Saturday, 26 March 2016

MY GUIDE TO THAILAND » PART I


So, it's coming up to a year since I trekked through the beautiful South East Asian jungles and experienced life with little worry and a lot of sun. I thought it would be fun to reminisce on my experience by writing a guide for anyone looking to go themselves! My initial aim was to guide you through the ins and outs of the entire 6 weeks. However, as its quite a lengthy subject and I did so many amazing things that I want to feature, I've decided to split it up into three parts.

This post, Part I, will focus on the first week and a half of my trip where I explored Northern Thailand (Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Lampang - Chiang Rai) - if you know a thing or two about the country you'll know that the North is full of elephant treks, waterfalls and jungles! So, if you're planning on travelling to Thailand or simply have an interest in travel alone - please take a look, it will feature valuable tips and places you MUST go to!

- BANGKOK -
For a first time visitor to Bangkok, the city can seem quite overwhelming as it's huge! Luckily I met my sister at the airport who was living in Thailand at the time. We took a taxi straight into the city to our hotel, this cost us 500baht (£10), which isn't too bad for a long journey - bartering the price down for anything is a must as they will usually budge! So we arrived at our hotel, Siam@Siam Hotel, located in Patumwan opposite the national football stadium. I got an instant first look into how much you actually get for your money out here! We decided to stay here as a treat to mark the beginning of our trip and it only cost us £55 for an amazing 4 star hotel... Like whaaat?! The room was huge, modern, 3 beds, spacious bathroom and a full length window looking out on the Bangkok skyline... if the hotel was situated in a city in the UK it would definitely cost you a few hundred quid! The rooftop infinity pool and the night time bar were my highlights - there was a football match going on whilst I went for a swim!

Khao San road is a must for anyone visiting Bangkok. You can shop for literally anything (fake of course) and the atmosphere is always bustling. It can get quite much if you're not into busy environments flooded with people, but its a great way to start your trip - I personally loved it. The street food I had throughout was incredible, it cost me 30baht (£0.84) for a huge bowl of Pad Thai, ridiculous right? Khao San road is also ideal to party and get drunk - cheap beer and lots of travellers, however it gets SO loud. My sister and I stayed at D&D Inn at the end of our trip which I think cost us around £10 for the both of us - this place is ideal as it's directly in the middle of KSR! It's extremely popular for travellers because of the low price so the majority of guests are all in the same boat - I would definitely recommend staying here if travelling solo. Unfortunately, we booked late and had the very last room available which was right on the front of the strip - I had my ear plugs in all night!

Whilst drinking on KSR, Thai people often invade the table where your sat at to try and sell you things. A lady approached us with a tray of scorpions and crickets - I thought why hell not, I bought two scorpions and ate the lot! I was pretty drunk at this stage so I think that influenced me to do it - but I would urge anyone to try it whilst out there, it didn't taste half bad. Bangkok is amazing for shopping too, at the end of our trip I couldn't close my rucksack as I'd bought that many clothes. The malls they have are amazing - Siam Paragon and CentralWorld were my favourites but there's about 10+ malls in total! Each one filled full of branded shops, cinemas and gigantic food halls - they definitely put our shopping centres in the UK to shame. If you have the time and money definitely venture out to them but also take the metro system. This costs around 50baht (£1) which is cheaper than a taxi/tuk tuk as its an extremely congested city!
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- CHIANG MAI -
We decided to fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which cost us £30 each and took about an hour and a half. There are cheaper alternative means of transport such as the night-bus, this costs around 550baht (£11) but takes anything from 11-14 hours and is not the safest way to travel. We stayed at Just Chill Inn which is situated in a nice, quiet location in Chiang Mai. It only has 4 rooms and is more like a house, however there is an option for dormitory rooms or a private double room. We opted for a private room which cost us £8 for the both of us, although it was a ridiculously cheap price it was way too hot in our room so I probably wouldn't stay here again.

Although known to be quiet and just 'full of temples', Chiang Mai was without a doubt the most cultural place we visited. No temple is quite the same, they are all extremely unique. I would advise taking an entire day out of your schedule for temple touring. We purchased a Lonely Planet Thailand Guide which had a great route that took you round the temples on foot without the cheesy tour guides! The route was perfect as you could walk around at your own pace and appreciate the architecture, the route isn't available online so the book is a must.

TIP | whilst travelling I had a mani-pedi every week or so - just because it was so cheap! I practically lived in my flip flops so I wanted to keep my nails in check. On beginning my mani-pedi ritual in Chiang Mai, I discovered it was just £3 for hands and £3 for feet, how can you resist. When my travels continued I got one in nearly every place I visited, the level of detail was such a pleasant surprise - massages of the hands and feet, exfoliating, cutting, filing, buffing the lot. I couldn't believe the quality for such a cheap price.



- LAMPANG -
You'll often see that Thailand has a variable reputation for the welfare of particular animals in certain areas. Before arriving in Thailand we definitely put a lot of effort into research to ensure we were choosing and fundamentally funding the right cause for the elephants. We found the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre located in Lampang, just outside of Chiang Mai (there is a direct bus that takes you from Chiang Mai centre to the outside of the TECC for approx £3). The TECC is the only government owned elephant camp and the camp is a little town in itself. Admission prices to the camp can be found on their website for daily visits, however we opted for a home-stay programme. They offer one, two or three day home-stays, we chose the 3 day programme which cost us 6500baht (around £135 each). At first, this could look a little steep but once you see what is included in the price then the experience is well worth it (I'd have even paid more!).

On arrival we were given a mahout (elephant trainer) outfit for the duration of our stay, it was so cute that I kept it and still have it at home! The programme also includes accommodation, we had a cute little wooden cabin owned by a local Thai family that work within the centre. In the day, the kids went to school in Chiang Mai, the dad was an elephant trainer and the mum looked after the home-stay visitors - we watched TV with them every night (see below). Breakfast, lunch and dinner is also included in the price, I've never tasted food like it before and the portions were extremely generous (also pictured below). Whilst there you are assigned an elephant which you look after for those 3 days. I was given JoJo, a mischievous rescue elephant who was the biggest one in the camp!  Activities include trekking through the jungle at 5am to wake him up, feeding him, bathing WITH him (extremely muddy but hilarious), training him (his party trick was standing on a log - see below), and many many other things!

Within the camp/town, there was a baby elephant centre which cared for rescue babies that had been previously abandoned by their mother (cuteness overload!!). There was also an elephant hospital which cared for the injured and especially old elephants (you can see these featured in my video here). I learnt so much from this experience and my love for elephants has grown even stronger. The TECC was definitely my most treasured experience of the 6 weeks and I would 100% want to go back. The work they do to ensure each elephant has a good life is just phenomenal and so lovely to see! The people around the camp are also extremely friendly and helpful, our home-stay guide even offered us a lift to Chiang Rai at the end of our stay - we got to ride in a kitsch-orange car with Thai tunes blasting which was quite funny at the time! 





- CHIANG RAI - 
Alike Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is an extremely cultural place. We opted to spend more on accommodation this time and stayed at HappyNest which cost us £20 for the both of us. I absolutely loved this place, it was modern, clean and homely and looked slightly like a loft conversion. We stayed in a dorm room with two other girls who were from America so it was a great way to mix in with other travellers!

Unfortunately it rained A LOT during our stay in Chiang Rai and we found that there wasn't much to do there. I personally wanted to visit Khun Khorn waterfall, but to save money after our elephant home-stay we spent most of our time leisurely walking around town - I'd definitely do a waterfall trek next time though. We did however visit a particular temple that I was personally wowed by. The temple, Wat Rong Khun, is an extraordinary series of buildings that are entirely crisp white and full of tiny mosaic-like reflective mirrors (see below). This temple is quite out of the centre of Chiang Rai although it only cost £6 for a return journey by tuk tuk.


TIP | try to purchase 'traveller pants' (as I call them) to get around in. They are comfy, lightweight and essential for entering temples as you can't show much skin. They cost around 100-200baht (£2-£4) depending on where you get them from. I bought 2 pairs in Bangkok and 3 pairs in Chiang Rai as it was cheaper!


Thanks for taking the time to read Part I of my long-winded guide to Thailand!
Would these destinations be on your bucket list?
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3 comments

  1. oh my goodness your photos are incredible! Thailand looks so beautiful and it's definitely on my list (to be fair so is everywhere else in the world) but it looks and sounds like you had an incredible adventure!

    So jealous!

    Love,

    Anne // A Portrait Of Youth

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  2. Aww thanks doll! You should definitely go, it's even better than the pictures! I'm planning on going out again this year :) Xxx

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  3. DUDE! Boyf and I are def going to Thailand this summer, these guides will be crucial for us! I'm so excited

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