The traveller’s conundrum: see the famous sights, but also manage to stray from the well-trodden path. A balanced trip is admirable, as most of us are frustratingly aware of how difficult it is to pull off.
With that said, us here at S.E.A. Backpacker are complete advocates of sticking out a tentative hand every once in awhile and asking for a bit of help to make the most of your travel days. So often us backpackers are a fiercely independent lot, ready to tackle the open road with nothing but a dusty rucksack and a weathered journal. However, turning to the experts at times can transform a trip into an experience, a smattering of sights into a comprehensive glimpse into a new land, and a whole lot of confusion into a delightful dose of smooth sailing. Sometimes letting go of the control and letting someone else do all the work can be a mighty good thing.
Meet Mark, Joe, and Lou of Tru Travels – three English nomads and entrepreneurs, enthusiastic about travel and eager to help backpackers to really get under the skin of Amazing Thailand. Together they’ve designed a 7-day tour taking energetic travellers from the river roads of Bangkok all the way south to the beaches of Koh Phangan. They’ve crammed it all in, stopping at both the must see spots and the lesser known locations – hidden coves, deserted beaches, and unblemished national parks – a perfectly constructed itinerary for even the most experienced of backpackers!
A group of Tru Travelers enjoying life.
We joined one of their trips recently and after meeting a whole load of enthusiastic fellow travellers, slotted right in! After being in South East Asia for almost five years now, we even managed to discover places we’d never heard of! Places where you’ll hear locals call ‘farang’ (foreigner) in the street, surprised to see that a backpacker has strayed so far.
Think Thailand is overrun by tourists and that pristine beach or rainforest impossible to find? Think again! Here we divulge 5 secrets of the Tru Travels Tour and we’d encourage anyone – from first timers to seasoned backpackers on a limited schedule – to take the trip!
The 7 day Tru Travels trip begins in Bangkok, and then heads south.
Tru Travels, 5 in the know tour highlights:
1. You’ve probably heard of: Haad Rin beach (Koh Phangan’s famous Full Moon Party spot)
You might have not heard of: Bottle Beach, North Koh Phangan
Close to the party yet worlds away, inaccessible by road, Bottle Beach can be reached only by long-tail boat or by a two-hour trek through the jungle. This is the beach that every winter longingly becomes a screen saver for millions: the single palm tree swaying languidly over an ocean so turquoise it seems photo-shopped. When people think of Koh Phangan, all night ravers covered in glo-paint might be the image they conjure up, instead of complete relaxation. Tru Travels shows you that one island does in fact have it all.
The unspoiled Bottle Beach.
Ready to party hard on Haad Rin beach.
2. You’ve probably heard of: Surat Thani (Jump off point for Koh Samui and the Gulf Islands)
You might have not heard of: Khao Sok National Park
Just an hour away from where you board the ferry to Thailand’s most popular islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao lies the spectacular and Jurassic, Khao Sok National Park. Nestled amidst impossible limestone karsts, jungle vegetation clinging to the rocks, the rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world, elephants, big lizards and let’s not forget the picturesque fresh water dam, Ratchaprapa. Tru Travels sets you up to explore all this park has to offer both day and night. During the day nature is your playground, from kayaking to spelunking, Khao Sok is the perfect excuse to let you’re hair down, squish your toes in the mud, and run free. When the sun sets tuck yourself peacefully away in a floating bamboo bungalow bobbing gently upon the still lake waters.
Staying on the floating bamboo huts of Khao Sok National Park.
3. You’ve probably heard of: Koh Tao (Most popular place to learn to dive in Thailand!)
You might have not heard of: Koh Nang Yuan
Two tiny islands adjoined to the main Turtle Island (Koh Tao) by a perfect sand bar, Koh Nang Yuan is a natural wonder that begs to be photographed. Yet it is the wonders under the surface of the water that are truly spectacular. Snorkeling is the name of the game here, as the islands bountiful reefs (check out Japanese Gardens) are accessible and undamaged by outside traffic and pollution. With only one hotel, one restaurant, and no cars, this peaceful island makes for a great day trip or overnight stay. With Tru Travels you will have the chance to spend the entire day here ‘devotin’ full time to floatin!’ in the words of The Little Mermaid’s favourite fish!
Snorkelin’ amongst the fishes
Follow the troops into the glorious water of Koh Nang Yuan!
4. You’ve probably heard of: Bangkok
You might have not heard of: Singburi (a Tru Travels bolt-on option, which includes volunteer English teaching)
Central Thailand, drive a mere one hour north of Thailand’s bustling capital and you might as well be in a completely different country. A trip to Thailand isn’t complete without a glimpse of country life; a land of genuine smiles, curiosity, and a palpable richness in culture. Highlights of this region include a visit to a temple overrun by mischievous monkeys, floating markets, waterfalls, and ancient Khmer ruins. Singburi is a peek of authentic Thailand that not many backpackers get to see.
Visiting the ruins in this area is a huge highlight!
5. You’ve probably heard of: Kanchanaburi (Think Bridge over the River Kwai)
You might have not heard of: Sangklaburi (a Tru Travels bolt-on option, which includes a stay on a remarkable floating Lake House)
Located on the perimeter of the Burmese border is the little-visited, idyllic destination of Sangklaburi, located within reach of the famous Three Pagoda’s Pass. Amidst lush mountainous tropical forest lies a stunning lake with floating water lilies and ancient Mon (Burmese hill-tribe) temples. It’s nature at its best – where eagles, hornbills soar through fresh air, scrambling monkeys peer from steep cliffs and people live a sustainable life as they have for centuries. Stay in a floating Lake House and enjoy the remoteness from a unique vantage point – every day anchoring and sleeping in a new place on the lake. Unforgettable adventures and spectacular sunsets await.
The floating Lake House in Sanklaburi.