After my Ghana trip cancellation and travel insurance revelation, I was debating where I should travel to instead. One of my friends I met when solo traveling in Barcelona, asked if I’d come along with her to Thailand. I figured, why not? I wanted to visit a new continent this year, and this trip to Thailand was the perfect opportunity.
Streets filled with food, high-rise buildings and traffic – Bangkok will most likely be the beginning of your journey to Thailand. When planning, I knew I’d only want to spend a day in Bangkok as I wanted more time to relax in the southern Thailand region. And after extensive research, and getting insight from other travelers, I knew that my decision was the right one.
I purposely didn’t plan or book anything ahead of time in Bangkok. Mainly because I wasn’t positive how the 24-hour commute via four flights would affect my body and overall awareness. Plus, Bangkok can get fairly hot during the day, so jet-lag + heat exhaustion = a recipe for disaster.
Having kept my itinerary open for spontaneity, this is my Bangkok travel guide:
The Residence on Thonglor | Total for 2 Nights: ฿5,184 (~$159.20)
In the Sukhumvit area, The Residence of Thonglor is a fairly new “hotel and serviced apartment”. I didn’t realize prior that Sukhumvit was known for its shopping streets. Clearly the Gods were conspiring. The Residence of Thonglor offers amenities such as a: rooftop infinity pool (which I frequented), mini-golf course, gym, breakfast buffet, and free shuttle. The room was very spacious for one person and included a fully equipped kitchen, cozy bed, separate shower and tub – and more. The Residence of Thonglor also has late check-in, which was crucial since my flight landed at 12:30am.
Things I Did:
Since I didn’t have a set itinerary for my time in Bangkok, I pretty much winged it and did the following:
Visited Wat Arun (or Temple of Dawn)
I knew I wanted to visit at least one temple while in Thailand, specifically in Bangkok. Since I was looking to avoid crowds, I decided to opt out of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. If you’re up for it, I’d definitely suggest temple hopping since they are all fairly close to each other.
Instead, I visited Wat Arun. A temple that has a beautiful riverside location and is filled with beautiful and intricate architecture. Be mindful when visiting temples or religious places in Thailand, you must wear clothing covering your shoulders and knees, and closed-toed shoes. My friend had to rent clothing outside of the temple because her outfit wasn’t appropriate. She paid ฿40 (~$0.60) total for her top and bottom cover-up, with a ฿100 deposit. You get the deposit back, but they take it to ensure you come back.
Shopping at Platinum Mall
Bangkok is known for having a lot of cheap clothing, and I took full advantage of this at the Platinum Mall. I bought gifts for family and friends without even breaking the bank. From the obligatory elephant pants (two for ฿240/~$7.30), to elephant shorts (one for ฿100/~$3) and more. If you have more time in Bangkok (or Thailand in general), I’d suggest getting clothes tailored. I saw plenty in Bangkok that offered cheap prices on custom-made clothing with a two week turnover max.
Ate Street Food
I know they’re many warnings about eating the street food in Thailand, but this is an experience you don’t want to miss out on! Yes, you could possibly get sick from eating street food, but if you take precautionary measures, you’ll be fine. I’d suggest going to a place that looks crowded, as they’re most likely crowded due to their food being delicious and cooked fresh. I would, however, warn anyone that has a peanut allergy to proceed with caution as many dishes in Thailand are made with peanuts. It’d be helpful for you to learn phrases that could help the cook understand to not put certain things in your dish.
An hour flight from DMK airport, I arrived in Krabi. Hands down my favorite place in Thailand, Krabi is located on the west coast of Thailand’s southern region. Krabi provides beautiful views of limestone cliffs, mangrove forests, white sand beaches, nearby islands and more. This is the island you want to be at if you’re looking for relaxation. It’s less touristy than Phuket and provides you with an authentic island vibe. Krabi was the only place I planned heavily for during my trip to Thailand.
Green View Village Resort | Total for 3 Nights: ฿6,210 (~$191)
A 15-minute walk to Ao Nang beach, Green View Village Resort has an amazing backdrop of the limestone cliffs that consume Krabi. Green View provides two pools, breakfast, hourly shuttle to Ao Nang beach and more. Our room was spacious and even had a balcony with more views of the mountains. This hotel was far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city – it’s a nice place for couples, families and anyone wanting to relax. But the main street is only a two-minute walk, which will take you to all the shops, restaurants and tour booths.
Things I did:
Day Tour to Phi Phi Islands
My friend and I found a tour company around Ao Nang beach to Phi Phi islands that we both liked. Outside of the boat ride to Phi Phi islands, the tour company provided free shuttle pick-up and drop-off at our hotel.
A lot of people told me the Phi Phi islands was crowded, dirty and filled with drunk people. Maya Bay especially. But, I personally didn’t experience that. In fact, most of the beaches I visited had a fair amount of people, but it wasn’t overwhelming like the images I saw. I’m not sure if it was because of the overcast day, but I enjoyed my time. Looking at the caves and cliffs up-close was definitely mesmerizing. I also got some pretty dope photos 😉.
Krabi is basically where I experienced the painfully, but therapeutic, Thai massages. Ya’ll, I HIGHLY advise you get one, two, three… or more massages when in Thailand. You’ll leave every time feeling like you’re levitating and in a place of serenity #selfcare. I got a facial & foot scrub, full body massage, and neck and shoulder massage. Oh, and a mani/pedi. I wasn’t playing! My hotel worked alongside an amazing massage spot (Dee Dee’s Resort) that I frequented daily. And of course they remembered me every time .
Ao Nang beach is a good area to find clothing, souvenirs, shoes and more. There’s practically a place to shop at every corner. And like I mentioned before, clothing in Thailand is extremely cheap – so you better take advantage.
Ate Seafood at Jungle Kitchen
I wouldn’t recommend eating seafood from a street vendor. But, many restaurants in Thailand offer fish and other delicious seafood. One of my favorites was Jungle Kitchen. About a 5-minute walk from my hotel, Jungle Kitchen is an outdoors restaurant that serves Thai food. I had their crab in black pepper sauce with a side of white rice and a fresh coconut. It was bomb . Probably the best meal I had in Thailand. The crab had a little spice to it, which I really liked. And everything cost about ฿280 (~$8.60).
I tried to eat here my first night. But, it was fully booked. They have a sign outside letting you know when they’re booked for the night and suggests you reserve in advance. So instead, I went during their lunch hours the following day and was seated without having to wait or make a reservation #bosslife 😂
Relaxed on Ao Nang Beach
I spent a few hours relaxing on Ao Nang beach when I first arrived. It’s a nice beach, but I’d suggest taking a boat ride to Railay beach. While I didn’t get to visit Railay due to off-and-on rain, I heard great things about the scenery and that it’s not as touristy as Ao Nang. Railay beach also has caves that you can explore, for a fee.
The last stop on my Thailand journey, I arrived in Phuket by a shuttle service I purchased through my hotel. The primary reason I decided to stay in Phuket was to visit the elephant sanctuary as I wouldn’t have time to visit one in Chiang Mai. After doing research and hearing insight from others, I decided early on to avoid Phuket and Patong beach (the most touristy beach in Thailand). I heard Patong beach, in particular, is very westernized and even has prostitution and crazy parties. I wasn’t at all interested in that vibe for my trip, so we opted to stay at Karon beach.
Doolay Hostel | Total cost for 2 nights ฿1,288 (~$40)
Doolay is located right across the street from Karon beach. You can buy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or grab a beer or cocktail and chill outside on the balcony. The mellow vibe in the hostel was a good way to end my trip. Maybe the beach being across the street aided in that vibe? I thought this hostel was great, besides the shower being in the same cubicle as the toilet. Which I thought was odd, but wasn’t a complete deal-breaker. I’ve stayed in more interesting-designed hostels.
Things I Did:
Relaxed on the Beach
Since Karon beach was right across the street from my hostel, I took advantage of the proximity. Karon can get a little crowded during afternoon hours, but it’s a nice beach with white sand and blue water.
Ticket: ฿3,000 (~$92) per person
Shuttle Service: Not provided with tour – but PES recommends a taxi company which costs ฿1,500 (≈$46) round-trip
This sanctuary opened in November 2016 and currently houses five female elephants. PES is a sister company to the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai and is the only pricey excursion I had in my itinerary. PES provides a well organized morning, and afternoon tour. I took the morning tour which provided a delicious breakfast and lunch buffet. The breakfast buffet included fruit, tea, juice, pastries and chips. While the lunch buffet included different type of Thai noodle and rice dishes, fried food (think fries and onion rings), salads, fruit and juice. We watched a short video on elephant abuse, how – and why – PES started, and how they rescued their first elephant. Then we were able to feed some of the elephants (after washing our hands to get rid of bug spray and sunscreen lotion), and watch them do their thing.
Based on my research, PES felt like an ethical sanctuary to me. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, located in Phuket, says they’re an ethical sanctuary. But, they allow visitors to bathe with the elephants in a mud bath – which I learned from PES staff is unethical. It’s becoming widely known that riding elephants or watching them perform tricks (e.g. hula hooping, painting, etc.) is unethical. However, it’s not as known that bathing with them is wrong as they like to swim alone or amongst one another. Adding a human to the equation can stress them out, as elephants want to roll around free without fear of crushing humans. Also, some girls from GLT shared their stories of seeing elephants being abused and forced to go into mud baths with humans at other “sanctuaries”.
Getting Around Thailand
- Bangkok: I usually opt for public transportation in cities as it’s a great way to interact with locals. But with my jet-lag and the heat, I knew I wouldn’t manage. So, I took Ubers instead which was fairly cheap – especially since I was splitting the cost with a friend. Southeast Asia also has their own ride-sharing app called Grab. While I didn’t personally use the app, I did download it and it was very easy to understand. And unlike Uber, you can pay with cash if you’re not comfortable linking your debit/credit card.
- Krabi: Since my hotel provided hourly shuttle rides to Ao Nang beach, I didn’t really need to take a tuk-tuk. And walking back to my hotel only took 15-minutes. I did check to see if Grab or Uber worked, but it looks like they aren’t available in the area.
- Phuket: I didn’t really go out of Karon beach when in Phuket, besides to the elephant sanctuary. But, there are tuk-tuks everywhere and Grab works as well.