I have been in Thailand for over 2 weeks now and have fallen in love with the country (or at least most parts).
The time I have spent here so far has been with a tour group from G Adventures, where we visited a variety of places, starting in Bangkok, then to Chiang Mai to trek in the jungle and meet the hill tribes, followed by exploring some of the Southern parts of Thailand including Khao Sok NP, Koh Samui and Koh Tao.
The trip kicked off in Bangkok, which we found on the first day is full of tourist scams, and having fallen in to one ourselves we can say from experience that some things really are not better when they are cheap. My first outing with two others resulted in us driving round in a tuk tuk to suit and jewellery shops so that a driver could collect tokens for petrol. However it was not all bad as we did see a wide variety of Bangkok for only 20 baht which is only around 5p.
This day we also went on boat tour of the river, with a private canal boat, I can’t say we knew exactly what was going on and how we got there but after bargaining with the company we only paid 400 baht each for a 2 hour boat trip!
The next day after realising our mistakes we made, we knew what not to do so meandered the streets of Bangkok looking at a few temples, eating on not too dodgy street markets and finally having a night out on Khao San Road, an evening full of weird bug tasting, looking at the many souvenir shops and dancing in the streets.
The next day we took an overnight train to Chiang Mai, an experience that I won’t forget. Having been polite I took the top bunk which I would definitely not recommend! The curtains do not hide the bright lighting and most importantly the constant fear that you could fall at any point on to the ground below.
We arrived in Chiang Mai tired, hungry and also excited about the next week ahead. The hotel was in a perfect location, with a pool and only two minute walk to the street food markets where we could catch tuk tug’s to the night bazaar, it has all you could ever want in one place and took around 3 to 4 hours to browse through the many stalls. We even came across the Thai version of country music, which is surprisingly not as bad as you would think (apart from the rendition of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain).
Another day in Chiang Mai lead to us going to an elephant sanctuary, where they are taking good care of the elephants and not letting them be harmed by tourists for elephant riding and have been rescued from circuses. That night we went for a big night out on the town watching a lady boy show (recommended by the tour guide) and bars in the evening.
We then embarked on our trip to the mountains to trek the steep hills and rocky terrain of the jungle. On the way we stopped off at local food markets and even a waterfall to break up the long journey in to the hills. When we arrived the scenery was breath taking and we got to meet the local villagers who supplied us with beds, cold showers and even a western style toilet!
Staying in the rural villages with no WiFi and contact to the outside world was surprisingly refreshing and made you think about how lucky we really are, and the things that we care about the most. The villagers showed us the local school and even there small farm which they were very proud of.
After two days of jungle trekking we were all shattered and ready to head back to a comfy bed and hot shower, after living in the same clothes and trekking in the heat it is fair to say that the whole group did not smell the best! But to get back we had to bamboo raft along the rapids, it is fair to say that our group was not the best in comparison to the other groups and we made it only just in time before sinking the raft!
After a night in Chiang Mai it was back to Bangkok on the overnight train again to carry on with the rest of the adventure down South!