Phew! Where to start … at the beginning of September I went out to Thailand, one of my favourite countries in the world, for a 2 week trip. It’s a country I have been to many times over the past decade, it’s the country where I met the love of my life, and it’s a country I was supposed to visit for a short foodie press trip but extended to explore on my own… and then, AND THEN… my husband turned up, out of the blue, at the airport at the end of the press trip, to surprise me!
WHOA! All of the emotions…
The TL;DR version of all this – Thailand was rad and I took loads of awesome photos (and video).
For those who want a nosey I will share a semi-condensed version of how the 2 week trip to Thailand went down. I will then share blog posts over the coming week or so with further details about different parts of the trip (READ: Thailand posts here). It would be impossible to share it all in one post. You’d most likely get bored, nod off, or simple vow never to come back to this blog again because jeez…she don’t half waffle on…
The purpose of today’s blog is to give you a bit of a sneak peek into how my trip went. All the juicier details will be shared in individual posts, namely because I took about a gazillion photographs and I need to make darn good use of them all! Thousands, I took thousands! That should give you an idea of just how photogenic Thailand can be.
Anyhow… to the trip!
Chilling out in Bangkok
I flew out a few days earlier than the rest of my press trip cohort so that I had some time to chill out in Bangkok. I knew I’d be terribly jet lagged, I’m a total sucker for that, and I also just wanted the chance to have a wander around the city.
The first couple of days were lovely. I picked up a Thai sim card from Terminal 21, a rather snazzy shopping centre up the road from my hotel. It had unlimited data for £18 to last the 2 weeks I was out there. Perfect for keeping up to date with my Insta-stories.
I also indulged in a few shopping centre meals, they’re arguably some of the best places to get food in Thailand.
I allowed myself a few hours by the pool at my hotel, the Rembrandt, which given it was rainy season when I travelled, you have to make the most of the sunshine when it’s out!
Unfortunately my bad back reappeared over the summer (weirdly, around the time of my wedding) and after the long flight over to Thailand it aggravated it some more. This meant I couldn’t go for as much of a wander around the city as I had intended. Instead, I found an AMAZING massage place, and the best Thai massage I’ve ever experienced.
The night before the foodie trip started I went to Cabbages and Condoms, a Thai restaurant and social enterprise that serves up tasty food whilst raising money for vital safe sex projects with the aim to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and prevent the spread of the disease. It was a quirky restaurant with an outdoor terrace area covered in fairy lights, tables covered in condoms, and even full size figurines made out of condoms. The food was nice and it was all for a good cause!
The first day of the organised trip was more of an orientation day. We were treated to a presentation by the tourism board to learn about the latest in the local and regional tourist industry. Following this we were treated to an afternoon river cruise down the Chaopraya, the super-large river running through Bangkok.
The food on the cruise was fabulous, with dishes from all of the Southeast Asian countries. It was great to see Burmese tea leaf salad on the menu, it was one of my faves when I was here before.
We had one stop on the river cruise, and that was for Wat Arun, a striking temple set upon the banks of the river. It is a unique temple with beautifully detailed stone work along all of the stupas.
After the cruise I headed straight to the nearest coffee shop at Asiatique to get myself an iced coffee, I bloody love the iced coffees in Thailand. I drink them almost every day I’m there and crave them constantly when I’m back home.
Fun fact: Thailand does ACE coffee.
The evening session was a bit of a treat, we watched a performance by some Thai puppetry theatre, and the Muay Thai theatre production. Both looked fabulous and I’ve put them on my list for next time I visit Bangkok.
Bangkok and Ayutthaya
First stop on our group trip included a wander around Bang Rak to learn about Thai street food. As a big street food I was a excited to see more. We tried more iced coffee (hoorah!) and some pandan sweets for breakfast.
Once rush hour traffic had subsided were on the road in our minibus up to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand when it was known as Siam. The ancient city is only an hour or so outside of Bangkok and a pretty straight forward drive.
The city itself is a delightful change of pace from the hecticness of Bangkok. The city is low rise, there is space, less traffic and the vibe is much more chill. Oh, and trees…lots more trees in Ayutthaya.
We began with a quick tour of the museum and introduction to the city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shortly after we drove out to our lunch destination where I managed to get involved in the cooking!
We had a feast of Thai dishes including Som Tam (papaya salad) and a delicious fish dish (I think it was called Ruby Fish and it’s deep fried with loads of garlic).
Our final stop of the day was the Chinese temple, Wat Phanan Choeng, which features a giant buddha statue, it is most impressive. I also found a side room which features three smaller buddha statues, but these include one that is covered in pure gold. It was stunning.
Just before calling it a day, we went to try some local dessert that is famous in Ayutthaya. Rotai Sai Mai is a kind of sweet roti that is rolled up with pulled sugar inside. The texture is awesome, and incredibly moreish. I’m sure I munched my way through about 5 of them before going on a massive sugar high!
Our evening meal was a treat to some of the famous Ayutthaya river prawns … I’m still not sure why they’re called prawns because they are massive! They are freshwater, from the river, and they are an incredible meaty shellfish. I highly recommend trying them if you go to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya and Bangkok Night Tour
This particular day was super intense, yet awesome. We visited a few more temples in Ayutthaya including the famous Wat Mahathat. It was great to hear about the history and significance of each temple, as well as noticing the differences in style of each one. I’ll never get bored of temple touring, I find it fascinating.
I have to say, Ayutthaya gets HOT. It was incredibly humid, but you do need to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for temples so I was pretty covered up.
We had a delicious lunch at another local Thai restaurant, which included a sweet basil soup that tasted amazing. Must get the recipe for that one!
Our final stop was Bang Pa In Palace. At this point the heavens opened so we did a shortened tour of the grounds. The palace is super pretty there but probably best visited when it’s drier weather. It poured with rain!
We drove back to Bangkok in our minibus to check into our hotel for the night, and probably one of my faves of the trip, the Chatrium.
Following a day of sweating it around temples I made a beeline for the infinity pool just in time for sunset. It was a glorious moment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 30 minutes or a week, grab chill out time whenever you can!
For the evening entertainment we were treated to a tuk-tuk night tour of Bangkok. Somehow I ended up in the disco tuk-tuk with a driver that blared out his music at full volume along with twinkling disco lights in the back. It was surreal, but a totally awesome way to enjoy the city.
We stopped off first at Chinatown for a short walk before the tuk-tuks drove us around the downtown area to take in the sights. It was nuts.
We were up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight down to Malaysia for a whistle stop tour of Malacca and Kuala Lumpur.
The journey there was actually pretty gruelling. Along with an early check-in and the two hour flight, the queues at immigration in KL were ridiculously long. Once through immigration and picking up our suitcases, some of our group were caught in interviews at immigration so we ended up having lunch in the airport instead of down in Malacca (that’s how far behind schedule we were!).
Eventually we were on the road and we made it down to Malacca for late afternoon. I had napped in the minibus down there, and in my sleepy haze I requested coffee. And I’m so glad I did!
Our first stop in Malacca was a gorgeous little coffee shop called Calanthe Art Cafe. As Malaysia is known for growing coffee, they stocked a huge range of coffee and served in different ways. I adored the one I picked. Plus, the coffee shop had a super-quirky interior, which is right up my street! Loved it.
Next, we took a walking tour for an hour or so around the old part of Malacca replete with it’s old colonial architecture.
Finally we checked into our hotel before heading out for dinner to try the local cuisine, a fusion of Chinese and Malay food called Nyonya.
The following day we stopped by a Chinese temple where some folks were taking part in fortune telling rituals. It was a gorgeous temple and a lovely morning for a walk.
But we were on a time limit so we hopped back into the minibus to drive up to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. First stop was to the park opposite the famous Petronas tours. These imposing towers are impressive to look at and great fun for a photographer to capture!
Afterwards we headed to a local restaurant for some Indian food and enjoyed a biryani dish, before we taken back to the airport to catch our flight back to Bangkok.
Night Out in Bangkok
It’s funny how things turn out isn’t it? On the flight back to Bangkok I was chatting the girls about what to do on our final night and we were all set on going for a cocktail at a rooftop bar. The conversation turned to our fellas and I was talking about how romantic Raj can be…
Anyhow, fast forward to wandering through the doors at arrival with suitcase in hand, hair in a messy ponytail, and feeling like a hot mess after all the travel … and there, stood before me, holding a sign reading ‘Elizabeth Dhokia’ was my husband with a big grin on his face.
This is the husband who was supposedly back home. In the UK.
I felt my stomach drop as I got the shock of seeing him there. Then we had the romantic slow mo (in my head it was slow mo – it was probably very boring for everybody else) moment of running up for a hug, and I think I swore at him (ha!).
So yeah… Raj came to join me for my second week in Thailand, which I had previously planned to travel solo to Chiang Mai. Not being one to miss out, he decided to come with me!
Together we all went out for fancy cocktails at Sirocco Sky Bar at Lebua in Bangkok. For Thai prices, these cocktails are deffo on the pricier side, but it’s totally worth the experience. And they’re tasty cocktails.
Following a fancy drink we decided to show the girls the alternative side of Bangkok … we took them to Khao San Road! It was pretty late by that point so the madness was dying down, but it was enough to take in the experience that is Khao San Road, the backpacker central of Bangkok. Not my favourite place, but worth seeing firsthand.
The next day Raj and I flew up to Chiang Mai to spend a fun and romantic few days. The city where we met 7 years ago! Chiang Mai has ended up being a place I keep being drawn back to over the years… sure, it’s changed quite dramatically over the past decade, but it has still kept it’s charm.
On the first day we just chilled out by the pool at our stunning hotel, the Rarin Jinda. After all of the travelling the previous few days we were pretty weary. It was great to just relax, swim and enjoy a bit of sunshine.
In the evening we headed out to the Night Bazaar for a bit of a wander. Not long after we got there it started to rain so we popped into one of the many markets there for some street food. We had a mini feast of chicken, pad thai, and gyoza.
For dessert we tried the handmade ice cream dessert for the first time. You know the one where where they pour the cream onto the ice cold metal plate and churn it in front of you. It was super entertaining to watch and the result was a delicious ice cream sundae.
With a full on thunderstorm now under way we opted to enjoy our ice cream whilst having a 30 minute foot massage. Bliss.
After a lovely breakfast by the river (our hotel had its own restaurant across the road on the banks of the river) I made my way over to the spa at the Rarin Jinda to sample one of the recommended hot stone massages.
It was my first time having this particular type of massage so I was super intrigued.
I was taken up several flights of stairs to the rooftop where I was told to shower (pretty much out in the open), get changed into the special underwear, and then had one of the most relaxing massages of my life. It was lovely.
Feeling all floaty after my spa experience I joined Raj down by the pool for a few hours. We enjoyed a swim, sunbathed and ordered yet another ice coffee and some nibbles for lunch.
That evening we didn’t have far to go for dinner. We met up with our lovely friends who own Spicythai, the hostel where Raj and I met years ago.
They took us to the Riverside Restaurant which is a gorgeous spot on the river bank full of lanterns hanging from trees, it’s positively magical.
We enjoyed a massive meal of seafood curry, fresh fish, fishcakes, and more curry. It was delicious. Oh, and I finally got around to having some Sangsom, a Thai ‘whiskey’ that is part of the traveller scene when you’re visiting.
It was such a wonderful evening to be with friends even when you don’t see them for years at a time.
Elephant Nature Park
It was elephant day! Whoop whoop!
It’s an early start as you get picked up between 8 and 8.30am. Once in our minibus it’s just over an hour to the Elephant Nature Park.
This really needs a post in itself. But the shortened version is, we went to a sanctuary that rescues elephants from working in logging and the tourism industry (riding elephants causes them harm). There we were able observe them, feed them, and wash them. We learned all about their habits, personalities and lifestyle.
It’s a gorgeous setting, and all of the money spent goes on feeding and rescuing the elephants. Well, actually, not just elephants. Being the animal lovers they are, they are now home to dogs, cats, water buffalo and various other animals in need.
On this day we checked into a new hotel, Bed Phra Singh, a trendy style of hotel located in the old city.
For dinner we ordered an Uber to take us to the other side of the city to the Nimmanhaemin Road, the area where we met 7 years ago.
We knew exactly where we wanted to go for dinner. We headed straight to Kao Soi Nimman to order our favourite Kao Soi, a Chiang Mai specialty. It’s basically a Thai curry over noodles. It’s one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever had. We were giddy with excitement with how delicious our meal was.
With our bellies full, feeling pretty darn happy with ourselves, we went for a wander around the Nimman area to check out some of the old places we used to hang out. Some things were, thankfully, still the same (hello Burmese restaurant and Warm Up Cafe) and yet a few things were different (there’s a McDonalds there now?!).
If you’re ever in Chiang Mai, or any part of Thailand for that matter, you must do a cooking class. Not only is Thai food incredibly delicious, but it’s pretty easy to make once you’ve got the basics sorted.
I did a half day course with the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery school. It’s based about 20 minutes outside of the city and they send a minibus to come pick you up in the morning.
I love getting up early in Chiang Mai as you get the fresh mountain air filling the city before the sun gets a chance to heat things up. (Did I mention that Chiang Mai is situated in the mountainous north of Thailand?).
There was only a small group for our class (they can actually teach several classes in their massive purpose built school at once, but it’s low season at the mo – more reason to travel during rainy season!). It was great because we were able to get super interactive with the chefs and get hands-on with the learning.
We were taught 4 dishes in total. The chef would do a demonstration before each dish and then we we would cook our own at our individual cooking stations. I loved the cooking class so much. The food was ace, the chefs were funny and professional. And the chance to get hands on after learning a new dish is the best way to really learn.
In the afternoon I met up with Raj and the local food market. We took a short walk before catching a taxi back over the Nimmanhaemin Road area to see if his tattoo artist was available. At first he wasn’t in so we stopped by one of the many coffee shops in the area. We had yet another iced coffee and hung out with the resident cat.
When the tattoo artist messaged we walked over and Raj had his entire arm tattoo touched up. We did consider getting matching tattoos, but I wasn’t feeling the spontaneity in that moment and couldn’t decide on what to have. So we’ll do that another time.
After the tattoo we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before wandering around the old city of Chiang Mai for a little night temple touring.
Bangkok River Cruise Dinner
And just like that our time in Chiang Mai was done and we were heading back on a flight to Bangkok.
We checked into another hotel, grabbed a bit of food, and just about had time for a quick nap and a shower before going over to Bed Station Hostel to meet our friends.
We were the first guests to stay at Bed Station (nearly 3 years ago now) and became really good friends with the owners and staff there. As a wedding gift they took us on a stunning river cruise dinner down the Chaopraya river in Bangkok. We had about 7 courses of incredible food, washed down with plenty of champagne, all the whilst watching the sunset and seeing the banks of the Chaopraya light up at night.
Oh, and they even managed to get a candle put in Raj’s dessert and sang him in happy birthday (it was his special birthday last week).
Again, it was so good to be with friends who you don’t see for years and you just pick up exactly where you left off. Wish we could go back to Thailand more often!
On our final day in Thailand we spent our time wandering through the warrens of shops that is Chatuchak Market. This place is immense. It’s epic. It’s the market of all markets. I have been to Chatuchak Market so many times, and every time I find new lanes, new shops, and can never find the ones I’d found before. It’s a crazy, hectic, sweaty, awesome mess. I love it.
You can find pretty much anything is sold at Chatuchak Market. It’s full of food, clothes, homewares, antiques. There are massage shops, coffee shops, street food stalls.
Take a big tote bag with you to fill up with your purchases. And wear comfy shoes! It’s massive.
I was relatively tame with my purchases this time, but I did get some fragrance diffusers for my house, some floating candles for Diwali, and a few t-shirts my work-from-home days.
Oh, and I found a place that sells garlic bread on stick.
How can you not love Chatuchak Market?! It’s madness on a stick.
Before dinner we wanted to squeeze in one final activity, a cat cafe! Just around the corner from our hotel is a cat cafe called Caturday. Great name! We decided to pop by for a yet another iced coffee and hang out with the resident cats for an hour.
It was one of the best cafes ever. It was so much fun just to hang with the cats, petting them and playing with them. As a huge cat lover I was in heaven.
For our final dinner we went to the mall, because it only seemed right. But this time we went to a proper restaurant. We tried out Bon Chon for the first time. It’s basically a fried chicken place, and I always see it packed with people. In fact, when we were here before in Bangkok people were queuing to get in. So we had to find out why…
The reasons is… the chicken is darn crispy! Oh, it was lovely.
Bellies full and sad to go home we did one final pack of our suitcases and had an early night, ready for the long flight home.
I have so much more I want to share with you about my time in Thailand so do subscribe and come back for more Thai loveliness.