Its been about 20 years since my last visit to Thailand and although I have a rule about not revisiting old ground, there is something about Thailand that makes me return. The people are so genuinely lovely. They don’t call it the ‘land of smiles’ for nothing. Certainly the people we encountered, were hospitable, helpful and full of good humour.
Twenty years ago we made a pact with our good friends and travel companions that when the first of us has our 50th milestone birthday we would all go to Thailand together. Then all of sudden it was upon us.
Planning a trip for a group of 7 is never easy. Especially with so many different needs to contend with. The youngest being 12 and the oldest being 49 (on the cusp of the big 50) We all love food and one of us is a chef and the other is about to start that profession too so it plays a big part of our trips. Thailand has some amazing food and I for one can’t wait to get stuck in.
Adventures to new places and revisiting a few places from a long time ago was the starting block and 3 weeks the duration, although we all still wanted to relax and not cram too much in.
So you start to do some research and read some blogs and what I realised very quickly is there are hundreds of blogs on where to go and what to see and generally the advice is exactly the same MUST SEE THINGS! So I stopped looking. Mainly because I didn’t want to be standing with the main tourist throng looking at the same things everyone else was looking at. Don’t get me wrong there are trips and things associated with Thailand that are on the top things to do lists but I wasn’t getting bogged down with ticking off the list recommended by every blogger in every place.
Our trip took place in July 2019 during the summer holidays. Not the ideal time to visit Thailand as the weather can be unpredictable as its south western monsoon season. That asides the flights were cheaper and the places quieter in some areas.
Our trip took 24 days in total. Starting in Bangkok, first stop Chiang Mai, then Krabi, then Koh Samui, then Koh Pha Ngan then Koh Samui and back to Bangkok.
Arriving in Bangkok, we caught the metro to China town and stayed there one night as timings to catch the overnight train to Chiang Mai were tight.
W22 by Burasari was a brilliant budget find in China town within walking distance of Hua Lamphong railway station which was our departure point the next day. They do a mean Mojito in the bar downstairs too which is just what you want after a flight from the UK. All of our accommodation was booked in advance due to needing three rooms and one being a triple so our daughter could stay with us. Pretty much most places included breakfast as trailing about with hungry kids is not fun from previous experience.
Spent the day wandering round China Town and then took a longtail boat tour of the city’s ‘khlongs’ (small canals). We organised this ourselves as opposed to a tour and got off at the Grand Palace which was closed for the day as there was something going on. Wandered round the area nearby and stumbled across the Giant swing. It was a humid one though and not fully acclimatised to sweaty Bangkok the daughter was unimpressed with the assault on your senses that Bangkok throws at you.
Picked up our bags from W22 and headed for the station around 5pm. Grabbed some food from a cafe nearby and snacks from the 7-11 for our train journey overnight to Chiang Mai. We booked all out travel from 12go Asia who were brilliant at organising with and they got us sleeping compartments together on the train. This would have been a great nights sleep had the jet lag not kicked in, so we spent most of the night munching thai squid!? crisps and cat napping where we could. Great to see the landscape though from dawn rising through the countryside. The journey takes from 6pm until around 7am but was worth the experience.
Home for the next two days The Core One of the best places we stayed on our trip. A swimming pool was essential after a day exploring and this small hotel had a great one along with the comfiest beds and a swing in the foyer which we have decided we need in our TV room
Yes its a zoo and quite forlorn looking and the animals are in captivity, but when your 12 year old wants to go, what can you do and actually we had a great morning
Gruelling! its at least 2.5 hours but the whole trail about 5 hours and best done before the heat of the day kicks in. Plenty of water required ( we were woefully unprepared as none of us had looked into how strenuous this actually was or what it entailed)
Don’t get me wrong it, it was challenging but we all enjoyed it and was glad for the experience but one I won’t be repeating in the heat of the day with minimal water. You will also need sarongs etc for entering the temples. Luckily we were prepared with those. Firstly you will reach Wat Pha Lat Temple. Beautiful and serene with views over the city. Then another hour of hard slog uphill, to finally find liquid from the street vendors. Unfortunately, the sight of another 306 steps to the main temple was not welcoming and my poor calves groaned at more punishment. The Doi Suthep Temple was sublime though. Definately worth the effort, but you guessed it, Songtaew back to hotel for a much needed shower!!
Delicious meal tonight at this teak house, its popular so expect to sink a few singhas in the queue. The nám prík & gaang hang lay (Burmese-style pork curry with peanut and tamarind) was delicious as were the rest of the dishes
It was my birthday so decided I wasn’t roughing it. This hotel is showing a bit of wear but overall without completely blowing the budget it was a bit of well deserved luxury. Full indulged in the spa too, but would have been just as well spending 200 baht in any massage salon as its Thailand after all
Everyone agreed that we wanted to see elephants. I know its not always deemed ethical but I did some research and thought this one seemed to have the animals welfare centre-front. My daughter loved feeding, bathing and swimming with them. It was a fantastic experience I would highly recommend.
Chiang Mai Gate Market, warorot and china town area and Chiang Mai night bazaar were great for wandering round and whetting the appetite. Try some deep fried critters if you are brave enough, they were crunchy!
Snacks on the go followed by a sit down and graze at
Som tam – green papaya salad
Gai phat met mamuang himmaphan, thai chicken and cashew nut stir fry
Meandering round a very hot chiang mai old city today before finding the oasis of the park then back for a dip and spa at Siripanna
Lovely food here Dash is a large, open-style traditional wooden teak house that serves up Khao Soi, Gaeng Hinlay, Gaeng Massaman Gai, Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, sai oua
Travel to krabi today with Bangkok airways and then public bus to AoNang beach for the next four days. As its July it can be wet on this side of Thailand and in Scotland we get enough rain so we kept our stay short deliberately
Centrally based and good inclusive breakfast and nice pool, spent what was left of the day in the pool and checking out the beach which unfortunately the weather stayed true to the forecast and it was pretty cloudy
After some foodie splurges in Chiang Mai (if your are going to splurge anywhere do it there) we were back on the authentic budget thai kitchens and this didn’t disappoint. Being near the sea also means seafood so we got stuck into some calamari, Tom Yam soup and stir fry prawns and broccoli for the little one, with the smoothie option. You don’t need a fancy looking restaurant to get good food, just one that everyone is eating in, then you know its good, cheap and fresh, essential. Most kitchens are open so you can see how the food is prepared and I can confirm there were no stomach issues on this trip
Forecast checked and the best of the weather was today so we booked a boat trip with a local vendor after much haggling, well it is low season here
One of thailand’s unseen highlights, This Island is situated along Koh Dam Khwan. As the tide recedes, The sea is gradually separated by the white sand and limestone beach that will appear to amazingly connect the two islands at low tide. You can walk between Tub Island and Chicken Island on the natural sandbank or relax on the golden sand beach.
This island has a distinctive rock formation that looks like the head of a chicken. Great location for snorkeling.
A lovely white sandy beach ideal for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling
Ma Tang Ming Island
Enjoy snorkeling. You can see a lot of fish, coral denitely Nemo!!
Exploring and take a picture around this Island
• Railay beach
Buffet BBQ Dinner and beautiful sunset
Pra Nang Cave ( Princess cave)
There are different theories about Phra Nang One story goes that an Indian princess was killed in a shipwreck, her ghost resides in the cave. Alternatively Phra Nang was the wife of a local fisherman. Her husband set out to sea one day and failed to return she then lived out the rest of her years in the cave gazing out to sea in the hope her husband would return. The cave is a shrine of offerings and is a sacred place. Fishermen use it to seek blessing for journeys and it has also become associated with fertility. All shapes and sizes of phallic offerings can be found here
Ton Sai, off Krabi is a great place to see bioluminescent phytoplankton. A few went for a swim but watching from the boat was good enough for me
One of our highlights of the trip. What to do when the weather is a bit meh? Kayaking! Well you’re wet anyways. Now I am used to the odd shower of rain but this was crazy, although warm rain it would turn out is fun.
Ao Thalane is one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in Thailand. About twenty kilometers from Krabi Town, this section of the coast is covered in dense foliage that wraps all the caves cliffs. High tide is generally the best time to go, there are many more channels that you can paddle through and lagoons and Crocodile cave and lagoon.
An extensive menu and lots of shellfish. Pricey…yes, but it was tasty none the less.
Crab in yellow curry was pretty good. Don’t forget to also try deep-fried Cotton fish in chilli sauce, grilled scallops, long shell clams, and Tiger prawns in tamarind sauce.
We all love cooking and eating food and this was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in Krabi. Heng our teacher was enthusiastic and made the experience fun. You each cook 5 dishes and can select different dishes from a set of 15, so between our group we made everything. You will acquire simple skills in paste making, salad & stir fry and curry. The best bit…eating it all, although go starving as there is loads of food.
These lovely ladies provided a great foot massage for my weary feet
Day 9 Travel to Koh samui
We took the bus option from Krabi to Koh samui which took about 5 hours. It was a rainy day so it was a good time to chill and read and catch up some rest time. We caught the Surat Thani lomprayah to Samui and onwards to the Mud for one night
Sometimes you need a splurge and Koh Samui is where to do it. The Mud is not a 5* resort but it had luxury but still felt rustic and full of character.It boasts an outdoor swimming pool, a garden, a terrace and a bar. The hostel offers private rooms with an ensuite bathroom, as well as single beds in mixed dormitory rooms.
Our most expensive meal was here and to be honest, it was our least favourite. I maybe chose the wrong thing, but after perusing the menu chose a sour fish soup which was reminiscent of hot pineapple juice with white flaky fish floating in it. Just goes to show the fancier the restaurant looks doesn’t mean anything.
Day 10 travel to Koh phangnan
Next morning the ferry to Koh Phangnan. 45 mins roughly but enough time to burn if you forget the sunscreen. Remember those tootsies if sitting outside on deck
This for me is one of the most heavenly places, that I have visited anyway! The island has balance because peace, serenity and good times co-exist. Maybe thats the spiritual hippie coming out in me which is repressed for the other 11 months of the year. Third time back here as over 20 years ago, it stole a piece of me never to be returned. The island has been gentrified over the years but there are still gems to be found and it still has that laid back vibe in my nostalgic minds eye.
There now is a road to the north east of the island, a proper road with tar, which makes the journey faster and much smoother than previous journeys on the back of a 4×4.
Home for the next three days Thong Nai Pan Yai
These are budget bungalows but clean and functional. I wanted to stay here because our previous experience had been similar and it was idyllic and captured the spirit of our backpacking experience.
Still in my mind the best beach restaurant serving rustic real thai food. Pad thai like i remember it.
Alcoholic alchemy is the best with swinging chairs to amuse 12 years whilst her parents indulged
Chilling on the beach, reading, swimming, snorkelling and pool time. What beach days are all about
Thong Nai Pan noi is the neighbouring cove, so we went for a stroll and food. This part of the cove has been developed into a luxury resort but still some decent thai eateries to be found
Pad Gra Prao my ultimate thai comfort food. The more chilli the better
Banana pancake street vendor on the main street
Chill on the beach, dinner at nice beach restaurant fresh BBQ seafood on the beach, we had the prawns…all the prawns much to everyones horror but they were fantastic!
Day 13 move to Salad beach on Koh Phangnan
Another birthday, another splurge. The hike up the hill to our bungalow was worth it. The daughters favourite place so far all because of the hammocks and hanging chairs in the bar. It was the mojitos at sunset for me, just blissful
Normally we all holiday together in a villa. Koh samui was the next stop and Villa Talia near Thong son beach was perfect. Overlooking the big buddha and bay we tried to set off some lanterns to celebrate a birthday but nearly set the villa on fire, oops!
You can eat too much thai food apparently, (not sure I agree) so it was steak night and it was pretty good. Australian steak will give an Aberdeen Angus a run for its money it would seem.
Samui is much more commercialised than its neighbour and no more so than Chaweng but we had a browse of the shops and some beach time. The street hawker on the beach was serving the most amazing papaya salad.
Its a shame that tourism here has left some unsightly blemishes in terms of waste and rubbish around the beach areas though. It made my heart feel heavy.
Dinner and buckets of Mojito at Chaweng night food market. Pick your seafood from the tanks and eat!
Well you can’t not come to Thailand and not see a ladyboy cabaret. Definitely recommend, great fun, Free entry, first drink 349 baht. No pressure if no other drinks ordered. Friendly atmosphere. The early show was suitable for confused 12 year olds who couldn’t quite understand they weren’t women.
Mr Tu’s trip to the national park was family friendly and a fun activity. The park is made up of an archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Take part in Snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, or diving amongst the towering limestone cliffs and white-sand beaches. Watch out for sea snakes and manta-rays in the water and cheeky monkeys in the palm trees.
To end a fun filled day, Fishermans restaurant on the beach at Fishermans village bophut. Yes its touristy and full of people but still worth a wander through the market. Coco tam’s fire show further down the beach provided some entertainment over dinner too.
Day 18 travel to bangkok from Koh samui airport.
We hired a villa, which was ok. It just needed a bit of TLC but was a good base to explore from
One word…Massive! Full of food and souvenirs and just about anything you would wish to find
Old backpacking haunt but more refined and less chaotic now. Packed with bars and overpriced restaurants but worth a walk through if you have never been.
We left the men folk in search of something other than chang and had a foot massage and a spot of people watching
We find the men folk taking solace in here. They were working their way through the draft options which they were pretty impressed with. Grabbed some food here which was good too, worth a wander off the tourist route for.
I really wanted to head to the big floating market but early morning start and sitting for longer than necessary on a bus was not on the agenda. This little market was perfect, lots of lovely food to try and full of local people shopping
We were the only westerners here. This aircraft hanger sized restaurant was recommended by our friends thai friend who navigated us to it and kept us right in etiquette of what to do.
Mookata is a hotplate surrounded by a moat of stock. Add Sliced meat or pork lard on the slanted hotplate and as the meat cooks, the fat and juices will slowly drip into the soup, enriching the flavours of the stock as the cook goes on. There is a BBQ on the table too and a buffet of food to select and cook yourselves. An experience for sure! Great live music too
A day spent wandering round, shopping and sightseeing. Lumpini park was a nice oasis of green although we felt like we were bitten alive so didn’t linger. Shopping was on an epic scale from the MBK centre to the new terminal 21. A wander through the neon lights of Soi Cowboy and finished up in Din Tai Fung: Taiwanese Restaurant for some dumplings
All good things must come to an end. Thailand we loved you and hope to return again some day, until then back to the daily grind with some diet and exercise