Asia | Thailand
On 2/11/16 Jenny and I flew from Amsterdam to Bangkok where we would spend 1 month before flying to Australia for a year of work and travel. As we are UK residents we got a 31 day tourist visa for free on entry to Thailand.
We booked our month in Thailand through a travel company called Gap 360 in April of that year after much thought. We felt that the itinerary was perfect for us and cost-wise it was cheaper than if we had done all the same things independently. We also wouldn’t of even known half of the places existed either. It was the perfect way to kick start our 13 months of travel and we met some awesome people.
Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Maevang Elephant Sanctuary - Jungle Trek - Koh Samui - Koh Tao - Koh Phangan - Bangkok
Listed below is each location we stayed at, how long for and what we did in each.
Our tour guide, who turned out to be an absolute legend, was called “Nat” and greeted us at the airport and we went by minibus to our hotel.
We spent 4 days in Bangkok in total, mostly sightseeing with our group of 25-30 people, all roughly our age.
Wat Po temple: On our first day we all visited the temple by scenic boat ride
Koh San road: Famous road that hosts stalls through the day and bars and clubs at night. After persuading Kieran to come out with us he got his phone stolen within about 30 seconds of entering a club. That is probably my only good memory from Koh San Road (soz Kieran) cause it was kinda funny and that street is an absolute hell hole, unless you enjoy 5 people at once trying to make you eat a scorpion.
Lady boys show: One night we had the option to go to a lady boys show which was… interesting. Our ticket got us a free drink to enjoy the show with. It was pretty much a heap of confused, uncoordinated people on stage badly lip syncing to Lady Gaga for an hour or two. Would not recommend.
Baiyoke Tower II: We were treated to sunset buffet meal on the top floor of the 2nd tallest building in Bangkok. Epic views and great food.
We took an overnight bus to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Having not really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Chiang Mai was a much more to my liking. We stayed in a lovely hotel for 4 nights and had a lot of free time to roam around the city by Tuktuk.
Night Bazaar: The night bazaar is a large and renowned market that happens every night of the week. Locals sell an abundance of things usually jewellery, woman’s clothing or ‘street food’.
Cooking class: One evening we split into two groups and did a Thai cooking course. We each selected 3 dishes from a menu and the teacher who called himself “Sexy A” gave us instructions. I went for the 2 least spicy options, or “least sexy” options as Sexy A said, and of course some spring rolls. It turned out pretty well and we got a little book to take home with each dish’s method inside.
3D Museum: Not a very Thai thing to do but still cool nonetheless. A museum filled with 3D art that didn’t look great at first sight but once you looked through your camera lens it came alive.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: Sacred Thai temple on a hill looking over the whole of Chiang Mai – epic sunset views.
Maevang Elephant Sanctuary
About an hour away from Chiang Mai was Maevang Elephant Sanctuary, a place that cared for and treated to injured, young and old elephants. It was definitely one of the highlights of Thailand for us.
The group spent 2 nights in 2 large cabins with mosquito nets around our mattresses. During the days we washed, fed, walked and played with the elephants and at nighttime while we slept we were no more than 30m from them.
This is really where the whole group came together and opened up. A few of the guys went to play football with Shishi (one of the workers at the sanctuary and all-out legend) and some of his friends. When we were heading back to camp it somehow turned into a sesh and he was buying us “happy water”. By the time we got back to camp we were all wasted and then everyone else just kind of joined in. I think we were in bed by about 9 because we had started so early! It was on this wild night that Will drank piss courtesy of Billy.
The Jungle Hike
From Maevang Elephant Sanctuary, we packed an overnight bag and began our hill trek. We walked about 8km into the jungle passed tiny schools and local villages and then slept overnight in a bamboo house with a view for hundreds of miles over the jungle.
When we got there Shishi cooked everyone dinner and later on he got his friend to drive to us on a bike with….. more happy water! He taught myself, Kieran, Will, Adam and Jenny a drinking game involving charcoal and clapping your hands and that was us sorted for the night. Soon the thunder and lightening began and weirdly this was one of my favourite nights in Thailand. Dancing on tables, covered in charcoal, and drinking happy water in a thunder storm with new friends.
The next day it was still raining and he had to complete another 10k hike. Feeling rough I wasn’t really too bothered, I mean, you can only get to a certain level of wet before it just doesn’t matter anymore. When we reached the end we were greeted by trucks that took us bamboo rafting down a river which was pretty awesome, had lunch and then departed back to the elephant camp to get our bags.
From the elephant home we took trucks back to Chiang Mai (Will, Jenny and I rode in the front with Shishi) and later took another overnight bus back to Bangkok. We spent another night in Bangkok before a bus would take us south to the ferry for Koh Samui.
In total we spent 4 days on the island and over these days we did some volunteer work which included building dams for local towns using cement and large rocks. We also volunteered at a local primary school to paint their playground new colours but this very quickly turned into the kids painting and us watching. It was so nice seeing how happy they got.
Over these days we also did a lot of chilling out. Through the days we went to a nearby ‘fancy’ hotel which did happy hour on cocktails all day so we partied in their pool a lot. At nighttime’s we smoked shisha on the beach with more cocktails and watched the Thai fire dancers do some tricks and flips.
From Koh Samui to Koh Tao. We took a ferry to our 2nd island and spent another 5 days here. Koh Tao was probably my favourite island. There was an option to go snorkelling or to relax on the beach and regretfully I chose the beach when snorkelling looked sick. Everyone who did it also went to a scenic lookout which was a really nice view.
I got a bamboo tattoo of a turtle due to Koh Tao meaning “Turtle Island” and I really wanted a bamboo tattoo whilst in Thailand. We went on a large bar crawl around the biggest bars on the island and went to another lady boys show. Will and some others got chosen to go on stage dressed up in drag, it was class. There were more fire dancers on the beach and the squad played a lot of ‘psych’ through the days.
Another ferry took us to the famous Full Moon Party island of Koh Phangan. Again we spent about 5 days here in a private beach hut in paradise. Unfortunately, we were quite far from the hub of the island and I really wish Id’ got a bike for these few days to explore.
One night a few of us went to a party that was on which turned out to be a psytrance rave which was good banter and caused a few casualties.
Myself, Will and Kieran (who bailed half way) hiked up the tallest peak on the island, Khao Ra (630m) which was genuinely the toughest walk I’ve ever done. The gradient mixed with the insane humidity of the jungle made it almost impossible to go more than 20 steps without stopping. I think we probably attempted this in the wrong season but hey, we got the view all to ourselves and we’re the highest people on the island. After that we all met up and went to the “Amsterdam bar” to watch the sunset.
We took a bus back to Bangkok for another 2 nights and slowly said goodbye to the group over the days. Myself and Jenny were the last to go as we had to stay an extra night before flying to Sydney.