Updated: Jan 13
Thinking About Thailand? Here’s my advice!
Thailand is a BEAUTIFUL country filled with many breathtaking adventures and culture. As an American, many of their customs and traditions came as cultural shock for me and my family. To avoid any mishaps we may have encountered, I am writing this so you’ll have a smoother trip…… But, WE HAD MUCH FUN!!!
Getting to Thailand is NOT as EXPENSIVE as people think. However, it is the TIME that it takes to get there that is most frightening. Chicago O’Hare International Airport was the cheapest city to fly from. Our roundtrip flight was ticketed at $614….. YES, only SIX HUNDRED FOURTEEN DOLLARS!! The flight departed from Chicago, en route to Hong Kong International Airport. This was the longest flight of our entire trip (14 Hours and 51 Minutes to be exact). Not to worry, included in our flight was two complimentary meals and beverages, (wine included!); and we had access to free movies and television shows. Once in Hong Kong, we had to check in for our flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Our layover was long enough for us to stretch and relax. PS: no one told us Hong Kong was sooo EXPENSIVE! Expensive like, a 16 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola retailed for $22 and a Twix bar was $15 (I have pictures to prove it!). Moving forward, the flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok lasted for about two hours. There are two international airports in Bangkok, (BKK and DMK), they are only about 30 minutes apart. Once at DMK, we checked into NOKAIR (NIGHTMARE… will tell you about that later). Many of you may wonder why we did not stay in Bangkok. It is because we wanted to spend majority of our trip in Phuket. This is where the beautiful islands, beaches, and crazy fun excursions are. Bangkok is more of a Las Vegas, large city of hustle, bustle, and pickpocketers. The drive time between the two cities was about 11 hours. Also, flying directly into Phuket is very expensive ($2-3K per flight). A 30 minute flight between the two cities only cost us $60 roundtrip!
WHERE TO STAY:
We decided to rent a villa via AirBnB. Best decision ever! Whenever I travel, I tend to enjoy renting homes over hotels. There are many pros and cons that come with choosing a home over hotels, but for me, it gives me a better experience and more privacy. The villa we rented out was VERY BEAUTIFUL! It was a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom, three story villa. Located at a private golf club. Each bedroom came with its own bathroom and an amazing view. The amenities were all modern and we had a really cool swimming pool. The villa was large enough for us to sit and enjoy each other’s company, or have some individual time to ourselves. Our host, Jason, was highly responsive and interactive. Renting the villa also came with a personal driver, (Run!). He took us wherever we desired to go and made great suggestions.
WHAT TO DO:
FOOD! Finding food was our number one priority. We were in the area of Patong Beach. There were a lot of street vendors selling anything from food all the way to Tiffany & Co. bracelets. We stumbled across what was familiar to us, Hard Rock Café! The food was decent. Our next adventure was visiting Patong Beach. This was a tourist saturated beach with many water activities. We decided on Banana Boat (haha, what an experience!). After the boat tipped over for the third time, I think everyone was pretty much DONE. Following the beach, our next trip was to Tiger Kingdom. The Kingdom is a popular tourist attraction that offers up-close interactions with tigers in caged enclosures. Many people thought the tigers in my pictures were not real, they definitely were! In that moment, I had an adrenaline rush but I will say the big cats that I interacted with, were very calm and fun to play with. Did I mention how cheap it was?? To play with the large cats, it was ONLY $28USD! To me, it was a very reasonable price for a risky once in a lifetime opportunity. If you are planning to visit Phuket, make sure you go and experience that! After Tiger Kingdom, we returned to our villa and chilled by the pool. It was my best friend’s birthday, and so she wanted to do “Sexy Dinner”. Our driver, Run set us up for private dinner overlooking the beach at his friends restaurant. The name of the restaurant was Salsamexicana Patong. I ordered the “Croc Cakes” and Jambalaya. Croc Cakes are comparable to crab cakes in America, except you substitute alligator for crab…. YUMMY! I would highly recommend this restaurant! On the way home, Run had provided us with a list of things to do. We decided on visiting the FAMOUS Phi Phi Island, which you can only get to via boat ride. Online, the prices to visit this island totaled to 3,200 BAHT ($92USD). However, Run gave us the “hook up”. We only had to pay him 2500 BAHT per person ($70USD). I strongly encourage everyone to AVOID paying for things online because once on vacation, you can almost always negotiate prices! The excursion to Phi Phi Island included visiting the surrounding islands as well. We had taken a speed boat from Phuket to Khai Island. It was filled with vendors and tourists. On this specific island, being a young woman of color came with creepy attention. If you plan to visit, please note that many people will either discreetly take your pictures or walk right up or photograph you as you take your own pictures, (CREEPS)! Our next stop was to Monkey Beach! They were adorable little monkeys who take pride in taking things away from you, that you’ll never get back. We witnessed them snatch people’s Beers, Red Bulls, and other snacks. Needless to say, we did not get off the boat. Our next island was probably the most fun, Khai Nok! My best friend and I were allowed to jump off of the boat into the water prior to snorkeling. What an amazing experience! The water was so clear, and we were able to see many unique fish! If you decide to snorkel at Khai Nok, please purchase your own mouthpiece and scuba diving shoes, they were 200 BAHT, (only $5USD!) included in our excursion was lunch at Arida’s on Ko Phi Phi Don Island. I would suggest/highly recommend packing your own lunch. I wouldn’t call the food nasty, but it was nothing like we had quite experienced prior to. After departing from Ko Phi Phi Don Island, we rode past Viking Cave. This place was VERY INTERESTING! It was a cave located in the middle of Andaman Sea, and occupied by real cave people! We could not get off to tour it because it was illegal. After riding for what felt like eight years, we arrived at Maya Bay. Maya Bay beach was our last stop and the MOST BEAUTIFUL! This beach was hidden behind the massive boulders far off shore on Phi Phi Leh Island. As we approached shore, we noticed a lot of people and cameras in the sand. To our discovery, a movie was being filmed before our very own eyes. We also learned that the movie, The Beach (2000), was filmed at the same location. Once we finished up our island hopping tour, we returned to the villa to quickly change and to visit the Big Buddha…. OMG!! It was stunning! Pictures do it NO justice. We all were sure to dress appropriately (to our standards). However, once there, we were given complimentary cover ups, to cover exposed body parts. Visiting Big Buddha was breathtaking. It is located in Karon Mueang (still Phuket). Once we reached the top, we had a panoramic view of the entire city. I felt an overwhelming and unexplainable peace from visiting this iconic temple! If you visit Phuket, you MUST GO! I would strongly encourage you to go during daylight hours. We visited at sunset; it was nice until we had to drive down the curvy narrow roads in pitch darkness! We returned to the city near Patong Beach for dinner. We decided on Hooters. (Thai food is good, however, when you are HUNGRY-HUNGRY, you pretty much eat what is most familiar, and after swimming with fish all day, it was pretty awkward to eat them from random street vendors that night). The food was amazing, and a bit different from our American Hooters. No worries!
Nightlife was pretty much (excuse my language) a freak show! The most popular street for nightlife in Phuket is Bangla Road. The road is closed off to vehicle traffic. It closely reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Except, it was loaded with much more bars, clubs, craziness, tattoo shops, and interesting people! For the most part all of the bars and clubs had open patios, and so the music blasting from each location blended together. Interestingly enough, the largest club, Illuzions was playing “Kiss” by Prince!! As we walked from one end to the next, we were stopped after every three steps by promoters and individuals begging us to enter their bars/clubs. Before we had arrived to Bangla Road, we made a pact to “NOT DRINK” while out there. Many people were jamming signs in our faces that read “FREE BEER”, “BUY ONE BEER, GET TWO FREE”, and “F*CK SHOW” specials. Nightlife is very liberated. After declining every offer, we realized turning down the drinks, also meant being turned away from enjoying the music and entertainments the clubs had to offer. We were informed that to enjoy Bangla Road, one must be willing to drink (ABSOLUTELY NOT! We watched Hangover ll!) Overall, Phuket was a very beautiful city, with many tourist friendly attractions, and reasonably priced things to do and purchase! (Tailor made suits only costs $100 USD!).
WHAT’S BANGKOK LIKE:
Bangkok was BIG FUN! We were able to experience the train. Our cell phones did not work that well, and so we had to find our way using a map! Yes, a paper map! WOW! Once, downtown in the heart of it all, we were in and out of many flea markets, malls, and boutique shops. It was kind of fun negotiating prices back and forth. One thing I learned is Thai people are not ones to say no, and so they negotiate with you until you have purchased the items they are selling. I quickly learned of the notorious pick pocket schemes people (children included) play, WATCH OUT FOR IT! Whether they “accidentally” bump you, or rush you from behind, STAY WOKE! The fashion mall with American-like clothing was VERY extravagant. The mall was a whopping 7 stories with too many stores to visit. The food in Bangkok was great as well. However, my absolute favorite part about Bangkok was visiting Demi Concept, the vendor with the “black ice cream” and black sugar cone! If only I could find that in America! Not to worry, it was charcoal vanilla, a must try!
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Stray animals EVERYWHERE!!!! The cats and dogs definitely do not discriminate. You can be enjoying a meal in a nice restaurant and find a stray animal lingering around. (Watch out for the restaurants you choose to eat at!)
Cars driving opposite of traffic flows in America. Even the driver seat is on the right side of the car. Mopeds are the thing over there. We saw as many as four people on one moped! Babies too!
People are not as friendly as you would think for them to be. Many of them avoided conversations with us because we were American. Interactions with airport employees were the worst. Please be patient with them and understand YOU are trying to get to where you’re going and not them.
Google Translate will become your BFF!
Unique insects all over the island! Switch out your perfume for bug spray, PLEASE!!
“BAHT ONLY??” Finding the best currency exchange banks was kind of difficult. Don’t go to the first one you see! You might walk to the next block and realize that place offers a way better deal.
Take nothing from NO ONE!! Everything that glitters ain’t gold! We were offered lawn chairs at the Patong Beach, well because we were not interested in buying anything after our banana boat ride, we were almost charged $100 USD to use a plastic chair!
Remember to travel together! Never go anywhere alone! Not even the restroom, which by the way, it costs money to use public toilets (10 BAHT = $0.28)
Overall, visiting Thailand was amazing!! I would highly recommend visiting Thailand at least one time! It is like no other place that I have visited!
BREAK IT DOWN:
Villa: $632 ($105 per person)
Spending/Food Money: $450
- Jordyn Calhoun