Only a couple of weeks ago I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Thailand (All Roads lead to Thailand) mainly diving and exploring the Ko Islands. Even though I had a good time overall, I did not really like it. Everything was too touristy, too expensive, people were unfriendly and treating me like a money machine, not like a person. Travelers were mainly interested in partying and getting totally wasted. Maybe I was there at the wrong time of the year, maybe in the wrong part of the country, but I just could not help it. I had to leave as fast as possible. I just could not enjoy my time there.
There are two reasons why I came a second time to Thailand. Firstly, people told me I have to go to the North of the country. It would be very different there. People would be still nice and friendly, accommodation and food would be very cheap. Secondly, my journey came to an end. I had to catch a flight back home to Germany in the next couple of days. After all, the cheapest flights to Germany, maybe even to Europe, from Southeast Asia are still from Bangkok. The latter was the main reason why I came back to be honest. Well, I tried to be as open and fair-minded as possible. I wanted to give Thailand another try. To my surprise. This time, it was quite different. Read for yourself.
Coordinates: 18°47’43’N 98°59’55E
Every single traveler I met was in love with Chiang Mai. Every single traveler liked it so much that he/she extended her stay there. They told me how beautiful and cozy this place was. They told me how much they liked hanging out there. After all those people raving about Chiang Mai, I had quite some expectations. Especially after Myanmar, my one and favorite Southeast Asian country, it would be hard for Thailand to compete. But I wanted to give it a fair shot.
I stayed in a lovely, very quiet hostel a little bit outside of the Chiang Mai’s old town (The Oxotel. This was definitely one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in! I can only recommend you to stay there. I really liked it! The stuff was friendly, the whole hostel was beautifully designed, and the breakfast was good. They even had bikes to rent for a little amount of money. Mainly, I was biking around town. I enjoyed riding a bike a lot even though there was not much to see. A couple of temples, but after Myanmar I was fed up with Burmese ‘pagodas’ or Thai ‘wats’. Therefore, I mainly focused on good and cheap food. They had plenty of vegetarian places to test. It was true; food was very cheap and very delicious in Chiang Mai. If I was not eating, I spent most of my time souvenir shopping. I would go back to Germany soon. Now would be the time to get all the gifts. Luckily, there were several night markets going on when I was there.
There was only one temple I really wanted to see. This was actually the third reason why I came back to Thailand. ‘Wat Rong Khun’ or the ‘White Temple’ how tourists like to refer to it. Another day, another temple. But this time probably the most surreal temple I have ever seen. Wat Rong Khun is a contemporary art project of the Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat who made the temple’s design and construction to his life work. He wants to build the most beautiful temple in the world and show at the same time the glory of modern Thai Buddhist arts. In my opinion, he already succeeded. If it was not a temple, I would immediately move in and decorate the interior entirely in gold. 😉
I have to admit that I was a little lazy. I did not want to change places and go to Chiang Rai for a night only to see the White Temple. Instead, I booked a tour visiting the temple and some other places. We were going to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos crossed to visit a market in Laos for half an hour. We went to see hot springs that were really disappointing after all the incredible hot springs I have seen in Iceland. We went to a long neck hill tribe that felt like visiting a zoo. The whole trip was one of the worst tours I have ever joined! It was one big shopping tour. Everything was crazy expensive. I should have known better… But at least I saw the White Temple. That was all I wanted…
(At the end of my stay in Chiang Mai, I needed a positive activity. So I went for a yoga class. That always cheers me up. The school is just two months old. The class, I mean the teacher was really good and very nice. They teach in English and one class is 250 Baht, a reasonable price. The classes are open for all levels. I was surprised how good I managed to do all the exercises. I am in better shape than I thought 😉 Here is the link if you are interested in doing yoga there anytime soon: Freedom Yoga.)
After a couple of days in the city, well, in a very hot, humid city, I was craving for more action, for some outdoor activities. A Swedish couple I met back in the Philippines told me about a place where you can go caving. It was not in the Lonely Planet yet. A precious insiders’ tip they gave me. Together with my travel buddy from crossing the Burmese-Thai border, we went to the cave lodge in Soppong.
It was beautiful! That was exactly what I was looking for! The wooden bamboo lodge was in the middle of nowhere on a hill right next to the river. The scenery was stunning. Everything was quiet and peaceful. We had the best, the most hilarious company for a couple of days. Together we went ‘caving’.
Trying as many new things as possible while you are traveling. This time CAVING. Walking and swimming through a cave river. Apart from being wet and cold and getting tons of cuts and bruises, it was definitely a pretty fun experience! It made me feel like an actual adventurer!
Coordinates: 19°21’32’N 98°26’12’E
Another place travelers were crazy about was Pai. They referred to it as a ‘Hippie town’. I had to see for myself.
While hitchhiking on the back of the truck, we enjoyed the lovely scenery next to us. Plenty of curves, ups and downs throughout the mountainous area.
Pai itself appeared instantly as a place to relax and hang out for a while. It was true. There were plenty of ‘Hippies’, many alternative travelers. I liked the atmosphere there. Too bad, I only had one day there before I was going back to Thailand’s islands again. Nonetheless, I made the most out of my short time. I had a nice stay and I can totally understand why people would hang out there for a while. For me, it would be too hot and humid, but you will always find a way to refresh 😉
Phuket and Ko Phi Phi
Coordinates: 7°53’26’’N 98°23’53’’E & 7°44’N 98°46’E
1.581,24 km later, I was back in Phuket. I really enjoyed my time in the Northern part of Thailand. The only downside of it: When it is crazy hot (like it most certainly is mid of March!!!), it is quite difficult to cool down. At the end of my long, big journey, I had to come back to the ocean. I just had to spend my last couple of days at the beach enjoying the white sand and crystal-clear water in front of me. Where else could you do it better than in the Phuket area? Especially, when you are a diver 😉 Plus, even better, I could book a direct flight from Phuket back home to Germany, (which is exemplifies best how many German tourists are hanging out in this area… but that is a different issue I do not want to comment on.)
I had a wonderful, lazy, relaxing time. Everyday going to the beach, swimming and floating. I have never been more tanned in my life!
Only one day I went (once again) on a day trip. This time I was going to Ko Phi Phi. We were snorkeling at Bamboo Island, we visited a beach full of monkeys, we went to Maya Bay where the movie ‘The Beach’ was shot. Once again, the tour was totally overpriced. But it was not too bad. The scenery was stunning! I had a very pleasant time 🙂
(PS: If you are looking for a cheap and nice place to stay that is not in the touristy area of Patong beach, I can only recommend you Rumblefish Adventure. Originally, it is a dive shop, but they also have a dorm where you can stay for 250 BAHT a night even if you are not diving with them. They are a 5min walk to Kata beach and only 1m away from them is a great, super delicious and super cheap vegetarian place that you should definitely check out!)
Khao Lak and the Similan Islands
Coordinates: 8°40’N 98°15’E & 8°39’09’N 97°38’27’E
How time is flying! I cannot believe I am writing about my very last stop in paradise. I have already been to Khao Lak last Christmas to treat myself with diving in the world famous Similan Islands. The only reason why I made this tiny little touristy town to my final destination. One last time diving. Ending my trip by doing the SSI Open Water Advanced course on a ‘liveaboard’, a dream I was actually planning to fulfill in the next couple of years… Well, a slight change of plans. Why waiting when I am already in the area? Spending my very last money for an incredible last adventure, collecting one last time some more unforgettable moments…
Here are some pics from diving at Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon…
This is the end of a journey I will never ever forget…