Here is a run down of the trips and activities I did whilst in Thailand and a few of my thoughts on them.
Chiang Mai Sunday markets
The hotel I stayed at offered a free shuttle to the night markets every night. We had booked ourselves on to the shuttle, when we arrived it turned out that there was only us going. The driver offered to take us to the sunday markets, since we were in Chiang Mai for a few more days we decided to go to the sunday markets and then we could always visit the night markets on a different day. The shuttle dropped us off at about 7:15pm and picked us back up at 9:30pm. Wow, what an introduction to Thailand! Miles and miles of stalls stretching further than you could see, I don’t think we covered even a quarter of what the market had to offer! Looking back over the trip, I feel like this was the most authentically Thai experience I had. The streets were packed with thousands of people (very few of them tourists) haggling for and buying food, clothes, accessories and decorations. Our visit was around a month after the passing of Rama XI so shortly after we arrived at the markets the music stopped and the lights went out, as people lit candles and began singing the Royal Anthem, very surreal for our first night in Thailand- especially when we had no idea what was going on!
Happy Elephant Home-
We did lots of research before booking this trip to ensure the centre we visited did not contribute to the abuse of Elephants in any way. We came across the Happy Elephant Home on Viator, a centre that rescues and rehabilitates Elephants and allows them to live their lives safely and happily. It’s a relatively “young” camp with only 5 Elephants living there, riding is not permitted at this camp and the Elephants are free to do as they please. This is no the camp for you if you want pictures and videos of Elephants doing tricks or painting. We were picked up from our hotel at around 8:30am and taken about 1.5 hrs north, we were given a brief introduction- including a warning about a cheeky baby elephant who was born at the camp earlier in the year! We pulled up at the camp and went for a short briefing on how to act around the elephants, we went over to the “boma pen” to meet Koffee and her baby Milo, “Grandma” then came over to say hello to us. After the introductions we went and got dressed into our Mahout clothes and chopped up some pumpkin to feed the elephants. Once we were dressed we were introduced to the last two elephants Tonsai and Mina and let them wander as we fed them and took videos and pictures. We walked with them for a while and watched them take mud baths, they weren’t coerced into anything and just existed around us; if they’d had enough they walked away and came back when they were ready for more. We got to know each elephant individually, Grandma- the Matriarch and ‘boss’ of the herd, Koffee- Milo’s mum and protector but very calm, Milo- a cheeky six month baby and the only boy in the herd who is still learning the difference between humans and elephants, Mina- the teenager of the herd who is learning how to be an adult but still playful and loves to suckle on her Mahout’s fingers for comfort and Tonsai- the oldest in the herd who was rescued from a trekking camp a few years ago, she still carries the scars of the braces she worse for carrying humans and is blind in one eye from the abuse. A complete softie if easily startled. We took a lunch break and ate rice, omelette, curry and watermelon then went out in the sugar cane fields to cut down some stalks. We carried them down to the river as the elephants followed us, wandering between groups and stealing sugar cane when they wanted a snack. The rest of the herd caught up to us as we waited by the river, eventually the elephants got into the river and we followed! We splashed them with water and scrubbed them with sand and water while they rolled around. When they had enough of the water the elephants made their way to a bank and rolled in the mud to protect their skin from the sun. We walked back to the camp and had some time to relax, where we could swim in the pool, take a shower, change and drink some water before saying goodbye to the elephants and heading back to our hotels. A truly amazing day with some truly amazing animals. We booked the tour through Viator but I can’t actually find it on there anymore, here is a link to their facebook page with some more information: https://www.facebook.com/Happy-elephant-home-1485558931702928/?fref=ts
Chiang Mai City & Temples tour
We booked this tour through Viator to give us a quick run down of the city and temples because we were running out of time in Chiang Mai. We were picked up at about 1:30pm and taken into the city, we picked 6 more people up on the way and made our way to the first temple. The guide gave us some information before giving us free time in the temple to take in the sights. We then got back in the van and made our way to the second temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep. This place is amazing, so ornate and beautiful. The place is huge and we spent hours here. Our guide was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions and very careful to make sure we were respectful while in the temples. I enjoyed the temple element of this tour but I do wish I had seen some of the Old City- which we didn’t on this tour.
Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep
Chiang Mai Night Markets
We made use of the hotel shuttle again for this and headed out to the daily markets. These were much more tourist orientated, and although there were lots of stalls there wasn’t THAT much on offer, just repeats of the same souvenirs. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy them though,we did buy some gifts and clothes here, but didn’t manage to find any famous Thai Street food!
Koh Samui- Mae Nam Chinese Market
This market is on a thursday night in a small town about 25 minutes away from the capital of the island. We stayed in Mae Nam so the market was close by. It’s only small and runs across a couple of streets. We noticed a lot of food on offer at this market, obviously with a more chinese twist. We also made friends with our favorite waffle vendor, who we ended up seeing at a different market and being his “regular customers”. The none food items were fairly standard for what we saw at most markets, bags, clothes, decorations and jewellery.
Koh Samui Round Island Sightseeing Tour
Another tour booked through Viator to give us an overview of where we were. We did this as much as possible because we didn’t have time to stay in each place too long. This tour was okay but I feel like we didn’t see much. We were taken to the “Big Buddha” which could be worth a visit, although it’s a very small temple. Then the “Grandma and Grandpa rocks” at Lamai which could be worth a visit for a few photos and a giggle. Other than that we were taken to a view-point, a very bizarre small temple where there is a mummified monk wearing sunglasses (?!) and to a park to see some waterfalls and some elephants. I think the treatment of the elephants put me off this trip as they were in poor physical and mental state and with babies chained up away from their mothers. We were then left in Nathon, the capital. We didn’t find much to do but did grab some lunch and a drink to get out of the midday sun. This tour was good enough (and not very expensive) but not essential, you could see the highlights yourself as Koh Samui is so small.
Koh Samui- Fisherman’s Village Night Market
An absolute must on Koh Samui is to go to Fisherman’s village on a friday evening. The atmosphere is beautiful, we arrived at dusk (using the hotel shuttle) and sat in a bar on the beach watching the sun set before heading to the market for some light shopping, something to eat (from our favourite waffle man) and a few more drinks. I can’t even describe the beauty of the place, visually and atmospherically.
Koh Samui- Chaweng
We decided to go and see what all the fuss was about here as this is supposed to be the main tourist hub. We hopped on the trusty shuttle bus and arrived in Chaweng…to nobody. We couldn’t find anybody or any sort of life really! Maybe we arrived too early or were in the wrong part, but we felt like we were in an “anywhere resort”, I felt like I could have been in Spain! We grabbed something to eat and had a few quiet drinks before heading back to Mae Nam.
Koh Pha Ngan- Koh Nang Yuan
We booked this as part of our Full Moon Party package, an optional extra snorkelling tour to Koh Tao was available. The tour turned out to not really be to Koh Tao- we snorkelled just off it for a while then got back on the boat- but to Koh Nang Yuan, a smaller island just off it. The snorkelling here wasn’t as good as Koh Tao but the place was amazing. I can’t believe places like this exist in the world! I’m sure you can book snorkelling tours to Nang Yuan from the surrounding islands and I highly recommend it if you can.
Full Moon Party
The world-famous party, that happens once a month! We couldn’t NOT got to one, even if we did think we’d feel like babysitters! As mentioned we booked ours as a package but you can show up at the beach (pull over a taxi and they’ll take you there) and pay the 100 baht entrance fee (£2.50!) I’ll be honest, we walked onto the beach and the same thought went through my Sister and I’s heads. “I hate it” It was my worst nightmare, 18 years old off their faces on god knows what,falling around, fighting, throwing up, doing the dance with no pants! We both decided that we would give it an hour, we wanted to enjoy ourselves but weren’t going to force ourselves to stay there. We walked to the other end of the beach (turn right as you come on by the pirate ship hostel) and ended up having an amazing night! The atmosphere had completely changed, so relaxed, and it actually felt like people were there to have a good night, of course people were drinking but not in the same manner as down the beach. The age also seemed to have increased up the beach as well as the music becoming a little more “mainstream”. I’d definitely go back to a full moon party now, I’d just remember to take lots of change with me as you have to pay for the toilets!
Krabi Phi Phi Islands by Speedboat
This was a must for us when we were staying in Krabi. Anybody who has seen “The Beach” will know why, and anybody who hasn’t seen the beach- watch it and you will! We were picked up and taken to Maya Bay, Pileh Lagoon, snorkelling just off Monkey beach, Phi Phi Don and Bamboo Island. The tour was good and gave a great overview of the Phi Phi Islands or ideas on where you would like to go back.
We booked a trip to the nightmarkets in Krabi town through an agent in our hotel reception. I would say this was one of my least favourite markets, it was very small and didn’t offer much on sale. If you don’t get chance to visit this, you’re not missing much. Also I saw the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my life…crawling on a man’s neck so I would quite happily forget about the night for the rest of my life!!
Phi Phi Leh
We stayed on Phi Phi Don for a few days and felt like we didn’t really get long enough on Phi Phi Leh (Maya Bay and Pileh Lagoon) so we hopped on a long boat for a morning, you can hire these from most beaches. Don’t be alarmed by the way they do business! Explain where you want to go, let them give you a price, then haggle until you agree! If you’re booking in advance it common practice to pay a deposit to your “Captain”. You don’t get a ticket, but are shown the boat and usually get a phone number. We did this and had no problems at all. I would say this is one of my favourite trips, we completely built this ourselves and had complete control. Please note that you will need to pay a fee to dock at the beach as it is a national park.
Phi Phi View Point-
Oh my, is this a long way up! The climb is unbelievable! Prepare to be tired- and I mean tired! There is a bar about half way up to the first viewpoint which we stopped in. If you can make it to the second viewpoint please do! I highly recommend climbing in suitable shoes, don’t do this in flips flops, take sunscreen because you will probably sweat off what you’re wearing and most importantly, wear bug spray! I’m not exaggerating, there were hundreds landing on people! There is a small fee to pay on entering the view point area and alcohol isn’t permitted.
Bangkok City and Temple Tour-
Another tour we booked through Viator, its a half day tour that includes The Golden Budda, The Reclining Buddha and The Marble Temple. This tour was honestly amazing, the guide was amazing and gave us lots of insider information. She added on the Grand Palace to the tour (a fee can be negotiated) and took us around there too. If you don’t do anything else in Bangkok, please visit the Grand Palace and Wat Pho!!
Bangkok Night Food and City Tour By Tuk Tuk
I’ll be honest, I thought this tour might be a bit cheesy but it turned out to be my favourite tour in Bangkok. We met up with our guides who gave us traditional dried Thai Fruits before taking us to the road and introducing us to our Tuk Tuk Driver. The guide took it in turns riding along with each of us (there were 6 of us in 3 Tuk Tuks) and gave us lots of extra information as well as asking us about our culture (we had a great chat about Rowan Atkinson, apparently Mr Bean is a superstar there!) We were taken to a local Night Market, a temple (there was a funeral going on while we were there, so we didn’t explore too much), to a restaurant to eat Pad Thai (apparently the most popular in Bangkok- you have to queue from 3pm to get a table!), the giant swing, Wat Pho and then to the Flower Markets. We saw the temples in a totally different way on this and got lots of new information!
Bangkok- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
We booked this tour through an agent in our hotel. Although this was quite interesting it’s not something I would call a “must see”. You travel quite a while from Bangkok to get there. The boats themselves were very crowded as well as the waterways. The goods were very expensive compared to every other market we visited and they were exactly the same. These vendors a lot more set on their prices and less open to haggling. It was interesting, but seemed a bit of a show for the tourists. I’m sure there are more authentic markets around than this.
This was another tour we booked with our hotel. We figured that we might never be this close again and some studies are saying that this place might not be here in years to come due to Bangkok’s rapid expansion. This is one of the former capitals of Siam and now a UNESCO world heritage site. This was a long tour which involved visiting the Royal Winter Palace, the old city ruins, a functioning temple and the ruins of the original reclining Buddha, we then took a boat down the river where we ate lunch and were eventually taken back to our hotels. This tour was really interesting and packed with information about something that I personally did not know anything about beforehand.
More information can be found here:
So that was all of the tours and activities we fit in, other than shopping, beaches,pools etc!
I hope you found this interesting or helpful, these are only the things I did/ had time for and my opinions on them.
We pre booked a lot of our trips on Viator as we find it easier to know what we’re doing and when (especially with such a packed itinerary) and that way we had prepaid for a lot of the trips before we went.
If you have any suggestions for any activities that I missed please let me know so I can plan for my next trip!