Highlights From My Trip To Thailand
I just came back from a fantastic trip to Thailand with my bestie and wanted to share some of my favorite parts with you!
There are so many things to love about Thailand – the scenery, the elephants, the temples, the food, the people, the beaches, the nightlife, and on and on.
Before we get to the highlights, here are some of the basics:
Location: Southeast Asia
Language: Thai (English is widely spoken in tourist areas)
Currency: Baht ($1 USD is approximately 35 Bahts)
Time Zone: 12 hours head of CST during daylight savings
Religion: Buddhism (over 93% of population)
Best time to visit: November to March (dry season)
Customary Greeting: Bowing slightly with hands together at chest
Good To Know: “Wat” means temple in Thai
Ok, now on to the highlights from my trip:
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Thailand’s markets are unique and the floating markets are like no other in the world. Just as the name suggests, I floated along the canal in a small wooden boat when I visited.
Vendors were in boats and also set up in colorful stalls along the sides of the canal selling all sorts of things like: fresh fruits, spring rolls, crafts, clothing, souvenirs, and more. This market is mainly for tourists now, but it gives a fascinating glimpse into the past.
PRO TIP: Be sure to bring Bahts (cash) as some vendors do not accept credit cards.
PHOTO SPOT: There is a bridge near the road that makes for a nice photo overlooking the market.
Once the capital city of Thailand in the 14th century, the ruins of Ayutthaya are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walking through the captivating temple ruins felt otherworldly to me. This is also the location of the sacred stone Buddha head that’s entwined in the twisting roots of a banyan tree (at Wat Mahathat).
Ayutthaya is a must see for history-lovers!
PRO TIP: Since there is not much shade cover here, you’ll want to bring some water, a handheld fan will be your best friend, be liberal with the sunscreen, and possibly wear a wide-brimmed hat or bring an umbrella to escape the sun.
PRO TIP: There are multiple sites spread throughout the city, so renting a bicycle can be a fun/inexpensive way to get around.
The Grand Palace is the former residence of the king and is now used for things like hosting royal ceremonies and welcoming dignitaries. This is a larger complex made up of several buildings so I’d recommend giving yourself at least two to three hours to really take it all in.
Things I loved: paying respect to the Emerald Buddha (at Wat Phra Kaew), receiving a blessing by dipping a lotus flower in holy water and sprinkling it over my head, taking in the grandeur of the dazzling gold décor, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of the huge porcelain Yaksha guard statues.
PRO TIP: Visitors need to wear culturally appropriate clothing when visiting temples in Thailand like long skirts/dresses or pants and shirts with sleeves; shoulders and knees need to be covered, no flip flops.
PRO TIP: You will be asked to remove your shoes to enter some of the buildings, so it’s best to wear shoes that easily slip off and on and bring a pair of socks to put on.
Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon)
With over 40,000 temples in Thailand, there are more than enough options to choose from, but Wat Pho is one that’s not to be missed in my opinion.
This whole place is spectacular with all of its ornate stupas decorated with colorful ceramic tiles and statues of Buddha (almost 400). But, the highlight for me was the massive gold Reclining Buddha. It is the largest Buddha in Thailand at 150 feet long and 50 feet high and it is quite an impressive sight.
PRO TIP: Wat Pho and The Grand Palace are conveniently located very close together (about a 10-minute walk), so it works well to combine the two. I visited The Grand Palace in the morning and Wat Pho in the afternoon, taking a break in between to enjoy a lovely lunch at Chom Arun with views of the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun.
PRO TIP: If you’re interested in getting a traditional Thai massage, Wat Pho is the best place to do it as it’s the center for traditional massage and medicine.
Street Food Tour
Thai food is one of the most famous cuisines in the world so taking a food tour was a no brainer.
Street food is a HUGE part of the culture in Bangkok and there is something different to try on every corner. I cruised around from place to place in a tuk tuk (like a motorized open-air rickshaw), which was so fun and the food was beyond delicious!
FUN FACT: I learned that Thai people in Bangkok rarely cook dinner at home because it’s actually much cheaper to eat out than to buy all of the many ingredients and spices needed to cook at home.
PRO TIP: If you want to enjoy street food on your own, it is best to watch it being freshly prepared as opposed to choosing something that’s been sitting out for a while.
Elephants are considered sacred in Thailand and I’m SO THANKFUL that I had the opportunity to spend some time with these magnificent animals.
The animal tourism industry can have a dark side, though, so it is important to choose to support ethical elephant experiences when you visit Thailand.
The sanctuary I visited provides a caring home for rescued elephants and strives to end the mistreatment of these gentle giants through education and advocacy.
FUN FACT: One of the ways to tell the difference between Asian elephants and African elephants is that Asian elephants have much smaller ears.
If you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife scene in Phuket, this is THE place to go for a fun night out. Just be careful you don't have too much fun and end up eating a scorpion like I did : )
Bangla Road becomes a pedestrian-only street at night and you’ll find all types of bars, a few pubs, several nightclubs and some go-go bars that are all eagerly competing for your business as you stroll along.
I read somewhere that Bangla Road can be described as Vegas meets Jersey shore and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description of the vibe.
PRO TIP: There's no shortage of tuk tuks lined up at the end of Bangla Road to take you back to your hotel - just be sure to agree on the price before you get in (usually 200 Bahts for any distance within the Patong area).
FUN FACT: The tuk tuks in Phuket are different than those you'll find elsewhere in Thailand as they have four wheels instead of three and look more like little vans.
Phi Phi Islands
Thailand has some of the most incredible islands and beaches of any tropical destination.
It was definitely a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming type of moment for me when I got to ride in a longtail boat amidst the majestic limestone rock formations and crystal-clear turquoise water.
This is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand and it’s easy to see why!
PRO TIP: Most guided day trips from Phuket or Krabi include stops at several beautiful spots like: Bamboo Island, Koh Phi Phi Don (the only inhabited island), Monkey Beach, and Maya Bay (made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach).
Whether it’s due to the yummy food, the laid-back lifestyle, the cheap beers, the amazing beaches, or perhaps a combination of all of these and more, Thailand has become a beloved destination for many travelers.
The warmth and hospitality of the Thai people have earned it the nickname “The Land of Smiles” and I certainly felt this during my stay.
I had such a wonderful time in Thailand, and I learned so much that will help me make my client’s experiences even more unforgettable!
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