Leaving Thailand to go to Vietnam was an exciting moment for me. I couldn’t wait to get off that plane and step into the country that I was dying to see the most. We started our Vietnam journey in Hanoi, and I’d be lying if I said it was a pleasant start to the trip. We should have known better seeing as the price of the private room in the hostel was too good to be true. The taxis when you get out of the airport all try to scam you and just a heads up, they do not have Grab (which is the equivalent to Uber or Lyft) in Hanoi and the taxi drivers refuse to use the meter. Our hostel was a 5 minute drive away from the airport, which would have been a 20-minute walk, and as we learned on the islands in Thailand, it’s a long walk with two backpacks each in the heat. After waiting to haggle, which no one would, we finally caved and took a shuttle bus for the same price as a cab (the driver didn’t speak any english as with all the cab drivers as well, and got lost 3 times so it wasn’t any better).
To be fair, the hostel did send a car to pick us up, but they did not wait within the hour time frame as we had to wait to get our VISA’s upon entering the country. When we finally got to the hostel (where again, no one spoke english), it was closed. We tried calling about 8 times and no one was picking up, or they would answer and hang up right away. We were so tired, just wanted to get some sleep, and the area this hostel was in was so sketchy that I just couldn’t shake this bad feeling. I had heard great things about Hanoi, but I guess every city has their not so great areas. The employee of the hostel finally came down and opened the door and checking in took a little longer because we had to use Google translator to speak to him, but we finally were able to go to our room.
Both of us were so relieved to get some sleep so we eagerly opened the door to our room and our hearts sank in our chest. At least mine did. It was the most awful room I had ever seen! I was terrified to put my stuff anywhere and was worried there were bed bugs. Needless to say, the shared bathroom on our floor was covered in black mould and bugs and did not look safe to use. Times like this I wonder if these rooms and bathrooms even get cleaned. This was not going to ruin my Vietnam experience though. We were so tired anyways we decided to just sleep and go earlier than planned to the airport. Neither one of us got a good night sleep that night and the next day we just went straight to the airport. I had no shame to brush my teeth in the airport washroom and freshen up in there because it would be better to get weird looks from strangers than to inhale any more toxic mould.
We got to the airport, had breakfast and waited until our time was up to check in and grab our boarding passes. Waiting at an airport is the worst, especially when you are not connected to the WiFi and it’s constantly busy, but we had each other’s company so we were able to pass the time well. We boarded our next plane and were finally on our way to Da Nang to see the dragon bridge!
Now, I really don’t mean to sound like all I am doing is complaining, because Vietnam was absolutely amazing and beautiful, but the few hours we had in Hanoi was not a great experience. I have heard wonderful things about Hanoi and we were only there for one night just to sleep and get back to the airport, which is why we did not stay in the city area (which I am sure would have been a completely different experience) and had to be super close to the airport. But, this experience has taught me a lesson that images are very deceiving and if a price is too low and sounds too good to be true for even a hostel, it’s most likely not great. Again, this is my own experience. If you have had a different experience, or even a similar one, please share it in the comments!
Da Nang was amazing, even though we only got to see one small area of it. We purposely stayed at a hostel right by the Dragon Bridge because I had been dying to see it (which was pretty much the only reason we went there) and was so excited! This time we actually stayed in a good place and once we arrived, showered, and felt like humans again, went out to explore our surroundings. We stumbled upon a night market just before the bridge and strolled through to scope out all the shopping and food we could eat. We strolled around and ended up finding a couple things to buy before deciding to get a fresh fruit juice and leaving to walk along the boardwalk and see everything along the river.
Unfortunately, the dragon bridge does not breathe fire during the week because they need to close down the bridge while this show happens. We did not know that and were there for a weeknight. If you are planning on visiting Da Nang and seeing the famous fire breathing Dragon Bridge, go on the weekend! The show starts at 9pm and continues on for a few hours and the head of the dragon spews out fire and water (I assume it is for safety reasons that they close the bridge to vehicles on both sides).
I am so happy that I got to at least see the dragon bridge, even though I did not get to see the fire show. I wish we had more time in Da Nang to take in everything else the city had to offer, especially going to the mountain to see the hands of God bridge that was built last year. It would have been a great site to see if we had another day or two to spend there. But alas, we only had the one night and then it was off to Nah Trang to meet a friend and spend some time on the beach.
Stay tuned for my next post on Nah Trang and the fun in the sun we had there!
Post Donsak, I have found myself on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. I feel like I am in paradise and to be honest, I never want to leave! I mean, of course I want to see the other islands, and go to Vietnam, but I actually feel like I am in heaven. The people are so friendly and the food is absolutely amazing, and I can’t forget my favourite thing so far, which is fresh watermelon juice. I still feel like pinching myself because I am in such disbelief that I could be in such a beautiful place.
The island of Koh Tao is not a big one, but it makes up for the size by the beauty. It took a good 5 hours to get here from Donsak by ferry (stopping in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan on the way) but once we got here, it was so worth the journey. The ferry ride was nowhere near as bad as the bus but I have to say, if you can’t handle rocky boat rides, you will definitely need to pack a Gravol. Also, once again, you will want to provide yourself with toilet paper and soap.
We were debating on coming to Koh Tao because we were not sure if there would be anything to do and had planned to go to Koh Samui instead. Now, I can’t say anything of my own experience of Koh Samui because I have not been, but we had a friend recommend Koh Tao over Koh Samui because it was less family oriented. Not that we don’t love kids, we just are travelling as a couple and are more interested in relaxing and being in more of an adult-oriented environment.
My first impression of Koh Tao was amazement. Once you disembark the ferry, there is a swarm of people waiting. There are taxi drivers aggressively trying to offer rides, people handing out flyers for parties, and everyone else who was on the ferry with you just trying to figure out where they are going. We decided to walk to the hotel because it was only 20 minutes and from what we had heard, the taxi’s were not cheap. The walk was not ideal, but also not too crazy, thankfully we had water to keep ourselves hydrated in the heat. Upon arriving at the hotel, we checked in and got to our room where we discovered there was no fridge and no air conditioning. Not to say that the place we stayed was not great, it was beautiful and right on the beach, I just was shocked there was no AC and no fridge, but instead there was a ceiling fan.
The place we stayed (I say place because it was called a resort, although I don’t know why) was called the Koh Tao Tropicana Resort. In my eyes, this was not a resort and more like a motel. There was no pool (probably because the beach was right there next to it) and the only amenity the place had outside the room was a communal gazebo and a restaurant. All this being said, it was not so bad. The only downside to this place was the lack of AC and fridge to keep our waters cold. We had to keep the fan on full blast to even feel remotely cool when we came back out of the sun, but the staff was friendly and the food at the restaurant was good.
We stayed a 20 minute walk away from the ferry terminal, which was where a lot of the restaurants and bars were, but we were still in a bustling neighbourhood with plenty of places to eat and people around. We also were able to go to the John-Suwan Viewpoint, which was not far from where we were, although I am embarrassed to say that we did not make it to the right place. We went to what we thought was the trail to the viewpoint and walked through the jungle to find a secret beach, which was amazing, but did not get to the actual viewpoint. We were at the top of where Freedom Beach is and could see down to the area we were staying, which was beautiful, but unfortunately did not get to the right spot for an optimal viewing.
Staying on Koh Tao, I recommend renting a scooter for at least a day. We did not because we planned to do so in Ko Phangan, but I do regret not renting a scooter while on Koh Tao. We definitely could have seen a lot more of the island and not had to walk in the blistering heat (which resulted in a pretty bad sunburn that I am trying to get rid of so I can go back out in the sun and tan). Koh Tao did not seem like a party island, at least not where we stayed, or maybe it was the time we stayed there. There were parties going on, I’m sure, but not near where we were. We did get to see a pretty great fire show on the beach at Carabao Restaurant the first and last night, which was right next to our resort.
Overall I have to say that I loved Koh Tao. It was relaxing and exactly what I needed after the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Definitely more upbeat and lively than Donsak, which was great, and there were a lot more tourists, so there were more people who spoke english, which was a huge bonus because the only thing we know how to say in Thai is ‘thank you’.
Now it’s on to Ko Phangan for more beach lounging and exploring! Leave a comment below, especially if you have been to Koh Tao and let me know your experience, and don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on Social Media for more photos and updates!
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!