Highlights from Thailand

Well, hard to believe we are already back home. I didn’t get to blog as much as I had hoped while on the trip, but I guess that’s a good thing. We were so busy or exhausted during the trip we hardly had any real relax time. So, I thought I would just do a recap of the trip and also tell you what I did right and what I did wrong with planning this trip.

The only big excursion we took out of Bangkok was to Tiger Temple. The pictures came out amazing, but there is a lot of controversy around this place. Some people go so far as to say the tigers are drugged and altered to make them less dangerous. I don’t know about that, but my mom pointed out that some of the tigers are definitely missing their incisors. So, I’m not really sure what to think about it. You can see all the pics here.

The main reason I have always wanted to go to Thailand was for the elephants. So after Bangkok we headed up to Chaing Mai. Thailand is synonymous with elephants. Getting to ride an elephant bareback through the jungle was definitely a thrill for me. You can see all the pics from the trip here.

The other big excursion we took was to see the Karen hilltribe people. Many of these people are refugees or the descendants of refugees from abuses in Burma. Now, to help support their families and preserve their way of life, many of them will allow tourists to come through their villages. Again, this is something morally ambiguous about Thailand, but I personally found it to be a pretty amazing experience. You can see all the pics here.

Chaing Mai also has hundreds of temples and I really enjoyed visiting quite a few of them. You can see all the pics of them here and can read more in depth about them here.

All in all, it was a really great trip. We had a lot of fun, created a lot of great memories, ate some amazing food, enjoyed some phenomenal weather, and saw some unbelievable sites. We discovered that we actually like Thailand a lot and will most likely go back. But if I could do the trip over again, there are a few things I would do differently and also some things I got spot on.

What I did wrong

The biggest mistake was definitely going to Bangkok for New Years. The city is so big, so crowded, and so hot that we weren’t able to enjoy it all. We didn’t even see any fireworks (talk about sad!). We also didn’t get to see many sites because all the government buildings were closed. We didn’t get to see the palace, the national museum, the zoo, or anything. In the future I will not plan on spending New Years on holiday in a big city.

I coupled this mistake with staying at a resort outside the city when we returned to Bangkok. Originally I thought we would do all our city exploring at the beginning and then, when we returned to Bangkok, we would just relax. But since we missed all the sites the first time, we kind of wanted the chance to go and do them when we came back, but the resort (more like retreat, really) was just too far out of the city.

What I did right

Flying around Thailand saves a lot of time and headaches. Originally I thought we could save money by taking overnight trains around the country, but after seeing how fast and cheap flying is, we decided to do that instead. For only $75, you can fly one way to pretty much any where in the country in about an hour.

Renting a motorbike in Chaing Mai was a great way to get around the city and see a lot more on our own than if we had to rely on over-priced, rip-off taxis.

Just going to Chaing Mai at all was the right choice. There are some great sites, lots of nature, native peoples, and some really gifted artisans. Almost all of the shopping we did was in Chiang Mai and now I have ton of art to get framed. I can’t wait to start decorating my apartment with all the cool things I got.

What I will do when we go back

Bangkok is not my favorite place in Thailand, but that might partly be because we missed to much of it. We will certainly go back to Bangkok to hit up the official sites and temples that we couldn’t see this time. Also, we will head south to the islands for a beach escape. Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and we didn’t see them because we went north to the mountains instead. So next time, Bankok and beaches, baby!