I've had quite a few people asking me about our experience in Thailand, so I decided to share some helpful info for future travelers versus just sharing pretty pictures!
( But if you want to just look at pretty pics, scroll on down )
So, before I begin I figured I'd give you a little backstory. It all started out with my good friend and travel buddy Katie saying "hey, do you wanna do a yoga retreat somewhere?" Of course I said yes! The first place that came to mind was Thailand... a place that I've dreamed about for years.
During the planning process, we ended up opting to not do a yoga retreat but instead chose to see as much of the kingdom as we could. I've always had the travel bug, something I'm sure I inherited from my parents... but my husband Benny never really traveled much until he met me. So since I actually met Katie through him years ago, we decided to plan a trip as a trio. (Always generally safer to travel with a guy anyways, right?) So here our journey begins. We made so many silly mistakes that are actually kind of embarrassing, but if I can help future travelers... a little embarrassment is all worth it!
After a 20 some hour flight, you're going to be tired and somewhat delusional. Make sure you know EXACTLY where your hotel is, how long it will take to get there, and find out about how many Bahts (Thai currency) it will cost. The second we walked out of the airport, a cab driver basically ran up to us and asked if we needed a cab. We all looked at each other with glazed over eyes, and it was in that moment I knew we were completely unprepared. I had forgotten there's no phone service, nor was there Wifi at the airport. The cabdriver barely spoke English, and asked where we were going. "Dewa Cachet" resort, we all said. He responded "ohhhhh YES. You go Patong Beach then, uh?" I said yes even though I wasn't sure what the exact area was called. He pulled out a map and said "OK, 1800 Baht." Which was equivalent to about $60. I heard cabs were expensive, but that didn't seem right. I knew our hotel was pretty close to the airport. So I pointed on the map to him and said "mmmm no- our hotel is here, and pointed on the map." He then said "Ohhhhh, you go Nai Yang Beach!?" Yessss, we go Nai Yang Beach. That sounded right. He charged us 600 Baht, which was $20. Still pricey but better. So we proceeded to get in the cab, and found out our hotel was literally 7 minutes from the airport. We probably fed his family for a week on that ride, and we still chuckle about it. Lesson learned. PREPARE. (Not an easy thing for any of us since we're all go with the flow type people for the most part.) So another good piece of info is in regards to his very official looking map. It had areas all over Thailand with what look like set prices for certain destinations/ areas. BEWARE OF THIS! You'll be able to talk them down to about 1/4 of what you see on these maps, you just need to be stubborn and assertive. (But always smile and of course be polite.) We later asked the resort about costs and they told us we should have paid 200-250 Baht ($6) for a three person cabride. eep. Ha, I guess we made up for it in cheap food & everything else. Also, make sure you exchange your money before you arrive or at the airport in Phuket. (31.5 Bahts equals $1.)
So we checked into our lovely 5 star but CHEAP two bedroom, two bathroom, full kitchen resort... (less than $90 per night) my husband went to take a nap, and Katie and I went to go have cocktails and lay by the pool. The next day we spent wandering around Nai Yang Beach, checking out shops, getting Thai massages with lime foot soaks, hitting up restaurants, and even took a yoga class in Sirinath National Park.
Off to Bangkok. It's just a quick, cheap flight from Phuket, so we each packed a backpack and off we went. Bangkok is one of the craziest and largest airports I've ever been in, so be prepared to take several escalators to several floors. An adventure all on its own.
We didn't want to drive in Thailand, so we took the BTS SkyTrain to get around- there's a direct line into the city right at the airport. Super cheap, super easy to navigate. First thing on our to do list? To see the Grand Palace and Temple of the Reclining Buddha. There are plenty of different ways to get there, but I read somewhere to take a ferry. Now, do you remember me mentioning on Instagram that we waited an hour to catch a ferry, only to realize we got on the wrong one? and it that only crossed to the other side of the river? yea, that happened. oops.
Signs are hard to read and there are multiple ports, so just ask. Make sure to get on the ferry (I think it was about $3) and not on a long-tail boat, which costs about $20 for the exact same ride.
We arrived in Bangkok at 8 am, and hopped on the SkyTrain. We got to our hotel at 10am, checked in (the Aetas) early, dropped our things off, and started to navigate our way back to the Sky Train by noon. There's a reason I'm telling you the times, stick with me here. After the ridiculous ferry debacle, we decided we were hungry and hopped off to grab a bit to eat at the Mango Tree Restaurant since we could walk the rest of the way to the Grand Palace.
Best piña colada, egg rolls, and chicken satay I've ever had! While I was sitting, I pulled out my phone and googled some info. (Most places have Wifi which is necessary if you're like me and rely on Mapquest versus an actual paper map) It was 2:30 and it was then that I found out the Grand Palace closed at 3. What? COME ON. All we could do was laugh and shake our heads. We decided to just head for the Temple of the Reclining Buddha- which turned out to be more amazing than I thought it would be! I'll be back someday for the Grand Palace.
So off we went, in search of this beautiful buddhist temple. Make sure you dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees in order to respect the dress code. No worries if you don't have the right attire though. There are guides there that will provide you with a long shawl if necessary. Also, be prepared to take your shoes off when you go inside.
Three ways to get around in Bangkok: BTS SkyTrain, pricey cabs, or adorable Tuk-Tuks. They were my favorite! Everyone says to not take them because they're dangerous, but you want to know something? We didn't see a SINGLE accident the entire weekend. There's an indescribable flow to traffic. Everyone cuts everyone off, from all directions, at all times. But that's just how it is, no one gets mad about it. You'll see a family of five on a moped, weaving calmly in and out of traffic. We for real saw a guy on the back of a moped, carrying a full size ladder... going 60miles and hour down the highway. It's so crazy. But a beautiful thing! No one on their phones. Just uber-focused on driving. It's awesome.
From the temple, we decided to head to the famous Khao San road. This is also hard to put into words. So much energy, and pretty much anything goes. From gorgeous ladyboys to vendors selling deep-fried scorpion and squid on a stick, my eyes could barely keep up. Here, we grabbed a Chang beer, and sat down for the best 1 hour long 5 DOLLAR foot rubs we've ever had. Glorious.
After we did some shopping where I bought an adorable pineapple swimsuit for $4 and a few $3 dresses, we decided to see a Ping Pong show off the beaten path. (insert hand-covering-the-eyes-emoji here.) Now I'm not talking about a Forest Gump type ping pong show that you're probably picturing in your head. This is a completely different show, and if you go to Bangkok it's a must see. Why? You probably won't see this anywhere else in the world. Yes, it was pretty raunchy, but we laughed the ENTIRE time. And we weren't alone. Everyone in the audience was normal looking. Tourists from all over the world will gather together to see this strange performance.
Tip #5: Go to the bathroom before you head to one of these joints, and leave your camera (and kiddos) at home.
The following day in Bangkok we arranged a private tour to see the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Our driver picked us up at the hotel, and we drove about an hour west of the city. (again, crazy traffic but no accidents.) When we got there we hopped in a long tail boat and cruised down the river. A relaxing ride until we turned the corner. Hundreds of boats weaving in and out, and people on shore selling every sort of asian tchotchke you can imagine. Locals grilling bananas on boats, selling coconut ice-cream, pancakes, and presenting their fresh exotic fruit. I was in heaven when I found a lady selling coconut water... I think she weighed about 80 lbs. She whipped out her giant machete, hacked open a fresh coconut, and handed it to me with a big straw and an even bigger smile on her face. It was chilled, and the freshest I've ever tasted. The whole experience was amazing- and a must-do when you're there. Well worth the hour drive!
After the floating market, we went to the Maeklong train market. It was like nothing I've ever seen. A farmer's market jam-packed with vendors and people right next to the tiniest set of railroad tracks. And when the GIANT train squeezes through it's one of those moments where you're like "how in the world did that just happen?" Seconds before it buzzed by, tourists literally jumped out of the way and vendors folded down their awnings to make room for it.
I'm not sure what was crazier though... the train or the amount of cellphones + cameras recording it. see below.
After a long day of exploring, it was nice to come back to our hotel. It had an amazing rooftop pool so we relaxed here for a few hours before venturing out again at night to check out one of the infamous sky bars.
Check out one of the rooftop bars in Bangkok at night! MoonBar at the Thai Was Tower was hands down, the most stunning view I've ever seen. I think this was the best & swankiest place in the whole city. Because of the steep prices, we only went up for a drink.
6 beers for 3150 Baht. (about $100) but absolutely worth it for the view! You can also grab dinner here but be prepared to spend about $200-$300 per person. (Great if you're celebrating a special occasion.) But also, check the dress code. I had a pantskirt and flip flops on, and Ben was wearing shorts. (it was 90 degrees out!) Instead of turning us away, they graciously provided me with a pair of flats and Ben with a pair of pants. I'm kind of a germaphobe, so I would have much rather been appropriately dressed. I also wish I would have brought my nice camera... all these pics below are from my cellphone and they just don't do it justice! The view will literally take your breath away.
Either way, a great end to the weekend.
I fell head over heels in love with Bangkok, and I had no idea I would. The energy, the people, the amount of things to do and see, and the exceptional politeness and patience they ALL have for tourists. Their willingness to accommodate and make you feel at home was unparalleled to any other place I've been in the entire world.
***UP NEXT: An elephant sanctuary in Phuket, exploring Patong beach, the Phi Phi Islands by speedboat, and an unforgettable sea kayak tour that included a krathong ceremony. Also, my first time seeing bioluminescent waters. Stay tuned.