Annual getaway planning is always hectic. Especially, if you are considering going to the motherland that same year. Planning finances, time off etc are as chaotic as you can imagine. Ours was no different. In short, our holiday destination had to be in Southeast Asia, had to be a couple of hours travel by air and visa on arrival was an added bonus. In lieu with these requirements Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia fit the bill.
We ruled out Myanmar after a few days of research and decided we could cover Thailand and Angkor Wat in Cambodia in a span of 8-9 days. But as we learnt more about travel options between these two countries we opted to just visit Thailand this time around and boy are we glad!
- Day 1 :Fly to Chiang Mai from Hyderabad via Bangkok
- Day 2 – 4: Sightseeing in Chiangmai
- Day 4: Fly to Krabi
- Day 5-7: Island hopping and snorkeling
- Day 7 : Late night flight from Krabi to Hyderabad via Bangkok
Day 1 – Arriving: R and I traveled for about 24 hrs to reach India. And after spending 10 hrs at home, we took our flight out to Bangkok. 3.5 hr flight to Bangkok. A 2 hr layover and then our connecting flight to Chiang Mai.
The visa on arrival scene is a little confusing to say the least. You will need to fill in a application form available here. In addition to that, you should have proof of stay, return tickets , cash for visa fees and a passport photo (4x6cm). Now, the visa fee per person is 1000 THB but for an additional 200 THB you get to go through the express line. If you are short on time, we’d recommend this.
Once we got off at the Chiang Mai airport it was super easy to find an Uber ride to our guest house. The accommodation at London Tea Room was booked through booking.com. It is an endearing little tea shop that provides lodging. The staff is extremely sweet. Bonus is they have tons of books and give you one complementary welcome tea (and you are allowed to pick the flavor). Reasons to opt for this guesthouse is location and pricing.
When we checked in we were told, check in begins only at 2 PM. We had a couple of hours to kill and the girl at the front desk recommended a nice restaurant in walkable distance for lunch. R and I left our bags at the guesthouse and made our way out looking for food 🙂
Tong Tem Toh is an authentic restaurant serving both North and South Thailand cuisine. And sure enough, there was a huge line. You get to order while waiting in line. So when you are seated, food is served promptly. If you are visiting from the States, we’d suggest adding an extra dish to your order cause the portions are small. After tucking in a good meal we walked back to our hotel for a quick nap and hoped to visit the night market in the evening.
But alas, jet lag took over and we woke up only the next morning 😐
Day 2 – Elephants and Night Market: One of the main reasons for S to get excited about Thailand was the opportunity to see elephants. She kept talking about it until the days leading to our trip. It was also important to her that we go to an elephant park that treated the animals ethically. Needless to say, she researched and researched and researched and settled on Blue Elephant Tours. We opted for the ‘Elephant Keeper’ package and it was really the best time(esp for S). We were promptly picked up at 9 AM by our tour guide. On the way to the Blue Tao elephant village we picked up an assortment of curries, fruit and sweets for lunch from a local market.
Upon arrival, the staff quickly gave us our elephant keeper uniforms to change into. After this, we gorged on the food we picked up on our way(and all this while the elephants were only a few feet away 😀 ). Later, our guide showed us the grounds and helped us make treats for our elephants. A mixture of rice husk and bananas mashed in a mortar and rolled up into a giant laddoo (ball). Post this, he gave us instructions on how to approach the elephants, few commands for it to lift its trunk, eat etc and above all told us not to run.
And with these words, we were introduced to our elephants for the day Mae, Lucky and Dara. Mae is the matriarch of the group followed by Lucky (daughter) and Dara (grand daughter. Gosh, to see these pachyderms up close is as exciting as it is intimidating. It took a couple of basket of bananas for them to warm up to us. Later, the guides helped us mount the elephants for a ride through the forest. S was against this part of the trip even though we would be bare back riding (which isn’t harmful to the elephant). I was persuasive and she relented. What is amazing is the guides never rushed the elephants. Lucky and Mae were at liberty to stop and amble at their will and wish with little Dara hopping around. It was almost surreal. Just the elephants, our guides and us amidst the forest. No cell phones and no rush to be some place – bliss!
After saying good bye to our elephants we ate delicious fruit and coffee before heading out to Chiang Mai. Our guide was kind enough to drop us off at the night market versus our hotel. Although we were pretty exhausted after a long day of activity and jet lag, the scenes at the night market perked us up. Street food, performers, Thai handicrafts all can be found at one place and it is usually crowded. R and I had a blast tasting various items from the food carts. Our favorite is the $1 Spicy Pad Thai. We spent a couple of hours at the market before calling it a night.
Day 3 – Wat Hopping: We planned to explore Chiang Mai and its numerous temples(Wat). Aime at our front desk, helped R with a moped rental. What joy it was to relish teenage memories driving around town on a two wheeler :D. We went around the tiny town on our moped, checking out all the gorgeous shrines. Each one was unique in its own way. If one had a sitting Buddha, the other had a reclining Buddha etc. The embellishments that adorned the temples also changed with respect to its history. If you are short on time, we would recommend checking out Wat Pra Singh, The three kings monument, Chedi Chang Lom to name a few. And while you are at it, please eat at the Khao Sai Khun Yai (Best noodle soup ever!).
By late afternoon, the heat had us beat. We came back to the guesthouse for a short nap post which, we walked the entire neighborhood of Nimmanheamin. I think walking around streets is a habit we picked and cultivated throughout our dating days. It helps us talk, discover tiny stores, hidden attractions and take a look at regular life in a city.
Day 4 – Enroute Krabi: We took an early afternoon flight out to Krabi. How we made it to the airport is another story. We wanted to eat at Pun Pun the famous Vegan restaurant on our way to the airport. But as fate would have it, our Uber driver didn’t speak or understand a word of english and it was his FIRST ride. So he didn’t know how to navigate the Uber maps either :P. If this was not enough, the restaurant was fairly hidden. In short, we made it to the airport a few mins before boarding closed. Rain greeted us on our arrival to Krabi and the forecast for the next few days was gloomy with showers (not the kind of weather you’d want on a beach vacation 😦 ).
We slowly made our way out of the airport and caught a cab to take us to the Nopparat Thara Beach pier. Our resort has speedboats running to and fro from the pier. It took us about an hour to get to the pier and another 15 mins from the pier to the resort. R was in high spirits. We were finally on his turf 😛 .
Centara grand is a well hidden resort surrounded by limestone cliffs, a national park and a private beach. Only drawback is you couldn’t get to the town at your will and wish. And if you aren’t fond of monkeys, I wouldn’t recommend this resort. Although the management takes immense measure to keep these creatures out of the resort they still find their way in. Don’t be surprised if you see a family of monkeys on your balcony when you return from your water sports or when you wake up from a nap 🙂
Day 5 – Island Hopping and Spa: I woke up with chest congestion and a terrible cold the next morning. Owe it to the jetlag and continuous travel, I think. I was also feeling slightly fatigued and was in no mood to venture outside. After a little persuasion R got ready to go island hopping. Our hotel helped him get a spot on a group tour that was leaving at 9 AM. After a quick breakfast, he went off to explore the sea while I found a beach chair and plonked with a book. Let me tell you this, it is spectacular when the gray skies clear up to sunshine and you see the beach turn blue from gray. I spent a few hours here reading and smiling at the occasional ‘I miss you’ texts from R. I was scheduled for a 3 hour intense Thai massage that afternoon and I was looking forward to it. I’ll leave out the details of the massage . But in short, it was glorious and I felt rejuvenated and the congestion seemed to have vanished. After R got back we enjoyed a lovely candle light dinner by the beach and he made it his mission to convince me to go snorkeling the following day. More on that later, but first Mai Tai 😀
Day 6 – Island Hopping and Snorkeling: Heights and S are cool. Spiders and S are cool. Water and S are ummm, not cool. She has this unreasonable fear of water. She could be wearing a life jacket, sitting in a boat a mere 20 feet away from the shore and a bunch of people telling her its okay – she still freaks out while on water. We went to a couple of islands before coming to the snorkeling spots near Phi Phi. The water was awesome and we had 4 year olds on our boat that were jumping fearlessly. S wouldn’t . Took me a good 45 mins to convince her to step into the water. Hold her while she saw fishes swim past her. I barely got to snorkel but eh, it was worth it when she got her head out of the water saying ‘ that was amazing and thank you for making me do this’. Next, we went off to see the famous Maya Bay when the rain came lashing at us. We didn’t miss much. If you ask us, we’d say skip Maya Bay- its an out and out tourist beach with little to no space on the beach.
We toasted S’s sea adventures with some Mai Tai’s while witnessing a beautiful sunset. Oh yeah, we had our first taste of Mango with Sticky rice after dinner that night (and over dosed on it :P). A quiet walk on the beach reminiscing the day was probably a fitting end to the day we had.
Day 7 – Kayaking and Home Bound: We had a few hours until our flight to Bangkok and I was planning on chilling on our balcony , soak in some sun, read a book etc. R had other plans. After breakfast he cajoled me into going for a walk by the beach only to get me into a kayak :/. I have never kayaked before let alone take a kayak into the ocean. But persistance does pay off (for R). I unwillingly got into the couple kayak and we rowed for close to an hour circling around the uninhabited island we watched from our hotel. It is an experience I can never begin to put in words. Soulmate, sea and serenity <3. Jeez, got to thank the guy again for another splendid experience. We basked in the silence of the morning and when it was time rowed to shore.
Thailand was a beautiful surprise to us. Apart from the life changing elephant, snorkeling and kayaking experiences, we understood simple living through Thai culture and that is something we will be taking back with us. Laa-gawn, Thailand!!
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