I love everything that South East Asia has to offer and so far Thailand has to be one of my favourite places to visit. We flew from London to Bangkok and then used Thai airlines to fly internally which was super easy and not expensive – this makes it very easy to have lots of mini holidays in one, even when you only have two weeks – my favourite kind of trip 🙂
Ticking off the city tour
I wasn’t sure I’d like Bangkok, my only perceptions of it being from The Beach! But it was a great, vibrant city with that old versus new feel that SE Asia does so well.
You can get around easily using the sky train and we also utilised the river boat – totally unreliable schedule wise but an authentic experience not to be missed. We skipped the shopping and explored a number of temples including the Grand Palace. I thought I was covered up but a guard with a very loud megaphone decided otherwise so I had to join the queue to hire some more modest clothes.
We also had a lovely, if slightly jet lagged, wander around Lumphini Park which is definitely worth a visit. We stayed in the So Sofitel, a recommendation from a friend, and I loved it. In the heart of the city it has a beautiful vibe, a bar with a great view over the city and a lovely comfy bed after that 13 hour flight.
Getting active in the north
Then it was a quick flight (just over an hour) to Chiang Mai. What a fab place, it was really buzzing and lively yet felt incredibly safe for two female travellers. The night market was a great experience with lots of beautiful notebooks , scarves and woodwork to choose from. Sarah and I put our frankly dreadful bartering skills into practice and came away with an elephant shaped wine rack each – both of which are still going strong.
This was an adrenaline filled few days, although we started off lightly with a tour around local temples, including climbing the 300 Naga (a serpent diety) guarded steps to the What Phra That Doi Suthep temple which was worth it for the beautiful panoramic view of the city and the intricacies of design. We also couldn’t miss the Wat Pho temple with it’s incredible reclining buddha.
To be honest once you’ve seen one buddha you’ve kind of seen them all, so eager to explore the surrounding countryside we set out the next day on a cycle through the countryside, following the Ping River through fruit orchards, small villages and temple ruins. Heading back into town was slightly hair-raising as I followed our guide weaving in and out of four lanes of rush hour traffic – definitely an experience!
Our last full day in Chiang Mai was definitely the best as we headed to the Mae Taeng region and set off on mountain bikes, even passing a few elephants on the way, to get to the start of a hike to the Huay Sathan Waterfall. The pouring rain at this point made it even more of a adventure as we clambered up and down over the rocks to reach our goal. After some downtime enjoying the waterfall we set off on a rafting trip down the Mae Taeng river – 10km of grade 3 rapids through gorges and beautiful countryside, one of the best places I’ve rafted so a definite must do.
And then to the beach
With an active few days of adventures under our belts it was off for a bit of island hopping. We flew to Phuket and then hopped a private speed boat to our hotel on Ko Phi Phi. The speedboat was a bit of a splurge after weighing up the options of trekking across the island to the ferry and the four hour journey itself – when you only have two weeks it’s hacks like this that make it easier to see more. Feeling a bit like James Bond we arrived at our island hotel and our beach relaxation began.
We spent the next day relaxing by the ocean before booking in for a boat trip to explore the famous Maya Bay that you’ll know from The Beach. Now an untouched paradise this isn’t, years of being on the tourist trail means you really do have to go early to have a chance of appreciating the peace, although leaping off the side of the boat into the water was totally worth it. It’s currently closed to visitors in a bid to try and reverse some of the damage to the coral reef.
We then headed back to Phuket, choosing to stay in the north which was fairly peaceful. To be honest we didn’t explore too much and instead chilled out in our hotel which was superb with infinity pools dotted all over the place with beautiful views of the garden. We also took a paddle board out in the bay where my skills learnt in Ibiza stood me in good stead and I was up and paddling around in no time.
One last awesome meal
I’d booked our International flights separately to our internal ones as we wanted to take advantage of air miles. This is a great way to get a bargain however it means you’re not covered if your internal flight is late causing you to miss your international one. Hence we travelled back to Bangkok for one last evening before flying home – I learnt my lesson on this when I had a three hour gap in South Africa and ended up with a four hour delay….but that’s a whole other story.
We landed at 6pm in Bangkok and realised that the hotel I’d booked was the other side of town to the restaurant I’d chosen for our last meal (a rare moment of bad planning there!). So we opted to leave our bags at the airport and head straight to Vertigo at the Banyan Tree looking like we’d just stepped off the beach, which of course we had. We smartened up a bit in the ladies bathroom before taking our seats on the 61st open air floor and enjoyed a few cocktails as we watched the sun go down on our Thailand adventure.