I’m having a writer’s block. You’d think two weeks away from a screen in a foreign country would do wonders for your creativity but here I am in a quiet house with nothing to say. The more I think about it though, I think that was the best part of this trip – it allowed me to slow down and just not think. Not think about the fact that I no longer work in the fashion world of corporate America, not think about moving back to Raleigh, and not think about finding my next adventure (read: job). I needed a break from thinking.
That break led me to Thailand. Yea man, Asia. Not that Europe stuff I was dabbling in the past two years but a whole new culture I didn’t know that I just didn’t know. It was nothing like I expected or had ever seen before. The best way to describe our first week was “no laws” and our second week was “this is the life.” A week of culture followed by a week of sandy toes and sunny tans. I needed the first week, I wanted the second.
Interested in visiting Thailand someday? Here is how we did it.
Day 1: Bangkok – Everything is so cheap!
We arrived in Bangkok at 8am – the perfect way to adjust to such a massive time change (11 hours – it took me a week and a half to get used to, don’t let this post fool you.) and were immediately greeted by what felt like 100 tuk tuks offering to take us to monument after monument for 20 baht or just around $0.75. After the 167th request we just did it. My advice for Bangkok – take the first day to see what you need to (should) see.
Day 2: Bangkok – Don’t Ask for Pad Thai
Day 2 was for culture submission. We signed up for a food tour that took us to what felt like 30 stops of traditional Thai food. Their breakfast (pork on a stick with some sticky rice) was good, their fish cakes were dreadful and their fruit was amazing. All in all – Thai food is not what we Americans think and don’t ask for Pad Thai…they don’t eat it.
Day 3: Siem Reap – Let’s go to Angkor Wat
The beauty of a backpacking trip is that there is no set schedule. While we initially planned to hit up Northern Thailand (which, if you have the time I definitely would!) something kept drawing us to visit Angkor Wat which led us to a quick stop in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Traveler’s beware: Cambodians are pleasant but some are scammers – don’t fall for their tricks. a $0.50 US piece is not worth $6.00 and if anyone other than an official government worker offers to get your visa….dont let them.
Day 4: Siem Reap – Angkor What?
Since Angkor Wat is 85% of what Siem Reap has to offer we originally wanted to do a full day at the monuments (approximately 10-12 hours). For some reason, we booked a half day sunrise tour and THANK GOODNESS we did. Angkor Wat is incredible and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for the world. But after an 8 hour tour…stones start to look like stones and you start to get parched and hangry and smell the smell you never want to smell.
Day 5: Travel Day – The Sunset is Speaking to Me
Ok, I am not going to lie. Once day 5 hit and we were a third of a way through our trip I was starting to have my doubts. Both Bangkok and Siem Reap were culturally stimulating, but they hadn’t given me the ohs and the ahs. Just when I was starting to question the 18 hour flight here, the ferry sunset to Ko Pangnan hit. We boarded the last boat to the islands on the western side of Thailand and it was a legitimate sign from God that the next 10 days were going to be the bomb.
Day 6: Hadrin Beach, Ko Pha Ngan – No Full Moons, Just Full Cups
Hardin Beach is best described as that sweet little innocent girl in college who did well in school and absolutely threw you off when she had any alcohol and just went insane once the sun went down. Hardin was beautifully unassuming during the daytime with picturesque longtails and a clean, softer than ever sandy tide. However, as a host of one of the world’s craziest parties – the nighttime beach bar scene didn’t disappoint even without a full moon.
Day 7: Ko Pha Ngnan – Resort Life is the Best Life
Think back to when I said “everything is so cheap!” We would have been stupid to not take advantage of the affordable luxuries so during our second night in Ko Pha Ngan we made our way to a secluded Buri Rasa Resort. With a beautiful beach, killer food (rare on the trip thus far), relaxing Thai massages for just $10 and beach chairs/umbrellas for lounging this was by far my favorite day in paradise.
Day 8: Ang Thong Marine National Park – I’m on top of the world!
Since we were debating a trip between Ang Thong National Marine Park and Ko Tao island, we differed our choice to Michael, the hotel’s manager. Without hesitation Michael recommended Ang Thong, a speed boat tour of the park’s 42 islands including snorkeling, a traditional Thai lunch on the beach, and a hike that led to the most amazing view of the islands.
Day 9: Travel Day – Across the country for $15
Let me start off by saying I never want to relive this day again. Though our ferry/bus/bus ticket to Krabi was just $15 – it was everything you don’t want in a sanitary trip. The moldy, breeze lacking ferry led to a so/so bus ride (after a quick pee in a hole bathroom trip) and a 5 hour black mold infested bus with a driver who seemed to honk ever 1.4 seconds. Regardless, we made it…and rewarded ourselves with a pizza.
Day 10: Krabi – That monkey just drank a water…
Krabi is a fascinating town but can be done right or wrong. If you make your way to Krabi, stay at Ao Nang beach which is waterside and filled with nightlife. Those that stayed within the city center found themselves disappointed. From Ao Nang, we booked a long tail boat ticket (Thai island’s taxi service) to Ko Poda beach – a remote location with limited visitors and one shop that sells sodas and grilled corn. All we did that day was lay there and swim. If that doesn’t sound interesting you are sadly mistaken. While we lay in the Thai sun, Hayden jumped to a rustling behind him. We had a visitor. One of the monkeys decided he was going to come for a visit. Luckily he didn’t choose our stuff but rather spotted someone’s water bottle on the beach, walked right up to it, tore the cap off, drank it and sat there with satisfaction. Cue the laughter.
Day 11: Ko Phi Phi – Come in the day, Stay for the Night
Ok so Ko Phi Phi was kinda dirty and disgusting which led us to a day poolside. Once the sun went down, you realize why the beaches aren’t so immaculate…the nightlife is what drives the town. With fire show after fire show and buckets of liquor for sale on every corner (yes, buckets and yes they were less than $2) the Ko Phi Phi party didn’t disappoint.
Day 12: Phuket – And then we discovered lab…
Hungover and ready for some relaxation we headed to Phuket, the final destination on our trip. We spent the afternoon laying on the beach and snoozing pretty hard since the tide was much more rough than the rest of the beaches we had visited before. That night, we discovered lab – a traditional Thai salad that ended up being our favorite dish of the trip. It was the perfect accompaniment to the multiple Singah and Chang beers that we had come to love.
Day 13-14: Phuket – All my favorite things start with B.
Ok so really just books and beaches start with B but those are two of my favorite things so I guess I am not lying. The last two days of the trip were straight up chilling – forgetting what we were about to return to and more specifically Hayden’s ambition of moving the day after we got back.
So Thailand, you weren’t what I expected but you definitely did not disappoint. I loved your soft sanded beaches and lack of structure and appreciated a culture that I never would have experienced without the last minute decision to travel to Asia.
Cheers to an unforgettable, one of a lifetime two weeks.