We are two twenty-somethings from the UK. Nick grew up in Essex and Hollie grew up in Kent. We’ve been together for over seven years and met at university where we lived in the same halls of residence. Last year, we got engaged in Thailand on Ko Lanta just after we visited Ko Ngai.
After we graduated, Nick was living and working in Cambridge and Hollie was living and working in Kent – a two-hour drive apart. Eventually we moved into a flat together. However, about one month later, whilst enjoying a couple of beers in our favourite pub, we decided to go travelling.
That would mean giving up our careers and flat and moving in with Hollie’s mum to save up some money. It was a crazy decision to make having just got our first place, but it felt like it was what we were destined to do.
We had always loved travelling and knew that backpacking was a style of travel that would suit us. We had already fallen in love with Southeast Asia. Nick’s parents lived in Singapore for a few years and we regularly went out to visit. So it was obvious to us that Asia would be our main destination.
In September 2019, we packed up work (Hollie worked in fundraising marketing at a national disability charity in London and Nick worked as a regional sales manager for an international chemical manufacturer) and hopped on a plane headed to the beautiful Southeast Asia.
Now we work remotely as freelancers. This was a decision inspired by our trip and the two months we spent in Thailand in particular. We plan to head back as soon as the pandemic slows down and borders reopen.
Backpacking through Thailand
Thailand is a backpacker’s paradise. It’s very easy to get around, find places to stay and have an incredible time. We knew that we would enjoy the wildness of the north with its gorgeous landscapes and glittering temples, and living the ‘island life’ in the south of Thailand was just as appealing.
We headed to Bangkok in late November, 2019 and spent a week there. Then we travelled up to Chiang Mai via Ayutthaya and spent three weeks exploring Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. Then we flew down to Phuket, spent time exploring there and Khao Lak, then headed over to Ko Lanta.
We immediately fell in love with Ko Lanta and found it very liveable. We spent a considerable amount of time there – splitting up our stay by visiting other nearby islands like the beautiful Ko Muk, Ko Jum and Ko Ngai.
Exploring the Southern Islands
Planning a trip to Thailand’s southern islands can be a minefield. There are so many beautiful islands. If you’re on a budget and time restricted like we were, there’s no way you can afford the time or expense on travelling between all of the islands and spending time on each of them.
So you have to do some decent research, make a list of places and prioritise which Thai islands you want to visit. We like travelling slowly. We don’t like rushing things. Because of this, we only planned to visit the islands in the Andaman Sea and leave the other regions for another trip to Thailand.
We loved Ko Lanta so much that we spent most of our trip there, only visiting islands that were nearby. That’s how Ko Ngai came under our radar. We saw many tourist offices promoting snorkelling day trips from Ko Lanta to Ko Ngai, Ko Muk and Ko Kraden, but this kind of outing doesn’t suit us.
We wanted to go and stay on as many islands as possible. So eventually we decided to catch a ferry to Ko Muk and spend two nights there, then hop back on the ferry over to Ko Ngai for a few nights, then back to Ko Lanta.
As soon as we stepped onto Ko Ngai’s white sand we knew two nights wouldn’t cut it. It’s paradise. We decided to head straight for our hotel’s office and book another two nights making our trip length four nights.
Four Beautiful Nights on Ko Ngai
We spent a total of four nights on Ko Ngai which was perfect. We should point out that this is an incredibly small island with virtually nothing to do apart from beach activities. Most of the island is wild rainforest and the hotels and restaurants are situated on one long beautiful beach.
There’s no strong WiFi or mobile signal, and there’s actually not that many people on the island. The majority of visitors to the island do so as part of an organised day trip from Ko Lanta or the mainland. Very few travellers actually stay on the island. At night, it’s incredibly quiet. We loved it!
Every morning we woke up early to watch the sunrise. The experience was out of this world. So tranquil and peaceful. It’s something we’ll never forget. We always joke about the fact that Nick didn’t propose to Hollie on one of those mornings! It couldn’t have been more romantic.
After watching the sunrise, perhaps we’d go for a walk and come back to the hotel for a delicious breakfast. Then we would laze around on the beach or in the garden reading our books or playing cards. We’d eat lunch at the hotel and usually venture out to a different restaurant in the evening.
That was the extent of it aside from water sports you can do which didn’t appeal to us. Ko Ngai is somewhere a busybody adventurer would go insane. For us, this paradisiacal island is simply about reconnecting – with your loved ones and nature. It’s a truly peaceful experience.
Top 5 Things To Do on Ko Ngai
As you’re probably gathering by now, there aren’t really any ‘places’ on Ko Ngai. It’s just one beach. Our favourite spot was the patch of sand right in front of our hotel where we watched the sunrise and read our books all day. We also liked our evening cocktail at the atmospheric Sea Breeze Bar!
However, there are a few activities that we would recommend for your stay:
- Watch the sunrise – it will be the most unforgettable sunrise you’ve seen.
- Rent a kayak – a great way to explore the surroundings of this tiny island.
- Go snorkelling – the waters are crystal clear but try to go early in the morning while the tide isn’t all the way out.
- Hike through the jungle to the resorts on the other side of the island.
- Get a Thai massage – the most peaceful spot in Thailand to get a massage.
Amazing Food Scene on the Island
The food scene on Ko Ngai is pretty quiet because of the island’s size, but there are a few different places to try. All of the resorts have a restaurant where anyone can eat. Most serve similar Thai dishes and the freshness of the seafood in all of them is incredible. Most have big open BBQs too.
Budget travellers should bear in mind that the price of food and drinks on Ko Ngai is quite high compared to other islands and the mainland of Thailand. Ko Ngai Seafood and Chomview are cheaper options to try, but the more luxury hotels have restaurants fit for a special occasion.
Accommodation on Ko Ngai
We were budget backpackers and we were used to only spending up to £25 on accommodation each night. Ko Ngai is only home to 11 hotels, some of which are on the pricey side, so we had to choose hotels carefully.
We eventually decided to stay in a basic beach hut at Ko Ngai Seafood, a budget to mid-range hotel. At £35, it blew our budget a bit but it turned out to be an excellent choice and a place that we recommend.
Ko Ngai Seafood is rated ‘very good’ on Booking.com. It has an excellent restaurant and bar, and the staff were unbelievably friendly. We think there are some other room options available with slightly better facilities, but our room was incredibly basic. We’re talking mosquito nets and cold showers!
As we mentioned, there are only 11 options on the island. Cheaper alternatives are available such as Ko Ngai Camping, and of course there are lots of fantastic mid-range and luxury resorts dotted on the island. Thanya Beach Resort is 4-star and has the highest reviews on Booking.com.
Unfortunately, the price of accommodation is slightly prohibitive to backpackers like us. This island is more suitable for travellers with a higher budget. However, it’s a paradise island, so what can we expect?
Two Special Moments on Ko Ngai
We have two special moments from our stay on Ko Ngai. The first was arriving on Ko Ngai. That might sound crazy, but it’s so unlike anywhere we had ever visited before. The ferry dropped us off at the main pier which happens to be situated on a quite inaccessible corner of the island.
We didn’t fancy walking through the jungle with our backpacks so we hopped on the complimentary long-tail boat that drops passengers off at their resorts. The tide was out so we had to get off the boat into the sea with our rucksacks and wade through the water to get to the shore.
It was such a bizarre experience. Our clothes were soaked and Nick almost lost his wallet. Then when we got to the shore, we were struck by how beautiful and raw the island was. Pure white sand, crystal clear waters, unobtrusive beach huts and restaurants scattered on the beach.
It was otherworldly. Just stunning. We were pretty gobsmacked actually. Our second special memory was waking up on the first morning to watch the sunrise. There’s never been a more peaceful moment. We felt like we’d truly reconnected with nature and the beautiful simplicity of the world.
Need to Know Before you Go
Budget travellers should budget more for Ko Ngai. For us, it was the most expensive place in Thailand. Pack minimally. If you are coming from a larger island like Ko Lanta or the mainland and you plan to head back in that direction, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to leave items of luggage there.
Bear in mind that the arrival experience with having to get off a boat into the sea is pretty fraught. Large suitcases are a no-go. Besides, we just lived in swimwear and shorts and I think we put on shoes once the whole time.
We weren’t being lazy, it’s just that all of the restaurants have tables on the sand and the only way you can reach them is by walking on the beach! Prepare to relax. This really is chilled island life. You literally cannot get more chilled than Ko Ngai. Watch the sunrise every morning of your stay.
Take snorkelling gear and rent it at one of the tour offices. A tip for those with mobility issues or young children – the only means of getting around the island is by foot. Generally speaking, accessibility is non-existent.
Thanks for reading about our experiences and recommendations for the stunning Ko Ngai. We hope you enjoy your visit just as much as we did!