This post has been a long time coming, almost a month later I finally had the time to sit and go through all of the pics and videos we took to put it together. I have gotten so many questions about the trip so here is a breakdown. First off packing.
Because we were traveling so many places I only brought a carry on, which was tough for me. Luckily it’s so hot there that I spent most of my time in bathing suits and little cover ups or comfy, lightweight dresses. Also, something to keep in mind while packing is that a lot of temples require you to cover your knees or ankles, shoulders and take off your shoes out of respect. That’s why the Kimono from BCBGeneration (pictured below) was perfect. I hate to break it to you but it is sold out, however I’ve linked similar ones below. It’s also a good idea to bring a cross body bag, like this one from LeiMarie Limited. I never felt threatened but there were signs in tourist spots warning about pick pockets. Be sure to take a photo on your phone of your passport as they require it when exchanging money and you don’t want to be walking around with your passport all the time. Sunscreen is expensive in Thailand so definitely bring some from home. Last but not least, bug spray.
Shop My Bag and My Looks Below
My friend Laura and I booked our trip through Affordable Asia on a Groupon. We really liked the fact that our travel (including to and from the airport and between destinations), hotels and activities being planned but also being able to opt out of any tours and having free days to do what we liked. After researching what it would cost on our own, we figured this was the most affordable way to go. It is honestly tough traveling for so many hours. We had 23 hours of travel there so make sure you wear comfortable clothes, bring an eye mask, ear plugs, a neck pillow, tooth brush and melatonin. We flew Air China which was not the best airline I have ever flown, just sayin’, and had a layover in Beijing, which is not the friendliest airport I’ve ever been in, just sayin’. Do yourself a favor and have all electronics, camera, camera accessories, external phone chargers and any spray bottle readily at the top of your bag to be taken out before you go through security.
Our first day in Bangkok we visited the Golden Buddha Temple (above) and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (below). Both were so gorgeous but I have to say the Temple of the Reclining Buddha was absolutely breathtaking and definitely my favorite.
Bangkok is such a fast paced city and has a lot of fun nightlife with rooftop bars and the infamous Red Light District. We made a lot of friends from our tour group so we hit the town with them, shout out to our Thailand friends! It was nice to have a big group because it can get overwhelming, the taxi drivers can be very pushy, although I never felt unsafe. We all went to a Mauy Thai fight which as you can see in the video was very lively. Of course we couldn’t resist checking out the Red Light District which was a lot of fun and excellent people watching.
Thai massages are readily available everywhere, most of them are phenom, in Bangkok our masseuse used tiger balm, all. over. If you’re not familiar with tiger balm, it is the Thai version of icy hot, so you can imagine it was quite a hot and cold experience. One of the days in Bangkok we drove 2 hours to get to the floating market, such a cool place. Everything is very cheap there (be sure you barter!).
Now to address the elephant in the room…
After the floating market we drove for another 2+ hours to get to the Elephant Camp. There is a lot of controversy around elephant camps and the treatment of elephants in Thailand. I did my research before going to the camp and I could not find any negative comments or reviews about this particular camp. When we got to the camp there were elephants roaming freely, babies with their mothers, playing in the river, a few young elephants were kicking around a ball. It looked like they were playing soccer and was probably the cutest thing ever. Although the elephants seemed happy and got fed plenty of bananas, they are in captivity. That being said, I’m positive the more ethical option would be to go a sanctuary. I would have loved to go to Chang Mai and visit one there, but unfortunately that was not on our tour. I in no way condone the mistreatment of animals, however elephants are a part of the Thai culture, just as Camels are a part of the Arab culture and horses are a part of ours. Either way, I recommend you do thorough research on this before you go because I did pass by an elephant trekking place in Koh Samui where the elephants were chained to the ground, had holes in their ears and looked miserable and distressed, which was an absolutely heart breaking sight.
After visiting with the elephants we took a bamboo raft through the bamboo forest, home of the white elephant, which was so peaceful and gorgeous.
Koh Samui is probably in a tie for my favorite place that we visited (along with Phi Phi Island). It was just the epitome of island life. Everyone is relaxed, happy and friendly. They produce a lot of coconut everything here! It’s the best! Be sure to have lots of coconut ice cream, there is nothing like it!
We went to the Big Buddha Temple (below) which was seriously one big Buddha. Honestly one of the coolest and most beautiful places I’ve ever been. You can definitely feel how special this place is.
Next stop, Phuket. Phuket is the largest island and really does not feel like an island at all because of it’s size and all the traffic. Phuket has the famous Bangla walking street, which basically feels like you are walking through the Vegas Strip. There is loud music, so many flyers being pushed at you and lots of girls or lady boys (its more difficult to tell than you think) dancing on bars in bikinis. If I could do it all over again I probably would have skipped Phuket and stayed on one of the smaller islands. Luckily we did a day trip where we visited Phi Phi Island, Maya Bay and Kai Nai Island. We did some ah-mazing snorkeling, saw monkeys hanging out on the beach and got to explore the jungle on Maya Bay beach. The water on these islands is the most crystal clear, turquoise water I’ve ever swam in, not to mention it’s like bath water. We ended up opting out of the James Bond tour, where we would go to the island where James Bond was filmed, because it was on our last day and we were exhausted.
Thai food is amazing! Have so many Thai iced teas and lots of mango sticky rice. They put extremely hot peppers in their food but make it mild for tourists, I love spicy food so I would always ask for them to make it how they like it. I for the most part stayed away from the street food, I was just too afraid of getting sick on my vacay.
It is incredibly hot and humid when it’s not rain season there. The second you walk out the door you’ll be sweating. I spray tanned before I went and because I sweat so much it was gone in a few days. I also ended up with prickly heat, so I was really glad that I brought a few lightweight pants to cover my legs for a couple of days. Calamine lotion cleared it right up but it’s just something to think about if you do have sensitive skin and aren’t used to that kind of heat like me.
Thai people are so friendly and most speak at least a little English but it is pretty easy to nail down a few phrases and it makes them happy when you try. When greeting anyone put your hands in prayer, bow your head and say “Sa wad dee ka” for hello.
Thailand is so amazing and I highly recommend everyone visit and explore as many places as possible.