I travelled to Thailand with my Mum last November. We were really excited about the trip but went with some apprehension because it was when the floods hit Bangkok.
Looking down onto the glimmering flood planes to the North or Bangkok, it was easy to see how much devastation had been caused by the harsh rainfall over the last few months. Worried glances from passengers as we flew closer to the city made me feel on edge. As we came into land, we could see the city beneath us, which had for the most part avoided the destruction.
We walked off the plane to a wall of heat and humidity and journeyed through the massive airport to where we were collected by Tour East and taken to our hotel, Century Park. Check in was fast and we were soon ready to venture out onto the streets of Bangkok. Walking through the bustling streets, to the smell of unknown foods and endless streams of traffic and people it was clear that this part of the trip would leave us exhausted!
Our first day was an early start, and after a hearty breakfast we headed off in our mini bus to the Bridge over the River Kwai. During the 3 hour drive I managed to catch up on some much needed sleep, which made the time go by a lot quicker! We arrived at the river to find a speedboat waiting for us to take us to the bridge. The bridge was smaller than I imagined, but wonderful none the less. We took photos as we sped underneath and docked. Walking across the bridge, we stepped aside as the small passenger train chugged by and tourists cheerfully waved to us. It was a lovely warm sunny day which made it all the more enjoyable.
My mum and I are both shopaholics and a trip to the night market was a must. Stalls lined the streets selling everything you can imagine from t-shirts, fake designer jeans and shoes to lamps, DVD’s and handmade goods, all at a fraction of the price than it is at home. Bartering is essential to get the best price here and it is expected. The stall owners will rarely let you walk away empty handed! The infamous lady boys strutted their stuff outside the bars and clubs, some obvious and some not so. Loud music could be heard in every bar and it is not hard to see why this city has its reputation.
We did not want to leave Bangkok without a trip to the Grand Palace, home to the Emerald Buddha. Grand it was! Dazzling in the sun, this stunning kingdom, once the home to the Thai King sits proudly within its walls. I was struck by the beautiful architecture and intricate detail which decorated the walls. We took our shoes off before entering the temple, and sat down in front of the Buddha to pay our respects, whilst a monk blessed us with kind words and holy water. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been.
After a busy few days in Bangkok we flew up to Chiang Mai, where we embarked on a three day itinerary. Chiang Mai, a small yet vibrant city reminded me of a seaside town. Although lively and colourful, it had a much more laid back atmosphere and it was nice to slow down after the hubbub of Bangkok. Again, the streets came alive at night, colourful stalls lined the pavements and music filled the air. A cabaret show in the main square was a big attraction, and some of the lady dancers figures were so fantastic it was hard to believe that they were in fact men! Wearing vivacious outfits, and intense makeup, they strutted the streets, posing for photographs and eager tourists along the way! Another tradition which must not be missed is a Thai Massage. This is an inexpensive yet wonderful treat for anybody who had been shopping as much as us!
Whilst in Chiang Mai, we embarked on an exciting elephant trek through the Chiang Dao rainforest. It was breakfast time for the elephants when we arrived, and it was our job to feed them. We held out bunches of bananas as they eagerly grabbed them with their trunks. They were so beautiful, and to be able to get this close to them was fantastic. We watched the keepers as they led them to the river where they bathed in the water. It reminded me of a car wash, and the elephants looked as though they were having great fun! Finally the moment came where we could ride the elephants. They are such gentle animals and were happy to plod along whilst we admired our surroundings. Sat in a rickety seat on its back, we trudged through the forest to the sound of birds and the river. What an experience! This was the highlight of my trip!
After three days of yet more shopping, eating and temples we flew down to the beach resort of Koh Samui. At last, a whole seven days to chill out! We arrived into the small yet enchanting airport, a tropical hut decorated with flowers and photographs of the beach! We were pleasantly surprised when we were told that our hotel was just 5 minutes from the airport. We arrived at the Bhundari resort and villas, a beautiful hotel set in the hillside. Greeted by the smiling receptionist, our bags were taken from us and we were driven to our room by the resort buggy. We spent the next few days in the sun around the tropical pool, something we had not had time to do in the cities. The Hotel had access to its own beautiful secluded beach. White sand and swaying palm trees set an idyllic scene. Koh Samui town was a lot lower key than I expected but it was nice to enjoy a slower pace. Being a seaside town, many of the restaurants specialised in fresh seafood- a favourite of mine! We took an opportunity to explore the waters on a boat trip, which took us to the stunning Mae Ko Island, one of the many that make up the Anthong Marine Park. We sailed into a small sandy cove before trekking up the hundreds of winding wooden steps built into the rock face, where we were rewarded with a magnificent view across the whole park. At the heart of the Island is a spectacular emerald lagoon. Sitting up there in the hot sun, admiring the breathtaking views was amazing. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the day recovering from the climb on a beautiful sandy beach. In my hotel, I met some people who were keen to sample the local nightlife. So off we went. There are many bars along the beach, full of backpackers looking for cheap beer and cocktails. Music played in the background, whilst we drank until late. Occasionally we would be pestered by kids trying to sell beads and roses, but more often than not they were just looking for attention and clearly enjoyed the company of the tourists. Fireworks and lanterns filled the sky and it added to the great atmosphere.
All in all this was a fantastic holiday to Thailand and one that I will never forget. This wonderful place exceeded my expectations and I was not disappointed! There is so much still to see and it is safe to say that I will definitely be going back!
Vicky – L J Personal Travel