South East Asia was not a destination on my bucket list for travel! So why spend 4 weeks travelling around? Originally my husband (Gary) and I had planned to spend two weeks in Thailand with our sons Isaac 25 & Matthew 24 yrs, however they were not able to travel due to other commitments. Gary then suggested we visit Cambodia and Vietnam as well. His thinking was “well we are so close to both countries we might as well make the most of it”.
I love to travel because you are not only exposed to a different culture and environment but you are stepping out of your comfort zone. So the planning began and let me tell you this trip was really stepping out of my comfort zone and yet I knew it was going to be a spiritual and mindful learning experience.
Back into our normal routines, this trip has been truly humbling. It certainly has made me grateful for all that life has given me. I realise that the importance of our life is in our relationships with others and not the materialistic objects we strive for. I want to share some of the highlights with you, what we ate, where we stayed, what we did and also some of the lowlights which I think helps to put all things in perspective.
The breakfast was included in all our hotel stays and as I am gluten intolerant, have quit sugar and mostly dairy free, I decided to take things in my stride this holiday and to enjoy the flavours and tastes of each country. I wanted to experiment with the food and to immerse myself in their culture and to live in the present moment and to be very mindful of my surroundings.
Let me take you on our journey! Are you ready?
In Thailand we visited Phuket, Krabi & Chiang Mai.
We stayed at the Phuket Merlin Hotel for 4 nights. The hotel is central to Patong Beach away from the nightclubs and bars and central to the shopping markets. We arrived late in the evening and we were exhausted from our trip.
As you can see from the photo we had a fabulous view over the main swimming pool. There were actually four swimming pools in total at the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel was usually eggs either scrambled, fried or omelette served with salad and fresh fruit. Plus I tried their dark bread with banana (their bananas are tiny!) and drizzle of local honey. The bread did not upset my stomach WIN! WIN! (not stressing about what I was eating also helped) The fruit in Thailand is delicious.
We spent our first day exploring the streets to get our bearings and a walk along the beach of course. It was very windy and the ocean was a bit rough for a swim plus it didn’t look that clean so we opted for the pool to cool off.
The hotel has an amazing restaurant opposite the beach front with authentic Thai cuisine called Cafe Del Mar. It was wonderful sitting watching everyone wandering the streets, tourists, locals and the traders (who still try to sell you something while you are eating dinner) they have to make a living somehow! The meal was scrumptious. We had fried rice, pork and hot basil, fried prawns and duck curry. Hubby tried the local beer (Chang) and I drank bottled water.
We were excited to get to the beach for a swim and got up early the next day to see how the water looked. The ocean was not quite as rough as the day before as we had some rain overnight. It is the rainy season here and we were told that is why the water is not that clean (it smelt like sewage to me). Hubby went for a swim anyway. I opted for the pool.
Hubby felt quite sick in the afternoon and slept for two hours. We went to the pharmacy (after experiencing Bali belly many years ago and being treated by the local pharmacist we opted to do the same here) to get something for his upset stomach. That night he was violently ill. (he said that he swallowed some of the ocean water) Yuck!
The next day we had booked a Phang Nga Sunrise Tour where we were to visit James Bond Island, Cave exploring on Panak Island, Sea canoeing at Tam Lod Nai, visit Panyee Village a village on stilts, Treasure Island only accessible by swimming through a narrow passage, a short trip to Koh Yao for lunch and then to a tropical beach for a swim. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it, unfortunately hubby wasn’t well enough so we had to cancel the trip.
Then I became quite ill not sure why – we were thinking it might have been because we boiled the local water to make a cup of tea? We decided to boil the bottled water in future. (note to self: only boil bottled water to make a cup of tea)
Phuket (Poo!ket) left a sour taste for us so we were happy to head to
It was a three hour drive from Phuket to Krabi which was great as we got to see more of the country side.
We stayed at Ao Nang Beach Cliff Resort for three nights and as the name suggests it was on the side of a cliff. It was lovely and had an awesome swimming pool with an amazing view.
The room itself was quite small yet comfortable enough. For dinner that night we ordered room service and I had steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrot) so good! hence no picture.
The ocean was not that clean here either and not very inviting (once bitten, twice shy) we opted for the pool. The hotel staff advised of a Monkey Trail at the south west corner of Ao Nang Beach which takes you over the mountain trail to another beach called Pai Plong Beach where there is a private resort. So many stairs! It was a great hike and unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of the monkeys as there was only one with her baby and she was too quick for us. By the time we got the camera out she was gone!
On the way back we found an awesome cafe called Cafe 8.98 with an Aussie owner. We got a green smoothie YAY!! (kale, spinach, kiwi fruit, coconut milk, natural yoghurt, honey, banana) plus we asked them to add in some fresh ginger -YUM! Good probiotics for the gut. We went back later for dinner as we saw they had a Caesar salad and it was just what our bodies needed. We ate here for the remainder of our stay!
We were pretty much into a morning routine now on our holiday, getting up early for a walk and swim in the pool and then breakfast. Our last day here so we booked a tour called the Four Island Hopping Tour by speedboat. We love getting out on the water!
The first island was Phra Nang Beach to visit the Princess Caves which are adorned with phallic symbols. Our guide said it represents to find love? However in researching most stories say that fisherman would leave the carvings and in return it would bring them success with their fishing and protect them from danger and also help with their fertility.
The second island visit was Chicken Island, aptly named because it resembles a chicken head. We anchored here to go snorkelling. It was great to get into clean salty water to snorkel lots of coral and a few fish nothing like the Great Barrier Reef or even our very own Cudgen creek. It was a pleasant stop and we enjoyed the swim.
The third island visit was Tub Island. This was a pleasant surprise with beautiful turquoise coloured waters and many zebra fish swimming around us (more fish here than chicken island). A sand bank joined to another small island opposite which you could walk to when the tide is low. It was so nice to swim here. They also had the swimming areas marked out with nets as there so many speed boats and longboats coming and going.
The fourth island was Poda Island. This is where we stopped for lunch which was provided by the tour, chicken, omelette and rice and then the local Krabi cake (much the same as a madeira cake) and seasonal fruit. This was another pleasant surprise. Again beautiful turquoise waters to swim in. It was packed with tourists of course, long boats and speeds boats and again they had roped off an area for swimming so you don’t get run over by the boats. It was so nice to be able to relax on the beach for an hour before heading back to the mainland. We really enjoyed this tour it was great to be out on the water.
We arrived at our hotel the Dusit Princess which is right in the heart of Chiang Mai. The hotel is quite typically a city hotel, no view and no verandah. That was OK as we did not plan on spending much time in the room. There is a swimming pool which has a great relaxing area.
For the rest of the day we walked around the city as Gary had detected a river and wanted to check it out. Not something you would want to paddle in! We were advised that the night markets were held out the front of our Hotel which was very convenient and as we were walking around we could see the stall holders setting up their site for the night. It was such a buzz of activity and there were so many stalls and most with the same stuff.
We took a Tuk Tuk to the old city of Chiang Mai to visit the WAT Chedi Luang Buddhist Temple. This was a very calming and spiritual experience to listen to the monks in chant. We paid our respects and then explored the rest of the temple. We were approached by local school children who were learning English and they wanted to ask us a few questions on why we were in Chiang Mai, what we thought of it and what we liked about it. It was a real pleasure to be able to help them and chat with them.
After visiting the Temple we then explored the Chiang Mai Historical Museum. So much history, as Chiang Mai was once colonised by Burma until the Burmese were driven out and it then became a dominion State of Siam (Thailand). The name changed to Thailand in 1939 meaning “land of the free” You can google “why Siam changed names to Thailand” if you want to learn more.
The highlight for me in Thailand was the Thai Cooking class at Baan Hong Nual Cooking School. I was so excited to learn traditional Thai cooking. We were met by our host and cooking instructor Pui, and set off to the local fresh food markets to pick our produce for our menu. In our class we met a lovely family from Zurich, Switzerland and five beautiful young ladies from Dallas, Texas one of which is living in Australia.
Our recipes for the day were:-
Pad Thai, Green Curry, Masaman Curry, Red Curry, Fried Spring Rolls & Sticky Rice and mango.
Check out the video below of our instructor Piu making Pad Thai – Chicken
That was an awesome experience and so much fun and definitely worth doing while in Chiang Mai.
There is much more to explore in Thailand, so many islands to visit where there is a lot more water activities which we really missed with this visit. It is definitely worth a visit.
Our next destination Cambodia!
Safe Travels, let me know if you have been to Thailand and what is your favourite place to stay. Leave me a comment, I love to hear from you.