Thailand is one of those gateway holidays, you probably hear about gateway drugs like marijuana which then lead onto bigger and badder drugs. Thailand is one of the places a lot of Westerners will love to travel to because it is cheap and it has all the alluring things we want to do like elephant experiences, walking on white sand beaches, night markets, quad biking and temple visits. Thailand will definitely leave you wanting more and it should, it is an amazing place. I think Thailand is best enjoyed as a couple or with friends. I would suggest a careful dissection of what you want to do in Thailand because if you are going for a short holiday or long stays, then definitely make sure what you want to do because there is so much!! Bangkok is a typical city and it does have some interesting things to see but Chiang Mai is definitely the favourite city for me in Thailand, it has beautiful scenery combined with cultural activities whereas some places felt either too much of a beach scene or city landscape.
At this point in time, I let Bev plan the hotels in the trip and I did the logistics. We actually flew to Bangkok and only stayed there for about 2 days then up to Chiang Mai for 4/5 days then to Phuket and Krabi before ending back in Bangkok and returning home. Our trip was a short one and only last just over 2 weeks.
Bev said that she had done her research and booked a series of hotels which were 3 stars or above and the prices were astonishing. It was so cheap! Honestly I do not regret staying in these hotels because the price was amazing and because the hotels themselves were luxury. The first hotel we stayed in was so nice that all the other hotels seemed disappointing but in fact they were all great.
Hostels are very popular in Thailand because a lot of travellers go during a gap year or travels as it is very cheap here. It is a great place to meet other young people and can be a life changing experience. However if you want more comfort then go for a more high end hostel or hotel but if it doesn’t bother you then you can go the full hog and go for a well-reviewed hostel for a cheaper price.
- Wat Arun
- Chaophraya river cruise
- Yaowarat road
- Floating Market
- Wat Pho
- Chiang Mai
- Elephant experience
- Doi Suthep
- Wat Chedi Luang
- Long Neck village visit
- 3D Museum
- Wat Umong
- Night Bazaar
- Tha Phae gate
- Chiang Rai and Golden Circle tour
- Loy Krathong (lantern)
- Food Market
So I have lumped Bangkok and Chiang Mai together because in Bangkok we only did a few sites as some of our friends said Bangkok was sparse in terms of seeing interesting things and some friends stayed a week there and found it abit dull. We decided to spend more time in Chiang Mai because it seemed there was more to do there. I won’t forget the taxi ride from Chiang Mai airport to our accommodation because the taxi driver was very friendly and he said if you don’t visit Chiang Mai and Doi Suthep then you won’t have visited true Thailand. He was right!
When we were in Bangkok we saw the Wat Arun and sailed down the Chaophraya river. I would highly recommend a cruise and you can bargain for the price, at times it was quite scary because of the currents in the boat but thankfully it didn’t tip over. The boat took us to Wat Arun and there are some options to go to the floating market but I think the boat organiser said it was not found in the heart of Bangkok and was slightly out of the way. Wat Arun is also called the temple of dawn and it used to house the Emerald Buddha, I do believe there is a jewel on the top of its spear but I may be confusing temples. It is an important temple for Buddhists and especially beautiful at night, so if you organise an afternoon tour followed by a dinner cruise then you are onto a winner.
Another interesting place is Yaowarat road which is Bangkok’s answer to Londons Chinatown. I don’t remember much about it but I think there were a lot of food stalls. Another place to visit if you’re looking for something different.
The bulk of the trip was in Chiang Mai, it is an unforgettable place and truly beautiful. This is where we had our tour with Lanna Kingdoms, highly recommended.
Lanna Kingdoms took us to Doi Suthep and once you get there you must climb flights of stairs to the top where you will get a magnificent view of Chiang Mai and also of the golden stupa at the top. There are a lot of Naga statues (mythical dragon snake) so don’t be alarmed and also a white elephant shrine which carries a legend. The legend is that a monk collected a bone relic which was thought to be holy. The relic itself was thought to have magical powers and it was presented to different kings in Thailand, one king thought nothing of it and another believed in its magical nature. The relic broke into two pieces when the monk reached Lamphun and a piece was placed on the back of a white elephant. This elephant climbed up Doi Suthep (the mountain) and was said to trumphet three times before collapsing. The king said this was an omen and told his people to build a temple here. The grounds of the temple are vast and you can walk around to the different shrines and pray, if you wish you can also collect a fortune. The fortunes pop out of a cup when you shake it and give an insight into your future.
Wat Umong and Wat Chedi Luang
I think I did chuckle at the name initially because I’m immature and I’m sure a lot of siblings have called their other siblings mongs but that’s a story for another day. The temple is very peaceful and there is a lot of natural space. I believe Patty said that monks roam around the temple grounds and to be respectful. I remember a lot of tall trees and a cave like entrance. Patty requested us to take of our shoes as it was a holy place. The tunnel ceiling was very low and a few statues are present within its confines. It was a very tranquil visit and I would recommend adding this to your itinerary/ tour.
Wat Chedi Luang was more sparse but it has a huge temple complex in the middle. There are naga stairways and elephant sculptures at the base. I can’t remember the significance of them but I think Patty mentioned that Thai people regard elephants as a sacred animal and the naga is a mythical dragon-snake animal which has significance in Buddhist culture and is regarded as a guardian type creature. Within the temple there was a Buddha which sits inside but I think Patty said it was replaced with a replica – was very difficult to see from so far away.
Elephant Experience and Long Neck village
The elephant experience and visit to the long neck tribe was very interesting. The Long necks were people who were not actually thai but exiled from Myanmar. They are allowed to stay in the outskirts of Thailand but live a very simple life. They sell a lot of souvenirs you can buy from the village and Patty told us that the story behind the long neck tribes is very interesting. So when a girl reaches teenage status, they will begin to have these rings they have to wear around their neck, one legend is that a tiger came to attack the long neck tribe while they were asleep but was unable to bite their necks because of the rings; so it provided protection. Another legend is that the rings show the beauty and wisdom of the women because they add rings progressively as they age.
The elephant experience is very common in Thailand and there will be a lot of tour groups offering this. A lot of people say you should go for an ethically run elephant safari because some of the elephants are not treated very well, so if you are concerned with this then do your research before booking. Everything was organised by Lanna Kingdom and they said the elephants are treated well, however one of my friends said you can get a different experience where you can bath and play with the elephants because a lot of experiences will include an elephant ride which may be seen as unethical. Elephants are forced to walk for miles on end, while entertaining a treadmill of people which hop on and off the elephants. We did end up going on the elephant ride but we felt quite guilty and tried to compensate by buying bunches of bananas for the elephant to eat but if you feel like you might be uncomfortable doing this then research the best safari for you.
3D Museum and Night Bazaar
I have to admit that the 3D museum was really really fun. We walked in expecting a pleasant experience but it was hilarious and fun. You pay for the ticket entrance and you can spend as much time inside, taking photos on a flying carpet or being eaten by a crocodile.
The night bazaar was fairly close to the 3D museum I think and we actually went back a few times. This was probably one of the best night markets I’ve been to in my travels. It was large and spacious and it had a lot to see, from souvenirs to food or bars. It was outdoors but had a lot of tarpaulin to protect the shops and did they need it. Some days there was torrential rain and I thought I might get carried away and end up being like Tom Hanks in Castaway but luckily we were ok. The night bazaar can be reached by tuk tuk or you can walk, it is a popular tourist destination and so most of the food is safe to eat. I remember a lady cooking a piece of chicken for me and she recognised I was british, so she actually cooked it for much longer because she wanted to make sure it was super-hot!(Really nice of her, I didn’t get any belly issues)
Chiang Rai, Tha Phae gate and Golden circle tour
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we decided we should explore abit more. We had seen most of the sites in Chiang Mai and went to a tour agent near Tha Phae gate, this is in the city centre and was the old gate to the city. The lady offered us a day tour to Chiang Rai and golden circle tour.
Please visit this temple (white temple – wat rong khun), it is amazing. It is actually a manmade temple and has murals of iron man fighting spiderman fighting the hulk and optimus prime. What? Yes and there are shrunken heads of darth maul and hellraiser too.
The temple is manmade and the artist who designed it, is Thai. The architecture is very interesting as it is a modern fusion of Thai and western themes. Take plenty of photos because you won’t find another temple like it. We then made our way to another temple, I think it was called the black temple (bandaam museum) and contained a lot of interesting artwork and poems.
Our final destination was the golden triangle, it referred to a piece of land that separates Thailand, Laos and Burma. The Mekong river splits these three countries and I think it was famous because a lot of drug traffickers would smuggle drugs across this border. We got taken across to Laos via boat and to a small village, the amount of fake goods they had were crazy- rows and rows of fake handbags. Also upon entry, the tour guide allowed everyone to try special whiskeys – one was tiger penis whisky, another cobra whisky and ginseng whisky. Pretty tasty.
The food in Thailand was amazing. We ate alot and the prices were very cheap! We tried Khao soi which is a typical northern Thai dish, Patty also ordered chicken skewers and papaya salad. My god, the flavours were out of this world, you have to find a khao soi restaurant.
We had some food next to the Chaophraya river, a seafood restaurant where you can choose your seafood (I know some people might be saddened by that). We had some river prawns, squid and tom yum goong. This was slightly pricier as everything cost about £20 but I think this was because we had fresh seafood and they cost it by weight too. Worth it.
Also had food at the night market, I believe all this food cos £3-4, I know. Ridiculous and super fresh too. Bev had tom yum goong (again), ordered morning glory, pork fried noodles and thai style sausages.
- Plan out what you definitely want to see and book a tour if you can. We have a tour with Lanna Kingdom and although it cost a little more, it was worth it. We had Mr A and Patty, both were extremely polite and the service was great. We essentially had a private tour and were shown around the main sites of Chiang Mai with information about the history of the site. Although I am a huge advocate of planning a trip and trying to do it without a tour, I would highly recommend a tour visit of Thailand.
- Visit food places which are recommended by other tourists, we made the mistake of going to a local food market where the food was lukewarm and paid the price in the night. I was on the loo for a day but then it passed but Bev suffered for a few days and felt so nauseous, she couldn’t leave the bed.
- Try out the foods in the popular markets, the prices are ridiculously cheap and the food you get is pretty much restaurant standard in the UK. They may not be presented as nicely but the actual content and flavour surpasses that of any UK Thai restaurant we have been to – maybe there is a psychological element to it?
- Pack for a warmer climate but also pack long sleeved clothes if you are going to the temple, no tattoos on show and nothing showing below the knee.
- Be careful if an airport group taxi or taxi takes you to a travel agent, they will try and sell you a tour. Decline. Look up your own tours or go to a travel agent near your hotel/hostel or ask the hotel themselves to organise a tour for you if you haven’t done so because the ones the taxi company take you to will be pricier.