I’m not going to lie Bangkok was not my favourite of places. Perhaps because we arrived in the early hours of the morning at a grubby and packed bus station where we spent a tense few minutes negotiating with a taxi driver who spoke no English only shouted in Thai to take us to our hostel, perhaps because it was painfully hot one day and miserably raining the next. But despite all this it is still a city full of treasures not to be missed. So here you have my list of what to see in Bangkok…
1) The skytrain. I was far too excited about what is essentially their version of the underground. The difference being that, as the name suggests, instead of being underground it runs above your head and it offers a pretty impressive view of the city as it does so.
2) The Reclining Buddha. To be completely honest I’d about had my fill of temples by this point but this was truly impressive. Found at Wat Pho temple, the Reclining Buddha is an imposing 46 metre long statue that leaves even the most unreligious in awe.
3) Khao San Road! It is the place to party. The clubs and bars spill out onto the streets and you literally find yourselves dancing on Khao San Road. We bought beers from the lady selling them along the side of the road to avoid the queues at the bars and fried noodles from one of the many stalls and partied the night away! At least until the music made an abrupt stop at 1am, be warned the curfew here is a strict one!
4) The Unicorn Cafe. Ok this may not be to everyone’s taste but this was right up my street. A cafe full of pastel colours and unicorns. We sat in colourful throne type seats with cuddly toy unicorns on our lap and sipped ridiculously sugary hot chocolates which came complete with unicorn horns! A little on the expensive side? yes, full of tourists? yes, a whole lot of fun? Hell yes!
5) The weekend markets. Yes I know more markets, we spent a whole lot of our trip wandering around markets! Chatachak Market though was definitely one of the best. It was huge and we spent the best part of our day wandering around the thousands of stalls purchasing souvenirs and spending the last of our Thai money.
6) The floating markets. These are just outside Bangkok and we took a day trip their to visit them. Although the goods sold were no different to any other market the purchasing is far more fun. You hop in a boat and cruise along the canals stopping at any stalls along the wayside that take your fancy. And if you get hungry or thirsty you can always call over one of the boats floating the canals selling fresh fruit, fresh coconuts and all other manner of street foods.
7) The Bridge on the River Kwai. About three hours outside of Bangkok again you need to take a day trip to see this interesting sight. It’s amazing how many tourists there are swarming what is essentially a memorial sight. And seeing the throngs of people the bright market stalls and glorious sunshine it is impossible to think that this was a place of so much suffering for so many. It is an interesting visit especially the JEATH museum which contains some interesting if questionable information about the Second World War (according to them Hitler escaped at the end of the war and has never been found?) but if you want to know more about the war from the Asian perspective it is definitely worth a visit. And seeing a train cross the bridge full of cheery passengers gives some satisfaction, with the feeling that at least those whose lives were sacrificed in the building, built something that still stands and provides enjoyment for the plenty.
Bangkok is a huge thriving city and as with most large cities you could spend days exploring it and still not discover everything. Whilst I’m disappointed that we didn’t manage to see a couple of things the truth be told I won’t be rushing back, there are too many other places on my list to return to first!
If you want to see elephants in Thailand Chiang Mai is the place to go. Perhaps one of the most looked forward to places of our trip Chiang Mai did not disappoint. Away from the chaos and insanity of the full moon party here it felt like we were seeing the real Thailand.
The highlight of our time here was of course the elephants. Chiang Mai is surrounded by elephant sanctuary’s aplenty and here they put the elephants first. We chose to visit Maerim and it was a dream. Your activities are dictated by what the elephants want to do so you walk with them where they want to go, you bathe with them when they want to bathe and there is no riding whatsoever but plenty of feeding, in case you didn’t know elephants eat an awful lot of food! Elephants have long been my favourite animals and getting to spend time with them up close was a truly magical once in a lifetime experience.
But there is more than just elephants to Chiang Mai. If you want to see temples you’d be hard pressed to miss them here, they’re around every corner you turn, and truth be told after a while they all start to blend into one. There are some beautiful and unique temples here, Wat Chedi Luang an amazing ancient structure in the centre of the old town is definitely worth a wander around especially at night, it cuts an imposing figure. Just outside of Chiang Mai perched atop Doi Suthep Mountain is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep a sacred temple that is made even more spectacular by the view it offers of the city below. There are so many more that I could list each impressive in its own way but that list could go on forever!
The markets were another highlight of our visit. The Sunday night market that takes over the whole of central old town is truly incredible. Packed full of both tourists and locals anything you could wish to buy you could probably find here. It was here we sampled the best Thai food grazing our way through the market from one street food stall to another. A wonderful way to enjoy authentic Thai cuisine. If you’re not there on a Sunday then the night market down by the riverside is another great place to visit. Although not on quite such a large scale as the Sunday markets, the food hall is full of Thai delights to be sampled accompanied by some interesting musical entertainment!
Chiang Mai has so much to offer, as with so many places on this trip I feel like we barely scratched the surface. Alongside the elephants, temples and markets there are also massage parlours in their thousands, museums full of fascinating history, cooking classes, waterfalls, water parks, ziplines, cat cafes and so much more, some of which we were able to enjoy (especially the cat cafe) but some of which we were not, it was simply impossible to fit everything in, and it has therefore also joined my list of places to revisit in the future.
I cannot recommend Chiang Mai enough, it’s a charming city full of adventures, great food and hidden treasures. If you’re travelling through Thailand make sure you fit in a stop here!
We experienced three very different sides of Thailand choosing to spend a decent amount of time in each place instead of just flying through, our destinations of choice… Bangkok, Chiang Mai and of course Koh Pha Ngan!
Stop one… Full Moon Party! It is of course a rite of passage for any backpacker travelling around South East Asia and it served as our introduction to Thailand. I arrived on the island in the worst mood. We’d had at most 3 hours sleep, were horrifically hungover, had survived two flights, a nervous breakdown (my sister’s scared of flying) and a pretty damp boat journey, needless to say I was not in the mood for partying. At that moment in time my goal was solely to find a bed and unfortunately we had chosen to go full in and picked a party hostel where comfort was not top priority, our mattresses were pretty damn solid, everything was a little scruffy and to top it all off my cheap Cambodian 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner had exploded inside my bag. That night we were in bed by 9, a slightly unexpected start to our party island experience.
Before I went I assumed Full Moon Party would be all sunshine, beaches and dancing till dawn, what I now associate it with is a whole lot of sleeping, throwing up disgusting vodka and torrential rain. When we woke up that first morning all dreams of spending the day lying on the beach vanished as we were woken by a heavy thunderstorm and a deluge of rain. We spent the morning wading through the flooded streets barefoot in search of food and uv apparel for the upcoming parties and the afternoon sat in the hostel bar playing card games and drinking Chang beer (the Thai beer that I became overly familiar with).
The night before Full Moon the island hosts the famous Jungle Party, no I hadn’t heard of it either, turns out though it is epic! After (just a few) drinks taxis appeared at the hostel and took us all to the jungle where surrounded by waterfalls, fire performers, uv decorations and jungle thousands of party goers dance all night and I loved it! Perhaps because I had zero expectations but the Jungle party completely entranced me. I suppose it helped that on the way in we passed a stall selling uv fairy wings which I of course immediately purchased and how can one not be happy wearing fairy wings! Aside from the wings the party was brilliant, despite the music not being entirely to my taste, the setting and the additional attractions more than made up for it and it was on a euphoric high that we finally left the party and headed back to our uncomfortable bunks.
After the high of Jungle Party, things seemed to be looking up on the party island, especially as when we awoke although the sun was not quite out it looked a whole lot brighter, and we were able to take ourselves down to the beach for a few hours and even take a dip in the sea!
The build up to the party turned out to be the most fun. Our hostel had a pretty chill bar area, there were cheap drinks, uv paint aplenty and good music which inevitably (as it always does on this trip) led to dancing on tables. By the time we left the hostel I was already fairly tipsy and I’m not going to lie my drunken state that evening was not one I was proud of! Arriving at the beach we were met by masses of people all covered in uv paint and all drunk. Despite the intial excitement the evening perhaps did not live up to the hype. The beach was much smaller than I had envisioned and the stages we had been told of were less stages more bars playing music, the sea was attractively lined with guys peeing into it and it lacked the magic of the previous nights Jungle Party. To be fair this may be due in part to the fact that after downing a bucket of tequila sunrise containing an obscene amount of tequila I was to put it politely rather ill!
I suppose it was to be expected we went to party and drink and that we did. And it was the largest party with the best setting I’d ever been to. However set against some of the other nights out we’d had on this trip it just wasn’t as good. And when the next day came out hungover, sleep deprived selfs had to come to the conclusion that whilst it was a good night it just didn’t live up to the hype.
And so feeling a little worse for wear we left the island, fairy wings in tow, a bag full of sand and uv paint and a new found dislike of vodka to find our next, hopefully calmer destination to recover my poor wrecked liver.