I never knew that Thailand would offer me so many items on my list of “things to do”, for so little money. Some of those things are swimming with a sea turtle, bungee jumping, and to spoon a man-eating animal. Yeah, Thailand can help you with all of those and more.
After my trip to Dubai was kiboshed by Bahrain that basically said “no visa for you”, I ended up just going to Thailand. Being stranded in an airport for more than 18 hours, I took the soonest and cheapest flight I could find. Bangkok it was!
I would spend my first week in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Here I would take a trek in the jungle, stay with a village family for a night, bathe an elephant and then take a trek on it down river, finished off with a zestful ride on a bamboo raft. All meals, 2 days guide and 1 night accommodations, elephants and rafts-$75CAD. Beware: if your a bit of a princess, the thatched hut and cold water showers of the jungle may not be your thing.
On my return to the city of Chiang Mai, I would clean up and take a Thai cooking class including transportation, instruction, cookbook and eating a load of delicious Thai dishes ($30CAD).
Then Muay Thai fights ($10CAD) and the next day spend an afternoon with some Tigers. This is where you can cuddle up beside a giant striped man-eater and take a round of photos. Surprisingly enough, it’s not that scary.
You can also play with a baby tiger while it tries to nip at your limbs for 10 minutes. Tip: just shove the “kittens” paw into its mouth, he’ll naw on it, instead of you. Don’t worry because you have a trainer with you that will do it if you can’t. You also get access to the rest of the grounds to see different sized tigers in spacious habitats, my timing was perfect when I got to see the keepers feed the newborns. Admission to the Tiger Kingdom, big tigers and the babies with photos- $45CAD
I ate out every meal at simple restaurants, a casual beer or two a day, 7 nights accommodation with all these activities listed above, a few tuk-tuk rides and a night train ticket to and from Bangkok $290CAD. I know, right? The best part is that I stayed at the Libra Guest House and they organized EVERYTHING. They were simply awesome, and when they start to playfully poke fun at you, it means they like you. I sat with another Canadian for breakfast and they commented on how romantic we looked. Great place to stay!
Keep in mind that prices in Bangkok and the southern beach locations are about 50% higher, still a bargain in my opinion. While I was in Chiang Mai I would chat with a girl that was a part of a tour group called Free & Easy Traveler. Turns out my older brother was part of the same tour group that traveled Laos, Cambodia and Thailand the year before, and had a truly exceptional time.
So similar to my first trip in Croatia and extremely last minute, I would put the solo traveling on hold, let someone else do the thinking and hook up with a Free & Easy tour heading south for some island hopping!
I met the group in Bangkok, got geared up with some cheap board shorts and tank tops and had a messy and memorable first night on Khoa San Road including “cranking that soldier boy”, angry bird balloons, and little kids hustling us in thumb-wars.
Our first stop in the south was Haad Rin, a secluded and toned down beach on the doorstep of Koh Phangan. It’s was a 20 minute long-tail boat ride through some treacherous weather, followed by several days of rain and wind before we got a glimpse on our last day of what it is supposed to look like.
The real reason for coming to this area was for the Full Moon Party. Tight & bright! Dance music, cheap buckets of FDA banned concentrated Red-Bulls with Thai rum and a whole lotta messy people loving life. Even though the weather sucked, the moon came out for a bit to let us know that it was go-time. I remember cursing the rain for the days up until the party, but I found myself dancing so hard, as if I was Jason Statham in Cranked and if I stopped I would die. Thats when the rain came back, it poured down on everyone as if mother nature knew we needed a cool down in order to make it to sunrise, which we all did pretty much effortlessly. I also got to bungee jump ($30CAD), tick that off the list. Bam.
The next day we would head to Railay, the rock climbing mecca, and arguably the best beaches in Thailand. Climbing into caves and repelling out onto a beach was spectacular and in the evening packing into another long-tail boat to a different beach and listening to some Thai-Reggae vibes finished off the day nicely. Not to mention the accommodations that FNEZ had set-up for us where sandwiched between some towering rocks and jungle. I even got to stay in the “El Presidente” suite. Ball so hard!
This was the spot most of us hoped for. The other days In Railay were spent on the sand with a frisbee, some Chang beer, and some Pad Thai fresh off the boat! Seriosuly, the long tail boats just pull like food trucks. I would soon adopt the nickname of “Pad Thai” after eating it EVERYDAY, and sometimes twice. When I thought of Thailand, Railay was it.
Phi Phi Islands
After Railay was Koh Phi Phi. Most know Koh Phi Phi and the Phi Phi Islands as the most devasted from the boxing day tsunami of 2004. Its amazing how this area has bounced back from the worst natural disaster to ever hit Thailand. My main objective was to finish my Open Water SCUBA certification, in which that mission was accomplished! I also had my chance to glide 18 meters down with a Hawksbill Sea Turtle…
For anyone looking to get licensed in SCUBA Thailand is the place to go! There are many reputable shops to choose from, beautiful dive sites and it will cost you half what it would normally in North America. Koh Phi Phi is quite touristy and developed but also known for Maya Bay a.k.a “The Beach”. You can rent a legit speed boat and driver for the day to take you to Maya Bay and snorkel at some other popular spots for a few hundred dollars. Split that with as many friends as you like and thats what the Thai people call cheap cheap!
We would party at a place called Slinky’s, a club located on the beach with a vibe that revialed the Full Moon Party. After which I was smothered in mayonnaise and cleaned up by a girl from our tour, I then proceed to take a nose dive into a concrete ditch and go home with some road rash. Seems like all the ingredients for a swell night out.
We would party a lot on all our stops and were constantly on the go, our last stop before heading back to Bangkok was exactly what was needed. We stayed in a lake house, which is exactly as it sounds. Its little bungalows that float on the water in the middle of this giant national park with what seems to be the biggest man made lake I have ever seen. Welcome to Smiley Lake House!
This is where most of our group would deepen their tans, relax, read a book, play some cards and soak up our surrounding before going back to Bangkok, and ultimately for most back to Canada. One afternoon a group of us decided to go explore some of the jungle and caves that the national park offer. This turned out to be a a massive adventure. One of the caves that is usually closed off due to high river levels, was just right for us. We sloshed through chilly water, in the pitch black with only our headlamps, hundreds of bats overhead and the walls beside us covered with gruesome spiders that looked like they were sent from the depths of hell. On our last day, on the way out of the park, our group would stop for some cliff jumping and head back to Bangkok for one more night of inebriation and a emotional send off.
It was an odd feeling when the majority of people from the Free & Easy group left. There were a handful out of roughly twenty five that stayed a little longer in Thailand, it was the same feeling when I left Canada and Croatia. The feeling of leaving a place that you love and people you have grown to love even more after spending days on end together. I took my love for Thailand as far as I could on this round, and extended my visa for another week ($60CAD at the immigration department in Bangkok) and would head south to Koh Tao to gain my PADI Advanced Open Water SCUBA! Time to get some hammered on some nitrogen narcosis at almost 100 feet deep!
This would end what would be 5 weeks of continuous items on my list being scratched off. Thailand is a place that I WILL return to, hopefully as soon as I can and to advance my SCUBA certifications. I have never felt so comfortable in a place while traveling, and I could credit that to FNEZ Traveler for having such fun, knowledgable and outgoing leaders and even better group of people touring with me. As much as group tours are more expensive than solo travel, you can’t put a price on the bonds and friendships you earn while on tours like this.
If you want an action packed vacation, with culture great food and even better prices, look not further than Thailand!
More photos here!