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  • Writer's pictureValeria

THAILAND


I dreamed about Thailand through Gianluca Gotto’s stories: steaming Pad Thai, smiles, spiritualism. The first time I’ve been to Thailand I was 11, together with my father for one of his bank’s contests. I spent 10 days in Phuket and experienced a muffled Thailand: I was staying in a resort in Phuket, a very touristic island.

17 years later I decided to come back and visit the hinterland: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. This is what I saw and did. Something was planned, something else was...not exactly!

Ready, steady…


BANGKOK (4-8 JUNE, 17-20 JUNE)

The first huge destination of my Thailand journey has been Bangkok, which its fish smell I’ll always remember. A super crowded and vibrant city, maybe not a cleanliness model but a good compromise to start your journey in Thailand. It’s a huge metropolis, so you will find many western characteristics and comforts we are used to, which will help even the most conservative to understand the Eastern mindset.

I stayed at the Siamaze Hostel for my first 4 nights. A nice hostel but quite far from the city center. I booked a 4 beds dorm and I payed 58.24 AUD (35.71 EUR), breakfast included. The breakfast choice was bread, butter, jam, eggs (to be cooked), fried rice with eggs, fresh fruit, tea and coffee. The hostel had also its own laundry, with washing machine and dryer. Plug adapters are available with a deposit.

My second time in Bangkok, for my last days, I stayed at the Rest is More, this was also a hostel but way more central compared to the Siamaze. I booked in a 4 beds dorm for 3 nights and payed 44.34 AUD (27,19 EUR). Breakfast is not included but there is an internal laundry, with washing machine and dryer.


WHAT I DID IN BANGKOK

- Grand Palace: overcrowded, visit as soon as it opens. The ticket costs 500 Baht (20,98 AUD – 12,87 EUR)

- Wat Pho: close to the Grand Palace by foot. The ticket costs 200 Baht (8,39 AUD – 5,15 EUR).

- Siriraj Medical Museum: Bangkok’s Forensic Medicine Museum. I found it horrific, to be honest I had to leave before the visit ended because I felt faint. Ticket price: 200 Baht (8,39 AUD – 5,15 EUR).

- Muang Boran Museum: a complex of Thai temples and palace replicas Thailandesi. It’s huge and to move around you can rend bikes (even the electric one), cars or gold cars.

Ticket price: 700 Baht (29,37 AUD – 18,01 EUR)

Bike price: 150 Baht (6,29 AUD – 3,86 EUR).

- Chinatown: Bangkok discrict. Picturesque, especially in the evening when you will find any kind of street food. Prices are rock-bottom so…taste everything!

- Khao San Road: the craziest road in Bangkok. Rich of clubs, street food and super cheap shops. I suggest you to also walk the close Rambuttri Alley, equally rich and, to me, the cozier one.

- Ayutthaya (the ancient city): I suggest to go by train. It’s cheap and it’s a unique experience: trains are very vintage, with fans on the ceilings and some still have wood seats.

Once there, I chose to buy a tuk tuk tour (I really am a tuk tuk lover!) in a little booth outside the train station. I payed 1200 baht (50,24 AUD – 30,88 EUR) and the guide took me to the most important attractions for the entire day. Alternatively, you can rend a bike or a scooter and go around on your own with the city map.

Be careful: you will also pay a ticket for each attraction: 50 Baht each (2,10 AUD - 1,29 EUR).

Among Ayuttaya’s attractions, you can’t miss:

o Wat Maha That (Buddha’s head in tree roots)

o Wat Ratchaburana: a temple where you can go down to the crypt

o Wat Thammikarat (roosters’ and Giant Buddha Temple): a working temple, with monks still living there.

o Wat Phra Ram (Tranquil Gardens)

o Wat Phra Si Sanphet: the most important Temple in Ayuttaya.

- Chatuchak Market: huge market opening every Saturday, here. Here you can find everything: craftsmanship, street food and…fake products everywhere. It’s generally crowdy.

- Icon Siam & River City: this is the biggest mall I’ve ever seen. Inside you will find waterfalls, jungles and so on. Not to mention the music: it will feel like being in a Disney movie. I went there just to have a Starbucks breakfast but I had a walk inside as well.

- TATTOOOOOOOO: oh yes my friends, I had a tattoo! During my second and last stay in Bangkok, in my last days, I had a tattoo at the BKK Ink Tattoo Studio. I showed up to the studio early afternoon and the same evening I had my tattoo (a small one, fine line). I spent around 95 AUD.


BANGKOK FACTS

- The best way to move in Bangkok is the metro: there are lots of different lines and you will avoid the crazy traffic jam. An example? It once took me 1 hour and a half to cover 8 km by taxi.

- The fastest way to move in Bangkok is…a motorbike: with Grab and Gojek mobile apps you can call a motorbike for an incredibly cheap price. I can’t hide that, given the crazy traffic jam in Bangkok, this is definitely not the safest way. In other words: not for the faint of heart!

- Nothing is close as it seems: it’s impossible to reach everything by foot, the city is huge so manage your moves and keep in mind that moving may require a good amount of time.


CHIANG MAI (8-11 JUNE, 16-17 JUNE)

My favourite place in Thailand hinterland. All the vibes this place left to me are unique! With its narrow streets, beautiful cafes and cozy bakeries, its street food and clubs, the atmosphere is one-of-a-kind. I reached Chiang Mai by plane, from Bangkok, and I paid around 80 AUD both ways (approx. 50 EUR)

I slept at The Smile Robotist Hostel for both my stays and…never again! The hostel was central but I had a terrible experience so I can’t recommend it.


WHAT I DID IN CHIANG MAI

- Thai cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School: I booked my afternoon class online, from 3.30 to 9.30. The lesson costs 1200 in high season but I paid 1000 because it was low season: 300 Baht online once booked and 700 Baht cash when the van picked me up from my hostel (a total of 41,96 AUD – 25,72 EUR).

The lesson started with a visit at the local market, where our super funny teacher presented us all ingredients we would have used to cook plus other regular ingredients for the Thai cuisine (she is on Instagram, her name is joyzaa1982, you can text here to ask about the school if you are interested in a lesson!).

On our way to the market, we chose which dishes to cook during the lesson: each of us would have prepared 1 soup, 1 stir fry, 1 curry dish and 1 sweet dish. Once we left the market, we visited the school farm where some of the ingredients are grown. Finally, we started to cook. We also made our own curry paste with the mortar!

This is the school website: https://thaifarmcooking.com/.

Do you need any other reassurance about this cooking school? WeRoad chose it as well. Indeed, I had the pleasure to share the cooking lesson with a WeRoad group travelling from Italy and…we had big laughs!

- Elephant Nature Park (Ran-Tong): I booked this activity online as well. I paid 1250 Baht (52,45 AUD – 32,16 EUR) for the half-day activity (7.30am to 2.30pm) comprehensive of:

o Hotel pick-up

o Appropriate clothes for the activity

o Showers after activities with elephants (with towels and soaps)

o Lunch (you will be asked if you have any allergy or special needs)

o Hotel drop off

The activity was around prepping and giving food to baby and adult elephants. After that, we could shower the elephants. I didn’t, but it was funny to see elephants showering and diving into the water!

Quick tip: bring tons of mosquito spray, you will need it!

- Gate market: perfect for dinner, not too big but there’s food of any kind. Super cheap and delicious.

- Saturday Night Market: street food and clothes.

- Doi Inthanon National Park: a pretty long journey, I took two tuk tuks and it took me almost 3 hours. I visited the Royal Garden and the Wachiratan Waterfall.

- Ladyboy show al Ram Show Bar: the show was free and extremely funny. I went with some friends I met at the hostel, a guy was brought on the stage and…well, had his moment of glory!



CHIANG RAI (11-12-13 JUNE)

Only 3 hours by bus, Chiang Rai is definitely worth the visit. I spent 2 nights there, enough for me. I stayed at the Baan Mai Kradan Hostel and…WOW! This has been the best hostel I’ve ever stayed during my entire journey in Thailand. Comfortable beds, clean rooms, clean and functional toilets with lots of room to place clothes and hooks for towels. Breakfast was included: bread, butter, jam, boiled eggs, tea and coffee. I booked two nights in a 6-beds room and I paid 35,46 AUD (21,74 EUR).


WHAT I DID IN CHIANG RAI

- White temple: the most beautiful temple I’ve ever seen. The entrance costed me about 50 Baht (2,10 AUD – 1,29 EUR) and you can pay as soon as you arrive, no booking needed. I went late in the morning and it was extremely crowded. If you can, manage to be there early in the morning for a quite visit or during the sunset for perfect shots!

- Blue temple: I was not excited by this temple. It’s quite recent, it was still under construction when I visited. Free entrance.

- Chiang rai Night Bazaar: I loved it! The street food area is crazy, there are tables and chairs and a stage with live music. The entire area has a very vintage lightning: yellow little bulbs everywhere, I absolutely adored. You can also find stands selling clothes and accessories.

- Baan Dam – Black House Museum: super creepy museum with a mixed architecture, putting together northern Thailand traditional architecture with a modern and unconventional one. The entrance fee is 80 Baht (3,36 AUD – 2,06 EUR).


PAI (14-16 JUNE)

Time to party! These days have been a never-ending-party-on mood! I stayed at the Nolo Hub, my first ever party hostel, and I had a positive experience. The hostel is a little isolated but it’s a very quiet and green zone. People are sociable and it’s impossible not to make friends; moreover, the hostel always plans days and nights out. I stayed here for two nights in a 6-beds room and I payed 36,78 AUD (22,55 EUR). My bed was crazy: a super spacious bunk bed, a comfortable mattress and an insane eyesight from my beds window. Breakfast is not included but you can buy it inside the hostel because it has its own café and small restaurant.


WHAT I DID IN PAI

Mostly partying but…let’s see how!

- Gender bender night: boys dressed like girls, girls dressed like boys, all together in a songthaew to party at the Why Not Bar.

- Suntichon Chinese Village: the day after Gender Bender, I joined the hostel day trip. Our first stop was this Chinese village where we tried a swing with 4 seats and did archery.

- Mor Paeng Waterfall: this was our second stop. These waterfalls are famous because its rocky walls are so smooth you can use them as a waterslide. I didn’t try but the guys surely had fun!

- Pra That Mae Yen Temple: our third stop. Open air temple, with a leg-killer stairway, a giant white buddha is placed at its end.

- Pai Canyon: forth and last stop to watch a beautiful sunset. Not for the faint of heart: to reach the viewpoint there is a quite scary path to walk; if you suffer from dizziness, think twice.

After my stay in Pai, I went back to Bangkok for my last few days.


FOOD TIPS

My favourite part ever: food! Here is a list of all markets and restaurants I had my best food and are worth the try.


Bangkok

Indy Market: little market with lots of locals. Prices are slightly cheaper compared to touristic markets and there is a good food variety. I tried the violet potato fried balls: divine! There are also a couple of bars in the market area, where you can find the local beer at a good price. Chang beer is my favourite!

Khao San Road e Soi Rambuttri: a road full of crazy food stands (yes, bugs too!) at cheap prices: the average price for a Pad Thai is between 40 and 60 Baht (1,72-2,57 AUD – 1,04-1,56 EUR). On my Instagram profile there is a post where I show you the stand with the best Pad Thai I’ve EVER had in Thailand (guys…I had an average of one per day!). Price: 40 Baht.


Muang Thai – Phatra Market: this market is quite close to the first hostel I stayed at, the Siamaze Hostel. I enjoyed local food and did some good clothes shopping.

Chinatown: just one word: GYOZA!


Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Gate Market: good Pad Thai and Spring Rolls. There is an excellent fruit shake stand making big shakes at a cheap price: just 20 Baht (0,86 AUD – 0,52 EUR).

Saturday Night Market Chiang Mai: my best ever skewers feast. Lots of stands sell any kind of skewers: meat, fish, tofu, veggies, eggs. Soooo much to choose!


Chiang Rai

The IG post restaurant”: guys, I really have no idea what’s the name of this restaurant, so here is the link of its location. In this post I wrote down why this restaurant deeply hit me and how good the food was. I had fried noodles with egg and veggies and I loved them!

Restaurant Sukhothail: a self-service restaurant, you can choose how to compose your dish. There are plant-based and non-spicy alternatives. A good one.

Chiang Rai Night Bazaar: night market, open every night. A great food choice, not only Thai food. Beautiful envinronment and live music.


Pai

I always had food in the hostel because it was really good 😊



GENERAL TIPS

Finally, some general advice and mistakes I personally committed.

1. Don’t plan everything!: this is my first tip for you. Traveling in Asia is different compared to Europe, you can afford to quickly change your plans because prices are always low and you will always find a place to stay. I planned everything: all my hostels, internal flights, all transfers and activities but if I could go back, I would never plan everything like that.

You will always find hostels to stay and activities hardly go sold out because there are a lot of providers. Moreover, lots of hostels manage their own activities through affiliated agencies, you can also book directly at your reception.

Regarding transports, buying a train or bus ticket directly at the counter is way cheaper than buying it online. I massively used 12go.asia, which is a really good service, but I always paid more than the real ticket price. Lastly, planning everything will force you to follow a rigid scheme instead of being free to change your plans: maybe to stop a little longer or skip a stay.

2. Do not withdraw money from credit cards with commissions: Thailand will pluck you with tons of commissione. For each withdrawal you will pay, not only your card commissions, but also a fixed 220 Baht commission (9,23 AUD – 5,66 EUR), whichever sum you are withdrawing. An example: on a 450 AUD withdrawal, I paid an 18 AUD total commission (crazy!).

To avoid this crazy costs you have two alternatives: a multicurrency bank account with commission free withdrawal like Wise or Revolut or bring cash with you and change it at Money Changer stands.

3. Download Gojek and Grab to call taxis: two mobile apps like Uber working in Asia. Always check both of them because you will always find a cheaper one. You can also call a motorbike as a taxi, instead of a car: if you are not scared about traffic jam and a quite dangerous riding style, it can be a great alternative to a car: quicker and half-priced.

4. Be careful with tuk tuk prices: despite my big passion for tuk tuks, I hadn’t used them a lot because they are expensive. Unfortunately, prices are high because tourists largely used it. You have to bargain hard to obtain a good price (and you will often lose).

5. Rent a scooter to cut your transport cost: if you are brave enough, you can also rent a scooter at a cost between 200 and 400 Baht per day (8,39-16,78 AUD – 5,15-10,29 EUR), depending on the motorbike capacity. I anticipate that you will ride on the left and the traffic rules are no more than a mere opinion :D

6. Be the tissues always with you: once outside Bangkok, you will hardly find any toilet paper, or not even the button to flush!

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