Thailand was one of the easiest and economical trips I have ever taken. Thanks to my sister, Amber, and Nomadness Travel Tribe we navigated through three cities and had an amazing ten days. Below are some highlights and recommendations of people, tours, and random tips to use!
1. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary - This place takes rejected and injured elephants from riding camps and the circus. Nurse them back to health and give them a safe place to live as they would not survive in the wild. Riding elephants is terrible. They are broken down to get to the point of allowing people to approach them. Moreover, their backs are not built to carry weight. Imagine someone sitting on the spine of your neck. Just awful. Here they live out their lives in happiness. We fed them, gave them mud baths, and washed them in the river of a waterfall. Lunch was included and so was RT travel from our accommodations. Probably my absolute favorite thing I did in Thailand.
2. Phi Phi Island Tour with Diamond Sea. We purchased this at the airport for a little less than $50 which included 6 islands, RT transportation from our AirBnB, lunch, snacks, water and juice. The staff was safe, had life jackets for all, and truly cared about having a good, safe time on the water. Buying at the airport was actually perfect because we got a good price ( there is cheaper but be careful of whether it's reputable, there have been one too many cases of boats flipping lately) and we didn't have to deal with folks haggling us. Our guide, Patrick, was awesome and now my new buddy as we had both lived in LA and Chicago. Talk about feeling at home.
3. I did a Hike and Mountain Bike Tour which included RT transportation, a tour guide that shared info about the plants we saw and guided us through the mountains, 2 lunches, and miles of mountain biking down the mountain and through coffee and rice plantations. We ended the tour on a lake where you can swim as well. We actually ate on an open Bamboo hut that sat on the water. Talk about gorgeous and surreal.
4. Night Markets. Just try it all. LoL!! I ate like I hadn't seen a meal in months. The food was awesome. The street food is safe. The one time I even got sick was after going to a house party and having birthday food from an expat. Fortunately charcoal and my sister's bananas saved the day and I was up and running three hours later. Ask the locals which markets to go to and they will point you in the right direction. Some traditional eats are khao soi, basil pork with rice, kabobs of all kinds, and noodles. Get some smoothies along the way with local fruit. Nummy! Each plate I got cost me 10-150baht. Most were about 60 baht which is less than $2 for a full meal. Drinks were about 25-40baht which is $1 or less. If you get alcohol in a smoothie it's usually 80 baht which is a little more than $2. Ya see why I say it's easy and economical.
5. Bhum Thai Cooking Class - 800 baht which is around $20 for RT transportation, a tour and explanation of goods in the local market, four course meal you prepare with clear instructions at your own cooking station, and a cookbook with all of the recipes. Yup! It was awesome. And Mrs. Bhum was wonderful. Kind, funny, and passionate about food being art. She has a son and her mother helps with the prep. Please patronize her business.
6. Partying! Y'all know I love it. In Phuket there is the infamous Bangala Rd. Full of street performers, tourists, drink specials, women grabbing you to go in their bar, and back to back clubs and bars. Get your energy ready. I danced till 3 am and the spots were still open and bumpin' past that into the wee hours. I'd suggest not staying so close to that street because it's loud, but finding accommodations within walking distance to that and the beach is a good choice.
7. In Chiang Mai there are a strip of bars and clubs near one spot called Zoe In Yellow. Tourist and expat haven. My actual favorite places were Corner Bistro for an event called Hip Hop and Fries and Wake Up Cafe. The latter is a local spot with three rooms that have Djs and live music. You will find a lot of young Thais there and barely any expats. The DJ's and live music was awesome.
8. Change your money at the airport at the place I have in the picture. They have the cheapest rates even when compared outside of the airport.
9. Buy your flights in advance to travel quickly and easily between cities via Air Asia. RT flights averaged $60 a pop and I know they can be cheaper. You have to pay for checked luggage so we carried on. Our bags were a pretty decent size and they still let us on. The flights were generally on time, no frills, but comfy and reliable.
10. We flew with Air China. The flight was on time, easy going, and comfortable. They gave us a meal and offered wine with the beverage service. I'd fly with them again.
11. Uber is available in Thailand. Super cheap in between places in Chiang Mai. I usually paid $1-$2 per ride. When traffic isn't bad in Bangkok it works well there too. But it is cheaper to use a cab to the airport as Uber charges a flat rate to and from the airport.
12. If you buy shirts for men, make sure you get a larger size as Thai people are small, lol. I learned that the hard way when getting gifts.
In all, enjoy and have fun. The Thai people are very happy and nice and excited to share their culture with everyone who takes the time to visit their country.