The moment you step out of Suvarnabhumi Airport, the sights and sounds of Bangkok are overwhelming. In early March, it’s hot, there are taxis and cars as far as the eye can see, and there are people everywhere, even at 11 o’clock at night. We were tired after our flight from Auckland, but the atmosphere of the city soon had us sitting up and taking notice.
Our hotel was on Sukhumvit Road, one of the busiest main roads in the city. It’s lined with bars and clubs, stores that stay open all hours, and bustling restaurants and cafes. And prostitutes, of varying shape, size….and gender.
We spent just two days in the city. We visited the beautiful, opulent Golden Palace, and admired the Emerald Buddha. We had drinks at Moon Bar @ Vertigo, the highest bar imaginable, where the view is priceless, the cocktails are expensive but pack a punch, and the spicy peanuts kept you from straying too close to the sides. We walked and sweated in the humidity, finding some respite in the covered river-side markets, and fended off various touts with their predictable claims: “I’ll take you to 40-foot Buddha, only open today! Just 150 – no, just 100 baht each for tuk tuk ride there and back! And on way, we stop at my friend’s shop, he best tailor in city…” Unfortunately for them, we were not “green” travellers and didn’t fall for their scams, but we did see so many other tourists approached and cajoled into accepting these “unbelievable” offers.
From Bangkok, we flew to Krabi Province, rode a mini-bus to Ao Nang and took a long tail boat to Rai Leh Beach. Here, we stayed in a resort with a fantastic infinity pool, where we spent most of our days – this was our honeymoon, after all, and we planned on lazing away as many days as possible before hitting the really touristy spots. Rai Leh was amazing; it’s only accessible by boat, and there are no roads on the island, making for a very peaceful spot. Every day, we ate Thai pancakes from the friendliest caravan vendor, and drank cocktails and ate calamari at the beach, watching as the sun descended from the sky in the most spectacular fashion.
We swam in thunderstorms, and the rain drops jumped back up at us; afterwards, we walked on the deserted beach which was pitted with rain marks and watched tiny crabs emerge once more from the sand. We breakfasted with a thousand cats, and watched a fly try to swim his way out of a dish of honey…with little success. When we missed the one-a-day ferry to Ko Phi Phi, we weren’t disappointed – another day in this idyllic paradise suited us just fine.
From Rai Leh, we went back to Ao Nang, where the rich and famous supposedly holiday; it certainly had a different feel to any other part of Thailand and the tourists were of a different class too. In Ao Nang, we ate golden bowls (crunchy little open wonton-like meat-filled “bowls”), the best snack in the entire world, and bought a pack of cards so Tall could teach me to play 500; after eating dinner outside in a covered pagoda, with the rain thundering down around us, we retreated to our room’s balcony and played cards and drank warm Thai beer until it was too dark to see.
The next day, we did manage to catch the ferry to Ko Phi Phi, joining the throngs of 18-year-olds who seemed determined to drink themselves stupid with whiskey buckets and cheap, nasty cocktails. We were saddened by the destruction caused by the Boxing Day tsunami, but also astonished at the regeneration of the island, five years on. We climbed the tsunami evacuation route, through the sweet stench of rotting fruit to the viewpoint and its amazing views of the island. We fell asleep to the chorus of bullfrogs surrounding our hotel, and the techno music resonating from the beach bars; we felt ancient, returning home at a reasonable hour while the young ones partied all night long, and felt smug the next day, setting out early to explore while most of them were just stumbling home. We clambered up, up, up, and then down, down, down, to deserted Rantee Bay where we had the beach to ourselves and swam with brightly coloured fish in the warm ocean.
From Ko Phi Phi, we travelled back to Krabi, a lively town with friendly inhabitants. We stumbled upon a fabulous night market and sampled the local fare, which for Tall meant eating a 20 baht-bag of crunchy grasshoppers. We watched two geckos play tag on the neon sign of ‘The Maple’ Cafe, and admired the street lights, which were stone elephants.
After Krabi, we headed back to Bangkok and caught the sleeper train to Chiang Mai…seemed like a good idea at the time, but I didn’t sleep a wink. Luckily, Chiang Mai made it all seem worth it.
Here, we visited some amazing temples, the oldest of which we could see from our hotel, and were saddened by the sheer number of stray dogs, of which there are hundreds roaming the city streets.
We took a cooking class and went to a fabulous local market; I learned that fresh turmeric is great for mosquito bites, and we cooked and ate until we burst. We braved violent Thai massages, given by the tiniest, smiliest Thai women – don’t let their outward appearances fool you, those women are strong! We did the typical Chiang Mai thing, and took an organised tour; we visited a disappointing orchid farm, felt disgustingly voyeuristic at an agricultural, ecological, “genuine” hilltribe village, rode an elephant who ate all his bananas in two minutes flat, went white water rafting with Pon, who thought it hilarious that my husband’s name is “chicken”, in Thai, and sat on a sinking bamboo raft in tepid brown water. Back in the city, we ate at a cafe where the owner was donating all proceeds to charity after good karma came to him, and haggled at the night bazaar for jewellery, clothing and a little jade Buddha. We made friends with the staff at ‘The Terrace’, who served the worst breakfast but had the best service and made amazing milkshakes, and regretted waiting until our last day for a foot massage – but at least we returned to Bangkok feeling like we were walking on fluffy clouds.
From Bangkok, we flew back to London, sad that our long holiday and honeymoon was over, but glad to have taken seven weeks out of our busy, London lives to enjoy our wedding, time with family and friends, and the start of our married life together.
Thailand was the perfect place to relax and unwind, and I would love to return. It’s well-known as the Land of Smiles, and truer words have never been spoken. We experienced the most amazing hospitality and the friendliest people – even the touts and hagglers were polite and pleasant, most offering a cheery, “Have good day!” despite walking away empty-handed – and I will always have a beautiful, soft-focus memory of our time there.
Linking up with Simone for