Thailand: Our home away from home.

 

How many times have we been to Thailand? The count is now up to 4 for me and 5 times for Sam. We both definitely have a soft spot in our hearts for this country that is so well known for its gorgeous beaches, tropical islands and amazing food. It was our first OS holiday together, the place we became engaged and one of the first countries we  have begun our world trip in! It’s the country we have spent the most time in aside from our own home, Australia. It is literally our home away from home.

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We went coconuts for cocktails on the beach!

Back in 2012 we took our first overseas holiday as a couple. This was my first time OS and I still remember how excited I was! Truly I was like a kid on Christmas morning. The choices were: stay in an immaculate 5 star resort for 1 week or a 3 star, still good, hotel for 3 weeks. At this point in time we weren’t living together so we wanted as much time together as possible. We booked a 3 week stay in Phuket near Patong beach at a hotel called APK resort. In those 3 weeks we sunbathed, drank cocktails, ate fantastic food, saw the Phuket FantaSea cultural show and of course took the tour to Phi Phi islands and the famous Maya Beach. We had a blast! It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the experiences that come from OS travel!

Our next Thai trip we booked for my 21st birthday celebrations in June 2014. We decided to go back to Patong, Phuket because of this wonderful resort we had walked past back in 2012. The Phuket Graceland Resort and Spa was a sight to behold. It has giant swimming pools (4 I think from memory), 3 different restaurants and all of this is right across from the white sands and crystal blue water of Patong beach! When we walked past here in 2012 we said to ourselves with a sigh “ahh one day we’ll come here”. So it felt like a dream when we arrived the night before my 21st birthday. Sam had paid for my flight as my early birthday present. Little did I realize he had also packed a diamond ring into his luggage!

WARNING PROPOSAL STORY ABOUT TO COMMENCE… 😉

IMG_0074.JPGOn the morning of my birthday we walked along the beach and I went parasailing as a birthday treat. That was seriously the closest thing I had felt to flying. That was until back at the resort, on our pool side deck, I was lounging on a chair (in my bikini! I know proposed to in my bikini ;)) when Sam handed me a book. “I couldn’t give you nothing on your 21st!” he said. It was a beautiful scrapbook of all our memories in photographs with the cutest little quotes written next to them. I, of course, was crying like the sentimental girl I am (sentimental presents are the best kind, my favourite!). I got near the end and flicked the page over and it read…

marry me

I looked at Sam and, yep, there he was right next to me the entire time I was looking at the book, on one knee, holding the most gorgeous ring I had ever laid eyes on. He managed to say the words to me but all I could do was fling my head back, cry even more, put my hands over my face and say “yes, yes, yes” over and over again. He put the ring on me and we swam over to the pool bar for a celebratory cocktail. Later that day I Skype called my family and then his family and, what do you know, they already knew everything! Sam had asked my parents permission, aw!

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Squishy faced new fiancee pose!

Okay finished. Read on!

So we obviously love Phuket. It will always be special to us. This time around however we found, as soon as we ventured out of Phuket, just how much MORE Thailand has to offer!

Now back to the world trip. Here we are again in 2016! We visited our good old friend Phuket first. We did the usual night out on the infamous Bangla road, baking in the sun on Patong beach and this time we even tried Muay Thai Boxing at Maximum Fitness and Combat Centre (ask for Mr. A to train you, he’s an ex fighter himself and he’s excellent). By the end of our time in Phuket this time around we felt like we had done it to death! So we were excited for new surroundings in the form of North Thailand’s city of Chiang Mai.

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One of the many amazing wats of the Old City!

One of the first things we noticed about North Thailand was the price difference compared to the South! Everything is way cheaper! In Chiang Mai we mixed it up and stayed at a guesthouse called Banilah guesthouse and a hostel by the name of Hug hostel. We thoroughly enjoyed both accommodations and would recommend them to anyone. Since Hug hostel we bumped into 4 of our dorm mates, on more than one occasion, all around S.E.A! In Chiang Mai we visited only a handful of the many Wats (temples) inside the Old City square.We also took a tuk-tuk up to the temple on the hill; Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, with an amazing view of the whole of Chiang Mai. Be sure to go on a not so cloudy day! But our favourite activity (probably our favourite tour of the entire country + trip so far) was without a doubt the Thai cooking school! We went to the number 1 rated cooking school on TripAdvisor called Thai Farm Cooking School. Without it we would not have tried so many different Thai foods while backpacking around the rest of Thailand. I’ll now let the photos do the talking for me :).

From Chiang Mai we went on a day tour to Chiang Rai and saw the White Temple. Although the more modern and exuberant of the temples it was still worth the visit. It was a sight to behold with all of the intricate mirrors attached to the outside to reflect the light of the sun making it appear even more white, if possible wear sunglasses! Next we took a bus ride from Chiang Mai to Pai. This windy road has over 700 twists and turns through the picturesque hills of North Thailand. I DO NOT RECOMMEND BEING HUNGOVER FROM AUSTRALIA DAY ON THIS BUS TRIP. The capitals are necessary here, believe me.

Pai is a beautiful and sleepy little town in North Thailand. If you can make it up here if you’re in the North, do so! We stayed in another hostel only a short stroll from the night market streets which are open from around 6pm-9/10pm every evening! So many choices for dinner or drinks or both! Even some awesome bakeries for dessert too. I highly recommend buying a 30baht bamboo cup tea from one of the 3 vendors around this night market. Keep your bamboo cup as you get refills for only 10baht! During the day in Pai we rented a scooter and took a ride to Pai canyon, the Landsplit, Temple on the hill (you can see the white buddha from low ground all around Pai), Tham Lod cave (about an hours ride from the main town) and the natural hot springs. Little old Pai certainly had a lot to offer. Make sure you get a scooter! You can access so much more for a better price with one. There are scooter classes available too if you’ve never ridden before!

We booked the slow-boat option to make our way into Laos. After we said goodbye to Pai we got on our bus (back down through the winding roads, we could actually enjoy the scenery this time around) to Chiang Khong. We stayed right alongside the Mekong river that night. The next morning we were aboard the slow boat into Laos.

After some time of travel through Laos and Cambodia (I’ll save these for another blog another day) we came back to our second home of Thailand. We counted; my fourth visit and Sam’s fifth. We stayed in the capital of Bangkok for 1 night only before heading back down south to visit the famous islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan for some well needed rest and relaxation!

In Koh Samui we stayed on the Mae Nam Beach side of the island. We stayed at Beachway hotel in Chinatown, just a short walk to the beach. The sand is grittier than most but the water is sublime. We didn’t stay too long in Koh Samui as we wanted to see Koh Tao aka Turtle island. We took a snorkel day tour here as we didn’t leave ourselves enough time to do a dive course (leave 4 days free to do this if you want to!). Snorkeling is and will always be one of my favourite things to do. You must go to Nangyuan island! Yes it’s usually full of tourists but the viewpoint here is amazing. It features on the front of our website! Here it is again.

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Nangyuan Island! Need we say more?

On board the ferry again to Koh Phangan. We landed here post Full Moon party, a choice we made before even visiting the islands. Oh boy, I’m so glad we gave the Full Moon party a miss! The influx of people leaving Koh Phangan 2 days after the party was huge. Can you imagine lining up as one of over 1,000 people trying to leave an island? Me neither. Koh Phangan has been my favourite of the three islands so far all thanks to our beautiful beach bungalow. We stayed at Sabaii Bay Resort in a bungalow with a fan for 900baht a night. The beach at our feet with the choice of a pool for a swim also! As a backpacker you can’t ask for much more than that!

Tomorrow we head back to Samui for 1 more night of relaxing and planning future travels. Then aboard the last ferry and back on the train to Bangkok for our plane to Singapore! It’s been splendid as always Thailand! We will miss the beautiful people, the tasty Thai food and 7/11 ham and cheese toasties, the respectful culture and of course the blissful sun and sand! Until our fifth and sixth visit!

Sam and Kirsten x

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