Travelling to Thailand, at any time of year, is definitely an adventure. From the 30+ temperatures, to the sheer amount of people and CRAZY traffic, it’s true that you really need to immerse yourself into the culture and get the absolute most out of your experience (mosquitos and all). Now, i have boring adult responsibilities like a 9-5 job and rent to pay so we only went for two weeks and therefore can’t say I’m an expert in travelling the entire country but if you are looking for a holiday of a lifetime and want to get the best out of your time there, sharing my trip might help. One thing is for certain, you will come home and be DYING to go back. I’ve still got holiday blues – can you tell?
We booked our return flights on Skyscanner that took us to Helsinki (apparently going to Scandinavia to then go to Asia is a thing). Flights were pricey because of the time of year so to get a decent price within our budget we ended up with a 10 hour lay over in the COLDEST (-10) place on earth. My ears dropped off the minute we stepped off the plane and i had a suitcase full of suncream, sandals and sunhats. So that was good. Nevertheless, we decided to venture out to the Christmas markets (it was either that or sit in an overpriced Scandi Starbucks for an entire day) and it was really cute, i actually really want to go back there for a proper break, when i have a big coat and a pair of gloves with me. We just caught the train into town, froze to death for a few hours, downed some hot choc and headed back to the airport. By this time it was around 7pm and a more than acceptable time to get a decent meal and drink ALL of the Prosecco.
Our flight was at midnight and (much to my distress because we had an connection) actually ended up being an hour delayed due to snow on the runway. When we eventually boarded, the cabin lights were dimmed and we slept for a good couple hours. We flew with Finnair, were fed twice (winning) and watched ALOT of films (it was nearly Christmas Eve so i settled down with a neck pillow, a glass of wine and Love Actually). We landed in Bangkok around 3pm local time, collected our bags and checked them back in for our separately booked internal flight with Thai Airways to Phuket which was around 6pm. Check in was a fairly smooth transition (despite panicking slightly that we might miss it) and we even had an hour to explore the delights of Bangkok airport – no sarcasm, it’s super cool. Cue – our first portion of Mango Sticky Rice. Our flight to Phuket was on time and took 1 hr 10 (and we STILL got fed – take that Ryanair) – with dead legs and slightly red eyes – we were finally at our destination.
Because we were staying in Phuket for four days over Christmas day, we wanted total luxury to spend a few days lounging by pools and sippin’ on Pina Coladas. Don’t get me wrong, i was so excited to get right involved with Thai street food and culture – but first, rest and relaxation. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand and it was sensational. We arrived to our villa and private by Mercedes, put on our robes and slippers and breathed. We really were in paradise. With an all you can eat luxury restaurant and bar, an infinity pool that overlooked the beautiful Kalim Bay, amazzzing spa facilities and a private balcony swimming pool, huge bath and the comfiest kind size bed ive ever slept in, it was JUST what we needed after a super busy if slightly streasful run up to Christmas. I sipped from coconuts, caught a tan, ate my body weight in freshly grilled fish from the terrace BBQ and just totally switched off. If was bliss.
Saying that, due to living our best lives not really doing a lot, we didn’t really discover as much of Phuket as some people might have done. The hotel put on a free shuttle into Patong, which, despite beautiful beaches and a amazing views, was mental. The Patong strip was like Magaluf on heat, even at 9 o clock in the morning – i spent the whole time gawking open mouthed at the sheer craziness everywhere you looked. we headed in for Christmas day lunch and the experience was golden. Thai religion is mainly Buddhist so Christmas isn’t recognised as a working holiday, so everything was open. Despite this, the locals were more than ready for a party and it wasn’t hard to feel just a teeny bit Christmassy despite the 30+ temperatures and sand in my shoes.
We also spent a brief day in Phuket old town, which, i was surprised to see, was beautifully colourful, packed full of colonial style buildings housing independent boutiques and quirky coffee shops. A stark contrast from the insanity of the crazy Patong strip.
After four days of lying horizontal in gorgeous sunshine, it was time to head onto the beautiful Ko Phi Phi. We arranged with the hotel to transfer us to Phuket Harbour and from there we caught the Phuket Ferry to Phi Phi – can’t remember the exact price as my head completely fell off with the currency and exchange rate but i think it was around 1000 Baht each for the whole journey (£25) per person. You could probably get cheaper if you booked online if you are more organised/proactive than we were.
Koh Phi Phi
So, the ferry journey from Phuket-Phi Phi was interesting. No, that’s a lie. It was horrific. Queueing in a huge crowd of people, chucking our suitcases onto a pile in the corner and sitting underneath the deck was all made a million times worse but ridiculously hot weather, slightly rough seas and crying children. Mix that with seasickness and a slight hangover and yeah, have 2.5 hours of fun. We were told our ferry was going to take 1.5 hours but somewhere in the middle of the Andaman our boat collected an extra hour. No big deal, it was early and we had a few hours before check in anyway, but still. Not. Fun. After the boat had finally docked and we’d taken a few elbows to the face to find our cases, we planted our feet on dry ground and just, wow. I’d never seen anywhere so beautiful. With a a backdrop of huge green cliffs, crystal clear water, long tail boats and endless palm trees, it was (instagram) picture perfect. So perfect in fact, that you have to pay a 40p tax to enter. The liberty.
We were staying at the Bay View Resort, situated on the edge of the island right on the beach. There is a long tail boat that takes you from the pier straight to the hotel, but with a few hours to spare before we could access our room, we decided to take the walk through town, stopping for a huge lunch and a super cold iced Thai tea.
Id say our time in Phi Phi was split 50/50 between relaxing on the gorgeous white sand beach just outside our room, exploring the authentic localness of the village centre and drinking Chang/eating £1 vats of Massaman Curry.
In terms of things to do on Phi Phi, id say all of it. The island is super tiny but the town centre is a bustling hub of restaurants, bars, shops and local houses all squashed together on the beach front. The contrast between the smells, sounds and chaos of the street food markets and the tranquil haven of the coconut trees and stunning beaches is really something that needs to be witnessed. We had three nights on Phi Phi and i couldn’t fault one thing.
As well as simply enjoying the island itself, we took a long tail boat (these are traditional to the island) out to Monkey Beach (clue’s in the name) and Maya Bay (from the movie). Maya Bay really is stunning, but with tourism on the up, the beach itself is closed to visitors – you can however, snorkel in the water, which was totally magical.
Our next stop was Koh Samui, so it was back to Phuket (we’d booked a speedboat after the traumas of a few days earlier) to catch our flight.
After a d e l i g h t f u l speedboat journey back over to Phuket (SO worth the money) we grabbed some lunch and headed to Phuket Airport. We were flying with Bangkok Airways and it was the smallest plane id ever been on. Check in again, was super easy, and once we’d boarded we were literally in Samui in around 40 minutes. The flight cost around £30 each inc baggage. Easy.
Koh Samui airport itself is like a little holiday resort with baggage reclaim inside a wooden style hut – we’d landed in Paradise, again. After loadsssss of recommendations, we had decided to stay in the Fisherman’s Village – a gorgeous, quaint little area of Koh Samui packed full of bars and restaurants, all lining the beach. We had four (including new year’s eve) and I was ready to explore.
In true me style, id accidentally booked the wrong room for our accommodation and despite the resort being located perfectly with a pool, a bar and super friendly owners, the wooden shack with toilet on our reservation wasn’t QUITE what id had in mind. Despite being authentic and very at ‘one’ with nature, roughing it on our two week holiday wasn’t really my vibe so it was straight onto booking.com for plan b. Luckily, we found a gorgeous little hotel and wellness centre right inside the village itself, complete with pool and health food cafe where breakfast was served every morning. Elysia Boutique was perfect and made the momentary stress of scrolling frantically for accommodation, totally worth it. After a long day of travel, we threw down our bags, got changed and headed into the village for drinks and food, opting for a restaurant on the sand with grilled fish and Mai Thai’s a plenty.
For our first full day in Koh Samui we went for a run along the beautiful beachfront and stopped off on the way back for super cold Mango Lassi’s – it was heaven. We then booked onto a temple tour which took us to see the weird and wonderful sites of the island such as the giant Buddha and the Mummified Monk – really interesting and great to see something cultural but we were MELTING (the heat had reached around 35 degrees) with fresh coconut ice cream being the only cure.
One thing we had really wanted to do when visiting Thailand was see elephants. However, we were skeptical because you hear so many crazy things about these amazing elephants in the tourism industry and without proper research, you can end up paying to visit somewhere that ill-treats the animals. Being only about 10 minutes from where we were staying with amazing reviews about how they’ve rescued mis-treated, tired elephants, we settled on Samui Elephant Haven. The sanctuary allows you to feed the elephants and watch them in their natural habitat as they roam around, bathe in mud and eat from the trees. The Haven also provides a super delicious vegetarian buffet and loadssss of info about where your money is going and how they help to rescue elephants. A really amazing half day out – with plenty of time left for afternoon sunbathing.
We were also in Koh Samui over New Year’s Eve, opting to sit on bean bags on the beach outside the famous CoCo Tams – raspberry mojitos on tap. A DJ and saxophonist set the scene as we watched the impressive fire shows and saw in the new year with loads of beachfront fireworks and a night swim. Across the ocean, we could see the bright lights of the Koh Phangan full moon party, something my 18 year old self would probably have lost my shit at.
After one last farewell to the beach, it was time to prepare for the crazy streets of Bangkok.
We flew in again on Bangkok Airways and were delayed by about 30 minutes, which was fine. The taxi system from Bangkok Airport is super easy and we simply queued up for a cab. The taxis in Bangkok are amazingly cheap – just make sure you get a price before you get in and do some research first, to avoid getting ripped off. Our hotel had told us how much a taxi should roughly cost and our driver agreed. Off we went.
In Bangkok, we were staying in the Movenpick Hotel – situated in the Sukhumvit area, which i later found out that although known as the business district where most of the big hotels are situated, is also home to Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, both red light districts which were crazy to witness. We were also right next to Terminal 21, a neverending airport themed shopping centre packed full of EVERYTHING you can think of (except Zara).
Whilst our hotel was right in the thick of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok (which, by the way, is unbelievable) we had a rooftop bar and swimming pool as well as a pretty swanky gym and restaurant meaning we could re-treat from the chaos for a couple hours a day. We didn’t actually get any sun in Bangkok, rather a super thick, hot and stuffy haze, but having VERY narrowly escaped the storms in Koh Samui that could have put a HUGE spanner in the smooth running of our trip, we weren’t really in any position to complain about the weather.
Bangkok is huge and we did have a pretty jam-packed itinerary for the four days we had there so i’ll split the rest into areas/activities.
We stumbled across this place on our first night after having the BEST Teppanyaki in Terminal 21. There aren’t really any words for Soi Cowboy and if you’ve been yourself you’ll know what i mean. An insane strip of red light/go go bars where they filmed the Hangover 2 should suffice. Oh and we accidentally watched a Ping Pong show and tbh the less said about that the better…
Khao San Road
This is often described as backpacker’s paradise due to the sheer amount of bars/street food/restaurants on it. A bit like Patong, this place is mental and pretty much anything goes. I don’t
Know if it was the £1 Chang or there was something in my tofu Pad Thai (we tended to go veggie when buying off street vendors cos, y’know) but i was persuaded into eating a scorpion on a stick. It was really crunchy, salty and actually not even that disgusting – it was however, still in my teeth for a good 24 hours. Aaah the experiences of Thailand.
The Floating Markets
We were having a yolo moment when we booked our trip here and decided to go full on private tour with tour guide and refreshments. OBV you can go a lot cheaper than that and still have a fab experience but we were coming to the end of our hols and thought fuck it. The day was amazing – the floating markets are MUST see if you’re in Bangkok, they’re just fab. Busy, overcrowded and crazy, but such a cool experience. We sat in a wooden row boat and were transported around all of the different stalls and that float on the water,
From food and beers to knick knacks and spices, you can buy all kinds. The slightly pushier sales people will even pull your boat in with a hook to try and get you to buy stuff – an awkward Brit’s worst nightmare. It’s fine tho, you just have to be assertive and say NO you absolutely don’t want a fan that turns into a sunhat. We ate a lot of food at the markets that is all cooked on the boats, from ramens to mango sticky rice and a few weird things that i can’t remember the name of. We also had traditional Thai coffee, which btw, it just amazing, probs cos it’s made with condensed milk….
If you’re as clever as me you’ll be super surprised to discover that the Chaophraya isn’t just a fancy restaurant in Liverpool One and it is in fact a river that runs through Bangkok. Who knew. We took a hop on hop off style bus down the Chaophraya, getting off at sites along the way, including Wat Pho (a temple) and Wat Arun, as well as the lying down Buddha. We also visited the Royal Palace which was busier than Speke Retail on Christmas Eve. A must see nevertheless. Our final stop on our ferry tour was China Town – an area of Bangkok famed for its, yep you guessed it, food. Like everywhere, it was SO busy and rather than leisurely strolling through the markets we were sort of carried with the crowd, our feet barely touching the floor. I threw some money at a lady on a dumpling stand and scoffed some veggie dumplings before the crowd swallowed me up (they were VERY good). We then stopped on a bench in a little tiny restaurant to eat some Char Sui and fried rice which, again, was insane. We grabbed two Passionfruit smoothies, hailed a Tuk Tuk (easier said than done in China town) and retreated back to our hotel pool. Our last day in Thailand was over.
Our Last Night
Before embarking on the almost 30 hour journey back to reality, we decided to go all out and have rooftop drinks at Above Eleven, a Japanese style bar 32 floors above Bangkok. The views (and Sake) were out of this world. We also decided to try a restaurant i’d heard amazing things about. A pink, colonial style house sat on a random Bangkok street, the Namsaah Bottling Trust served traditional Asian dishes in an alternative setting. We ordered smoked salmon taco’s, duck and other amazing dishes including a Thai coffee creme brulee and churros. The perfect final night.
Our trip to Thailand was honestly the best holiday i’ve ever had and i don’t know how we’re going to top it but if you’re considering going to Asia or specifically Thailand, during the Christmas period, don’t hesitate. Money-wise, you will need to save for flights and travel and maybe that odd super-fancy meal out, but overall, you can have an absolutely amazing experience on a fairly low budget. Our route was a fairly common one to take in Thailand and travelling between places was really simple (we flew, but on a smaller budget there are buses, trains and ferries which will get you to where you wanna go) but there are so many routes and places to visit in Thailand that it really depends on how long you’re travelling for and what your budget is! Happy holidayyyyyys