Thailand Part 3: Koh Tao + Full Thailand Recommendations
We spent the last part of our trip on Koh Tao, a very small island in the Gulf of Thailand. Although we were there longer than any other place in Thailand, we have the least amount of photos to show for it. That's how it always goes for us: by the end of the trip we're too tired to take pictures and just want to enjoy the experience. But here are the few that I snapped, as well as links to Thailand Parts 1 and 2:
Thailand Part 1: Bangkok + Chiang Mai
Thailand Part 2: Chiang Mai + Phuket
If you're planning a Thailand trip in the future, I made a list of full recommendations below.
|Our villa overlooking the island|
|Loved our peaceful little space|
|Nangyuan Island, just a quick longboat ride away from Koh Tao|
|Nangyuan Island again|
Here is a basic rundown of our trip, at least what I can remember off the top of my head. We did 15 days altogether, visiting Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Tao:
We were only here for a couple of days and I didn't regret not staying longer.
Stayed at: Chern Hostel. We booked a private room and it was as nice as many hotels I've stayed in, definitely recommend.
- Damnoen Saduak floating market tour. This was lovely: we rode in a boat, ate lots of delicious street food and exotic fruits, and did a bit of shopping. I definitely recommend booking a tour that takes care of all the transpo and everything, you will get a much better deal than making your own way.
- Wat Pho Reclining Buddha temple. You should visit at least one temple.
- Shopping: we went to the MBK Center a couple of times to escape the heat, as well as a nearby street market. I actually bought a good amount of things at the street market and only got eyelash extensions at the shopping mall, which I recommend because the heat & humidity doesn't allow for makeup!
This may have actually been my favorite portion of the trip. Chiang Mai was just touristy enough but not too much. In other words, it had plenty of fun touristy things to do and many English-speakers who understand the needs of foreigners, but it was not overcrowded and I never felt grossly overcharged or taken advantage of just for being a foreigner.
Stayed at: Hug Hostel. The service is great here. We ended up booking all of our activities through the hostel and loved everything we did. That being said, our private room was small and dirty, and the shared showers weren't much better. Really, it was probably just a typical hostel but I have been spoiled by especially nice ones over our last couple of trips.
- Thai cooking class with Thai Farm Cooking School. Loved this, and give it a huge recommend. They take you to the market, then their school which is located in a beautiful jungle oasis, and give you a tour of their personal gardens (where all of their ingredients come from!) before starting class. You make about five delicious and surprisingly simple dishes and then take home a recipe book at the end. Really, really fun stuff.
- Elephant riding with Ran-Tong Elephant Training. Also amazing experience. You feed your own elephant a few times to get friendly with them, do an introductory ride to get used to it, eat a delicious Thai lunch, then do a longer ride that ends with bathing in the pond with the elephants! Really, really cool stuff, and the elephants seemed to be treated well. Everyone rides bareback (no seats that hurt the elephants' spines) and the trainers used nothing other than words to prod them on. Here the elephants were rescues that had been raised in cages (as opposed to taken from the wild) and now live in a protected area rather than a cage or similar. I am no elephant expert, but I saw no difference between them and my own spoiled fur babies, which is another reason I loved it so much.
- Sunday night street market. Such great shopping at this market: there is entertainment, deeelish street food, and I bought so many awesome things for so cheap. Also, a $5 foot massage.
Phuket was my least favorite and I honestly wouldn't even recommend anyone to go there. Everything was way over-crowded and way overpriced. It really is the epitome of a tourist town and nothing else. I would instead check out Koh Samui and Koh Tao for islands. But the boys had their favorite diving experience here so that is the one thing I can recommend.
Stayed at: Kamala Resort and Spa. Beautiful room, terrible service.
- Boat tour that we booked through Phuket Tours Direct.
- Tiger Kingdom. I pet the baby tigers here, which itself was a cool experience, but everything surrounding it not so much.
- The boys did scuba through Merlin Divers and raved about it.
It's a very small island with many beautiful beaches. We wanted to relax here on the last leg of our trip, and it was perfect for that.
Stayed at: Koh Tao Heights Pool Villas. You basically have your own private villa overlooking the island and it's awesome. Best room I've ever stayed in (including our Cancun honeymoon room) and it's the best room on the island for sure. Plus awesome service.
- Rented scooters from our hotel to explore various different beaches and lookout points. I would never recommend a foreigner to rent a scooter anywhere other than a small island like this because Thai traffic is unpredictable. Also, I've heard many horror stories about renting from a random shop off the street (eg charging up to 10,000 baht for a small scratch that may or may not have been there before renting) so that's why we rented from our hotel, they didn't give us any trouble at all.
- The boys were able to get their advanced scuba certification while here through Roctopus Dive which they loved.
- Cheap Thai massages and mani/pedis. As in $10 for a mani/pedi and the same for a one-hour Thai massage.
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