I'm going to try and keep this post short and sweet, but considering that we spent 40 days in Thailand, it's not going to be easy. Why did we spend so long in Thailand? Because it's beautiful, cheap and always fun!
Bangkok is one of my favourite cities in South East Asia. A lot of people don't like it, but I love the energy of the city and how chaotic it is. The city is full of life and has a lot to offer. If you're into history, you can spend days exploring the temples in and around Bangkok. The city has amazing shopping and the markets are incredible. You can buy just about anything your heart desires. The food - oh the food - it's so good and so cheap! And let's not forget the nightlife. You have to visit Bangkok and see for yourself how crazy it is.
We arrived in Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur and paid $80/pp for our flights. Gotta love Air Asia! After 8 years, I was excited to be back in this city and show Mike around. We checked into the Swana Hotel, which is well located - only a 10 minute walk From Khaosan Road. We got a good deal from Booking.com and the price included a rather pathetic 'breakfast' consisting of tea, coffee and crackers.
Since I've done the historical tour on my first trip to Thailand and because Mike wasn't interested in seeing more temples, we simply spent 4 nights in Bangkok wandering around the city with very little planned.
Welcome to Khaosan Road. This is the first place I wanted to take Mike. You just have to go there to understand why everyone pays it a visit. It's crazy, fun and trashy at the same time. It's basically a 1km street with hostels, travel agencies, restaurants, bars, market stalls and massage parlours. Once upon a time, it used to be a quiet street and then somehow it became very popular with backpackers and budget travellers, probably because it's really cheap! According to one of my favourite movies and books, The Beach, Khaosan Road is described as 'the centre of the backpacking universe'. And it's true - a lot of travellers start their South East Asia travels here because it's the perfect place to meet other travellers from across the world and exchange stories and travel tips. It's also a short flight away from other major cities in Asia.
At night, the vibe on Khaosan Road is very different. The bars are packed with drunk people, and blasting REALLY loud music. The music from one bar is overpowering the music of another bar and you just don't know what to focus on. So basically, you have to be drunk, in which case, you won't be focusing on anything else except your bucket of alcohol. It's absolute madness! Oh and, don't go and watch a Ping Pong show because it's not just a fun game of table tennis.
If you get tired of eating rice and noodles, you can always go for something more exotic. Khaosan Road is the perfect place to nibble on fried grasshoppers, roaches, scorpions and much more. How boring does the fish and chicken look in the second photo?
There's also hundreds of Tuk Tuk drivers everywhere asking you if you need a ride. The ride is always fun except when the drivers try and rip you off. This is the cheapest and most fun mode of transportation in Thailand.
RIght next to Khaosan is Rambuttri Village which is much nicer. It's like the better, well-behaved sibling of Khaosan Road. The laid back vibe, cozy cafe's and a variety of restaurants are exactly what we were looking for.
WHERE TO EAT
This is a hard question to answer because you can find good and cheap food almost anywhere in Bangkok. We found the best Thai food just outside of Khaosan Road and in Rambuttri Village. One place that we really enjoyed was White Connor's. It's not much more than a hole in the wall, but this tiny, family-run restaurant serves amazing pad thai and delicious Thai coffee. Most of the thai dishes cost anyone from 50-100baht (CAD$1.80-3.50).
I also met a friend in the lobby of our hotel and here's how it happened:
I was working on the blog, sipping on my coffee and totally in the zone when this bubbly, chubby man approached me asking me if I knew how to connect his phone to the internet. He said he tried everything, but he couldn't figure out why he wasn't able to search for anything in google. Before I could even say a word, he sat right beside me like an eager student. After a few minutes, I solved his issue. Just when I thought he might leave, our conversation drifted from the internet problem to his ex wife, ex girlfriends and a lot of other personal things. I knew I was screwed. This man could talk! Eventually he started flirting and saying inappropriate things, but I didn't let it phase me so I remained nice. I knew that deep down he was just a lonely man and that he desperately wanted someones company. However, things got a bit weird when he asked to take a picture of me. And what did I say? Being the nice person that I am, I said, 'Sure, why not?' So, I sat there like a fool, he took my picture and told me that he would e-mail it to me. Great! Who knows what he's going to do with the picture. I was hoping that he would soon forget how to use his phone and the picture would be lost forever. :(
After about TWO HOURS, Mike came and rescued me finally. From then on, we came up with a nickname for the man. We called him 'The German' because he was from Germany. Yes, I know - not very original. This man was quite a character. He made friends with almost everyone in the hotel and I know this because every time we'd walk through the lobby he was chatting and having a drink with a new person.
Anyway, if you ever see that photo of me somewhere on the internet, please let me know.
There's a ton of travel agencies in and around Khaosan Road, so after shopping around we picked one and booked our bus and boat to Koh Chang - an island I've wanted to check out for a long time. We made plans to meet my sister there, who is currently teaching in Thailand as well as a good couple of friends who are also travelling the world.
KOH CHANG - THE ELEPHANT ISLAND
Some people say that when you're approaching the island, the shape resembles an elephant which is how the island got it's name. Koh Chang is located in the Gulf of Thailand and very close to the Cambodian border. It is the largest island in the area and probably the most unspoiled. Even though there's development along most of the coast, the rugged, mountainous interior is inaccessible and covered with dense jungle.
One of the things I loved about this island is that it's not overcrowded with tourists and in our experience, it is the cheapest of all the islands we visited.
There are two piers you can go to from Bangkok. We took a 7 hour bus to Centrepoint pier, a 1 hour ferry. The bus and ferry cost us 930 baht ($34 for both of us) and the taxi ride was 100baht/pp. When we arrived at the pier, there wasn't too many people waiting. It's nothing like the crowds you get in the southern islands. Half way through the ferry ride, Koh Chang started to appear. It looked like one lush jungle!
Once we got off, there was a bunch of pickup trucks (used as taxis) waiting to pick up everyone. Each truck was going to a specific location - White Sands Beach, Lonely Beach, Kai Bae, Bang Bao, etc. We got onto the truck that was heading to Lonely Beach and paid 100 baht each. The 20 minute ride was absolutely beautiful.
Because the island is so big, the beaches are actually separate neighbourhoods and relatively far apart.
WHITE SANDS BEACH
This is the most developed beach and our least favourite. The beach is pretty nice and being full of resorts and hotels it attracts more families and honeymooners. The cafe's and restaurants are more expensive as well.
This is our favourite beach and the one we stayed at. Because of the laid back atmosphere and rustic appeal, this neighbourhood attracts more backpackers and hippies. We also found the restaurants and bars to be well priced. The beach itself is nice, but it's nothing like some of the beaches you get in southern Thailand. In fact, having visited beaches around the world, Koh Chang's beaches are nothing spectacular. But that's ok - the reggae music, friendly locals and kick-ass vibe made up for it!
At this point in our travels we wanted to treat ourselves for a few days and stay at a nice hotel. We found the perfect place. Nest Sense Resort was exactly what we were looking for. For $85/night we were in heaven! This price included a ridicilous all you can eat breakfast and a sea-view room!
We could only afford 3 nights at this beautiful place so we made sure to soak it all up. When my sister arrived we moved next door to Paradise Cottages. Beautifull property, but the cabins were dirty and we ended up having a bed bug problem which created all kinds of drama with the owner. She wouldn't refund us so we had to move to another cabin which was not much cleaner. :(
Lonely Beach also has the best nightlife which consist of beach parties, and a bunch of bars on the main street. Check out Ting Tong bar - it's a lot of fun! There's something going on every night at a different bar, so you end up seeing a lot of the same people there.
WHERE TO EAT
Cafe del Sunshine
Forget going anywhere else. This place has it all - Thai food and western food. It's also very affordable. We ate at this place daily and never missed a day without having a DELICIOUS coconut smoothie.
Located next to Lonely Beach, Bailan Bay can be reached by kayak or a 20 minute walk. It's very nice and relaxing especially if you want to get away from it all.
This is our favourite spot after Lonely Beach. It's an old fishing village that has been redeveloped for tourists. Once again, it's very laid back, the beaches are not crowded and there's a bunch of cute restaurants scattered around. It has a real rustic feel to it as well. We came across this cool beach bar that was Bob Marley themed. Guess where I spent most of the day? :)
Considering the size of Koh Chang, there's a lot to see on the island. You can spend your days exploring the different beaches, villages and waterfalls. We didn't do it all because we had to much fun at the beach; however, we did rent a scooter for a few days and ended up driving around most of the island. Totally worth it!
We stumbled across Kai Bee Viewpoint and watched one of the many mesmerizing sunsets that Koh Chang has to offer.
In conclusion, it's a beautiful island to visit and my favourite. It's cheap, less crowded and it has the perfect combination of beach and jungle.
OH! I CANNOT forget this awesome Thai lady that we saw on Lonely Beach every day. Unfortunately, I can't remember her name, but everyone on the beach knew her. Not only is she friendly and cheerful, but she also had the craziest laugh. Her famous line was 'Happy foh you'. I will never forget that. Look out for her on Lonely beach and make sure to buy a bracelet from her. She says it will bring you good luck. :)
We left Koh Chang and returned to Bangkok. The next few days were extremely stressful and hectic for two reasons.
REASON 1: We figured that this would be the best place to apply for the Brazilian visa because we were in Thailand for a while. We were also told that it takes about 3 weeks to get approved as Canadian citizens, so we wanted to get it done as soon as possible. We did a lot of research and realized that this application was going to take a lot of work. I think it was even harder because we were on the road with no real plans. In order to even be considered for the visa we had to have a flight in and out of Brazil. On top of that, we had to have some form of itinerary when we arrived in Brazil, which is a bit ridiculous. This was hard and required a lot of planning.
REASON 2: Since we had to get our passport ready and go to the Brazilian embassy, we just happen to notice that our Thai visa was only good for 30 days. This was a problem because we were staying for 40 days (we already booked a flight to Indonesia). We were freaking out because we didn't know how long this would all take. How much did it cost? Was there a fine? In the end, we ended up paying about $75 each to extend the visa for 10 days. If it was less than 10 days, it would have been cheaper to just pay the fine. We basically spent the entire day sitting in the worst traffic, waiting at the embassy and doing a lot of paperwork.
In the end, our Brazilian visa was ready in ONE DAY - VERY IMPRESSIVE - and we got our Thai visa extended the same day that we applied. Yay!
I don't have a whole lot to say about this island except that I don't like it. It's located in the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand. It's very crowded, commercialized and in my opinion, caters the most to sex tourists and honeymooners. I've been here once before and I didn't want to go back, but Mike didn't believe me that it was that bad, so we went anyway. It's also close to a couple of other islands (Koh Phangan and Koh Tao), so visiting the three just made the most sense.
To get to Koh Samui we flew from Bangkok to Surathani and took a ferry to the island. From there we took a shuttle bus to Chaweng Beach. After being there for a couple of days, Mike wasn't too impressed. He basically ended up hating it as well. Sure, there's nice beaches and scenery, but the overall vibe just sucks. Avoid this island unless trashy bars and nuru massages are your thing.
A much nicer area to visit is Lamai Beach, which has a more chill atmosphere and these awesome bungalows! Too bad we didn't actually stay here.
Take my advice and just skip this island all together. There are many beautiful spots in Thailand and Koh Samui is not our list.
The first time I visited Koh Phangan I wasn't the biggest fan of it. That's because I spent the entire time on Haad RIn Beach which is famous for the Full Moon Party. It's fun for a day OR if if you just graduated high school. This time around I wanted to do it differently and explore the island a little more.
We booked a room at Milky Bay Resort (CAD$45/night) which is located on BanTa Beach and a very short distance from Thong Sala pier. The hotel was fantastic. We had a beautiful cabin, breakfast included and the restaurant on the property had the best BBQ ever! Also, the staff members were the friendliest people we met in Thailand and they just happen to be Burmese.
We also managed to sneak my sister in here for a few days who was coming to meet us for Christmas and the Full Moon Party.
HAAD RIN BEACH
This is the beach that's famous for the Full Moon party. It's beautiful, but I can only imagine how much better it used to be 30 years ago before all the rowdy tourists arrived. Haad Rin is always busy and the majority of people are in their early 20's who just want to party and get wasted. Because there's a lot of beach parties here there's also a TON of garbage! You couldn't pay me to swim in there.
There's quite a lot to do on Koh Phangan. You can rent a scooter and check out the beautiful beaches and nature. There's waterfalls and good hiking as well. If you're into yoga, there's a lot of yoga resorts as well. We couldn't do it all, of course, but we rented a scooter and checked out a few of the spots.
We wanted to go here just because of the name. We couldn't find a salad anywhere, but the beach was gorgeous!
This is a tiny island connected to Mae Haad Beach by a sandbar. It's perfect for relaxing and snorkelling.
WHERE TO EAT
Milky Bay Resort Restaurant
We had some really good seafood and pizzas at our hotel, so we ate quite a few meals here.
Soul Food Cafe
A vegan restaurant run by an Italian guy and his Brazilian girlfriend. The food is really good and well priced! We also had one of the best coffee's on our trip here.
My sister arrived on Christmas Day and just in time for the Full Moon Party. I only agreed to go AGAIN because Mike wanted to see what it was all about. When we arrived at Haad Rin Beach, I couldn't believe the amount of people that were there - almost 30,000! When I was there 8 years ago, there was only a fraction of that.
ONCE UPON A TIME...
This was an idyllic spot where hippies gathered, smoking marijuana and playing the guitar. The first Full Moon party started in 1987 and it was someone's birthday. The party ended up being so good that the same group of people met up every year at Paradise Bungalows and partied under the full moon. It used to be an intiaite affair and a party that happened once a month. Today, it is nothing more than a trashy, global music festival. Not to mention, there is a half moon party, jungle moon party, monday night moon party and the list goes on. EVERY night is a full moon party on Haad Rin beach. There are now at least 15 major sound systems on the beach playing mostly really bad music. Also, the amount of garbage that ends up on the shore and in the water is inconceivable.
So, what I'm really trying to say is that I'm too old for this crap. <end of rant>
I'm glad Mike got to experience the debauchery, but that's the last time you'll see me at the Full Moon Party.
KOH TAO - THE TURTLE ISLAND
Both of us were pretty pumped to be here and excited to celebrate New Years Eve on a beach. My sister was with us, she had friends coming AND I had a couple of friends joining us last minute as well. We knew that there was going to be a good group of us for at least a few days.
In English, Koh Tao means turtle because it was once inhabited by turtles . Also, I've heard some people say that the island resembles a turtle when viewed from Koh Phangan. Nobody lived on Koh Tao until 1943 when the island was used us a political prison. It was only in the late 1970's that the first travellers came. The island is very small and extremely popular for diving because of it's abundant marine life. There is a large amount of dive school and dive shops on Sairee Beach and more keeping popping up every year.
WHERE TO STAY
There's a few good options for budget accommodation on Koh Tao. Since there was three of us in a room, it was cheaper to book a budget hotel than a hostel. We booked a room at Bud Chui Village 2 which was about a 5-10 minute walk from the main area.
When we arrived the room looked very big and clean. As we started to unpack and settle in we came across at least 10 cockroaches. There was a few hiding in the curtains, another two in the garbage can, under the table, behind the fridge and the list goes on. These were not small roaches either. The staff helped us kill them and we thought we were ok. Later that day we found some more and the same thing the day after. Not cool. We weren't getting much sleep, especially Mike. :) We eventually figure out that they were coming from the AC so the staff finally took out the piece and cleaned it out. This seemed to solve the problem. Thank god!
WHERE TO GO
This is the most popular beach in Koh Tao and the one we spent the most time at. It's also where all the activity and nightlife is. The beach was so packed every day that you could barely get a spot.
My sister was staying with us for a couple of days before her friends arrived and then she moved to a hostel. The Good Dream Hostel is more like a hotel. It's in a central location and it's very clean! Highly recommended. Even though we didn't stay there, we spent a lot of time socializing there with old and new friends.
Right next door is a place called Samatha Bed and Breakfast. They had the best coffee on the island and really good breakfast options. They also have affordable rooms for rent.
We were sitting here one morning when we spotted my friend Branko and Srdjan (friends from high school) on the back of a pick-up truck. They had just arrived and were joining us for the New Years Eve celebrations.
At first there was three of us, then five, then eight and our group kept growing. We spent a lot of time together whether it was on our scooter adventures around the island, the beach or at the bar. AND we all spent New Year's Eve together which was pretty epic.
Koh Nang Yan
On one of the days a bunch of us decide to do a day trip to Koh Nang Yan, which is a very small island just off of Koh Tao. To get there we grabbed a longtail boat and arrived in 15-20 minutes. There are no set times to leave from Koh Chang either. You can just walk around on Sairee Beach and wave down one of the boat drivers. The best place to get the taxi boat is near Lotus Bar.
I know I keep saying this, but I can't help myself. There were SO many people crammed on this small island. There used to be 10 beach chairs and umbrellas near the sandbar and now there was at least 50 and it was nearly impossible to get a spot on the sand. I guess word got out pretty fast. Either way, it's a beautiful spot and worth checking out. The water is crystal clear and the viewpoint is stunning.
There is only one resort on the island which is pricey, so most people make this a day trip. There is an entrance fee of 100 baht.
Another great place for panoramic views is John-Suwan viewpoint. It's located at the south end of the island near Chalok Baan Kao Beach. I think this one is my favourite because you get a view of Chalok Baan Kao and Thian Og bays all at the same time. A few of us got to the top just before the sunset and we couldn't have picked a better time. The colours were just right.
The hike up is not as challenging as on Koh Nang Yan and the viewpoint is less crowded. There is a small fee of 50 bang to enter. Some more stunning views...
WHERE TO EAT
There's more than enough good restaurants to choose from on Koh Tao. Here are some of our favourites:
Porto Bello for Italian food
Samatha Bed and Breakfast for breakfast and the BEST coffee on the island.
Su Chili for Thai food.
VegetaBowl for vegan, healthy options. They have amazing smoothies too!
Not too far form the John-Suwan viewpoint is Freedom Beach. The tide was really high when we were there and there wasn't much room to lay down. Not my favourite but it's worth checking out. I found the walk around Freedom Beach to be nicer.
And then there is Mango Bay. We attempted to get to the top with our scooters but it was nearly impossible. The dirt roads and steep hills would not allow the two of us to sit on the scooter and move faster than 2km/hr. So I had to walk. If it wasn't 40 degrees outside, the hike up would have been an enjoyable workout. Near the top, there is a small bar where you can get a cold drink, and by this point you will want at least one cold drink.
Once we reached the top, the view was breathtaking and we could see the entire west coast of the island. We went on a pretty muggy day so it wasn't as clear as we hoped but still beautiful. There is a small cafe as well with a sitting area right on the cliff's edge.
RINGING IN 2016!
We honestly had the best group of people on Koh Tao. New Years Eve ended up being a lot of fun. Maybe because we had nothing planned and we had zero expectations. We spent the night going from on beach bar to the next and it had a total blast. Thanks everyone for being part of our amazing adventure! :)
Here's the breakdown of how much we spent for 40 days:
Domestic Transportation: $665
Tourist Visa: $145 (free for Canadians for the first 30 days; costs apply onwards)
Daily Average (per person): $57
*Excludes one-way flight from Manila to Bangkok ($80 each)
**Currency exchange 11/12/2015: $1 (CAD) = 28 Baht!
Check out all of our photos from Thailand! And if photos are not enough, we also have a video on our VIDEOS page.