Hello and welcome to I Went Somewhere!
Today we head to an Asian paradise, also known as Thailand. Melissa has shared some incredible detail and pictures, so this one is definitely worth the read.
So pack your bags, book a flight, and lets go to Thailand!
Hello! Tell us a little bit about you and where you traveled to...
Hello, Everyone! I’m Melissa and I want to share one of my favorite travel experiences with you! Last May, I was able to spend 2 weeks exploring Thailand with one of my best girlfriends from elementary school. It was truly a trip I’ll never forget.
My friend, Kelsey, and I both grew up in rural Michigan. Travel was a luxury most people living there will never experience. I remember telling some family members that I was going to Thailand, and their response was “oh, but why would you want to go there??” I am so fortunate to have friends that also aspire to delve into the unknown and that crave cultural experiences. I had moved to Seattle the year before our trip, and we had not seen each other in quite some time. We planned our trip over many phone calls with plenty of wine involved (more for Kelsey since she was 3 hours ahead of me in her time zone haha) and it was perfect.
How great was the trip?
Thailand is a decent sized country, comparable to the size of Texas. The struggle was real when we were trying to figure out how to maximize our time; seeing the most, but without total travel burnout. We ended up exploring 6 different regions. Here’s the breakdown:
Bangkok - Two nights
Chiang Mai - Three nights*
Pai - Two nights
Chiang Mai - One night
Phuket - One night*
Ko Phi Phi - Two nights**
Ko Yao Yai - One night**
* Took an affordable domestic flight to get there
** Traveled by boat
Overall, travel in Thailand is very easy. The cities are built around tourism. There are ATMs on most streets, various methods of transit always available, everything is cheap, and most Thai know some English. We took about every mode of transportation and had no issues doing so. Thailand’s cities are incredibly different. It is definitely worth exploring more than one city during your travels there.
Bangkok was not my favorite, but I’m glad I was able to briefly experience the night-life culture there, some yummy dining options, floating markets, temples and absurd traffic (rolls eyes). Chiang Mai was more my speed, where it was still a city, but was less overwhelming, had a backdrop of mountains, incredible food, and entertainment options. We spent the most time here and never got bored. Some of the best food we had was in Chiang Mai, including the cooking class that I highly recommend you do!! We then took a three hour bus ride up the winding mountain roads into Pai, quite possibly my favorite place we visited. Pai was absolutely incredible. There are many tours that you can take there to experience caves, canyons, waterfalls, and hot springs. Our only regret from our entire trip was not spending more time there. We rode the bus back down into Chiang Mai where we spent one more night before flying out to Phuket.
Phuket begins the island experiences. Phuket is a large island that is known for its beaches and temples. We only spent one night here as we were excited to get to the smaller islands. We still enjoyed dinner and drinks on the beach and the night-life was definitely kicked up a few notches from the mountain cities we had just come from. Overall, Phuket had a “resort”, Miami type feel to it. We then took a van and then a ferry to Ko Phi Phi. It was pretty wild seeing the mountainous islands rising up out of the Andaman Sea.
We wasted no time and immediately scheduled a sunset/night time snorkeling excursion. This was my first experience snorkeling EVER. The instructor was so great in calming my anxieties (even after seeing a shark). After casually seeing bio-luminescent plankton, we got back to our hostel, cleaned up and hit the nightlife. The night-life scene in Ko Phi Phi seems like it’s out of a movie. People approach you with neon paint and shots while someone dances on a tightrope behind you juggling lit torches. We somehow survived two nights of this.
Boating over to Ko Yao Yai for the last night was a sigh of sweet relief. Ko Yao Yai is the most untouched island in Thailand. We stayed at a lovely beach resort and spent our last night watching an epic sunset and sipping mojitos with our toes in the sand. This trip was one for the books.
What was the best part of your trip?
Choosing the best part of this trip is like picking a favorite pet. There were so many highlights in each city, but if I had to choose at gunpoint, I’d have to pick our day of adventures in Pai. We road in the back of a truck as our guide took us to a temple to start the day. We then moved onto explore caves on bamboo rafts with lanterns. They then drove us to hot springs that were quite refreshing, and we ended the tour at a canyon watching sunset. The cherry on top was that we had a jungle bungalow to go back to for the night.
While this experience was absolutely incredible, I think what was truly the best part of the trip were the Thai people. Everyone we met and interacted with was so kind and full of life and wanted to share their culture.
What did you do while you were there?
On day two in Bangkok we went to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market about 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok. We took a grab taxi there (an app that I highly recommend!) and then talked with our taxi driver about staying out there with us for a pretty decent price. The floating market was a wild experience. If you look on Trip Advisor – it has really bad reviews actually. I personally thought it was great and worth the money (1500 Baht per person for boat tour). We had our own boat with a driver and our taxi driver and he drove us through the market. We weren’t there to buy things. Most of our souvenirs we bought later in Chiang Mai for a better price. But it was a neat cultural experience.
In Chiang Mai we were able to experience an elephant sanctuary and a cooking class. We did our research and found that the Elephant Nature Park has been active in rescuing captured elephants and providing them with a safe and supportive environment to heal. We prepared food for the elephants, walked trails in the jungle with them, pet them, bathed them and had a mud fight with them. It was such a good time, and we were happy to contribute to an organization that is also educating the public on the mistreatment of elephants.
May Kaidee cooking class in Chiang Mai is out of this world yummy. Prepare your stomach for a spiritual experience. May Kaidee is so kind, informative and passionate about healthy eating and good flavors. We learned to make 10 recipes. It was absurd, and I truly thought my stomach was going to burst.
Upon arriving at our Bungalow in Pai, we booked a tour for the next day. I recommend booking most of your tours this way, as you end up paying less than you do booking ahead of time and it leaves room for flexibility if plans change. We booked a tour through Pai Let’s Go. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable ride, but we were able to experience a whole day of amazing activities and have lunch provided for only $15 total.
We booked two really neat things for our time on the island Ko Phi Phi. Our snorkeling trip that included sunset and bioluminescent plankton was through The Adventure Club and I HIGHLY recommend it. We stopped at 4 or 5 different spots to see different sea life (I saw a shark and lived!) for about $35. This was my first time snorkeling and I was pretty freaked out initially, but the instructors were so good at keeping me calm and teaching me.
Our second activity on Ko Phi Phi occurred the next day - the Blanco Boat Party. We paid about $30 and this included lunch, monkey beach (we swam near monkeys!!), Maya beach (currently closed for coral restoration), and some other gorgeous locations. We were provided food, drink and a DJ. The party finishes off at sunset, just in time to join the beach parties back on the island.
As you can see, these activities were all very affordable and we never had any trouble booking the day before (or even the day of in some cases).
How did you learn and prepare for this trip?
To prepare for this trip, I asked around on social media for any advice. I also read copious amounts of blog posts from travelers around the world that spent time in Thailand. It’s important to know your travel style. Do you get burned out easy? Then maybe cut back on some of the activities or don’t travel to as many places. I picked up the Lonely Planet pocket book for Thai language to help with phrases and communicate better. We really only used this a few times since we had cell phone service for most of our travels. I recommend getting a Thai SIM card at the airport. I paid around $30 for 2 weeks of unlimited data.
To organize our trip (especially since we were planning together from different parts of the country), I used google sheets/google docs to link all of our hostel/hotel confirmations as well as what we paid, phone numbers, and addresses of everything. You can then access these documents whenever you have service or WiFi!
How did you get there?
I left for Bangkok, Thailand from Seattle using Eva Airlines. I had a short layover in Taipei and arrived in Bangkok around 11:30 AM. Eva airlines was great! This was my first experience on an airbus and my mind was blown. My friend left from Detroit flying Delta and had a slightly longer flight, but we timed it so that she arrived a couple hours after me. Ask your flight attendants for the customs/immigration papers if they don’t give them to you prior to landing in Bangkok. We took two domestic flights within Thailand and it was a breeze. Security was easy, staff were helpful, and we had no problems with any of our flights. We flew Vietjet from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Bangkok Airways from Chiang Mai to Phuket (I booked this through Vayama to save some money).
For ground transportation we used whatever was available, and trust me, there’s a lot. The easiest to use in Bangkok and Chiang Mai was Grab Taxi. Grab Taxi is similar to Uber, and includes a texting feature within the app that translates Thai text messages for you and vice versa. Vans, trucks, and anything we needed for tours/getting to our next destination was booked for us by the front desk at each hostel. This was the easiest way to do it for us as they would then pick you up from your hostel. All accommodations were very helpful and are eager to set you up with tours.
Where did you stay?
We had great experiences at all of our hostels/hotels. Even though most of our accommodations were labeled hostels, we had our own space and bathrooms most of the time.
Bangkok: OneDay Hostel - This was a lovely space. We had a private room with AC, shared large bathroom/shower room with multiple stalls, downstairs communal kitchen, and a Taproom attached. $40 a night
Chiang Mai: Glur Hostel - Pool, lounge, breakfast included, cafe, and nice location to walk into Chiang Mai for entertainment. Around $25 a night
Pai: Suandoi Backpackers’ Resort - Community space, beautiful sunset, rustic bungalow, private terrace, free taxi into town,breakfast included, other meals/drinks available on site, and tours available. The space here was so cool, but I’ll admit, the ants got to me a little bit. $13 a night
Phuket: Lub.d Phuket Patong: A neat community vibe with events. They had a BBQ going on with free food while we were there. The bar/restaurant attached was very tasty and the rooms were small, but very clean and modern. There is a pool (that was shut down for renovations when we were there). They organized bar crawls in Patong as well as figured out all your transportation and travel needs for the rest of your trip. $58 a night.
Where and what did you eat?
I think an easier questions would be what DIDN’T we eat?! We were not shy about trying foods and it was so nice not worrying about breaking the bank to do so. Food was incredibly inexpensive there. Alcohol was often more expensive than the food. One of our favorite restaurants was next to our hostel in Chiang Mai called Sumrub Gubkao! It didn’t even look like anything special, but we ate like queens for about $5 each, and even went back a second time. The cooking class in Chiang Mai we took also blessed us with amazing food. Most of the cuisine there consists of rice or noodles with stir fried veggies, thai basil and chili’s (If you can handle it). Curry dishes with coconut milk were absolutely delicious.
We eventually got tired of eating very similar thai dishes every meal and branched out in some of the cities. In Pai we found Le Rêve De Pai for dinner and I highly recommend!!! A cute married couple import nice wine and make Thai fusion food there. We also had THE BEST mojitos I’ve ever tasted at Almost Famous and enjoyed the great conversations at Jikkos Beer Bar. If you like beer at all – Thailand is such as struggle. Their Chang and Singha are only okay. Jikkos had imported beers from all over the world. It was neat enjoying beers that we enjoy in the USA with local Thai people.
How much did it cost?
I honestly think I saved money from the time I was in Thailand vs what I would have spent just living my day to day in Seattle. Thailand was incredibly affordable and allows you to experience some luxury travel that you wouldn’t be able to afford at some other destinations. Without flights, we spent around $800 each total for 2 weeks! I booked my plane ticket with my Chase Rewards points, so this trip was incredibly reasonable for me. From the United States, plane tickets round trip range from $300-$1000. If you look early enough, I’ve heard you can get great deals on flights. Destinations like Chiang Mai, Pai, and some other islands are definitely family friendly, although overall, the majority of people we ran into were young couples or groups of friends.
Would you go back and do it again?
I would 100% travel to Thailand again. There is so much to see and enjoy there and the warmth of the people there is something special. It is easy for weeks to fly by there and your dollar goes a long way, making it worth the time, effort and money. I’m still trying to find Thai food here in the United States as good as I had it in Thailand...sigh, I guess I’ll just have to travel back to Thailand soon!
Advice for people planning to do something similar?
We were very happy with our itinerary. The only thing we wished we would have done was spent more time in Pai, and just had more time to spend in Thailand in general. My advice if you’re thinking of traveling to Thailand is to break away from some of your Type A planning and leave room for some spontaneous activities and flexibility.
Where can we go to connect with you?
My blog has detailed experiences of each region I was able to visit as well as travel tips. Connect with me if you have any questions! I’ve always got the travel bug, so follow along on social media to see where I go next!
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Thanks for reading. Catch you next time.