Missing Thailand on a Round the World Trip is like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel tower. People have done it, but they are usually deliberately avoiding Thialand because they are looking for something different; a place off the beaten track. By this I do not mean Thailand should be avoided, the title alone reveals how eagerly I embraced this country by trying to cram in as much as I could in the time that I had. I found it still has a lot to offer despite these days being thought of by seasoned travellers as a place for package holiday tourists. I’m sure with a bit more time and less of a strict budget (I know, not the best way to travel!) you can venture to places where the crowds wont’ be found.
To give you some context, Thailand featured in my RTW trip as a final stop off to break up the flight home from Australia. I knew it as a country that featured as one of the original must travel locations and being a hub for the whole South East Asia region. However I did regard this as a generic itinerary and therefore I had tailored a different trip, one that was a little bit unique and not a carbon copy of ones my friends had been on. Having said this, I still couldn’t resist sticking in a stop off, and thought 2 weeks would be enough to satisfy me. How wrong I was.
First stop was Bangkok, heading straight for Koh San Road. The little advice we knew about Koh San road before we got there was to inspect the hostel room before committing, and satisfied with our final choice we hit the street.
This was something I was keenly looking forward to, but previous drinking holidays to Greek Islands meant I actually found Koh San Road to be shorter than I expected and the clubs to close too early. Granted, we had only arrived at 02.00am, so the following night we set out earlier and threw ourselves into the typical backpacking scene of buckets and Chang beer.
The lively market scene gave way to the expected nights revelries, and all in all the opportunity to meet up with people heading off in your direction and soak up some advice is very enjoyable. Be warned that extremely cheap Tuk Tuk fares to locations elsewhere in Bangkok usually mean you will be stung with heavy return fees or entrance costs to the intended venue.
A Couple of Islands:
The next day, following a tour of the city taking in the Grand Palace and a couple of the many Temples, we booked our trip out of Bangkok to cram in as much of Thailand as we could. This first involved heading south to see a couple of islands. This meant 4 days on Koh Phangan to take in the Black Moon Party (supposedly the same and as good as the Full Moon) for a lively party then Koh Tao for its beauty and a bit of a chill out.
Having been told that you have to pre book a hotel on the island for the Moon parties turned out to be over cautious. This may be due to it being the Black Moon (also known as the Dark Moon) instead of the Full Moon, but it was obvious there were plenty of spare rooms. Like all of Thailand, the hotel was great value and we definitely got more than we paid for. Scooters are useful as the island roads undulate heavily, which makes whizzing around exciting and picturesque. It is, however, built up making certain areas tacky, particularly near the party beach. However, the actual beach as an all-night party location is pretty special none the less. The dark moon party, for those wondering if it’s as good as the Full Moon, definitely isn’t unless you like a smaller crowd and some pretty niche, dark techno music.
Koh Tao – An extremely beautiful island and less built up, Koh Toa offers brilliant diving and has an excellent beach bar and restaurant scene. The pace is more laid back than Koh Phangnan but you can still let your hair down with a reasonable crowd at night. In addition to the main beach there are also other coves to visit that are well worth it and will boost your photo album.
Heading Up North:
Back on board the overnight buses there was a long trip back to Bangkok, arriving at 07.00am and having to spend another day in Bangkok waiting for the next bus up to Chiang Mai. Arriving in Chiang Mai was a pleasant surprise as parts of the city are picturesque, particularly the moated areas and the mountainous back drop. We had a 2 day hill tribe visit and trek, with Elephant riding and Bamboo rafting to look forward to. If you are ever looking to book one of these be cautious, we were lucky in that ours was extensive but we met others who had only had about 20 minutes on the Elephants and the bamboo rafting had been cancelled.
The trek to the village took us through gorgeous, uninhabited jungle, and really showed us some of the best of Thailand. The trek guides kept us entertained at the village, which despite its lack of electricity still sold cold beer and refreshments. Be prepared for rigorous exercise as trainers were definitely needed, as was sun cream and water. The Elephant Trek was a welcomed break, but the Elephants were spurred on by pelts of small rocks from the trainers, so some may be upset by this.
The following bamboo rafting was an altogether different experience. Longer and less buoyant than I had hoped, it was still extremely fun and amusing, particularly due to some over ambitious navigating. There is a guide with you but expect to get wet in what was a deep but calm, narrow river.
A Final Night in Bangkok:
Due to the scheduling of our flight and the buses we had to return to Bangkok for another night before leaving for London. The travelling had clearly eaten into our time in Thailand, which made 14 nights feel like a lot less. However, I had seen enough of it to drive a desire to return. There are many islands in the South left to be explored and the feeling that we’d only touched on what Chang Mai had to offer made me feel like I’d missed out. Thailand is heavily popular on the travelling scene, but for good reason and the many backpackers you meet are all a satisfied bunch. There is also the ability to escape the crowd, and if anything it is a great starting off point and introduction to South East Asia. Two weeks simply wasn’t enough, and our itinerary was as packed as it could be. Internal flights are available and may have sped things up, but it is easy to see why people spend longer here.
About The Author: Matthew is a keen travel writer and has added some awesome locations to his portfolio this year. He has already started planning future Thailand Holidays to visit more of the country.