Part TWO recapping our recent Asia adventure is here! For those who are interested in mostly just the travel tips aspect of this post, be sure to check back on part one (found here!) because there I share all of the general traveling tips — like how to pack for three weeks using just one single backpack!
Today’s post is all about our time in beautiful THAILAND! We visited five different cities during our two and a half weeks in Thailand, so this post is going to be jam-packed with information and photos! Please excuse the mixing of iPhone and Canon pictures (hopefully you can tell the difference ;)!) — sometimes we didn’t have our big camera with us and so the iPhone had to suffice!
City by city, here we go!
- Traffic is absolutely INSANE in Bangkok. I have never experienced anything like it. Our biggest tip would be to stay at a hotel or Airbnb close to the BTS. The BTS is Bangkok’s sky train and will save you lots of time (and headaches) avoiding the traffic you would face by taking a taxi!
- On another traffic note, if possible, plan your flights early in the morning or late at night so you can, again, avoid the crazy traffic (and taxi fees!) that comes with driving all the way out to the airport!
- Bangkok is known for their markets but it’s important to know that markets only happen on weekends! We were there on Sunday night-Thursday, so we were unfortunately only able to go to one smaller market on Sunday night.
- The Grand Palace is cool to see but extremely crowded and a bit expensive. Long story short, we wouldn’t have been mad if we didn’t get to see it!
- The highlight of our trip was biking in The Green Lung. This is a cool part of the city that is truly like its own little world within Bangkok! I will let the pictures below show more of what I’m talking about : )
- We chose to get a drink at the famous Sky Bar because we heard the views were absolutely incredible. While our drinks were crazy expensive, we only got one and, in our opinion, it was worth it to see Bangkok lit up at night. We drank slowly and enjoyed one another’s company and the views! Do note that you have to be dressed appropriately to get into the Sky Bar (no sandals for guys, no shorts for guys … aka, you have to look presentable : ))
- Sit and Wonder was a restaurant that we found and loved — the food was SUPER good and ridiculously cheap!
The Grand Palace : ) Something interesting that we got to experience was the season of mourning that is currently going on in Thailand. Their BELOVED King recently died and the whole country is mourning his death. Government workers have to wear black for an entire year and there are memorials built for the King on literally every single corner.
The view from the Sky Bar! You get an open air, 360º view when you are actually up there — it’s incredible!
One night, Caleb got a haircut — check out that styling ; )
One type of Bangkok taxi ride!
Other sites in Bangkok that just had to be documented : )
This is a golf course in the middle of the city!
And these photos document two notable driving experiences ; ) The photo on the left is from when our taxi driver literally FELL ASLEEP while driving us because the traffic was so bad that we were stopped for 10+ minutes without moving an inch. I had to tap him on the shoulder to go and I think he was a little embarrassed! HA! The image on the right is from our last day in the city when we finally said, “Screw it!” — not our smartest moment — because we were so annoyed with the traffic and took a MOPED taxi … aka both Caleb and I on the back of some guy’s moped, zipping in and out of traffic as we rode from one side of the city to the other. The fact that we didn’t have helmets was EXTREMELY dangerous and so I wouldn’t recommend this, but I will say that it ended up saving us almost 2 HOURS of driving time!!!!!
These are from our day in The Green Lung! Basically, The Green Lung is a community within Bangkok where all the houses, sidewalks, etc. are built above the water! It is such a unique part of the city and so lush and green! We loved our time here and found it to be a super refreshing escape from all the hustle and bustle of the city!
Pai is a smaller, rural community in the northern mountains of Thailand. We LOVED our time in Pai and actually changed our trip while we were there to stay a couple of extra days! You do have to take a four hour bus ride to get to Pai and the roads are extremely curvy, so if you get carsick easily, I honestly might not make the trip up! Things to know about Pai:
- The culture of Pai is very laid back and while there are lots of locals that live in the city, there are also LOTS of foreigners who have relocated to the city. It is a very specific vibe that I think people flock to and why there are so many expatriates who live there!
- It’s a place to come when you want to relax and slow down
- We LOVED where we stayed
- Renting motorbikes is highly recommended in our opinion. It costs less than $5/day to rent a motorbike and with the city being so rural/in the mountains, the bike really gives you a lot of freedom to explore on your own! Sites that might otherwise require you to pay for a tour, you can just go see on your own! Our favorite thing to do was hop on the bikes and just drive : )
- We visited Pai during the smoking season (when they burn all the fields before replanting the crops) which is in March and April. While we couldn’t notice the smoke in the air/breathing, we could notice how it affected the sites and the views from the mountains
- Go to the walking street at night
- Thai massages are cheap and feel SOOO good (if you love massages!) — be prepared for some intense stretching and back cracking ; )
- There are tons of great coffee shops and restaurants in Pai. Two of our favorites were Om Garden Cafe and Jikko Beer!
- Watch the sunset from the big white Buddha
- Visit Pai Canyon! Watch the sunset from the canyon (go about one hour before the actual sunset time as the mountains interfere with the time your phone will tell you) and be prepared to hike/get dirty! It is SO worth it though!
Our favorite spot — Om Garden Cafe : )
His and hers bikes : )
The BEAUTIFUL Pai Canyon! Can you imagine how much more stunning these views would be without the smoke and burnt trees?!
If you look closely, you can see the group of people waiting to watch the sun set. Gives a bit more perspective on how high we were and how majestic everything was!
While we didn’t have a ton of time in Chiang Mai due to extending our time in Pai, we had a great time visiting the city and do have a couple of recommendations!
- Chiang Mai is famous for its Sunday night walking market! This was definitely worth going to for the experience — we loved people watching and seeing all of the things the various vendors had to sell! We bought a cribbage board ; )
- There are lots of amazing coffee shops in Chiang Mai so be sure to stop at one of them!
- We took an elephant tour at Maerim Elephant Sanctuary and highly recommend it! This sanctuary rescues elephants from unfortunate circumstances and provides them with a safe home and care. On the tour (we did the half day tour!) you get to feed the elephants, swim with them, and you also learn how to cook a famous Thai soup for lunch! It was a great day and we really loved the people we got to work with!
Two crazy-cool things that had to be documented!! Left: Boots made in Caleb’s small hometown of Merrill, Wisconsin (if you look closely on the box you can see this!) for sale in a high-end men’s clothing store in Chiang Mai! Right: Girl with a Green Bay Packers shirt … enough said.
Our day with the elephants!
Helping give the elephants a mud bath to cool them down!
Swimming with the elephants in the river!
Another AMAZING thing that happened to us on the trip was meeting this family below. As you can see above, our group for the elephant tour was fairly small. In meeting everyone, we learned that this family below is from MADISON, WISCONSIN : ) We spent the whole day together and loved getting to know these guys! We can’t wait to run into them back here at home, too!
The final two cities — Phuket and Phi Phi — are islands in the south of Thailand. We visited these cities during Songkran which is the Thai New Year! Thai’s celebrate the New Year by having one giant water fight! Think lots of water guns and random people dumping FREEZING cold buckets of water on you at all times! Good thing it’s warm and you’re always in a swimsuit ; ) The face markings that you will see is also a part of the celebration!
- We only had one day in Phuket because we wanted to do the Phang Nga Bay Tour and then spend the rest of our time in the south on one of Thailand’s smaller islands. We highly recommend the tour that we took with Asia Canoe. The staff was INCREDIBLE — super fun and super hospitable!
- If at all possible, avoid taking taxis on the island as they are very expensive. To get from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb, look into taking a bus! There is a super cheap city bus (200 Thai baht in comparison to 1400 Thai baht that the taxi would charge you), but this bus only takes you into the city center and not to any of the piers. If you are flying into Phuket and then going directly to a smaller island, we would recommend taking a minibus from the airport to the pier you need to get to!
Like I mentioned above, we loved our Phang Nga Bay tour with Asia Canoe! For part of the tour, we got to get off the big boat and go kayaking around some of the islands!
We also stopped at several smaller islands throughout the day, to see some famous sites like this falling rock …
… and this famous island that was in a James Bond movie!
We also got to go to Ko Panyi which is a small, Muslim fishing village off the coast of Phuket. The entire community is built on docks!
The floating soccer field at the elementary school!
The final island we stopped at had a large beach where we could swim, lay out, walk along the beach, etc.!
For the majority of our time in the south, we stayed on Phi Phi island!
- It is a 2 hour ferry ride to get to the island from Phuket! The ferry leaves from Rassada Pier.
- It costs 20 Thai baht to get onto Phi Phi, so make sure you have that cash handy upon arrival!
- Make sure you bring your own sunscreen to Phi Phi as it is SO expensive on this small island
- When you arrive on the island, you will be in the city center. This is a bustling, busy, touristy area for sure. We personally wouldn’t recommend staying in town unless you like to go out, party, etc.!
- We loved where we stayed at The Beach Resort because it was quiet and relaxing. The Beach Resort isn’t the cheapest place to stay on the island but it also isn’t the most expensive. It included a HUGE breakfast each day and they change your sheets and clean your room everyday which was very unexpected but really nice!
- The beaches in Phi Phi are filled with fish! For 50 baht (about $1.50) we rented snorkels for the entire day and just went swimming right off the beach of our resort!
- If you do happen to stay at The Beach Resort, we would also recommend watching the sunrise on Por Beach, just over the other side of the island!
- Unless you are staying in town, you will have to take a long-tail boat to get to your resort. It usually costs 100 baht per person each way. We went into town the first night to experience the busyness of it and to get snacks, beer, etc. to take back with us to our resort! This definitely helped us save a lot of money vs. buying everything food and beverage-wise at our resort!
- Two things we would recommend doing in town would be 1. Get nachos, or anything really, at Unni’s restaurant! 2. Hike the viewpoint! You will see from the pictures below how breathtaking this view is!
A view of The Beach Resort from the water!
I spy Caleb …
This was the view from our balcony!! One thing we loved about The Beach Resort was that you get your own little “house” instead of being in one big building!
Sunset the first night …
… and sunrise the next morning : )
This is the view if you hike up to the Phi Phi viewpoint!
You don’t want to know how big that spider was …