So, I’ve written a few summaries on my highlights (and some lowlights aka tips for travelling). I’ll start where it all began… in Thailand!
- Cookery Course, Chiang Mai
I did a cookery course on my birthday, because I love food. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but the Penang curry I made was better than any I’d actually tasted in Thailand. Actually, I don’t claim my cookery skills to be better than Thai people – it was good thanks to the team effort of smashing a great peanut-filled curry paste together, and obviously the skilled instructions from the course leader. We also made soup, spring rolls, and Pad Thai (classic). You can do these courses all over Asia, but I recommend Chiang Mai as it is known for its cuisine, and we also got a recipe book to try them out at home.
- Nai Yung Beach, Phuket
It’s worth noting that in the low season, there appears to be more sea-lice in the water, and this really stung me in a lot of places all over Asia. However, Nai Yung beach sticks out in my mind as the best all-round beach we went to over the whole of our travels. It was how I imagined all the other beaches would be, and was perfect for swimming. This area of Phuket was not easy to travel from, but it is quiet and was just what we needed after Bangkok, jungle treks and Ayutthaya. Around the beach were lovely restaurants (one right on the beach, we went to about 3 times), massage parlours, and great street food in the form of Pad Thai and chicken on a stick.
- Night Markets, Chiang Mai
Luckily, this was another birthday activity. The Chiang Mai night market was one of the busiest and biggest over the trip. There were food stalls, and music, and tons of things for sale in the stalls that lined the streets. We wished we had brought more money with us, but I got the gift of a magnet (I like to collect them from each country I go to) and an elephant ring. We went there thinking we would just take a quick look, but ended up staying until closing time. There’s something about it that’s hypnotising, but it could just be the culture of consumption we’ve grown up with in the UK.
- Nature, various
The two big nature activities we did in Thailand were trekking in the forest on Bobby’s Jungle Tour, and going to the Elephant Nature Sanctuary. The first of these trips took place in a National Park. But National Parks in Asia aren’t like many I’ve experienced before. Much of it contained wild forestry and animals lived in their natural habitat for the most part, and we walked in search of animals. The best part was seeing millions of bats escape from their cave at sunset, which would go on for at least an hour. I booked the Elephant Nature Sanctuary for two days, and although one day would have been enough, the second day was more enjoyable for some reason. My favourite part was feeding the elephants, as well and just generally learning more about elephants and hearing their individual stories.
- Temples, Bangkok and Ayutthaya
My partner is a big fan of temples, so mostly I would go for that reason. However, the temples in Thailand are undeniably amazing, and it’s really fortunate that they allow tourists to look at these incredible architectural wonders. I preferred those in Ayutthaya to those in Bangkok as the pace of the old capital is slower and there are old ruins, and the Buddha head entwined in tree roots, so it was historically interesting, as well as beautiful.
Tips: Beware of scams, and buy a copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to South East Asia. My partner didn’t want to take it at first because of the weight, but he admitted that it was really useful to have. This outlines the scams and we could pretty much tick them all off during our time there. Here are some of the ones we experienced:
- The first day we set foot out in Bangkok, we were offered a ride to the boat port, and the driver took us to the wrong one. Despite having already checked the prices, we forked out an extortionate amount for a private boat, when we should have taken a cheap public one.
- We approached one of the main temples in Bangkok, and were approached by a man who claimed to work there (no uniform) and he told us it was closed until the afternoon, and reserved for monks at that time. I knew he was wrong as I’d checked the opening times, so we didn’t get caught out on this one.
- A man kept following us, trying to get us in a too-cheap tuk-tuk. This was likely to be a gem scam, and could have been potentially dangerous. He followed us into a 7-11 and may have been trying to steal something.
- We were dropped off at the beach on a very small island, and we were told they would pick us up for the last boat back to Phuket. However, they did not show up and we were saved by a taxi that got us there just as the boat was boarding. I’m not quite sure what the scam was, perhaps to get us to stay and spend money on the island?