5 flights, 1 overnight train, 12 days… This is what we managed to pack into our trip to Thailand in June. Exhausting but would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
Myself and my friend hadn’t been to Asia before and were slightly overwhelmed by the idea of going it alone, and didn’t have a clear plan of places we wanted to go or things we wanted to see, so you see our problem. Because of this, we decided to start the journey with an 8 day tour which started in Bangkok, travelled down to Khao Sok National Park and ended in Koh Phangan. When the tour finished, we flew up north to spend our remaining days in Chiang Mai.
I would definitely recommend the tour not only for someone who hasn’t travelled much before, but also people who just want a taster of many different areas of Thailand with a guide who will show you places which you may not have visited otherwise. A perfect example of this was Khao Sok National Park – we stayed for one night in the most idyllic floating bungalows in an incredible setting which I would have never even heard of, if it weren’t for the tour stopping there. We enjoyed the day kayaking and relaxing in inflatable rings. The food provided was delicious and traditional Thai, served family-style so there was a great variety to choose from too. However if I were to revisit, I would still only stay for a maximum of one night as it is so small, you would be limited for things to do if you stayed for any longer.
Similarly, we also stayed at Bottle Beach for one night which I wouldn’t have known about had we not been on the tour. This was yet another small but stunning location, we had rooms which were directly on the beach, with hammocks on each terrace – the perfect Thailand scene! Unfortunately it was quite overcast when we were there so I can only imagine how lovely it would be when the sun shines.
An experience from the tour which I wouldn’t be in a rush to repeat is the overnight train we took from Bangkok to Khao Sok… It would be a good novelty for half an hour, maybe an hour at the most however 12 hours travelling from 6pm until 6am definitely provided me with the most uncomfortable nights sleep (if I even got any) ever! If I were to get an overnight train again I would absolutely pay extra to get a higher quality cabin.
Aside from the train experience, all accommodation provided on the tour was of a really high standard and I would revisit any if I were to go back to the same areas of Thailand. In Koh Phangan, we stayed at the Echo Beach Backpackers Hostel – this really was a fantastic hostel, everything from the social areas and dorm rooms to the tattoo parlour above the bar and hostel pet dogs, it was all great! Not to forget the idyllic view as the back of the bar opens out onto the beach. Online, this place is marketed as a party hostel so perhaps one to avoid during high season if you’re not into that, but it was very chilled and relaxed when I was there in June so don’t let the ‘party hostel’ labels put you off!
I would highly recommend the Tru Travels Thailand Experience tour; it is very reasonably priced considering the amount of things it includes – accommodation, food at Khao Sok, our final evening meal, various excursions including boat trips in Bangkok and Koh Phangan, temple visits and of course the invaluable knowledge of our guide, May.
After the tour, my friend and I flew up to Chiang Mai and stayed at Baan Boo Loo Village for the remaining 3 nights. It looked amazing in photos online but in person it is really something special. Despite being in the centre of Chiang Mai, it is set in amongst trees so it feels like a peaceful oasis but with the bustling city just a few streets away. We stayed in the Rice Farmers House and photos don’t do it the justice it deserves, the traditional Thai style was stunning and I felt incredibly lucky to be staying there.
Whilst in Chiang Mai, we did a cooking class which was a great experience! We made traditional dishes such as green Thai curry, pad thai and the vibrant pea flower rice with mango. It was so delicious and a really fun way to spend a rainy afternoon.
My personal highlight of the entire holiday had to be the time we spent with elephants. We thoroughly researched centres which had high ethical standards, so that we weren’t supporting the abuse that happens at some ‘sanctuaries’. We ended up booking with Elephant Care, which has a strict ‘no rides’ and ‘no beating’ policy and it seems that the welfare of the animals is really put first. Our guide Kenneth was extremely informative throughout the day and he was upfront about the way elephants were treated poorly for the sake of tourist entertainment in the past however, he emphasised that Thailand has greatly improved and there are strict laws in place to protect the elephants. The day was spent feeding the elephants, walking through the forest with them, and finally we were in the river with them whilst they bathed. At no point were they chained, it felt like we were just accompanying them as they were able to roam freely. It was an incredible day and I would absolutely recommend Elephant Care.
The day with elephants was the perfect way to finish our truly amazing Thailand trip! It was such a whirlwind and I had so many unique experiences packed into our 12 days, I will definitely be exploring more of South-East Asia in the coming years.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter @evierosetravels 🙂 until next time…