Our intrepid Mother Hen (aka the person who looks after all our Real Deals subscribers) Zoe has been off travelling again, and has come back brown as a nut, with some decidedly dodgy Durian Fruit sweets and plenty of tales of Thailand. So of course we had to get her to spill the beans!
But first, three important things she learned. 1) You will always, always spend longer than you think negotiating taxi fares. 2) Take a proper long sleeved top if you’re visiting temples so you can cover up. 3) You NEED fluorescent clothes for a full moon party and they WILL get paint all over them!
This was her itinerary:
And here is what she did, by number according to the map:
The best things I visited here were Le Grand Palais, which had amazing architecture, and the impressive Wat Pho, which is where you’ll find the 20-metre long Reclining Buddha. At night I went out on Thanon Khao San, a tourist and backpacker haven with fun bars. I stayed at the Rambuttri Village and the two swimming pools on the roof were amazing after a day pounding the streets.
From Bangkok I headed North to Ayutthaya. I took a 4pm boat tour around three temples, and the sunset was stunning, definitely something I’d recommend to anyone. We also got “temple fatigue” from visiting all the Khmer temples!
North again to Lopburi where an afternoon really is sufficient time to see the two temples and get to know the local monkey population! We were travelling by train, which is an interesting experience in itself, with 30°C heat and food sellers walking up and down offering delicious local food!
And then it was on to Sukhothai where I rented a bike to better explore the incredible ruins in the historical park. Here you will find 193 excavated temples, dating back to the time when this was the capital of the Thai Empire. Unlike in Ayutthaya , the temples here are not in the new city and are instead a few kilometres outside the centre.
5. Chiang Mai
Known for being the cultural centre of Thailand, we spend plenty of time here visiting the main temples and walking around the markets. I really liked our visit to Doi Suthep, which you can reach by cab, and then climb to the top through the jungle to the Wat Phrathat for a fantastic view of Chiang Mai.
We then spent two days at the Elephant Nature park, where they campaign against mistreatment of elephants and look after rescued ones. I was able to get really close to them, and thankfully wasn’t squished when one began to charge! We didn’t go on an elephant ride, and please be aware of the bad treatment endured by many elephants that humans are able to ride. If you do want to do so, please act responsibly and visit the Elephant Foundation website for information beforehand.
Chiang Mai also has a good nightlife and I liked Zoe in Yellow best (not just because of its excellent name!), which is where I celebrated getting a traditional bamboo stick tattoo. The verdict? A painful three hours but no bleeding!
My final stop in the north was this hippie town, which we reached by road and I must say you should take travel sickness medication beforehand as it’s the twistiest road I ever saw! Once there, we rented a motorbike, my first ever and a terrifying experience, and got to lounge by the one of the stunning waterfalls and experience the hot springs on the outskirts.
8. Ko Phi Phi
A quick flight south, a night in Phuket and a super-stressful early morning sprint to the ferry and we were in Ko Phi Phi! It’s a very young and touristy island, but if you want a bit of quiet head over to the east where there are no roads so walk or use the taxi boat. My friend says the viewpoint is worth climbing but I needed some rest! The snorkelling was great but the water and air temperatures were about the same, and both really hot, so it was hard to get cool. The accommodation was relatively expensive so we only stayed one night, for the half moon party.
9. Ko Lanta
Two days at the Bee Bee Bungalows went quickly here, it was such a quiet and relaxing place. The beaches don’t allow chair rental which keeps them pretty, and the only accommodation is on the seafront!
10. Khao Sok
Going here saw us return to the jungle, and we took a guided kayak trip as well as a six-hour trek into the jungle including swimming in a lagoon which was the highlight. It was great to learn a bit more about Thailand this way.
11. Surat Thani
We went here as it’s a one of the main towns, and we could take the boat overnight to Ko Tao from here to save a little money, as well as time. It was certainly an experience! The temperature was 30°C in the middle of the night with tiny fans to cool us and a very small mattress to sleep on, but the sunrise in the morning was amazing.
12. Ko Tao
Here we decided to head to the quieter east of the island, but let me tell you, the taxi ride is certainly not restful! The roads are terrible! Once there, we took a group boating trip to go snorkelling, and although the snorkelling was great next time we’d hire our own boat with a small group of people rather than take a big boat – we weren’t very impressed with the service!
13. Koh Phangan
Since we were here for the full moon party, even though we booked in advance we had to get a hotel in the north rather than the south, which turned out to be a blessing. We stayed at the Seetanu Bungalows which are right by the sea and owned by some very helpful Belgian guys. Eating mussels and French fries was just what we needed after three weeks of Thai food, and I saw the most beautiful sunset of my life too! We got a taxi to the Jungle Party on our first night, and the full moon party the second night, both of which were great!
After that we went back from Surat Thani to Bangkok for the flight home, a much cheaper route than from Koh Samui to Bangkok. I could have stayed in the south for much longer and was sad to leave. The highlights for me of my Thailand adventure were Pai, Ko Lanta and Koh Phangan.