Island hopping with kids in Thailand and Malaysia

by Catherine Toms on 15 October 2015, 16:10PM

Catherine Toms is Mum of an English/Australian family of four who left London in April 2014 to embark on an open-ended adventure. Her blog, Curious Plan., shares their stories, tips and insights on their experiences of life travelling with two young children.

Follow them on Instagram here.. Facebook here. and Twitter here.


I'll be honest we could've easily got stuck in Bali. After 6 months of living in this beautiful, tropical island with it's warm, friendly people it was certainly hard to leave.

But, we had the entire continent of Asia on our doorstep and had barely dipped our toes in the water. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we couldn't just languish in one little corner of the earth (albeit very lovely corner). It was time to get brave, get our backpacks and get out there.

So, with a little bit of trepidation, and a lot of excitement, we settled on two months island hopping Southern Thailand.

Thailand was an obvious choice for us - we were lured by the holiday-brochure-beautiful tropical islands, the perfect white sand beaches, the delicious cuisine and the kind, welcoming locals. Timings were on our side too, October marks the end of the rainy season so we could enjoy cooler, drier weather and budget friendly prices before the high season kicks in. Visa wise we organised a 60 day extended visa for Thailand before we arrived. We've learnt very quickly that travelling with kids means moving less often and staying in places longer. Our time bopping from place to place needed to be broken up with at least one long-term stay to preserve everyone's sanity. The final, major factor was the calling of our flight back to Melbourne for Christmas which departs mid-December from Penang, Malaysia.

After many, many hours navigating Google maps, frantically scrabbling for flight deals and drooling over Conde Nast (I can dream can't I?) we hatched our plan. Arrive into Krabi and spend 2 months making our way down the turquoise Andaman coast to Penang.

The travel path in this part of the world is well worn by backpackers but our days of debauchery and full moon parties are well behind us. We were looking for some quiet, peaceful corners and to explore islands a bit more untravelled. Here's what we came up with:

Ao Nang – 5 days

First stop was Ao Nang - centrally located on the Andaman sea; it's a good all-round beach town. I'll be honest, it's a bit trashy and unabashedly touristy, but you can almost forget that when you see it's beautiful beaches framed with craggy limestone cliffs. It's also a great gateway to escape to any of the idyllic islands which dot the horizon; Railay, Ko Poda and Ko Hong are just a day trip away. Away from the bustling main drag Ao Nang is quite scenic. We scored a fantastic opening deal at the brand new Ibis Styles which was a big bonus to our budgeting. The room was teeny-tiny but the spectacular cliff views, pool, playground and humongous breakfast buffet made up for it.


Railay Beach – 3 days

Railay had a lot to answer for - it was one of a handful of places around the world that inspired us to head off on this whole adventure in the first place. Railay is one of Krabi's most beautiful beaches, separated from the mainland by craggy limestone cliffs it's only accessible by long tail boat. It is simply stunning and has the softest powdery sands, the bluest water, the longest beaches and the most dramatic sunsets.

Railay is tiny and easy to explore on foot, we loved the friendly, laid back vibe and frosty beers at sunset on West Railay Bay quickly became a family favourite. We enjoyed 3 relaxing days on the beautiful beaches of Railay but all agreed we could have easily stayed longer.



Koh Lanta – 5 weeks

Of all of Thailand's islands, Koh Lanta is one of the best all-rounders with a tranquil get-away-from-it-all vibe. It's a spacious, long, skinny island fringed with sweeping golden beaches and an interior of lush, green mountains.

The northern end of the island is a bit more developed but the further south you venture the more peaceful and remote it becomes. Resorts and bars dot the miles of beachfront but it's far from overdeveloped. There are no chain resorts and no high rises which helps preserve the rustic, tropical atmosphere. It has lush national parks to explore and many beaches where you won't see another soul.

Koh Lanta is certainly one of Krabi's most chilled out islands and attracts the more 30-40-50 something crowd than backpackers. The beaches are wide, the waters are calm and the island is safe making it a very popular choice for young families. With lots of apartments to choose from and plenty of places to eat, it was the perfect place for us to slow down and stop for a while.




Koh Lipe – 5 days

A tiny gem of an island, Koh Lipe is a lush combination of remoteness and picture perfect beaches.

One of 51 islands that make up the Tarutao Marine Park it is down south near the border of Malaysia, on a clear day you can even see Langkawi just 30km away. It is said have the most beautiful beaches in Thailand and a handful of smaller bays to explore. The crystalline waters are full of colourful fish and pristine corals offering great snorkeling right off the beach.

Small enough to explore on foot you can cross the island via "walking street" - a vibrant little spot lined with cafes, bars, shops and resorts.




Langkawi – 5 days

Our final island hop takes us across the border into Malaysia to the popular tropical getaway Langkawi. Our last visit here was in 2010 when we dramatically got stranded as the "ash cloud" caused chaos and grounded flights worldwide. Hopefully, our visit this time will be a little less eventful!

We loved the long sweeping coastline of white sandy beaches, delicious seafood and the tropical jungle of this Malaysian paradise. It’ll be a real treat to head back there for a few days.




Penang – 5 days

We finish up our travels for 2014 in Penang, the “pearl of the orient”. After all our time out on remote islands it’ll be perfect to be somewhere more equipped with modern conveniences (and shopping!) to prepare for our time back in Australia.

We’re looking forward to soaking up the old world charm and exploring the narrow streets of Georgetown - a Unesco World Heritage site. We’ll hit the bazaars, markets and malls in search of some unique Christmas gifts and cannot wait to mooch around the trendy cafes, antique stores and little boutiques.



Penang is well known as Malaysia’s foodie haven and we will be sniffing out the best gourmet street food and sampling some delicious hawker dishes.


So, all in all, our plans give us lots of beaches and a little bit of city, some time settling in one place and lots of travelling to tropical islands. They’ll certainly be plenty of new sights, adventures and experiences for us all and plenty of new stories for the Curious Plan.

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