After six weeks of traveling around the Land of Smiles, the time has come to part ways. Since I last wrote, I concluded my two weeks of volunteering at Asalanta in Koh Lanta where I was building the mud houses. It definitely taught me a lot about sustainability and community living. I also got inspired to start so many art projects using reusable materials. After Koh Lanta, I ended up in Koh Tao for a week. But that’s a different story for another time.
I thought as an appropriate way to say goodbye to this country, I could share with you what I think is worth visiting, what isn’t, and my overall thoughts on traveling in Thailand.
First, let’s start with a recap of my time in Thailand — by the numbers.
Days in Thailand: 47
Cities visited: 7 (Bangkok, Phichit, Chiang Mai, Pai, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Krabi)
Money spent: An estimated $1,200 (Roughly around $200 a week – this includes hostels AND buses, trains and ferries to get around. Oh, and my habit of getting weekly Thai massages. And a couple scams that happened along the way. This doesn’t include my flight there.)
Hostels stayed in: 5
Private bungalows: 4
Indulgent nights of luxury in a hotel: 1 (Hey, sometimes you just want air conditioning and a good shower — this doesn’t include my first two nights in Bangkok.)
Volunteer gigs: 2
Times I got sick: 0 (Everyone said I was going to get sick — hasn’t happened yet!)
Motorbike accidents: 2 (Fortunately, I walked away with just a few cuts and scratches.)
Times I felt unsafe: 0 (Everyone is so nice and helpful. Definitely one of the safer countries in Southeast Asia. I never heard about other travelers getting robbed or their things stolen here.)
Memories & friends I’ve made that will last a lifetime: Too many too count…
Laughs: Too many to count …
Tears: Maybe 2 or 3 good cries — usually when I had to say goodbye to a city or friend.
OK, I’ll stop with the cheesiness right there.
Where I wish I had more time: Northern Thailand
First off, I absolutely loved Chiang Mai and I would go back there in a heartbeat. It’s the cheapest ‘big city’ in Thailand. It also has a great mix of history and modern-day luxuries. You can walk the cobblestone streets and temple hop in the Old City, or get delicious food and hit up a wine bar in the New City. You can also easily get out of the city and explore the waterfalls and mountains. It has everything you could want. That’s the only city in Thailand I could realistically see myself living in. The Sunday night street market is also the best one I’ve visited. And monk chats — you could do one every week!
From Chiang Mai I went to Pai, but that was as far north as I got. From Pai you can do the Mae Hong Son loop which takes you to three cities in Northern Thailand. It’s a very popular route by motorbike. I really wish I would have done this, or at the very least seen one of the cities, but I didn’t have the time. I’ve only heard really great things about Northern Thailand. Those cities are the ones that still remain untouched by tourists. And now that the Myanmar (Burma) border is open, a lot of people are going over there, too.
Where I wouldn’t spend more time: The touristy Thai islands
This doesn’t mean all of the islands though. There are probably around 100 islands total off the coast of Thailand, but for travelers and tourists you hear the same ones being talked about: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Pah Ngan and Koh Tao. While those beaches are as beautiful as you’d imagine, they lack in authenticity. I went to Koh Tao which is supposed to be the least touristy tourist island, but all of it was still geared towards tourists. It was also expensive, and the locals weren’t as nice as other places in Thailand. But it was incredibly gorgeous and I did spend a week there. Would I go back? With the right people, yes.
I feel very lucky that I found Asalanta and got to live on Koh Lanta for two weeks. From what I’ve seen and heard, it really is one of the more authentic islands that isn’t full of tourist traps. The locals are very friendly, and its beaches aren’t lined with fancy resorts. Yes, they exist, but they’re not always in your face.
If you want to island hop in Thailand, I would suggest taking the time to research and explore the more remote ones that aren’t filled with tourists. The ones that still have some soul to them. It really depends on what you’re looking for though.
And this brings me to my next point. Every traveler I meet is looking for something cultural, they’re looking for an authentic experience. Despite Thailand’s recent boom in tourism, that experience still exists, but you’re not going to find it through a Google search. I honestly would recommend doing a HelpX experience and living with locals for a couple weeks. When I was at the school, that was the only time I felt like I was experiencing the real Thailand. I got to know local Thai people, and experience the culture. It also helps pay for food and accommodations, so it’s great for travelers on a budget.
My time in Thailand has been pretty incredible, and I can’t believe it’s over. But I still have about two more months of traveling (or maybe more if I get my tax return?!), so the adventure continues.
Next stop: Bali.
Also, if you have any questions about traveling in Thailand ask me in the comments, and I can add answers in this post. <3