My Thailand Review:
I would like to dedicate this post to my friend Rabya, who was the first person I met at McGill when I began my undergrad studies in 2011. Thank you for your encouragement towards my blog and as promised, here is my review of Thailand for you 🙂
As mentioned, some of the trips I have done date back some years. Therefore, I am not able to provide an accurate account of which buses to take to get from one city to another, the cost of hostels, or any other precise information. I can, however, provide a country (or city) review of the places I’ve been to, along with my recommendations and suggestions.
So, first up on the list: Thailand.
I first traveled to this beautiful country in June 2012, before beginning a GAdventures tour of South East Asia (Cambodia & Vietnam). We spent three days in Bangkok; one of my favorite cities in this world. I love Bangkok, because of its architecture. The city manages to combine old and new, throughout, which makes it a magical place. At one moment, you’re walking in the streets and surrounded by sleek and modern sky scrapers and the next, you are standing in front of a giant Buddha statue. The city is also very welcoming towards tourists and is renowned for its famous backpacker street: Khao San Road.
Almost a year ago I came back, this time visiting the gorgeous islands of the Koh Phi Phi archipelago (and a one day stop in Bangkok on my way back home). Koh Phi Phi Don is the living and breathing definition of a party island. Day and night, you can party at the beach, at pool parties, at your hostel and in the streets. However, as of 2am, the party is over; there is no more noise. This was a relief for me when I arrived on my first day, as I was exhausted from a 35+ hour journey. The island also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen (trust me, I’ve seen a few), especially the Maya Bay Beach at Koh Phi Phi Le (sister island).
As mentioned, I have only been to Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Therefore, the places that I recommend visiting only include destinations in those two places (although I am certain there are many other places worth visiting in Thailand as well). Additionally, I may not have had the chance to visit everything that was worth seeing so, if I have made some omissions, please feel free to comment them below.
My Thailand Recommendations:
7. Khao San Road (Bangkok)
If you’re a first timer in Bangkok, Khao San Road is a must see for everyone. Street food, bars, hostels, souvenirs and tuk tuks; you’ll find it all here. Hungry? Check out one of the many food stalls for some 60 Baht pad thai (roughly $2.50 CAD). Looking for something a little more exotic? They’ve got some fried insects too. Khao San Road is THE place for backpackers, so you’re sure to make new friends!
6. Koh Phi Phi Don’s Hidden Beaches
Once you’ve climbed the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint (see point #3 below), instead of going back down the way you came from, go down on the other side of the mountain, to some of the island’s hidden beaches. I don’t have the name of the one we went to, but the directions are quite simple: just keep going down until you find the beach. The path is pretty well marked and its quite easy to get down. Once at the beach, you’ll basically find yourself alone with your companions, as not many other tourists go there (that was the case when we were there last January). Take some time to enjoy the beach and the strong waves, enjoy a quick bite from one of the few spots to eat, as the hike back up is quite tedious (for me anyways – the two friends I was with didn’t struggle half as much as I did!). There is apparently another alternative, which is to take a water taxi back to the other side of the island, but they don’t always run if the waters are rough (which was the case when we were there).
5. Wat Benchamabophit or The Marble Temple (Bangkok)
I visited this amazing temple back in 2012. When I was there last January, it was under repairs, so I’m not certain what its status is now that were in 2017. There are many other temples worth visiting in Bangkok, but this is by far one of the biggest and most beautiful temples.
4. Wat Saket or The Golden Mount (Bangkok)
I actually visited this site twice; once in 2012 and once in 2016. Basically, it is a Buddhist temple located at the top of a man made “mount”. Once you get to the top, you get a great view of the city. From here, you’ll really be able to see what I mean by a mix of old and new architecture.
3. Koh Phi Phi Don viewpoint
As mentioned earlier, if you go to Koh Phi Phi Don, make sure to climb all the way up to the viewpoint (no matter how hungover you are :P). The hike is definitely worth it, as the views are beautiful. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Afterwards, check out some of the island’s hidden beaches by going down the other side (see point #6 above).
2. Grand Palace (Bangkok)
The Grand Palace of Bangkok is definitely one of the most beautiful royal residences I have ever seen and, in my opinion, of South East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam). I visited this palace in 2012 only, as the ticket was a bit pricey (I think around $30 CAD) and I didn’t feel like paying that again in 2016. This Palace was also one of the most beautiful structures I had ever seen, with its many different parts, materials and colours. Beware of locals telling you that “the palace is closed” and offering to take you elsewhere; make sure to consult opening hours online and to rely on those only. When I went in 2012, we had locals telling us it was closed, while we were within eyesight of the entrance and could clearly see many tourists going in and out.
1. Maya Bay (Koh Phi Phi Le)
Last but definitely not the least, is the famous Maya Bay. The island was made famous when the movie The Beach (featuring a young Leo DiCaprio) was filmed there – a movie I had never heard about until getting there. To get there, you’ve got two options, which both include taking water transportation. You can either jump on a tour, which will take you there and to Monkey Island (I highly recommend against visiting this place – there are monkeys everywhere and they are VICIOUS little fckers) or you and your friends can get a private water taxi to the places of your choice. We went with the latter, which was a bit more pricey (about $40 CAD per person, we were 5) but you get to choose where you go and how long you stay. So while other tourist boats landed in Maya Bay for 45 minutes or so, we got to stay for 3 hours or so. We got the see the beach when practically no one else was there, which is how I managed to get one of my favorite photos (photo creds go to my friend Olivia).
So there you have it, my brief review and recommendations on Thailand’s Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi. I hope you enjoyed it and don’t hesitate to leave me a comment if you think I missed any sites worth visiting, or if there’s another country you’d like for me to review 🙂
*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device)