So I’m a little adventurous. I guess I always have been, but it’s only gotten “worse” as I’ve gotten older. Perhaps it’s the fact that life can get a little mundane as you go in and out of your days with 5 kids. Don’t get me wrong, THEY ARE my greatest adventure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit, I LOVE the adventure of exploring and discovering new places.
One (or two) problems. It’s not EASY to get away when you have children. Or a husband who is married to his job and has little desire to leave. SO, when my husband agreed to go somewhere for our 10 year anniversary year, I jumped at the chance.
I’m sure he thought I’d pick somewhere a little closer to home like Cancun, or sunny San Diego. You should have seen his face when I announced I had officially booked our tickets to…wait for it….
I wanted to share the Top 15 Reasons Thailand should be at the top of your bucket list, as well as some tips for traveling there.
- Vacation Hot Spot – Did you know Thailand is a vacation HOT spot? Not only is gaining traction in America, but it’s been a hot spot for Eastern Europeans and Chinese especially. We were amazed at the melting pot of cultures that we witnessed. We heard so many different languages and even saw lots of signs in languages like Russian. Obviously, Thai, tons of Russian and Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Tagolog, Japanese, French, and lots of accented English (England and Australia). There’s a reason so many different people are vacationing to Thailand. It’s. Incredible. Another reason is because the currency exchange rate is SO good. You can get a LOT of bang for your buck. The current exchange rate is approximately about 36 BAHT to $1 USD.According to ThaiTravelBlogs.com, In terms of arrivals, the top-ten nationalities visiting Thailand were as follows:
Country (January – June 2015) Amount % change over January – June 2014 China 4,006,584 +111.64 Malaysia 1,704,370 +57.93 Japan 675,758 +16.79 Korea 638,296 +19.71 Laos 565,601 +20.73 India 526,120 +17.01 Russia 466,457 -50.35 United Kingdom 462,633 +2.73 Singapore 459,795 +36.46 USA 426,955 +12.21
- Reasonable Flights – Your biggest expense by FAR is going to be your flights. I paid about $750 per ticket, and felt this was a decent price. (NOTE: IT’s difficult to tell you what is a “good” price considering our readers are from ALL over, and obviously prices vary depending on where you originate. I’m in Boise, Idaho and I would never spend over $800 on a ticket) When booking international flights, be sure to search a variety of search engines, even some who might be lesser known. I have a little bit of a process I go about when searching for good deals on flights (especially international ones) and I went through this process when booking our Thailand flights.First, I run a basic flight search on Google.com to get an idea of what dates are the cheapest. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, I highly recommend doing this. By simply changing your dates a couple of days, you can save hundreds.Then, I checked two sites, Momondo.com and Hipmunk.com. I actually hadn’t heard much about these search engines, but I found them referred to by several travel bloggers. Many said they had the cheapest flights around, and I found this to be true. Want some more specific tips for finding cheap flights? Be sure to check out THIS post.In addition to flights, you can find AMAZING deals on excellent hotels. We’re talking rooms for $40/night. Of course, if you want something fancy, you’re going to pay more. We were happy with our hotels. The nicest was by far, Sri Panwa, but we also stayed in some wonderful hotels in Bangkok. There is no shortage of choices, that’s for sure. We booked through Agoda.com. I really liked this search engine of hotels, unfamiliar to me before this trip. The prices KILLED elsewhere, and everything went seamlessly. Check it out HERE.
- Tuk Tuks – This might sound silly, but the tuk tuks were one of my favorite parts of Bangkok. That city is CRAZY busy and traffic can be a nightmare, so we often took tuk tuks to jump from site to site. They are ridiculously cheap, like $1-$4 depending on distance, and it’s a wonderful way to see the city up close and personal. Just a quick tip. Sometimes drivers try to get you to stop and shop at certain shops (They get a commission.); however most of the time, a polite refusal will end that.
- Tours – I’ve never been the tour type, but they are very popular in Thailand. I was a bit skeptical since I really don’t want to sit and listen to someone talk for hours, I’m more into adventure and discovering things myself. I was pleasantly surprised how much I truly enjoyed this tour! Find a good, reputable tour group and go for it! I can personally recommend, Expique Tours. We were able to do a night food tour of Bangkok and it was a blast! Bangkok is a city KNOWN for it’s food. Most people who live there actually ONLY eat out so there is literally food on every. single. corner. I’m not going to lie, there is good food. There is disgusting food. Sometime’s it’s difficult to determine which is which or if it’s even safe to eat. I loved this tour because we went with a local who KNEW her stuff. They took us to some adventurous, but clean places, and directed us on what to try. Some of it was horrible. Most of it was fantastic. I personally don’t recommend anything “fermented”, but that’s me. 😉 This was a fun experience which my husband and I enjoyed….although I wish we had done it later in the trip as the jet lag was hitting us HARD by 930 pm.
- Sri Panwa Resort – I think of the best parts of Thailand is the fact you can splurge on a luxury resort, and still pay comparatively the amount you’d spend on a hotel in New York City. I had read about Sri Panwa and seen STUNNING pictures, but I literally had no idea just how nice it would be. Sri Panwa did host us complimentary, but, I can, hands down, say Sri Panwa is the nicest resort/hotel I have ever seen or stayed in. I would tell everyone to stay there . In fact, I DO tell everyone I know to stay there. What’s interesting to me about Sri Panwa is how luxury it is, yet how comfortable it is. Many of the 5 star place I have stayed in are often too pretentious for me to feel comfortable. Sri Panwa was like home (but MUCH nicer than my house…). My husband and I said several times as we left to do things outside the resort, “Maybe we should stay here….”. You truly will never want to leave. Our room was a penthouse suite. Sri Panwa also offers private villas that are perfect for families. (Hello, family reunion in style) When we walked into our room, our jaws dropped. First off, the whole thing smelled like peppermint. I will forever associate that scent with this amazing place. Second, the room was AMAZING. Spacious. Not a speck of dirt on anything. Clean lines. The whole back of the penthouse was windows overlooking the ocean. I wish you ALL could experience this view.Did I mention the infinity pool? Yep, a real infinity pool right out of sliding door, and looking into the ocean. I felt like I was on an episode of “The Bachelor” the whole time (minus the drunk, catty girls. ha!).
The details were out of control. Everything from a fully stocked (complimentary) fridge to cooling rags that also smelt slightly of peppermint to pre programmed lighting to “set your mood”. They truly thought of everything in this room. And the view, oh the view. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. You can check out my LIVE Facebook videos and see it “in person” HERE.If you do happen to leave your room (it might be difficult….), Sri Panwa has many opportunities for you to take advantage of. The Spa, the restaurants,… everything is top notch. Sri Panwa is often noted for their “BaBa Nest”, which in the evening, turns into a roof top lounge. It’s something out of a movie. We ate breakfast at the resort, and not only were the options endless, but the food was mouth watering. You can see the Baba Nest in THIS Facebook Live.
Did I mention the staff? Yes, 5 star resorts are expected to have amazing service, but the staff here became our friends. Really! They were so helpful, and so fun to get to know. We, in two days, knew each other by name, (Hi, Watson!), and know some of their life stories. One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting and getting to know the stories of those we chat with. People fascinate me. I’m not one for selfies, but Sri Panwa brought out the vacation in me quickly.
(Best Swimsuit ever found HERE.)
- Easy Transportation – Although you might not speak the language, one thing I really liked about the country of Thailand was the ease of transportation. Taxis, tuk tuks, Subways, Sky Trains, boats, scooters…..you really can get around easily. One of our most memorable experiences was taking a scooter ride around Phuket. Picture me, my 220lb 6’3″ husband and a small Thai man all on one tiny scooter, dodging the hazards of Thailand drivers. Probably not the safest thing we’ve ever done, but definitely exciting!
- Buddhist temples – Buddhism is the biggest religion in Thailand (followed by Muslim) and there are temples (or “wats”) everywhere. I didn’t think they ever got old. I could have looked at them for days. Each one was so different and so intricate. Of course we want to the well known ones in Bangkok like Wat Pho, but some of my favorite were the less touristy, more “neighborhood” wats. I found the Buddhist people to be so friendly and willing to teach others about their faith. It’s a very different religion from my own, so I found it fascinating!
- Phuket – I didn’t realize how large Thailand was, and only having a little over a week to check it out, we had to pick and choose. This was SO difficult for me and I know we missed out; however, again, we were just grateful to have the time we had. Phuket is a large island in the Southern part of Thailand. Many if you might know it becuase of the destructive Tsunami which fell here in 2004. I was in college then and remember being horrified by the tragedy. It is truly a BEAUTIFUL part of the world. Tropical jungles. Lush hills. Beautiful beaches. It’s paradise. I would say this HAS to be a stop on your trip. Flights in the country were very inexpensive. They run anywhere from $30-$80 a person on some of their “low budget” airlines. We flew a few, and I’d have to say Thai Smile was the perfect “medium” of functionality, good customer service, and prices. We flew another that I wouldn’t recommend due to extremely poor customer service in the airport. We seriously waited in a line of 100 for over an hour. It wasn’t great!
- Phi Phi Islands – While in Phuket, we took a ferry over to Phi Phi Islands. The Phi Phi Islands have recently gained major tourism recognition due, in part, to a Hollywood movie being filmed there (“The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio). I had never seen this movie, but I guess it draws a ton of people here. Many of the iconic tourist pictures you see from Thailand trips are taken here. Heard of long boats? Those beautiful, antiquated looking boats around the islands? You’ll find many here. These islands are beautiful, and there are a lot. Many people “island hop” via long boat to explore. I would say, although I think the trip is TOTALLY worth it, the main dock is a tourist trap. If I were to tell you to do anything, it’d be to get away from the main island and go explore elsewhere. I wish we had done more of that, but again, we were limited on time.
- Street Markets – Street markets are big in Thailand. You find them everywhere. We spent a whole day just going to markets and it was an adventure. Good food, cheap massages and lots of stuff to bring home. The best market, in our opinion, was the Chatachak weekend market. With over 13,000 booths (Yes, you read that correctly), you can spend forever wandering. There are some interesting artisans and shops here. You’re going to see many of the same stuff, but the people watching alone is worth the stop. Wear your best walking shoes and stay hydrated. It gets HOT.
- Cheap Food – You guys. The food. I could go on for HOURS. It is AMAZING. In all honesty, the majority of our trip was spent eating. Trying EVERYTHING. There are tons of street vendors selling food everywhere. Although, you do have to use some discretion, there are many delicious and cheap options. The classic Pad Thai. Tom Yum Soup. Seafood. Fermented Fish balls (avoid that one!). One word of warning. Pack some pepto bismo. Even if the food is safe to eat in cleanliness, sometimes the spices can be a shock to your system. I am a bit of an adventurous eater, more so than my husband, and let’s just say by day 5, I was having some digestive issues. I don’t think I ate anything BAD, I just think the “new” stuff was a struggle for my normally rather bland diet. Also, I’m embarrassed (or not…) to admit, I took more pictures of food than anything else.
- Massages – If you’re a fan of relaxing massage, or a more manipulative Thai massage, you’re going to the right place. 30 minute Foot massages for $5? I’ll take 10 thanks! One experience I will never forget is getting foot massages with my husband, whom had never had a massage of any kind and HATES being touched, at the famous Wat Po in Bangkok. It was awesome!
- Layovers – Often, when traveling from the USA, you will have LONG layovers. Ours was one of the shorter layovers in amount of time (9 hours), but many people face layovers of 24 hours +. Often, these layovers occur in Beijing. I actually didn’t look at this as a negative thing. It was an excellent opportunity to take a quick private tour and see the Great Wall of China or other hot spots. This tour, although short in length, was totally worth it. It’s just one of those bucket list items that we were able to easily check off due to our layover. I would suggest you don’t try this unless you have more than 8 hours to do so. We had plenty of time. Our guide was wonderful, informative and kind. We went through this company and everything was very organized, well done, and worth the price of a private tour. Also, it has to be noted, I wore these tennis shoes almost the whole trip and they are beyond comfortable. GET SOME.
I also recommend doing the following:
- Get a custom tailored suit if you’re a man or for your man. My husband got a merino wool suit (priciest fabric) for $150. Ladies, my man looks GOOD in this suit. I am trying to convince him to order MORE (yes, they ship for $40).
- Floating markets (very touristy now, but still cool).
- Visit an elephant sanctuary. Do a little research to learn which places treat their animals well. There are some, unfortunately, that do not. (Cell phone pic. Excuse the quality. I didn’t want to haul my big camera!)
- Fly North to Chaing Mai. This was my “saddest” part of the trip. We didn’t have the time to go up there. NEXT TIME! 😉
- Visit the shopping malls. They are INTENSE and unlike any mall I’ve ever been to! There are several in Bangkok to choose from though my favorite is Siam. It’s very “high budget” but awesome to walk around. I also recommend trying the food court at BKK. It’s a great way to try a taste of everything without breaking the bank (or questioning the cleanliness of food).
One specific question I have had a lot of people ask is “Would I do this trip with children“?
I am a HUGE advocate of traveling with your kids. I think those lifelong memories and experiences which allow your kids to become more globally and culturally aware are PRICELESS (and more more memorable than a million presents under the tree); however, I would not do this trip until my children were teens. Several reasons. One, the flight is brutal. I was SO excited to be ALONE on a plane, but it was still long for me! Two, although a relatively safe country, there’s a lot going on and if I had younger children with me, I think I’d be stressed keeping all my chickens in a row. Mind you, I DO have 5 kids and that’s a lot to keep in line. This being said, HANDS down I would do this trip with my kids once they’re older!!! Oh, and since I mentioned CHICKENS.
There is really NO WAY to fit all this information into one little post! There is so much to see, do, taste and touch in Thailand. I hope these 13 reasons give you something to consider when you plan your next vacation. It is truly an eye opening adventure!
Has anyone else been there? Any suggestions you’re just DYING to share? Any one have specific questions? Be sure to comment in the post below!