Thailand: the One with the Elephant named Justin Bieber

HELLO WANDERBUGS! Happy 2018!

My gift to you is… I paid $60 to upgrade my blog to the Personal Plan!!! I needed more space to upload photos (main reason why I’ve been MIA). I mean, I love writing & travel.. but I wasn’t sure about spending money on a blog that makes 0 dollars. But I did it for you, so please appreciate the photos that I paid $60 for 😛

*None of them are photoshopped. I could probably have made the photos more breathtakingly beautiful, but I think they do a pretty good job on their own.

P.S. If anyone has tips on how to move towards the goal of eventually monetizing this blog in the least annoying way possible… please comment! ❤
P.P.S. Or if you want to hire me to plan your next trip, comment below!
P.P.P.S. I just need to pay off my student loans.

So I spent 3 weeks in Thailand, but it could’ve easily been 3 months. My route was Bangkok > Pai > Chiang Mai > Koh Samui > Koh Pha Ngan > Koh Phi Phi (Don) > Phuket.

The thing with South East Asia is that it’s tough to get the names of every restaurant and activity/tour agency – they’re everywhere, & everything starts to sound the same after a while. So for these posts, I will stray from my usual outline. I’ll do SouthEast Asia by COUNTRY (vs. by city), and write a larger post for each. I’ll do “where I stayed” and then skip “what I did/I ate” (mostly in photos) . Instead, I’ll write a chronological blurb on each city/island (I’ll underline food and activities), and then write the usual tips at the end.

Most of the photos will also have a somewhat informative caption.

WHERE I STAYED (& HOW LONG)

  • Bangkok: Airbnb called Apple something. But it’s gone now! Highly recommend staying near Khao San Road. It’s lively at night with lots of food and bars!
    • # Days we stayed: 2 nights, jam-packed days
    • # Days recommended: 3-4 nights if you want to relax
  • Pai: Kirina Retro House. WOW. One of the best places I’ve ever slept in. It was breathtakingly beautiful on the way there, spacious inside, and amazing service. Perfect. Breakfast included! Close to night life too 🙂 (By “night life”, I mean just stuff that happens at night like food stands).
    • # Days we stayed: 1 night, jam packed days (early arrival, late leave, a full 24h)
    • # Days recommended: 2-3 nights
  • Chiang Mai: Ten Boutique House. Pretty clean, no complaints! But when you’re walking around at night, avoid the piles of garbage bags because there are rats in them. And cockroaches are everywhere, so just beware!
    • # Days we stayed: 1 night, just passing through to get to Pai
    • # Days recommended: 2-4 nights, especially if you’d like to do the Elephant Sanctuary here (there’s one in Phuket but Chiang Mai’s is better apparently)
    • I’d recommend an extra night if you want to go to the white temple in Chiang Rai just a bit east of Chiang Mai
  • Koh Samui: ugh, I’ll talk about this island later. We weren’t supposed to stay on this island, but we got stranded unfortunately.
    • # Days we stayed: 1 night
    • # Days recommended: 0 … honestly there are better islands.
  • Koh Pha Ngan: Ocean Phangan Homestay. NOT RECOMMENDED. We found leeches, the shower was cold, it’s pretty much a tree house in the middle of nowhere. It’s not that close to the beach. Just find a place near Haad Rin + beach.
    • # Days we stayed: 5 nights
    • # Days recommended: 4 nights – depends on how much you like waterfalls & beach parties
  • Koh Phi Phi (Don): Slinky Hostel. Highly recommended! It’s right on the beach, conveniently located. They have small lockers for your valuables, but not for the rest of your stuff. If you’re a light sleeper, maybe not a great choice because the hostel itself plays loud beach music throughout the night. Otherwise, we found it perfect for what we wanted.
    • # Days we stayed: 4 nights
    • # Days recommended: 4 nights – monkey islands, hikes, more beach parties

BANGKOK
We flew from Seoul to BKK through Air Asia. It was the worst flight ever. I was so nauseous (not really the flight’s fault, but still). You also have to PAY FOR WATER. Us Canadians definitely take free water for granted… But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do for the cheap flights if you want to travel for 4 months at a time.

When you get to BKK airport, exchanging currency there is probably a good idea. I don’t know if it was chance, but we found the exchange rates at BKK much better than at Chiang Mai airport.

Once we landed, we Uber-d to our hostel. Ubers (and pretty much anything) in South East Asia are super cheap… and also super wrong. Uber took us to the wrong place, we had to grab another Uber.. Unfortunately, Lyft is not quite as internationally available as I’d like.

We ate at a “super delicious/macaroni club”.. but I don’t remember this. Have photos though (see below). What I DO remember is walking around and eating at a restaurant near our hostel – BEST FOOD EVER. I had #12 on the menu, which was some form of noodles in Tom Yum Soup. It was so good, and so cheap. Unfortunately, we did not get the name of this restaurant, but if you were to take me back, I could show you! Just pay the plane fare ;D Otherwise.. Savoey restaurant was pretty good.

We crossed the street to explore a nearby park, and a Tuktuk driver named Em made us an offer we couldn’t resist. (Aside: a Tuktuk is like a taxi in Southeast Asia, but it has no doors! Also super cheap). So apparently, that day (our first day in Bangkok) was a special day called Buddha day. To my knowledge, it’s “government day” and happens every 4 years. It’s a day on which all foreigners get tax free purchases at places like Thai Fashion Factory – and all profits go to Buddha. Don’t quote me on it, just look into it and consider yourself lucky if you happen to be in Thailand that day haha.

So Em took us all over Bangkok in her Tuktuk for 2 hours.. for the total cost of 75 cents. Becaaauuuse… the government pays for gas on Buddha Day! We got so lucky. We saw a bunch of the temples nearby, and went to go see the Big Buddha, the Lucky Buddha, the Monk School Garden, Gems Gallery (complementary drink included)… They were all so beautiful. When you visit the temples, make sure you wear a scarf and something that covers your knees. Be respectful!

At the Fashion District, I think we needed to show our IDs to prove that we were foreign. We bought beautiful shawls/scarves with elephants on them for 250 baht each (~ C$10). It is a tad overpriced – if you’re trying to get an idea of prices, especially with street vendors, you should be paying ~$2 (50 baht) for any elephant pants. 100 baht is okay too, but check the quality.

We then went on a Canal Tour.. where we got ripped off. Our theory is that the tuktuk driver works in collusion with this canal tour person and they share the profit. We paid 1000 baht each (C$40). We should’ve haggled, but we were newbies. Also guys… do not do the canal tour. It’s 100% not worth. It’s not even something you should do for the “sake” of doing it. That money can be used on SO many other things. SO much food. So much shopping…

The Canal tour ended at the Emerald Buddha. We then went to the Grand Palace and everything around it – and accidentally snuck in. I guess it sort of made up for the overpriced canal tour. We got in just before it closed! Honestly, our day was just filled with luck… Buddha Day, getting into the Grand Palace, and then having just enough change to get into Wat Pho – which is a MUST see. You can skip everything else, but please go see Wat Pho. Try to go during off-peak hours. We went during sunset and it was gorgeous, but so crowded… so crowded that I bumped into my friend from university there!!! From uWaterloo! We saw each other 3 times that day… by CHANCE.

We also checked out Khao San Road. We ate a scorpion here! The first night, we went to the wrong Khao San Road.. and we had no idea until we accidentally stumbled upon the real Khao San Road on the 2nd night. There are two roads that run parallel to each other, so just check out both :). There are lots of bars, dancing, and annoying vendors who touch you to get your attention. They’re friendly, but are pretty aggressive so you need to be very firm with them if you don’t want their stupid bracelets. 🙂

PAI
We flew from BKK to Chiang Mai, then took a bus to Pai. So there are buses that leave directly from Chiang Mai airport, but there is also a significantly cheaper way. We took the cheaper way: bus from airport to somewhere outside of town, then change bus to get to Pai. Ask the information booth near the exit at the far right end of the airport (right hand side if you’re facing away from the airlines I think).

The bus ride is rough. I get motion sickness, so maybe carry pills for this. The road to Pai is extremely curvy and it’s impossible to sleep. It also takes like 6 hours, so.. just be prepared. Or if you’re rich, fly straight to Pai haha.

In Pai, we rented a motorbike for 200 baht for 4 hours, and drove all around Pai. We went to the Grand Canyon hike. It’s not the kind of hike you’re picturing. It’s dusty with dirt flying everywhere, and you’re climbing on all fours. It’s fun, do-able for non-active people like me, and absolutely breathtaking at the top.

There are 3 routes you can do in Pai, called A, B, and C. We did some weird combination of A and C I think. If you have time, do all 3. The routes take you to cool bridges, past elephant camps, and nice scenery. You’ll find lots of picturesque spots (see below). There are also hot springs which we didn’t have time for, but looked nice. Don’t do the elephant camps here. They’re not good for the elephants! Go to a sanctuary in Chiang Mai or Phuket instead.

At night, there’s a street that has lots of food carts and some night life. We had some delicious street food, and yummy Thai iced tea that’s served in a bamboo shoot. There are also a ton of tattoo parlors. Something a lot of people do in Thailand is get a bamboo tattoo. My friend got one of the Salvador Dali elephant. It took about 1 hour, and healed within days – much better than the typical tattoo with a machine.

If you stay at Kirina Hostel like we did, they also help you buy your bus ticket back to Chiang Mai.

We really loved Pai. It was definitely one of the most memorable parts about Thailand, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

CHIANG MAI
The bus back to Chiang Mai was just as rough as the bus to Pai. Once we left the bus, we took a Tuktuk to the hostel. We only had 1 night in Chiang Mai and it was already ~8PM, so we just walked around. We went to the night bazaar which was super cool – there is lots of street shopping where you can get souvenirs, fakes of brands, and everything was relatively cheap. When you walk along this street, you can turn into this area with live music and lots of food carts. Chill vibes. Terrace Parasol Inn has pretty good food, especially the sticky mango rice with a hint of coconut.

Excuse me while I wipe off my drool.

We dropped into the Thai Boxing Stadium, and made it just in time for the final fight. It was nothing special, but I’m not that into boxing.

Again, lots of rats and cockroaches, so stay away from garbage bags when walking at night, and just watch where you’re going 🙂

The morning just before our flight, we visited Wat Phra Singh, and went to Royal park Rajapuek. Once you get to the park, there’s an entrance fee and a train that goes around the park with a tour guide. This is included, and I recommend taking it because the park is pretty big. We only had 1-2h, but that wasn’t enough to see everything. We took a few nice photos and then had to head to the airport to get to Koh Samui.

If you can, go to the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai because we heard it’s better than the one we went to in Phuket. But we really loved the Phuket one, so I’m not sure how it can get better! I’ll talk about it in the Phuket section of this post.

The next day, we went straight to the airport. A tuktuk tried to rip us off, so make sure you look at what the standard prices are before you agree to an evil driver. At the airport, we met a random traveler named Robbie who played guitar while we sang haha.

We took Bangkok Airlines. I vividly recall this crappy flight. The attendance literally woke me up FOR EVERYTHING – unnecessary. It was also a delayed flight that caused us to be stuck in Koh Samui because we missed the last boat to Koh Pha Ngan. I was not a happy camper.

KOH SAMUI
So because of the delayed flight, we were stuck on this island with no place to sleep. Luckily, a random bar owner hooked us up with a cheap hostel! It wasn’t amazing, but it had the bare necessities. He got his friend to motorcycle us over to the hostel. So nice!!! We walked to the beach that night and relaxed a bit. We tried to explore but I guess we crossed a private territory – we literally got chased by dogs LOL. One GRAZED ITS TEETH ON MY LEGS! It may sound funny now, but it felt like a near-death moment.

I’m sure the island is different during the day, but in general it did not have the liveliness of the other islands we went to. We know some people loved this island though, so look into it. I was pretty happy with Koh PhiPhi and Koh Pha Ngan though, so I don’t see what more Koh Samui can offer over the other islands.

My general recommendation is to skip this island. Don’t go to all the islands for the sake of doing it.

We woke up and had breakfast at Seven Eleven haha. Then we caught the ferry to Koh Pha Ngan.

No photos here. 😛

KOH PHANGAN 
Once we got off the ferry to Haad Rin (where all the action is on this island), we walked to our hostel, Ocean Phangan. It was probably the worst hostel so far, as mentioned in the “WHERE I STAYED” section at the start of this post. It had a beautiful view, though. We rented a motorcycle again since our hostel was kind of difficult to get to by foot. Lots of steep hills to climb/descend – which actually screwed us over on the bike too. We got into an accident and scraped ours limbs pretty badly. I still remember that stinging pain.

We rented a motorcycle at a shop beside a restaurant called Moon Paradise. We ate at the restaurant too (not recommended). It has stairs behind it that go down to the beach though. Actually, we rented 3 different motorcycles while on this island.. and paid fines on all 3 of them.

Clearly, we’re quick learners. Always wear your helmets my friends. I actually fell backwards and my helmet flew off and I thought I had a concussion. But I only lost a lot of brain cells! 😛

The parties at Koh Pha Ngan are lively. We chilled at the beach and tanned until nighttime, then we partied all night. We danced on tables on the beach and became friends with the local bartenders. There were a lot of unwelcome men who tried to hit on us, as well as offer us sketchy drinks (and drugs), so be careful. I don’t have many photos of the parties, sorry!

If you walk up a road that runs perpendicular to the beach near the left end of the beach (when facing away from the water), you can find a big open restaurant that has food for only 50 baht. We had pad thai here almost every night. It’s right by a 7-11 where we could buy giant bottles of Chang water.

The next day, we took our motorbike and drove to Thong Sala. It’s a 30 min ride on decent roads, so you’ll have a smooth ride (it’s hard to ride on poor dirt roads because we often lost balance and fell). We went there to see a waterfall, which was beautiful. After the waterfall, you can do a hike for the viewpoint, but it’s not worth it compared to Yosemite/Grand Canyon/Pai. There was a huge downpour on our way back to Haad Rin; it hurt so much that we had to stop and wait for it to pass (downside of motorbike = no roof).

Once we got back to Haad Rin, we found a place that sells giant Thai iced tea! We also ate at Manu Restaurant, which was amazing. It’s right across from the giant Thai iced tea restaurant. These are both found in a little alleyway near the bikini shop called AMAZONAS 1974. Just ask other street vendors where to get the giant Thai iced tea and they’ll know. It’s the only place on the island that we found Thai iced tea, and it’s only 50 baht.

The following days were just filled with more random island exploring, more motorcycle rentals, more minor accidents, more motorcycle fines (500 to 1000 baht sometimes)…  The following nights were just more partying, especially because the Full Moon party started (check the dates before you go), some shisha (it’s everywhere) on the beach, etc. There’s a bar that sells shroom shake.. I think they call it something else. So just be careful what you order and what you put into your body.

Don’t eat at Paradise restaurant (different from Moon Paradise restaurant, which was decent but still not great). Worst taco and lasagna we’ve EVER had, it tasted like soap. Also, don’t get your hair done while you’re traveling… they turned my hair green.

DO eat at “Secret bar“. It’s by the beach. Not Secret beach.. some other beach. See photos below for the restaurant.

We went to a beautiful beach called Secret beach. If you have time, definitely check it out. It’s remote and quiet and the sunset is absolutely gorgeous. It’s close to Amsterdam bar, which is high up and has a good sunset view (but not as good as Secret beach). The bar gets packed, so go early if you plan on watching the sunset from there.

On the last day, we took a 6AM taxi and a boat to Surrathani and then a bus to Krabi, then a boat to Koh Phiphi. We were so exhausted from the day filled with travel. There was no wifi on any of the vehicles.

You can buy this taxi/boat/bus/boat trip from Koh Phangan to Koh Phiphi in an all-inclusive joint ticket if you just look around in Koh Phangan. We got it from the travel agency right beside Moon Paradise (where we rented our bike)

KOH PHIPHI
By far my favourite island in Thailand. The beach was wonderful. There was lots of partying. We met so many amazing people at Slinky Hostel. There was a girl named Aurora who is such a free spirit and introduced us to a group of travellers, including one very cute Swedish man. We also made friends with a guy named Bert who gave us Haribo gummy bears (later found out he was just trying to hook up with my friend, go figure haha).

On the island, we went shopping in the cute stores that had beachy clothes, chilled on the beach, and rented kayaks (100 baht per person for 1st hour, then 50 baht for every extra hour). We had to haggle. We kayaked to Monkey beach, which was only supposed to take is 30 minutes… but we went past it all the way into the open ocean with giant waves and possible sharks (I know, irrational).  It took us forever to kayak against the wind, back where we came from to get to Monkey beach. The monkeys were pretty cool/cute though. They try to steal all your things, so be careful. They’re a lot more clever than you’d expect. I got attacked, bitten, and scratched LOL, but thankfully no rabies or open wounds.

We also went hiking. There’s a hike called the Viewpoint. So we hiked to viewpoint 1, then there was a sign to viewpoint 2. And then there was a sign to viewpoint 3. It was this never-ending hike that was super misleading since I did not know there would be 3 viewpoint steps. It was worth it though to get all the way to the top. I’d actually say skip Viewpoint 3 since the sun sets on the wrong side and so the sunset is covered by mountains. So maybe just stop at Viewpoint 2.

Another thing we did was this “tour package” (just walk around the island and find them, make sure you get the best deal) that included monkey beach (worse than the one we went to), a Vikings cave, and Laguna, as well as Maya Bay. The whole tour was 2pm to 7pm, and costed 750 baht including the price of Maya Bay beach (400 baht alone). The boat takes you from place to place and gives you time to spend in each place 🙂 It’s a good way to meet new people and just see more things around the island.

At night, we partied by the beach, and did limbo under a burning stick and were rewarded with free shots. DO NOT do the burning jumping rope (death wish), we watched several drunken people get badly injured. Unrelated, but I remember that I stupidly had my wallet open and dropped all my shit on the sand while watching this (I apparently thought it was a great idea to twirl my wallet with the zipper open). I found most of my money but it was tough since it was so dark. There’s also Reggae bar where random people just fight each other and we watch LOL.

Best restaurants = Capu latte which had amazing western food (I had their salami sandwich with baguette, as well as their pizza and Thai iced tea) and Moms Resto.

PHUKET
From Koh Phiphi, we took a ferry to Phuket. I passed out for the entire ride. We then took a taxi to Mee Tang Nang Non (hostel) for 200 baht per person. We ate at the hostel (decent, not great). We walked out of the hostel, turned left, and had bubbletea Thai iced tea for 25 baht!!! Then we went across the street to Chillva Market (which means “Super Cheap Market” HAHA). In the rightmost corner of this market, there’s food. We had pad Thai for 50 baht – pretty good. We also had a sugar cane drink. I bought some makeup (not worth) and finally a hat (3 weeks of Thai sun on face = very unhappy skin). Just a reminder to always haggle!

At night, we went back to the hostel and waited for my friend JOMA to arrive in Phuket! Check his Youtube channel out! He went to university with me, and it was so nice to see another friendly face.

Best thing we ever did was go to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – we bought admission way ahead of time online for half day. We fed and bathed the elephants. It was amazing. We also got to take home some souvenirs. Elephants are mistreated in camps and whatnot, so make sure you go to a sanctuary. Again, there’s a better sanctuary in Chiang Mai apparently. We loved this one too though.

We also went to Old Phuket Town. It was pretty much a colourful road with cute little shops that reminded me a lot of Prague. We ate an amazing meal at Blue Elephant Royal Thai Cuisine – my first ever full course meal from an expensive set menu! It was really good, especially the dessert. We then went to Patong Beach, which had very soft sand that sparkled in the sun. The water was nice too. Apparently I rated it 10/10 according to my notes from this trip. But it’s probably like 8/10 compared to Philippines El Nido haha. We chilled at the beach for a few hours, and Joma did the parachute thing! He got ripped off but he said it was fun. We then walked around Bangla Road at night – lots of bars, clubs, and music.

We took a taxi back to the hostel from there, but it was annoying because they agreed to 400 baht over the phone and then changed their minds to 500 baht once they picked us up. We had this happen to us in Vietnam too. So just… expect it.

Some good restaurants in Phuket is a sushi place called Shun. It was a little pricey, but decent sushi. Not highly recommended but if you want a safe place.. Shun.

We then flew to Kuala Lumpur.

TIPS

  • I mean, you should just read my general entire blog post on Tips for South East Asia
  • Scarf and knee length clothes for temples
  • Exchange currency at BKK instead of Chiang Mai
  • ALWAYS haggle
  • Always check hours because things close quite early, esp temple
  • Be firm with vendors! They are sneaky and aggressive. STAND YOUR GROUND!

Toodloo Foodloo!

4 thoughts on “Thailand: the One with the Elephant named Justin Bieber

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