Thailand has been one of the most incredible countries we have visited. Everything we found there was so different to what we are used to such as the culture, food and most of all… the weather!
We had heard great reviews about a tour company called Thaintro and because we had never travelled to anywhere in Asia before we thought it would be good to spend our first week with a group. We weren’t disappointed. This allowed us to meet some amazing people from all over the world, while travelling and having fun in Thailand with ease.
We arrived in Bangkok, after a 24 hour journey from Inverness, the day before the tour started. This gave us time to relax and get over the jet lag and also gave us an opportunity to explore the area around our accommodation. Having never travelled anywhere like this before it was a slight culture shock. Bangkok is such a humid, busy and bustling city. During the first day we sampled our first taste of Thai street food and spent the rest of the evening having drinks and meeting some members of our group as they arrived in.
The rest of the Thaintro group had now arrived in Bangkok and we had some free time to explore the city. We spent this wondering the streets around Khao San Road, people watching and taking in the sights and smells. In the evening we had a welcome dinner with the group and ending the evening at the Baiyoke Sky Tower. At 1014 ft high, the tower is the second tallest building in Bangkok and gives you a spectacular view of the city as you’ll see from our pictures. There is also a bar at the top serving cocktails.
Our last full day in Bangkok took us around many different religious sites. We visited Wat Pho, which is a Buddhist temple complex and home to the MASSIVE reclining buddha. The scale of the buddha and stunning temples are spectacular. If you are visiting Thailand, particularly Bangkok, then we would definitely recommend spending some time visiting at least one of these temples even if just to experience a bit of of the local culture. We were lucky enough to be blessed by a Buddhist monk, and burned incense candles before entering the temple. The monks do not spend any money, and instead rely on offerings from the public, so it is recommended that you take a handful of groceries/gifts to donate when you visit.
Our tour of the city also included a trip up the Chao Phraya river where we were able to stop and purchase goods and souvenirs from the local vendors on their boats, and spot water dragons on the riverbanks. We then took a Tuk Tuk back to our accomodation, preparing for a night out on the famous Khao San Road in Bangkok. Our theme for the night was ‘Pyjama party’ so we went out to the busy local markets to find the best outfits we could. The night out involved drinking alcohol out of buckets and sampling fried insects. When in Bangkok…
In order to cure our hangovers from the night before, we headed to May Kaidee’s Thai cooking class where we learnt to make delicious Thai food such as tom yum soup, pad thai and massaman curry. It certainly helped our sore heads. We spent the afternoon chilling out and doing some last minute shopping before catching an overnight train to Surat Thani. Whilst waiting for the train at Bangkok we also witnessed a daily Thai ritual which you are likely to experience when you visit Bankgkok. This was the whole train station coming to a standstill and rising to their feet for the National Anthem, which gets played at 8am and 6pm daily on national radio stations and public buildings. The overnight train was an altogether different experience but one that we really enjoyed. This is how the locals travel, and the train was packed. We loved seeing all the different passengers and vendors selling items at different stops. The fold out bunk beds were actually pretty cosy as well!
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
Some 12 hours and 651km later we arrived in the Southern Thai province of Surat Thani, where we hopped on a minibus, and then onto a small motor boat before arriving at the next leg of our journey. The next stop was the floating bungalows at the stunning Khao Sok National Park. This place literally felt like it was paradise and if there’s one thing we recommend doing when you’re in Thailand then it’s to come here for at least a night. There was no wifi, and only electricity for a few hours in the evening. After that you had to use lanterns to find your way around. We had the time of our lives here chilling out with the rest of our group, jumping into the lake, trekking through the jungles and caves and taking in the beautiful, pristine surroundings. Lying underneath the stars in the clearest sky I’ve ever experienced before retreating to our little bungalows floating on the water to sleep.
Words and pictures don’t do justice to just how perfect this remote part of the country is, you REALLY should go and experience it for yourself.
After our night in paradise, it was sadly time to leave Khao Sok. We took the boat back to the mainland and then a ferry to Ko Pha Nang where we spent our last 4 nights with Thaintro. We arrived late afternoon and got settled into our new accommodation which were Thai styled bungalows literally on the beach… This was another slice of Thai heaven. Later, we got ready for a night out on the island at Haad Rin beach. Our night out was complete with fluorescent paint, buckets, music and fire skipping ropes celebrating the half moon party.
After a busy schedule we spent day 7 relaxing at the bungalows and recharging our batteries for the next couple of days. Spending the day by the infinity pool, getting a Thai massage right on the beach and watching the spectacular sunset was perf!
The next morning started of with a trip around the island on a boat. The weather was lovely and we were given plenty of drinks and fresh fruit. This gave us the opportunity to go snorkelling, something we were ashamed to say we had never done before. We were a bit apprehensive trying it for the first time and took a couple of attempts to get used to the snorkelling equipment. It was well worth the effort as we were rewarded with crystal clear water with hundreds of fish surrounding us. Now we LOVE it and always try and fit in at least 1 snorkelling trip whenever we go away somewhere suited.
We stopped at Malibu Beach for lunch, a stunning stretch of white sand on the southern tip of the Island. Kevin played volleyball while I admired the beautiful scenery. Later, we arrived back at the Bungalows and spent the evening on the beach outside having a BBQ and drinks.
Today marked our final day that we would be travelling around Thailand with our new friends we made on Thaintro. In the morning we visited elephants, and were able to walk around a woodland area with them, stroke them and feed them bananas. It was a very humbling experience being so close to these magnificent creatures, one that I will never forget. In the evening we had a farewell dinner and drinks and lit paper lanterns on the beach. It was the perfect way to end this incredible journey from Bangkok to Ko Pha Nang and we were sad to leave all the people we’d met behind.
PHUKET KATA BEACH
Ouch… We definitely had too much to drink at the group’s farewell dinner last night. This has become a typical pattern for us, and mistake we continue making the day before we have to travel a distance. We had a very early start to catch a 3 hour ferry back to the main land, followed by a 3 hour coach to Phuket. Luckily we slept most of the way which made the journey go pretty quickly. I must add that Thaintro were great and help everyone on their tours to find the easiest way to get to their next destination, no matter where that might be.
We booked a nice hotel in Kata Beach for 4 nights, we thought we would treat ourselves after backpacking. Although the hotel was amazing, we both agreed that we preferred to stay in cheaper accommodation because it felt that we got a more authentic experience and it was easier to meet other travellers similar to us. That evening we headed down to Kata Beach to sample the nightlife.
Maya Bay… The Beach… Leonardo DiCaprio. Some say it is overrated, crowded with tourists and that you will be disappointed after seeing it in the movie. Today we were heading to the Phi Phi Islands to find out for ourselves. Prior to our trip to Thailand we had booked an excursion to the Islands through Simba Sea Tours, and I highly recommend them they were so friendly and professional. The only regret we have is not staying at Phi Phi for a couple of nights. However, we still had an amazing time and Maya Bay in particular lived up to it’s expectations for us. It was just like the movie with soft white sand and crystal clear waters.
Simba Sea Tours goes to Maya Bay VERY early to ensure it is not swamped with tourists. It is worth the early start we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves which gave us countless photo opportunities. We enjoyed breakfast on the beach before we headed off to do the famous boat jump in Pileh Lagoon, followed by snorkelling and a trip to Monkey Beach. We had the most amazing day and definitely think Maya Bay is not one to miss while in Thailand.
The next day we did not have any plans so we decided to head down to Kata Beach and spend part of our day soaking up the sun. We wandered around the beach and the rock pools and then decided to get another massage, which was amazing. We really miss Thai massages! After we had a dip in the hot tub on our hotel balcony, bit posh for us.
And that pretty much sums up what we did. A chilled out day.
The following day we toured around the Phang Nga Bay area. Again, we had a fantastic time thanks to Simba Sea Tours. First, we went to explore a cave where we learnt a lot about the rock formations and animals that live in the surrounding areas. We also learnt about the Tsunami that tragically hit this region of Thailand in 2004. It was very sobering seeing some of the locations that had been among the worst affected.
After this, we visited James Bond Island where the Man With The Golden Gun was filmed and appropriately posed for photos in 007 fashion. When our time as secret agents was up we got the opportunity to go cave canoeing. This was one of our favourite activities in Thailand, we had a local guide canoeing through different limestone caves. Some of the spaces that we went through were so small, to this day I don’t know how the canoe did not burst and sink. It was a fantastic experience and the scenery was beautiful.
Following this, we had another cheeky snorkel session before we made our way to Ko Panyi – a Muslim fishing village, for a delicious lunch. When we were done we headed back to Phuket.
PHUKET PATONG BEACH
Packing our bags again we left for the Patong area of Phuket for our final 3 nights.. Sob, it still hurts thinking about it. We got settled into our new hotel and later that evening we headed out for a wander. We had dinner and a few drinks, and we tried ice cream that was made and rolled right in front of me. A street craze, started in Southeast Asia where liquid ice cream is poured straight onto an ice cold plate. It was brilliant and we had never seen anything like it before.
We hadn’t planned anything for our last two days and wanted to take the opportunity to relax before our long journey home.. So our second last full day was pretty much with our feet up and a wee wander around Patong Beach in the day time. Although, we did managed to stumble across a dodgy massage parlour by accident.. That’s a story for another time.
Our last full day arrived, it wasn’t welcomed by us as we wanted to stay in this paradise forever. We spent it reminiscing about the past two weeks and using our time to get the last bit of sun we would likely see until summer in Scotland, which usually lasts about a week! At night we went out for dinner and ordered all our favourite dishes we had tried over our time in Thailand.. Thai red chicken curry, chicken satay skewers and pad Thai! We also met some friends that were also visiting from our hometown of Inverness for a few drinks on Bangla Road. Small world really isn’t it?
It was more than a ‘few’ drinks.. Why do we always do this?! We had the worst hangover of our trip and a flight to catch from Phuket to Bangkok. Followed by a 15 hour flight from Bangkok to Edinburgh via Abu Dhabi and then a 3 hour train journey from Edinburgh to Inverness in February. The snow was the icing on the tired and rough cake.
However, we wouldn’t have changed it for the world we had an absolutely incredible time and can’t wait to return to explore more of this beautiful country.
Kop Khun Kha!