Asia is my new found gem. For my 25th birthday celebration, my boyfriend and I set off to Thailand. I was nervous about the huge culture shock, but ended up loving it. I also discovered that our cultures are not as different as I thought. On our way there, we decided to do a long layover to help with the flight time and to visit a place we’ve been dying to see. We opted for a 9 hour layover in Abu Dhabi. Pressed for time, we hired a private tour guide who took us around to all the must sees of Dubai. Which we quickly learned was 45 minutes away from Abu Dhabi. We were beyond grateful for a guided tour in an air conditioned car. Walking around in 105° weather was unbearable. We walked outside for about 10 minutes and was drenched in sweat like we just got out of a pool! Some of my favorite spots were The Walk at JBR, Jumeirah Beach, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Mall, and the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Check out my instagram post about it to see some more of the amazing pictures we took! Next, I’ll give you the low down on the amazing Thailand.
Burj Al Arab
Thailand was my dream place to visit for my 25th birthday. Traveling to Thailand took a very LONG time. Our total time on a plane was roughly 22 hours one way. Sitting on planes for a day in the same clothes, without showering, or a bed to get adequate rest in is tough!!! It makes you feel like a true nomad. We made sure to pack a change of clothes, wipes, and toothbrush to freshen up between flights. We also invested in a good pillow to make sleeping on the plane more bearable. While in Thailand, we spent 10 days exploring Koh Samui and Bangkok.
Grandmother & Grandfather Rock
Koh Samui is a beautiful beach destination with relaxing white sand beaches, delicious food, friendly people, and various activities. We stayed in Chaweng Beach. This was my favorite part of the island because of the many restaurants, nightlife, and proximity to the beach. I recommend staying in a 3 star or above hotel in a prime location. We enjoyed our stay at Samui Verticolor. The staff was attentive, the accommodation was nice, and the breakfast buffet was excellent. We found the best rates for the hotels on Agoda.com. In general, Thailand is a cheap place to visit minus the flight. The currency exchange is amazing. While we were there 1 USD was equivalent to 32.78 Baht! A dinner for two averaged from $3 to about $15, at a fancier restaurant. Needless to say, dining was delicious and inexpensive.
While we were in Koh Samui, we went on a tour that drove us around the island in a Songtaew, a passenger vehicle in Thailand that was adapted from a pick-up truck. We opted for the Jungle Safari tour from SamuiRai. Our tour included seeing the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks, a monkey and baby elephant show, going elephant trekking, seeing Na Muang Waterfall, zip lining, eating a traditional Thai lunch, seeing Buddha’s Magic Garden and the Big Buddha temple. It was a jam packed day touring Koh Samui and it only cost us about $44 per person. We spent our other days poolside, on the beach, getting Thai massages (which are painful but well worth it), eating, shopping, relaxing, and eating some more! Because listen the food in Thailand is out of this world delicious! Next up was Bangkok.
Bangkok is a delightful bustling city full of diverse cultures, an easy metro system, wonderful malls, restaurants, bars, and city views. It was very safe as well. However, the traffic is insane, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We took a taxi twice and then opted for the metro for the rest of our time. The traffic made getting anymore much longer than it needed to be, similar to how it is in Manhattan. We were in Bangkok during rainy season so walking around with an umbrella was essential. Our hotel staff were very accommodating, they gave us an umbrella for free. We stayed at Qui Sukhumvit. A lovely affordable hotel that is close to two malls and lots of street food. Although, it was a couple of metro stops away from the main part of the city. I’d recommend staying in the main part of the city, if you don’t want to travel on the metro a lot. The metro costs about 15-50 baht ($0.46 – $1.53) depending on how far you’re traveling. If you ever get lost Thai people are friendly and happy to help. Some of my favorite sights in Bangkok were Terminal 21, Century Mall, Wat Pho (temple of the reclining buddha), Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun, Wat Benchamabophit and the Chatuchak Weekend Market!
Both cities that we visited had ideal weather with temperatures ranging from high 70’s to high 80’s. I’ve been to 26 countries and Thailand has become one of my top 5 places! I highly recommend planning a trip here. The atmosphere is one that can’t be described and can only be experienced in person. My overall tips for planning your trip are:
1. Book your flights far ahead of time. About three to nine months ahead for the best prices. We used Skiplagged to book our flights. Skiplagged and Skyscanner are two of my favorite sites for low cost flights.
2. Use Agoda or your favorite budget friendly travel site to book your hotel. We found that other sites like Expedia and Priceline had the same hotel offerings as Agoda, but they were much more expensive.
3. Either take a ferry, or book a flight to the different cities using an Asian Boutique airline. We used Thai Airways & Bangkok Airways to travel between Bangkok and Koh Samui.
4. Don’t be afraid to try new foods and immerse yourself into the Thai culture. Explore the Thai markets, beaches, temples, converse with locals, and eat the street food!!!
5. Take advantage of Happy Hour and 7 Eleven. Happy Hour in Thailand is a big deal. It doesn’t just mean cheap alcohol in Thailand, it means inexpensive delicious meals as well! 7 Elevens are on basically every corner and have everything you need from a convenience store for extremely low prices.
The Marble Bar