Thailand is just one of those countries that you will inevitably fall in love with. I can see why there is such a hype around this place. It’s amazing. There is nothing not to love about Thailand. It’s easy to travel within. People are friendly. The weather is fantastic. There is everything you could wish for: culture, good food, variety in flora and fauna, stunning beaches, bustling cities.
What surprised me the most though, was how fond I grew of Bangkok. I haven’t heard much good about the city so far. It is supposedly loud, dirty – well, a big city like any other. After having travelled five weeks through India, however, Bangkok seemed quiet. clean. It felt like Home. As someone who has no roots and who only ever felt at home once in her life (when I lived in London), this kind of indicates to you how much I love Bangkok. Any city that provokes a feeling of ‘homeliness’ in me, must be pretty damn special.
But, I wonder, had I travelled to Thailand first – before going to India – would I have felt the same? I would have then travelled from one big city (London) to the next. Perhaps, my feelings towards BKK would have been different. Who knows.
My fondness grew even more when we travelled south to do some Island Hopping. We spent two incredible weeks on a remote island in the middle of nowhere: Koh Phayam – where we regrettably did not remain for too long, as our initial plan had been to spend only a few days on each island before heading north. We felt we had to go to Koh Phi Phi – because you can’t come to Thailand without having seen ‘the Beach’, right? Well, yes, Maya Bay is spectacular – but Koh Phi Phi? Let’s put it that way: i feel I’m too old for it. If you are looking for a Party Island where you can buy buckets and drink the night away – Koh Phi Phi is your place. As boring as it may sound: i do prefer the secluded Islands and reading a book on the beach – where it is quiet.
So off we hopped to Koh Tao – and despite there being places where you can buy buckets, I felt the place was the perfect compromise. It had the secluded beaches with amazing snorkelling activities – but it also had amazing restaurants and bars should you feel like mingling with the crowd. In Koh Tao, I also overcame my fear of diving, after an unfortunate event back in Australia when I was 17. For that reason, this place will always be special to me. Koh Tao was my perfect little paradise – and I stayed there for a week. Scrape the North. We are staying longer.
We concluded our stay in Thailand by treating ourselves to an amazing Valentine’s dinner at ‘Above Eleven’. It was pretty amazing to sit up there, overlooking all the skyscrapers and drink a nice bottle of vino – the food was out of this world.
Ok. I think it’s time to realise it. After three months, we still have not managed to stick to the 30 Pound mark. It’s obvious. 15 Pounds per person per day is not going to work for us. On a good note, if we tried just a little bit harder, we will manage to stay within the 40 Pound mark.
Thailand is not as cheap as it used to be. Particularly if you spend two weeks Island Hopping, like we did. The water on Koh Phayam cost us three times more than in Bangkok. And some parts are so remote: you are forced to eat at a restaurant as opposed to eating at streetfood stalls. I also booked a diving refresher course on Koh Tao which was not cheap and an unexpected expense. But it was totally worth it – especially considering that I overcame a long-lasting fear of diving which I had developed in Australia back in 2002.
As for accommodation, we were pleasantly surprised. Even Koh Phi Phi which is otherwise quite expensive, offers plenty of cheap bungalows where you can share a room for under 10 Pounds. We read advice to book in advance for Koh Phi Phi and actually made the mistake to do so – we had to book a place in a remote part of the island where we had to hike to with our heavy loads on our backs. On the third day, it took us about 10 minutes to find cheap bungalows for very good value (Lucky Bamboo). The place we booked in advance actually had more cockroaches than the bungalows we casually discovered. Yes, cockroaches are almost a given when you spend your night in a bungalow. If you want to avoid them completely, don’t stay in cheap bungalows. We, however, are not fussed about it. As long as the rooms have a mosquito net – all is good.
Transport. Despite hearing the greatest things about travelling by train in Thailand, we only ever travelled by bus and ferry. We never flew. The buses in Thailand are super comfortable and reliable – much better than what we encountered in India and Nepal. It felt like a luxurious treat to travel by bus in Thailand – plus, they are cheaper and quicker than trains too. We aways managed to find a cheap deal for buses even if booked last minute.
Here is my Bliss Report for Month 3 on Thailand.
- 10 days in Bangkok
- 3 nights on Koh Phayam
- 4 nights on Koh Phi Phi
- 7 nights on Koh Thao
- 3 nights in Bangkok
Vietnam & Laos
Feeling like I’m back in London aka ‘Home’
After travelling in India for five weeks, I absolutely adored being in Bangkok. So much so, that we ended up staying there for 10 days (which I would safely say, is probably a whole lot longer than most people who came to Thailand the first time?). We loved how organised everything is. How clean it is. How people do not stare at you. How there is A/C everywhere. Yes, India was a fantastic experience – but we missed the perks and comforts of the Western world. Plus, Bangkok is in Asia – making it possible to have the best of both worlds.
We loved the streetfood, the shopping malls, the serviced apartment and the craziness going on. We celebrated Ben’s Birthday by stumbling into a lady-boy bar. I mean, we will never forget our first time in Bangkok. What I loved the most about it: I reminded me of ‘home’. I had made London my home for nearly six years. London- a city which made me feel like I belonged for the first time in my life. And Bangkok has got this similar feel to it.
I could easily live in Bangkok. It’s great.
Drinking Bubble Tea every day
How will I ever cope without Bubble Tea in my life?
Originally a Taiwanese invention (SO need to go there!) and sold everywhere in the streets of Bangkok, I adopted slurping Tapioca balls thhrough a straw as my new favourite past-time activity. Like my regular Cafe Nero coffee to go back in London, I had my firm favourites such as Taro Ball or simply Milk tea with Bubbles on a daily basis.
I already discovered Bubble Tea in London. The big difference? In Bangkok, it is unbelievably cheap. For 30 Baht you can get your dose of jelly straw action at almost every corner.
We hopped onto three different islands, where I spent endless hours swimming in the sea, snorkelling and even overcoming my fear of diving.
Koh Phayam (near Myanmar), Koh Phi Phi (with its famous Maya Bay) and Koh Tao (the little brother of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan). In hindsight, I wish we had stayed longer on Koh Phayam as it was simply the perfect Paradise Island get-away. Secluded beaches – nearly no people – the atmosphere on the island left us so relaxed. It was hard to leave again.
Koh Phi Phi was, after Koh Phayam, a shock to our system but pushed us to exercise a lot as the only accommodation we could find was by Lana Bay, which can either be reached by boat (too expensive) or by trekking through the jungle (hello mosquitoes) for one hour (or two if you carry a heavy load like we did). We moved to the cnetral part of Koh Phi Phi and really started enjoying it.
But, I really personally fell in love with Koh Tao. The snorkel was amazing. Never did I ever have so many colourful fishes around me – never did I swim so much – never did I find a place with so many amazing restaurants (check Koh Tao out on Trip Advisor – it will be hard to find a restaurant which does not have outstanding reviews).
The downside of island hopping? We almost never stuck to our 30 Pound per day budget – it cost us way more than we thought it would. On one night we even spent 20 Pounds on one restaurat meal alone – to give you an idea. Koh Tao was our demise. Even more so, when we got into the habit of going for massages on a daily basis. I had my nails done too…you get the picture. But it was Heaven.
I did not want to leave anymore.
Eating Streetfood for next to nothing
Thai food is incredible. I have never met anyone who does not like Thai food. And what is amazing: you can get really cheap and delicious streetfood everywhere (except on some parts of the islands we visited). I remember arriving in Bangkok and trying a chicken noodle soup for the first time. It was out of this world. The best places to eat authentic Thai food are Soi Sukhumvit 38 – where you can find all sorts of meats on a stick and delicious Mango Sticki Rice or Pad Thais. We also loved the one stall which served Roasted Duck Noodle soup. Besides streetfood, we also treated ourselves to some delicious restaurant cooked dinners on Koh Tao and the highlight of our trip, was to indulge in a Valentine’s dinner at Above Eleven in Bangkok just before Ben left back to the UK.
The feeling of a normal life
For Ben’s Birthday and just before Ben flew back to the UK, we stayed at a serviced apartment in Soi 33. We wanted to treat ourselves – especially coming from India. In India, none of the beds we slept in were particularly cmfortable – except once where we got a free upgrade during Christmas. We also for more than two months only stayed in cheap guesthouses. We craved to have our own space. Our own kitchen, balcony, sofa – you name it. So we splashed and paid 30 Pounds per night for our own little apartment. Boy was it worth it. The bed alone was out of this world. We slept like babies. Sitting on a sofa to watch a DVD…amazing! Having your own wardrobe where you can actually store your clothes as opposed to constantly packing and re-packing your packing cubes. Priceless.
It was money well spent.
The cats of Koh Phi Phi
For some odd reason, Koh Phi Phi is full of cats. Unlike any other island we visited. And for an even more peculiar reason, cats in Koh Phi Phi look healthy and still have their tails. This is something that really angered me in Bangkok: cats tails are chopped off. Why? Because a cat without its tail cannot balance – which means they are less likely to jump onto stalls, for instance. Yes, that is how cats are treated in Thailand. But, not so in Koh Phi Phi. I came across a lot of cats that looked perfectly healthy, with tail and all. And as a lover of cats, of course, this made me really happy. The last island I had visited which had hundreds of cats on it, was Santorini.
Isn’t she gorgeous?
The excessive amounts of sugar
Travel Blogger friends of mine who have recently travelled throgh SE-Asia before me, had warned me about the copious amounts of sugar put into dishes. And it’s true: you have to remind waiters and cooks not to put any sugar into your soups, meals, Bubble teas, whatever, if you want to leave Thailand with not having put on loads of weight and flying back with the diagnosis ‘diabetes’. Thai people love sugar and they put it into everything. If you eat at one of the many streetfood stalls you will always find, together with regular condiments such as salt, pepper and chillis – sugar – as it is normal for many to add more sugar to their already sweet dishes.
If you really want to try something incredibly sweet: try a Thai tea (or Thai iced tea if you prefer it cold). It will make you grimace for a moment – sugar and condensed milk gallore!
Advertisement in Bangkok
One of the first impressions I had about Bangkok: too much advertisement. I did not enjoy how people were constantly brainwashed with advertisement. In many countries it’s done on a more subtle scale (arguably probably even worse) – not in Bangkok: speakers blaring out advertisement spiels, huge LED screens which show ads non-stop. You will struggle to find an area in Bangkok which does not try to brainwash you with its many ads. Even in the Skytrain you get to watch advertisement. It was too much for me.
I felt like I was being brainwashed to buy stuff non-stop.
Koh Phi Phi’s tourism insanity
My very first impression of Koh Phi Phi was a negative one. I don’t like masses of people and I can’t even explain how many people got off on the boat with us when we arrived. I didn’t like how touristy this place has become. I wanted to flee back to Koh Phayam and enjoy my peaceful Island experience I had had. Koh Phi Phi is great for partying and yes, you can find some beaches that are not too busy – but it had something artificial about it. It has become this package-holiday destination – it’s too crowded, too loud and in my opinion, has got nothing to do with Thailand anymore.
However, there are some spectacular spots on the island. It would not be a Thai island if it didn’t.
Thailand is not cheap
We have blown our budget almost on a daily basis. Thailand was our demise. It has made us forget about all our good intentions we had about trying to stick to 30 Pounds per day for the two of us. We spend too much money on food. How can you not with all this deliciousness going on in this country? We treated ourselves way too many times and you know what? We loved it. I snorkelled and dived. We stayed in a luxury service apartment. We went out for a fancy dinner. However, I think, in general, those days, where you could buy really cheap stuff (t-shirts, watches etc.) and stay in really cheap dorm beds, is well and truly over. Thailand is not as cheap as it used to be.
As for our spending habits: once in a while it is OK to treat yourself and we found Thailand to be the best place to do just that.