First time in Thailand, 2016/2017
January 1, 1970
by Ándrea Crnković
The country itself – Thailand – makes a lot of great memories for most of the visitors. It is not a secret that Thailand has literally everything – from beautiful nature, where you can be more active, to paradise islands and beaches, where you can be more relaxed. Locals are taking a good care of the tourists, they make your day with their smile and give you the warm feeling you are very welcome.
Let me show you how I experienced this beautiful country for the first time.
FIRST STOP – OVERNIGHT IN BANGKOK
Arriving in almost 6 million people city. Welcome to Bangkok. I can say, that this city doesn’t sleep.
I’m traveling with my traveling partner Teja. She is an awesome person who I love very much, just don’t disturb her before her morning coffee.
The only thing we had in mind was shower and a good night sleep.
SECOND STOP – CHIANG MAI
After 9 hours of sleep, we are ready for our adventure to start. On our way to Don Meung Airport in Bangkok, domestic flights terminal. We had that first Thai impression – the way they say the greeting or Thank you. How peaceful and calming it is when they nod their head. You automatically start to nod yourself, you put your hands together and smile – you get that warm feeling I don’t know how to describe.
When you try to communicate with thai people, the interesting fact is how they pronounce words. When we were trying to come to our hotel in Bangkok I showed the taxi driver the address of our hotel. I also tried to read it. When he read the same street back to me, of course it sounds differently. I just hope I didn’t say to the taxi driver: “Hello, can I kiss your mother?”
Boarding on Thai Lion Air and flying to Chiang Mai.
We are driving from the airport to our place to sleep – Lost in Chiang Mai Guesthouse. We were amazed how cute, simple and homey this guesthouse was. We liked it right away. Because they are often fully booked, I suggest you book the room via Booking.com before the arrival.
We left our bags in the room and went exploring this colorful city. Everything is bright, full of lights, people, tourists, Thais, food… and when the time is right you also see a lot of lady-boys. We didn’t have any strange experience but we heard some stories.
Chiang Mai by night is awesome. We had to check the Night Bazar. There’s close to shopping paradise, everything is cheap. You even see the old lady selling things you really don’t need.
Food, drinks, music, shopping – streets of Chiang Mai. What I liked in Chiang Mai is, that everything is actually in walking distance.
ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
After a long day, we woke up to a sunny warm morning. Coffee time and the excitement of interacting with big, brave, smart, beautiful creatures – elephants. I booked this one day trip via website Elephant Nature Park. Why choosing this park? It’s hard to convince you with few words because I believe you would like to experience riding an elephant… Well… I choose the park that cares of elephants that have been rescued from the circuses, streets and violent owners. We have had the chance to feed these magnificent animals. We cuddled them, scratched them, even bath them… we didn’t have to force them to do anything – they came to us. Our guide Sai has warned us about certain elephants – or they’re young and naughty or they are just not used to people or they even don’t like people – you can’t blame them after what they have been through.
Maybe it will sound like a cliche but this experience really was the best experience in my life. My heart was at peace because I knew I helped at least a little bit. So think about the park you will pick.
1-hour drive back to Chiang Mai.
The evening was colorful again, spending time at night bazaar, eating good street food and enjoying the relaxed Asian vibe.
TIGER KINGDOM AND COBRA SHOW
Because we got up early few days in a row we decided to sleep a little bit longer the next day. And we did. We drank our coffee and planned our day. We decided to visit Tiger Kingdom. I was skeptical at the time but the reviews were so mixed I had to go and check this tiger park.
The reception at Tiger kingdom was very nice and welcoming. We choose to take a photo with a baby tiger and with baby lion. Before entering the cage you get all instruction needed (like don’t pet his head, don’t make sudden moves etc…)
Honestly, when I entered the cage it was exciting to sit next to this magnificent cat. The cat was a little bit calm but still playful. I’m not the expert so I cannot tell for sure if the tiger had any substances. All I can compare the tiger with is a little house kitty that is very playful and jumpy when few months old.
Other tigers were awake and playful but some of them had the easy mode on. But still animals you have to respect.
Because we wanted to experience more of the north we visited the Cobra show. I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe just observing the snakes in the cages or something similar. The guide was showing us around the park. I was peting the python, garden snake, I had scorpions all over me… it was exciting but still frightening. Teja didn’t want to pet any of these animals but she did hold a baby python for the first time. Hurray for her.
There was a cage with King Cobra in it. This black snake was calm but I still felt the fear. When the guide opened the cage I almost started to run. He grabbed cobra’s tail and said: “Thai legend says if you touch the king cobra you will have luck in your life.” I had to touch it.
After the tour, we watched the show with different types of snakes. It was interesting but I still sat on the highest platform, just in case.
When we were finishing in cobra’s park I was looking for Teja’s camera. I could not find it. I felt sick when I remembered that there is a possibility I forgot the camera in the toilet at Tiger kingdom park. I asked the driver if he could take us there so I can check. I rushed to the bathroom and there were some ladies that were working in the park. I asked them if they found a camera and one of them kindly told me that they stored the camera at the cashiers. It was there! They’ve saved it! I was jumping and saying thank you hundred of times. They were smiling and laughing at me like they really were happy because I’m happy.
It was worth it, touching the King Cobra.
It was a very interesting day but still, after coming to our guesthouse we took a shower and went to the night bazaar again. Good vibe and good food.
LAST DAY IN CHIANG MAI – TEMPLES AND CABARET NIGHT
Our last day in Chiang Mai was in colors of the temples. We explored the city, visited few temples and had more of an easy going day. The evening was reserved for Chiang Mai’s Cabaret that was performed by transgenders. The cabaret was awesome, full of energy and erotic scenes. I liked it.
Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Chiang Mai we loved very much. We loved it so much we will come back. Hopefully next year.
THIRD STOP – PHUKET
After two flights from Chiang Mai, we finally arrived in Phuket. We took a local bus to Phuket town and walked to our hotel Recenta Express Hotel. The room was very clean, modern, spacious and comfortable.
We were tired after the flights and travel but we still managed to explore the Phuket town. It was different than Chang Mai. I think it was more dirty but still, the word “dirty” is not actually an appropriate word. I have to admit my impression of Thai people is that they are clean and tidy although it maybe doesn’t look like at first. Phuket town was nothing special. I was tired and unhappy, I missed Chiang Mai.
When we came to our room we’ve noticed the loud music at the bar/club next to the hotel. There was a loud music also coming out of the bar across the river from the hotel. We were worried if we will be able to fall asleep but we managed that because we were too tired.
The next day we decided to take the bus to Patong Beach. It was only 30 baht per person. That was really cheap and also authentic because we were also driving with locals.
Patong beach was a different story. It was full of people, shops, bars and restaurants. And the beach, finally. We sat back, relaxed, drank a beer and celebrated Christmas on the sunny, sandy beach. Patong and Phuket in general, is a little bit more expensive but still much cheaper than Europe or even The States.
SUNDAY WALKING STREET – PHUKET TOWN
After a relaxing day we went back to Phuket town, took a shower and visited the famous Sunday Walking street market. That was one of a kind experience. Bunch of people enjoying street food, music and positive vibes. There was some food I saw and tasted for the first time in my life. We tried a little bit of everything and I really felt like a local for a little bit. Locals were nice and helpful, there was a lot of smiling and nice gestures.
I have to give you an example how cheap everything was: 4 pieces of “momo” (plain and filled with bamboo), 1 portion (10 pieces) of pork “ravioli”, 1 portion of fried chicken with rice and salad, 1 portion of mixed noodles with duck and sauce, 2 natural orange juices, 1 guava juice, 1 aloe vera juice, 2 chocolate buns and 1 passion fruit juice with cheese (cream) – everything was for less than 300 baht. Impressive! And we were full alright.
We liked Patong beach so that’s why we decided to go there again, on Monday. Although it was a little bit crowded you still had your space. Your belongings are safe and people are nice. In the afternoon we were walking down the street to check out the local shops and tourist agencies. We decided to book a full day trip to Phi Phi islands the next day.
PHI PHI ISLANDS – DAY TOUR
And finally Tuesday – Phi Phi day. We booked the whole day tour at the Rak Talay travel agency. We were fully satisfied and that’s why: they picked us up at the hotel (usually all the packages include the pick up), drove us to the agency where we could drink some coffee, tea, water, have some snacks and just chill in the cool room. Before we headed to the pier, the tour guide explained all the important issues. And off we go. We boarded on the speedboat and took us one hour to come to Maya bay – it is famous because they were filming the movie The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio. It was crowded but you still could take a photo like there were only a few people there. Crystal water, jungle vibe and interesting feeling like you are alone on the island.
After bunch of photos and different poses, we jumped in the water and cool ourselves down. Well, the water was very very warm but still, it was a good refreshment. Next stop was a beautiful surrounding, Viking cave and Monkey beach. We were impressed by the monkeys, all of the sudden there were like 20-30 monkeys. They came out of nowhere. We weren’t allowed to go off the boat because of the safety. We were told monkey could bite. When we were taking photos all of the sudden one of the monkeys decided to join us. Like she wanted to pose for photos, or maybe she was just checking if we had any treats for her. Splash! She jumped to the water and swam back to the island. Awesome!
Then we stopped for snorkeling. Teja didn’t want to snorkel but I like snorkeling very much, so I put on the mask and fins and off I go. There were beautiful corals and lots of colorful fishes. I think I also found Dory. Yaaaay!!!
Our next stop was the biggest island of Phi Phi islands – Phi Phi Don. Phi Phi islands are Muslim so we also had halal lunch on the island. After the lunch, we checked the island. There were lots of bars and cute little shops and diving schools. If I had more time I would definitely join the diving school. But never say never. Maybe next year.
Off we go to the next point – Bamboo island. It was a small island where you could actually swim with fishes. You were in the water and all of these fishes were just surrounding you. Great experience. Of course, there had to be one more snorkeling stop. Our guide told us if we are lucky we could maybe see Nemo. I jumped in the water and after few minutes the guide started yelling that Nemo is here. I gave her my camera and she gave it to the captain so he could dive and make a close-up video of Nemo. Actually, we found Nemo and his dad. Hurray for us! After finding Nemo we headed back to Phuket island. I have to say it was a great tour and I would definitely recommend the Rak Talay travel agency.
I have to mention I’m impressed and overwhelmed by Thai’s. You’re walking down the street, searching for the bus to Kamala beach. A man stops you and asks: “Where you go?” You say where and he nicely points you to the bus. Although this man was a taxi driver. You hop on the bus and just drive through the beautiful scenery. After one hour drive, the driver stops and kindly says that here’s a better path to the beach. You pay and just smile. They are so trusting and trustworthy. You automatically start to analyze yourself.
After one day of relaxing, we also visited the Kamala beach – peaceful beach, less less crowded than Patong beach. Here you can really relax. Massages are everywhere. You also cannot be thirsty or hungry. So if you really like to just relax by the sea and just be with yourself, Kamala beach is a good choice. Unfortunately, the last bus to Phuket Town was at 15.00 so we didn’t have much time. But at least we had few hours.
JAMES BOND ISLAND
We had to make a plan for the next day so we went online and booked a tour to James Bond Island with Silver Hawk Group. It was some kind of discount if booking online so we got a pretty cheap deal for the full day tour with Luxury Boat. First stop was Naka island. Guess what? Our group was the only group on the island. You really had your own space, the sun was shining for you and you could really relax by the calming melody of the sea. We accessed the island with a longtail boat – that was quite an adventure. Respect to people who navigate those boats. When we boarded back on the big boat, a buffet lunch was already prepared. It was freshly cooked because there was also the cooking staff on board. Do I have to say it was delicious? Of course, it was. It’s Thailand! After lunch, we went canoeing into the caves. It’s was an amazing view of all those shiny diamond walls, shells, corals, mangroves and we also saw few monkeys staring at us like we are from Mars. Teja was terrified of unknown but she did it. Hurray again!!
James Bond Island was interesting but in my honest opinion nothing special. But as a “first time in Thailand” tourist you have to strike some poses by the rock. On our way back, we’ve learned how to make beautiful gifts out of lotus flower. You put a candle in the middle, you light it and you put it in the river in a cave. Because of the windy weather, we couldn’t go into the cave bit we managed to put lotuses in the sea. That is the Thai tradition of saying Thank You to the sea and showing respect to the Goddess of the Sea.
The tour in general was really nice, staff was very friendly, they communicated with all of us, thinking about our safety, made us dance and sing. We had lunch and dinner onboard, snacks, coffee, tea and juices, so I can say you were not thirsty or hungry.
I have probably mentioned that the location of our hotel was not that great because of the loud music coming out of the bars and clubs surrounding the hotel. It is probably better in Patong beach. So we decided to book another hotel for the last night in Phuket. We booked a beautiful room in Ruen Tai Boutique and it’s just 1,2km from the Airport Phuket. That is really great because of the early flight the next day to Bangkok.
FINAL DAYS IN BANGKOK
Made it to Bangkok. Our plan for Sunday was to visit JJ Market that is one of the biggest markets in the world. First, we rushed to the hotel, we put our luggage in the room and kindly asked the staff to call us a taxi. When we told them we wanted to visit the market (it is approximately half an hour drive by car) they suggested we take a taxi only to first Skytrain station Udom Suk. And we did that. By Skytrain we arrived exactly where we wanted – in the center of Chatuchak market. It is organized in sections and has more than 8000 stands. You surely can find literally anything there.
After a whole day of cruising, exploring and a little bit of shopping we decided to go to the hotel to get a good night sleep.
Next day we decided to go to the center of Bangkok. We didn’t plan our days in this big city so we just went with the flow. When we came to the center station by the river we took a whole day pass for hop-on hop-off boat that takes you from station to station. You hop off wherever and whenever you like, explore things that are interesting for you. So we visited Chinatown, Wat Arun, Riverside walk. We also came to the Grand Palace but it was already after 4 p.m. – the Palace visiting time ends at 3.30 p.m. We decided to visit the palace the next day. When we were returning to the Skytrain station by boat we had a little bit of energy to visit a shopping center MBK. This really was a big mall with everything in it. From market clothing and street food to electronic devices and cosmetics. Although this was a shopping building, you could always bargain. “Is this the final price?” I would ask.
GRAND PALACE, BANGKOK
Our actually last day for exploring Bangkok is here. We went straight to the Grand Palace. I read online you have to be properly dressed – no skirts, shorts, sleeveless shirts or flip flops. So I put on a T-shirt and black leggings. Imagine my surprise when they didn’t let me in – because of the leggings. I had to borrow the skirt (they have everything organized and prepared). You give them a deposit of 200 baht and you get the money back when you return your piece of clothing back. I don’t have to describe the beauty of the Palace. All these structures and golden decorations. It’s just simply breath taking.
After visiting the Grand Palace we had a quick stop at the Khao San Road. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time so we took a bite of a delicious street Pad Thai and headed back on the boat and by Skytrain to Siam center. We wanted to make the most of our last day in Bangkok and in Thailand in general.
We had a good night sleep, we had a big cup of morning coffee and off we go to the airport. It was cloudy that day. Like we were taking the sun back with us to freezing Slovenia.
Flight from Bangkok to Doha, Qatar was calm and quite comfortable. It would be maybe less nerve wrecking if some people would have their manners or polite attitude. Like Ellen DeGeneres would say “Be kind to one another.” Well… this quote can be really hard or impossible for some people.
We had a long stopover in Doha so we spent the night in the hotel Amari Doha. And here’s Thursday. The day of our last flight this vacation and the day of our arrival to the final destination.
What can I say about this vacation? It is not that hard to put some good words but my feelings cannot be put into words. I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning but at the end, I fell in love. After a couple of days, my heart was overwhelmed by the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are honest, trustworthy and can definitely be trusted. I remember the video of this guy who actually stayed in Thailand after visiting for the first time. He said at the end of the video: “This is my first and last time in Thailand.”
I’m coming back Slovenia but don’t worry Thailand. I’m coming back as soon as possible.
Thailand, why did I fall in love with you? Because you’re same same… but different.