T I M E
Total 4 weeks [30th May – 26th June 2018]
V I S A
As a British passport holder, you can enter the country for 30-days without a visa. However, I would recommend taking proof of onward travel (your next flight etc.) & ensure you check the government guidelines for visa requirements prior to travel. An extension of 30 days is possible if organised before the first 30 days has expired.
S P E N D I N G
I initially used Thai Baht that I had been given as a leaving gift to fund my first week away (equating to about £180.00). Thereafter, I was able to take out £250.00 a time from ATMs scattered around the Island. Back in 2018, this converted to ~10,000 baht. Download XE Currency app to keep checking the exchange rates. I recommend taking out the maximum amount each time to reduce the charges on your card (charges vary dependent on your Bank).
In total during my 4 weeks in Thailand, I spent around £1200.00. This included 26 nights of hostels, 4 cash withdrawals (incl. a PADI diving course & day at the Elephant sanctuary), two flights and a treat meal for my Birthday – unreal.
R O U T E
- Bangkok 2. Phuket 3. Ko Phi-Phi 4. Ko Lanta 5. Ao Nang 6. Ko Tao 7. Ko Pha-Ngan 8. Ko Samui 9. Chaing Mai 10. Pai
There is no right or wrong decision in terms of the route you decide to take, but as we were travelling into Laos directly after, we decided to go from South to North – starting in Bangkok and ending in Pai. Besides our starting & ending points, we were reasonably flexible with what happened with the in between. It is much simpler to get a feel for the places & things you would like to see once you are in the country itself and hear from other peoples experiences. In Thailand’s case, we just had Bangkok sorted prior to arrival and knew that we wanted to head south.
B A N G K O K
Day 1 – 4
Bangkok, well. A very interesting and extremely busy place! I had been told that I would want to leave as soon as I had landed, and although extremely intimidating upon arrival, I actually really enjoyed my time here. Although, I wouldn’t be in a rush to go back? If that makes sense..
We stayed in a budget hotel called Sleep Withinn, on Ram Buttri Road. We booked a ‘hotel’ for the first few nights for a couple of reasons. To get a good night’s rest after our flight, to adapt slowly into the heat and to be able to sort out our luggage. Depending on how much of a party animal you are – and at that time in my life I probably would have considered myself quite up there, then be careful how close you stay to Khao San Road. That place is mental and I am so happy we stayed the street down from it. Our hotel had a cool rooftop pool and was in a great location, so I would 100% recommend staying here.
During our time in Bangkok, we visited the Wat Pho, Grand Palace & Reclining Buddha– which were all walking distance (make sure to take something to cover your shoulders/ legs for religious reasons). We took a tuk-tuk (barter your prices..) to Siam Mall, where we got the Sky Train to Sala Doeng and walked to, and around Lumphini Park (don’t do this mid-day like we did unless you want to MELT..). I really recommend doing the Khlong Lat Mayom floating markets, early in the day. Walk around and try some of the local street food, take a longtail boat down the river to the temples, and to the orchid farm. We ate at two restaurants whilst in Bangkok, Madame Masur & Green House. Both we just stumbled across and went in as they seemed busy – good thing to look out for if you are worried about getting sick, which almost everyone is cautious about at first. I would definitely recommend Madame Masur, it’s really cute! You can’t visit Bangkok without walking and going to the bars on Khao San Road. We liked ‘The One’ bar, its easily picked out on the road as it is by far the fanciest looking – with its cool architectural design. It is perfect for people watching, which is mainly tourists doing stupid things like nitric oxide balloons the size of a hot air balloons and eating scorpions. On our final day, as we were getting the overnight bus to Phuket, we went to the Channel 7 Recording Studios to watch the live Muay Thai boxing. I think this is only on select days – but if you are in Bangkok when it is recording then 100% make sure you go for the experience! They cram you into a tiny room and having perched half your bum cheek onto a bench, the young lads start to fight. I had never experienced Muay Thai before, so it was all new to me. It is mainly Thai male spectators, who use the fights to bet and escape their wives, by the looks of things anyway.
As we were heading south, we dropped ourselves into the deep end and got our first overnight bus of… 14 hours to Phuket, from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok. I am sure if you knew your plan ahead of time, getting a flight would be cheap enough and much more comfortable. As the first overnighter goes, ours was pretty bad. We had a leaky bus so our bags got drenched and we were woken by several, very large cockroaches. But hey, welcome to Asia. They aren’t all that bad. And FYI – VIP, clearly has a different meaning in Thailand, but the ‘VIP Buses’ they advertise are certainly not English standard VIP. That being said, it was an experience and we arrived in Phuket safe (and sound).
P H U K E T
Day 5 – 7
The weather was pretty grim when we arrived if I remember, and we were staying in a hostel (which we couldn’t find for the life of us) that my brother and his girlfriend had recommended from their travels – ‘Camp Hostel Kata’. Our overall experience of Phuket was not good, but I’ve heard of sooo many people loving it. We didn’t like the beaches, the strip was extremely seedy and I personally felt very on edge the whole time. We also figured out very quickly that my brother had stayed in a private room as we were staying in a ten bed dorm, which when we requested to change, were told we couldn’t because the other dorm had had an outbreak of bed bugs. We took our risk (stop.. I know) and stayed in the room and I was woken in the middle of the night with a black cat licking my face. I’m actually getting anxious writing this haha- the horrors. Anyway, there wasn’t a lot we wanted to do here thankfully! We took a tuk-tuk up to the Big Buddha & the Koron view point. We explored Kata, Koron and Phuket beaches, and had a couple of drinks and that was really the highs of it! We ate at the Kata Walking Street night market, which does a gorgeous King Prawn Pad Thai! Kata beach was where I first tried the street Corn on the Cobs and I honestly think I had one daily from there on.
K O P H I – P H I
Day 7 – 9
We got a 2-hour ferry from the Rassada Pier in Phuket to Ko Phi-Phi. We used the company Songserm and they were consistently very helpful and reliable. Shop around the streets by all means to get different ferry prices, but they do tend to all be around the same price! The island itself is very small, and you are required to pay 20 Baht upon arrival for park cleaning. We were staying just a short walk through the mayhem at Stones Hostel. After some breakfast, we chose the WORST time of day to walk up to the view point. This incline is no joke in midday Thai heat, the sweat was pouring off us. But the view made it all worth it, it was so so stunning. We ate dinner at Garlic 1992. My friends would bully me for my choice of food, but I thought my egg fried rice in half a pineapple was amazing. Stones hostel is one of 3 I think on the beach front, and the heart of the party. The buckets are lethal, it’s not just a myth. Don’t come to this side of Phi-Phi for a relaxing island trip, you will be kept up all night with the sound of someone vomiting in your lovely shared bathroom. The next day we took a longtail boat trip around Phi-Phi, which is obviously a must on the island! There is a lot of tours but most offer the same sort of thing. At the time, Maya Bay was closed due to over-tourism but we still drove past. Saying that, I think the places we saw were equally as beautiful. Some stops included Bamboo Island, Monkey Beach, the Viking Caves and of course, a couple of snorkel stops. Don’t be shocked when your boat drivers group together and smoke some sort of pipe- its totally normal?? We went back to Garlic 1992 for dinner and drank at Boat bar and Banana bar. Our night was abruptly ended with some sort of army drug raid and we were all sent on our way. Stop by some of the tattoo parlours and watch drunk tourists get terrible tattoos. It’s fun, I promise.
K O L A N T A
Day 9 – 11
You’ll be starting to notice that we didn’t stay at many places longer than 2 nights. This is purely because we allowed ourselves a month in Thailand, and there was so much we wanted to see. I actually think we had plenty of time in each place and never found it too rushed. But again, that’s up to you and what you want to see.
We hopped onto another ferry (these are advertised everywhere on the island so don’t worry too much about booking in advance) to Ko Lanta, which took about 30 minutes. A lot of backpackers miss out Ko Lanta, but still to this day it was one of my favourite places. There is honestly, nothing, to do there. I think in peak season, there is a lot of beach parties going on, but we spent our time here chilling in a wonderful place called Blanco Hostel. The rooms are little straw bungalows which are really lovely. The place is situated just off the famous Long beach and is surrounded with hammocks etc. The owners are lovely and are waiting with the hostel tuk-tuk by the ferries to take all the new arrivals back to the hostel. After a lie down and stroll down the beach, the hostel put on a BBQ. Ko Lanta is probably a good place to visit if you are tired, and just want to do nothing at all. The following day we were graced with terrible weather, a small price to pay in rainy season, so we just took a walk down to a restaurant called Greek Taverna. I still think about my dinner from there to this day, funny isn’t it. On the way back, a Thai man and his 3 children in a tuk-tuk stopped to take us home. The poor bike could hardly move with an additional 4 females (each double the size of an average Thai residence) on it but just shows how kind and friendly most of the locals were here.
A O N A N G [K R A B I]
Day 11 – 13
After a bit of negotiation, we decided the best way to get from Ko Lanta to Ao Nang, well known for Railay Beach, was to take a private taxi bus. A little pricier, of course, but took us the whole 3-hour journey and dropped us at the door of our next hostel, Glur Hostel. As I was celebrating my birthday here, I splashed out (lol) and booked us a private room. The hostel was actually gorgeous, set in the mountains and had sort of a tropical vibe to it. We took a walk down to the beach and chilled by the pool, and met a friend from University for a spot of Indian food at Rasha’s restaurant. The following day we took a long-tail boat across to Railay which took about 15 minutes. Be aware, they don’t tell you this when leaving but there is a time that a last boat leaves. I think it could vary as well with weather but we heard of people being stuck on the beach for the evening, as you can only access Railay via boat. Again, there isn’t a lot to do on the beach. There’s a little village with some shops and restaurants at the back. And a couple of trails to follow. The trail we followed around the island was nice and simple, and led us to a shrine in a cave devoted to penis’s. I can’t remember the story behind it, something to do with fertility but there was thousands, all different shapes and sizes. Happy Birthday to me I guess! We had lunch, and a couple of cocktails on the beach. It really is just a beautiful beach set between the high limestone cliffs. Following the boat back, which was a bit scary, we got ‘dressed up’ and headed to a restaurant we had seen the day before that was on the beach, called The Last Fisherman. It looks nothing fancy, but its set on the sand and everything is covered in fairy lights. We had a stunning meal here of BBQ’d Prawns, although not really backpacker budget, it was very worth it. They sang a lovely Thai rendition of Happy Birthday and fortunately I was a little sunburnt so no one could see how much I was dying on the inside. On our walk back up to the hostel, we stopped in at Get Rad’s, a really cool, quirky bar for a couple of cocktails.
K O T A O
Day 13 – 18
Following a Bus/Ferry combination, we arrived in Ko Tao around 7/8 hours later. Another point of advice I must make is with these bus/ferry combos, and in fact any journey you take in Asia, just go with it. You’ll be sat on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere A LOT. You’ll be booted off in random places and most of the time no one speaks English. But just trust the process. They have it all sussed out, most of the time. We had researched Ko Tao prior to arrival as we were heading to the island specifically to complete our PADI open water diving qualification, so this is the longest we stayed in one place. As we were doing this with Simple Life Divers, we also used their on site accommodation. There is hundreds of dive schools on the island, but I couldn’t fault Simple Life. We were extremely lucky that it was only us two in the class due to low season, but the thing I liked was that we learnt in a pool, rather than in the sea. This put us both at ease. We jumped straight into the theory on the first day and the morning of the second day. They are quite hot with not drinking alcohol while you are doing your course, but I don’t think I could of anyway with my nerves. The island of Ko Tao is stunning. We felt really safe here, even though we later got told quite a lot of shit has gone down here with tourists. During the course you complete a bit of theory, four dives (two each day) and a very chilled exam. During our practice dives, we dived spots called: Twins, White rock (x2) and Hin Pee Wee. For our first dives, we were fortunate enough to spot clown fish, turtles, blue spotted rays and swam across the top of a WW2 shipwreck. 100% recommended doing this, even if you never scuba dive ever again! I have only used my PADI qualification twice more in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and in Gili T, Bali – but it was the best experience ever. Being able to breath and explore the ocean is a truly magical experience. We ate at a couple of lovely places in Ko Tao including – Seafront BBQ (just down from our hostel), Yangs (highly recommended by people living on the island), Lotus, Greasy Spoon (ideal for a hungover breakfast, granted) and Vegetabowl (another meal I still think about – gorgeous Buddha Bowls). On the one night we could enjoy the nightlife at the end of our course, we headed to the Fishbowl which was very fun, but very messy. I still blame it on the lack of oxygen whilst diving lol. Thank God Emma was there, else I’d still be at the bottom of the never-ending hill back to the hostel. Our final venture was to Kayo massage parlour on our last evening for our first authentic Thai massage. Certainly don’t enter here expecting you’re going to receive a relaxing massage, or a happy ending for that matter. These women had serious super powers and have you bent in positions you didn’t know you could bend in. I left feeling like a new woman, but it sure wasn’t pretty.
K O P H A N – G A N
Day 18 – 19
Realistically now, this was a bit of a pointless journey. We tried all sorts of routes to try and fit in the famous Full Moon party in our route, but we just couldn’t get it to work out with our dates (they happen once a month, on the full moon- believe it or not). So we did just go to see the Island for one night, and it really isn’t worth it as it’s not the prettiest of islands, although I have heard the partying is crazy. Nevertheless, we stayed at Goodtime Hostel which again I’m sure, would have been a good time in peak times. We took a taxi out to the Phaong Waterfall, and to the Thong Sala Night Market and then called it a day, ready to head on to Ko Samui the following morning.
K O S A M U I
Day 19 – 21
Another day, another ferry. This one is just a short 45-minute journey to the third of the islands, Ko Samui. We were staying at Bondi Backpackers, right on the strip. A plus to this was it was a great and handy location to both the beach and the shops. The negative was that you are opposite (but feels like you’re sleeping in) an Asian karaoke bar. If you’re a heavy sleeper, unlike myself, you’ll be fine. We took a walk down Chaweng Beach and ate at the Chaweng Night market- a must if you’re ever in Ko Samui! I wanted to try everything. Ark bar is the place to be on this island, so we headed there to watch fire shows and what not down at the beach. Beware, money makers walk around with huge bastard lizards and put them on your shoulder. I nearly died. The following day we booked onto a tour which took us around the island, stopping at (a lot of) Temples, Hin Ta & Hin Yai rocks (apparently resembling genitalia but I still don’t see it), a couple of gorgeous view-points, a mummified monk (anything goes in Asia) and Namuang Waterfall (this was a real nice, refreshing dip after a long day stuck in a sweaty van with people you have never met). For our final evening, we went to Central Festival’s (the local shopping centre) night market for our dinner before heading back to sleep/listen to terrible singing all night.
C H I A N G M A I
Day 21 – 24
Day 21 was mainly a day of travel. We had to get a bus, a boat, a bus and a taxi to Krabi airport, where we got an evening flight up north to Chiang Mai. Flights are cheap and easy to book through AirAsia. There was so many lovely hostels to choose from, but we eventually went with Hug Hostel Rooftop. We were really happy with our choice as it was modern, central and most importantly clean. Chiang Mai overall is just lovely. On our first day, we took a walk around the Old City Square in the morning, and spent the afternoon at Basil’s Cookery School. Again, there is so many cooking schools to choose from and I recommend booking as far in advance as possible, however you could probably find one on the day. We went with Basil’s as it catered for food intolerances, and I suffer with Coeliac Disease so must avoid Gluten. Obviously, I already have a great interest in Nutrition and Cooking but this was one of my all time favourite activities. We got to go to the markets with our guides and pick our fresh ingredients, and we then took them back to the school and made our dishes. You get to pick out of three noodle dishes, stir-fries, soups, appetizers, curries and desserts. I went with Pad Thai, Stir Fried Prawn in Tamarind Sauce, Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, Fried Spring Rolls, Pa-nang Curry and Deep Fried Banana. Not sure if we walked out or rolled out but the food was delicious, and it was so fun learning new techniques and flavours (in what felt like 1000 degrees). It goes without saying, we didn’t need dinner that night. Two things you will come too Chiang Mai to experience. One is a cooking class and the second is the Elephant Sanctuaries. We went to Maerim Elephant Sanctuary and ah my God – this was (and still is) up there with the best days of my life. Once Thailand was known for riding these poor beauties, but fortunately now these riding camps have been replaced with rescue centres. These elephants have been rescued from the likes of the circus and from working and are now fed, loved and bathed by tourists. I’m still not 100% this is totally ethical- as you don’t know what happens behind closed doors. But whilst you are there, the workers and volunteers portray that they devote their lives to these big friendly giants. I won’t let too much out the bag about our experience, as you just have to see for yourself. But once over the fear of the sheer size of these animals, you will have the most magical day feeding, bathing and playing with the Elephants (and baby if you’re lucky!). We visited the night markets for dinner. Always look if each place has a night market as 99.9% of the time the food is fresh, cooked in front of you and a hell of a lot tastier than what’s produced in the restaurants. I was nervous to eat at them at first, but quickly overcame that when I realised how good the food was.
P A I
Day 24 – 27
There’s no other way to get to Pai other than a mini bus but believe people when they tell you the road is full of bends. 762 to be precise. A stunning journey through the jungle when you can look up for all of two seconds. Nevertheless, everyone should make the three-hour journey up to Pai. After checking in at Jikko Harem hostel, we took a taxi to I Love You Pai (also known as The Container), for a drink and to admire the view. We were graced with a gorgeous rainbow due to the drizzly weather. We headed to yet again, another night market for dinner. The walking street is essential to eat at and think it was my favourite street market thus far. The following day we took a tour around Pai, which took us to a couple of waterfalls, hot springs, the memorial bridge, bamboo bridge, coffee in love (the cutest coffee shop on the top of a hill) and Pai canyon. The following day we spent planning for the following week as we were venturing into Laos the next day. Some think we are totally bonkers, and now I look back I think we were too. But we decided to get a TWENTY-TWO hour bus into Laos. In all fairness, our options were this or a three-day boat (which is meant to be really fun) but as we were conscious of eating away at time, we opted for the bus- which was terrifying. We did stop off in Chiang Rai, allowing us to see the famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), but maybe this was the only good thing about the journey. Top hint also, don’t sit in the front two seats of the bus. You might just witness your drivers fast & furious driving, while smoking and drinking beer. On this journey, we had army officials coming onto the bus in the middle of the night with flashlights shining in our faces, we stopped in a shack on the side of the road where the only customers were chickens and frozen rats were the only contents of the freezer. Don’t even get me started on the toilets- or holes in the floor. Thank God I didn’t need a number 2. I don’t remember much else of the journey other than the sweaty red leather seats. If it has to be done, then do it but do look into your other options!
So that’s Thailand. I was so excited for the South and the islands, but surprisingly I got so much more from the North. This could have been due to it being rainy season and therefore not peak tourism. Regardless, Thailand was amazing and a perfect introduction into our South East Asian travels. It was extremely easy to get around and meet so many like-minded people along the way.