Hidden Gems in Europe

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel Europe a little- even if only a weekend at a time. I also feel lucky to have stumbled across a few great places in Europe that may not get as many visits as others,I thought it might be nice to share some of them so other people might get the chance to visit them.

Duisburg, Germany

I might be a little bit biased as I actually lived here for 9 amazing months, this city has a bad reputation as being “ugly and industrial” but there is a lot of hidden beauty here. Not only is there a lot in the city itself, but the Ruhrgebiet is a great place full of history. Duisburg has fantastic transport links to the surrounding region and is 15 minutes from Dusseldorf and 40 minutes from Cologne. There are plenty of city centre hotels here, as well as a good hotel on Dellplatz, which is a few minutes away from Websters- the best place to get German food in the area, according to a German person!! If you do get to visit here make sure to visit Tiger&Turtle, The Landschafts Park and  The Innenhafen. There are plenty of museums here as well as the (not so) world famous MSV Duisburg football team if you’re into sports, GO ZEBRAS!

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One of the many beautiful sunsets I saw over Dellplatz.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

I know this isn’t a “hidden gem” as it’s the capital city of Luxembourg but it’s somewhere I feel that people don’t visit that much- at least amongst people I’ve spoken to. I find it difficult to find flights to Luxembourg directly from the UK. This is another place that I got to visit courtesy of my Year Abroad as I had access to cheap rail travel and the bonus of only being 3 hours from Luxembourg. I visited here with a friend and it wasn’t until we arrived that we realised that neither of us had actually planned anything to do while we were here! This actually worked out for the best as we spent most of our time lost in this beautiful city and found some really interesting buildings. We eventually got onto the main tourist track and enjoyed amazing hot chocolates in the Chocolate House across from the royal palace. Definitely don’t miss the crypts and catacombs, these are really interesting and also offer amazing views of Luxembourg.

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Brindisi, Italy

This was a really lucky find for us. My sister and I try to get away on a “cheeky weekend” once or twice a year and usually go to Europe- somewhere we’ve never been before. We were in desperate need of a break early in the summer last year and were checking out cheap flights into Europe, we couldn’t settle on anywhere but Brindisi kept popping up on our searches. I did a little research and was completely taken in by the pictures alone. We decided to stay in Brindisi town (although Lecce is supposed to be good too and little more lively) the town itself is quite small but gorgeous, we stayed in the Hotel Buena Vista which is right on the sea front (the difference for a sea view room is worth it!). We spent our weekend strolling through the town, eating good food, and drinking good wine. Our hotel was amazing, it included breakfast at a local cafe (coffee and a croissant) the guys that worked there were really helpful and told us all about the town and where to find the nice beaches further up the coast (easy to reach via public bus). One thing to be aware of before visiting here is that very few people speak English here (we only found two people and they were tourists too!), we had a small italian phrasebook and between our terrible Italian and the english the people did know we got through it. Our time there was so relaxing and I really enjoyed actually feeling like I was seeing “Real Italy” rather than a touristy resort. There are lots of Roman History here and the architecture is gorgeous.

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Long Haul Flights: Must have Items

I’ve been on quite a few long haul flights- at least enough to know what I need to make myself comfortable on long flights. Its taken a lot of years, flights and trial and error and as I’m getting ready to take my longest flight yet at the end of this year (26 hours to Brisbane) I want to take an oppurtunity to share my must have items for flying long distances to keep yourself as comfortable as possible.

1.Neck Pillow

Investing in a good neck pillow can make a huge difference to your comfort on the flight, it’s the difference between an hour of light sleep and a few hours of proper rest. My neck pillow has extra support in the form of an extra “tier” and a drawstring to keep it snug around my neck. This really changed long haul flights for me and made the whole experience much more comfortable. My neck pillow was a (really good!) gift so I don’t actually know where to get them from but I did manage to find a picture of the pillow I have so you can see what it looks like.

Cabeau, evolution microbead

2. Eye Mask

As with a good neck pillow an eye mask can really improve the quality of the rest you get on a flight, I find I wake up a lot less with an eye mask during the flights. It’s especially useful to have an eye mask if you’re going to try to sleep through meal times like I usually do.

3.Hand Sanitizer

Let’s face it, aeroplanes are gross. They’re essentially a giant tube full of people and all of their germs. I always at least try to take hand sanitizer to use every so often through the flight especially after using the bathroom (door handles are dirty) and before eating. Not everybody has the same hygiene standards as you do and hand sanitizer seems to make the flights seem less disgusting.

4.Lip Balm

Aeroplanes really dry out my skin and I always end up with chapped lips, so i take a lip balm in my hand baggage to put on throughout the flight. I use a balm called Paw Paw by Papayagold, as it can be used on chapped skin in general so I put it on my undereyes too and anywhere else that I feel needs extra moisture.

http://www.superdrug.com/PapayaGold/Papayagold-Pawpaw-Moisturising-Balm-25g/p/905860?gclid=CPLut6b74tICFTgo0wodf7IJwg&gclsrc=aw.ds

5. Face spray

I know this is really high maintenance but I always take a face spray on a flight with me. Not only does it rehydrate your skin, but it also makes your skin look a little less dull. I like to spray my face when I wake up from a nap as it refreshes me and makes me feel more awake too. I used the Urban Decay B6 Vitamin spray (mini) for my last journey, but I’ve heard really good things about the body shop Vitamin sprays, so I might give them a try next time.

In general I try to organise my hand luggage to make the flight easier. I keep my liquids in the clear bag, all of my electricals in one bag and anything else I might need during the flight in another bag. I usually have everything in separate makeup bags in my hand luggage so I can take the smaller bags out that I need and put my larger bag in the overhead compartment (gives you a little bit of spare leg room too).

Happy flying!

 

 

Thailand: The Series. Future Plans

It’s the end of my Thailand series and I thought I would go over what I would do differently or what I plan to do next time I visit Thailand.

I plan on heading back in 2019 (talk about forward planning) as I’m heading to Australia over 2107/18 christmas and new year! I loved my trip in Thailand and I’m glad I did things the way I did, but having been there are few things I would do differently or would add in. I thought I would share a few of them here so it could help somebody else to learn from my “mistakes” or maybe get some suggestions for my next trip.

  1. Backpack

We took suitcases on this trip as we were staying in hotels and flying between destinations, although we didn’t experience any problems as such with taking suitcases I feel like it would be a little easier to take a backpack next time. It would make the ferry rides easier as getting the cases off the boat could be a bit of a challenge, although we always got offered help with our cases getting them to our rooms was also a bit rough depending on the “condition” of the floors. I feel like taking a backpack would also prevent overpacking, nobody wants to carry around unnecessary items on their back!

2.Sleep Aboard- Maya Bay

It was only after I got back to England that I found out about Sleep Aboard trips, I still have some research to do but I’ve got the basics. This trip takes you to Maya Bay in the evening as most of the other tourists are leaving. The boat docks out in the bay and you are taken to the beach by Long Boat. You have a BBQ and there’s music and a fire for you to get to know the people on your trip over. You can snorkel with the plankton and jump into the sea from the boat. You sleep on the boat and can see the sunrise from the bay, you have breakfast then return to Phi Phi Don where the trip runs from. This sounds like an amazing experience and is definitely something I will be looking into for my next trip.

3. Better footwear!

I made a bit of a mistake with my footwear and only took a pair of flip flops, one pair of cheap pumps from primark and two pair of sandals (one of which I didn’t end up wearing). Looking back I definitely needed a pair of “proper” shoes that would offer me some kind of support when I was walking! We did a lot of wandering around during our trip and I feel like my feet suffered for it, everybody knows the feeling when you’ve been wearing your flip flops for too long. I’ll make sure to pack some trainers next time!

4. Railay Beach

We stayed in Ao Nang on this trip, I enjoyed my stay there it was quite nice to wander around but it was almost an “anywhere resort”, walking through the streets of countless indian restaurants, McDonalds and Irish pubs it was quite difficult to identify this place as Thailand sometimes. That being said we did meet some lovely people here,in the quieter bars down the side streets. We will probably stay at Railay Beach next time for a more relaxed feel and “island vibe” to our time in this part of the country.

5.Stay within the Walls- Chiang Mai

I loved our hotel in Chiang Mai, it was beautiful, quiet and so relaxed it was almost horizontal. I do feel that we didn’t see much of Chiang Mai though and for that reason we will be looking to stay closer to the city centre this time and in a hotel that is less like a resort. Being walking distance to the main centre will mean we are free to explore a bit more and get a better feel for the city.

6. D.I.Y Full Moon Party

If you have had chance to read any of my other posts you will know that we booked our Full Moon Party as part of a package, this worked quite well for us and gave us piece of mind for our first trip to this part of the world. Having been to the party and stayed on Koh Phangnan we have seen how easy it is to organise our selves and we also have an idea of where we want to stay, we know a good ferry company to go with and will probably organise this ourselves so we have a bit more freedom with our time on the island.

7.Koh Tao

We didn’t have time to get to Koh Tao on this trip and only sailed past on our way to Koh Nangyuan, but it’s somewhere we would like to squeeze into our itinerary if we could. The snorkelling here is amazing so it would be good to get into the water here (I don’t think we’re brave enough for scuba diving).

8.Chiang Rai

We don’t think we will have chance to get to Chiang Rai on our next trip unfortunately, which is a real shame as we want to see Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple). We have come across a day trip that runs from Chiang Mai which will take us to see this and this is definitely something we will be looking further into as even just a glimpse of this place would be worth it.

9.Skincare

This is a bit of a weird one but I don’t feel like I went on my trip fully equipped for the weather and what it would put my skin through. I took a light moisturiser with me thinking it would be okay and feel like my skin paid the consequences for my mistake.  Next time I will be taking coconut oil with me as this has multiple uses and will hydrate my skin properly.

10.A different attitude

As this was my first trip to this part of the world I had no idea what to expect and it made me a little wary until I settled in. Next time I go I will know I’m going to a country with some of the kindest and friendliest people I have ever met. I will know that the food is nothing to be afraid of, and where to but the cheapest water! I’ll know what a good price is and when I’m being “scammed”, I’ll know how to get a good deal on what I’m buying and where to get the best massage! I’ll also go equipped with the basics in Thai so I can at least greet and thank people for their help! In general I will go with the knowledge that I’m going to a beautiful country full of amazing people and experiences and I can’t wait to dive into it headfirst.

Until next time Thailand.

 

Thailand- The Series. Must have items

As a chronic over packer for most trips I tend to take lots of unecessary items that never get used as I’ll find that something else I’ve packed is much more useful or suitable.

Here are a few things that I wouldn’t go back to Thailand without and would recommend you take with you.

1-Sarong

In most temples or religious buildings you are required to dress respectfully- shoulders and legs covered. Obviously Thailand isn’t know for it’s cool and breezy climate so it can be difficult to cover up all the time- especially for people from colder countries. A sarong kept in your bag is great for throwing over your shoulders or tying around your waist to be respectful. I also used a sarong to cover my shoulders or head on the ferry journeys we took to prevent (even more) sunburn and as a skirt when I had a hanger-related meltdown and didn’t want to wear my shorts anymore!! It can also be used as a beach towel which is much lighter to carry and quicker to dry, and obviously takes up much less space in your bag. If you don’t own a sarong, you should be able to pick one up from most markets.

2-Microfibre Towel

I picked up a large microfibre towel from Decathlon before going to take on trips as they are lightweight and can be rolled in your bag. As I was using my sarong to wear sarong i didn’t want it to get too covered in sand and sea water so used this instead. This became so handy as it dried so quickly, we took ours to the elephant sanctuary to dry off after our shower, on our snorkelling trip, on our island hopping tour and to Maya Bay to name a few.

These were relatively cheap and come in lots of colours, they also have a strap so you can roll it up and it will stay secure.

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/microfibre-towel-l-grey-id_8364540.html

3- Small Rucksack

We picked up a small 10L rucksack up from decathlon for £2.49, which came in handy when we were on our trips. The bags are designed for hiking so are lightweight and compact but big enough to carry water, sunscreen, a small towel and your camera and money. This saved us unpacking our bigger rucksacks everyday and meant that we didn’t have to carry anything too bulky around.

Even though these werre really cheap they were still really high quality, they come in lots of colurs and are machine washable.

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/arpenaz-10l-hiking-backpack-blue-purple-id_8331388.html

4- Aqua Bag

We bought a bag called an aqua pack while we were out there that turned out to be an absolute life saver. You could get them from most markets on the islands, they are a waterproof bag that rolls down and clips closed to keep your electricals safe from water damage. You can get them in a variety of sizes- I think we went for a 6L which we put all of our electricals in and carried our other things in our rucksacks. I believe you can buy these before you go but you will pay a lot more than you would in Thailand.

aquapack-dry-bag-7l
Photo Credit: Shields Paddling Co

5- Go Pro Float

This applies to any waterproof camera you might have. I would take mine into the sea with me on a wrist strap but also had a float attached to it should it slip off my wrist. Nobody wants an expensive camera full of memories at the bottom of the ocean.

I actually bought a variety pack on attachments and mounts for my GoPro from amazon, it wasn’t an official “Go Pro pack” but all of the attachments fit and work perfectly.

I can’t find the exact pack I ordered but this one seems to include all the same things, you get all of the basics, chest strap, head strap, wrist strap, stick, suction mount, float plus extra pins etc.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/ibn/Zookki-Accessories-Bundle-Camera-Accessory-Lightdow-DBPOWER/B01F6YOW94/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1485710812&sr=8-12&keywords=go+pro+accessory+pack

6- Covered Shoes

Three times I was grateful for my covered shoes in Thailand were: Temples- part of covering up, it is preferred to wear covered shoes in the complexes, slip on are the best as you take them on and off to go in the buildings. Walking- it saves on sunburned feet and they are much more supportive than flip flops. Full Moon Party- That beach gets gross, you’re practically barefoot in flips flops! I just took a pair of primark pumps that I didn’t mind if I ruined.

7- Black/ dark clothes

Our trip was around a month after Rama IX passed away and the country was in mourning- the official period of mourning will last for around a year (until at least October 2017).  We were warned to dress in dark colours as a show of respect, the Grand Palace in Bangkok especially were quite strict on enforcing this. You will notice a lot of Thai people still dressing in dark colours. We did notice a lot of market stalls selling black clothes had popped up.

8-Tiger Balm

If you don’t ave this before you go you can buy this while you are there from pretty much any pharmacy. This stuff can fix anything from aching muscles, headaches, congestion and bug bites! This saved my life and my legs when the mosquitoes used me as an all you can eat buffet on Phi Phi.

9-Portable  Charger

Not only was this geat for the flight over but once we were there we would charge this uo and throw this in our bag in case our phones or cameras got low on charge during long days out. There was no way I was missing out on getting some of those memories on camera! You can get these from most electrical shops, I actually picked mine up from TK Maxx and it was really cheap.

http://www.tkmaxx.com/gadgets+tech/gold-tone-dual-usb-power-bank/invt/36053108

10- Hand Sanitizer

I personally don’t travel without this, but was especially glad I had this with me this time. Some of the bathrooms still haunt me now, sinks and soap aren’t always standard  so it’s always nice to have a small bottle in your bag. I took this with me from home because I don’t fly without a bottle with me anyway!

Hopefully this might help with a few packing essentials for your trip. I know I definitely won’t go back without these things!

 

 

 

 

Thailand- The Series- Top Ten

I’ve read so many of these lists and watched so many videos and have always found it really interesting to see what different people see as the highlights of a country. Lists like this gave us a lot of ideas for our trip and I hope that this list might help somebody else too!
This list is only based on my opinion and I’m sure I missed something amazing out, narrowing it down to just 10 was difficult!

10. Ride a Tuk Tuk!
Such a typical tourist I know! I couldn’t resist the novelty though, and they are so much cheaper than taxis. We mostly used Tuk Tuks or walked to get around in Bangkok, yes some of the driving is a little “adventerous” but be sensible and use your common sense, if you feel unsafe don’t get in! Be prepared to haggle for your journeys and don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not happy with the price. If you’re still a little unsure you can book organised Tuk Tuk tours which are regulated and the drivers tend to drive a little more carefully.

9.Try Thai Street Food
Even the weird stuff, you might never see this food again. Some favourites I tried were Pad Thai, buttered corn, spiral potatoes, spring rolls, rice cakes, Massaman Curry, fried rice, Pandan Custard and Steamed bread. There’s plenty of “mystery meat” and insects if you’re feeling brave too!

8. Snorkelling off Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan
The sealife here isn’t shy! You will find yourself completely surrounded by fish you have never seen. I personally found the snorkelling off Koh Tao the best (Mango Bay I think) for the variety of fish, but I did see some interesting animals off Nang Yuan too. You usually book a trip to here and get both destinations included meaning you get to explore Koh Nang Yuan- which is beautiful!

7. Temples
This might seem an obvious one, but the two I highly recommend are Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep in Chiang Mai and Wat Pho in Bangkok. I found the Temples in Chiang Mai to be very ornate with such amazing detail. The entire Wat Pho complex is packed with history, this temple is also open at night and is like a completely different place in the dark. Definitely try to get there if you can!

wat-pho

6. Phi Phi View Point
A big climb, but worth it for the view of both of Phi Phi Don’s bays! Take lots of water, sunscreen and mosquito repellent and take rests if you need them. Next time I climb this I’ll try to go in the morning to avoid the midday sun. View Point two is worth the extra climb too.

view-point

5. Pad Thai in Bangkok
Specifically from Thipsamai! A restaurant not far from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, this restaurant opens in the early evening each day with people queueing from as early as 2pm! You can’t book at this restaurant and they only have three items on the menu, shrimp pad Thai served in omelette, shrimp pad Thai and vegetarian pad Thai, the food is cooked outside where you can watch the chefs work. The place is absolutely packed to the rafters, and locals even pay students to wait in line for a table for them! Make sure to try to orange juice too!

4. Night markets
One of my favourite parts of Thailand, the more locals the better! You’ll find everything you could possibly need here and at bargain prices (3 handbags for £2.50!) as well as some damn good food! Shop around and don’t be afraid to haggle, the stalls nearest to the “entrances” to the markets are usually more expensive.

3. Long Boat Ride
These boats are found at most beaches with the guys waiting to take you out on the water. Chat to a few and get some prices and set off sailing! This was by far my favourite mode of transport in Thailand. So stripped back, but so amazing. Almost every boat had life jackets if you are a little nervous on the water, so ask for one if you feel better.

long-boat

2. Maya Bay
The setting of The Beach, if you have watched this film you know why you should visit. We visited the bay twice, once on a speedboat tour and once again on a long boat. Pulling in to the bay will give you Goosebumps (imagine Pure Shores by All Saints playing too!). There are no words to describe this place, I’ll let the pictures show you and I promise there are no filters or photoshop here!! I personally recommend visiting on a long boat (if you’re staying on Phi Phi Don) and paying the fee to dock the boat, you get as long as you want then and can beat the crowds. We went at about 8:30 in the morning and there were very few people there. Perfect for the classic “jumping in the air” facebook profile picture.

maya-bay-2

1. Elephant Sanctuaries
As I’ve mentioned before doing your research is so important here, a camp may claim to be cruelty free while allowing you to ride the elephants and making them perform. Really take your time to make sure you don’t do anything you regret and really make the most of your time with the animals. Just being in the presence of them is overwhelming, watching them interact with each other and letting them interact with you. You’ll end your day tired, soaking wet, and covered in elephant snot but there’s nothing like it. There is a huge conservation park about an hour north of Chiang Mai with lots of camps in, do some reading and see what level of interaction you want with the elephants. Some of the rescue camps don’t allow you to get too close to the elephants as the elephants have a bad past with humans. If you’re not into diving in with both feet somewhere like this might be good. If you don’t mind climbing in the water with them and washing them then there are plenty of camps there that will let you do this. This is an amazing experience so make sure you enjoy your day!

elephants 3.jpg

Please share anything that you think I missed so I can add it to my list for next time!

Thailand- The itinerary- Trips and Activities

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

elephants
Feeding Grandma
elephants-2
Walking with Milo

 

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.

https://www.viator.com/tours/Chiang-Mai/Chiang-Mai-City-and-Temples-Half-Day-Tour/d5267-3685CNX10C

chiang-mai-temple

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.

https://www.viator.com/tours/Koh-Samui/Koh-Samui-Round-Island-Sightseeing-Tour/d347-3685SMU02

big-buddha
Big Buddha

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.

koh-nang-yuan
Koh Nang Yuan

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.

https://www.viator.com/tours/Krabi/Krabi-to-Phi-Phi-Islands-by-Speedboat/d348-3685KBV10

Krabi Nightmarkets

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.

maya-bay
Maya Bay (No there isn’t a filter on this!)

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!!

https://www.viator.com/tours/Bangkok/City-and-Temples-of-Bangkok/d343-8084P1

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!

https://www.viator.com/tours/Bangkok/Bangkok-Night-Food-and-City-Tour-by-Tuk-Tuk/d343-6356P4

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.

Bangkok- Ayutthaya

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:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/576

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand- The itinerary- Hotels and Travel

Being 24 and 27-year-old sisters, trying to fit as much Thailand into three weeks as possible shaped the way we decided to organise our trip. We felt we were much too old and grumpy to be staying in a 10 bed dorm full of 18-20 year olds; we need our sleep and are much too accustomed to the luxury of air conditioning and our own bathroom.

Time constraints also removed the option of night buses and sleeper trains for us, we simply didn’t have the time so flew between destinations on the trip.

It might be worth noting that we did save up for a long time to be able to afford to take this trip the way we did. It was difficult but definitely possible and made easier with such a fantastic goal to work towards.

Here is quick run down of where we stayed and how we got to and from destinations, it may be useful to give you an idea of some of the more popular destinations in Thailand to visit and even offer some inspiration for your own itinerary!

4th November- 5th November

We flew emirates from Manchester to Bangkok, we had a short stop over in Dubai- just long enough to freshen up and grab a bite to eat before boarding. The flights were between 6 and 7 hours each. We decided to fly straight up to Chiang Mai on the 5th, rather than staying in Bangkok for one night and flying out the next day.

We used to Bangkok airways to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, this flight was about 1-1.5 hours and an absolute breeze compared to our previous two!

Chiang Mai 05/11/2016- 09/11/2016

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel which cost us 200 baht and checked into the Woodfield Resort.

We planned to use the 6th to relax and rest from the flights so wanted a quiet hotel with a pool. We stumbled across this gem:

woodfield-balcony-view
Woodfield Resort  Photo Credit Hollie Godbehere

This hotel is about 10 minutes drive from the Old City, but so peaceful. The beds were comfortable, the air conditioning fantastic and the showers hot so perfect for what we needed!

Pros:

Peaceful, clean, comfortable, safe, close to amenities.

The hotel offers a free bus to the night markets which I highly recommend you make use of (a tip for the driver is appreciated)

Cons:

I would give breakfast a miss, we attempted it one morning and found it had mostly been picked over by 8am. What was left was lukewarm and uncovered.

We ate one evening meal in the hotel after a long day trip and also found it to be quite expensive.

We booked this hotel here:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/woodfield-resort-chiang-mai.en-gb.html

We made use of the hotels airport shuttle on the 9th to catch our next flight. Again we flew Bangkok Airways, this time to Koh Samui.

Koh Samui 09/11/2016- 14/11/2016

We landed at Koh Samui airport (a beauty in its own right, much like this entire island) and waited for our transfer shuttle which we had booked through our hotel.

We planned to use this as our “island time” to relax fully before we really picked up the pace. This is also one of the most stunning hotels I have stayed in.

samui-buri
Samui Buri Beach Resort

There are honestly no words to describe the beauty of this place. The hotel’s infinity pool overlooks the beach and had a direct view of Koh Pha Ngan. This place is 500m away from a small village with plenty of places to eat and drink, but is still peaceful. I felt like I was in a palace in this hotel!

Pros:

This place is beautiful, I have never known luxury like this.

Clean and an excellent shower (this became so important to us on our trip)

Breakfast is excellent

Close to bars and restaurants.

This hotel also offers a shuttle bus, Definitely get yourself to Fisherman’s Village on a  friday evening!

Cons:

Having to leave!

We booked this hotel here:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/samui-buri-beach-resort.en-gb.html?aid=356983;label=gog235jc-hotel-en-th-woodfieldNresortNchiangNmai-unspec-gb-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsSnt-B%3Afirefox-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3Ac;sid=f0e8e9b3dee27e72f73e9d03a803ee0d;dest_id=900040646;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=2;hpos=1;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=15651cc5d95a715c3fb07bd48eb4e58c4c36f8c6X1;type=total;ucfs=1&

Koh Pha Ngan  14/11/2016- 16/11/2016

The next stop on our Trip was Koh Pha Ngan for the Full Moon Party!

We decided to book a package which included transfers to and from the pier, ferry tickets, transfers to and from the hotel, accommodation, taxis to and from the party and entrance into the party.

I’m glad that we booked a package for our first trip as it made everything very simple for us, however we have said next time that we would book this ourselves rather than as a package.

With the company we used you could choose which package you wanted but you did not choose your hotel. This is where the problems started, unfortunately this hotel was not as great as it looked.

We actually didn’t take many pictures here as we did not spend any time here, in fact here is the only picture we took in this hotel:

grand-sea
Locking our door at the Grand Sea Resort

Our room was very basic, with the bathroom not fully constructed, the shower was very poor and fell out of the cradle regularly (usually hitting us!). We shared our room with bugs and had to padlock and bolt ourselves into the room (the only way to lock the doors). The waterproof sheets were stained as well as the towels.

I didn’t see the hotel reception open at any stage of our stay other than check in and check out, and there was no way to contact anybody with any issues we had.

I am not a hotel snob, but this hotel was very expensive to stay in (and our second choice of the ones offered) and such poor quality. I would say that staying here is the only time I didn’t feel safe on my entire trip!

Pros:

It was close to a pub that was lovely and served good food.

Cons:

Everything about this hotel (room, staff, pool.)

Hotel was in complete darkness when we returned from the Full Moon Party, luckily we were able to navigate the stairs to our room.

Package booking means that you have to check out of the hotel very early the day AFTER the Full Moon Party.

We booked our package here:

http://fullmoonpartybooking.com/

The package itself was very good and well organised- especially when dates needed to be changed following the death of the Thai King, unfortunately this hotel was very poor.

On our final morning we were picked up from the hotel and taken to the ferry port. We got on our ferry and again were met at the port to be taken to the airport.

Krabi 16/11/2016-19/11/2016

We used Bangkok Airways to fly to Krabi, we ended up flying to Bangkok first and then onto Krabi due to an overbooked flight. This was no issue for us as we only arrived 30 minutes later than we would have and Bangkok Airways were fantastic and organised our ride to our hotel for us (we also received a token compensation payment to thank us for changing our flights).

We stayed at the Krabi Heritage Hotel, which I don’t actually have a photo of. This hotel was fantastic though, located just off  the main street in Ao Nang beach but still very quiet. Staff here were amazing and couldn’t do enough to help you. We were on trips through most of our time in Krabi, but appreciated a nice hotel and some good food while we were here.

Pros:

 Comfortable and clean

Good breakfast

Close to main street with shops, bars restaurants and 5 minutes from the beach.

Cons:

Shower pressure and water temperature weren’t always consistent ( we hadn’t had a decent shower since Koh Samui at this point!)

We booked this hotel here:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/krabi-heritage.en-gb.html?aid=356983;label=gog235jc-hotel-en-th-woodfieldNresortNchiangNmai-unspec-gb-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsSnt-B%3Afirefox-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3Ac;sid=f0e8e9b3dee27e72f73e9d03a803ee0d;dest_id=-3232620;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=2;hpos=1;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=ffcd371a632714973594871a893414516c0811d1X1;type=total;ucfs=1&

We booked our onward travel to Koh Phi Phi Don with Phuketferry.com, we also booked our transport to the pier and to the airport on our return through these.

Koh Phi Phi Don 19/11/2016-21/11/2016

This ferry was probably the most “fragrant” boat I have ever been on in my life, but we soon found a lovely spot to sit in and spent a very surreal journey to Phi Phi with our feet dangling off the edge of the boat!

ferry-to-phi-phi
Travelling in style!

We arrived on Koh Phi Phi Don- the only Phi Phi Island that you are able to stay on  and were met by a representative from our hotel. There are no roads on Phi Phi, so may hotels use large “taxi carts” to transport your luggage and get you to your hotel. We were guided through the winding streets and then up some very steep stairs (that helpfully tell you how many calories you are burning!)

papaya
View from our hotel reception

Our room was basic but suited us perfectly, we had two beds and a bathroom and very good A/C- this was especially important to us as it was around 40 degrees celsius! Breakfast was included here and was delivered to your room each morning (you could choose when). We got tea or coffee, fruit juice, bread rolls, fruit and granola with yoghurt. Don’t eat this on your balcony unless you want to be mugged by a monkey though!

Unfortunately we were joined on our last night by an unwelcome guest, when we found a cockroach in our room. We eventually came to an understanding with her that we would stop screaming at her if she stopped running around. I sometimes miss Julie now.

Pros:

Room facilities great

Not too close to nightlife so quiet

Staff absolutely lovely and always willing to help

The View from our balcony

Cons:

Those stairs were a killer in the heat!

Julie the cockroach

We booked this hotel here:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/papaya-resort-phi-phi.en-gb.html?aid=356983;label=gog235jc-hotel-en-th-woodfieldNresortNchiangNmai-unspec-gb-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsSnt-B%3Afirefox-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3Ac;sid=f0e8e9b3dee27e72f73e9d03a803ee0d;dest_id=900040301;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=2;hpos=1;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=5cdec485ab6c9e64181ea5b08c615578c16d9ca5X1;type=total;ucfs=1&

The staff took our luggage to the pier for us on our last day and helped us find it again. We took the ferry back to Krabi and the taxi to the airport. We then flew with Thai Airways to Bangkok. In general we found this to be quite unorganised compared to Bangkok Airways.

Bangkok 21/11/2016- 26/11/2016

We had pre booked our taxi to the airport as we were landing so late in the evening and knew that the airport was a long way from the city.

We stayed at the Casa Nithra Hotel not far from Khao San Road (but far enough away to be quiet). This hotel was lovely and very well looked after, the staff were helpful and friendly. We didn’t end up eating breakfast here as we always left too early in the morning! This hotel had a gorgeous rooftop pool- which we used for about half an hour after returning from a trip!

casa-nithra
Sunset skies in Bangkok

This hotel was walking distance to bars, restaurants and shops, but you could always grab a taxi or Tuk Tuk if you wanted to (don’t pay any more than 100 baht for this journey!) It’s also very close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

Pros:

Location

Staff

Clean, comfortable, safe

Cons:

Taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers didn’t seem to know where this hotel was- reception do have “business cards” with the address in Thai on them, that I recommend taking out with you.

We booked this hotel here:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/casa-nithra.en-gb.html?aid=356983;label=gog235jc-hotel-en-th-woodfieldNresortNchiangNmai-unspec-gb-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsSnt-B%3Afirefox-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3Ac;sid=f0e8e9b3dee27e72f73e9d03a803ee0d;dest_id=-3414440;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=2;hpos=1;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=1a636f99cf68d191db94da867622e6b055c7d716X1;type=total;ucfs=1&

On the 26th we sadly left Thailand to make our way back to Sheffield. We booked a taxi through the hotel (500 baht) and flew from  Bangkok to Dubai, then Dubai to Manchester. We had a longer layover this time- about 7 hours so we booked an airport lounge. I highly recommend this as it included the use of a shower, food and drinks!

So that was a quick run down of where we went and where we stayed! My next post will focus more on what we actually did and any trips we took. I’ll include details of where we booked these.

I’ll also include some extra links below on here to where we booked transport and the airport lounge if you’re interested.

If you think I’ve missed anything out or have any questions let me know!

We booked all of our hotel transfers either through the hotel or just grabbed a local taxi.

Bangkok Airways: http://www.bangkokair.com/

Thai Airways: http://www.thaiairways.com/

Phuket Ferry: http://www.phuketferry.com/

Airport Lounge: http://www.executivelounges.com/airport-lounges/dubai-terminal-3-airport-lounge