Thailand. In July. It was decided. Rainseason or not. Fuc*it. My boyfriend Ruben, his 14y old daughter Amber, and I… 3 weeks of … no weddings, no stress, and no editing.
I purchased a Fujifilm XT1 because I didn’t want to carry my heavy Canon gear, and because I also was a bit scared in case it would be damaged or stolen or whatever… I needed my professional gear for the rest of my wedding season…
The journey started in Busy Bangkok. As it was the first time for Amber to be in another continent, we were a little bit ‘worried’ how she would react on the different culture and the busy and hectic Asian life. It turned out to be ok. It indeed was hectic, hot and very humid. As always, non-city persons we are, we wanted to leave the city asap. We were tired of it after 3 days. Our entire bodies screamed it out: let’s go away. But then it turned out (as always when you don’t plan anything at all) that we had to stay one extra night for the next night train with available beds to Chiang Mai.
A few tips on Bangkok:
In the extra day we had to kill our time in Bangkok, we decided to make a day trip to the ancient site Ayuttaya. Traintrip. Tuktuk, full tour, yes oh yes. Done. Hot times, but worth doing. (if you are smarter than us, you better do it on your way to Chiang Mai, you can also catch the night train in Ayuttaya station…)
From Bangkok we took the night train to Chiang Mai. TIP: At arrival in Bangkok, planning to go up North to Chiang Mai, make it a priority to book your night train FIRST THING. We had to stay one extra day because it was fully booked, which was really a bummer.
The vibe in Chiang Mai is completely different. The atmosphere is way more relaxed, with cosy little streets, markets, but also Thai Box, and some nightlife. We stayed in a very beautiful, modern lodge, Rumpai Loft, a few miles outside the city, which had its advantages and disadvantages (the taxi drivers didn’t know the location…). We stayed 2 days. The first day we walked around the old town, took our first Thai Massage, and we booked a day trip to one of the Elephant Farms in the region. A day to remember. But in the city of Chiang May, we still felt like this place was too touristic and too busy, so we decided to head further north.
A few tips on Chiang Mai:
Pai. Damn. What an amazing vibe. The road to this tiny hippy town close to the Chinese border, was one of many turns around many hills. Unfortunately we shared our minivan with 5 Chinese vomiting women. But we made it. We searched for a nice lodge, which we found on a hill, overlooking the beautiful valley. The 3 coming days we enjoyed walking and cruising around the city and the valley with our fancy ‘motorbikes’ (which we call a scooter). We explored the entire area, had some amazing hikes around Pai Canyon, visited some waterfalls, and took cooking lessons at Pai Cookery School.
Some Pai tips:
The last day in Pai was a wet one. Apparently, the monsoon was late this year, but that day in July, it arrived. Luckily we had booked our flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi the day after (after the minibus drive down the mountains back to Chiang Mai and one night in town). We planned to go to Koh Lanta, at the west coast of the Southern Peninsula. It was a guess, as the west part is known to be more vulnerable for bad weather in the ‘rainy season’. After a 3,5h drive from Krabi airport, over land, boat, land, another boat, we finally arrived at the resort we had booked a day earlier. Relax Bay, a recommendation from a Belgian friend who visited Koh Lanta already several times. The resort is owned by a Belgian guy, who found his luck in Thailand many years ago and built this resort with 2 other partners. It’s really quiet, and totally my style. Jungle style. Wooden huts in the rainforest, meeting the sea.
We stayed for 5 days. Rented scooters again and explored the entire island. East side, and the quiter West side as well. We just cruised around, with no particular plan, and stopped at the locations we liked. At the east side, we visited remote beaches, visited the National Park at the south end of the island, where we first encountered the nasty monkeys. At the west side of the Island, we visited Gipsy town and some other real small and basic fisherman villages, and we also stumbled across the mangroves, where we took a boat tour. Worth Every Penny. Ruben was even allowed to be the captain of the boat, and we had an exciting monkey visit also!
Some tips on Koh Lanta:
Our last day in Koh Lanta was depressing. Rain and storm all day long, so we had to leave. Because of the bad forecast at this side of Thailand, we decided we would go to the eastern islands, in the Golf of Thailand. We picked Koh Samui, cause that’s a fairly big island, and our time was limited. To go from Koh Lanta to Koh Samui took us one day, 8hours of travel. Pickup by minibus at the hotel, ferry, bus to Krabi, wait for other travellers, another bus from Krabi to the another port, then a boat directly to Koh Samui… We were glad we arrived at the other side of the country in late afternoon.
Because it was our last location, we booked a nice resort close to the beach, with a bigass swimming pool. Amber loved the idea. We booked CocoPalm Beach Resort at Maenam Beach, this is a location which is not too busy (cause obviously we don’t like the big crowds). It turned to be a nice and clean beach resort. Not particularly my number one choice, because of lots of families with their typical ‘I am a rich tourist attitude’, but it was nice for the last couple of days.
Of course we rented scooters again, and explored a fairly good part of the Island. We went up hiking to waterfalls, where, once in the water, we soon discovered we were surrounded by hundred of these small fish who eat your dead skin. So funny, and totally free! We drove up to the hills, where we had an amazing view in the infinity pool of Paradise Park Farm. This a farm where they keep several animals like parrots, reptiles and other small birds (which I don’t like at all, but unfortunately we didn’t know in advance). They are well kept though, and the view up there is amazing. Not to mention the beautiful infinity pool, I think we stayed at least 2 hours in the water…
At our last evening we had the chance to go fishing with a local, in his 100y old boat… We had the time of our lives, bumped into some rocks in shallow waters, laughed our lungs out, and had a fishing challenge, which resulted in the following score: Amber: 14, Leentje: 11 and Ruben, haha, 1. We arrived back at the beach, and had the fish barbecued, followed by our most beautiful night in Koh Samui, involving bonfires, a lot of cocktails, some games of pool and luck balloons. It was a night to remember.
Some Koh Samui tips:
As this must have been fate, our last day at Koh Samui was again a rainy one. Time to go home, it seemed. We flew back to Bangkok, stayed one short night, and the next morning, we had to fly back to Belgium.
Let’s finish this travel report with some general Thailand tips & tricks:
It was an amazing holiday. I’d recommend it to everyone who wants to travel easily. Cause that’s what it is. Easy. Good transport, good communication. Very good choice if you want to travel in Asia for the first time, with kids. That’s why we chose Thailand, as first Asian travel for Amber.
Though, never forget this country lives of tourism. There is no place where you will be the only tourist… Or you have to visit the remote eastern parts of the country…
*** Technical note. All above pictures are taken with a Fujifilm XT1. I forgot the manual at our first plane, so had to practice with trial and error. I all shot them in JPEG, not RAW, cause I feared I wouldn’t have enough SD cards with me (stupid me). Afterwards, I kinda regret the fact that I shot them all in JPEG, cause I feel I couldn’t edit them all as I wanted, cause you lose a lot of information when you shoot in JPEG… I’m quite happy with the results though, it’s a small light camera, which is perfect for a trip like this. I keep this camera as my travel and daily-life camera.
Lots of love, and keep on traveling!