Sooo, Thailand! I’ve spent three weeks in the home country of my aunt (she is Thai and moved to Switzerland when she married my uncle), not with her, but with three friends. We’ve been backpacking during summer, which means off-season. That gave us the chance to decide spontaneously where to go and what to do instead of planning everything in advance. Nevertheless we had some things we wanted to do like seeing elephants, going on a trek and relaxing at the beaches. We managed to do all of that and way more during our trip.
Our journey began in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. We’ve booked a room in a beautiful hostel a little bit out of town in advance and started our discovery tour from there. We’ve travelled by train, taxi and rikshaw through this big city, visited several temples, ate local food at takeaways and enjoyed being in a completely different world. One must-do in Bangkok is a visit to Wat Phra Kaew in the Grand Palace. It is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand within the complex of the former residence of the Kings of Thailand. Although it’s pretty expensive, the mosaics are astonishing and the whole place is in contrary to the loud and dirty streets of the city. But the best day in Bangkok is the one we spent with my aunts sister. Having a local guide we’ve been to the cultural site Ayutthaya in the north and to a small floating market in the south. She talked with us about Thailand, recommended the best food, bargained with the riksha-drivers and gave us some hacks like not paying a fixed price in taxis as the taximeter is always cheaper. It was lovely to see her again and I’m happy she led us through this overwhelming city.
From Bangkok we took a night train to the south, as we wanted to check out the famous islands Koh Phangan and Koh Tao on our own (we haven’t been on Koh Samui though). On the way there - we had to take buses and ferries - we felt like a piece of luggage as we got a sticker and people just ordered us to go this or that way depending on the colour of our sticker. But it was actually a nice way to travel, we didn’t have to take care if we’re on the right path.
On Koh Tao, the smallest of the three islands which is famous for diving. That’s why we tried diving as well and the other three girls liked it very much whereas me… well, I paniced a little bit under the water. So when they did the second tour, I just snorkeled and wow, those fishes! It was so nice to see the reef and this idyllic place. As the islands are former volcanic islands, we tried to go to the top, but got lost in the jungle. On the way back we allowed ourselves to have a Thai massage and some food at a shabby-looking but delicious restaurant.
Then we continued to Koh Phangan, where we’ve been looking for a nice place to stay for quite a while and finally decided to go to the very first one we’ve seen. We had our own bungalow, right at the sea and they had a swimming pool and a bar as well. We’ve been relaxing most of the time, but did two excursions nevertheless. One was with a taxi across the island to a waterfall and a beautiful beach where the water was deeper than on our side. And the other one was a touristic excursion to small islands nearby where we could snorkel, kayak, visit a laguna and climb on top of a hill with such a nice view. On the way there we passed a rock that looked like a monkey praying, can you see it as well?
Another thing we wanted to do was trekking in the north. Whilst in the south the weather was pretty good, in the north it rained more often and longer because of the rainy season. We flew from the south to Chiang Mai, the biggest city in the north. Coincidentally we ran across a backpacker we’ve met in Bangkok already and he recommended us to go to the village Pai. After a three hour bus trip we arrived in this village full of backpackers and booked a trek there for two days. This trek was one of my favourite experiences in Thailand. With two guides and some other tourists we hiked several hours the first day, passed by a bamboo forest where one of the guides cooked some tea in a bamboo cane out of which he also carved cups to drink the tea. In the early evening we finally arrived at his family’s hut. They cooked delicious dinner for us and we slept in the hut next to theirs. We spent the evening playing games whilst the guides were drinking rice whisky. The next day we continued the hike and ended up at hot springs where we went bathing. For lunch we had some pad thai, packaged in banana leaves - such a good idea!
Back in Pai we left soonish and went back to Chiang Mai, where we stayed in a hotel the first time and it was such a luxury. For the next day we booked a day at a small elephant camp. They picked us up in the hotel, organised some fancy looking clothing and after quite a while (we weren’t sure anymore if we would eventually end up there, because they let us wait in the car for such a long time) we arrived at the camp. We had the chance to feed the elephants, ride on them and even take a bath with them. They are so enormous but lovely animals.
Last but not least we went to Koh Chang, the elephant island, as we wanted to end the journey with some relaxing time at the beach. It’s my favourite island because it is less touristy but has everything to offer. One day we’ve finally did what every backpacker in Thailand is doing - renting a scooter and driving along the beach. It was my first time on a scooter and I was pretty scared in the beginning but it got better with time. We redid all the things we’d become fond of, like drinking a fresh fruit juice, hanging around at the beach and going swimming, dancing during the night in open air clubs, making friends for one night (or maybe two), watching Thais playing with fire, eating curries and drinking chang, the local beer.
Before flying back we spent another night in Bangkok, near the Khao San Road. Some years ago it was the most famous place for backpackers, now it’s just a very quirky place produced for what tourists want to see. Anyhow, it was a good end of a exciting time backpacking in a country so different to our home country. And that food… I definitely would go back just for the food! (Luckily my aunt is a good chef)