Here at Whitestone Design Group, we work, love, and live to travel. With my husband and I recently celebrating our union, we chose Thailand as our destination for our honeymoon. Because we feel so passionately about travel here at this company. It does so much for the mind and soul. We were lucky enough to travel to three different locations in the beautiful country of Thailand, so I want to share what we found to be our favorite things to do in each of the destinations!
Koh Samui is one of the small islands off the coast of Kra Isthmus, Thailand. It is a picturesque dream of an island full of sandy beach, blue water, and coconut trees. We were brave enough to rent a motorbike for the duration of our stay, which allowed us the opportunity to explore the island as a whole. We stayed in Koh Samui for five days, and it was certainly hard to say goodbye!
The Santiburi Resort and Spa was our home for duration of our stay and we can't possibly have higher recommendations. The staff was amazing, the food was world class, and the spa was top notch. It goes without saying, Thailand is very hot. But, the Santiburi Resort and Spa, provides relief from the heat by being directly on the beach and air conditioning in all of their facilities. If water sports are your thing, this is a great resort for you as they offer quite a few options of non-motorized water vehicles such as kayaks, sail boats, and paddle boards, complimentary to their guests. The villas are lavish and make you feel like you are in the lap of luxury. We loved every second of our stay at The Santiburi Resort and Spa.
On our first day venturing the island, we had waterfalls on our minds and we set out to find the Na Muang Waterfall. We were amazed beyond words when we arrived! There is somewhat of an adventure park built around the waterfall, so there is a little something for everyone. You can experience an elephant ride here, there is great food at the restaurant facilities, and you can do the light hike up to the waterfall and take a dip to cool yourself from the hot sun. We didn't partake in the waterslides as they looked a little sketchy to us and we didn't ride the elephants due to the metal baskets that they make the elephants wear. But, the waterfall was completely worth the drive to get there and I'm sure the metal baskets are a better option if you are traveling with children.
If you are traveling to Koh Samui, you HAVE to put the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park on your agenda. Travelers should be willing to commit an entire day to this trip, but it is absolutely worth it. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the ferry docks to access our boat. Our guides fed us breakfast and provided the information needed for the day in multiple languages. The ride over by boat is about an hour and a half and although there is adequate shade, sunscreen is a must! At our first stop, we went snorkeling and took kayaks through the different rock formations. It was absolutely beautiful! After we got back onto the boat, we were provided with a delicious Thai lunch and ventured over to another island in the marine park. We took Thai long boats to the beach of this island and scaled a mountain to view the preserved lagoon that was featured in the Di Caprio movie, "The Beach." When you make your way back down to the beach, you can purchase a beer and an ice cream, swim, and snorkel until you get back on the boat to return home. Truly, a spectacular day.
The second destination on our trip was Chiang Mai. If you are looking for a cultural experience, Chiang Mai should definitely make it into your travel plans. We stayed at U Chaing Mai, which is in the heart of the city and gave us the opportunity to walk to pretty much everything you would want to access food and night life wise. Again, a fabulous staff, spectacular accommodations, and great drink specials!
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a spiritual destination you simply cannot miss. This stunning temple is located about 10 miles outside of the city and nestled on top of a mountain. The view form the top is breathtaking although visitors should be prepared for the 309 steps that you will have to take to get up there! Trust me, it is worth it. We spent about a half day there exploring the temple. There were some areas being renovated, which I actually found fascinating as the construction methods are dramatically different than what you see in the United States. Pagodas, bells, statues and shrines... Wat Phra That Doi Suthep had them all and they were absolutely gorgeous. Spending our morning walking around with Monks and an experience I will not soon forget.
Chiang Mai is known for its incredible Sunday Night Market. We were lucky enough to arrive on Sunday afternoon and spent a great deal of time in our evening at the market. Bartering is a way of life in Thailand and you can certainly test your skills at the market. We bought spices, t-shirts, thai silk scarves, art, jewelry and a few other miscellaneous souvenirs. We ate a TON of street food! It can be challenging to understand what you are buying street food wise, but we found that the more obscure the food looked, the better it tasted! If you are not that brave with food, no worries. There are plenty of tourist friendly options too!
Perhaps my favorite part of our entire trip, was our trip to the elephant rescue. We did quite a bit of research to explore which elephant sanctuary treated their elephants the best. When we came across Ran Tong Elephant Rescue and booked our trip immediately. The night before our trip, I was so excited I could hardly sleep! Our wonderful guide, Adam, picked us up fairly early and off we were to start our spiritual journey. When we arrived, Adam divided out bamboo for all of us and off we went down to the elephant camp. I was so happy to see that these incredible pachyderms were not required to wear heavy chains, they did not wear heavy metal baskets, and were not locked in tight cages. The two year old, baby Tongdee immediately came to greet our group and snacked on our bamboo! We met a lot of the other elephants and changed into the appropriate clothing to ride the elephants. After visiting a little more, our guide and the trainers taught us the verbal commands and showed us how to work with the animals. Next thing I knew, we were riding through a jungle on our beautiful elephant, Suriya! She ate SO much and gave us a great show around the camp before taking us back for lunch. The camp fed us a spectacular Thai lunch and Adam taught us a lot about Thai government and way of life in his country. It was great to hear so much about the way they live and support themselves. He explained that in this particular rescue camp, the trainers stayed with the elephants for their whole lives, which we found fascinating. After lunch, we rode the elephants again up a mountain and down into the valley. It is so incredible to be on top of such a large animal venturing through the hillsides of such a beautiful landscape. To end our adventure, we rode Ms. Suriya down into a large pond and swam around with her and bathed the elephants! Definitely my favorite part of the day! If riding the elephants is not your thing, the camp also provides the opportunity to spend the day caring for the elephants as an alternative. All in all, a wonderful part of your trip is to be had at Ran Tong Elephant Rescue.
It is impossible to go to Thailand and not spend some time in Bangkok, right? We were very nervous about going to Bangkok because all of the locations in the previous towns we had visited said they strongly disliked Bangkok. However, we had such a wonderful time in their big city! We went big and stayed for two nights in the incredible Shangri La Hotel. The best part of our stay here is that the hotel is right on the river. It made for sensational views and provided us with easy access to the water taxi. We spent a great deal of time at the hotel's pool, which was extremely nice and enjoyed a very comfortable stay in our room. If I find myself in Bangkok again, I am certainly going back to the Shangri La.
It may sound silly, but one of my favorite parts of our stay in Bangkok was the water taxi. it is such a fun to see the city! There are multiple options for touring the city, but the water taxis would definitely be my first recommendation. There are multiple "flagged" boats that serve as water taxis, but if you are an English speaking tourist, the Blue Flag Water Taxi is the boat for you. An English speaking tour guide will explain what is at all of the stops and the taxi only stops at the destinations that really interest tourist. If you buy a pass for the day, you can get on and off as many times that suit your day of travel. The breeze and shade of the boat are a welcome break from the hot sun and you get to see so many things along the way.
The city is booming and culturally diverse. There is so much shopping and parks to visit, but I think the most popular destination for Bangkok visitors is The Grand Palace. It is so opulent! Coming from a design standpoint, I was truly at a loss of words walking around the grounds of the palace. It is VERY busy and they are VERY strict about the dress code to get into The Grand Palace. Although you can borrow a change of clothes right outside the palace, I would highly recommend either wearing or bringing the correct clothes needed to get into temple. Men need long pants and women need to have their shoulders and legs covered. There are police officers at the front to monitor visitors attire, so be prepared. On the inside, there isn't a single surface that wasn't carefully thought out. Every column has gorgeous mirrored mosaic details. Every ceilings has stunning gold leaf medallions. Every wall has breathtaking murals from top to bottom. The main temple has the Jade Booda and it is beautiful! Take the time to go in, sit a moment, and take it all of the detail inside this temple. Its sensational.
If you are an English Speaking traveler, make sure that you spend one evening in Sukhumvit Soi 11. This can be a challenging destination to find if you are unfamiliar with the city, but the Sukhumvit refers to the area of the city and the Soi 11 refers to the street name. This area of the city is booming and there are so many fun restaurants, bars and clubs. We dined at a restaurant called "Cabbages and Condoms." The restaurant is actually on Soi 12, across the street from Soi 11, but worth the trek! The concept of the restaurant was to create awareness for family planning and their motto, "Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy!" Fun atmosphere, good food and a great cause! You can then venture down the alley and cross the busy street over to Soi 11 for fun nightlife! Cheap Charlies is a great time and as it suggests, it is a cheap drink! The Alchemist is a creative little bar that serves up a superb drink. And there is good music and dancing all over the place. For us, Suk Soi 11 was a nice break and we enjoyed being around English speaking travelers for a night!
Collectively, my husband and I wanted to say a huge "Thank You," to Barbara Robinson with Amcan Travel. Her experience and guidance really provided us with the trip of a lifetime. She is an excellent Travel Agent and I don't think that we could have had our trip go as smoothly without her help. If you live in the Greater Seattle Area and are planning a trip out of the country, we cannot say enough great things about working with Barbara.
Thank you for taking the time to check in on our blog. If you have any questions about traveling to Thailand that we can answer for you, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org