In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/thailand.html
After days of nonstop sightseeing in Cambodia, I think when it is time to move on to Thailand that Pete and I will want to pick a spot to stay for a while. But where do we go in Thailand? One given is that we have to go to at least one island to lay eyes on the spectacular beaches you hear so much about. But we also want to try to get away from the high traffic touristy areas and spend a good amount of time in a more rural, less traveled area to hopefully get immersed in the Thai culture even more.
While in Thailand, we plan to focus less on “seeing all the sights” and more on slowing things down, enjoying our immediate surroundings, and focusing on the day-to-day lives of those around us.
Helpful Web Sites
There are so many options to choose from! Hostels in the more traveled/touristy areas such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the Thai islands; homestays (when you stay with a local family) and Airbnb’s including bungalows right on the beach; as well as some really nice looking hotels throughout Thailand. Several things I read mentioned that in the very rural regions, such as Isaan (Northeast region), Couchsurfing is popular. This area is known for having a large population of expats and ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers who are more then willing to have you stay at their house and show you around. Another nice thing about Northeast Thailand is that because it is less traveled, you are not fighting for space, so they say you don’t have to pre-book anything.
Volunteering = Accommodations
I found a few options for HelpStay and volunteering in Thailand that look promising. One option through HelpStay is assisting at a dog rescue center on Koh Chang island with free accommodations but no meals provided. Another option is volunteering at one of several elephant/animal rescue centers, which can cost a lot of money (as much as $450 per person for 7 days). However, the money goes to a really good cause, and room and board are included. The most reputable organizations to volunteer at are Elephant Nature Park, Elephants World, and Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand. With these volunteer options at the top of our list, you can tell we are animal lovers.
Thailand has a great railway system, which will allow for inexpensive transportation when needed for long distance travel, with all tracks leading out from Bangkok. The website Train36.com is one option for booking tickets online. The other long distance option is flying, which can be very inexpensive as well. I only anticipate flying if we are in a time crunch for some reason or just need a break from the long hours of train travel.
The occasional bus, taxi, and even ferry transport will be needed to connect from the train station or airport to the local destination, or when we first cross over from Cambodia into Thailand. The tentative plan is to go right to Koh Chang island (Eastern Thailand) after leaving Cambodia, which will involve taking one bus to the Thailand border, walking (and possibly standing for hours) to get through customs, hopping onto another bus, then taking a ferry from the mainland to the island, and ending with a taxi ride or private transport to our accommodations. Yikes! That should be interesting, but hopefully well worth it. While on Koh Chang, and possibly other places as well, we may have the need to rent a scooter or bicycles to get around.
If we get the chance to venture to several islands on the west coast of Thailand, one way to island hop is to take a long boat or speed boat, depending on the distance to be traveled. You can purchase tickets online, https://12go.asia/en, or just go to a local travel agent or boat company. I also read you can use boat transportation like a water taxi from one part of the same island to the other, with pick up and drop off spots at popular destinations.
How fun would that be to get picked up on the beach a short walk from the bungalow we are staying at when we want to skip over to the other side of the island to check out a different restaurant or something?!
I mentioned the Isaan (Northeast) region of Thailand earlier, and this area is becoming increasingly enticing as I do more research. This area is much less traveled and doesn’t have some of the thrills or major points of interest like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. However, it does sound like there is more potential to immerse yourself in the more “raw” and unadulterated Thailand. A few things that sound like potential things to see/do when in Isaan include taking a boat ride on the Red Lotus Sea in Udon Thani (a body of water with millions of beautiful pink lotus flowers covering its surface), visiting Loei to see the Mekong River, as well as exploring the various national parks in the area.
Throughout Thailand there are various opportunities to engage in cultural experiences such as cooking classes, exploring villages, walking through open markets, and visiting local temples.
There is possibility of us heading across the border to Laos to cruise along the Mekong River, as well as do the Gibbon Experience, which is a multi-night stay in jungle tree houses where you have the chance to see Gibbons in their natural habitat. While the Gibbon Experience sounds very appealing, it is quite expensive (although the money goes towards land and wildlife preservation) and a long trek to get to. My thoughts right now are to take the money we would use for traveling to Laos and doing the Gibbon Experience to volunteer at one of the wildlife rescue centers closer to Bangkok.
A short train trip from Bangkok heading west is Kanchanaburi. This is where WWII prisoners built The Bridge On the River Kwai and Hellfire Pass. Hellfire Pass is a 500 meter pass through the rock which took 1000 prisoners 12 weeks to dig out by hand (http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/kanchanaburi-tha-kc-kck.htm).
The Islands of Thailand
It wouldn’t be a trip to Thailand if we didn’t explore at least one of the islands along the southern end of Thailand. I have to say, it has been exhausting researching all the different islands. There are so many of them, how do you chose which to go to?! To try to stay away from some of the seriously touristy ones, my thoughts right now are to island hop between Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. Both are located on the west side and boast some amazing views, snorkeling, and other fun water activities (http://kohlipethailand.com/koh-lipe/things-to-do/snorkeling) with slightly fewer people. Koh Lipe appears a bit more expensive then Koh Lanta, but it may be worth it for the seclusion.
We are extremely excited about visiting and exploring Thailand and can’t wait to see what it has to offer.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!