Thailand was somewhere I had always wanted to visit – the beaches, the culture, the experiences – it had always appealed to me. I am someone who loves to make a list and on my travel list, Thailand had always featured quite high up. Therefore, it was another selling point for my move to Dubai because Thailand was so much closer! So, after some planning, my Dubai sister and I booked up our Thailand holiday and off we went during our Easter holiday in 2015.
We flew from Dubai to Bangkok which wasn’t a long flight at all and arrived at our hotel in the early hours. Sadly, we didn’t really make the most of Bangkok for three reasons: 1) we flew straight after a long teaching term so were exhausted, 2) we only stayed for one day and two nights and 3) although we set our alarms super early on our one day, we woke up to horrendous storms so we missed out on a huge chunk of our exploration time!
Nevertheless, when the rain had calmed we were ready to go but as with us, we hit a hurdle straight off – our taxi driver tried to con us BIG time when we had only just left our hotel. We were just lucky that we had done some research into costs etc and promptly told him to let us out which he also fought against for a while too! But as with most things, I believe it happened for a reason because we then threw caution to the wind and braced the tuk tuk! SO MUCH FUN!
We spent our day in Bangkok hopping from one temple to the next – we saw the Lucky Buddha, the Standing Buddha and finished at the Reclining Buddha. We did a lot of walking that day and dodged rain throughout but the temples were peaceful, contemplative and beautiful. We also spent a few hours in The Grand Palace which was ridiculously busy, hot and humid, but with every turn we were faced with yet more exquisite architecture, colour and culture. I am sad we missed out on visiting the floating market and we didn’t manage a night ‘out out’ but we enjoyed what we did and changed up songs to sing as we left – “Bye Bye Bangkok, Bangkok Bye Bye” to the tune of Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers was our favourite!
Our next stop was Chiang Mai and I have to say, these few days are up there with some of my best holiday memories ever. It didn’t start too well – does it ever?! – as we got to our hotel, Le Meridian, we were excited to spend an afternoon chilling in the gorgeous pool overlooking the city but we promptly discovered the pool would be closed while we were there for refurbishment! Don’t worry, this lead to me working my magic and wangling free breakfasts for our stay which helped us money wise and freed up more spending money for the night market!
Because our pool plans were scrapped, rather than wasting the day, we changed into our exploring clothes and headed out for a wonder. I’d advise having a map with you in Chiang Mai because there are many twists and turns, things to distract you and it’s really easy to lose your way. It was nice to just ‘get lost’ in the city, we discovered the most amazing little temple where a monk was quietly working away at making good luck bracelets which he blessed before he tied them to our wrists – you never take them off, they will fall off when they are ready and technically that’s when you’re good luck begins. That was one of our favourite holiday moments.
We didn’t get dressed up for dinner that night, on our wonders we just found a little local buffet place with ‘entertainment’ in the form of a piano man and singer which was good fun and we were amused all night by the lovely waiter whose job it was to just run around swatting mosquitos with an electric shock tennis racquet! We did however, go back after dinner, shower,change and head out to the night market which started directly outside our hotel.
This was one of the best markets I’ve ever been to, hands down! We had so much fun haggling, finding little treasures, just getting emerged into Chiang Mai life and collecting more souvenirs than either of us had expected! I was able to put my haggling skills I learnt from Sharon in Egypt to the test here and even Catherine was impressed! Haggling makes a lot of people uncomfortable but these market stall holders expect it from tourists and as long as you don’t take the mickey, it is part of the experience! I am so chuffed with the bits I got here (we did go back on the second night too) I think it’s nice to collect things to have in your home that come from places around the world scattered amongst your bog standard UK shop find.
Day two in Chiang Mai was the only thing we had pre booked – a Thai cookery course. If you want to book something like this for your holiday I couldn’t recommend Siam Rice more. A friend of mine recommended it to us and I wouldn’t hesitate to continue to recommend it to others. We were picked up from our hotel and with the rest of the group, taken to a local food market where we had time to look round but also where the majority of our ingredients were collected. We were then taken to the cookery school. We had opted for a full day course although you could do half days too. It was so professionally set up, organised, fun and informative and I have never seen so much food!
It was brilliant because although there were around 10 of us in the group, we could all individually choose which items we wanted to cook from an extensive menu – no problem, no stress – it was fab. The cooking station was set up brilliantly and our teacher had the best sense of humour. The whole day was seamless, effortless fun – we made about 7 different dishes which we ate as we went along and everything was divine, fresh and authentic. We even got a recipe book and certificate to take home!
On our first day exploring we had booked up Day 3 with a company we discovered on our wonders. We knew we wanted to spend a day with the elephants but we didn’t want to go anywhere that didn’t treat the elephants well, we didn’t want to ride them or see them do tricks so the Elephant Nature Park was exactly what we were looking for. It wasn’t cheap but I am SO glad we spent the money. Of course it didn’t run smoothly at first, see the theme here?! – the company forgot us (I know, how could anyone forget us?!) so..more negotiating, more money off and finally we were collected, Lou from Neighbours gave us our video talk on the way and then we spent the best day at the park.
The Nature Park is an extensive piece of land for rescued elephants from all over Chiang Mai. Each herd of elephants had someone attached to them that cared for them – we saw no evidence of chains anywhere, no whips or cruelty, they were genuinely cared for and it was lovely to see the relationships between the elephants and their carers. We helped to bathe them, feed them and walked with them over the land – I’m not the most confident around animals but this day was just so special. They are just such majestic creatures with the most human eyes and longest eyelashes ever to be seen. The lunch provided was all vegetarian and there were package options to stay over at the Park to help more extensively for the care of the elephants which looked like fun too. As we ate lunch, the elephants happily roamed around the land that surrounded us, it was spectacular. We were later shown a heartbreaking story about why the park functions and where the elephants come from – mainly from the circus or rescued from the street where they have been injured or blinded and just left. The cruelty to these animals really was unimaginable.
It was a long day but we both said how special that day was and how glad we were to have got so close to the elephants and look after them. It was a stunning setting and I would encourage everyone to visit here rather than pay a fortune to ride the elephants and support the cruelty. That night we ate out at a local restaurant, explored the market more and finished at a Bar we found on Trip Advisor called Boys Blues Bar which was good fun. Then we packed up ready for our flight to Phuket.
We spent one night in transfer from Phuket to out little island paradise but it was the best transfer of my life! We only stumbled upon the hotel because it was the cheapest we could find and I have no idea how it was the cheapest but oh my goodness I have never stayed in a hotel like it. The Anantara Phuket is top of my list of hotels to re visit. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and the room was just incredible. The room was up on a hill as it was a tsunami risk area so we had buggy rides to get up there which we just had to phone for and we first arrived we were then given a room tour – it was huge! Again, we splashed out a bit here and ate at the hotels Thai restaurant but it was probably one of there best meals of the holidays. We had cocktails that changed colour when you added and stirred things in, rice of various colours and spring rolls to die for! Such a lovely evening. Then before we left the next morning, we had the most amazing brunch like breakfast, all set with the view of the ocean ahead of us. We really didn’t want to leave.
But, leave we did and made our way by boat to Phi Phi Island Resort. When I say heaven on earth it really, truly was. It was just like you see on TV, the blue sea, the flowers in bloom, peaceful, relaxing, picturesque. We spent four days just indulging in relaxation at our swim up pool bar, in the sea – our only choices being, was it too early for a cocktail and whether to spend time by the pool or on the beach! Because it was a hotel, the restaurants were extortionately priced so we didn’t eat one evening meal there. Instead we headed out to the tiny little village just behind our resort which a lot of the holidaymakers did. It wasn’t pretty but it was real Thailand and we loved it, we ate at a different restaurant each night and the food was always amazing, cooked by locals in a traditional Thai fashion the way a country should be experienced on holiday.
The only thing that wasn’t great was our room. It was in desperate need of updating, it wasn’t dirty but they were dated and the air con didn’t work too well – we had lizard visitors in the night and the only TV channel that worked was Nat Geo so we had very educational TV when we were getting ready! But to be honest, like we said, we really didn’t spend much time in the room so it wasn’t a huge issue. Phi Phi was a place I really managed to totally unwind and relax which is needed for us teachers and we really didn’t want the holiday to come to an end.
Everywhere we went we were greeted with such friendly people in Thailand. I now understand why people go back time and time again because I would in a heart beat. I’d love to explore more of the islands and see more of what makes it such a special place. We did do a lot of research before we left which paid off and I would highly recommend doing, also remember to take a guide-book and get maps wherever you go, remember to look after your bags in crowded places and take photos, you’ll want to remember the beauty that is Thailand.