I went on a 16 day Thailand Holiday, visiting Bangkok, Phuket & Koh Samui. Photographs of all the islands, the sights, the temples and the rich culture always intrigued me, and I really wanted to experience it for myself.
I decided to book that plane ticket and take some time off. I will give you a few tips, tell you about my experiences and give you a glimpse of what Thailand offered me.
Firstly I have to mention that all photos were taken with my Iphone 5s and some of them have editing done on my Instagram. My bulky camera would have been a total overkill and definitely not for easy or light traveling. The quality of the images would have been so much greater, however the images will give you a general idea as to what I experienced. If you want to watch some clips go to my Instagram account to view them.
First stop was Bangkok…mainly for shopping and visiting the Grand Palace and a little sight seeing. – Here I got more than I bargained for:
The Amari Watergate was one of the best hotels and central locations I could have chosen in Thailand. It is opposite the Platinum mall (7 Floors of non-stop shopping), there is also night market stalls right next to the hotel which is really cheap and worth the walk. Use your bargaining skills to get quality items for really cheap.
TIP: Bangkok will be the cheapest shopping experience in Thailand.
I also visited the Grand Palace which was well worth it. If you are a woman your shoulders should be covered (not with a scarf) – There is clothes you can borrow at the entrance with a 200 baht deposit which they return to you when you leave after your visit.
The palace is a sight to be seen, but it gets really hot, it’s almost as if no breeze gets into the grounds, so make sure to take sunblock or a hat.
I also took a Longtail Boat ride on the Chao Phraya River
This was a fun way of exploring another side of Bangkok. We paid 900 Baht per person for 1 hour trip through the canals and it was quite enjoyable.
In regards to transport, the Tuk-tuk’s and metered taxis are a great way of getting around Bangkok. Tuk-Tuk’s are a bit more expensive, however the taxi’s might charge you the same but you will have aircon and comfy seating. – If it will that more than 20min to your destination it might be best to use a taxi. (In Bangkok they are Pink or Yellow & Green)
I had so much fun using Tuk-Tuk’s in Bangkok (better than anywhere else in Thailand)
The markets really is one of the busiest places you can find yourself and some might be worth the trouble and others not so much. We took the Sky Train from the Amari Hotel to the Chatuchak Weekend Market…which was to me a total waste since there really was just nothing I did not find closer to the hotel as well as cheaper.
If you are in Bangkok, take at least one trip on the sky train. I found the staff really helpful and they will tell you exactly where to get off the train etc. It was also really cheap (about 35 baht p/p)
After Bangkok I spend 6 days in Phuket, which was an experience to say the least!!! Here you will find the infamous BANGLA road, where you can shop till you drop, bargain your way into really nice items as well as mix with the locals and maybe watch a Ping-Pong show if that is your kind of thing.
I found the nightlife here absolutely intoxicating…the energy is amazing, the streets seems like they never sleep!
The taxi’s and tuk-tuks are really A LOT more expensive in Phuket than in Bangkok, so rent a scooter…YOU WILL THANK ME for this piece of advice!
It was also in Bangla Road I got introduced to the local beer CHANG….watch out for this one…Totally great tasting but deceivingly strong! Cocktail wise…you will love the Singapore Slinger 😉
Although our hotel was in Kata Beach (Around 7km’s from Patong beach (which is where you will find Bangla road and loads of shopping opportunities) – we first used Tuk-Tuks as means of transport but for 400 Baht per ride it was quite expensive. I rented a scooter (250 Baht per day) and it was the best thing I could have done! You see so much more and it is really cheap in comparison to all the other means of transport.
How Beautiful is the FOTO HOTEL in PHUKET
In Phuket we did AMAZING Day-Tours!!
Firstly we did the Phi-Phi Island tour which is where you will find the iconic long tail boat photo opportunities. However the hype about the Phi-Phi Island did not match reality for me. It was a let down in a way, but I am still glad I did the tour.
The tour operates very smoothly…they pick you up with a taxi bus at your hotel, take you to the peer (which was about an hours drive from our hotel and after the trip take you back in the same taxi) – The trip includes drinks and lunch (which I found a bit disappointing in regards to all the other day trips I have done throughout the trip) – otherwise it really was a trip to do.
The tour included a few stops, and the chance to snorkel as well. The beach stop was at Maya beach (Famous for featuring in the movie The Beach)
After the Phi Phi Island tour, we took a City Tour the next day, which includes a few stops at local sight seeing places of your own choice or recommended spots.
I really wanted to experience some of the animal “experiences” of Thailand, but I was so afraid to walk into a place where they are abusing or neglecting the animals that I was a little more than apprehensive about doing any of it once I had to make the choice.
Elephant abuse is cruel and is visible at each place you can interact with them. The locals use techniques such as the Pajaan which is techniques they use to crush the spirit of the animals to make them more “tourist friendly” – This technique has them separating the baby elephants from their mothers, then being chained,tortured, beaten, being starved and sleep deprived they finally get the animal to obey humans after it’s spirit is literally being broken down.
It helps to be educated about the reality of these practises, thats why I am just mentioning it here….something I personally have known very little about until I was faced with them.
One place I did visit and was pleasantly surprised with was The Tiger Kingdom in Phuket.
The tigers are really looked after, not sedated at all (like some of the stories I have heard from other places) and the interaction is really amazing! I paid 800 Baht for about 15min with about 4 Full Grown Tigers. The guides really are informed and they tell you exactly what to do. The interaction and the photo opportunities are amazing. You will be able to go to the baby cubs or medium tigers as well, depending on what package you take…however being in the presence of such beautiful creatures really was the highlight of the day.
We also on our City Tour stopped by the “BIG BUDDAH” on the mountain top, and it will take about 20min for a total walk around. It’s worth stopping by even though it might not be your “thing”.
As we were on our way from the Big Buddha back to our hotel we passed a Elephant trekking site… and stopped to check it out. There was 2 large elephants with a baby elephant chained to a tree (which was horrible to see). The elephants themselves however did look cared for and on a whim we decided to take a 50min jungle tour. Once on top of the elephant, being utterly aware of the amazing power and total majestic gentle giant – I was so overcome with emotion I cried for the first half an hour of the trip and wished for the trip to end the second part…since I realised what it took to get those animals to behave in such a way, and allowing us to be on their backs…and what torture they must have had to endure! I could not stop the tears from rolling down and I will never again be part of something like that. Next time I visit Thailand I will make a point of it to visit the Elephant sanctuary and support the rehabilitation of these amazing animals – and hopefully educate and stop the abuse of these beautiful creatures or at least give them new hope for life. ELEPHANT NATURE PARK THAILAND – MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!
That same night we went to watch the Fantasea show, which in total was not a bad experience, but if you scratch the surface you realize again how many animals are living tortured and captive lives to entertain the masses.
The package I bought was including a buffet dinner which was a lovely experience. Lovely setting, great food and festive atmosphere.
The show itself was also visually appealing but very hard to follow the storyline. The animals definitely are the stars of the show and the entire theme park.
They have Elephant rides before the show for around 800 Baht for 5min’s which is a total rip off, they have captive white tigers, peacocks and parrots. They also charge people to pose with a baby tiger while being bottle fed (think it was about 700 Baht), also to pose with 2 small baby elephants. These poor animals are being paraded around and I am sure they are so scared to be punished they just endure it all!
Again I was overwhelmed, (A bit of an emotional day it was ) but at this point the reality of the animal cruelty/captivitiy really hit me hard and I found it impossible to enjoy it. The extend of the tricks the animals – and there is a lot in the show. About 15 Elephants, Water Buffalo, Chickens, Doves, Goats and one baby tiger really makes you think about WHAT it Took to get those animals to do all the tricks required. Some of the animals looked slow and tired – All just seemed so unnatural…
The Theme Park does make for amazing photos though!
OK – Enough of all the sad animal stories…(felt I had to include it since it is such a harsh reality)
The “JAMES BOND ISLAND” tour most probably was my favorite island tour in Phuket. We took a ferry boat to the islands, and we canoe’d through caves and got to see the iconic “James Bond” Island.
It was however a bit touristy and the water was a bit dirty, otherwise it did make for some spectacular images.
We also stopped at Monkey Beach where you can get up close to the wild monkeys.
The Ferry Boat also supplied a buffet lunch which was great and the entire day was really a pleasure to take part in. You really get to see and experience the Island feel and witness great parts of nature.
After Phuket I took off for 7 days in Koh Samui – What a small piece of paradise!!
Here I hired a scooter from day one and traveled all over the island, to the main Chaweng Beach, where you will be able to do some shopping and find loads of beach bars. I also watched a “lady-boy” cabaret show one night at Stars Cabaret (which was 200 Baht entrance fee, or free if you buy one drink between with minimum 180 Baht) – Really clean fun for the whole family!
Koh Samui is the first location that really makes me feel like I am on an Island Holiday. Phuket offered such a different vibe than Koh Samui. Phuket definitely is more for party and shopping, Koh Samui has such a relaxed vibe, it feels like time stands still.
In Koh Samui I went on a Snorkel and Kayak Day tour…which was The BEST tour I have done on my entire trip. I love snorkelling and seeing some amazing exotic fish and coral really was a highlight.
The crew, the lunch at the fisherman’s village as well as the kayaking was amazing! A definite must do!
My Travel Tips:
Hire a scooter in Phuket & Koh Samui, cheap and easy to get around! Promise it will be worth it.
Your food & drink is the most expensive part of the trip, about 350 Baht per meal average. Drinks start at around 100 Baht, so if your accommodation includes a breakfast option, take it.
If you shop, make sure to bargain the price down. It will be easy to get quality products for cheaper.
The overall population of Thailand is very friendly, helpful and always ready with a smile. If you get lost ask for directions or help.
If you shop in Phuket…they might tell you to go into their secret room to view more merchandise…go….it is totally safe and you will get to see a lot more variety than out on the street.
The shopping in Koh Samui is not as extended as in Phuket, however the items you get in Phuket is of the same quality and variety than in Koh Samui, however I have seen stuff being really cheaper in Koh Samui than in Phuket for the same item.
For clothing items BANGKOK is your cheapest bet!! – The Platinum Mall is amazing and has a lot of variety to choose from the street markets are amazing. Phuket & Koh Samui offer different kinds of shopping. Clothing = Bangkok. Souvenirs & random stuff =Phuket & Koh Samui.
Internet Connection if freely available at almost every restaurant or establishment in Thailand. Ask for if they have Wi-Fi and they will happily supply the passport or it will be displayed on the wall etc.
Do not book trips online – Although there is little stalls that you can approach to arrange day trips almost on every street corner….our hotel transfer company supplied us with a great guide in Phuket who arranged all our tours for a few baht cheaper or the same price than on the street. They might be able to arrange your tours with reliable companies and will be a great if you need information or if you need to cancel or re-schedule something.
Places to visit in Phuket: Phi Phi Island Tour, James Bond Island Day Tour, City Tour (Big Buddha, Tiger Kingdom, Kata Beach View Point), Phuket Fantasea (If you don’t mind the animals).
Places to visit in Koh Samui: Ark Bar (Chaweng Beach), Beach Republic for dinner & cocktails (Lamai Beach), Rocky’s for some fine dining (Lamai Beach), Places to stay at: The Kala Samui.
Things to do in Koh Samui: Snorkel & Kayak Day Trips, Full Moon Party, Lady Boy Cabaret Show, Beach Parties.
Weird but helpful stuff:
Take your own toilet paper on day excursions or day trips…It is really like white gold and you will find it very rarely in any public bathroom.
The Thai massages is really worth it, but don’t pay more than 300 Baht on the street (you will pay more in a spa), it is definitely worth going for at least one massage – (You stay fully clothed during your massage so no need to worry if you try the open air beach massage option)
The foot/leg and shoulder massages is TOTALLY worth it!! I wish I knew this earlier on in my trip…would have gone for one a day!
There will be foreigners (that has become locals) on street corners or on scooters that will try and get to you either follow them to a location or tell you about a party or special offer etc. Just politely decline…it’s not worth the trouble.
There is family stores and pharmacies everywhere so no need to worry about medicine…if you know the name of the medicine, they most likely will know what it is for, or give you something similar.
Enjoy your trip, stay friendly and stay away from drugs!