Thailand allows visitors a 30-day visa-free stay. Our 17th month of travel was spent using every single one of those days and maybe one extra (oops!). The clock began ticking when our arrival in Thailand was jumpstarted with the craziness of Songkron but we soon fled the city lights so we could regroup ourselves in a quieter locale. We couldn’t stray too far from Bangkok as we’d be returning to meet our friends and drag them around this crazy country. We gave them a fast-paced island hopping adventure around the Andaman before our time was up. Welcome to Month #17!
Month #17 At a Glance:
- Countries visited: 1
- Number of beds slept in: 8
- Miles traveled: 1,182
- Place-to-place transport segments: 8
- Planes: 1
- Boat segments: 4
- Trains: 3
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 0
- Breweries Visited: 2
- Full Moon Brew Works, Hua Hin Brewing Company
- Different Types of Thailand Beers Drank: 13
- Beaches visited: 10
- Massages: 9
Month #17 Travel Recap
Celebrating Songkran in Bangkok
Our 17th month of travel kicked off with a bang! On a flight from Melbourne, Australia, we arrived into Bangkok during the Thai New Year. This was a huge change of pace, coming from the land down under. Known as Songkran, it’s a 3-day celebration in which an enormous water fight unfolds across Thailand’s capital and throughout country. We arrived late on the second night and had to dodge the water war being waged in order to get keep our luggage dry on our way to the hotel.
But we had all of the final day to get in on the water action and went straight to Khoa San Road, which acts as an epicenter of this wild event in Bangkok.
We weren’t really sure what to expect but we bought some water guns and prepared for battle. It was all such good fun! Freezing cold ice water is loaded into the pistols and the water war wages on! Lots of sweet children get in on the battle, gently rubbing some sort of white chalk onto peoples faces. Here’s a quick video we put together to give you a taste of what this party is all about.
Off the Beaten Path Thailand: Somewhere Near Ban Krut
After traveling so quickly during the previous several months, we were really craving a tranquil place to relax, plan out the next stages of our travels and get a little bit of work done. Sprawling Bangkok just didn’t seem like the right place for that, so after our crazy day of Songkran, we hopped on a train bound for the beach!
Our next stop was outside of a village called Ban Krut. There’s really wasn’t much going on here, which is exactly what we were looking for. Well that, and a good deal, which is exactly what we found.
Our $24 per night stay at this 3-star beachfront resort with amazing infinity pool may be one of the best hotel bargains we’ve discovered on our trip. A few soothing days by the pool were broken up with kayaking and visiting nearby temples that lie on the hilltop overlooking the sea. During our time throughout New Zealand and even South America we stayed mostly budget friendly hotels and private hostel rooms because that’s what our budget could afford in those places. So its been so nice for us to once again dabble into luxury here in Thailand.
Horsing Around in Hua Hin
While our tranquil stay near Ban Krut undoubtedly served its purpose, our next stop took us looking for just a bit more civilization. That took us on another train ride, this time to a city called Hua Hin. Here we hunkered down for nearly a week plotting and planning our next adventures.
Hua Hin became a perfect base do some much needed travel-housekeeping. Its here in Hua Hin that the King of Thailand relaxes in his summer palace, so we were amongst good company. There was a nice-enough beach to clear our minds, malls and other conveniences, a great night market, a little nightlife, and some fantastic restaurants.
Come to think of it, I’d say all of our favorite meals we had while in Thailand were in Hua Hin! Maybe we didn’t go to the right places while in Bangkok or other destinations but the little restaurants and corner stalls we stumbled into while wandering Hua Hin had us coming back again and again.
If you ever happen go to Hua Hin, we had two favorite restaurants. Onn Onn Corner Hua Hin for the fantastic penang including a scallop version of the dish. And the super-spicy crab curries at Hua Hin Koti were painfully delicious. At both restaurants the quality-to-value ratios were off the charts.
It was while walking the city streets looking for our next Thai meal that we noticed posters for the Asian Beach Polo Championship. With this event being in town during the weekend of our visit, we just had to see what it was all about. Knowing nothing about polo we went not really sure what was in store for us.
The event turned out to be a somewhat unexpectedly great time at the swanky InterContinental. We were completely captivated by all the action of the match itself yet it was the posh soirée surrounding the main event that really wowed! We were lushes taking full advantage of all the free flowing booze and delectable cuisine while we tried to play it cool hobnobbing with Hua Hin’s high society.
As our highlight to Hua Hin, we were quick to write a full blog post about The Asian Beach Polo Championship here.
A Break From Travel in Bangkok
Eventually we returned to Bangkok for a new type of tourism for us, medical tourism, which we combined with taking a little break from our normally aggressive travel schedules. When you’ve been traveling nonstop for nearly a year and a half, it does some good to take a little hiatus from constantly being on the go, so we hit the pause button on our travels and sightseeing …for a few days anyways.
First it was off to get patched up, getting a much-needed new pair of prescription glasses and taking care of some dental work. The care here is extremely affordable compared to rates we’re accustomed with back in the US, yet we still received professional, clean, and expert care. Bye-bye cavity!
We wound down our travel break in Bangkok indulging in some of the little things we’d been missing from home. It had actually been about a year and a half since we’d been to an actual movie theatre! So it was great fun for us to simply be able to laugh along to the latest Samuel L. Jackson movie, Big Game, and it was a unique experience watching it in Thailand where prior to the film everyone rises as a song plays to respect the King of Thailand.
Seeing Bangkok in a Day
Eventually our friends from back home would arrive to Bangkok to join us roaming around Thailand. We were so excited to see them and it was awesome to actually have real life friends traveling around with us.
Their journey with us would start with a single full day in Bangkok. It is said, you can’t see Rome in a day but we challenged that with Bangkok. If you’re ever trying to aggressively see Bangkok in a day, we thought this made for a decent albeit fast-paced itinerary to play around with.
We spent the day taking in some of Bangkok’s quintessential tourist experiences that we’d been saving until their arrival. It all began by taking a tuk-tuk to whisk us through Bangkok’s chaotic streets, which is an experience in itself. But this sometimes heart pounding ride was also used to get us to the temples.
We visited both the Grand Palace and The Reclining Buddha and really appreciated the latter much more than the massive tourist hoards clogging the Grand Palace. After lunch and a short shopping stroll down nearby Khao San Road, it was time for a change of pace. With the crowds and the heat being equally intense, we needed to escape the very best way possible in Thailand… massage!
So that afternoon we broke our friends into what would be the first of many cheap Thai massages that would become a nearly daily ritual. At about $5 for an hour treatment why wouldn’t you? Consensus seemed to favor reflexology foot massages over traditional Thai massages partly due to the fact that you can still enjoy an ice-cold Chang beer during the latter treatment.
Our one-day tour of Bangkok wound down the evening with dinner at one of the Bangkok’s renowned rooftop bars, which seem to be sprouting up all over Bangkok after being made famous by the Hangover sequel.
Although night had fallen, we couldn’t let them sleep off their jet lag without giving them an eye opening look at what was lurking down Soi Cowboy, one of Bangkok’s famous red light districts. If culture shock hadn’t set in yet, it certainly did now!
Returning to Southern Thailand
But it wasn’t the city lights our friends were interested in. Like us when first arriving to Thailand, they wanted to get out to the beach. Our first stop: Phuket.
This segment of our trip would be a little bit of a homecoming for us. We had actually been to many of these places on a two-week trip to Thailand we had made exactly five years earlier. We looked forward to taking our friends around to our favorite spots!
Panic in Phuket
The busy beach resort area of Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket) is not one of our favorite places in Thailand. We find it to be super touristy and a bit sleazy. Yet its redeeming side is that it has some great hotels that are of fantastic value at this time of year and there’s a handful of nice excursions you can take from this tourist hub. We were using Phuket as a gateway to the islands but decided to stay for a few days to embark on one of these day trips.
With the next week and a half on an island-hopping itinerary through the Adaman Sea, we opted to spend our one full day in Phuket taking in a whitewater rafting adventure tour. We had fun riding ATVs through the jungle to spot some monkeys, visit with elephants, hike to a waterfall, and even do some zip lining. But the whitewater rafting part of this day trip was a total nightmare.
The careless operator put us in an very dangerous situation that threw us all out of the raft into the shallow and sharp rocks below, leaving us not only shaken but cut up and bloody. I hope to get around to elaborate more on exactly what happened with this horrendous experience which could have easily been avoided. It was bad. Yet the one good thing that can come out of this is our ability to now warn people about the lack of safety used on these rafting trips, so look for a blog post about that to come.
We tried to put this vacation nightmare behind us by instead relaxing at our awesome infinity pool with happy hour back in Phuket. We proceeded to successfully calm our nerves with an excess of cocktails well into the evening and even popped in to one of the establishments known for its ping-pong spectacles.
A Trip to “The Beach”
Some people have a romance with train travel. For me, I’m realizing more and more how much we enjoy traveling by sea. So it made us extra excited that for the rest of our Thailand trip boats would provide our primary means of transportation.
Our first ferry would deposit us in the Phi Phi islands, which rose to popularity after being used as the filming location of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach. You can’t actually stay at “the beach” (Maya Bay) as the island of Phi Phi Leh has no accommodation. Instead you bunk up at neighboring Phi Phi Don where you can take an island hopping tour of its famed sister island.
Yet just like the Grand Palace, “the beach” attracts throngs of tourists. So if you have any desire to experience it like young Leo did, you must wake up early in the morning and hire a long tail boat to take you around. That’s exactly what we did and what we’d strongly recommend to anyone else wanting to see Maya Bay. Be sure to leave Phi Phi Don absolutely no later than 8am and make Maya Bay the first stop on your itinerary. The earlier, the better!
This 4-hour route that the longtail guys will take you on is really a great experience if you can beat the crowds. Here’s a quick video highlighting our trip:
Sunset drinks are a must here. And once nightfall has set in, its fun to join the backpacker crowd for some huge buckets of booze, dancing, and fire shows.
Railay is Really Rad
After riding off our hangovers flanked by cheap booze, it was time to head out to our favorite spot in Thailand: Railay. Days were spent hiking, caving, island hopping, and kayaking. I’m being a little brief about our three wonderful days in Railay because I’m instead writing a much longer detailed post divulging all the awesomeness of our favorite Thai destination.
Koh Yao… Yay!
Our last stop on our stay in Thailand was a last-minute addition to the itinerary when I spotted an insanely good deal on a 5-star resort on a nearby island we knew little about. So we caught a speedboat to the island of Koh Yao Yai to find out what the Santhiya was all about.
It turned out to be a perfect way to wind the often-hurried 10 days we had with our friends. The property was so nice that we had absolutely had no reason to leave. A massive pool was accented with not only a waterfall but also longtail loungers. Our enormous sea view room came complete with a jacuzzi tub on the balcony! We were spoiled.
It was paradise. So rather than running off on another excursion, we just soaked it all in and enjoyed a couple awesome days of luxury living that seemed to go by oh-too-quickly. Stay tuned for the full details on this incredible bargain.
Where In the World Are We Roaming Around Next?
We bid our friends good-bye and boarded a flight bound for Malaysia, which is where you’ll now find us continuing this journey.
We flew to Malaysia simply because our time in Thailand was up and this was the cheapest flight out. Once we got here, we’d figure out where to go next. So far Malaysia’s been a pleasant surprise and we’re really enjoying it. So we’re now planning to stay here for a little while, making our way down to Singapore and then over to Malaysian Borneo.
From there we have some loose ideas to possibly go the Philippines and maybe Vietnam, where we’d like to then head to China. Logistics, time constraints, weather, budget, other obligations, and obtaining visas may all prove challenging to this plan, so we’ll see how it all unfolds but that is the latest from our ever-evolving travel itinerary.
Until Next Month
First, we just wanted to let you know that if you noticed that Month #16 update was missing, you’re not crazy. We’ve fallen a bit behind on our monthly updates, so had to skip it, for now. Our 16th month of travel was spent in New Zealand and we’re far from finished writing about the amazing travel experiences we discovered throughout the country. So it’s our hope that we tie it all together with a belated post that chronicles our month long itinerary throughout the North and South islands and our short stint in Australia.
Next month’s update will mark one and half years of traveling for us, which is very exciting as we never planned nor expected to reach that milestone during this trip.
Also, thanks again to you for following along on this wacky journey of ours as we attempt to blog about it. We wanted to give a special thanks to our friends Jay & Kelly who came half way around the globe to roam around Thailand with us. Lastly, happy summer travels to all and see ya next month!
-John & Heather