Known as the land of smiles, Thailand is a great starting point for your first Asian adventure whether this be a gap year or luxury break. We travelled to Thailand last July for a short break away over my birthday as prices were coming up super cheap for the dates we needed. As we were only in Thailand for a short time, we stuck to staying in one place however if I was away longer, I would definitely recommend exploring as much of the country as you can.
Our whole trip was planned through Virgin Holidays and we flew with Emirates via Dubai straight into Phuket International Airport early morning. We decided to stay in the ‘touristy’ resort of Patong during our time in Thailand as it offered a great location to see all the sights we wanted to see as well as being just 45 minutes from the airport.
We spent our 7 nights at the Patong Merlin Hotel, a 4 star property located on the beach and a 10 minute walk to the famous and very crazy Bangla Road. We were on a bed and breakfast basis and I’m sure you’re all aware this is best when in Thailand as outside, the food is super cheap. We stayed in a Superior Room which offered a view of one of the hotels extensive pool areas and floral gardens. This was enough for us just for the week and the hotel was even kind enough to make me a cake for my birthday, this added a nice little touch to our stay.
Dining – Eating in Thailand is super cheap, as I mentioned earlier in the post but if street food still isn’t your style, there are some beautiful beachfront restaurants that offer high quality Thai food at a competitive price. A lot of them are also great for a romantic meal for two if you’re celebrating a special occasion.
If you’re used to all inclusive, there are a few hotel options in Thailand. But even if you do stay bed and breakfast, the hotels often offer a competitively priced restaurant if you’re not feeling like going out. Ours offered a buffet style Thai. We only used this once but was still a reasonable price unlike other countries when you’re staying on a bed and breakfast basis.
Exploring – If you’re on a budget a Tuk Tuk is the way about town. However, as we wanted to stop and start at random places we opted for a taxi and just negotiated a price for a few hours to drive us wherever we want. There are also local buses and mopeds but as we all have terrible navigation skills, we decided to skip these options!
One place I would recommend visiting is the Big Buddha which is located in the hills of Karon. It offers sweeping views of the hills and coastline and gives a great insight into the religion, so its definitely worth a stop. Construction is still ongoing so you may see some scaffolding but this doesn’t take anything away from its beauty. Remember to dress appropriately here however if you don’t own anything covering your shoulders (mainly women), then they have shawls hung up at the entrance which you can grab on your way in. There is no entrance fee however they do accept donations towards tiles for the Buddha.
When heading back from Big Buddha we spontaneously stopped at Wat Suwan Khiri Khet which is close to Karon Beach. The small temple stood out to us on our journey because of its beautiful colours and intricate detailing. The temple is free to explore and we also heard the temple runs a night market during the week days which would be great to visit if staying in this area.
Now, no Thailand blog post is a Thailand blog post without mentioning Phi Phi Islands. This was one thing I was SO excited about doing whilst in Thailand however as we went in the height of the rainy season I was worried we wouldn’t be able to make it there. Luckily, the weather was on our side and we headed to Phi Phi.
One thing I neglected to think about as we began our journey to Phi Phi was my motion sickness. I am absolutely terrible with boats and the whole journey I was a wreck. Phi Phi looked beautiful but the trip was totally ruined because of how I felt. They provided tablets but they did not help at all, if I remembered I would have brought my own.
You may have also heard from other people who have visited Phi Phi, it’s not quite how it’s pictured. Our first stop was Maya Bay, famous for where The Beach was filmed. It is absolutely packed with tourists.. mainly Asian tourists. To the point you almost cannot see the sand you’re standing on. The views are still great but that did ruin my expectations a little.
After Maya Bay we actually headed to the island itself which I much preferred. It was still relatively busy but the sun came out here and I loved seeing all of the traditional Thai boats and small market alleys. There are some hotels here too so if you would rather stay away from the mainland there is a mixture of options ranging from hostels to 5 star properties with private pools and villas.
A lot of people have asked if I had seen any Tigers or rode Elephants during my stay in Thailand and my answer is no. Myself and my partner travelled to Malaysia the year before and had experienced a ethical sanctuary for elephants where you could bathe with them (No riding). Because we had such a magical time there, it has made us a lot more sceptical of other places that promote Elephant ‘orphanages’ or ‘sancturies’ that aren’t what they seem. Thailand is such a vast place and ethical parks for the Elephants are around but you just have to look a lot harder and make sure you do your research. As we had already washed Elephants in Malaysia we didn’t feel the need to actively seek out an orphanage/sanctuary here. As for the Tigers, we had heard stories they get given sedatives to keep calm so they could be stroked by tourists. This put us off straight away.
This blog post could go on and on forever. Thailand has so much to offer and is such a diverse country; I would definitely recommend visiting at least once in your lifetime. If you have more time than I did, I would recommend spending time in various areas including Bangkok, Chang Mai and the southern islands. We felt in the week we were there we had truly explored Phuket to it’s fullest and didn’t need any longer. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Thailand in the future but first, we have many more places to see.