Stepping away from the beautiful beaches, reefs and blue oceans of Thailand’s island hopping, I was excited to venture inland for a more authentic experience compared with the already beautiful parts I had seen. I was unsure what to expect as I had always imagined Thailand for its beaches, full moon parties and beach bars so I was curious to discover what else this beautiful country had to offer beyond the craziness of the islands.
Myself and George decided upon a Contiki Tour called Asian Adventure where the first 7 days were dedicated to northern Thailand starting in Bangkok. It was an action packed itinerary to say the least so I’ve narrowed down day by day what we saw, where we stayed, where I’d visit again and most importantly what we ate!
I’ve put a little * next to the hotels and restaurants I would recommend and go back to. Price wise they are aimed at a slightly higher budget than perhaps your average traveller would pay in Asia, but still very reasonably priced at under £50 per room and under £10 a meal so not breaking the bank by any means.
Bangkok – 1 night
Located near Koahsan Road, this was a really lovely hotel, towels were shaped like elephants, we had a spacious room, amazing waterfall shower and a great rooftop pool and spa area. The breakfast was really good too, definitely a Travoodie favourite.
I can’t remember the name of where we ate as the Thai food was fairly underwhelmig however, one of our traveller friends went to the first street food stall to be awarded a Michelin star, called Raan Jay Fai – however the waiting time was 4 hours so I’d suggest getting in early if you want to experience Michelin standard street food.
Buddy bar on Koahsan road. Open plan and slightly out of the madness. The whole road is packed full of crazy bars so it’s easy to hop from one to the next.
Visited Temple Wat Arun, took a boat tour on the river and fed the catfish.
Kanchanaburi (River Kwai) – 1 night
The hotel has no electricity so we used Fire lanterns and candles for light in the evening. In the day you can jump into the river which was so much fun. I loved this place and would totally recommend staying in a floating hotel if you have the opportunity!
Jungle Rafts Hotel Restaurant – Because of the location (in the middle of a river isn’t easy to find a local restaurant!) dinner and all meals during our stay were included, all dishes were traditional Thai and were very good.
We had sharing style dishes including stir fried chicken with veggies, Chicken wings with coriander, Snapper Thai green curry with aubergine, Pork with green beans and Stir fried noodles with chicken & broccoli.
We visited the bridge over the river Kwai on our way to Kanchanaburi. Downtown for a bit of history we saw the Chinese cemetery, 2nd world war cemetery and the railway museum – 140THB for entry.
The floating hotel was located by a tiny village called Mon Village which we explored in the morning, there were ancient carvings in some of the walls, a small school and even a village elephant.
Ayutthaya – 1 night
Krungsri River Hotel – located on the river, it was a good hotel with a pool, spa and a banging buffet breakfast spread.
We visited Erawen National Park Waterfalls which were beautiful, you can paddle in the fresh water pools and the fish nibble your feet when you get in the water. Slightly embarrassing when you don’t expect there to be fish chowing down on your toes and make a scene – like I did oops! There are big rocks people were using to slide into the fresh water pools which are good fun.
We got up early the following morning for a bike tour around the city visiting temples Wat Nok and Wat paha Sri Sanphet. I know some of you may be afraid of cycling on the crazy Thai roads but there were lots of guides who helped us cross the road so it felt very safe.
Night Market – I had sweet coconut pancakes but there was fresh Pad Thai and lots of other street food to choose from which had good reviews from my fellow travel buddies.
The Station – we went here before our night train and as the name suggests, it was right by the train station. It was a hilarious experience as the service was so bad however the food was good, I ordered ribs and cheese sticks to cure a hangover but thought it was slightly over priced compared with other restaurants.
The Dreaded Night Train…
Part of the tour was an overnight train from Ayataya to Chang Mai – when I first heard we were getting a night train I was a little anxious to say the least and expected the worst! We had already conquered two over night buses so surely I could handle this… However I was pleasantly surprised, there are proper little beds, curtains, sheets and pillows which made it very comfy and I slept almost the whole way!
Chang Mai – 2 nights
The Empress Hotel – banging breakfast buffet with a waffle and omelette station, lovely rooftop pool and great central location.
The Flight of the Gibbon Zip Line – This was so much fun and lasted around 2 hours, it reminded me of Go Ape but a lot higher and we were lucky to see the Gibbon Monkeys too!
Lunch was provided during our zip line by a small restaurant which was lovely, a local music band played music for us. The menu consisted of Black sticky rice, soup, grilled chicken with peanuts, morning glory, parsley salad, papaya salad – all super tasty.
Whole earth – lovely courtyard restaurant with a fancy feel, Thai and Indian fusion menu and food was lovely although slightly pricy on a travellers budget.
Thai Cookery Class
A definite must do for any foodie when in Thailand! We did this on the outskirts on Chang Mai called ‘The Best Thai Cooking Course’…how modest but it was so much fun, the chef had a great sense of humour and I would 100% recommend doing this!
I plan to do a separate blog with all the recipes but for now we learned how to cook:
- Tom Yum soup
- Pad Thai
- Penang curry
- Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
- Mango sticky rice
We went to Lady Boy Caberet in the middle of Chang Mai market. It was hilarious and I couldn’t keep my eyes off some of them – one looked just like Gigi Hadid! Worth a funny night out but if you’re a boy on the front row, prepare to be violated!
Zoe bar – this place is fun for a crazy night however all the surrounding bars close at 12am so we needed to move on to another club.
Pai – 1 night
Ban Krating Resort Pai* – these jungle bungalows are amazing and feel like you’re actually in the jungle! The bungalows have lovely spacious rooms and are surrounded by palm trees and ponds and there are cows wandering around outside which was a funny surprise. Definitely recommend staying here!
A word of warning for anyone who gets motion sickness, this journey is not for the faint hearted with over 700 turns up a mountain! We had to take mini vans up to Pai, it’s only 57 miles from Chang Mai but takes 3 and a half hours because of the route up.
The most famous bridge of the area. Pai has a population of 20,000 people but is extremely popular with Chinese tourists because of the film Lost in Thailand so that is how the remote town became more of a tourist destination.
We went to the canyon before sunset, you can take beers, a blanket and chow down watching the sun go down over the breathtaking views. A must do!
There were lots of quirky cafes, restaurants and street food down Walking street in the centre of Pai, we got some gyozas from a street food stall and a banana Nutella Roti (pancake) which were banging.
Yes you heard right, a bunny cafe full of the fluffiest rabbits you’ve ever seen. Quite heartbreakingly, I missed the turning and never found it but others in our tour went and I almost died when I saw how cute the bunny’s were.
Elephant Sanctuary Park*
On the way back from Pai we spent the day at Elephant Nature Park which rescues elephants who have been used for elephant rides, circuses and basically anywhere that they had been mistreated. It was heartbreaking to hear some of the stories these beautiful giants had been through, however it was reassuring to see that there are sanctuary’s like this in place to give them a better life, a life they deserve!
Among the 76 elephants that live in the park there were lots of dogs and cats who had been rescued from the street, animal farms and the floods a few years ago in addition to 79 buffalos.
We spent most of the day up close with the Elephants, feeding them and washing them in then lake. It was surreal to get so close to these magnificent creatures. Each elephant had a name and chose its own keeper – I loved how it was down to the elephant to decide, they’re definitely boss here which is how it should be! Each elephant had a name, their own story (usually a very sad one on how they were mistreated) and their ages spanned from 1 year up to 80 years old. Some were families with children and grandchildren or others were ‘adopted’ families but it was amazing to learn that Elephants are extremely socialble creatures and love talking to one another – especially the women Elephants apparently. It’s funny how alike we are to animals which gave me a lot of food for thought and sadness on how horribly we can treat them sometimes.
If you’re tempted to do an Elephant ride or go to a circus or anywhere that use Elephants for entertainment then think twice, the likelihood is they are mistreated and forced to perform when they shouldn’t be – Please don’t go! If you want an authentic experience with happy elephants who are treated wonderfully then I wholeheartedly recommend going here or to a similar animal sanctuary.
Ah Thailand, you were amazing and I’m sure we will meet again. Next stop Laos… stay tuned!