After Nepal, the next country would be a place to recharge our batteries. Key requirements on our list were tropical climate, gorgeous beaches, laid back vibe and wonderful fresh food. This part of our adventure was simply to relax on a beach and soak up sunshine after the cold of EBC. Thailand was naturally the first place to come up in our research.
Thailand is a country of gorgeous scenery from jungles of the north to emerald islands (Kohs) of the south. Relaxing on the beach appealed more to us than jungle trekking. And so we did our research to find the perfect Koh for us. Thailand’s Kohs offer a wide spectrum of accommodations to tourists from isolated eco resorts to heavily trafficked backpacker’s hostels to high-end boutique hotels.
The hotel we chose sits on their own private beach, surrounded by seaside and jungle villas and in close proximity to a small village. Perfect! Being so close to a local community allowed us to see a bit of Thai culture which we wouldn’t if we stayed exclusively on the resort.
The hotel was located on Koh Phangan, an island on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Thailand. Coincidentally, it’s home to the original Full Moon parties of Thailand. Thankfully, our resort was on the opposite end of the island from where these parties are held, providing us enough distance to enjoy ourselves on the beach without the crowds. So we thought. Shortly after we checked into our villa, a late and unexpected powerful monsoon swept across all of southern Thailand. By the second evening, monsoon rains started deluging us continuously and didn’t let up until three days before our departure—that’s 10 days of rain. Every. Single. Day.
The unprecedented rain caused flooding across all of southern Thailand with hard hit areas in Koh Phangan (where we stayed a main highway was washed away causing power and telecom outages to the entire area including the village and our resort) and Koh Samui’s downtown quarters underneath a few metres of water. Normally hotels and businesses would be preparing for the start of tourist season in dry and sunny weather, instead everyone was trying to keep the rain out while trying to invite the few tourists that remained into their shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, a few businesses had to close down completely due to lack of tourists.
There was no problem keeping ourselves occupied through unrelenting rain, thunder, wind, and lighting storms that filled each day’s forecast. From swimming laps in our pool (rain or shine our kids were always up for a dip), evening movies, or dropping into the resort’s packed activity schedule of Muay Thai, Yoga and Pilates (we did all!). Even monsoon rains and wind couldn’t hold us down from venturing off our resort to explore the village. By the time we got back to our villa one of our umbrellas was flipped inside out at least once, our clothing completely soaked and stomachs full of Thai goodness.
One of our friends mentioned they spoiled themselves with wonderful Thai massages each day of their honeymoon. We shortly adopted that into our schedule. The Thai massages were so good that we continued to enjoyed every minute of them—every day—to make up for the weather. Initially kids had 30-minutes each. Chloe quickly upgraded to a full hour, while Elliot downgraded to eating banana chips and drinking tea in the lounge while he waited. This became our routine each day with a fruit smoothie stop on our way back to our resort.
The monsoon rains ended three days before our departure by blanketing us with blue skies and sunshine. After the wonderful weather, it was time to leave serene Koh Phangan for city life of Bangkok.
We originally had Bangkok as a stop-over to get our Vietnamese visa and then onwards into Vietnam via Cambodia on the Mekong River. Instead we decided to simplify our travels and fly directly into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to give us a few (5) extra days to explore Bangkok in-depth. Our initial perception of Bangkok was like any other large metropolis we’ve visited so far, big and loud and a hub of busyness. This was definitely not the case. Our time was easily filled sight-seeing breathtaking wats, meandering through water canals, and enjoying a multitude of street food stalls (our favourite).
Moving around Bangkok was a breeze with a mix of tuk-tuks, Uber, sky trains, and walking to our destinations. Compared to other Asian cities we’ve visited so far, Bangkok was very modern, clean and calm (or at least the parts we saw). Supposedly it’s one of the most polluted cities in Asia, however, when compared to Kathmandu’s dust or Delhi’s smog, Bangkok is very clean. Though car traffic was indeed heavy, we noticed the majority of drivers obeyed traffic rules – with no noticeable honking. After spending two months in India and Nepal’s streets filled with incessant vehicle honking, Bangkok’s traffic seemed eerily quiet!
Bangkok is home to more than 400 Wats within its city borders. Each unbelievably uniquely ornate, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Our hotel was a leisurely stroll to most sights and centrally located close to the old quarters. As an added bonus, the hotel was across from a popular street food stall (opens at 6PM with plastic chairs/tables laid out covering an entire sidewalk with a kitchen directly in front of you.) Morning Glory, Fried Squid, Fat rice noodles, Braised Fish, and a multitude of other favourites filled our stomachs each evening after a hard day of sightseeing.
Bangkok was a city we thought was too busy and lacked what we normally like, however, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and were very fortunate to be able to adjust our schedule to allow for a longer stay. Without this, we would’ve missed talking to the Thai people, living in their culture, seeing their city, and enjoying their food which created an eclectic mix of adventure and excitement of knowing you discovered something counter to your perceptions.
We’re off to Vietnam next, thankfully with no monsoons, and awesome weather ahead!
Read about Chloë and Elliot’s time in Thailand: