Thailand came in as the front-runner of my four months in Asia. I loved everything about it. From food to adventures to the people, it was an amazing, eye-opening and an unforgettable part of my travels. When you’re standing with an elephant who wants to play with you or on one of the most beautiful islands in the world by yourself watching the sunset, it’s hard not to stop and say to yourself, “Hot damn, I can’t believe this is my life.”
I was fortunate enough to see a good portion of Thailand. I put on a lot of moving miles between planes, buses, boats and car rides. While in Bangkok the majority of the month, I was afforded many cheap thrills and laughable photo opps, and each of my Thailand mini adventures gave me a little something different. Shortly after my arrival to Bangkok, I took off for a few days of work catch up on the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Pictures can’t even do this part of the country justice. Then, it was back to Bangkok for a few days before heading up north for cultural exploring and “do-gooding” in Chiang Mai. As I left Thailand, I realized I had pretty much done “all the things.”
I hope you’ve come to realize by now that these are not your typical attractions post. In my opinion, landmarks are great, but experiences are better. So, with that, here are what ended up being my most thrilling moments in Thailand:
1. Taking In A Muay Thai Fight
Muay Thai is known as an aggressive combat sport, but for centuries, this art has been deeply rooted in spirituality, self-defense from invasion, and a way for captives to earn their freedom. Muay Thai fights, which have recently been accepted as an Olympic sport, can be watched throughout the week around various Thailand studios, including Channel 7 Stadium.
2. Catching Some Culture In Chiang Mai
This mountainous city in Northern Thailand offers so many great things to do. It’s a quick 50-minute, super cheap flight from Bangkok. Plan to stay three nights to hit all the highlights.
Volunteering at an elephant park
Before you do, make sure it’s a reputable one such as Elephant Nature Park. Many of the parks let volunteers come for the day (or an overnight if you’d like) to feed, bathe and care for the elephants. I must say, standing next to an elephant and having that presence of an animal so much bigger than you is incomparable.
Hanging out at a night bazaar
These night markets have a plethora of live entertainment, shops and, of course, food. The best food. Actually, all of the foods. Sip and sample while you wind and weave through rows of street vendors selling unique items.
Getting artsy at Art in Paradise Museum.
The experience of walking through this 3-D art museum, highly designed for photo opps and selfies, is something you won’t want to pass up. Grab a group of friends and spent a few hours in these dynamic designs. It’s only $12 to get in and the most fun museum I’ve visited. (I think I may have burned more calories than I ate this day solely due to how many laughs I had here.)
3. Eating Pad Thai
While I believe this one goes without saying, you need to have pad thai in Thailand. However, I did some advance scouting for you. Over the course of the month, I worked to find the most perfectly cooked (and flavorful) pad thai so that you don’t have to carb load through disappointing meals. You can expect this dish to make its presence known in this month’s A Girl’s Gotta Eat Guide. I came across wonderful varieties of pad thai, and these three restaurants easily became my favorites.
- Silom Village – Great spot for lunch or dinner. This restaurant lets you create your own combinations of pad thai. Get as creative as you’d like. They operate cafeteria-style, so make your rounds to all the stations and start filling up your tray.
- Baan Phad Thai – This restaurant, ranked #2 best pad thai in Thailand, offers a spin by including unique and novel ingredients to the classic recipe. The charming atmosphere is an added bonus. Make sure you save room for their famous mango sticky rice.
- Papaya (Silom Neighborhood): This place was a neighborhood favorite with a traditional recipe and very friendly on the pocketbook.
4. Hopping Islands
Sometimes you need a bit of peace and quiet. Sometimes you need a scenic view. Sometimes, you want to get out of the city. But more often than not, you don’t need any excuse to visit an island. Thailand is home to many of the world’s finest beaches and islands, most of which are in close proximity to one another. Koh Tao, Kho Samui and Kho Phangan are in one cluster on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand. Then, you’ve got Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi islands on the opposite side. Pick one, pick ’em all…you’re bound to have an amazing time no matter where you go.
5. Hitting Up A Full Moon Party
I had to say that when I committed to going to this party, I was a little nervous, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect, and I had no interest in high production party prep. I wanted no part of it and refused. Until I started shopping for my outfit. Okay, fine. A little neon here and a few bright colors there. Well, next thing you know, I look like I walked out of a Wham music video. I’m glad I did because it was amazing fun. #noregrets
Full moon parties are thrown on the islands each month in celebration of (you guessed it….) the full moon. Somewhere between 20,000-30,000 crazies jam pack the island with their flame throwing, bucket drinking, music bumping, cocktail crazy shenanigans, and dance the night away until sunrise. While, at moments, you may feel like you’re at a college rager with a bunch of first-timers, you end up having the time of your life in your glow paint and gear.
6. Eating At Gaggan
As you get to the end of this post, you’ll probably think to yourself, “Damn, that girl ate a lot this month.” True story, but you know what? I regret not one calorie. Every bite = worth it. Specifically, Gaggan, the progressive Indian restaurant. Now, if you’re planning on visiting this #7 restaurant….in the world...you need to make a reservation at least a month in advance. (Ask no questions regarding how I landed a table day of. Sometimes, luck just lands on your side.) Now, I will warn you that this 25-course tasting menu is what many will consider a “break the bank” meal, but start saving now and you’ll be lucky that you did. The menu at Gaggan changes quarterly, so unless you’re visiting Thailand tomorrow-ish, everything will remain a surprise.
7. Walking Khoa San Road
I was fortunate to have my sister and her fiance come visit me this month. I had been waiting to visit Khoa San Road, also known as backpacker street, until their arrival so that it was a surprise to all of us. We had massive amounts of fun, and I braved an attempt to eat a scorpion. #whatishappeningtome. There was so much good energy on this lively street: vendors offering clothes and fun gadgets, massage therapists performing foot rubs and these cute little tricked out bars. Get a close up look at what it’s like to eat scorpions and walk down the backpacker capital of the world.
8. Seeing Historic Landmarks
Thailand is known for its many notable temples, Wat Pho and White Temple being my favorite. Wat Pho is home to the very laid back…literally…46 meter reclining Buddha. (It’s been a while since I inserted a bad pun. We’re overdue.) It’s super cool to see up close. Wat Pho also houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.
And then there’s White Temple which needs no introduction and is one of the most stunning and intricate sights. I left thinking to myself that I probably need not see another temple for a while, as I don’t think much will top this one. I was taken aback by the sheer level of detail and the discoball-esque (yes, it’s a word) feel of the temple’s surroundings. It’s an all-around magical place.
9. Watching Sunset At The Asiatique Riverfront
Asiatique, a large open air mall with theme park vibes, has one of the best views of the Thailand cityscape, especially at sunset. Browse shops, dine or drink at one of the many riverfront bars, ride a ride….or hop on the iconic ferris wheel. (If you time it just right, you’ll fall in love with Bangkok as you watch the sunset from the ride.)
10. Kicking It At Super Cool Cafes
Thailand had so many cute cafes that it was hard to make up my mind where to hub up. But this one, my friends, was a show stopper. Offering a sensory overload in atmosphere, menu and food, Unicorn Cafe takes the cake on being the most unique cafe ever. If you’re planning on booking a business meeting here (like I did), make sure to arrive ten minutes early to take it all in and let your senses adjust because it’s A LOT, but in all the best ways.
It’s month five and I’m officially living in Europe, well, Belgrade to be exact. It’s great to be in Europe, but I’ll put it like this, you may like Belgrade if…
You like to be yelled at by old folk for not wearing enough clothes when it’s “cold.”
You enjoy being given the side eye by nearly everyone in the checkout line at the stores.
You don’t like smiling or cheerfulness.
Put it this way, I’ll give it a few more good days before I write my first impressions post, that’s for sure. Come hell or high water, I’m going to make the best of it.
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