At one point during our Girl’s Trip to Thailand, we were sitting at a restaurant salivating at the thought of the food we’d just ordered: cheeseburgers all around and one vegetarian meal. (I’d had more Thai food than I could’ve ever dreamed already, and despite its deliciousness, we were all obscenely happy to find a place that served something a little bit different, and that felt closer to home.)
I asked the group what everyone’s takeaways of our trip were so far (from their own perspectives), since we’d already been to Railay Beach, Phi Phi Islands and Khao Sok, and were on our final night in Koh Tao, with only Bangkok left to experience. It ended up being good timing for reflection, so we spent dinner discussing the trip as it had been up until that point – over our cheeseburgers, fries and martinis – and overlooking the bustling street of Koh Tao.
We each considered and shared our highs and lows; discussing general takeaways like learning what it really meant to travel flexibly, lightly and positively; the value of capturing photos of moments, and how different it was to not be able to drink water at our leisure, since we always had to buy bottles of it. And then we spoke more specifically about the locations we’d been – how much we’d loved the playful feeling of Phi Phi and how much more time we felt we could’ve spent exploring Khao Sok; about the locals we’d intereacted with and how much we were in awe of our hassle-free experience as a group of girls hopping from island to island in Thailand.
It was a beautiful trip that I will take many memories away from – and one that I feel has completely ignited my need to just GO – anywhere and everywhere – and to experience the beauty, personality and flavors the rest of this world has to offer.
…. All that being said, our Thailand trip went off *almost* without a hitch because of a few important things: a travel itinerary that was ambitious but very reasonable, exceptional fore-planning (having hotels and hopper flights between places pre-booked), my open-hearted, open-minded and flexible travel buddies, and our collective sense of humor.
Oh, and the numerous relaxing Thai massages. 🙂
We flew into Bangkok to begin our trip, and stayed one night in a hotel near the airport, so that in the morning we could easily make our flight to Krabi. After landing in Krabi, we took a bus and then a longtail boat to reach Railay Beach, where we stayed for the next two nights. Both of our days on Railay included Thai massages (which are ridiculously inexpensive – like $8!), copious Pad Thai, beach time, pool hangs, gorgeous views, and a visit with elephants. It’s a quaint little spot with sorbet sunsets and a surreal, remote vibe: I remember thinking if you were there with a significant other it would not have been at all difficult to feel as though you were in a world of only two. The restaurants we ate at were typically near-empty, and the beach was expansive, with stunning cliffs jutting out of the blue — a most surreal back drop to the infinity pool we found ourselves in at one point. The small, condo-like rooms we stayed in were removed from any noise or crowds, and that was something we really valued for the first stop on our trip.
When we left Railay, we were almost questioning our choice to give ourselves only two days there. But then came Phi Phi, which chased away any doubt.
Getting to the Phi Phi Islands required the first of many trips we would take on a ferry boat to reach our different destinations, which were fun experiences in themselves as we found our way, each time, to the front of the boat where the sun was hottest and where we had an unobstructed view of the ocean; the bow as it cut effortlessly through its cerulean surface. While in Phi Phi, we stayed at Papaya Phi Phi Resort, which was a long trek from the pier and through the town, up a slanting hill and then many flights of stairs to our room – a trek well worth its many steps, though, as our balconies looked out over the whole of the island and the ocean. In Phi Phi, we shopped in the villages, experienced a fire show and the nightlife at the bars, took a sunrise boat/snorkeling tour of Maya Bay and Monkey Beach, and hiked to a lookout near our hotel. I got lost twice, and ate at one of the cutest cafes I’ve yet been to: Aroy Kaffeine Cafe, which I would highly recommend. The cafe, that is – not the getting lost. 🙂 I can most accurately describe Phi Phi as a kind of Neverland, a backpacker’s party island where Tuesday feels like Saturday, and where it really does feel as though if you stayed, you’d remain a youth forever.
Khao Sok came next, and it is pictured above as the place with the meditation/reading nook right outside our hotel. The vibe of Khao Sok felt entirely different than any of the islands we visited in Thailand, and it is the place where we stayed the least amount of time (a day and a half, one night only) – and also the place we felt could’ve been explored so much more thoroughly. We went to the national park that was near the hotel and enjoyed the jungle-like serenity, and were scared out of our wits at one point on a hike by the monkeys swinging overhead. Something really special about Khao Sok was our four-legged guide for the national park: a dog who literally took us around the hike, with no human guiding him, stopping at all the points of interest and waiting for us if we ever lagged too far behind. If I weren’t an unfortunate muggle in a non-magic world, I would swear he was an animagus (Harry Potter reference, google if necessary). But really, this dog was the coolest tour guide I’ll probably ever have.
The final two stops on our trip were Koh Tao and Bangkok – which were my two favorite places we went. I loved Koh Tao because we spent an entire, glorious day on the water – and in the water – during the snorkeling tour we booked. We were able to freedive in the turquoise waters, diving down to the beautiful reef and even through a small cave that my friend Jen found. My friends are all avid freedivers, so it was so cool for me to experience diving with them in such a beautiful place. At one point on our snorkel tour, the boat anchored and everyone who paid to visit an additional island got off, and my friends and I were allowed to stay on the boat and jump off into the open ocean over and over. To our absolute delight, another boat anchored right next to us, and it had a SLIDE that they laughingly (they thought we were hilarious) let us use. So we of course took turns sliding out into the ocean, tears of mirth rolling down our cheeks as we screamed with joy at the absurdity of such a cool, youthful experience. It was truly the best, best day.
And in Bangkok, I felt acutely aware, as I’ve been made to feel before, of a contrast in my personality: a conflict between loving the laid-back nature of islands and country living, and a thrill of pure joy at being in a bustling city. The crazy, swerving tuk tuks (tiny wagon-like taxis), the markets, the magnificent temples, the loud music and crowd-filled streets, and the colorful outfits and personalities of the many people around us made Bangkok one of the best parts of our trip. Funnily enough, it was the one place we were told (by multiple sources!) to avoid while we were in Thailand. Needless to say, I am so glad we decided to see Bangkok for ourselves. I think two days was a great amount of time to be in the city, though we could’ve spent much longer there, so that it didn’t overwhelm us (or take all of our money, as we loved bargaining with the sellers for denim shorts, bracelets, purses and wayyy more!). We stayed on Khao San road, and that’s a location I would certainly recommend. Something about the ancient, towering temples – the fact that they’ve been attractions for tourists and worshipers alike for so long – had me simply in awe. The grandeur of the structures, and the reverence we witnessed inside the temples, was a wonderful thing to have seen.
Altogether, I feel indescribably lucky to have been able to take this trip, and for the wonderful, adventurous friends I traveled with. We’ve since decided that we – along with our other best friends in Hawaii – will travel together all over the world whenever we can: small trips annually, and bigger trips every few years.
What an exquisite feeling: to reach the end of something, and to realize that it is really only the beginning.