It's my last day in Thailand and when I leave, a little piece of my heart will remain here. I have a lot of spare pieces to go around because I don't bother my heart with silly things like love and emotions and I couldn't possibly care less about today being Valentine's Day. What I do love? Traveling. Yes, still. After nine months away from what I use to call home, I'm still loving this adventure. I spent almost two months in Thailand and can easily pinpoint it as one of my favorite stops on this around the world journey.
The thing about this country that I love the most is that you can have whatever experience you want to have. If you want luxury, it's available. If you're on a budget, no problem. Coming with a big group? Easy. Going it alone? Even better.
One of the reasons I've enjoyed Thailand so much is because I've been able to see it from so many different perspectives thanks to the people I've re-connected with or met along the way. I got to see Koh Phangan through the eyes of my best friend who would have never even considered coming to Asia before I got here. We both explored the Bangkok bar and club scene with a friend from our home town who now lives in Texas, it was also her and her boyfriend's first time to Asia.
I got to see Koh Samui from the point of view of a local Australian ExPat. I was treated to a VIP experience in Phuket when I tagged along on an epic dual birthday celebration with friends from Las Vegas and managed to make a kebab eating Turk admit to "kind of" liking Thai food. Success!
Don't get me wrong, I love traveling alone. And Thailand is a great place to do it, but sometimes sharing experiences with other people makes the memories a lot sweeter. And let's face it, I don't plan on stopping this world tour anytime soon, so people's ability to meet me in random places around the globe is a huge factor in determining their staying power. Get your shit together, mother. (Italy this summer?)
As for my choices of islands and activities to do in Thailand; I did what I wanted to do and more importantly, what the people traveling thousands of miles/kilometers to see me wanted to do. Would I have liked to see more of Asia? Sure. But in the time I had, I'm happy with how I spent it. In the six weeks I spent in Thailand I went to Bangkok three times, Ko Samui twice, Koh Phangan once and Phuket twice. I also made stops in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore in between my two Phuket stays, just to get a little more South East Asia under my belt.
I've been lucky enough to meet some amazing people during my trip, many are fellow travelers who have a wealth of knowledge far beyond my own about where to go and what to do in various places. But let me quickly explain what separates the travel advice do's from the travel advice douches. When someone is going somewhere you've been, it's perfectly acceptable and even thoughtful to reach out and offer your suggestions and advice if they need any pointers. What's not ok, is to belittle someone's travel choices based on what you consider to be right for you. I recently got a message from someone who suggested I change my travel plans so I could see the " real" Thailand. When someone uses the term "real" to describe something that they think is more natural or authentic, please punch them in the face. This also goes for the "real women have curves" movement. You know what? Fuck off. No human is more "real" than any other because of the way their bodies are made. And no city in any country is more "real" just because there are less tourists and it's a pain in the ass to find people who speak English and toilet paper.
This is not some Eat, Pray, Love shit. Ok, maybe eat... But I am not looking to skip across rice paddies and sleep in dirt floor huts to find some kind of inner peace or enlightenment. I choose to go to the places I go because of what they have to offer. And yes, sometimes that's decent cell reception and brewed fucking coffee. So get off your travelers high horse and keep your opinions to yourself because you're a "real" asshole and I love fake Thailand. I called the world’s fakest city home for more than five years, so I’m just not the right audience for that kind of pretentiousness.
Below, you'll find a brief write up on each city/island I've visited in Asia. If you're interested in visiting any of the places listed above, read on, if not, this concludes my Asian Adventure. Tomorrow I fly to Australia, my 25th country in 9 months. They say the sexiest men in the world are from Australia and the sexiest women in the world are from Brazil... It's not a coincidence that I've never been to South America.
General Thailand Tips:
Most locals speak enough english to get by but the taxis are a real problem when it comes to communicating. Email your hotel and get them to send you directions written in Thai from the airport to the hotel. And have them do the same for you to give to the taxis when you're going around town. The best thing to do is pull up the location on maps and give it to the driver for gps or follow along as you drive or you could literally end up anywhere. On the islands, rent a MoPed and explore the more remote parts. It’s well worth it!
- Good for about three days.
Do's: A river tour in a small boat and get the captain to take you to the floating market. Hit a night market and a bazaar. The street food is amazing and cheap. Best Pad Thai of my life was at a small market called Thip Samai, if you do a night tour your guide will likely take you there.
Lodging: Stay near Lumphini Park. For the fancy pants, you can stay at the W or Four Seasons for less than you'd pay in any other country or you can get a pretty nice 3-4 star hotel for about $30-$40 a night. I managed to find hotels and airbnbs for $30 a night with a gym and a pool in each.
Transportation: There is a sky train that can get you to most major attractions and areas of town but the taxis are super cheap and easy if you don't mind directing them where to go because they have no idea where anything is. Every taxi should agree to use a meter unless it's late at night and you're in a heavily populated tourism area like the RCA. You can haggle with them about the price but try several taxis until you can't find any that will do meter before you go flat rate. The Airport should also be meter.
Don't: There are two international airports. Don't go to the wrong one for your return flight. Don't drink the water.
- A small island with a lot to do
Do’s: Get a hotel on the beach. Take advantage of the scenic beauty with off road tours, zip lining and hiking in the mountains. Go to a lady boy show on the main drag in Chaweng Beach.
Lodging: There are two parts of Samui, the crowded crazy party scene in Chaweng and the more exclusive higher end part in the north of the island. Hotels on the beach are reasonable and the water and waves are better than most of the other islands, depending on the time of year.
Transportation: There are no metered taxis, it’s mostly flat rate so you can haggle the price. Samui is close to everything so it’s a great home base for taking ferry’s to other islands like Koh Phangan and Ko Tao.
- The island sponsored by house music.
Do’s: See more than just Haad Rin, where the Full Moon Parties happen. Explore the more remote parts of the island. If you’re into the hippy scene, take a taxi boat to "The Sanctuary" from Haad Rin but hit an ATM before you go, there are NO ATMs on that side of the island and they don’t take credit card.
Lodging: The north side of the island is more low key. If you want to be in the thick of it, stay down in Haad Rin but don’t expect to be able to sleep at night.
Transportation: No metered taxis, all flat rate, but there are also open air taxi vans that roam around the island and you can get on and off wherever you want along the way for about $3.
Don’t: No one takes credit card, even the hotels. Don’t forget to take out plenty of cash for this island.
- An island without the limitations.
Do’s: Everything. Seriously, Phuket has SO MUCH TO OFFER. You can do the beach stuff one day, go on an island tour the next, partake in some white water rafting, hang out with elephants (please make sure they are a reputable rescue organization before giving them your money) sit ringside at a boxing match, enjoy fine dining and see a woman shoot a ping pong ball out of her you know what.
Lodging: You can find a hotel for about $30 in Patong close to the beach with a pool, gym and wifi. You can also head down south to Kata Beach and spend a lot more for a gorgeous view and beach community vibe.
Transportation: The airport is FAR. It will take about an hour to get to your hotel if you’re staying in Patong Beach but it should be metered or flat rate and both will end up costing about $25.
Don’t: Phuket Town is not the same as Phuket. It’s far away from the beach and everything you want to do. Don’t stay there. Go there for a day to check it out. Stick to Patong, Kata and Karon Beaches.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- A cement jungle that is actually jungle adjacent.
Do’s: Have sunset drinks at the Heli Pad Lounge where you will get an amazing view of the skyline complete with the famous towers. Go to Batu Caves. Stock up on cheap electronics.
Lodging: Hotels are pretty cheap, stay in the city center. You can find a decent room with a pool and gym for about $40 or go airbnb for less.
Transportation: Take the train from the airport. Fast, Easy, Cheap. Cabs within the city are also cheap as long as you get them to use meter.
Don't: Rely on your Credit Card. Mine didn't work there even though I set a travel alert with my bank and had available credit.
e - Nice if you’re rich.
Do’s: Be Rich. Try not to have a heart attack when you see what everything costs. Suck it up and spend the money to go to one of the rooftop bars for sunset. It’s a beautiful city.
Lodging: Good Luck if you’re on a budget.
Don’t: Be Poor.