March 16, 2016 Mariko_Admin

Exploring, learning, eating and relaxing in Thailand

A lot happened in Thailand. As I’m sure is the case for most people who travel to and visit the exotic and slightly mysterious south east asian country. I survived a jelly fish sting, a traditional thai hot coffee spill on my bare legs, and multiple work outs on the beach in 40 degree temperatures. haha!

This man was quick to help me out haha....fresh aloe vera, literally from around the corner, being applied to the burn, and the stinging went down by evening.

One of my best friend’s, Maggie, and I started out in Vietnam (blog on that later) then went on to Phuket, then Koh Samui, then Bangkok.

This order of locations allowed us to party, then relax, then learn and explore which I highly recommend.

PHUKET

The most touristy part of all of Thailand, there are some things I recommend doing just once, to experience it, and there are some activities and places that are not totally expected on such a “party island”.

Photo Left: This man was quick to help me out haha….fresh aloe vera, literally from around the corner, being applied to the burn, and the stinging went down by evening.

Where to stay: Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa.

This hotel is trendy, clean and pretty low key considering it’s only 2km from Patong beach. The architecture and decor is modern, eclectic and soothing. It overlooks the Andaman sea, has really nice breakfast overlooking the pool, the lush hotel grounds and the sea in the distance. I highly recommend it if you want to experience Patong beach and its surrounding touristy area but want to be able to hideaway – as the name suggests – when you want a breather.

Part of the gorgeous lobby at Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa in Phuket.

Part of the gorgeous lobby at Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa in Phuket.

Another angle of Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa, with the Andaman Sea in the background.

Another angle of Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa, with the Andaman Sea in the background.

What to do:

Walk along Patong, get a massage on one of the main drags facing the beach, eat street food: look for a trolly, usually with an old woman making soup and Pad Thai right in front of you and you’re guaranteed a fresh and authentic dish. The old lady cooked the noodles while I watched, the meats and veggies were all laid out in front of us, with various sauces and it was sooooo tasty.

Look for the street meat trolly's in and around Patong street. If they're making this noodle dish in front of you, go for it. So delicious and so cheap.

Look for the street meat trolly’s in and around Patong street. If they’re making this noodle dish in front of you, go for it. So delicious and so cheap.

If you feel like you can’t visit without having experienced the spectacle that is a lady boy show, just beware that it leaves you questioning all sorts of things in life – mainly because a lot of them don’t seem all that happy. Also to note – when the show is done and they line up outside courting you to take a photo with them, they will expect you to give them money.

Elephant and rubber tree tour: Odd combination you may think to yourself, but guess what? Thailand is the largest producer of rubber because they have trees that produce a milky latex used to make rubber. I booked the half day elephant tour on viator.com and as always when I book with them, was happy with what we got. We rode elephants, learned about the rubber trees, learned about making thai curry (ridiculously delicious) and drank traditional thai coffee (where I had my accident but was taken care of quickly and efficiently!).

Pretty smart elephants, and guides with attitude ;)

Pretty smart elephants, and guides with attitude 😉

KOH SAMUI

This was my favourite part of Thailand. It offers both relaxation and nightlife, both beach/beautiful scenics and city fun like shopping and bars/music/culture. November, December, March, May to August are the best months to be here. September and October have big waves so it may be hard to get to the full moon party, April may be uncomfortably hot and January and February are high season so everything is more expensive and busier than the other months.

Where to stay: Sandalwood Luxury Villas.

A small boutique, yet authentically Thai hotel, set up in the hills, overlooking the bay, this place is extra special and you’ll remember it long after you leave. A personal driver is on call 24/7 because you can’t walk up to the hotel from the main street because it’s too steep to walk and most cabs won’t venture up that way. They also provide you with a local cell phone for the duration of your stay and the owner acts as a concierge and gives you personable guidance on what to do and what to see. All but one room has their own personal pool overlooking the bay and the beaches below. Each room has an outdoor tub. And the first day our room was filled with mangosteen, rose apples and dragon fruit. Needless to say, it’s heavenly.

View from our room at Sandalwood Luxury Villas in Koh Samui.

View from our room at Sandalwood Luxury Villas in Koh Samui.

Our villa at Sandalwood Luxury Villas. Beyond epic.

Our villa at Sandalwood Luxury Villas. Beyond epic.

What to do:

Go see a mixed martial arts/muy thai fight. A super popular sport in this country, you’re likely to see anyone from juniors just getting into the sport to older veterans from around the world. Good for grabbing a beer and experiencing some local culture and part of the ceremony is actually quite spiritual.

Before or after the fight, grab a bite to eat at Coconut Willy’s on Chaweng Road. It’s across from the stadium and at first glance it looks cheesy and touristy but it actually has good food (we had boiled shrimp and squid and stir fried chicken with ginger).

*A note about the length of menus in Thailand – they are large and seemingly never ending but don’t be fooled, that’s just how they do it over there. Whereas that’s usually an indication that the food is going to be quite mediocre and stale here in north america, that’s not the case in south east asia.

Right around the corner from the stadium is an outdoors shisha spot. It’s a fun place to unwind and take in the nighttime hustle and bustle of one of the main drags.

A must do is another Viator tour, the Koh Samui Brunch and Snorkelling Cruise. Led by a German, this cruise is one of the coolest things we did in Thailand. The yacht is large and made of gorgeous wood, the brunch is fresh and delicious including lots of local fruit.  The setting is all blue skies and crystal clear water, and of course, there’s time allotted for snorkelling. Full disclosure, there can be some jelly fish but nothing that can’t be soothed with some aloe vera.

The Koh Samui Brunch and Snorkelling Cruise. Ah-mazing.

The Koh Samui Brunch and Snorkelling Cruise. Ah-mazing.

If you’re looking for some spirituality, head on over to the local buddhist temple to receive a monk blessing. He ties two deliberate knots and quietly chants “happy, happy, happy Buddha, Buddha happy, happy, happy Buddha” for good luck…or so he said!

Of course, you can’t leave the area without going to a full moon party (plan your itinerary accordingly). From Koh Samui, you can take a 20 minute boat ride to the island that hosts it. There are boats that come and go pretty frequently so you can go as hard as you’d like.  Buy boat tickets in advance.

Full moon party via boat from Koh Samui. Lots of lights, face paint and drinks.

Full moon party via boat from Koh Samui. Lots of lights, face paint and drinks.

Lastly, the domestic departures terminal at the Samui airport is really lovely, with lily pad ponds, boutique shopping, local snacks and a relaxed and open lounge area. If you arrive at the airport early, you won’t mind with a setting like this.

BANGKOK

The capital is lively and interesting and our three nights and two full days was a good amount of time to get a solid taste for what this mysterious city is all about.

What to do:

A casual spot around the corner from our hotel quickly became our go to restaurant for quick and easy meals. It’s called Cafe Ice and it’s right across from the State Tower. Be warned – the setting is slam bam thank you mam. As in, the outside tables are literally on the corner of a busy, somewhat dirty intersection, BUT I’m telling you the food makes it worth the not so slick setting. Everything we ordered during those few meals was delicious, especially their “seafood sauce” AND it’s open 24 hours.

The Dome at Lebua (at the top of the State Tower) is a must do. A rooftop restaurant, with almost a 360 degree view of the city, and live music, you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie. It’s seriously swanky and the food is pretty good but you go for the ambiance. Smart casual dress code.

Le Dome in the State Tower. A fun fancy dinner experience, with the best view of the city.

Le Dome in the State Tower. A fun fancy dinner experience, with the best view of the city.

After spending a special and memorable dinner at The Dome, head on over to Maggie Choo’s, a speakeasy style bar with sexy ladies swinging from the ceiling and draped across the piano and elaborate cocktails. You truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

The famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is well worth it and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s best to arrange a tour with your hotel so that you leave the city by van, then are escorted to the main market section where you hop on a wooden boat and then have a reliable way to get back to the hotel afterwards. As with all markets, don’t be afraid to bargain and try some of the food. The Durian is a common local fruit that doesn’t smell very good but worth trying at least once as the taste is quite good and unique. And definitely try the mini pancakes made of coconut! The ladies make them right in front of you on their boat and they are super tasty and satisfying.

Mini coconut pancakes at the floating market outside of Bangkok.

Mini coconut pancakes at the floating market outside of Bangkok.

Floating towards the market outside Bangkok.

Floating towards the market outside Bangkok.

School children and tourist alike, enjoy the food and treasures from the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.

School children and tourist alike, enjoy the food and treasures from the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.

The Wat Phra Kaew is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple and is gorgeous. There’s not a whole lot of shade so if you go during a hot day, be prepared.

Buddhist Temple in Bangkok.

Buddhist Temple in Bangkok.

There you have it travellers – Thailand is a lively, exotic and spiritual place full of nooks and crannies, food and beaches to explore. Go with an open mind, some street smarts and an adventurous spirit and you will come back a happy person.

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