fish is found throughout the tropical seas, but the Bajans know how to cook the best (not too much!). Mo’s is most famous for its Friday night fish fry, or so I was told. I know that flying fish is lovely when fried, but I really do think it’s best grilled and even better when, as was the case, treated first to a Scotch bonnet marinade come sauce.

The flying fish was clean tasting; a delicately fleshed white fish. It was served de-boned and spread open as a double filet, with properly crisp and fire blackened skin on the back.  God it was good: smokey from the grill, picante from the peppers, just a little sour from the vinegar in the sauce and perfectly savoury in its meat. If I eat nothing but flying fish on this trip to Barbados, I will leave happy and satiated.

Of course, I will very likely eat some very delicious and interesting things other flying fish while I am at Barbados Food & Rum (I have already, to be truthful). Please do watch this space to find out what, and who made it…