Taking a trip overseas was something I’ve dreamt about since I was little. When I finally got to be old enough to make my own travel decisions, visiting another continent became more and more distant because life, y’all.
In the past two years, I started to put traveling abroad even more on the back burner, as I’ve really focused on building my business and making money rather than spending it.
Can I really take that much time away from work?
Can I afford it?
Will I have to work every day that I’m gone?
Will that even feel like a vacation?
How will I find WiFi
The excuses started piling up.
Then, that soon started to change once Cody and I started dating. We’re totally an experience-oriented couple so we’ve made it a point to take more trips together, do more things we’ve always wanted to do and see more of this beautiful world we call home. In the past couple of years, we’ve taken trips to Lake Powell, Hawaii, Portland, Los Angeles, Zion and many others. So when it came time to talk about this year’s big trip, we both knew we wanted warm, tropical and totally different. That’s where Thailand came into discussion.
Yup, our first trip overseas and we decided to go to Southeast Asia. Crazy right? And totally not where I thought my first trip abroad would be (aka the stereotypical Paris trip or a casual sail through Greece). But, Thailand was it, and I’m so glad it was.
Since this would be both of our first times abroad, we had to do some SERIOUS research. I scoured the web for all the blog posts titled “Thailand Travel Guides”, I pinned the crap out of anything that talked about SE Asia, and I asked all my travel-minded friends for their top tips and tricks when it came to leaving the USA.
What I came up with was one awesome list of tips, some really great advice, and one amazing itinerary for visiting the land of smiles. So, I wanted to write this post to not only share our awesome experience, but to also lend a helping hand in case you ever catch yourself packing up and heading for Thailand.
Tips before you go:
1. Go in the off season.
We went in May, which is considered the off season because it’s the hottest month of the year and the start to rainy season. To be honest, the heat wasn’t too bad (averaged in the 90’s every day) and the rain only came in short spurts - usually at the end of a really sunny and hot day. We also saved a lot of money as everything is way cheaper in the off season months.
2. Dry bags were a lifesaver.
We each brought about 3 or 4 different sized dry bags. One for small electronics, one for a camera and anything larger than a phone and a couple for carrying a few necessities with us throughout the day. We also spent a lot of time around or on water, so keeping things dry and safe were a game changer. Finally, one last dry bag for our dirty clothes.
3. Make sure you have a travel plan for your cell phone.
Of course, Cody and I wanted to go as much off-grid as possible, but since this was our first time abroad, we also wanted to feel safe and secure by having access to our cell phones. So we turned on Travel Plan (we have Verizon) which allows you to use your phone for 24-hours for just $10. This came in handy when we were in taxis and wanted to make sure the driver was headed in the right direction.
4. Stick to a carry on.
Instead of bringing a checked bag or a hard-case carry-on that wouldn’t fit in the overhead Asian planes, we went with these awesome Mystery Ranch carry-on backpacks that Cody found. They held everything we needed, could be worn as a backpack or duffle bag, and fit in all of the planes we took, both international and domestic.
5. Bring sunscreen and (strong) bug spray.
Wear sunscreen and bug spray every single day - I don’t care if “you don’t burn” or if “mosquitos don’t even like you.” These two things are necessary…I learned the hard way.
6. Make sure every place you stay has AC.
No explanation necessary - ha!
Okay, enough tips (if you need more, check out the comments on this Instagram post). Now, let’s chat about where you need to go and what you need to do!
First Leg: Bangkok
1. Visit the Weekend Market.
Our first stop was at the Chatuchak Weekend Market - a market that spans 36-acres across Bangkok where there’s over 2000 booth vendors with everything from clothes, food and home goods, to massages, shrunken heads, and yes, even animals. It was crazy cool and we got lost in that market for almost 6 hours.
2. Eat some street food.
I’ll be honest, we played it pretty safe when it came to trying the street food vendors because there are no rules when it comes to selling food on the streets of a third world country. But, we did try a few things that were amazing - like mango with sticky rice and freshly fried spring rolls. You also don’t have to wander very far to find vendors lining the streets to sell you their food.
3. Check out the Grand Palace.
Thailand is rich in history, which means there are Wats (temples) around every corner you turn. You do tend to get a bit bored with them, though, so make sure you choose the one or two you see wisely. That’s why we decided to go for the granddaddy of them all - the Grand Palace. Also, make sure you bring bottoms that cover your knees and a top that covers your shoulders. Cody and I weren’t so lucky - haha.
Things I’d do next time: Check out the floating market and visit the infamous street food vendor Raan Jay-Fai.
Second Leg: Krabi
1. Where to stay on Railay Beach
We stayed on Railay Beach for 5 nights, but broke it up by staying at two different locations. The first was at the Railay Bay Resort and Spa. They have a great pool that’s located right on the beach with killer sunset views, a cheap poolside happy hour, and cute little cottages just minutes from the beach.
For the second half of our trip, we stayed at the Railei Beach Club - a few acres of private homes that are rented out on a regular basis. Each home is super unique and different, and of course, we opted for one that resembled a tree house. It was so awesome, and we probably would have stayed here the entire time while we were on Railay if we knew how awesome it was. I mean, Cody watched monkeys every morning and I watched the waves. It was a win-win.
2. Island Hopping
This was BY FAR our favorite thing we did in Thailand. While staying on Railay Beach, we knew we wanted to do some island hopping around the Andaman Sea so we booked a tour with a local company called Krabi Ezy Trails. They were super chill, had amazing food and their boat wasn’t jam packed. They even picked us up right from Railay (versus Ao Nang like everyone else). Pro tip here: book the Early Bird Tour to avoid the crowds and beat the midday heat.
3. Eat at Rayavadee Resort
This resort is the nicest one on Railay - and one we didn’t even find out about until the very last day as it’s tucked way back towards the end of the beach that no one ever ventures to. On our last night on Railay, we decided to walk over and check out their menu - holy shit it was SOOO good, y’all, and was probably the best food we had all trip. Also, order the margarita.
4. Watch the sunrise on Railay East
Almost every morning, Cody and I got up early and ventured out to the other side of the beach called Railay East to watch the sunrise. We’d bring our coffee with our handy-dandy Treeline GEOs (trust me, you’ll want these as Thailand coffee just sin’t that great - ha!).
Things I’d do next time: Hop over to Phuket or Phi Phi and stay for a couple of nights
Third Leg: Chiang Mai
1. Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Sanctuary
Now, I know elephant sanctuaries have a controversial rap. But, I did so much research on this place to make sure they were humane, legit and in it for the right reasons. They were even featured in an article by the Huffington Post so I felt fully confident in our decision to hang with the elephants and so happy we did.
3. Snag Coffee at Akha Ama
I’ll be completely honest - the coffee in Thailand was pretty awful…until we stumbled upon this farm to cup coffee shop in the middle of old City Chiang Mai. They had an amazing aesthetic and a great iced coffee on an extremely hot day (105+!).
4. Eat Breakfast at Overstand Cafe
Towards the end of our trip, an American breakfast was all we wanted. So thank goodness we found Overstand Cafe that served real eggs, real bacon, and pretty dang good coffee.
5. Wander as much as you can in Old City
One of the coolest days we had in Chiang Mai was waking up early and wandering the streets of Old City. We stumbled upon a market where all we saw was locals. It seemed as if everyone was picking up their bounty for the day for their street food trucks. As we walked through the market, a wave of smells overtook us - some good, some completely awful, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Things I’d do next time: Don’t go on a holiday - ha! We ended up being there on Buddha Day where everything was closed and no alcohol was allowed to be served. Our grand plan was to do some bar hopping before attending a Muy Thai fight, but that definitely did not happen.
Final Hurrah: Back to Bangkok
1. Treat yo’self and stay at Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi
Never have I ever been in a nicer hotel…ever. And what a way to end our tie in Thailand than by having some much needed luxurious RnR. I can’t recommend this place enough, and well worth the price.
All in all, Thailand was incredible. The whole experience of traveling abroad, immersing yourself in another culture, proving to yourself that you got this, and just going with the flow was one I’ll never forget. Most of all, this trip provided so much validation and confidence in the life Cody and I are building. It showed me that I am capable of really scary things, that I am working in the right direction, and that there is a whole heck of a lot of world out there that has yet to be discovered.
It’s time to discover it - together.
Related Travel Blogs