Its hard to pick a place to vacation, it really is.
We chose to take our adventure to the beautiful country of Thailand because we were looking for both adventure and culture, but we also wanted to be able to relax and have a little luxury. Out of all places we searched, Thailand fit the bill! Plus the fact that hotels and food are massively cheaper than most all other vacation spots helped too.
In the following paragraphs I will detail our perspective of the places we visited honestly, and give you an unfiltered opinion. I hope you enjoy!
This place gets a bad rep., but I can honestly say I have no idea why. This place had a different air to it, and with the hustle and bustle of the Tuk Tuks and tour vans fighting their way for their spot on the street, the fresh food at every stop, or the general happiness exuding from everyone there it was one of my favorite places, and I wish we had not listened to all the travel blogs saying to not waste much time there. We stayed at a wonderful hotel names Tara Place, which was just a few blocks away from the famous Koa San Road. This is where we had our first noodle bowl, freshly made with top notch ingredients, for about $0.83 USD. I think the main problem is that people expect to see a city, but don’t expect the classic downfalls of a city. For example, a lot of the parts don’t smell good. But, have you ever been to San Fransisco? Same deal.
Overall, Bangkok is a place I would very much like to visit again with a longer time frame. Highly Suggested!
Arrival & Adventures in Chiang Mai
To get to Chiang Mai, we decided to take the sleeper train as we were told by many it is a traveling experience everyone must have, as well as a much cheaper way to make the long journey from Bangkok to the northern area in Thailand. The entire train trip was to be 12 hours long, leaving at 7:30 p.m. and arriving at 8:40 am. Well, that did not go as planned! We ended up not being able to depart until an hour after the original depart time, and while we were sleeping the train had apparently been stopped for four hours. So when we wake up, we are informed that the train will be five hours late. Yeesh! So we accept it and go on with our trip, although the windows were very scratched and foggy looking, so instead of the “Breathtaking Views at Breakfast” we were promised, it was just a foggy window and a long trip. As it rounds around the 3rd hour, the train assistant comes back, and says ANOTHER FIVE HOURS. No way, Jose. We GPS’d where we were and decided to get off the train at the next stop, which was told to be about an hour and a half away from our destination. For about 10 USD, we were able to hop in a cab to Chiang Mai! Finally! Overall, The sleeper train was okay, but it really puts a damper on a travel plan when it takes 12 extra hours to get there that you wanted to enjoy the trip, so if you are on limited time I would say spend the extra 20 dollars, and opt for a plane ride.
Chiang Mai is a beautiful city, with lush green surroundings and beautiful rolling hills, and the city area is nestled in between. With very small streets and complicated pathways, you very much so wonder how all of the Tuk Tuks and taxis get around! But let me tell you- best driving around! Not an accident in sight. Our hotel location was just a very short walk to the booming night Bazaars, where tons of street vendors line up waiting to bargain with you for the best price. Now, J had to do this one for me, because everything was so cheap I felt SO guilty asking for lower prices, but he was fantastic and got us some really awesome stuff! They also have bounties of fresh made foods in street vendors or restaurants, and let me tell you, when you spend 8 dollars and get three giant dishes, drinks, and water you feel pretty good about your life choices!
Our fist big day trip was arranged to spend the day at Smile Elephant Sanctuary, a wonderful organization that does not chain their elephants and does not condone riding which was something extremely important for us as animal welfare advocates. We were picked up in the morning and driven about an hour into the hills of Chaing Mai, where we stopped at a small hut with a bamboo platform we all sat on. First, we made medicine for the elephants by using a stone herb grinder to grid rice, bananas, fruit, and other grain together to wrap in a banana leaf. This helps with their digestive system I learned! Then, IT WAS TIME TO MEET THE BABIES! We each got a basket of bananas to feed them, and they call them over, and thats when I see the baby sprinting towards us! He was so excited for feeding time! There were three elephants in total, mom, dad, and baby. Feeding them was one of the best moments of my life, such gentle giants that had a sweet and playful demeanor. From the feeding we then were fed a lunch of curry and stir fried rice, made by an older Thai woman in a tiny hut, and it was easily the best curry we had on the entire trip. HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE!!
Our second day trip was to see the golden triangle and the white temple! We started at 7am, traveling north to reach our first stop, Wat Rong Kuhn, the white temple. This was one of our ultimate destinations and every travel guide we had seen highly suggested it for its beauty and erie feeling. The temple was absolutely gorgeous, and as you are not allowed photos on the inside of the temples, the coolest parts were missing from our online research! You walk inside and the entire shrine is adorned with gold and vibrant colors, with murals all over the walls including paintings of modern culture symbols and characters such as bat man, super man, spider man, George Bush and the twin towers, and some other serious digs to American cultures which I personally agree with so it was no issue to us. As you walk up the walkway to enter the temple, there are sculptures of hands reaching up from hell, and you have to cross hell to get to the other side, “Heaven”, and you absolutely could not return the way you came.
The Golden Triangle was next on our stop, which is where three countries meet and you can see them all at once! These countries are Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. You can see the sitting buddha alongside the river, take a short trip across to Loas, where you can get whiskey infused with Cobra, Tiger Penis, Ginseng, or Turtle, Justin decided to try the cobra, I was not so adventurous.
Our last stop with that day trip was to visit the long neck tribe, where the women ad a metal gold ring every year of there birth until they are either married, or reach the age of 25. They start the process at the age of 5, and the more rings, the more beautiful she is considered. The people in the tribe are friendly and welcome tourists, as it greatly improves their economy and standard of life. This one was hard to get past for me, as I felt extremely guilty taking pictures of them and with them because I did not wish to disrespect any aspect of their culture. But the tribes people were very assuring they do not mind at all, so my heart was eased a bit. Plus, there were puppies in the tribe! They were darling little balls of fuzz and just added to the entire experience. A must do if you are in northern Thailand!
And that just about wrapped up our trip in Chaing Mai! We would have loved to be there longer as there are endless things to do and see, including the beautiful city of Pai, but next time for sure!
Heading south- Koh Phi Phi
Being that it is such a long trip to get to the islands, we took a plane, bus, and ferry and it took pretty much the entire day to arrive on the island of Koh Phi Phi. We arrived at 3 pm, and the boat to our hotel which was not at the main port did not leave until 5:30pm, so be wary if you have had long travels as we were unaware and exaughsted. But as the time rolled around and we got to our first hotel, at the Tokyo Beach Resort, all was well. This GORGEOUS resort is like a hole in the wall restaurant, tiny, very closed off, and has the best and cheapest food you can imagine. For $50.00 a night we were in an incredible bamboo hut on the beach, we fell asleep and rose to the sounds of the waves crashing outside of our window. It was my favorite place we stayed in terms of beauty and location. So highly recommended.
As we were aware we were going to be moving around so much, we decided to have a couple day stretch at a fancier resort by the name of The Natural Resort on another secluded side of the island. Although, we were very much so not made aware of how difficult it would be to get to the main area of Koh Phi Phi, which was a little disappointing, but after staying we were very thankful to have our own quiet side of the island to relax and unwind. Which happened to be perfect, as the bad luck of travel got to me and I had a bad bought of food poisoning! I am not positive where it came from, but I am pretty sure it was because we ate sandwiches from a boat tour that had meat on them that happened to sit in the sun al day, so I would suggest if you go on any guided all day trips for snorkeling and such, bring snacks! The snorkeling trip we did was wonderful, It started at monkey beach, then to shark point for snorkeling, then off to Maya Bay where the film The Beach was filmed, and after watching the sunset on our boat we were able to jump back in after dark to see the glowing plankton! It was a fantastic tour and hit all of the major spots near Phi Phi.
Of course there was the infamous beach parties we had to check out! With Buckets, and I mean buckets, of mixed drinks starting at under $5.00, it is easy to get your party on here. Fire spinners frequent the beaches and music is always pumping, there are bars where you can go and may thai fight your buddies, which really just beating the crap out of each other with no rules. Drunk harmless fun, right? Unfortunately I was still not feeling %100 when I was there so I couldn’t let my full freak flag fly,but I did indeed try my best to get out there!
The waters of Koh Phi Phi are insanely gorgeous, the drinks are great, and the people are friendly. Its definitely not somewhere you want to spend an extra long time at, if we stayed any longer than our 4 nights we would have been bored out of our minds. But we were happy to have been there, and it was very much worth it.
And that brings us to our final destination- Koh Samui
We traveled to the island of Koh Samui because J is an avid disc golfer, and some of his friends happened to be there the same time as us playing a tournament! Disc golfing is a big part of his life, and surprisingly HUGE all around the world, so of course we had to go!
We had hear about Koh Samui from our researches prior to our trip, and I have to honestly say we were a little disappointed and very happy we decided to go to Koh Phi Phi for our stay instead of the islands near Samui, as the water in the ocean is GROSS. Very murky, very dirty looking, we never dipped a toe in because we were wary of what was in there. It did have some redeeming qualities however, renting a motorbike was only about 8 dollars for the day, and all you had to do was sign a piece paper! It was so fun zipping around on the bike checking out the big Buddah and other locations nearby. The nightlife is also very cool, they have a very busy district near the Ark bar with fire jump roping, even cooler fire spinning, and red light districts everywhere.
For the disc tournament, it was on its own private island! It was the first tournament that I have been to with J, and it was very cool to experience that in this format. Everyone seemed to play less excellent than they were oping, but everyone was honestly just so excited to be there it was all a happy process.
And that was the end of our trip!!
Thailand was an incredible experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is looking to travel. It has everything from culture and adventure, to luxury and tropical islands. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and I hope you enjoyed going along this journey with us!
Below I will detail some general trips on packing and public transport, as the more information before traveling, the better!
- Bring less clothing than you think you need, especially women, there are amazing cheap clothes everywhere that you will want to buy, and laundry service that is very cheap is on every corner you can find.
- Rolling luggage, if we didn’t have it, we would have been in pure hell! You have to lug things around a lot no matter where you are going, so be wary.
- Bring some home sickness comforts such as Pepto Bismol, tylenol, motion sickness medicine, and allergy medicine. There are many pharmacies around big locations, but if they are not open or not near you, you cannot buy any kinds of medicine elsewhere.
- Bring comfortable shoes of different types. I was sure to bring waterproof sandals, and scrappy easy to wear sandals, but failed to bring tennis shoes. Big mistake!
- Stock up on snacks, in that heat and vigorous travel, you can get really hungry and its not clear when the next eatery will be, so come prepared.
- Bug spray! Bring the bug spray! Thailand is basically a mosquito breeding ground.
- No need to bring your own snorkel gear, they have high quality rentals available everywhere and it just takes up space in your bag.
- Do not expect to be anywhere on time, Thailand is notorious for running slow.
- Follow the golden rule, if you are kind to everyone, everyone will be kind to you!
- Be open to try things, you never know what delicious tastes or fun experiences you can have!
- Make sure to triple and quadruple check with your travel guide about pick up times and places if you are using one, we ended up getting screwed over on our last pickup, missed our plane home, and ended up having to spend 1700 dollars just to get home. Yikes.
- Women- Feminine products, bring them! You do not have a big selection while traveling, and if the worst happens, be prepared.