Back from our trip to Thailand with much darker (and somewhat itchy, patchy ) skin! It was a bit confusing to be in such hot and humid weather in December where Christmas carols played in the stores and on the streets but I didn’t miss Boston weather at all. I have to admit that I am a little sad to have felt like we totally missed out on the holidays but don’t regret taking this opportunity to make it out to Southeast Asia.
Below is mostly a memory of our itinerary so I remember what we did, where we went and any tips for our future trips. I realized I forget it all once I’m back home and want a place to remember back on our vacations! We took it a bit easy this trip because our vacation time was set in between two hard on-call weeks for Justin but still had a fun and relaxing time.
Maybe it’s because I needed time to adjust, but Bangkok felt hotter and more humid than the other cities we visited. We landed Saturday night after 24 hours of flying (!!). Boston has limited flight options to Asia and United is even more limited so alas we stopped in Chicago and Tokyo before we made our last leg into Thailand. I was a little sad and excited when we stopped by Tokyo (because I wanted to stay!) – but at least we got to taste a few goodies from the 7-11 inside the airport!
I did a lot of research on where to stay because it was a bit confusing and decided to stay on Sukhumvit road near Nana station where a lot of the sites noted it was easy to get to places and also near some fun street vendors/markets. Our hotel was nice and easy to get to places from but if I went back, I’d stay near the Riverside area. Even though there’s not a lot of public transportation in that area, I think I would’ve enjoyed exploring the area more in the evenings. Taxis are also relatively cheap, just be smart about negotiating the price before you hop in!
McDonalds – Corn pie! Do it. Fried, cripsy, creamy and sweet. We tried the pineapple as well but the corn pie takes it away! I’m craving it now as we speak…
Chatuchak Market – Coconut Ice Cream Bowls – … pretty sure it was vanilla ice cream with in a coconut bowl with coconut shavings. Disappointed. Are they all like this? I never gave it a second chance.
Chatuchak Market – random restaurant in the center. It was pretty average, I’d recommend venturing out to more recommended stalls/restaurants and avoid the market sit-downs unless you know where you’re going.
Chatuchak Market – Pork on a stick was full of flavor and super moist!
Sornthong Pochana – This restaurant was a bit out of the way but highly recommended by a lot of Korean bloggers and YouTube vloggers. While it was good, I don’t think it was worth the cab ride to just to eat there because there’s nothing else near it. The most famous dish there is the yellow crab curry and although the food at the restaurant was relatively super cheap, the crab was unexpectedly $30 so Justin had to run to the ATM across the street! We also enjoyed the oyster pancakes, morning glory, and fried rice!
Doy Kuay Teow Reua – Boat noodles! 10 minutes from Victory Monument. Recommend by Mark Weins, this place was delicious and unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in Thai restaurants in America and so it was a new flavor that was yummy. It’s a dark rich bowl that comes seasoned with chilies with a choice of pork or beef (we chose pork). The bowls are tiny and people eat 2-3-4 at a time. We only ate one each to save stomach space but saw people stacking their bowls up. Though, I also learned later that the broth is made from either cow or pigs blood…. I probably won’t be having it again but a great place to try for the adventurous!
And here are some random carts after Boat Noodles
Som Tam Nua – A popular papaya salad and fried chicken joint. It’s a trendy, clean and hip restaurant that’s popular with Korean bloggers (again) – it’s decent but not amazing.If you’re near the Siam malls, a good place to stop by for some AC and relaxing restaurant. I’m noticing a trend that I don’t love any of the places that Korean bloggers tend to recommend..
Sky Bar – Amazing views! Amazingly expensive drinks but worth it to hang out after a long day of walking. We went around 4:30-5 when the sun was still up and got to enjoy the view of the city in both light and dark.
Mangoes! Ate all the mangos I could.. And all the desserts from Korean sul-bing (delicious), yenly yours, mango tango and then just bags of mango on the go. They are so much sweeter than anywhere else!
(why do Asian places love corn flakes in their corn desserts??)
Things we did and places we saw
Honestly, a bit templed-out from Japan, we only went to the most famous reclining Buddha in Bangkok, got a Thai massage there, and passed by the palace. We had to rent a wrap to tie around my waist because I was wearing shorts and also saw a bunch of people wearing these blue elephant pants all throughout Bangkok which I found hilarious. Your clothes need to be knee length of longer for both men and women! I also recommend getting a thai massage (somewhere!), it’s a fun and relaxing experience.
We spent most of our time roaming the streets, passing markets (stopped by the interesting flower market filled with yellow flowers!) and also exploring the fancy malls and grocery stores because in Asia (Korean and Japan too), the malls are the fanciest places to see! I grabbed some dried mangoes, bento (dried squid?) and nuts to nibble on. We also sampled some fancy dried durian that was actually pretty good!
We also did a food tour that I highly recommend doing. There’s a lot of options and I gauge that they are fairly similar. Amongst the standards, we got to try different types of muslim-thai, indian-thai and when traveling with just two of us, it’s hard to try a lot of dishes but the food tours let us graze across a lot of different dishes. My standout dishes on the tour was green curry (I’ve never actually had it in the states?!), tom yum noodles which I find way too sour and in the US was totally different in this hole in the wall restaurant in Bangkok and fried lemongrass with chicken. I will probably day dream about the fried lemongrass for awhile. We also visited a small temple/school and heard a little bit about the history. Personally, I like it when a bit more of history and stories are included in the tour but overall I was very happy with the experience!
Things we missed but would try if we were back!
Soei Restaurant – Highly recommended by Mark Weins so pretty bummed we didn’t have time for this.
Vertigo Too bar – Another skyline bar if you’re closer to it instead of Sky Bar
Chinatown – Don’t plan to go on Monday! Chinatown is mostly street food but found out too late that street vendors are not allowed to operate on Monday’s so we missed out on the opportunity to explore! We did end up at a nearby bar though!
Rachawat and Sriyan traditional markets
Hotels in Chiang Mai are on the more affordable side. We were only there for 2 nights so I didn’t stress too much about where we’d stay and chose a mid-range hotel in the old city. It was a cute little guesthouse with no complaints but noticeably smaller than our upgraded “suite room” in Bangkok. If you’re planning to go on any tours, most pickups in the old city are free whereas outside the boundaries, there’s often some sort of fee.
Coconut Shell: The first night, we were tired and happened upon a place near our hotel with decent Tripadvisor reviews. I was a little worried because once we got to the restaurant, there was not even one Thai patron! But the food turned out to be decently good (probably not authentic) but the red curry was a standout! We also had mango sticky rice there for the first time and I was actually very surprised on how the combo meshed well together. Don’t knock it until you try it!
TongTemToh: Hip place outside the old city. We rented bikes for the day and rode around the city and parked ourselves here for lunch. At noon on a Thursday, there was a wait of about half an hour. We ordered a lot here – some appetizers (Northern Thai sausage, chili dips), fried fish, popular curry, veggies, jackfruit salad. Overall good – but I did NOT like the jackfruit salad. We later also realized that the funky smells on the street was coming from jackfruit (not durian!)
(On our way to the restaurant – biking!)
(jackfruit salad – I did not like this one….)
We did another food tour here which went to two of the most popular night markets. The foods was fun to try but there was no history or any info given about the origins of the food. I wanted to go to the “A chef’s table” tour in Chiang Mai but it was sold out on the night we could make it. Overall, we still had a great time because we got to try foods we probably would’ve never thought to order on our own. We sampled some of the famous cowboy lady hat stewed pork, some deliciously stirfried noodles which I later found out was a famous food stall and interesting sweets here and there. We also tried durian for the first time! Maybe it’s the one we tried, but it did not smell foul at all. We had it with sticky rice and it was actually pretty good but I prefer mango because it’s sweeter! Oh yeah, and can’t forget about the khao soi that’s famous in Chiang Mai!
Pandan Sauce with Fried dough. Looks like an interesting color but it’s yummy and sweet!
stir-fry noodles. surprisingly delicious food stall!
The famous Cowboy hat Lady! She sells the stewed pork.
Cheers to Thai Whiskey!
Things We Did
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary! Chiang Mai is particularly famous for their elephant tours. I was a little bit weary about this but Justin noted it’s a top attraction and we can just be careful about where we choose to go (don’t ride the elephants!). The ride there was interesting, a pickup like truck for about 90 minutes. No seat belt, so make sure you hold on! The experience was fun and interesting with feeding of elephants, bathing with them (in their own poop lake) and mud bathing as well! I definitely get tense around all animals, heh but an afternoon well spent! There was one “adolscent” elephant that kept trying to run away to the sides and was pulled back. Ha. The tour guide said he’s just being a teen and while they had to go catch him back, you could see the workers were really close with the elephants. We went in the morning and am glad we did even though waking up was not easy – it gave us more time in the afternoon and left us out of the super hot afternoon sun.
Our ride to the elephant sanctuary in the pick up truck. Hanging on with our lives!
Happy elephants being fed bananas!
Elephant on the move!
Mud Bath Location!
Chiang Mai is also best known for all the temples that are in the small city as well as the jungle trekking and tribal village visit tours. We unfortunately didn’t have time for the latter and was still templed out. Instead, we rented some bikes and road along the outside of the old city, visited some markets and made it to the largest temple. It also started pouring with no warning (Weather Channel app failed me) and we got absolutely soaked/drenched. If we waited about an hour, all would have been fine except we had a plane to catch to Krabi! We road in the rain like crazy people, returned our bikes, ran to our hotel that was holding our stuff for us, changed some of our undergarments and panicked that our “grab” aka uber was taking long in the rain. (Only I panicked while Justin tried to calm me down) We got to the airport 1 hour before departure – ran through the airport and was fine and sat around for 20 minutes before boarding 🙂 Oops, sorry I made you nervous.
Fun Market Touring in the AMBiking to the temple before we got soaked!
The longest leg of our trip and no regrets! We got to relax, hang out, watch some TV shows by our private pool, and got super tan and burnt. I’ve never been sunburnt before and so that was definitely a new thing. We put on a lot of sunblock fairly frequently so I was surprised but I guess that shows how strong the sun is out there! Aloe to the rescue.
We (I) contemplated a lot between Krabi and Phuket but chose Krabi (Ao Nang). At the end, we spent a lot of time in our hotel and going to the islands, so I don’t think it would’ve mattered where we stayed. I would’ve enjoyed (possibly) a bit of partying but that isn’t really a thing in Krabi but was still happy with our choice! There’s a town in Ao Nang with street stalls, restaurants and bars so if you don’t want to be isolated, this is your place! It’s also a easy hub to get to all the islands. The perfect mix between quiet but also a bit of people and boat traffic.
The amount of research I did into which hotel to stay at is probably a bit outrageous. Many of the hotels in Krabi don’t serve alcohol so I crossed a lot of those out even if they seemed really nice. I loved the swim up bar in Cancun so was convinced that I needed one in Krabi too but at the end, we only went to the public pool once so probably didn’t really need it. A lot of the hotels in Ao Nang are also not beach-front and more by the mountains. Since we spent so much time at islands, we probably could’ve foregone the beachfront if we wanted but the resort we found was beachfront and we did enjoy it a little (probably not as much as some of the other hotel-goers).
So, where did we stay? We stayed at Krabi Resort in the Tropical Pool Villa. It was probably the largest hotel room we’ve ever stayed in with a living room area, huge bathroom with 2 closets, jacuzzi, double sinks, shower and a even larger bedroom. The highlight of the room though was the private pool! Although, we had issues with the pool for 2 days but was at the islands for that so it was fine (but still annoying). The public pool there isn’t that great but the private pool made up for it and we spent most of our last day there. I wish we had another day or two to relax there but alas, it was time to go.
Our delivered to room breakfast
I can’t believe I didn’t take more photos of our room and only have a video…
The food in Krabi isn’t great. There’s barely any local people in the island areas and so the food is catered to us foreigners (which I don’t usually like even though I am a foreigner?!). We went to Kodam Kitchen and Aning Restaurant which has really good reviews on Google and Tripadvisor but I don’t think either of them were worth it particularly for the US-like Thai food prices we paid. I’d stick to the street food stalls that are much more affordable or just eat all the fruits you can! I do highly recommend ChaPlu Bar = 99 bahts ($3.50) for pretty strong and delicious drinks!
Things We Did
The first full day morning we took a Longboat to Railay Beach. We played in the ocean, laid around and then walked to the east coast of Railay and then to Ao Phra Nang Beach. I really liked Ao Phra Nang Beach because a part of it was super shallow and so we sat around in the water, shaded by a huge rock before returning to our stuff at Railay Beach. While we don’t rock climb, Railay is also famous for it so we sat around and watched people as they attempted some scary climbs. It was a nice relaxing day drinking mango smoothies and resting.
On our way to Railey beach on a Longboat.
Taking paparazzi pictures at Railey Beach!
Hello from Ao Phra Nang Beach
Monkeys on our walk to railey beach west!
There’s a lot of tours you can do. We contemplated between Hong Island, Ko Phi Phi and the 4 islands tour and ultimately went with Hong Island. Hong Island is not as popular as the other two tours but was still fairly crowded and so I cannot imagine how crowded the other beaches would have been. The Hong Islands tour stops by the Hong Island Lagoon, two smaller beach/islands and finally at the main Hong Island. The two smaller islands were pretty but small. We were given snorkeling gear but there wasn’t too much to see although we still enjoyed it. A good fun day in the sun but after hopping around for 5 hours I was ready to chill by our pool!
Tip: Don’t book tours at your hotel (at least not ours) because it’s a lot more expensive. There’s a ton of places to book on the streets but we found the cheapest prices at https://bigtourthailand.com/en/thailand/ao-nang/tours/
There’s a tiny dot in front of the large rock that is DrJuh snorkeling
The last day was the most relaxing. We had breakfast delivered to us and ate at the table by our private pool and hung around before we decided to walk to our resort’s private beach front. Craziness here. A man seemed to have drowned so Justin ran over to help do CPR. It was a really sad and terrifying 10-15 minutes before the ambulance came and took the man and his family to the hospital. No idea what may have happened but please be careful at beaches, particularly when you are abroad!
The rest of the day we enjoyed Burger King (got tired of Thai food), drinks and swam around in our private pool. My favorite part of our trip.
Christmas in 100 degrees… A good effort but not too warm to feel it
Hanging near our hotel
Ultimately, we had a lot of fun in Thailand! The travel back was a bit brutal. The last shuttle bus from Ao Nang to the airport is at 6pm but our flight wasn’t until 9:20 so we hung around and once we got to Bangkok we had another few hours to kill before our 4am flight. In hindsight, we should’ve left Krabi early afternoon and hung around Bangkok for the last day but it was still relaxing – sitting around the beach chairs in Krabi that I think Justin really needed before his crazy schedule back in Boston. Will we return? Maybe if we are already in Asia but the travel is really long, especially from Boston which doesn’t have great flights to Asia. I’m really happy we got to visit though! This is our 8th country in our last < 3 years of marriage! I’ve noticed that my travel style has changed quite a bit from always wanting to be on the go and moving/seeing as much as I can to enjoying some of the relax time that Justin enjoys. I guess this is what marriage does! I wish I kept track more of our past travels but at least I can start now.
Last Thai tea (with oreo crumble) before we leave
Our meal as soon as we got home.. good old Korean food!