Trekking Thailand: Elephants, Tigers, and Bangla..Oh My!

As the plane glided into the air, Phuket disappearing in the distance, I began to reflect on the last 10 days in Thailand. One thought looping in my head, HOW am I still alive? Most trips I have taken included sipping cocktails on the beach while diving into the latest trashy novel. Not this trip. This trip will forever be seared into my memory; the good, the bad, and the scary.

My Thai excursion kicked off over the Christmas holiday 2013 with my closest work mates, covering the southern area of Phuket. We celebrated Christmas in style by renting a house in Patong for 5 days, followed by trekking the southern tip-Phuket town, Chalong Bay, Phi Phi Island, and back up to Nai Yang Beach. Thanks to teaching abroad, the holiday I had always envisioned was coming to life. In Thailand, travel is cheap, adventures are endless, and the memories (and there will be many) are free.

The Good

When moving to Asia, Thailand was the one country that was on my must see list. I dreamed of island hopping on long boats from one floating island to the next, filling my belly with phat thai. The “Land of Smiles” did not disappoint, bringing content to my wanderess heart.

The Food

From fresh coconuts to fiery curries, Thai cuisine pleases the senses and the belly. Green curry, red curry, pad thai, spring rolls, chicken with cashews, and thai coffee are all classic dishes that will make your taste buds sing. It also doesn’t hurt that local dishes are as cheap as cheap can be: 25 cents for less for fruit/coconuts, about $2.00 for a standard dish, and around $1 for local beer. Tiger, Chang, and Singha are all quite tasty! You’ll find Western flare around but it doesn’t ever meet the mark and will be pricey. Stick to the local goods!

Coconuts_Thailand

Spa Treatments

Forget land of smiles, Thailand should be land of massages! A cheap ($5) Thai massage can be found anywhere. Fancy having your knots worked out on the beach with a cool sea breeze blowing across your face? It can be done! Over my 10 day excursion, I lived a life of luxury, indulging in daily full body massages, foot reflexology, or pedicures. Any where else in the world, this would be a ridiculous waste of money. After a long day of exploring or swimming, an inexpensive foot massage rounds out a perfect Thai day.

Fish_Spa_Phuket

Accommodation

Whether you are looking to stay in a hostel or rent a house, both options are extremely affordable. During my trip, my accommodations ranged from luxurious to backpacker status. Prior to arriving, we arranged our housing for the beginning of the trip but swung it for other locations. Agoda is a great place to find quality places and flash deals. To rent out a 3 bedroom house with a pool in Patong for 5 nights was about $500 USD. In Chalong Bay, we scored a beautiful villa on a private beach for the night for about $150 USD. That villa was worth every penny! Lastly, my least favorite accommodation was the hostel on Phi Phi Island. it was New Years Eve weekend, and hotel options were limited. So for $10 a night we got stuck sharing a room with 20 other backpackers  throwing up all over the place. Needless to say, we left after 2 nights. I can definitely handle a hostel but Phi Phi Backpacker Hostel was dreadful. Helpful tip, if you go to Phi Phi over a holiday book far in advance or wait until you get to the island and bargain with the local agencies.

Phuket_Private_Resort

Beaches

The beaches in Southeast Asia are on a whole other level, especially in Thailand. Stunning white beaches with crystal clear water filled with breathtaking marine life. Low hanging palm trees sweeping the sandy shoreline. Hundreds of private islands filled with lush greenery and hidden waterfalls. Reggae music and frosty drinks floating from nearby beach snack shacks. I am a lover of all beaches but Thai beaches captured my heart.

Maya_Bay

Activities 

Thailand can easily satisfy any adventurous spirit. During my time there, I did the standard Thai excursions. I rode an elephant through a luscious forest, over looking the Andaman Sea.  I risked my life having a photo shoot with a tiger, draping my body fearlessly (HA) over their majestic body. I saw my life flash in front of me again water tubing. Looking for some laughs on the water, I put my trust into a local Thai man with eleven fingers to pull me around the ocean. He found extreme enjoyment whipping us around the water at 100 mph. From my severe death grip, I was unable to bend my right arm for 4 days. It’s fun they said…I took a beautiful, more calming long boat tour around Maya Bay, better known as “The Beach.” During this day boat tour we got to feed frisky monkeys at Monkey Beach, snorkel with colorful fish, and witness a dazzling sunset melt into the sea. I even had the chance to jump through a ring of fire on Phi Phi but opted out since I wanted to live to see 2014.

Phi_Phi_Island
Elephants_Thailand

Tigers_Thailand

Phi_Phi_Monkey

The Bad

There’s not too many bad aspects that come with visiting Thailand. The one downside to the trip was renting the house on top of a massive hill. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when it’s sweltering out and even the tuk tuks refuse to go up it, it’s a problem. Make sure you fully scope out the area and read reviews before you settle on an accommodation. beautiful house but terrible location! Speaking of tuk tuks, be very cautious. These guys will rip you off in a heart beat. Always negotiate! A standard tuk tuk price should be 200 baht. They might even steal from you. While waiting for change after being dropped off one night, the tuk tuk driver sped off.

Photo Cred: Marianne Mashburn-Raby

Photo Cred: Marianne Mashburn-Raby

The Scary

One word…Bangla Road. I can’t take back what has been seen there. This road is known for it’s over the top nightlife. Although there are standard drinking bars there are also some extremely corrupt bars. This would be the dark side of Thailand. I can’t even full disclose what I saw..it’s that bad.

Bangla_Road

Thailand will be a trip that will be very hard to top. I hope everyone has the chance to experience this fascinating country at least one time in their life. I promise, you will come home with a few crazy stories up your sleeve.