It’s been a hard life travelling around, lazing on beaches, topping up my tan… I’ve compiled the noteworthy beaches I visited around Asia and given my tuppence worth on the good, the bad and the ugly…
Gili Air, Indonesia: This tiny island is perfect for serenity, fresh air, and seeing authentic island life and friendly locals. It’s easy to switch off, as there are no tuk tuks or scooters. There are loads of gorgeous cafes here and it is great to chill out in evenings and watch movies on the beach. The island is small enough to cycle around so you can find your own private spot easily. There are magic mushrooms here too, if that’s your thing…
Gili Trawangan More tourists than it’s neighbour Gili Air. Gili T is ideal for snorkeling – spot turtles, Nemo and the rest of the gang in the gorgeously colourful coral reefs.
Koh Phangan sunset beach, Thailand: One of the least developed Thai islands. Koh Phangan has unspoiled views and amazing sunsets. The calm, shallow water is perfect for sea kayaking. The infamous Full Moon Party takes place on the opposite side on Sunrise beach; which is wide, very windy and sort of a ghost town when the parties aren’t on. Good place to buy neon vests.
Patong, Phuket, Thailand: For the love of God, stay away. It’s filthy, seedy, loud, crowded. Unless you’re looking for desperately gaudy clubs with 10ft tiger statues or lady boys, pole dancing and ping pong shows… then you’ll love the adjacent Bangla Road.
Maya Beach, Thailand: I don’t get the hype. Do people go because it was in a film? Might have been gorgeous once upon a time but now it is artificial, and photos are spoiled by longtails and crowds. It feels like a traffic jam. In my disappointed opinion it’s not worth the boat ride.
Polhena, Matara, Sri Lanka – This is, hands down, the best turtle viewing spot in Sri Lanka. While snorkeling I got close enough to hand feed sea grass to a green turtle. There are beautiful sunsets, and night swimming is amazing as the deep water is very calm then. The lack of resorts makes for a dark, starry sky but that also means no bars to speak of. The ocean itself is quite tidal, and a lot of dead coral washes up. Nonetheless, it’s a favourite beach for Sri Lankans and busy at holiday time.
Weligama, Sri Lanka: This is an incredibly scenic cove, which believe it or not, is not dissimilar to Lahinch or Tramore. It is one of the best for beginner surfing and very quiet. The sun is strong and makes for good tanning. Gorgeous to stroll along at sunset. Still in its early days of tourism, there’s a mix of resorts and hostels, so it’s pretty upmarket and pricey but also maintains a shabby chic surfer vibe. Get there before the Marriott opens and steals its soul.
Chaweng beach, Koh Samui, Thailand: Many resorts, all the parties and British/ Aussie tourists. According to the voice on the ad truck that follows you around (and still haunts my dreams) you can get Japanese nuru massages here. Nice beach, but nothing to write home about.
Tonsai Bay, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand: – Not much space or sand for sunbathing. Clogged with boats and over development. A lot of natural beauty makes it scenic enough for hanging out at the bars, looking at the clear water and amazing rock formations. All the more shame that it’s being wrecked. Supposedly there are lovely quiet beaches on the opposite side of the island, if you cut through the forest.
Kuching beach, Borneo – I guarantee this is like nothing you’ve ever seen. A completely deserted, soft sanded beach woven with freshwater streams, boulders and rock pools. Not to mention a stunningly scenic mountain backdrop, tall trees and clouds of mist. Plenty of exploring waterfalls, rock pools and the rain forest itself. The sea is alternately bath warm and refreshingly cool. One of the best things about Kuching beach is the treehouse accommodation in Permai rain forest. This is one of the most relaxing and recharging places I have ever been. Novelty factor: One million.
Colva & Majorda beaches, South Goa, India: Very tidal, dark sand, nothing special. Full of guys standing around in slacks or jeans in 34 degree heat. The beach bars are not particularly hospitable to tourists and charge a lot for loungers and cocktails. If you want to be knocked over by waves and risk losing your bikini while men leer at you, this is the place.
Phu Quoc Long Beach, Vietnam – This idyllic island paradise in the Gulf of Thailand is all crystal waters and soft, white sand. The sea is refreshing, deep & good for swimming. Perfect for lazing on a sun lounger, and munching on fresh fruit, you tan here in the blink of an eye. You burn too… It is still quite undeveloped and unspoiled. Unfortunately, it’s earmarked as the next Phuket so get there before it’s ruined.
Kosgoda, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s turtle conservation sanctuaries and hatcheries are located here. You can visit and have the chance to release hatchlings. which is one of the most incredible and adorable experiences possible.
Negombo, Sri Lanka: Smacks of a beach near to a city. Quite grubby with dark, course sand. Hard to swim as the water is deep with strong tide and sloped sand. Hard to get back to shore too; the waves took the legs from under me and I fell on my backside spectacularly. However, it is very scenic with the catamarans and fishermen. You will be hassled to buy things but the locals are friendly and chatty. They use the beach in the evenings which is nice to see. Good vibes and gorgeous sunsets, great place to begin or end your holiday.
So there’s my list. If you agree or feel I am hopelessly wrong and missed out on some hidden gem, please feel free to comment!