My Thai experience is different than any other country I am visiting on this trip. The reason is because unlike the rest, I am visiting Thailand twice!
Over New Years, my girlfriend will be flying into Singapore and we will visit Thailand together on a two-week, much needed beach break over her Christmas time off from school. So if you think that I am a fool for apparently missing Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Krabi (Railay Beach), don’t worry! We’ll be there in a few weeks and doing it in style.
Rather than waiting to tally my final Thailand thoughts and comments until then, I feel as if it is more applicable to do it now. The only reason is because my spending pattern will shift during the revisit from that of a budget-minded solo backpacker to a more relaxing and lavish break as a couple.
So for my solo experiences of Thailand on the cheap, here we are!
It would be a lie for me to say anything else other than the fact that Thailand has been my dream destination for a very, very long time. Long before entering the Ultimate Thailand Explorer contest, in which we won a resort package that we could ultimately not use due to poor validity restrictions.
Somehow, the only thing I can think of when reflecting back on the experience is that the time flew by much faster than any other country. Considering I went at a slower pace to avoid that, I am a bit shocked that it happened. Must have been all the fun that was going on.
I entered Thailand a lot sooner than originally planned, resulting from some poor weather that was hitting Cambodia and Vietnam while I was there. This change allowed me to add more destinations in the country and was an absolutely wonderful twist of fate looking back on it. In an even better twist, I saw only one full day of rain during my entire stay in Thailand. One.
My observations about Thailand, like all places, have both positives and negatives. If you ever want to spend time in the country, the following things might be important to you.
-Chiang Mai is like a black hole. It will suck you in. I was going to spend a week in the region, with trips to Chiang Rai and other nearby cities as well. But the furthest I made it out of the city was a one night jungle trek. Chiang Rai, Pai, and other cities were slashed just because I truly loved the city. That’ll teach me for buying my exit plane ticket before I even arrive to a city.
-Kirsty and Poi from No Place to Be arrived to Chiang Mai on my last day intending to stay for 2 months. By the end of the day, that 2 months had turned into 3. I suspect they will never leave. If I go back, I also suspect I will join them.
-Not to be horribly cliche, but Thai food is entirely same-same as it is at home, just way cheaper. Not bad, but not mind blowing like Vietnamese food. But I’ll give Tom Yum Kung (Hot and Sour Prawn Soup) credit, that stuff is awesome and unique.
-I didn’t actually see any of Koh Phangan because my beach resort (Haad Tian) was located on a private beach and pretty darn awesome.
-I also skipped the full moon party to stay on, and dive, Ko Tao in peace and quiet. Talking to people who returned and had wallets, shoes, other items stolen, I have to say that I made the right call.
-It is really refreshing to walk around cities in Thailand without being hassled every 5 steps (omitting Khao San Road) like you are in Siem Reap and parts of Vietnam. Even the people who are trying to sell you something are polite and actively seem to care – most of the time.
-Diving in Thailand is possibly the cheapest in the world. Somehow a handful of dives turned into ten because the price was so cheap, and Ko Tao is the place to do it at. Prices are made relative to how many you want to do, which is a pricing scheme unheard of in other places, especially for diving. (8 dives cost $26.67 per dive in Ko Tao, where as two dives cost, on average, $41.67 per dive in other parts of the country).
-Koh Lipe is a little slice of heaven, but it is soon to be over developed as the island is a massive construction project. Nearby islands are a lot more isolated, but is reflected in price, which is a bit hard to justify when solo.
-I had to buy two new pair of flip-flops during my time in the country. The first was because my original pair began to mangle my feet. I’ll save you from pictures of it, because it was not fun. The second, just a few weeks later, was because a dog stole one straight off the beach. Bad dog.
-The best breakfast is half a pineapple for 10 baht (33 cents) and a mixed fruit shake for 20-40 baht (66 cents to $1.33). It is also good for a mid-day snack and end of night dessert.
-Even though I didn’t really care for Harry Potter 7 Part 1, the movie theaters in Thailand are top notch, and theaters back home should take note. The best part? A premium seat option, on opening day, was around $4.50.
-Did I mention I really love Chiang Mai?
-Overall, the ferry service and train timetables were never accurate and everything was running late throughout the country. This would be ok, but information never seemed to be provided regarding what was going on at any point. Bangkok Airways, which is a boutique airlines that is pricier than most (read: still cheap), was absolutely wonderful and punctual. They also include access to their lounge regardless of ticket “class,” which doesn’t seem to exist. Free food win.
-Chocolate Banana Roti and Pineapple Sticky Rice. If you’ve had them, you understand. If you haven’t, watch out for the International Food Project after I get home for recipes, then make them immediately.
Cities Visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai (and nearby jungle), Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani (transit), Krabi (transit), Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe
Cities Visiting in the Future: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi
Favorite City: Chiang Mai
Favorite Foods: Pad Thai, Tom Yum Kung, Roti
Favorite Alcohol: Singha Beer
Favorite Hostel: iBed in Koh Samui
Least Favorite Hostel: None (ignoring price)
Best Attraction: Scuba Diving Chumphon Pinnacle in Ko Tao
Offbeat Must See: Baan Chang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai
Biggest Disappointment: Ferry Service and Travel Agents
Must Visit Cities: Bangkok (if just for a day), Chiang Mai, Koh Tao, Koh Lipe. Likely will add Koh Phi Phi and Krabi once I visit in a few weeks judging from what I am hearing
Most Expensive Meal: Large Hawaiian Pizza and a Coke in Ko Tao for $8.33
Cheapst/Most Expensive Sleeps: $6/night Mojito House in Chiang Mai (private) and $24/night Heart Inn Hotel in Koh Lanta
Number of Pictures Taken (Overall): 3,127 (8963)
Duration of Videos Taken: ~1 hour
Total Spent Over 30 Days: $1,909
Average Over 30 Days: $63.63
My predicted budget in Thailand (first visit) was estimated to be $55/day. I came out about $8.63/day higher than the planned budget, primarily due to the flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui (~$200). Neglecting this unplanned flight, I would have only been $1.96/day higher, which is pretty good considering I scuba dived 10 times, and stayed in private hotel rooms and bungalows on some of the islands.
For the most part, my daily spending went to site seeing, specifically in Chiang Mai and Koh Tao due to day trips and all of the scuba diving. Luckily the cheapness of those two places offsets the extra gain in spending. For instance, I dove 8 times in Koh Tao, and my daily spending on just that island only totaled around $75/day.
For more information regarding my spending in Thailand, check out the updated On the Road Spending spreadsheet which has a breakdown of the daily figures for things like food, site seeing, transportation, hostels, and more!
Don’t think that just because I left Thailand that my postings are over! While I am keeping up real time postings in the various countries that I am in, I have a significant backlog of posts ready for the break in between travel time at home. Some topics we’ve published since launching this page include:
Full Moon Party – Why I Skipped This Popular Event
Koh Lipe Thailand – The Thai Island You Will Fall In Love With
Koh Samui Beach – The Best for Families
4 Unique Spa Treatments Around the World
Koh Lanta – The Hammock House is a Must Visit
Phi Phi Islands – The 4 Must Sees of Koh Phi Phi
Baan Chang Elephant Park – Elephant Encounters in Chiang Mai
Now I am entering the melting pot of South East Asia: Malaysia! Over the next 2 1/2 to 3 weeks I’ll be checking out all the various sites and sounds of the country from the beach all the way to the tea plantations and back again. Then by Christmas it is on to Singapore and my girlfriends arrival before our triumphant return BACK TO THAILAND!
Have a question about Thailand or my time spent in the country? If so, please comment below and I’d be happy to respond to all inquiries
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