Thailand, everything you need to know & why I fell in love with it!
I've been to beautiful Thailand five times, maybe six I can't remember exactly! but regardless let me tell you why I keep going back.
The people and the culture;
I'm lucky enough to have formed close friendships with a few locals over the years that I've spent travelling to Thailand, and through those friendships I've had wonderfully rich cultural experiences. I've been invited into Thai homes for meals, met their families and been treated like family myself. Thai people are the most genuine and selfless people I've ever had the pleasure of encountering, despite how little they posses and the pittance that they earn they give so much. I've been welcomed into homes no bigger than yours or my kitchen and fed meals which i wondered how they could afford to be feeding me, but nonetheless it's offensive in Thai culture to refuse a meal so you're left with no choice but to tuck in feeling an inevitable pang of guilt as you do so. But let me tell you, when you see your host smiling from ear to ear as he watches you enjoying the meal he's prepared for you, the guilt vanishes. You have never seen such happiness! giving brings them joy and that is a trait few people in western culture posses. The wonderful locals are the biggest reason why I keep returning to Thailand.
#me and my buddy Mon x
The food is to die for!;
Thai food is up there as one of my favourite cuisines. Asian food in general is my favourite; Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese... mmm. My favourite Thai dish would have to be bbq pork ribs, the way they cook ribs in Thailand is incredible. They're much smaller than the enormous ribs you get in western culture and there's none of that sickenenly sweet sauce slathered all over them, they're cooked on a coal barbecue with very subtle flavours. Pad Thai is also a winner as is a good Massaman curry, another favourite of mine. Surprisingly I have also eaten the best steak of my life in Thailand, not what you would expect but I'd been told by a friend that one particular restaurant makes the BEST t-bones so I had to find out for myself, I wasn't disappointed. I'm kicking myself for not remembering the name of that place! it was across the street from Bangla road on the beach side (the restaurant is literally on the beach, toes in sand) It's definately worth a visit not just for the steak but for the peaceful surroundings too. Oh and the BBQ pork ribs here are amazing too!
It's always swimming weather;
I love a holiday destination where no matter what time of year it is you can pack summer clothes, Thailand is one of them. There are three seasons; hot, cool and wet. Hot season is March - June, cool season is November - February, and wet season is June - October. Notice that no where in there did i say the word winter? no matter what time of year you go, it's always hot! the only choice you have to make is wether you're happy to put up with a bit of rain or not as in the wet season it does rain almost everyday, hence why June -October is the cheapest time of year to travel to Thailand and the cool season with the least amount of rainfall is the most expensive.
The breathtaking countryside and wildlife;
I adore rural Asia, there is something excting and alluring about the jungle. You can hear the hive of activity... birds singing, waterfalls rushing, the rustle of trees but you'd be lucky to see anything before you're standing right in front of it. It's filled with mystery, all life hidden amongst dense forest floor and the canopy of trees. It's incredibly cool that elephants and monkeys are the norm, but do beware of endorsing things like elephant riding as there is alot of abuse that occurs behind the scenes. No elephant, in fact no wild animal can be trained without some form of cruelty involved. If you see the trainers holding bull hooks and/or large sticks alarm bells should be ringing, that's a sure sign of past and on-going abuse. Before riding an elephant please read this article; Are you saying yes to animal abuse? Be aware on your travels. there are many ethical places you can go to see these beautiful creatures up close, a few of which are suggested in the link above.
So, now that I've talked you into booking a flight...
Where to stay;
I've always stayed in Patong Phuket, only once staying in Bangkok. Patong is the most popular area in Phuket for tourists and where you will find the most accomodation options. There are more secluded resorts on the outskirts of Patong too however they will be more expensive. Bangkok and Chaing Mai are also popular tourist destinations, it all depends on the type of trip that you're looking for as to where you decide to stay. For a relaxed beach holiday, Krabi is the best choice with glistening beaches and that sought after exotic, tropical holiday feel. For more rural Thailand, Chaing Mai is the best choice where you will be nestled amongst dense rainforest and jungle. And for a crazy hectic city break, Bangkok is the place for you, it's insane! a real culture shock. If you're looking to stay somewhere that's a bit of both ie; city/beach break then Phuket, Patong is where you want to be. In Patong I can recomend 'the Patong Merlin' it's a stunning resort right on Patong beach, expensive but you get what you pay for. I can also reccomend 'The Horizon' another resort right on Patong beach which is a little less expensive. If you're looking for budget accomodation i reccomend the 'Expat hotel' it's located across the road (opposite to the beach side) from the famous party hot spot 'Bangla road' it's a 15 minute walk to the beach and is super cheap! it's small but comfortable and good value for money.
#The Patong Merlin
This all depends on the kind of trip that you want to have. If you're going for a two week holiday and you plan on doing alot of shopping, going out, excursions etc then i'd say you will need around £500/£600. If you're a backpacker and are budgeting you could easily get away with spending two weeks in Thailand and spending less than half that, it's a third world country after all and is a cheap place to visit if you need it to be! to give you an example, buying a beer from a local 7/11 will cost you approx 40bht, that's less than £1.00. A beer at a bar will be more costly at approx 100-200 baht, but that's still only £2.00 -£3.00. Accomodation wise, budget places like the Expat hotel are approximately £10.00/£20.00 per night, and luxury resorts like the Patong Merlin will be more pricey at around £50.00/£60.00 per night.
Things you MUST get involved with if you're in Patong;
The food! - I've already mentioned bbq pork ribs, pad thai and massaman curry... you're seriously missing out if you don't try those dishes. Stir fried chicken and cashew nuts is also always a winner, as is thai yellow curry - yum! I'm getting cravings now. Don't be one of those people who travels abroad and eats western food, it's not even good! in our culture we know how to make a killer burger, but that's because it's western food! ie; we know how to make it best. Thai people cooking a burger is like me cooking massaman, it doesnt even come close to being as good as what you'd get in the country of origin. Eat local dishes, you can't go wrong! For more authentic experiences you should always seek restaurants that are off the beaten track.
Bangla road - Take a night out along Bangla road, that street is a once in a lifetime experience! make sure you visit Tiger bar while you're there, it's epic. Do watch your belongings closely though and be aware of 'photo prop animals' in the street, people will approach you with an exotic creature such as an iguana or a spider monkey and will push you to pay for a photo with them, don't endorse this! those animals are treated so badly behind the scenes. Ladies watch your drinks too, I had my drink spiked once on a night out along Bangla road, I was so sick from it that it ruined the rest of my trip. While you're there you might as well check out a ping pong show too... it's gross, but where else will you see women utilising their vaginas to throw darts and pop balloons? talk about a culture shock!
Experience the islands - Do a boat tour to some of the islands off the coast. Phi Phi island is beautiful, although unfortuanely as the years have passed and tourism has grown in Thailand the beauty of the islands are a little spoiled due to the number of boats and people that visit now. It is still stunning though and definately worth a visit, the open sea snorkelling was my favourite part of the day 🙂 there's tour companies on every street in Patong offering day trips.
#Phi Phi island
Explore the beaches - Thailand is home to some of the most pristine beaches i've ever seen. Hire a scooter (but drive carefully!) and buzz along the coast discovering the hidden gems that sit along it. Here's a few to take note of; Tri Trang beach, Paradise beach, Tri Tra beach (not to be confused with Tri Trang!) Freedom beach, and Laem Singh beach. All of them are exquisite, they're all quite close to each other too so you could easily visit them all in a day, i suggest spreading it out over a few days though so you can enjoy quality time at each one.
The Beach bar - If you only take one of my suggestions make it a visit to the 'beach bar' it's a reggae bar/restuarant that sits high atop a cliff in Patong. The food is great, the vibe is fantastic, and the views are unforgettable. You can get a tuk-tuk up there, most drivers will know where it is. I suggest a tuk- tuk over driving your scooter because i guarantee that once you're up there you'll be in the mood to sip a few pina coladas!
#The beach bar
Dino park mini golf - 100% the most epic mini golf i've ever played. It's just outside of Patong's main hub, you've got to do it! The surroundings make you feel like you've literally entered Jurassic park and the put put itself is so fun! There's a couple of really nice little restaurants across the road from it too for dinner or lunch afterwards. Any tuk tuk driver will know where it is.
#Dino Park mini golf
Things to consider avoiding;
Elephant riding/elephant shows - Including elephants that massage you. Elephant riding is a huge tourism magnet in Thailand, as is the use of elephants for other purposes such as in shows and for things like 'massages'. There's a popular show in Phuket called 'fanta sea' - please don't go there. Not only do they use elephants as performers, they also have tigers for tourists to get photos with - tigers that have been injected with so many drugs they can barely open their eyes. Tigers aren't house cats, they don't let you pet them! unless of course they're under heavy sedation rendering them completely defenceless, which is clearly the case when anyone gets up close to a tiger and lives to tell the tale. Use your brains peeps! that's no life for a magnificent wild cat.
Photos with exotic animals in the street - They're referred to as 'photo prop animals' you'll see people in busy tourist areas with an exotic animal like a macaw or a slow loris and you'll be encouraged to pay for a photo holding the animal. These animals, like the tigers are heavily sedated in order to make them defencelsss and even worse they live in horrendous, inhumane conditions. If you pay to get a photo with one then congrats, you've endorsed animal cruelty.
Any other 'show' that uses exotic animals for entertainment - Unfortunately animal cruelty remains rife in Asia, and tourists are the biggest endorsment for it. If we as tourists stop paying for these experiences then the cruelty stops, but if the money keeps flowing so too does the abuse.
The zoos - Just don't do it. It will break your heart seeing the conditions the animals are kept in, it's so wrong. Pay to visit and you're helping the abuse to continue.
Don't be naive people, Asia is third world and due to the struggles people face crime is prevalent. I've already mentioned being aware of drink spiking but money scams are common too, read my post on travel safety before you go, it gives great insight into the world of scamming. Travel safety 101 It's also worth mentioning that corruption is rife in Thailand, as it is in most asian countries so just be aware if you're approached by police, most of the time you've not done anything wrong and they are just trying to frighten you into paying up.
I hope you are able to fall in love with this beautiful country just as much as I have, I haven't visited Thailand in two years now and i'm seriously missing it, writing this post has left me feeling super nostalgic!
As always you can contact me to ask me anything 🙂
Over and out x