After visiting the so called paradise islands of Phi Phi and getting very disappointed of the sheer amount of boats, smoke from the engines and people on these islands, I kinda lost hope that there are any of these actual paradise islands left in the popular destinations in Thailand. At this point I was thinking that the whole paradise island thing has become an old marketing trick to get people to visit in bulk. Perhaps some years ago these islands were in fact paradise islands, but the reality now was something else.
I was almost at the end of my 2 weeks journey around the Krabi Province and I was quite tired of doing some trips almost every day. I have read about the Hong Islands and about how beautiful they are, but that is also what they say about Phi Phi Islands, so I was expecting boats covering the whole beach and people everywhere.
After booking trips for almost 2 weeks around Krabi, I was also a bit depleted of money, so I was looking for something a bit cheaper. I searched different tours on getyourguide.com and I found something called "Krabi: Hong Island Sunset Tour and BBQ Dinner", which costed 43 €. I was quite skeptical of this, since this was the cheapest tour I have booked during my whole trip. The price didn't include the 300 BAHT national park entry fee, but even with that it was a really good price. Little did I know that this tour was going to be one of the best tours from my 2 weeks visit!
If you are planning the same tour, before you leave your hotel, make sure you have 300 BAHT in cash to pay the national park entry fee! You should also put your bathing suit on already before leaving, as the first stop will be an awesome experience inside the Hong Island Lagoon. If a woman, I definitely recommend a two piece swimming suit, one that dries up fast, otherwise things might get quite uncomfortable after a few hours of wearing a wet swimming suit. Take also some snacks with you because the barbecue dinner is quite late in the evening!
From personal experience I learned to stay clear of speeding boats and try my best to book evening tours, when most other tours have already ended. Evening tours give you better photographing opportunities and better chances of enjoying the islands without crowds (not guaranteed though...). Also, my trip to Krabi was at the end of February 2020, just before the massive worldwide corona virus outbreak, so quite many tourists were "missing" due to being banned from travelling to Thailand.
The tour description sounded really interesting: visiting the beautiful Hong Island Lagoon, exploring the Hong Island for a few hours, barbecue dinner on one of the Hong Islands and swimming with bioluminescent plankton.
A small car picked us up from the hotel and then we arrived to a small peer, where our long tail boat was waiting for us.
Since this is a cheap tour, the fellow people joining us was a group of 20 year old students from Europe, many of them living in different parts of the world. Originally we thought our trip was going to be ruined by noisy youngsters, but that didn't happen. In fact, they were all really awesome to talk with and it was nice to hear about their experiences living in different parts of the world!
First stop was the Hong Island Lagoon!
Like all the other paradise lagoons in Thailand, you need to visit when the tide is high, otherwise they are not really paradise lagoons, but more like mud lagoons. This one looked pretty deep, so perhaps it's looking this awesome all the time! You can go for a swim in the turquoise looking waters, surrounded by tall limestone cliffs.
The colour of the water here was really special! Unlike other places, this had a milky looking vibe to it, making it look even more amazing than usual! The trees looked surreal in this water!
After admiring this awesome lagoon, we went on the other side of Ko Hong, where we were dropped at a floating peer. Most of the people were actually leaving Hong Island, as I was hoping. Luckily the boats are waiting away from the floating peer, so things look so much better than on Phi Phi already! We arrived here around 15:00 and we had about 1h 30 min to explore the island and enjoy the awesome beach!
We took a short nature walk in the jungle, where we saw birds, giant spiders and a monitor lizard.
After the nature walk there is plenty of time to enjoy the crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, there is even a restaurant on the island. The restaurant was closed at this hour, as most of the tourists had left.
Around 16:00 we were almost the only people of the island, which was exactly what I was hoping for! The whole island transformed into this tropical paradise with no noise coming from any people, nor boats!
After a while it was time to say goodbye to Hong Island and go to Ko Lao Lading to have some dinner, however this island is now one of the best memories I have of Thailand!
Ko Lao Lading is a lot smaller than Ko Hong and it seems to have a lot more fish! We arrived around 17:00 on Ko Lao Lading, our guide started making dinner and we had plenty of time to snorkel and relax. There were some boats coming and going for a while, but after around half an hour we were absolutely the only ones on this small beach!
There is not much to explore here, so this was all about relaxing!
I don't know how this looks like during the peak hours, but, since we were the only ones here, the water was full of tiny fish! You could see in the water this kind of dark and long patch, which was constantly moving! It was really amazing to see!
There were even some pacific reef herons fishing here. They had so much to eat, they just had to swing their beak in the water and grab the fish with minimum effort!
When they approached the water the fish spooked and started jumping in the air! Really amazing thing to watch!
The barbecue took a bit long to cook, but the end result was really impressive! We had chicken, big squids, fish and corn! It was really delicious and plentiful! Must say that for the price we paid this was a really big surprise! Coming from Europe, where all this would cost probably double than the whole tour itself, I really enjoyed this barbecue!
Unfortunately, with the barbecue taking so long, we have missed the sunset that was promised in the tour. This was no biggy, as I had already seen it some days before. You can check "Sunset Cruise Towards the Hong Islands, Krabi, Thailand" blog post for more pictures of the sunset around the Hong Islands. This was only the second tour for our guide and she miscalculated the time it took to make the barbecue. Our guide was usually working in Ko Lanta, but because of the corona crisis and low amount of tourists in Ko Lanta, she had to relocate to Krabi.
When we got back to the boat we had this kind of view below. We stopped at the island where we were supposed to see the sunset, but the sun had long set. It was pretty dark, but still very cool looking. The island we stopped at is the same where we were snorkelling in the other blog post above, Ko Ya La Hu Tang.
As it was already quite dark, we didn't linger too long on this island, since it was time to go swimming with bioluminescence plankton!
By the time we got to the spot where we went swimming it was completely dark and you could actually see tiny lights next to the boat as it moved. You could also put your hands in the water and make some splashes to see them! Unfortunately it was really dark for pictures and the boat kept moving, so it was impossible to take pictures or videos! I tried with camera set at the maximum ISO and taking a video with my gopro from the water, but all that came out of it were dark, blurry images. Nonetheless, this was a unique experience and I highly recommend this to everyone! You don't get to swim around with tiny lights around you that often!
Our guide was really nice, spoke very well english and was really friendly! Everything about this trip was just awesome! When the people leave back to their hotels, the islands in Krabi really get transformed into the paradise islands that are advertised everywhere! The Hong Islands were some of the most beautiful islands I have ever visited, very different than my "normal" trips to Europe's rocky islands. Such a great experience!