Your Destination Anywhere

5 Amazing Days in Thailand

By Alysse Harrison

Bangkok is definitely the easiest airport to get to from around the globe so you will likely fly into Bangkok. For us, we flew from Houston to Taipei and then Taipei to Bangkok.  We were definitely ready for a shower when we arrived.  The first thing we did was meet with our driver and head to the hotel to check in and freshen up.  Since we arrived early in the morning, we were ready for a full day.

For our first activity, we headed to a floating market in Bangkok.  There are several floating markets to choose from, each with different specialties.  We wanted to find one that had a little more of a local feel with fewer tourists, so we chose the Khlong Lat Mayom.  It is one of the newer floating markets but feels much more traditional than others due to the fact that it hasn’t become a major tourist destination yet and there are many locals shopping at the market with you. I recommend attending the market early, it opens at 8 am, and as the day heats up it gets really hot.  You can enjoy a traditional boat ride through the canals, stopping along the way to try out new foods.  Thailand is not the place to worry about what you are eating.  Be adventurous and try things you wouldn’t otherwise.  I am usually a fairly picky eater but told myself going into our trip that I would step outside of my comfort zone and at least give things a try once.  If you don’t like something, certainly don’t keep eating it.  In this market, we had some amazing fish (with its head still attached) and candies that we wish we could find back home.  I love the desserts of Thailand, most of them are coconut or fruit-based and not super sweet.

From the floating market, we headed to the most famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Wat Arun.  The temple is named after Aruna, the God of Dawn. This temple features a 79-meter-high spire decorated with tiny colorful glass pieces and Chinese porcelain. Make sure to dress appropriately, your shoulders and knees must be covered to enter.  Even though I knew this going in, I always seemed to be unprepared when we arrived at a temple but thankfully, they allow you to rent a garment that makes you compliant with the dress code so that you may enter.  Out of the more than 31,000 Buddhist temples across Thailand, this is one of the most spectacular and one you do not want to miss. It is said that the temple is guarded by a pair of mythical giants that keep watch over the grounds.

As we were losing daylight, we headed back to the hotel, freshened up just a bit (it is really pointless because the heat and humidity don’t go away just because the sun is down), and then headed out for our evening tuk-tuk tour.  The tour we took highlighted the temples at night as the crowds of people were gone, markets, and food.  We had the best Pad Thai in Bangkok, there was a line out of the restaurant down the street, but we were able to pass the line and had our own private room above the restaurant.  Let me tell you, the Pad Thai was remarkable! As someone who orders Pad Thai at Thai restaurants in America, I was so excited to try out the BEST of Bangkok! We visited a flower market that was incredibly beautiful.  If I lived near the flower market, I think we would have fresh flowers displayed all the time.  Something about the aroma and the prettiness of them just makes me happy. If you can book a tour while in Bangkok, I highly recommend this one.  You learn a lot about the history of the temples, market, city, culture, etc. For a traveler who doesn’t have an extended amount of time in the city, this is a great way to maximize your time.  Of course, our tour ended for the night on top of the flower market having the freshest mango sticky rice.  My favorite dessert.  Seriously, eat this every day you are in Thailand.  It is amazing!

The next morning, we headed to a suit shop.  If you didn’t know, Bangkok is known for its incredible alterations.  You can have fully customized suits, dresses, etc. made just for you. Every time my husband goes back to Bangkok, he comes home with a new suit and 4-5 new button-up shirts.  I guess he is spoiled because he won’t wear business clothes anymore that aren’t specifically made for him.  There are several shops around town and if you ask a driver, they will take you to the one they make commission from.  These are our trusted tailors:

1.  International Fashion Center (IFC) 289 Thanon Surawon 
This is more of a budget-friendly destination, don’t forget everything is negotiable and I don’t recommend paying what they first offer you.

2. Rajas Fashions: 160 Sukhumvit Rd.
Raja’s is a little more high-end.  It is a smaller store that is family-owned. 

After you go in and do your first measurements and select your fabrics, you will need to have 1 or 2 follow-up appointments where they fit you so make sure to take care of this early in the trip to give yourself enough time to get your products back.

After our quick appointment, our driver headed out of town a bit taking us to Ayutthaya Historical Park. Ayutthaya, founded around 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. In 1767 it was destroyed by the Burmese military. It was once an important center of global commerce and diplomacy but now is a UNESCO Heritage Site of archaeological ruins. I love visiting ruins and trying to wonder what it was like to build such incredible architecture without the use of modern tools. I can’t remember the full story but there were many Thai women dressed in traditional and beautiful Thai dresses holding beautiful umbrellas.  I believe our driver told us there was a movie filmed there with a very famous Thai actress and now women dress like her for their visits.  I have tried searching Google and can’t really find the answer so if you happen to know, please leave a comment below. We spent most of our day walking around Ayutthaya Park and then went to a hole in the wall restaurant our driver recommended.  It was right on the banks of the river and we were the only people in there.  It was actually delicious food and we were totally impressed! 

When we finished in Ayutthaya, we headed back to Bangkok and went jewelry shopping for me.  This wasn’t something I had planned on doing but we were gone over Mother’s Day and my husband surprised me saying let’s go pick out a new ring.  I had always wanted a Ruby ring, so our driver took us to S.J. International where I picked out the most beautiful ring.  They took us into the room where the artists were making jewelry and I got to watch live as they re-sized my ring so that it fit perfectly. This place has remarkable reviews and we have bought a few more pieces from them over the years, they always appraise significantly more than what we paid.

That evening we headed out to my favorite dinner to date.  We went to The Gaggan, which was a 2 Michelin Star winning restaurant, and had a 25-course dinner experience at the Chef’s table.  To read more about this experience, check it out in my post, 20 Food Favorites from Around the World.  Sadly, the Gaggan closed shortly after our trip but Chef plans to open a new restaurant that will be the pinnacle of fine dining in Japan in 2020.

After our incredible dinner, we headed up to a rooftop bar in Bangkok and enjoyed the best views of the city.  The cocktails were fantastic, we made friends with some other travelers while up there and totally enjoyed taking in the sights of this bustling and beautiful city from above.  There are many rooftop bars to choose from, we went to Sky Bar which was actually a spot visited on The Hangover 2.

The next morning, we woke up and caught a flight to the northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai.  I preferred Chiang Mai to Bangkok. They have totally different feels. Our hotel in Chiang Mai, Akyra Manor Chiang Mai, was an adorable boutique hotel with an incredible rooftop pool and bar.  We loved watching the sunsets up there.  The breakfast included was also remarkably delicious and totally plentiful.

We had a few extra hours when we arrived in Chiang Mai and decided to hop on a songthaew (red truck with open-air benches) and decided to go visit the tiger sanctuary.  I had read about this before going on the trip and was hesitant to visit it as I couldn’t imagine allowing human interaction with such powerful animals without sedating them.  As a huge animal lover, I worry sometimes that I am contributing to tourist traps that are harmful to the very animals we love. Now, I will not even begin to act as an expert on the subject but the workers at the Tiger Sanctuary were incredibly knowledgeable and truly cared for these animals.  As we talked with them, they told us most of these tigers had been rescued from people who purchased tigers from a black market, thinking it was cool to own a baby tiger.  Obviously, those babies grow up and people realize they cannot incorporate a full-sized tiger into their lives.  Hence the need for this amazing rescue. They provide a home for animals that are not capable of living in the wild and would otherwise be euthanized. During our encounter with these amazing animals, we witnessed first-hand their caretakers emulating natural behaviors and encouraging activity.  While we were in the enclosure with them, one leapt at least 6 feet in the air trying to catch the toy on the end of a stick his trainer was holding. Unfortunately, there are less than 4,000 tigers remaining in the world and they are critically endangered.  It is important for these rescues to raise awareness of poaching and habitat loss and hopefully, that awareness enacts change that can begin increasing these populations in the wild again.

After the tiger sanctuary, we headed back into town and grabbed lunch at an incredible hole-in-the-wall restaurant recommended by friends we had met at a bar earlier, Khao Soi Khun Yai.  The restaurant is known for its incredible Khao Soi, a traditional northern Thailand dish.  This restaurant is really an open-air parking lot with some chairs and tents set up.  It is a truly authentic experience.  With only two options on the menu, you know that what they make is incredible.  I had spicy noodle soup, and my husband had Khao Soi. Both of us were totally impressed and couldn’t wait to go back again!

The next day I was so excited as we adventured out of Chiang Mai for about an hour and a half and headed to a very unique waterfall.  Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls is a natural phenomenon where you can actually climb up the waterfalls. Generally speaking, waterfalls are slippery and if anything, you can travel down a waterfall.  But not here, the limestone deposits on the stones leave them feeling a little bit like a hardened sponge.  Because of the porous deposits, you are able to climb up the waterfalls.  Surprisingly, there were no crowds of people here and we totally enjoyed spending the majority of the afternoon walking around the area, climbing up the waterfalls time and time again, and even having a lovely picnic at the top of the waterfalls.  You are not able to bring food into the actual falls area but there are picnic tables at the top as well as a little shop with light snacks and drinks. The steps down to the bottom of the falls are quite steep so be prepared and leave yourself enough energy to get back up.

That evening we had booked a traditional khantoke dinner.  This is a dinner where you sit on the floor, enjoy local and traditional foods, and watch traditional tribal dances.  There are plenty of people who love this experience, but it wasn’t for my husband and me.  We found the dances to be slow and I may have snoozed away in a few of them. It seemed like a bit of a tourist trap with lots of people being bussed into the show.  

Our next day we woke up and headed on a full day tour of Doi Inthanon National Park.  This tour allowed us a few hiking spots, we went searching for waterfalls and toured a Royal Project. Thailand is absolutely beautiful, and the northern mountainous forest area of Chiang Mai does not disappoint.  I feel like these were the views we had been waiting for this whole trip and it did not disappoint.  I mean, seriously, look how stunning Northern Thailand is!  One of my favorite parts of this day was when we went into a traditional Thai village and met their people.  They were selling some of their handcrafted goods, Thai silk, coffee beans, etc.  We loved purchasing some of their products knowing it protects the traditional livelihood of these villagers.

That evening we took a super great street food tour.  If you are interested in being adventurous with your food, I highly recommend booking a street food tour.  The guide can give you all the helpful tips as to what foods each of the stalls is selling since most of us don’t speak Thai. There are amazing markets in Chiang Mai, and I picked up some adorable swimsuit cover-ups and even got a really beautiful henna tattoo.  In the markets, there is frequently live music and it is a great place to spend the evening strolling around with a drink in your hand. 

On our last day in Chiang Mai, we took a cooking class which was so much fun.  The group that put it on was incredibly fun and professional.  We started the day shopping through a local market to pick up our ingredients and then hopped in one of the songthaews and headed to the shop to learn the best ways to cook authentic Thai meals.  We learned how to make spring rolls, papaya salad, red curry chicken, and mango sticky rice. One of my favorite things about doing group activities like this is the people you meet while doing it.  We met people from all over the world and on various types of trips.  One couple had actually just quit their jobs and were starting a 1-year trip around the world.  That is something I totally envy.  How brave and exciting for them!

Most people on their trip through Thailand would now head on to Phuket or another amazingly beautiful beach in Thailand. We personally decided to head towards a different country and caught a flight to Bali, Indonesia. I do not know how I haven’t mentioned this once in my entire blog about Thailand but the one thing you absolutely MUST do is take advantage of an inexpensive Thai massage.

 I think we probably had a massage every single day during our trip.  As we would just walk around towns and markets, there are shops on almost every corner.  If you are a newbie to the massage thing, Thai massages are rough.  They will stand on you, contort you, and get all those knots out.  If pain isn’t your thing and you are looking for more of a relaxing massage, you will want to make sure and request the “oil” massage. 

Where will your next adventure take you?

Contact Alysse Harrison