In February, Keven and I took our belated honeymoon to Thailand. A 2 week + 2 day adventure on the other side of the world. With the realms of the Internet today I imagine the job of a travel agent is infinitely more competitive. In my case, I hired Google as my agent and planned this thing solo.
I hired Google as my agent!
Our decision to go to Thailand was based around a simple concept – because we had tons of airline miles to burn (5 years of compiling the credit card rewards) we wanted a place that was expensive to get to and cheap once you arrive. Neither of us are the lay-around-on-the-beach-for-a-week type, so we were excited to choose such an exotic destination. You know that phenomenon when you learn a new word you’ve never heard before and once you’re aware of it you suddenly hear it everywhere? Well that’s what it was like when I started talking about our trip to Thailand. A surprising number of people I knew had been there! So first step was gathering info from those folks. It didn’t take too long to settle on our first two stops: Bangkok (easiest place to fly into) and Chiang Mai. We planned to split the first part of our trip across those two destinations and finish it up with some sort of beach/island stay.
One of the hottest places on earth.
Bangkok is the country’s capital and home to 8.5 million people and known as one of the hottest places on earth. Because things are relatively inexpensive in Thailand we decided we’d spare no luxury when choosing hotels. By reading a million travel blogs and talking to my friends I learned that staying on the river might offer the best access to both traveller hot spots and the unique canal system, which we intended to explore. We ended up staying in a wonderful hotel called Riva Surya: http://riva-surya.bangkokthaihotels.com/en/. It turned out to be an awesome location where we could easily access night markets as well as hop on the river taxis and cruise from stop to stop. Some highlights: Unknown to most, Bangkok has a canal system like Venice, Italy and it was a really interesting way to see “normal life” in Bangkok. Lined with people’s homes and bustling with long boats toting tourists and locals alike. The trip was filled with transportation – airplanes, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorbikes, beds of pick up trucks, shuttles, boats – you name it, and we rode in it.
And it was by airplane that we made it to our second destination – Chiang Mai. The city itself was a no brainer, famous as a tourist destination for someone seeking adventure and exploration. And that’s exactly what we found. Tourism is, for better or for worse, the lifeblood of the Thai economy. One person told us that 10 million Chinese tourist travel to Thailand annually. That said, finding things to do and ways to do it isn’t much of a struggle – everyone is ready to help (and take your money to bring you on an adventure). We ended up with 3 awesome excursions, each time we were picked up from our hotel and brought on a full days adventure. We hiked a waterfall: Met some elephants: And kayaked down a river.
Now it was our third destination where my travel agent powers waned slightly. The goal was to find a slower paced end to our trip. Thailand’s known for its island destinations and beautiful beaches famous for the jutting karsts (big limestone rocks that jut out from the sea, back from the platonic shift). I wanted some of that action. I chose a mainland destination on the Phuket Sea; a city called Krabi. It was described as the perfect home base for island day trips. Further I had punctuated the finale of our trip with 2 nights on the beautiful island of Ko Tao…not to be confused with the 14 OTHER islands with similar names (that’s what you call foreshadowing). Arriving in Krabi I was immediately worried. As bustling as any of our previous stops, Krabi didn’t seem to be offering the slow pace I was expecting. Furthermore, there was nary a Thai person in sight! Chinese, Danish, Russians, Aussies, Indians, Texans, Romanians, French – you name it, they were everywhere. I held my cool right until our hotel employee opened the door to our beautiful 4 night stay: 2 twin beds overlooking the, quite nice, swimming pool loaded with little white children splashing about while their parents sip bottled water and get sunburned on the sidelines. I was envisioning crashing waves and sunsets, not glorified theme park.
My Minnesota passive aggressive nature went right out the window.
I immediately began negotiating with the folks at the front desk about our options. I physically stormed around the hotel grounds looking for that ocean view room I had envisioned. After a couple other room tours, the hotel personnel reluctantly showed us one last room but cautiously explained it would be VERY expensive. Of course, it was perfect! Overlooking the ocean, our own personal patio. I was sold. Upon gaining the details we learned this game changing upgrade would cost us a whopping extra $20/night! Puts things in perspective a bit.
Keven and I explore our beach town that evening and continue to doubt the serenity that dear Krabi will offer us but begin to plan our day trips and also look into our saving grace – Ko Tao…or was that Ko Thon? (Ko means island). Luckily it was the next morning when I realized that Ko Tao was on the GULF side of Thailand…the other side, the OPPOSITE side of the whole dang country…
Not offering driving directions, Google maps kindly explained it would be a 47-hour; 305 km (189 mile) walk to arrive in Ko Tao. Oops!! Alas with only 5 days remaining we couldn’t make it to Ko Tao without sacrificing 2 full days to travel there and back (to catch our already booked airplane back to Bangkok). So after slight panic and a pleading email to our hotel in Ko Tao, which was already booked, we bit the bullet and cancelled our plans. Way outside my project manager comfort zone, but we were 7,998 miles away from home and we wanted what we wanted. After a couple hours on the computer that morning we chose a new place just a 45-minute boat ride from Krabi and described as un-developed!
Our time in Krabi was spent visiting: Railay Beach, famous for having monkeys and lots of amazing climbing rocks and these views:
Ko Poda island – tiny place with a massive beach and beautiful views:
Ko Phi Phi Island – famed as the location for the movie The Beach with Leo DiCaprio:
So our final 3 days had arrived
We packed up our things and headed to the port where a speedboat would pick us up and drop us at Ko Yao Noi – not to be confused with Ko Yao Yai, which was its sister island of a much larger variety. We were feeling confident as we boarded the boat – filled with maybe 50 other tourists, 44 of which were going to Ko Yao Yai and just 6 of us stopping at the less-developed Ko Yao Noi. Gulp?! With a nick in my trip planning belt we cautiously forged forward, arrived at the port and told the “taxi” driver where we were headed. Ko Yao Bay Pavilions. These taxis were a shared service where you hopped in the back of a pick up truck and crossed your fingers that your stumbling conversation with the driver will land you where you need to be. We drove into this island and I quickly became a bit disoriented no longer sure where the ocean was as we headed down this tiny, bumpy dirt road: The vehicle stops and the driver gets out to inform us we have arrived – the other tourists saying – “this looks nice” as I look around curious about what they are looking at – to me we’ve stopped in the middle of the jungle. But as I come around the side of the vehicle I’m met by the sweetest Thai woman who kindly greets me “Mrs. Davis”? We did it! Paradise at last! The hotel was this amazing open-air place where the ocean breeze flooded the bedroom and we had hammocks to nap in and a pool before the ocean that we shared with just 2 other couples. While we wouldn’t have dared get onto a motorbike in any of our previous destinations, Ko Yao Noi was so incredibly quiet it seemed like a great idea. Our hotel graciously rented us a scooter to explore the island. Keven and I spent the next two days free to roam as we pleased – the whole island was just one big circle you could see it all in 30 minutes. I couldn’t recommend this stop more and the trip in general. If you ever get the chance to go – do it! And make sure you muster the absolute longest amount of time you can. Keven and I both agree one more week would have been perfect. By the way….please don’t forget to comment if you’ve been to Thailand or want to share any of your travel or DIY adventures with me! Now we’re back and I’m ready to rip up the heinous linoleum tiles in our main floor bathroom! Until next time.