I have a confession to make here. Well actually a couple.
Firstly, I wasn’t actually that bothered about visiting Thailand. It was more a pleasant, necessary break in the middle of some hectic travelling around SE Asia.
Secondly I don’t think I ‘did’ Thailand right. Good start for a blog post.
Thailand, I believe, is often the gateway into South East Asia – a lot of people start or finish here before travelling to other places. For me, it was the interlude between Vietnam and Cambodia and then going onto Malaysia and Indonesia.
If you only have a few days in this country, and just want to relax then this the guide for you.
Visas are obtained at the border, both land an air. However, do check the length of stay your visa grants you. I arrived in Thailand over a land boarder from Cambodia, and was issued my 30 day tourist visa. However, the Norwegians I was travelling with were only granted a 14 day one. It would have been different if they were arriving by air, but they had to head to the embassy to extend. Do check what your nationality means you can get on arrival.
Well of course. Where else would you begin? When I was here, it was the time of the riots so a lot of the city wasn’t safe. This did limit where I could visit as a solo traveller.
One place all backpackers end up is the Khao San Road. I don’t think you will find someone who visited the city without going here. It was one of the few places that wasn’t too affected by the riots so I did spend a lot of time here.
Great place to meet people, have some yummy food and pick up some souvenirs and things you might still need for the road. my Havaianas flip flops are still going strong!
One of the best meals I ate in South East Asia was Pad Thai cooked from a stall on the side of the street. I have been trying to find Pad Thai as good ever since and no such luck.
The other place to head is the Grand Palace. The most amazing thing I saw here was the giant reclining Budda, Wat Pho. He is big.
Take a city boat along the river – its a great way to get around and see a bit more.
Finally check out one of the many sky bars. The Sky Bar is the most famous, do check out the dress code as it is definitely smarter than a lot of the clothes I had been wearing for backpacking. I, however, went to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel Bar. While the views weren’t as good, it was unlimited drinks for the hour you were there.
The taxi drivers spot a tourist a mile off and will try and con you. The ultimate aim is to get that meter on! Even if you negotiate a fee, undoubtedly it will be higher than if you had the meter on.
Firstly walk away from your hotel! The taxis standing right outside are waiting for people staying there to come out and con.
Get out of the taxi if they refuse to put the meter on. One day I got out of 11 taxis, yes ELEVEN, before I found one that was willing. I did have time to kill but I was determined not to be scammed, again.
The other thing to be wary of is the tuk tuk drivers. If you say you want to go somewhere they will often recommend somewhere else. If you do go, they get petrol vouchers. It’s a bit of a con, costs you more and you end up miles from where you want to be. It is not a friendly tourist suggestion!
Transport to the Islands (Koh Samui or Ko Phangan)
To get from Bangkok to the ferry terminals, we took a sleeper train. These are boarded at Bangkok Railway Station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station. You disembark at Surat Thani and then get a bus to the Raja Ferry Port.
World famous for Half Moon parties. And what did I do? I spent two days relaxing on the beautiful Bottle Beach and not much else, therefore can’t tell you much about this island!
I stayed in the resort of Had Khuat which had access to a private beach. There was a really comfy chill out area that served delicious cocktails and food. In the evening there was a fire lit and some dancing. Honestly, it was the most relaxing and the perfect de-stresser after a few weeks of travelling.
We also did a hike up the huge rock overlooking the bay, which afforded beautiful views out to sea.
To get from Ko Phangan to Ko Samui you can take the Songserm Express Boat (you can also get the boat to Ko Tao from here as well). One bit of advice – take a jumper. The air con is cracked up to obscene levels.
Upon arriving in Ko Samui I did manage to see more of the sights.
A tour of the island encompassed these key points:
- The mummified monk. Quite unlike anything I have seen before.
- Grandfather and Grandmother rocks. Natural rocks that have formed into shapes that look suspiciously like male and female genitalia. Perhaps not the classiest of stops.
- Big Budda – a huge statue of Buddha. I arrived here at sunset and it was very beautiful watching it set behind.
After that I can offer no further advice on Ko Samui. I am ashamed to say, I didn’t even see the beautiful sea when on this island. We headed to the nightlife and after oh so many buckets later had to spend the next day recovering. It was worth it though, what a night! One of those ones that has become legendary for years to come.
So, as I mentioned, I can’t offer you great insights into this country. I would love to go back to travel deeper in Thailand and actually Chiang Mai is incredibly high on my bucket list.
What I can tell you, is that Thailand is perfect for chilling for a few days in between other destinations in South East Asia.
Have you been to Thailand? Please let me know all the millions of things I am missing so I can put together a list for next time!