With a month off and a small budget accompanied with a huge desire to go to Southeast Asia, we decided it was finally time to make it happen. We bought our tickets to Thailand a week before flying out and had no real plans of what we would see or do. We just had to get over to that part of the world!
Our idea was to travel through Thailand like we traveled through South America – carefree: heading where other travelers recommended, jumping on trains and buses last minute to wherever they could take us. We quickly realized this style of traveling was nearly impossible in Thailand, and definitely impossible with only a month to explore. We had to plan in advance where we were heading next, book trains, buses, and planes three to four days out, and we couldn’t just walk up to a hostel and get a room at a decent price.
It was such a different style of backpacking for us. We felt like newbs, like we had never backpacked before.
We were introduced to the world of scouring the internet reading review after review for accommodation, and found ourselves booking rooms through Agoda.com two or three days prior to arrival. With the desire of staying true to our traveling ways, we never booked more than two nights at places, so we could head out easily if we were feeling that part of Thailand.
Arriving to Bangkok we walked around Khao San Road (the most famous road in all of Thailand) in search of a hostel near the busyness, but far enough away to get some rest. We found the perfect hostel, dropped our bags off, and did what any sane person arriving to Thailand would do – grabbed some amazing street pad thai and relaxed for an hour long Thai massage.
We ended up spending more time in Bangkok than originally planned. Trains heading out of Bangkok both north and south were booked out for three days, leading us to spend a few extra days in the big city. The fully booked trains ended up being a huge blessing in disguise. We explored more of the less touristy parts of Bangkok, snuck in a couple of very overpriced TukTuk rides, and did the boat trip up the river.
With an overnight train heading to Chiang Mai Saturday evening, we were able to experience a floating market Saturday morning. The Floating Market we chose was absolutely perfect. It wasn’t designed for tourists, but instead filled with locals, authentic food, and crazy fish in the canals!
The train ride up to Chiang Mai was horrific. How so you ask.. let us paint a picture for you. You know when you’re on a roller coaster and your head moves back and forth like a bobble head for the three-minute ride?! Imagine that for 12 hours combined with children running and screaming throughout your cabin from 1-3am, and then add a child locking himself in the bathroom and the parents arguing over the fact that he shouldn’t have been in there by himself while he’s yelling for help. Doesn’t that sound like a fun ride?! On a plus side… the family with the boy stuck in the bathroom had lovely English accents, so the arguing kinda sounded nice. 😉 After multiple random jolts and harsh stops, it makes sense that they have been needing to redo the tracks, and that there have been multiple accidents on that line. Oops.. guess we should have researched a bit more about it first!!
Arriving to our guesthouse made us instantly forget about the crazy ride up. When we arrived, Boyd, the host and sole reason we booked ZZ House, made us feel right at home and the room we had was amazing! Our own big comfy bed, bathroom, shower, and fridge! Could it get any better for less than $12 USD a night? We don’t think so! With Boyd’s recommendations of local places to eat, Wats to see, and scenery to moped through, we finally got a sense of the Thailand experience we were longing for.
Did we mention we did an elephant tour too!! We signed up for an elephant tour, thinking that we were playing with elephants for half a day and bamboo rafting the second half of the day, but our tour came with so many surprises!! We went to a butterfly and orchid garden, got to visit the Long Neck Tribe, rafted down a river with elephants lining the sides, and ended the day feeding, bathing, swimming with, and riding elephants. (Before you go all crazy on us… we did a lot of research before just jumping on an elephant, and what we found stated that if you ride them bareback and solo, then it doesn’t harm the elephants.) The experience with the elephants was one we will never forget!
After a week of adventuring through Chiang Mai, we made the trip further north to Pai. We had never heard of Pai, but when everyone is talking about a place so beautiful, it’s a must see! We endured the 3-hour mini bus ride with 762 curves… yes, you read that right… 762 of them only to be greeted with a cute little village at the base of gorgeous green mountains. Pai is a place a lot of traveler’s go and never leave. With the laid back atmosphere, amazing organic health food choices, and endless possibilities for adventure in the surrounding areas, it’s easy to see why! It was the perfect place to spend our anniversary. We even splurged and spent a few nights at a resort outside of town with a pool access room, and amazing hillside views!
Before heading south to wrap up our trip soaking in the sun on the islands of Thailand, we spent a couple more nights in Chiang Mai to experience the Asahna Buddha Holiday and candle ceremony. Although the celebration was hugely geared towards tourist, it was still quite the site to see and experience to be had!
For the last week of our trip we knew we wanted to be on the beaches fully soaking in each and every minute of the warm sun before heading back to Scotland. We settled on heading to Koh Phi Phi for a week where we did exactly what we planned. Our days were spent lounging on the beach or at the pool, eating great Thai food, and snorkeling around the clear blue waters.
If you ask us now about our trip to Thailand, we will tell you it wasn’t at all what we expected. While we enjoyed our time there, tourism has taken over the country, so it was quite hard to get the cultural experience we always look for in our travels. Thailand was definitely a time of learning and growth for both of us, and while we wouldn’t recommend Thailand for a place to experience a new culture, it still makes a great vacation!