Time for an overdue post on my two weeks of traveling around Thailand with my older sister, Jac! Warning: a very long post with many pictures follows.
In October, Thai students are given time off from school. The allotted time differs from school to school – some teachers will have a whole month off, while others are given 2 weeks or so (my school fell into the 2-week category 😦 ). So, months ago, my sister and I began planning a trip together that would start in mid-October and continue until the 27th (my birthday!). Our destinations were Bangkok –> Chaing Mai –> Krabi.
To be honest, I was least excited to be spending time in Bangkok. That may be because I already live so close, but Bangkok’s heavy traffic, reliance on the BTS system, and lack of “daylife” can be quite tiring. Especially when you’re on an 11-hour time difference in regards to sleeping. Because of this, my sister and I only planned to spend 3 days in Bangkok.
The first day, we decided to be cultural and check out some of the temples. Since Thai people were in mourning of their late king still, I warned my sister that it was best to wear full black (as not to be disrespectful) and to cover our knees and shoulders (a requirement, anyway, for temple-seeing). Apparently though, many tourists were not aware (or cared) about the king’s passing as I saw lots of colorful wear. So, I sweated it out in all black quite a bit that first day.
Whatever, it was still fine. We first took a boat on the Chao Phraya river in order to get to Wat Pho, home of the famous golden Reclining Buddha. This is Thailand’s largest Buddha statue at 151 feet long and 15 feet tall. Due to the sheer size and surrounding pillars, it’s impossible to get the whole statue in one picture.
Afterwards, we explored the rest of the temple and had lunch on the Chao Phraya river at a café that offered us a view of Wat Arun (it was also a lazy way to see another temple without figuring out a way to actually get to the temple…)
That night, my sister and I planned to go to Bangkok’s Sky Bar, which gained fame after being a filming location for The Hangover, Part II. Due to this place’s popularity, there’s a very strict dress code and drinks and food here can be quite expensive (even though we’re talking Thailand here). I kept having to remind myself that I was on vacation- it was okay to splurge.
Unfortunately, it began to downpour on our way to the Sky Bar. Whelp, that scratched out that plan in an instant. Instead, we retreated to the nearest mall where we ate poke bowls for dinner and called it a night.
The next night, Jac and I found out that there was actually a sky bar right next to our hostel. It might not be THE Sky Bar, but it was also not all the way across town and a million bucks to sit down at. Score! After waiting for another rainstorm to finish, we took an elevator up to the 46th floor of the Cielo Sky Bar and Restaurant. Since we had arrived right after a storm, the sky bar was technically not open yet. However, the sweet staff opened the outside section just for us and we got to have the rooftop to ourselves for a good 15 minutes before other dinner guests began showing up.
It was absolutely breathtaking! You had a 360 view of Bangkok and every so often, a portion of the sky would light up from the storm in the surrounding areas. I didn’t want to look away. Especially because I realized that almost nowhere else (and definitely not in the U.S) could I get this view and drink for a total of only $10.
The next morning, my sister and I had an early wakeup call in order to catch a van to Damnoen Saduak. This is Bangkok’s most popular floating market. I was a bit weary of this market has it has become known as a tourist trap. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the market wasn’t quite as bad or crowded as I thought it would be. Plus, I got a delicious serving of coconut ice cream in a coconut shell! Overall, I have no regrets and it was a fun experience.
That night, we packed our bags and took the hour flight to…
Everything went smoothly and we arrived at our hostel a little after midnight. Unfortunately, the manager at our hostel forgot we were coming in late and closed up the hostel for the night. After calling the manager several times, I grudgingly suggested that we try the mini-hotel next door for the night and deal with the hostel in the morning. When we entered the hotel though, we found that the guy at the front desk was busy attending to a few Chinese tourists in the lobby, who were ordering the largest and most unnecessary amount of pork from a menu. As we waited for them to finish up (why were they so insistent on this pork?!? The world will never know…) my cell phone rang. Turns out that the manager finally got my message and would be outside the hostel in 2 minutes. We returned to our hostel to receive hugs from the manager who apologized for leaving early so that he could head out to a show and winded up down the street at a bar. He gave us the keys to our room and said we could check in and pay the next day because he couldn’t think too straight at the moment and wanted to head back down the street… Only in Thailand does this happen.
If you have been following this blog, you might recall that I visited Chiang Mai with my friends back in midsummer to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. It was also while traveling to Chiang Mai that I lost my phone 😦 Luckily, nothing bad happened this time and I enjoyed the “city” just as much as last time.
We went through a bunch of handmade craft stores, got flesh-eating fish pedicures, and walked through some temples. One of the temples we went to, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, required us to get a ride outside the city and up a mountain. We then had to climb the world’s longest staircase to get to the top.
At some points, I thought I was going to die. But, it ended up being worth the view.
And of course, we had to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary while in Chiang Mai! This time though, we only signed up for a half day, which was fine because I was still exhausted by the end of it. While at the sanctuary, we helped feed the elephants bananas and bamboo, played with the newborn elephant, bathed our elephants in a pond, and gave them mud baths in a mud hole.
One of the baby elephants we worked with was super playful and “naughty.” He would put his head down and then randomly charge at us. One girl we were with was looking the other way and had her foot run over by him. By the end of the day, her foot was extremely red and becoming more and more swollen as we watched. Take a way- never turn your back on a baby elephant.
After getting back, showering, and taking a nap, we talked to our hostel manager who was more than happy to take us out that night to a Lady Boy show. It was very Las Vegas-like and hilarious to watch.
Perhaps my favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai this time around was taking a cooking class.
As some of you might know, cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to cook in Thailand. And so, I was really pumped to take this class. The place we cooked at was May Kaidee, which was recommended to me by Jessica for making amazing vegetarian options (Jac is a pescitarian). In preparation for this class, Jac and I didn’t eat anything as we knew that there would be a lot of samples to try. What we didn’t realize was that those “sample sizes” were actually a whole large serving each. In total, we each made:
(Not pictured: Pad Thai)
Needless to say, Jac and I were covered for breakfast, lunch, and diner that day.
Where to even begin with Krabi? It is a heaven on earth with some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.
My sister and I stayed at Bhu Nga Thani Resort on Railay Beach. Railay Beach arguably has some of the best views in Krabi and it’s a must-go destination. It’s also a paradise for rock climbers, hikers, and kayakers.
However, you can only get to Railay Beach by taking a longtail boat. Since the longtail boats leave directly from the beach, my sister and I had to roll up our leggings, hold our luggage above our heads, and wade through the water to get to and from the shore. Not fun.
The resort we stayed at was gorgeous. There ended up being a mix up in with the rooms and we ended up in a Honeymoon suite. Whatever, it was worth the stares from staff and honeymooners for this room.
Jac and I passed our time at Railay laying on the beach and eating som tam (papaya salad) and a variety of local Thai dishes with squid in it.
One day though, we decided to book a tour to Koh Phi Phi. The Phi Phi Islands sit between Krabi and Phuket and is probably the most well-known group of islands in Thailand. Since we were technically in Thailand’s rainy season still (it ended the following week), our tour of Phi Phi was 50% off, which was amazing. AND we ended up having a beautiful day.
First, we were taken to the white sands and clear waters of Bamboo beach:
We then snorkeled by Khai Island. I’m pretty sure this is the point where I started getting sunburn…
Next, we went to Maya Bay- the famous beach featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach. I was a tad disappointed that the place was swimming (literally) with wayyyy too many people and that my man Leo was not around, but at least the sights were still pretty without him.
Afterwards, we saw Viking Cave:
And snorkeled again at Pileh Cove:
Now, the tour advertised that we would get to see and interact with monkeys on Monkey Beach. Little false advertisement as we were not allowed to get off the boat 😦 In actuality, we just saw one monkey climbing a rock at a distance. Not worth the picture.
The next day, Jac and I decided to rent a kayak and explore the rock formations and surrounding beaches on our own.
As a present to myself, I woke up super early on my birthday and walked onto the beach before the sunrise. I then plopped myself down and watched as the sun slowly began to light up the sky. I don’t think I’ve ever really just sat somewhere to watch the sun come up. To do this for the first time on Railay beach, in Thailand, and on my 25th birthday was a pretty magical event that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Twenty-four was an incredible year- I student taught, graduated college, moved away, began to live on my own, and got my first “big girl” job. I’ve met amazing people, seen unbelievable sights, and gained a deeper perspective on life in general. I can’t wait to see what 25 brings me! (sorry to be corny).
Anyway, the rest of my birthday consisted of traveling from airport to airport as we made our way back to Bangkok. I didn’t mind though because I considered the past two weeks as my birthday. I said goodbye to my sister and then headed to a hostel before returning home to Chonburi the next day. Shout out to my sister for traveling halfway around the world to spend time with me and make my birthday extra special. Without a doubt, the best birthday present ever.