By Catherine Lim
When you think of Thailand I’m sure a few things come to mind. The array of temples, elephants, pad thai, the friendly people, the beachy getaways and maybe even a cheeky party bucket.
While my trip to Thailand lacked the fanfare of the hyped Full Moon parties, I did enjoy two weeks in what can only be described as paradise. To those thinking to go to Koh Samui, do yourself a favour and “treat yo self” to a resort by the beach. I ended up in a tucked away resort right on Chaweng Road and right by the water. Each morning started with a beachside buffet breakfast followed by a good laze under the sun to process the overload of food I kickstarted my day with.
I also made sure to check out the sights of Koh Samui with a little tour of the island including sites like the Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai), Wat Plai Laem featuring a giant 18 arm statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Namuang Waterfalls, The Mummified Monk Temple, and Grandmother and Grandfather rock (Hin Tai and Hin Yai). While I personally found a guided tour much easier to get around, you could also get a tuktuk or a Song Thaew from destination to destination. It can get pretty hot and humid so it’s good to stay hydrated with some delicious fresh coconut!
For travellers not familiar with temple dress code, you’ll need to be conservatively dressed, i.e. shoulders covered and skirts and pants at knee length or longer. While some temples provide wraps for tourists caught unaware, why not invest in a trendy pair of elephant print harem pants instead? I’d say Koh Samui is a must for those after an 80% beach getaway and 20% sightseeing holiday.
Alternatively, Chiang Mai has definitely gone down as one of my favourite cities. Located in the northern part of Thailand, the climate is cooler than Koh Samui and there’s a bit more to see and do. I’d recommend staying just outside the east walls of Old City towards the Night Bazaar. Getting around is similar to Koh Samui however I found out there’s also Uber which is handy. There are over 300 temples to see however the famous ones are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang located in the Old City and also Doi Suthep and Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) which are both a day trip out of the city. Even if you’re not an architect, you’ll definitely be impressed by the detail and grandeur of these temples.
Beyond temples, there’s an array of shopping opportunities with the Night Bazaar markets and also special markets on Saturday (outside the south gate of Old City) and Sunday (starting from the east gate of Old City). The weekend night markets get particularly crowded so if you’re averse to Boxing Day crowds, you’ve been warned! If you get hungry, be sure to try the northern cuisine including Khao Soi – my favourite!
Since Thailand’s national animal is the beloved elephant, there are plenty of tourist opportunities to ride them, however I personally would advise against it as it’s quite cruel. Instead, spend your time and money visiting an Elephant sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park where you can feed, bathe and walk along side elephants. I could go on and on about ENP but it was definitely the highlight of my entire trip. Do it, you won’t regret it.
All in all, Thailand is amazing. The land of smiles is an awesome and affordable holiday that’s bound to leave you smiling too!