Updated: May 17, 2020
We finally took our first international trip together and headed to Thailand for our real Honeymoon two years after getting married.
We decided on Thailand because it is relatively close to Japan and it is also pretty cheap. The only thing we had set in stone before going there was out hotels in each city we went to and the day we were arriving and leaving.
Day 1: we traveled most of the day, had a quick layover in Taiwan and then made it to Bangkok in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the airport is so far away from the city so we didn't even get to our hotel until dinner time. Thankfully, though, our hotel was in a perfect spot. We stayed on Khao San Road, a popular night market, so we spent the night wandering the market, eating yummy food, and getting a feel for city life.
Day 2: we are both morning people, so we got up early to try to beat the crowds to the Grand Palace. And after seeing the crowds when we left the palace, I knew we made the right choice! If I only had one piece of advice to give you about traveling to Bangkok, go to the Grand Palace right when they open. It will still be busy, but the crowds will be significantly less! In my opinion, the palace was worth every penny (or every baht *ba dum tiss*). There was so much to see, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the actual royal palace itself, and one or two museums all for 500 THB or about $16. One more piece of advice: most sites and other blogs say that the dress code is that your ankles needs to be covered. While it is highly recommended the only true dress code is no shorts, no tank tops, and no open-toed shoes.
We spent a few hours there and then tried to get a tuktuk to the flower market. Our driver insisted it was closed and instead took us to a canal boat tour. It was a bit of a scam but it was a unique experience which also lead me to research more about Thailand's water crisis. I would not recommend this tour just because it was a little pricey but I am not upset that we went.
Then, we went to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The grounds for this temple was only 20-50 THB per person (I forget the exact amount) and included so much more than just the reclining Buddha. Then, we went back to our hotel to change shoes, to the flower market (yes, it was definitely open), stumbled upon some ice cream, and then to the last temple in Bangkok, Wat Arun. This temple was lovely. One thing we wanted to try to do but we were just way too tired was to cross the river and photograph Wat Arun at sunset. If you get the chance to do that let me know!
Day 3: another early wake up, breakfast, and a taxi to the airport to get our rental car (the only thing you need to drive in Thailand is an international driver's license and to rent you have to be 21+). We drove two hours to our hotel in Khao Yai, got settled and explored the local area. We went to a fruit farm for fresh juice, a winery to explore the vineyard and eat yummy pasta and fresh wine, and then to a local dessert place called The Chocolate Factory (HIGHLY recommend!). Then, we swam at our hotel and enjoyed a complementary movie while eating our desserts.
Day 4: we got up, packed our hiking stuff, got some breakfast (Escape Khao Yai had the best breakfast of our whole trip), and headed into the park. Unfortunately, we only had one camera battery so we had to spare it, but we still got some amazing images! We went to several look out points and waterfalls and hiked 4-5 trails. It was a lovely park. We saw wild monkeys and deer. We kept an eye out for elephants but we did not see any. I think this day was probably my favorite part of the trip.
That evening, we showered, changed, headed into the little village to get some food which was actually western food, but it was delicious. If you're in the area, you should definitely go to Witches Brew and the Chocolate Factory...which we did again, not even ashamed. That night we went to the little cabana by the pool to get drinks and then it started pouring. 10 or so of us tried to crowd under the tent where the bar was and everyone was so kind. They moved their table so we would have room and the nice family eating there bought us some kabobs. We swam some more, watched a movie, and it was the end to a great day.
Day 5: Our last morning in Khao Yai was slow. We got up, packed, ate one last delicious breakfast, and then back to Bangkok to return our rental car and fly to Chiang Mai. After a quick 1-hour flight, we made it to the new city which I fell in love with. If you don't like high paced city life but don't necessarily like the middle of nowhere, check out Chiang Mai. It is a quaint city with great night life and amazing people. We spent the first day checking out old Chiang Mai, some markets, some shops, and eventually dinner at Vegan Heaven. Even non-vegan-Dan really enjoyed it! Finally, to North Gate Jazz Co-op. This place is so unique and so fun! We are not even party people but we loved the laid back atmosphere, the jazz music, and getting to meet some other travelers. I definitely recommend this spot when coming to Chiang Mai.
Day 6: it started out a bit of a mess: Dan's SIM card quit working AND our rental car company lost our confirmation. But, we got both issues taken care of and we were only set back by an hour and into the mountains we went. We stopped in a little town for a snack and found the cutest cafe. We got tea and cake to hold us over and then back on the road. The first park we briefly visited was Mae Wang National Park. This park is known for "the Thai Grand Canyon." It is not very grand in size (as you can see) but grand in nature. The rock formations were just so unique.
Once, in Doi Inthanon National Park, there was so much more to see. Endless waterfalls, unique temples, trails, and of course, the highest point in Thailand! We did not have time to climb it but the drive up was easy...well, not for our poor rental. Our rental ate it with 1 mile left to go so we thought we would just walk the rest. But, it was lightly raining, very foggy, and very steep. Thankfully, some nice people were headed up and lended us a ride!
It was definitely cool to say I've been there but not nearly as cool to say we climbed it. It just didn't have quite the same satisfaction. We walked back down, enjoyed the scenery without dying too much and that's when the rain hit. Thankfully we came equipped with umbrellas (since we know we would be going during rainy season) and it didn't last long.
Once back to our rental, we headed back down. At this point, it was very foggy. It made for some cool and mysterious photos but also didn't help see some of the wonders. We went to the twin pagodas but we could barely see one at a time it was so foggy! Another tip that I did not see on the internet...this temple also has a dress code. But, once I tied my jacket around my waist, we were good to go.
Back down the mountain more, we stopped at 4-5 waterfalls and I checked something off my bucket list: walk though rice paddies. We just got out to take photos but the farmers came out and said we could walk in their fields. It was so beautiful!
We had to rush to get to the last few waterfalls but they were each worth it, including XXXX which was quite far off the beaten path. If you go to Doi Inthanon, please take the time to plan out your day because each waterfall closes at a different time. XXXX closed at 1800 and we rolled up a few minutes late. But, we had just driven 40 minutes so we took the chance, snapped a few photos and left.
Wow, day 6 was jam packed but we had so much fun exploring Northern Thailand. We love the great outdoors and center our trips around it. We got dinner on the way home, went to the Chiang Mai Night Market, got a weird-yet-yummy local chocolate drink and then headed to the hotel to unwind for the night.
Day 7: Back to Bangkok. We flew back and got back around 1300. The one thing we wished we had done differently was have one more full day in Chiang Mai instead of Bangkok so we could have gone to an elephant sanctuary but we made the most of Bangkok. We were pooped from the previous day so we took it easy. Our first stop was Art in Paradise, a local art museum with paintings that come to life when you download an app. It was worth the money and was fun for all ages. The location was also perfect, it was right next to the night market we wanted to check out. So, after the museum, we went there, got a gigantic watermelon slushie in a watermelon bowl (less waste! Unfortunately, she had already put the straw in), and walked around for a bit.
Then, I found the holy grail of natural products: natural insect bite salve. I wish I had found it three days earlier when the bites were fresh but it was still amazing. Once I find a recipe, I will try to recreate and post it here because it is so amazing. The bites quite itching instantaneously and went away quicker!
Finally, the moment Dan had been waiting for...sunset. It was pretty overcast so we didn't get much color but we went up into the parking garage to snap a few photos from above the night market and it made up for the lack of color in the sky.
Then, back to the hotel: the Sky Hotel. We went to the observation deck, the rotating deck, and the roof top bar. We had so much fun and it was a great way to wrap up our time in Thailand.
Day 8: we got up to try to catch the sunrise since our room faced the east, but since it was pretty bleak, we slept for another hour or so. We then went up to the tallest floor available for breakfast and enjoyed the huge breakfast buffet with western options, Thai options, other Asian options, and plenty of vegetarian options as well. We pigged out, finished packing, and headed back to the airport to fly back home.
This trip was amazing. We got to see and do so much, I learned so much about Thailand and where they stand with the sustainability issue. We met people who have relatives near where we grew up, I learned some Thai, and we tried so much amazing food. I would recommend Thailand to anyone whether you are a city-life person or a laid-back country-life person.
I loved every moment of Thailand and if you go, I hope you enjoy it too.
Check out the full travel diary here.