This was our first Asian destination and our first real trip for that matter. We visited Thailand back in January/February 2013. In three weeks there we wanted to cover four areas - Bangkok, Chiang Mai and two islands - we agreed on Ko Tao and Ko Phi Phi.
Our first stop - Bangkok. We spent a couple of days there, situated in Rambuttri Alley, next to the famous Khaosan Road. It’s a backpacker spot packed with tourists and a great starting point for exploring Bangkok. We went for an evening walk around the busy streets. It was very much alive, colorful and loud. We loved it. Tuk tuks are a bit annoying though. We tried our first pad Thai the next morning and started exploring. On foot. We passed the Grand Palace, a couple of temples and ended up in Chinatown. We continued north towards Wat Saket (Golden Mount), but the viewing point was already closed, so we agreed to visit it the next day. We went back on Ratchadamnoen Klang Road and passed the Democracy Monument. The evening light was amazing.
We went to see the Grand palace the next morning but didn't make it through the main entrance. There were just too many people so we decided to move on to Wat Pho - a Buddhist temple complex close by, famous for its 46 m long reclining Buddha. The second visit of Golden Mount offered a nice panoramic view over Bangkok.
We travelled Thailand by train. The distances are enormous, so we booked overnight rides. Our next stop was Ko Tao so the first train took us to Chumphon. We had to wait for the bus to take us to a boat for Ko Tao. That took a long time. And everyone's always late. The coast at Chumphon was the first taste of tropical as a long beach opened up for us.
The boat ride to Ko Tao took about 2 hours. We disembarked on the main pier and took a short taxi ride to our stay at Ko Tao Toscana Resort. This king-size-bed room was absolutely amazing, we were lucky to have caught a promo on Booking. We went to check the nearest beach at Chalok Baan Kao Bay, just a 5min walk from our hotel. We also rented a scooter to check out Freedom beach and Sai Daeng beach.
We went on a snorkelling boat trip around the island the next day. It was a fun experience, first time snorkelling in waters as rich as these. We even saw two sharks and followed them for a while. One of the highlights was Ko Nang Yuan, a small island next to Ko Tao. There are basically three tiny islands connected with a beautiful beach, good for snorkelling as well. We took a walk around and ascended a breathtaking viewpoint.
Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi Islands were next on our itinerary. We needed to take a night boat from Ko Tao to Surat Thani, then a bus to Krabi and another boat To Ko Phi Phi Don. It was a long and exhausting stretch, but we reached Ao Tonsai Pier nevertheless. We stayed in a modest small room just outside the main village. That was the least pleasant stay and the most expensive one. I don't usually mind the heat, but I'd really recommend getting a room with AC!
We explored the village and nearby beaches, climbed on a viewpoint and waited for one of the nicest sunsets. We booked a boat ride around Ko Phi Phi Leh the next day and departed at sunrise. We circled around the mighty cliffs and reached the famous Maya Bay. The bay is facing west so the sun wasn't shining in that early. But still it's a better experience being there all by yourself than an hour later with hundreds of tourists. We continued around by Loh Samah Bay and Pileh Lagoon. When we returned to Ko Phi Phi Don we took a walk to the southeastern part and settled on the Long beach. There's a nice beach on the other side as well - Rantee Bay. We reached it by walking across the interior forest, meeting a pack of suspicious monkeys.
Our time on the islands was coming to an end, so we went back to Krabi, to Surat Thani and hopped on a train for Bangkok. We were in the first class and had our own cabin so we slept the whole way. There was plenty of time till our next train so we visited the Bangkok zoo. Our train for Chiang Mai left in the evening and we arrived around noon because it was running a few hours late. No big deal. Just a few hours.
Chiang Mai is a "northern capital" of Thailand. The old town is really cozy with extremely nice people and a fair share of temples. We stayed at Julie guesthouse, where we also booked the trekking tour in Doi Inthanon National Park. We walked through forests, crossed rice fields, saw plenty of waterfalls, slept in local villages and had amazing food made by our guides.
We spent our last days in Chiang Mai exploring the town's temples. I even helped a couple of monks cut down a tree. The last train took us back to Bangkok and from there we flew home. I'd love to visit Thailand again, it's always a good idea since there's plenty to see and travelling is super easy. People are friendly and the food is great!