Sunday, 2 April 2017

Thailand in 2 Weeks


My boyfriend and I recently returned from 2 weeks in Thailand. 2 weeks is nowhere near enough time to fully explore this beautiful and expansive country, but it does offer a tantalising taste, with time enough to visit a few different areas and fit in some downtime too. I was really pleased with how our carefully planned trip panned out, so I thought I would share our 2 week itinerary (along with some recommendations of where to stay/eat/visit) in case it helps anyone else to plan their own.

Bangkok





Bangkok is where any trip to Thailand will start out, as most international flights will arrive into the capital. Now, I had heard that Bangkok was a very 'Marmite' destination. Some people have found it too grubby, busy or tacky for their taste. I personally loved it! I'm a city girl at heart - I just love the buzz of a big city, and Bangkok has buzz by the bucketload. We didn't stay in the traditional backpacker area, Khao San Road, which I think probably helped us to see past the 'tacky' reputation the city has gained since tourism became a big industry here in the 80s and 90s. We spent a relaxed couple of days enjoying good food and visiting the temples, with the excellent Sky Train & MRT enabling us to navigate the city with ease.

Where to Stay

I would highly recommend the Hotel Clover Asoke in the Sukhumvit area of the city. It's spotlessly clean and modern, with the added advantage of a rooftop pool, perfect for cooling off after a hot day on your feet. The location is also hard to beat, practically next to the Skytrain and MRT stations, which really are the best way to get around the city.

Eat & Drink

My two recommendations lie in Sukhumvit: May Veggie Home is an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans, offering 100% vegan versions of Thai classics, including some very intriguing meat and fish substitutes. And no visit to Bangkok is complete without a cocktail at a rooftop bar: we felt super swanky at Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar, which offers unrivalled 360-degree views of the city, but wasn't too rammed, with only a short wait for a seat.


Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand


While in Bangkok, we took a detour to Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. I had known that I wanted to see elephants in Thailand, and after much research, I booked a one day experience at Wildlife Friends Foundation (WFFT), with return private transfers from Bangkok. (The sanctuary is actually located close to Hua Hin, a seaside town, so it would have been an option to take the train down and stay a night or two there. However, with 2 short weeks in the country, we had booked internal flights to get us around as quickly as possible, so it made more sense for us to stay in Bangkok as we were flying onwards the next day).
I posted a short description of the experience on my Instagram which I'll repost here:
A bona fide wildlife sanctuary, WFFT rescues animals from exploitation, with the ultimate aim of rehabilitating and releasing them. The elephants are the main attraction, all of whom have been saved from terrible cruelty in the animal tourism industry. We got to feed them, accompany them on their walk and give them a shower and a scrub, while hearing their individual life stories. It was amazing to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals, knowing that we were not contributing to the inhumane practices behind most elephant attractions in Thailand. In fact, we discovered that the money from our trip will help fund a fully equipped elephant hospital at WFFT, so they can further their fantastic work! If you plan to interact with elephants in Thailand or elsewhere in south east Asia, please consider the ethics, do your research and choose a genuine sanctuary like WFFT.

Khao Sok National Park


After 3 nights in bustling Bangkok, we hopped on a flight to Surat Thani Airport followed by a minivan transfer to Khao Sok National Park. This was a complete gear change, and something neither of us had ever done before: staying in a 'jungalow' in the rainforest. After our host warned us to look out for cobras and pythons, we both felt slightly out of our comfort zone! However, it really didn't take long for us to settle into jungle life. There is something truly magical about going to sleep under a mosquito net and listening to the sounds of nature just outside your door.

During our stay here, we took a day trip to Cheow Lan Lake, where we travelled in style by longtail boat and bamboo raft, swam in the beautiful warm water, trekked through the jungle and visited the 'Coral Cave' - before getting completely and utterly drenched in a tropical rainstorm!

Where to Stay

There are a number of 'jungalow' companies in and around the national park. We opted for Khao Sok Silver Cliff Resort and I would 110% recommend this place! Karen, the Scottish owner is such a wonderful host, really friendly and helpful, and her Thai employees prepared the most delicious Thai dishes. The accommodation itself was beautifully located, pretty basic - but that's the idea! - and we still enjoyed hot running water, electric fans and temperamental Wi-fi. This really is a little pocket of paradise, somewhere to truly switch off from the outside world.


Koh Tao


All too soon it was time to leave the jungle. Karen booked us a minivan back to Surat Thani, where we took the ferry to Koh Tao for a week on the beach! Koh Tao had been recommended to me by a couple of friends. I have to admit it was busier and more 'Westernised' than I expected. Don't get me wrong, there are parts of the island that are super quiet, and plenty of authentic Thai restaurants, but the main town, Sairee Beach, is very much a backpacker destination, with loads of restaurants, bars and hostels.

I won't provide a breakdown of things to do here, as Koh Tao: a Complete Guide does a much better job than I ever could. You can pick up a paper copy of the guide from dive shops on the island, and it's the best source to choose which bays and beaches to head for. We basically spent our whole week beach hopping - the beaches here are stunning and the snorkelling is excellent! In the evening, Sairee Beach enjoys the most fabulous sunset views, with plenty of beachfront bars from which to watch nature do its thing.


Where to Stay

There's not a huge amount of choice for mid-range accommodation on Koh Tao, but we were really impressed with The Aminjirah. With arguably the best infinity pool on the island, The Aminjirah is located up the hill from Sairee Beach. It's not a bad walk down to Sairee, but walking back up in the heat and humidity is not so easy! The hotel do run a handy shuttle service, but in the evening you'll have to take a (rip-off) taxi or brave the walk! It's all worth it though for the hotel's amazing views over the West Coast of the island. I'd recommend booking the Old School Ocean View room. Ours was super spacious, with a balcony (complete with hammock) offering beautiful sea views, at a reasonable cost.


Eat & Drink

We went to In Touch restaurant twice, despite the huge choice of restaurants in Sairee Beach, as we enjoyed the scrumptious Thai food so much! It's a beach front restaurant with a chilled vibe, complete with fairy lights and a deck where you can relax on cushions and enjoy the sunset. Another beach front favourite was Blue Water, a trendy bar & restaurant - we didn't eat here, but can recommend their Ginger Mojito and 'Asian Herbs' cocktail. Finally, if you want a change from Thai food, Hippo Burger does the most incredible veggie burger (I can't vouch for their meat burgers, but I'm sure they're great too, as it's a popular place!).



We could have stayed in Thailand much, much longer, but sadly we had to head back to Bangkok and then home to the UK. I intend to go back someday and visit the North, the Andaman Islands and much more! Have you visited any of the places featured in this post? I would love to know your thoughts and experiences!

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