A whistlestop tour of Thailand (and south east Asia)


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April 10th 2017
Published: April 11th 2017
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Thailand is somewhere that I have always wanted to visit but I was apprehensive due to it's reputation as being a party place and having a seedy underbelly. I knew it was stunningly beautiful but had been in the media quite recent to when we had visited and also I had a lot of friends who loved to party hard who visited there and not one to judge but.... 😊 Still, last year, on account of us getting married, we fancied a cheap and cheerful get away and Thailand fitted the bill nicely- once the cost of the flights and hotel are covered, you literally need peanuts to get by so it was a done deal! Of course, me being me decided to somehow squish in a trip to Cambodia and Malaysia with a jot of Laos in for good measure, all in 19 days! Sure who needs a relaxing holiday anyway?

So, landing into Bangkok I was expecting mayhem, filth and wild parties but was met with a relatively sedate Khao San road (a bit grubby but nothing too bad). Our taxi dropped us in at about quarter to midnight and we were staying just off of this notorious street. It was busy with stands selling street food (and deep fried insects), a few groups of party goers and that was about it- to be honest I have seen wilder places in Dublin! Still, we dropped out bags off and went for a few nightcaps in a gorgeous rooftop bar, and crashed out. Bangkok as a city is stunning, an eclectic mix of incredible temples and palaces, modern glittering skyscrapers and crumbling decays buildings. The entire city was a lot cleaner than I had anticipated, and long streets in the city were punctuated with the most stunning temples I have ever seen. Out first stop was the colossal, imposing and impressive city palace which form is a collection of incredible temples and palaces, with amazing gold stupas and ornate prangs emerging from the architecture. Talk about a feast for the eyes- the temples are so ornate in design and so inticate in detail that every inch is a masterpiece. One thing to note, and this applies to a number of temples, is to ensure knees and shoulders are covered (for ladies and gents), or you will have to rent out a fabulous trousers and shirt combo, or a very snazzy kimono type wrap, both of which smell extremely 'unusual'. From here we visited the fantastic Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) - the Buddha is actually immense- so much bigger than one would expect, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) which again is a splendor of amazing ornate temples, stupas and prangs. After this, we felt 'templed out', so crashed with some amazing lunch (the Thai food is so so good!!). The afternoon was spent taking a leisurely trip along the Chao Phraya river where we got spectacularly lost in china town and spent several hours trying to find our way back. Our return journey to our hotel involved popping into a couple of very gorgeous smaller temples (whose name I didn't get) followed by dinner on a pretty hippyish street full of beautiful restaurants.

The following day marked a departure to Cambodia and then on to Malaysia (which I shall detail later), followed by flying into Krabi. We were staying in a wee little hut in Tonsai beach which took 2 longtail boats to reach, but once we got there at sunset the intense natural beauty made the long trip so worth it. Tonsai beach was amazing, very untouched, very un-touristy, and absolutely beautiful. The general vibe was laid back and relaxed, the only activities are swimming and rock climbing, but with such natural beauty, it is fabulous to just sit and enjoy the surroundings. What was interesting was that electricity was cut off most afternoons so you had to be punctual with lunch plans or you may have gone hungry. There literally wasn't much on this beachy paradise except a few bars and beautiful scenery. One this to note here is the seafood is spectacular- we had read about 'Tonsai belly', but didn't encounter any such thing, just incredible fresh seafood!

After a couple of days of relaxation we caught a ferry to Koh Phi Phi which was a lot busier but still stunning. This gorgeous tiny concave island can be seen in its entirety in one day. Again, Phi Phi is hailed as a party island, but it seemed quite sedate and laid back. The first thing we did was take the long and agonizingly sweaty hike to the Phi Phi Viewpoint to see the sun set- however, it was well worth it for the stunning views- sadly, my photos dont do it justice. Watching the sun set over this glorious sight was certainly a highlight of Koh Phi Phi. The following day we took an island tour visiting Monkey beach, which was hilarious (ish) as my husband was bitten by a wild monkey and the evening was spend in a rabies clinic (thankfully it turns out he had a whole set of rabies injections from a previous trip so was alright), but amusing all the same. The beaches are all stunning, white, pristine sands and crystal turquoise waters- stunning. We visited bamboo island that was like a paradise island in the middle of the Andaman sea, the viking cave (which I found a little boring), Loh Samah bay, which was amazing and snorkeled on the way and marveled at the stunning array of tropical fish. The day climaxed with a sunset visit to Maya bay, when the crowds had died down and we got a chance to enjoy this beautiful iconic beach. Maya bay is beautiful, stunning in fact, and I can see why it is such an attraction, but based on what I have heard we were extremely lucky to find it in such a deserted state. The evening ended watching the sun set over the Andaman sea. Incredible. We then went for some amazing seafood in a strange restaurant where cats stayed in the fridge to cool off (!!!) followed by a few cocktails down the quieter end of the island! Perfect.

Phuket was next on our list and we though as we are in Thailand we may as well visit Patong beach. We visited the notorious Bangla road, where we were invited into a 'ping pong' bar- of course I got dragged onto the stage to take part- I must say it was an eye opening experience! Bangla road is wild- it is full of loud booming bars and party goers- it wasn't really our scene but still fun to see the drag queens performing and to experience the wildness. We ventured further down the beach to a gorgeous outdoor street food market and got some more seafood and relaxed on the beach. Gorgeous. The following day we had arranged a tour of Phukets islands, starting with a visit to Wat Suwan Kuha, a temple within some caves, that was very interesting to see. From then, we took to a boat to explore the various island in the locality- we canoed in the Phange Nga bay which was incredible, visited the very famous James Bond Island (Koh Tapu), followed by a visit to the fascinating floating Muslim village, Kph Panyi. Seeing peoples way of life on this remarkable floating village was simply incredible and fantastic to experience. A trip back to Patong beach followed by a spectacular seafood dinner ended the day.

Early the following morning we caught a flight from Phuket airport to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Chiang Mai is beautiful, the entire city is full again of incredible temples with the gorgeous backdrop of mountains. The city has a peaceful feel in spite of it being quite busy, with plenty to see and do. Chiang Mai is famous for its elephant trekking and tiger temple, but we gave these a wide berth (shortly after our visit they discovered the horrors of tiger temple- disgusting!) but still, seeing temples such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Sing and Wah Chedi Luang, why would there be any need to engage in anything unethical- these temples are spectacular and there is more than enough to keep anyone occupied! We took a day trip to Laos at this point, but to be honest, we did't see much aside from a load of markets and a lot of snake and scorpian whiskey- not my favourite of tipples I have to say however I would love to return to Laos and see more of this stunning country. From here, we took a visit to the most northerly tip of Thailand and looked over to Myanmar (also on the list od must see places), visited the longneck village of Mae Hong Song and met with the ladies with their necks adorned with gold rings- absolutely fascinating, and visited the very famous Wat Rong Khun. Now this temple was down as one of the must see places in Thailand but what a disappointment- from a distance it is amazing but up close is it tacky and terrible- to be honest there are far nicer and authentic temples to see in Thailand- this one is worth a miss. Still made for pretty photos though! A quick stop at the hot springs (which were also a bit lack luster) brought us to the end of out trip in Chiang Mai and also our trip to Thailand. A short flight back to Bangkok followed by a long flight home, devastated that our adventure was over.

I came home adoring Thailand, the Thai people and Thai food. It is a country that has everything- yes, it has a party element but it is take it or leave it. The same with the seedy element- if you want it, it can be found but it isn't thrust in your face (no pun intended). Thailand is a beautiful country with so much to see and do there, and it can cater for all ages and tastes, there literally is something for everyone there! I look forward to seeing more of this spectacular country in the future and planning more adventures in south east Asia.


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