Greetings from Australia! The travels are well underway and I must apologise for my shockingly bad blogging skills. I was planning on updating this page weekly, but due to a mixture of non-stop activities and fun, shockingly bad wifi reception and some badly timed travel bugs, blogging was near impossible. But now, finally, I have a strong wifi signal, a good cup of coffee and a comfy seat - so lets do this thang.
On the 30th of November James and I started our adventure from Edinburgh Airport, flying to Amsterdam for a short two night stay. Airport goodbyes SUCK. Saying goodbye to the family was hard, and I definitely could've done with a packet of Kleenex after what felt like a scene from a movie at the security gates. BUT, thanks to this thing we call the internet, seeing my fam is never too hard.
Our time in Amsterdam was short but sweet. It was my first time in Amsterdam, so James showed me around all the must do sights. The city itself is beautiful, once you have mastered the nuts traffic system; which looking back now somewhat prepared me for Bangkok. I was nearly ran over by a bike every time I walked down the street. The vibe of the city is very chilled and relaxed (I wonder why?) I loved it. After working our butts off to afford our trip, it was a great way to start things off. If you haven't been to Amsterdam, I strongly encourage you to go and enjoy the quaint and picturesque city - you won't be disappointed.
From Amsterdam, we flew with Aeroflot to Bangkok, stopping off in Moscow for a brief change of aircraft. Once we arrived in Bangkok, it was all go. It may be worth mentioning that since it was our first trip away to a country neither of us had been to, we decided to book with a group tour company. To keep things relevant I will write another blog post with more details about our trip and who we booked with. If I was to tell you day-to-day everything we did I would probably fill a novel, so instead I am simply going to highlight my favourite bits of our trip as well as mentioning a few things I recommend doing if you're visiting Thailand. So here goes!
1. Visiting and staying at an Elephant Sanctuary During our trip we were lucky enough to stay at Maevang Elephant camp around 2hrs outside Chiang Mai for two nights. It was by far the highlight of the trip for both James and I. We stayed in large dorms together with our group at a very traditional camp deep in the countryside. As if the beautiful sunsets and complete peacefulness wasn't enough, we got to spend most of our days with the amazing rescued elephants owned by the sanctuary. Maevang camp prides itself in caring for ex-tourist used elephants. These elephants were
once used for tourist riding and mistreated by their previous owners. It was heartwarming seeing the Maevang trainers working with the elephants with such a noticeably strong bond. During our time at camp we walked alongside the gentle giants, gave them mud baths, bathed and swam beside them in the nearby river, made and fed them protein treats and generally spent as much loving time with them as possible. It was an insane and once in a lifetime experience - one that, as a elephant lover, I never thought I would get the chance to do. After spending our first few days between Bangkok and Chiang Mai it was amazing to be away from the city; without wifi and phone reception we were simply surrounded by nature. To complete the perfection we were living, there was a fridge full of cheap booze and fantastic free meals for our whole stay. I mean, what more could you ask for?
2. Staying in a jungle treehouse After elephant camp, we ventured further into the Thai wilderness on a jungle trek towards our awesome accommodation for the night. We trekked for around three hours through some beautiful countryside, taking a pitstop at a very instagram-esque waterfall and munching on some delish pad thai while we took in the view. Our final destination? A
like building in the middle of nowhere, with breathtaking views and admittedly a lot of creepy crawlies. This part of the trip was not for everyone, but we absolutely loved it. It was basic accommodation, but an unreal experience. Again, there was a nice fridge full of booze and fantastic food. Wilderness, campfires, crazy thunder and lightening storms, bizarre drinking games and great company visiting the jungle is a must. 3. Climb to the Nangyuan Island viewpoint Nangyuan is a small holiday resort island off the coast of Koh Tao, and all I can say wow. After a long day of snorkelling around Koh Tao, our boat tour dropped us off at Nangyuan Island for a few hours of exploring alone. It was a scorcher of a day, so climbing up to the viewpoint was a little bit of a struggle. For most of the way, there is a narrow staircase, but as you reach the summit there are large boulders which are slightly trickier to scale,
especially when you are wearing flipflops and a bikini. BUT, the view...worth it! The white sandy beaches and clear blue water is literally the spit of the perfect postcard. As you may expect, this little spot was very popular. I had to wait around 10 minutes before I could even get a photo, and even then I had around 3 minutes to enjoy the view. Make sure to wear plenty suncream and bring some water, the bar at the bottom is fairly pricey for Thailand.
4. Wander round Chaing Mai's night market You don't need to look far to find a cheap market in Thailand. In fact they are on almost every corner! If you want cheap ripoffs of your favourite Nike, Adidas, Stuzzy and Hype merch then find yourself a market and stock up on that shit. And of course, you can't go to Thailand and NOT get a pair of elephant trousers. You can pick these bad boys up for about 100 baht, which is the equivalent of around £2 - bargain consdiering they are the comfiest trousers you will ever wear ever in your life ever. Ever. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai with a free evening, I highly recommend visiting the Night Bazaar Market. It. Is. Never. Ending. They have all the classic Thai stalls, as well as a vast selection of more unique stalls. It is the perfect place for picking up an affordable gift for your family, from jewellery to housing decor they have everything!
5. Do the Koh Tao pub crawl I know what you're all thinking, what about the Full Moon? Well, we didn't go (gasp, shock, horror). After a lot of thought we decided to miss out on the Full Moon, mostly for money related reasons. Sure it looked amazing, but essentially the Full Moon is like any other beach party...just a bit bigger. A lot of our friends who went said it was good, but perhaps just a little (or a lot) overrated. We had a lot of amazing nights out in Thailand, but by far the best was the Koh Tao pub crawl. Our tour group helped us to sign up for the pub crawl. It was 400 baht (around a tenner) and with that we got a free Koh Tao pub crawl vest, a free shot and a free bucket each. Being honest the bucket tasted like it was all sprite and no vodka - but hey, it was free! We also got a discount card which reduced the price of selected drinks in all the bars we visited. Due to the Thai Kings death, partying was restricted for some of our time in Thailand, so our pub crawl was cut short. However, this totally didn't ruin the fun! The first stop was a pool party; anyone who jumped in got a free shot. We then moved onto a lady boy show, which was fab and hilarious, especially when our friend Will was dragged on stage and dressed in drag. Overall the night was awesome and I would totally recommend checking it out.
6. Get a bamboo tattoo Okay, so maybe not everyone should or would want to get a tattoo, but if you are a tattoo obsessive like me then it is a great way to remember your Thai adventures using a very traditional method. First off, if you are planning on getting any kind of tattoo I want to stress the importance of looking around at different parlours before you jump straight in. A lot of the places we visited were mere shacks, with no kind of hygiene precautions in order. Some places were even using the same needle on multiple customers, probably the biggest no no in the tattooing world ever. James and I found a small family run parlour in Koh Tao. It didn't look like much, but the fact we could see things like gloves and cling film was a good sign. The staff then took us to a more modern parlour called Lotus Art Tattoo. Here we were greeted by two lovely artist who worked together to tattoo both James and I. Bamboo tattooing is a traditional Thai method, and involves a large needle (normally attached to a piece of bamboo) being gently tapped into your skin. It is a slower process to a regular tattoo gun but is takes far less time to heal. With a tattooing gun your skin is torn, but with bamboo tattooing your skin is only punctured meaning there is little to no bleeding. Everyone has a different pain threshold, but both James and I found it less painful than a tattoo gun. Walking away with a little piece of the country we toured for a month was definitely worth a small fee of around £50, especially using a method we rarely see in the UK.
7. Make the most of happy hour If you like cheap cocktails Thailand is the place to be. It always seems to be happy hour everywhere you go - make the most of it! Cocktails in Britain are never cheap, unless you want a really shitty cocktail! We had our share of poop cocktails in Thailand, but we also had some pretty damn good ones. While we were in Koh Samui, we visited a hotel called Priviledge a few minutes away from our hostel. It was a super suave place with a beautiful infinity style pool, an in-pool bar and comfy sofa's surrounding it all for a cheeky bit of
sunbathing. The cocktails were around £5 each but at happy hour it was buy one get one free - yummers. The only catch? You had to get two of the same cocktails. Considering the money you are saving, this really isn't an issue. James and I agreed on two tasty drinks we both wanted and had one each, so grab your pals and do a bit of sharing and swapping.
8. Explore the beautiful temples Visiting Thailand from somewhere like the UK is a bit culture shock, but it is also an experience. The best way to learn and see their interesting beliefs and ways of life is visiting some of the temples which are scattered anywhere and everywhere around the country. We only visited three but they were all mesmerising in their own way. Our tour guide taught us many fascinating facts about the religion and meaning behind the decor and different area's of the temples. Make sure to take your camera to capture the architecture and intricate details in and around the temples. It is also important to mention that in most temples you must cover your legs (above the knee) and shoulders/chest out of respect. Often shoes must also be removed, so wearing flipflops or sandals is an easy and quick option. 9. Watch the sun set and stars come out on the quiet beaches During our stay in Koh Phangan we stayed at an amazing resort called Mac Bay. It was on the beach front overlooking Koh Samui in the distance. We were given one of the small
beach huts; the view you can see in the photo below was what we saw everyday from our room. It was perfect. The resort was far away from the main strip which meant it was peaceful and quiet. Sitting watching the stars on a clear night with or without a little bev is the perfect way to relax and appreciate this beautiful country.
10. Do a Thai cookery class Last but not least, get a real feel for the Thai life and do a cooking class! While we were in Chiang Mai we did just that, and we loved it. Our instructor was called 'Sexy A' an he had the hilariously sassy attitude you would expect. It was fast paced but incredibly interesting and fun. I myself am not the best of cooks, but everything I made was delicious (if I do say so myself). As a group we collectively decided on two different menu's, and then individually decided on our own meals. I made Pad Thai, Tom Kha Kai (chicken and coconut soup), vegetable spring rolls and chicken Panang curry. At the end of the course we were given a recipe book with all of the things we made, and all of the things we didn't. If you want an evening filler, book yourself onto a cookery course and cook up a storm.
PHEW! Now that was a hella' long blog post, and hopefully a fairly helpful one for those who are struggling to fill their days in Thailand. Fingers crossed you didn't fall asleep reading that bad boy and congrats if you made it to the end. That was my personal top 10 Thailand experiences, all of which are things that I would highly recommend and encourage you to do. However, I know that there is a bazillion million trillion other awesome things to do in this crazy country, so do your research and find out what suits you best. After all, we all enjoy different things!
Keep you eyes peeled for more travel related posts and let me know what you thought of this one. To keep up to date with my travels, follow my personal and photography instagram accounts (jenjaar / jenrosephotos). Until next time!