On December 29th we packed our bags and hit the air for 5 beautiful weeks in Thailand. This was our longest trip yet, and so many more to come!
Traveling Thailand was the most amazing experience we have ever had. And, sharing it together made it so much more memorable.
Thailand is a Southeast Asian country known for tropical beaches, royal palaces, ancient ruins, and amazing temples. Thailand is the most visited country in the Southeast Asia Region! And, we can see why!!
With its lush jungles, picturesque beaches, amazing food, friendly natives and cheap prices, Thailand is absolutely perfect for any minimalist traveler on a budget!
(Even, if you’re John, and feel the need to get a Thai Massage, every night, and go out for Every. Single. Meal…)
Thailand is for ALL travelers, no matter your budget. Travelers on a budget, or for people who want luxurious travel with amazing beach resorts!
Our next trip is definitely going to be backpacking! I am due for the backpacking experience!
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for lavishing monuments and vibrant street life.
We flew out of Newark, NJ airport December 29th, 2019, a 14-hour flight to Beijing, China, a short layover, almost making us miss our connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand. It was about 24 hours total of traveling.
We landed in Bangkok around 1 a.m, and our Airbnb host picked us up from the airport.
274 Bed and Brews – A cute little bedroom & bath in a renovated old shophouse, in an old market, next to the Klong Canal. With a cute little coffee house underneath!
We only stayed the night in Bangkok, had a half-day to explore and then hopped on another plane to head North! So we didn’t get to see much in Bangkok, but we did explore the local fish market and the beautiful streets! The market has tons of local Thai Street food! John indulged in that!
Next, we hopped on another plane (too much plane hopping, not enough time for slow travel!), and head North to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand.
Airbnb # 2
Old City Near Tha Pae Gate – It was just a private room in townhouse, incredibly cheap and perfect location for what we had planned!
New Years Eve
In the Old City on NYE the sky lit up with thousands of Chinese Lanterns. At the Tha Phae Gate, the crowds flood the streets setting off Lanterns, releasing their worries and fears, setting their intentions for the New Year and coming closer to enlightenment.
As I set my Lantern free, I felt as if I was letting go, letting go of all the built-up, negativity I was holding in my body, and releasing it for a fresh start for the New Year. And that’s exactly how our New Year started, a fresh start to self-realization and happiness.
The Old City
Chiang Mai, meaning New City is the second biggest city in Thailand. The city was found in an older city of Wiang Nopburi. The Old City was very quiet and relaxing, but filled with colorful monuments everywhere you looked! It was hard to choose which ones to explore! Many backpackers and travelers visit the old city because it has such a relaxing feel and gets you away from the busy city life.
Chiang Mai is an exotic place, very cultural and has an inviting way about it! The Old City was pretty small, so we toured it all by foot!
Chiang Mai Temples
The Old City used to be surrounded by walls and moats to protect it. There are four gates to enter the Chiang Mai old city. The main gate is the Tha Pae Gate which was close by our Airbnb! The food was amazing, the ancient temples were beautiful, colorful and enlightening, and the roaming dogs always had my full attention!
Chiang Mai – Near Doi Inthanon National Park
The Doi Inthanon is one of the most popular national parks in Thailand. Known as “The Roof of Thailand.” The park is part of the Himalayan mountain range and is the highest mountain in Thailand. The park has high humidity and cold weather all year round. Famous for waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets, viewpoints, remote villages, and picturesque farms!
Many of the public transportation in Thailand were Toyota Takoma, with a cap and bench seats in the bed of the truck.
So, our Airbnb host picked us up in the Old City of Chiang Mai at about 8 P.M and we had about an hour and a half drive to our next Airbnb Destination. We traveled in the dark, up this windy mountainous roads, it felt like full speed, getting tossed around in the back of a pickup!!
Airbnb # 3
Karen tribe resort on the mountain near Inthanon – One of my absolute favorite Airbnbs! Surrounds by the farmland, animals, and the Jungle, near many elephant jungle sanctuaries and hidden Temples.
The space was an open space, open to the outside, with 4 different bedrooms, that other travelers stayed in during our time there, a balcony with hammocks to lounge in, overlooking the stream, with beautiful fish, and the jungle surrounding it. It had a Table to eat at and some outside bathrooms. It also had a cafe where the host cooked our meals and served coffee, Thai Tea and many other options!!
During our stay in January, the nights were like 55-60 degrees and the days were about 75 – 80 degrees, so the nights were a little chilly for me!
They also offered Thai Massages, Doi Inthanon Trips, Elephant experiences and backpacking trips! We will definitely go back for a longer trip next time!
Karen Hill Tribe
The Karen hill tribes are the largest ethnic minority group, with an estimated population of around 1,000,000. They originated from Tibet, moving south to Myanmar and northern Thailand. Today, the Karen hill tribe live in proximity to areas alongside the Thai-Myanmar border such as; Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and some in central Thailand.
Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
I have always loved elephants, well… I love all animals… But elephants are such an incredible species and the largest mammals on land.
Sadly, the abuse of Asian elephants is a practice that is still around. Many elephants are on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, and poachers…
I did a lot of research before heading to Thailand, as I wanted to see elephants in the WILD… But it seems that today, there are only about 2,000 left in the wild, in all of Thailand, and about 2,000 in Sanctuaries being protected.
The Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle sanctuary, rescues, rehabilitates and cares for the elephants. They have multiple camps all over Thailand. They rescue elephants that are sick or injured, from circuses, and other illegal practices, like using elephants for logging or tourism practices, such as riding elephants, etc.
Elephants aren’t made to be ridden. It’s actually very harmful for an elephant to be ridden as their spine was not made for that. It’s scary to think people are still having these practices and people think that’s okay…
At the Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, they allow their elephants to roam free in the jungle, and they come and go as they please. They’re like huge dogs. Gentle Giants. They allow tourists to feed, bathe and trek next to the elephants.
We started off with feeding the elephants bananas and sugar cane as treats.
Then things got a bit dirty. Knee-deep in the mud pit. We gave the elephants a mud spa, which helps protect the, from both the sun and from insects and is healthy for their skin. The elephants loved it! And then we follow the elephants down to a flowing river where we washed both ourselves and the elephants.
You learn about each elephant’s story, their different personalities and you touch, feed and interact with the gentle giant.
It was an absolutely amazing experience and such a strong connection between such a beautiful creature.
Wandering around the Karen Hill Tribes
We wandered down the road, to the big buddha, which is still in the process of being built. One buddha has been working on building this for the past 10-15 years. One Single Man!!!
So, Thai massages, you can get between $7-$15 dollars for an hour-long massage. This is how I talked John into traveling Thailand!
A Thai massage or Thai yoga massage is a traditional healing system combining acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures. The Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, knees, elbows, and feet to flex the joints and apply pressure to your muscles. Its been long considered a medical treatment in Thailand! And Also called the lazy man’s yoga.
We got our first massage in Chiang Mai. They had a form to fill out and you could ask for soft, medium or hard. I checked medium…
The therapist puts you through a series of stretches that cover the entire body. Starting with your toes & feet and working their way up.
She kneeled on the back of my legs and pulled my arms to arch my back and open my chest. And also placed her shoulder under my heel to lift my leg and stretch your hamstring.
For me, it was so incredibly painful! And my facial expressions had to show I was in pain, but they were not letting up! Their hands were so strong!!
John, however, loved it, and went back for more!
We also had massages right on the beach on Koh PhaNgan at Loyfa Natural Resort. John had another Thai Massage. John laid down on his stomach on the table and kept his swimming trunks on. The therapist lifted his hips and ripped those shorts right off of him! He was not ready for that – HAHA!
This time I got an Aloe Vera Massage, as I got burnt that day. The Aloe was ice cold, but the massage felt great, and the next day my sunburn was gone!
Doi Inthanon Nation Park & Trek
As stated above, The Doi Inthanon is one of the most popular national parks in Thailand. Known as “The Roof of Thailand.” The park is part of the Himalayan mountain range and is the highest spot in Thailand.
Our Airbnb host took us up the mountain for a beautiful sunrise, a morning Trek, beautiful waterfall, and to experience the Doi Inthanon National Park!
Sunrise Hike – Keaw Mae Pan
Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is a short easy hike that allows you to get a breathtaking panoramic view that is hard to find anywhere else in Thailand! Located inside the area of Doi Inthanon National Park.
The sun rises at about 6:30 a.m and sets at about 6:30 p.m. We woke up at about 4:30 a.m, our host made us breakfast, and then we headed up the mountain!
We actually almost missed the sunrise, but we were able to catch it and it was absolutely beautiful! Thailand sunrises and sunsets are my absolute Favorite!
Finally the Doi Inthanon National Park
We sadly parted ways with our amazing Chiang Mai host, and they drove us to the airport and we took a flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui for the night.
We got to Koh Samui at about 7 p.m and we grabbed a taxi to head to the Airbnb that we booked months prior, called “Take a Rest.” We booked with them because they were in the middle of where the Airport was located and the Ferry.
So our taxi ride was about 20 minutes to get there, and it came up to this beautiful resort and they have never heard of the place we were talking about. They did some research and finally found that it was 20 minutes away in the direction that we just came from. So I contacted the host who didn’t speak great English, and they told me our room was booked out for the night. And I advised we booked this months ago, so they said they would send a car to get us. 1/2 hour goes by, and no one showed up. I called again and they said the room was booked…
So it was now 8 p.m and we had nowhere to stay. (Airbnb removed their listing and refunded us for our troubles.) So we continued to walk with our heavy baggage and hungry stomachs. We finally came across US Hostel! It was like a hostel I have never seen before. It had a beautiful atmosphere, a swimming pool, fellow travelers playing cards and hanging in the lounge. An inviting, yet calming approach. The staff got us right in and offered recommendations too! Our room was clean and private with a bathroom. I honestly wish we stayed longer than one night!
I have a fear of going over the ocean. So I searched for the best ferry companies and read a lot of traumatic stories, that made me so fearful of this day. A lot of reviews recommended the Lomprayah Ferry. So I made sure we were close to the pier where we could access that Ferry.
US Hostel called in the morning to set up a ride to the Ferry, and that Ferry was sold out that day. I started to panic as we needed a way to get to our Island by 5 p.m. So they suggested the locals… Well, that did not appeal to me, I was thinking a tiny boat with 30 ft waves…
We arrived at the pier, and it was actually a relatively large boat. It was cheaper than the Lomprayah, but was also slower (which I found out was a good thing!). The Ferry ride was harmless, and quite relaxing actually!
Koh Phangan Island
Home for the next 28 days!!!
Our resort was quite a ways from the pier, and we had plenty of time before check-in. So we decided to just walk in the direction of our resort, and check out different areas. We had 30 lb bags and the sun was HOT! We were drenched in sweat! After walking quite a ways, we found the Baylon resort, which was absolutely beautiful. The first thing I saw were MONKEYS!! So I, of course, made John eat there!
A 28-day, 200-hour yoga teacher training that took place at One Yoga Thailand, on this beautiful tropical island. AKA “The Healing Island.” Rich in Roze Quartz, a crystal renowned for it’s healing energy. Surround by like-minded people, healing retreats left and right, vegan, vegetarian, Thai, organic and gluten-free restaurants!
A Yin & Yang atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty!
And, our home for the next 28 days!
Waking up to dreamy sunrises and meditation every morning! Feeling incredibly grateful that somehow you were lucky enough to spend 5 weeks in this beautiful country!
Started with a welcome dinner with our new One Yoga Family, got comfortable in our bungalow, and the next morning 6:30 a.m, we began our 200-Hr Yoga Teacher Training!
The first week was challenging, long days and a lot to learn! Our first day off was Sunday
Sunrise Hike – Khao Ra
The Instructors told us to take it easy on our day off, to rest, study and prepare for another intense week! So what did we do? Woke up at 4:30 a.m, and headed to the tallest point on Koh Phangan for a sunrise hike with new friends!
It was 85 degrees, humid, steep and eroded! We were drenched in sweat and got there just in time to see the sunrise!
The Night Market
There were multiple night markets, loaded with local cuisine, shops and vendors! The Thong Sala Night Market was a Foodie Heaven!
From local fried meats to vegan and vegetarian options. And the food was cheap!
On Saturday evenings, the Streets close down to traffic and locals set up their tents and tables. Food, clothing, handmade items.
It seems like the whole town comes out for the Thong Sala Saturday Night Market.
Touring The Island
One Yoga fed us two amazing vegetarian meals a day! Buffett style!
For Dinner and on our day off we would venture out and find dinner! The different options were amazing! Most of the restaurants on the Island where we were located were Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free, which was perfect for us! But they also had had different local cuisine, Italian restaurants with an Italian cook, French restaurants with a French chef, Greek and so many more!!! I would go back just for their food!
Endless laughs with new friends!
For us, one of the biggest things I have gained from my 200-Hr teacher course and from staying at a resort for an entire month is making unforgettable friends! It’s amazing how much you connect and become family with these new friends in such a short time! It’s hard to find friends who are like-minded, open-minded and passionate about the same things you are!
Southeast Asia is lined with some of the world’s most gorgeous beaches. Thailand is known for its beautiful tropical beaches! Calm, aqua blue water, as warm as the air, surrounded by nature! Watching the sunset go down on Happy Beach or Zen Beach was absolutely breathtaking! Having harmless fish swimming around your toes, as you attempt to cool down!
John was not able to do his cold therapy during our travels!
Go Checkout our other blog post for all the details about our Intense Yoga Teacher Training!
Our time has come to an end. And WOW, did 5 weeks go in a blink of an eye? We originally flew Airchina from Newark, New Jersey to Beijing, China and then from Beijing to Bangkok, Thailand. But, that was right before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. So, that made plans difficult on our travels back to the US. I would have been totally okay with being quarantined in Thailand a little while longer!
The Dreaded Ferry
We took the Ferry from Koh PhaNgan to Koh Samui, this time the Lomprayah Ferry! Our “taxi” picked us up at about 6:45 and we headed to the pier. I cried the entire way. I was not ready to part ways. This is where I wanted to stay for the rest of my life.
We board the Ferry, and they had seating up top, outside, and the sun was just rising. So, why wouldn’t anyone choose to sit outside vs inside? Well, the Ferry starts moving (again I have a fear of boats & drowning!), and it starts moving fast! It starts getting bumpy and we then start getting wafted with waves, I immediately crouch down on the grown and wouldn’t move… John is just getting soaked!
Finally, John got me to depart, and go down the stairs, and inside the Ferry, while we left our bags up top. Some nice passengers moved our bags for us, our of the wave zone! And John went back for them. I thought I was going to be sick. But everyone else looked incredibly calm. So I stood the rest of the Ferry ride in the back just watching the waves from side to side. John pointed out that the speed of the boat was what was creating the waves… It wasn’t actually rough seas. (Haha…) But that was the start of our long travels back home and wasn’t a good start.
So we had flights booked from Koh Samui to Bangkok around Noon, but I booked these months in advance (which is not necessary for these flights, they run all day!) Flying from Koh Samui to Bangkok is like an hour and 10-minute flight, but we had a stopover in Phuket, with a 4-hour layover and then an hour and a half to Bangkok… Then 20 more hours of traveling home…
Our flight out of Bangkok was around Midnight, so we decided to change our flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok at the Koh Samui Airport (which is my all-time favorite airport!). We changed it to around 8 p.m. Which of course cost extra to change our flight. But closer to our other departure time.
And we wandered around Koh Samui for the day, finding this restaurant The Social Samui. It was in an a beautiful spot to lounge, and come up with a game plan. We had breakfast and did some research for a while. Still planning on flying into China. But, between our family and the news, they were making it difficult to think this was the right option. Anyone coming from China, it was said would be quarantined for 2 weeks in NY. And John couldn’t afford to miss more work!
So with a lot of hassle, we finally canceled our flight, found a new flight, traveling from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi, then to Dublin, Ireland and then to NJ. Changing our 20-hour flight to about 34 hours. And we went back to the Koh Samui Airport, to yet again change our flight into Bangkok!