For our one year anniversary, Bryan and I went to Thailand. We started planning the trip as soon as we arrived home from our honeymoon in France last year. So we were beyond excited to finally go on our vacation. We planned for three days in Bangkok and five days in Phuket.
Our first day in Bangkok was a little hectic. We missed our connecting flight from Tokyo to Bangkok due to a flight delay therefore getting stuck in Tokyo for a night. Therefore by the time we arrived in Bangkok it was 3:00pm and we missed the entire day to explore the city. We checked into our boutique hotel in the Siam Square area called Siam@Siam Design Hotel & Spa. I loved it. The interior was decorated with modern art and the rooms were exquisite. We quickly showered and left for our dinner at Sirocco atop the Lebua Hotel. Not only was it in the movie the Hangover II, but it is also the highest al fresco restaurant in the world. The view at dinner was breathtaking. After dinner we ventured to Soi Cowboy red light district. Interesting. Very, very interesting. If you ever go to Bangkok check it out, it’s definitely an experience and I’ll leave it at that.
The following day we were up early to visit all the main temples or wats. We started out at The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Because the temples are sacred we had to be covered with proper attire. No shoulders or legs above the knees can be exposed. So Bryan and I bought matching temple gear.
Once inside, I was in awe the entire time. Every inch of each structure of the Grand Palace and temples were covered with jewels, gold, and decorations. I’ve never seen anything like it. Afterwards we went to Wat Pho which is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha to see the giant Buddha and to get massages – the Thai massage school is located at Wat Pho. Bryan and I both got a thirty minute Thai Foot Massage. It was great to get out of the heat and humidity and relax inside with a foot massage. Following our foot massages, we took a ferry across the Chao Phraya River to see Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Again breathtaking. We climbed the stairs to the first level. Not so scary. Next we climbed the stairs to the second level. The steps were skinny and steep. Scary. I’m afraid of heights but I’m more afraid of falling, so I held Bryan’s hand. There was one level left and the stairs were even steeper and skinnier. Tourists were climbing the steps like they were mountain climbing. Okay that’s an exaggeration, but they were going really slow holding onto the ledges as if they would fall if they let go. I was terrified. Of course Bryan was ready for the challenge. He likes to live on the edge. Me no way. I took one look at those steps and started panic-ing. My heart was racing. I was getting hot…well hotter since it was 80 something outside. So I stayed on the second level while Bryan ventured up to the third.
The following day we took a tour to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam when Thailand was called Siam before the Burmese destroyed it. The old city was partially in ruins but it was still exciting to see the structures and Buddha statues that remained. It was also pleasant to get out of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and see the rural parts of Thailand. We traveled back to Bangkok by a river cruise. Definitely worth doing to add variety to the vacation. Once back in Bangkok we visited The Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) in Chinatown and The Golden Mount (Wat Srakesa). I loved The Golden Mount. We had to climb to the top, but once there, we could see a 360 view of all of Bangkok. Afterwards, we celebrated our last night in Bangkok by having cocktails on the rooftop lounge of our hotel and watched the sunset. We’re sappy.
The following morning we had a one hour flight to Phuket. I was so excited for beaches, ocean, and bronzing in the sun. However we had a minor detour that delayed our fun. The Taxi Mafia! Apparently there is a taxi mafia in Phuket that controls all the taxis to and from the airport so they can charge outrageous prices to all the tourists. To bypass this we decided to take a van that made multiple stops dropping off tourists which would take longer but was much cheaper. Little did we know that they make you wait until the van is completely full with ten people regardless of how long you have to wait until it’s full. It could take five minutes to fill up or two hours. Not happening. So we got our money back and sucked it up and took a taxi. Almost two hours after landing in Phuket, we finally made it to our resort Avista Kata Beach Resort. We immediately had a beer and ventured to the beach. It was my first time I had been in the Andaman Sea/Indian Ocean. The water was the perfect temperature. I jumped right in. After playing in the ocean, we walked to a hole in the wall restaurant. It was the best pad thai I’ve ever had minus the beetle that was hiding at the bottom of it.
The following morning we took a speed boat to Koh Phi Phi islands which is made up of two islands: Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Lei. This was my favorite day of the entire trip. I’ve been waiting to see the Koh Phi Phi islands (and go to Thailand) ever since I saw the movie The Beach in middle school or high school. First our boat stopped at Koh Phi Phi Don (the big island) to see monkeys and snorkel. The water was clear, blue, and warm. Perfect. We jumped right in with our snorkel gear and snorkeled for an hour. I was in heaven. After snorkeling, we went to Koh Phi Phi Lei (the little island). Koh Phi Phi Lei is home of Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed. However, we couldn’t stop at Maya Bay because it was high tide and the water was too rough due to the storm that passed through the night before and earlier that morning. I was bummed because I’ve always wanted to see Maya Bay, but we got to stop on the other side of the island in a lagoon for more swimming. We jumped off the boat into the lagoon. Again the water was perfect. It was very salty so we could float without much work. After swimming at Koh Phi Phi Lei we went back to Koh Phi Phi Don for lunch and then another island in the area for bronzing in the sun and swimming. Did I mention that this was my favorite day? I didn’t want this day to end.
Our adventure continued the next day by going on a sea and cave kayaking tour in Phang Nga Bay, which is north of Phuket and one of the hardest hit areas by the tsunami. It took an hour by boat to get there and before kayaking we had lunch on the boat and swam and bronzed in the sun at an island. Phang Nga Bay is like island city. There were hundreds of tiny islands that popped out of the water everywhere I looked. The real fun was squeezing through tiny caves in the kayak that opened up to tiny lagoons in the middle of the ocean. It was amazing. Pinch me, is this real?! If I were ever shipwrecked this is where I would want to be. On a tiny island in Thailand.
For our last full day in Phuket, we went to an elephant camp in the Chalong Highlands of Phuket. As much as I wanted to elephant trek, I should have done more research because I was appalled at how the elephants were treated. We didn’t know until we were already on our trek, and the guide started hitting our elephant’s head with a bullhorn and yelling at him. The other guides were doing it to their elephants as well. It was the longest hour of my life and it took every part of me to not start crying. My eyes were watery and at one point Bryan even asked the guide if all the yelling and abuse was necessary and the guide did not respond. After the trek I fed the elephants bananas and pineapples. My heart ached for them and I stroked their heads as I fed them. I wanted to rescue all of them and take them with me someplace safe that they could run free. I was in shock for the rest of the afternoon of what I had experienced. I wandered what would happen to them and couldn’t believe that they were treated in such a manner. To erase that memory from my mind, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at Kata Beach. The most beautiful beach I’ve ever set eyes on. Sunshine, sea breeze, and ocean. That evening we traveled by Tuk Tuk to Patong Beach to experience the craziness. They also have a red light district called Bangla Road that has interesting happenings. Again, I’ll leave it to your imagination.
The next day we packed up our bags and spent another day at the beach until we had to leave for the airport that evening. I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I could live in Thailand. I loved everything about it (minus the elephant camp). The entire trip was an adventure. I was in awe everyday. Each day topped the next. We’ve already decided that we are going back to Thailand again in a few years. For our next trip we’ll spend a day in Bangkok, then travel north to the Chiang Mai region to see the rural villages and the humane elephant camps, then to Siem Reap in Cambodia, and finally head south to Koh Samui island off the Gulf of Thailand. Thailand is my happy place and I am already looking forward to our return. Our vacation next year will be hard to top Thailand, so we obviously have to do it big again…maybe Bali.