I've had too many people ask... so here you go!
A full guide to what we did in Thailand, and the things I'd recommend.
Planning trips is one of my favorite things in the world, and I spend hours and hours researching the ins-and-outs of it all, but it's become one of my favorite hobbies. I'm the planner, and Bry keeps me company as my right-hand man. He's my favorite travel partner because no matter what happens, he's always happy, always looking for the good, always up for an adventure... and while I argue with the taxi drivers when they try to rip us off, he's the one staying calm. ;)
I'd recommend Thailand to anyone adventurous. It's one of the most beautiful places we've ever been, but you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. And once you experience the "squatting bathrooms" or see people chowing down on a fish head (bones and all), you'll get what I mean.
Here's our trip video below. Watch full screen and music up, if you can. ;)
We'll start at the beginning and I'll keep things brief and to the point. Bry and I flew into Bangkok after stopping in LA and Shanghai, and had just one day to spend there. Our recommendations are below.
1. Damneon Saduak Floating Markets. Get there early, spend 1/2 day there, and try alllll the food. But the pad thai, sticky rice with garlic pork, or coconut ice cream are 10 stars!
2. Tour on the tuk tuks. We hopped onto a tuk tuk for only 40 baht, and they took us around to see the Standing Buddha, Laughing Buddha, Thai Fashion (where Bry got measured for a custom-fit suit and dress shirts for super cheap!... and by the way, it was shipped to us before we even got home and fits perfectly.), and Grand Palace. We loved everything we saw! If you're spending only a short time in Bangkok, I'd recommend getting a tuk tuk to do this type of thing so you can see a lot of sites over a short period of time. The Grand Palace and temples are amazing, but be sure to wear clothing that covers your knees. We bought a long skirt/long pants for $3, and they worked great. The temples in Thailand are gorgeous.
3. Sanctuary of Truth Pattaya. We never got to this place, but I've heard amazing things. Look it up! Such a beautiful sanctuary hand carved from wood!
Nakhon Si Thammarat
The only reason we knew of this place was because we were meeting up with two of our good friends here, and her family still lives there. It was fun being able to see her home town and meet her Thai family. Wow, are the people generous!! They are all so humble and kind. We got stares everywhere we went because we were the only "white people" in town, but it was such an incredible experience to be immersed in true, authentic Thai culture.
1. If you do travel out this way, you have to put the Ai Khiao Waterfall on your list of things to see. It was about an hour drive from Nakhon Si Thammarat, but probably one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen. We had so much fun swimming in the pools beneath the waterfall and sliding down the rocks. Bring some bread for the fish- they go CRAZY for it there. They have no fear of humans, that's for sure!
2. Thai Massage. No matter where you go, take advantage of the massages in Thailand! When our feet got tired, we'd just stop by a Thai foot massage place and for $3 we'd get a half hour foot massage to relieve our foot pain. Most amazing thing ever! But if you do feel adventurous and want to try a full Thai massage, be ready to be a little sore. They don't hold back! I laugh just thinking about it. At one point, Bry looked over at me and the lady massaging my back was underneath me with her legs on my back and I was suspended in the air, arched spread eagle. I was laughing hysterically. But afterwards, I felt so much relief throughout my body and it truly felt amazing. She said to me she wanted to follow me to America because she couldn't believe how stiff my back was haha. I wish! #backprobs
We stayed at the Aava Resort and Spa in Kanom, and the only word I can think of to describe that place would be DREAMY. I really wish we would've spent two nights there. The beach was incredible and not crowded at all, they offered free kayak rentals, had a pool overlooking the ocean, the dreamiest cabanas, the ocean was SO warm, and the hotel was all modern and chic. I loved everything about it. If you ever head that way, that hotel is beautiful.
Khao Sok National Park / Khao Sok Lake
Out of everything we did, this was probably top of the list. One night there was perfect, but I also could've done two. We splurged a little bit on this part of the trip because our first half of the trip was so cheap ($25/night for our hotels!). Every bit of this was worth the splurge for us. After reserving our spot online, we were still a little unsure if everything was going to work out (because the website is a little bit confusing), but all the transfers/taxi services/long-tail boat to the bungalows... everything went so smoothly. The guy that helps run it is actually from California, and so he helped us out a lot through the process.
The coolest part about this whole thing was that not only were the bungalows a total dream, but they cook fresh food for you every day (which was amazing), and we had a private tour guide named "P," who took us everywhere. He led us on a private hike through the jungle, teaching us about sounds we were hearing and different trees/plants along the way. It starting pouring rain, but we kept trekking on, and we were so glad he didn't make us turn around due to the weather. The view from the top of the mountain was amazing even though it was pretty foggy. We had such an incredible time there... kayaking, using the pedal boats, and taking a jungle tour where we spotted about 20 wild monkeys, and some native birds. If you are willing to splurge a little bit, I would do this over a tour of the Phi Phi Islands... this is prettier in my opinion and wayyyyy less "touristy." In fact, many of the people who live in Thailand still don't even know this National Park exists, and have never visited. I'm crossing my fingers it stays this way. I feel like once things get too "touristy," they lose some of their charm. If you are anything like Bry and I, we always treasure the places that are off the tourist path. We'd rather experience more authentic cultural experiences, and we've always been this way. But everyone is different!
Phuket is kind of a party town, and we wished we would've seen Krabi before coming to Phuket (next time!), but we had so much fun living it up in that city. Our first day we crammed in so many fun things, but it was one of the best days of our trip. Everything we did on day one, is below... and yes, we did all of this stuff in ONE DAY. Phew, we were exhausted by the end.
1. We ended up finding a place to ride elephants. I was super worried about this before we left and did a bunch of research on what places were kind to the elephants. You'll have to do some research before you go. When you look at reviews online, you see that many of these places mistreat the elephants, chain them up, beat them with sticks until they obey, and leave many of them with open wounds. I didn't want to ride them if I saw any of this going on.
If you're worried about it like I was, look up some of the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. Most of those are much better with how they treat the elephants. You can go to bathe and feed them (there's a really great sanctuary in Chiang Mai up north... another city I want to visit one day). But after looking around a little bit, I felt like I found us a good one. I was trying to remember the name of ours, but can't find the pamphlet I thought I saved. I also don't have any pictures of the name of it. Doh! I'm so sorry! But it was about an hour out of Phuket, the elephants were treated well, they had lots of space and greenery to roam in, our guide let us ride him the whole time and never used a stick on him, and the elephants were in good condition. We had a good experience, but with this whole thing being so controversial, you'll have to do the research before you go and see how you feel about it.
Upon coming home, someone let me know that the website called earsasia.org has some valuable information on where to find the best sanctuaries etc. I would look that up before you go! Wish I would've known a bit more about this before we left.
2. Tiger Kingdom: This place is cool, and is really close to where we visited the elephants. It's worth it to get these pictures and to be that close to a tiger. Terrifying at first, but the workers there make you feel safe.
3. Flying Hanuman: Holyyyyy cow, I haven't heard Bry laugh like that for a long time. We had SO much fun ziplining here, and I think much of that was due to our hilarious guides. The ziplines are high in the air, long, and really exhilarating. We would absolutely recommend coming here. And again, really close to Tiger Kingdom. One of our favorite things of the trip for sure!
4. After Tiger Kingdom, we had some time to kill, and so we got a taxi to Patong Beach, and shopped the markets and big mall there. We also found a yummy place for dinner, and stopped for a quick 30 minute foot massage (for $3) because... well.... why not. ;) We had tickets to a show called "Phuket FantaSea" that evening, and so we spent a good deal shopping and bargaining on the main street before. At night, this place is hopping and really fun!
5. Phuket FantaSea: This show was incredible and one I'd recommend. It goes through the history of the Thai culture and has things like acrobats, music, magicians, and elephants that do tricks! We took a tuk tuk there from Patong Beach and closed our night with the show. A lot to cram into one day, but we sure lived it up!
Ko Phi Phi
The second day we decided to do a tour of the Phi Phi Islands (the famous ones you see pictures of everywhere). Honestly, it was by far our least favorite thing we did. If you like being around hundreds of tourists and on crowded beaches with everyone taking a million selfies, this tour is for you. We wished we would've stayed at our hotel in Phuket and enjoyed the beach and pool there. It wasn't worth it to go in our opinion. But they do give you a tour of many of the islands (which are beautiful), and you get to snorkel a little bit and jump off the side of the boat. I think something that factored into this experience for us was also that it was pretty stormy and going on the speed boat out to the islands takes about an hour. We were going through huge waves and it made us a little sick. A couple people threw up on the way there (yikes!), and our guide gave us all Dramamine on the way back to help. It made snorkeling hard to enjoy too. The big plus, however, was that we found another way cool couple who happened to live really close to us back home, and it was the best part of our experience!
So you'll have to decide what you want to do, but if it were me, I'd say to actually book a hotel there to get away from the crowds, or skip the guided tours!
^^The picture above on the left is how we felt about our tour haha.
That's it! There are the bare bones of what we did in Thailand. To celebrate my birthday, our fifth anniversary, and Mother's Day that week was such a dream. It was so nice to unplug, be adventurous with the guy I love most, and spend some quality one-on-one time together. But with that being said, it's also good to be home and back to our little babe, Ellie.
Let me know if you have questions- I will try to get to them all! It was a trip we'll never forget and one you should put on your list!