if you’ve ever wondered about going to thailand, stop wondering and just go.
it’s rare for me to want to go back to a place with so many different places to see in the world. but i was already planning my next trip back before i even got home. thailand was an amazing experience. the food. the people. the scenery.
first things first. while the internet can be a wondrous place, it can also lead to information overload. when planning our trip, my cousin and i found a lot of information. little of it seemed detailed or practical in the way we needed. what we did find was either really relaxed or really luxurious. thus, the theme of our trip was born: “not backpackers, not ballers.” so check out my other blog post with planning tips for the rest of us.
this post will be more specific to the places we visited and things we did. if you read nothing else, know this:
- eat everything. no really, everything. the fruit, in particular, is the best fruit i’ve had in my life. and trust me, you can’t eat enough mango with sticky rice.
- get a lot of massages. they can be as cheap as $10 in some places. this is the one thing i regret not doing everyday, lol.
i am lucky enough to have a friend living in bangkok. i’m even luckier that he is engaged to a lovely thai woman (think homemade meals). we stayed here for a few days spending most of our time casually hanging out.
a highlight was one of the floating markets, damnoen saduak. imagine floating down “streets” and being able to buy fresh coconuts or fried bananas from passing boats. there are also people making full on noodle dishes on these tiny boats. p.s. i will never complain about my small kitchen again. most of the shopping is pretty touristy, but you should really go for the food.
we ended our trip here as well staying at the vie hotel. it was a nice hotel that was walking distance from the subway, it was also walking distance to a couple of their big malls. we actually ended up having a couple of our meals at the mall and it was really delicious.
chiang mai was by far my favorite part of the trip. there’s so much to do!
we stayed at the rim resort which was a lovely hotel for about $100 a night. the old city is pretty walkable. you can’t go a couple blocks without stumbling across a gorgeous temple. seriously, it’s like what starbucks is to the u.s. most were free, although donations were appreciated. a few did have entrance fees but they were really nominal. the 2 you won’t want to miss:
- wat chedi luang is incredibly peaceful. you immediately see several structures as you enter the gates. as gorgeous as they are, walk around back and it’s a whole compound.
- wat phra that dos suthep is about 20-30 minutes outside of the city but worth a visit.
animal parks are pretty big in the region but make sure to do your homework. for instance, i love tigers and really wanted to go tiger kingdom. after reading they don’t necessarily treat the animals well, we opted not to go. we did go to the elephant nature park though. this park rescues injured or abused elephants and doesn’t allow riding, which can hurt their backs. i can’t adequately put into words how amazing the park was. our guide was extremely knowledgable. each elephant had their own handler—known as a mahout. it was incredible to see the bond these guys formed with each elephant. it was a full day with hands on experience:
- if you’re staying within the old city, they’ll come pick you up.
- there are a couple different packages. we choose the single day visit.
- upon arrival, we immediately fed the elephants a snack and then walked around to different pods where we pet the elephants and fed them. bath time involves dumping buckets of water on the elephants to help cool them down. you can get as wet or stay as dry as you want.
- they feed you a lovely lunch too.
- they don’t take credit cards so make sure to bring cash. in addition to shirts, etc. the mahouts carve elephants our of wood and sell them at the gift shop to help support the organization.
another top thing to do is take a cooking class. i cook at home and wasn’t dying to go to a class but ended up really enjoying it. mama noi is a relatively newer school. they picked us up from our hotel to take us to a local market. our chef (who was as sassy as she was funny) gave us some insight into commonly used ingredients before taking us to the school. you get to pick from a set menu and they do a great job of keeping everyone on task and engaged no matter what dish they chose. the food was incredible (if i do say so myself!) and they even gave us a cookbook to take home.
buy your schtuff here. the items are more authentic and better priced. i’m not one for haggling but it’s an essential way of life here. my indecisiveness came in handy when shopkeepers would automatically drop their prices because i simply couldn’t make a decision. feel free to use that tactic.
i’ve never felt so at home in such a foreign place. my time in chiang mai was such an amazing experience. the elephant park was easily the highlight of the entire trip. but we had such a good time just walking around the city. the people were incredibly nice. we even struck up a conversation with a gentleman that just wanted to practice his english. he was a teacher at a local school and ended up giving us such helpful advice.
ko phi phi
with so many different islands, it can be difficult to decide where to rest your head. we knew we wanted to see ko phi phi and we would ideally visit other islands. we ultimately decide to make ko phi phi our base rather than stay on each island. we flew to phuket and stayed for the night since we didn’t make it time to make the ferry. the ferry took about 3 hours. it was a quite tranquil experience. nothing but water for miles, and every now an again, an epic piece of land would appear.
there are essentially two sides to ko phi phi: the rave till dawn side and the quieter, family friendly side. while my cousin and i are neither, we opted for the quieter side of the island. which also happens to be more remote. so once we arrived at the pier, we still had another 10 minute long tail boat ride to our hotel. lucky, our hotel was already there to greet us with a boat. we stayed at the phi phi island village resort featuring bungalow-style rooms.
there definitely isn’t much to do on the resort grounds itself other than relax and maybe take in a yoga class. they did offer several excursions and we opted for a half day trip to maya beach (THE beach from that leo dicaprio). it was a nice change of pace where we got to go out on a speed boat with others, visit a few of the local islands, swim, and snorkel.
there is a local village within walking distance. once you hit the outskirts of the resort, it’s like narnia on the other side. a magical, mysterious world. the first alley way was very nondescript but if you keep walking, a whole new world opens up. in stark contrast to a relatively fancy resort, is an extremely down-to-earth, casual “downtown.” based on reviews, we stumbled on a restaurant/bar run by a mother and her two sons. the atmosphere at oasis was great, everyone was so warm, and the food was fantastic. we actually went back for a couple meals. the little village has a few shops and massage spots as well. the overall vibe is very laid-back. the prices are cheaper than the resort too.
i always knew i’d like thailand. i just didn’t realize how much. the amount of travel. the sticky weather. all so worth it. everyone was so unbelievably kind that it didn’t feel like a foreign place. it felt like home. with much better thai food, of course.