So I have finally made it to Thailand. Well, a week and a half ago I made it here, arriving as a tired, sweaty, mess of a human. I couldn’t wait to take a shower and wash away the days of travel that took a toll on me (although I have to say I did not look that horrible for someone who was confined to a plane cabin and then a bus for what seemed like an eternity). This had literally been the longest trip I have ever taken and although it has so far been worth it, I don’t know that I would want to take another 38 hour journey anytime soon.
So far, we have been to Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and as I am writing this post we are on or way from Donsak, Surat Thani going to Koh Tao and then Koh Phangan. I have veto be honest and say that I have been most excited for the islands in Thailand because I am currently in a beach mind frame and while the city is great, I just want to lie on a beach and tan away my pasty white skin. We landed in Bangkok and then had to wait 6 hours to take an 11.5 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai and the first thing we did after reaching our hostel was shower.
By the time we finished showering away the 2.5 days worth of travel and got changed, it was about 7:30pm and we were ready to get out and experience Chiang Mai. Our hostel was about a ten minute walk to the night market area in Miang Kham Village, which was awesome. The first night we just wanted to explore out surroundings so we went to the night market to grab some food and walk around to take in the area. We took it easy so that we would not be too tired for the temple visits the next day.
The next day we went to two temples in Chiang Mai. The first one was on top of a mountain and was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was Doi Suthep temple and to get there we had to take a red truck taxi to the university from our area, and then take another red truck taxi up the mountain, which took about 30 minutes. Once we arrived at the top, we had to take an endless amount of stairs (which was the worst, but so worth it once you get to the top) until you finally reach the temple, and then there is a fee of 30 Baht. Even though there are crowds of tourists, there was the feeling of calmness and it was pretty peaceful considering the amount of people around.
When at the temple, you must make sure you are covered. If you are in a tank top, or short sundress like I was, they do provide you with garments to cover up and there is no charge. You also must take your shoes off, which is were socks may come in handy because the ground can be quite hot. The area where you have to cover up and take your shoes off is just one open area at the top, everywhere else around you are able to keep your shoes on and walk around to take in the sights and have some coffee or cold drinks at the cafe. The view from the temple is interesting because you can kind of see the city at the bottom, but when we were there it was quite smoggy, so we could not see much.
The red truck taxi that takes you up to the temple will take you back down after you explore the area for about an hour and a half, which is enough time to see the temple and grab some souvenirs at the shops below the temple, if you choose. We chose to spend all our time at the temple and take in as much as we could instead of grabbing souvenirs. I will state that the road going up and down from the university has a lot of turns, so if you get car sick maybe take a Gravol beforehand. I did not know this and felt a little nauseous going up and down but luckily felt OK once I was out of the taxi.
The next temple we went to was Wat Phra Singh in the city, and it was not as big as the first one on the mountain, but still was beautiful. Inside the main building, you must cover up and again they provide free cover ups if you do not have anything. You do have to pay 20 Baht to be in the building, but not to walk around it. In the main temple, you are able to pray to Buddha and take in the beautiful statues and decor. Around the temple is the gold monument, a tree-covered walkway, and a few areas to sit and relax.
After the temples, we walked back to Miang Kham Village, which was not too far from Wat Phra Singh, and I decided to get a pedicure for my tired feet. I highly recommend getting foot massages in Thailand because they are absolutely amazing and so inexpensive! I was told by the nurse who gave us our shots to not get pedicures or manicures, but I had to give my feet some new polish and get the dead skin scraped away. I ended up going to a place where it was recommended on some tourist websites so that I knew it was not going to be shady and paid 300 Baht for a pedicure that was pretty good. Separately though, you can definitely get a foot massage anywhere because they are not using tools, which is why pedicures can be not so sanitary just anywhere. You can get a foot massage for about 200-350 Baht for one hour and the women who do the massages are absolutely amazing. I promise you will leave relaxed and won’t want to go a day without one.
The night life in Chiang Mai is not like Bangkok. Chiang Mai is more of a peaceful relaxing place, even though you will still get the hustle and bustle of a city. There are not a whole lot of places to go clubbing, and we preferred not to go clubbing anyway, but instead go to get some drinks and food and chill. There was one place that was close to Karin Thip Village, where we stayed, called Oasis Rooftop Garden Bar. It was small, and while there was not really anything to eat except not the greatest bar snacks, the beers were reasonably priced and the vibe was pretty good. We spent our last night at the Oasis and then off to the airport the next morning after breakfast to catch our flight to Bangkok.
Bangkok is a very different place than Chiang Mai. It is not only one of the biggest cities I have ever been to, but it is incredibly lively and has TONS of places to go. The best advice I can give is to really pay attention to where you are booking a place to stay. We made the mistake of booking a place that was about an hour away from the city centre and all the action because on the map it appears as if it is about a 15-20 minute cab ride away, but because Bangkok is so massive, what looks like a 20 minute cab ride distance is actually more like 45 minutes.
We had someone we knew in Bangkok and even though the two nights we were here we stayed far away, we ended up going in to Nana District area to spend most of our time. The first night we went there we met my boyfriends friend at a bar called Kiwi Sports Bar and Grill, where his girlfriend works. We played some pool then met her friends at another, less casual restaurant bar called Oskar, which was a fun place with great drinks. After that we went to Beam nightclub, but unfortunately everyone but me remembered their ID so we did not go in and went to the bar underneath for some beer instead.
You may be thinking, “how could you forget your ID?!” Well, so far on this trip I have not needed to take out my ID anywhere we have gone. Apparently in Thailand, you don’t need your ID unless you are going to a night club, in which I was asked if I even had a photo of my passport and they would have let me in. Very different from back home where I get ID’d everywhere because I look like a child apparently. I was not informed that we would need ID for the club because nowhere else asks. I felt awful but no one seemed to mind and we still got to hang out and have drinks in the area, which was quite bumping even outside of the club.
The next day, it was just my boyfriend and I and we decided to go back to Nana district to the mall to do some shopping and take in the area. The mall is 8 floors, every floor is named after a city in the world as well as themed after it, and there are so many places to shop and eat, or watch a movie on the top floor. I have to be honest, mall’s make me so exhausted so we got what we needed (I needed a couple bathing suit tops and he needed a SIM card), ate some food, and left to explore the area. We ended up going to Benjakitti park, which was like an oasis in the middle of the city. As soon as you walk into the park the noise of the city just melts away and it becomes so peaceful. There is a small man-made lake in the park that you can walk around and take in the skyline of the city (well, Nana district city area at least) and relax by some palm trees in the shade.
After spending an hour or two in the park, we walked over to a side street and went to a restaurant called Monsoon for some snacks and drinks. We were supposed to meet with friends but the timing did not work out quite right and ended up spending the night at Monsoon having drinks and just enjoying our time together. We went back to the hostel to put on a movie and fall asleep because the next day, we had a flight to catch to Surat Thani.
Our flight was, of course, delayed so we didn’t end up getting to Surat Thani until 8pm and then took an hour and a half to get to Donsak from the airport. Spending a couple of nights in Donsak was interesting. It was crazy to me to be in a town where the only person who spoke English was the woman in charge of the hostel we stayed at. She was the sweetest person, so helpful and eager to assist us with anything we needed, even driving us to the pier to catch our ferry to Koh Tao today, and bringing my boyfriends passport that he forgot at the hostel (this is why I don’t remove my passport from my bag, because I know I would forget it if I did).
Donsak was a tiny town with not a whole lot to do for us, seeing as no one spoke English. We managed to get some food from these sweet ladies who, bless their hearts, tried so hard to communicate with us. They fed us, and we went back to our hostel to watch a movie and fall asleep, of course after getting a couple of beers at the 7/11. The next day we took bicycle’s to the tiny island of Ko Raet where there is a small village and it is so beautiful. After starting to feel the effects of the heat (and not realizing how uncomfortable the bike seat was because I hadn’t been on a bicycle in about 15 years) we went back over the bridge and rode our bikes the 20 minutes back to the hostel. I took a cold shower to relieve the effects of the sun and heat and we relaxed the rest of the evening.
Today we woke up early and our host drove us to the pier where we got coffee and breakfast at the cutest little cafe/restaurant, called The Pier. It was great to just sit and relax while waiting for the ferry. As I am writing this, we are currently on the ferry (I’m struggling ever so slightly due to my unfortunate nature of getting nauseous on ferry rides) going to Koh Tao. I am so excited to finally be on a beach and hopefully get a little bit of a tan because the self-tanner has worn off and I am looking a little Casper-esque.
To be honest, I really like Chiang Mai and Bangkok, even though we did not spend too much time in each city because we are so excited to get to the islands and relax.We fly home from Bangkok so we may spend a night or two here again before we go home (and maybe I will be more in the mind-set of wanting to experience the night-life), but for now we just want to get to a beach, tan, and also ride scooters around the islands. I have really enjoyed our trip so far but I can’t wait for this next part! Stay tuned for my journey around the islands!