3 of the Best Experiences in Thailand

To end my Thailand travel series, I thought I would list some of my favourite things to experience anywhere in Thailand.

Fish Pedicure. I would not recommend this for people who are squeamish around fish, or for those whose feet are really ticklish. But for everyone else, it can be quite fun. And trust me, the skin on your feet and legs will feel super soft and smooth by the end.

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fish pedicure at happy feet- we couldn’t stop laughing!

fish swarming our feet.

fish swarming our feet.

Thai Massage. While in Thailand, I highly recommend you get a Thai massage. Getting a Thai massage is an experience like no other. You will get cracked, stretched, and kneaded by hands, elbows, feet, and knees. But by the end you will feel amazing.

Song Kran.  If you are lucky enough to be in Thailand during SongKran festival, you are in for the experience of a lifetime. A country wide water-fight that lasts three days? Count me in.

the streets of Khao San Road during Song Kran festival.

the streets of Khao San Road during Song Kran festival.

I really hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed writing it!  This whole process has made me so homesick for Thailand, and I really can’t wait for an opportunity to go back.

-Kristen

5 Foods you MUST try in Thailand

Hands down, the best thing about Thailand is getting to eat Thai food. There is just nothing like it. And the best way to experience Thai food is to buy it from the sweaty person who handles your money with their dirty hands, wipes the sweat off of their forehead, and then proceeds to make your meal. Yumm. Here are just a few of my favourite things to eat in Thailand.

Thai street food is the best food.

Thai street food is the best food.

Roti.  The main culprit of my weight gain while living in Thailand. Roti is actually an East Indian dish, but has become quite popular as street food in Thailand. The best way to eat it is smothered in sweetened condensed milk. Yum.

Fruit. There is just something about fruit in Thailand. There are so many different varieties and the flavour is just so much better. You can buy freshly cut fruit from street vendors pretty much anywhere in Thailand. I recommend trying the guava, green mango, and of course pineapple. Make sure you try the sweet and spicy dip that comes with it too! And if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to try durian while in Thailand. It is not for the faint of heart, and the chances are you won’t like it. But it’s one of those things that everyone should try at least once!

whole durian fruit for sale.

whole durian fruit for sale.

durian fruit flesh.

durian fruit flesh.

Thai Iced Tea. Another one of my addictions while living in Thailand, Thai iced tea (or “chai yen”) has almost a smokey flavour to it. Once again, this drink is best when heavily laden with sweetened condensed milk.

Sticky Rice with Mango.  There is just something about the combination of sweet sticky rice with perfectly ripe mango that causes my mouth to water.  This is a perfect dish to eat for dessert, or breakfast, or a mid-morning snack, or an afternoon snack, or a midnight snack….

sweet sticky rice with mango.

sweet sticky rice with mango.

Papaya Salad (AKA som-tam). Thinly sliced green papaya combined with peanuts, chilis, sugar, garlic, lime, dried shrimp, tomatoes, and beans. It is likely to give you diarrhea, but let’s be honest, it is so worth it.

Thai picnic featuring chicken, fish, eggs, sticky rice and three kinds of som-tam.

Thai picnic featuring chicken, fish, eggs, sticky rice and three kinds of som-tam.

Writing this post and thinking about all the delicious food in Thailand is making me hungry.  Have you tried any of these dishes before?  What’s your favourite Thai food?

-Kristen

Top 5 Things to do in the North of Thailand

The most well-known city in the north of Thailand is Chiang Mai, and it’s not hard to understand why. Chiang Mai is surrounded by many beautiful mountains, with lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. Another notable province to visit in the north is Chiang Rai.  The city of Chiang Rai is smaller and less well known, and therefore offers a more relaxed vibe for travellers.  Here are my top 5 activities I enjoyed while visiting the north of Thailand:

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.  One of my favourite experiences in Northern Thailand was visiting the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai.  I swear I found better souvenirs there than I did in all my time spent shopping in Bangkok.

Shopping at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

Elephant Treks and River Rafting.  If riding elephants while in Thailand is on your to-do list, then Chiang Mai is the place to do it.  Tours like this one include both elephant riding and river rafting, both of which I did while in the North and thoroughly enjoyed.

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River rafting in Chiang Mai.

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Elephant treking in Chiang Mai.

Wat Doi Suthep.  Located at the top of a nearby mountain, Wat Doi Suthep is one of the most beautiful temples in all of Thailand.  On a sunny day you will be able to see Chiang Mai from the temple.  The temple is also considered one of the most sacred temples in Thailand as it is said to contain a holy relic of Buddha.  Tours like this one will take you from Chiang Mai to Wat Doi Suthep for a half-day visit, as well as visiting a local hilltribe.

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Even though the temple was under construction when I visited in 2009, it was still beautiful.

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Many stairs to climb to reach the temple.

Dinner and Entertainment.  Another fun way to spend an evening in Chiang Mai is enjoying a traditional meal while watching traditional entertainment such as Thai sword dance and Thai candle dance.  I’m a big believer that one of the best parts of traveling is trying out local cuisine, and this dinner out would be an excellent way to do just that.

Wat Rong Khun. Also known as the White Temple, this contemporary temple is located in Chiang Rai.  In May 2014 it was damaged by an earthquake, but is currently being restored back to it’s original state and is once again open to visitors.

Sunshine and reflections.

Sunshine and reflections.

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The White Temple at dusk.

I hope you enjoyed this third instalment of my Thailand Travel Series!  Be sure to check back next week for another great post.

-Kristen

My 3 Favourite Beaches in Thailand

For the second part in my Thailand Travel Series, I thought I would list my favourite beaches in Thailand!  Here are my top 3:

Railay Beach.  By far the most beautiful beach I visited during my time in Thailand (and probably in my whole life) was Railay beach in Krabi province.  Surrounded by scraggly limestone cliffs, dense forest, and the Andaman Sea, Railay beach is definitely a place to visit at least once in a lifetime.  The fact that this beach is only accessible by boat makes it feel even more special.  My family and I booked a bungalow on the beach through Railei Beach Club which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We were able to book Thai massages and a catered Thai meal made right in our bungalow!

Railay beach is only accessible by boat.

Railay beach is only accessible by boat.

Railay beach at sunset.

Railay beach at sunset.

View of Railay beach from above.

View of Railay beach from above.

HuaHin.  If you’re not planning on traveling to the South, but want to visit a beach a little closer to Bangkok, I would definitely recommend Hua Hin.  Hua Hin is a very tourist friendly city, and will offer all the luxuries that you could need. There is a big mall, a night market, even a vineyard, and of course lots of places to eat.

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Beach at Hua Hin.

Koh Phi Phi.  This is probably one of the most popular islands to visit in Thailand, but it is not hard to see why.  With beautiful beaches (like the beach from the movie “The Beach”) all-night parties, Phi Phi Don is the place for backpackers to visit.  Days can easily be passed laying on the beach, or if you’re more adventurous you can book day or half-day boat tours to go snorkeling and visit some of the other beautiful surrounding islands.

Lazy day at the beach on Koh Phi Phi.

Lazy day at the beach on Koh Phi Phi.

Panoramic view of Maya Bay- the beach from the movie "The Beach"

Panoramic view of Maya Bay- the beach from the movie “The Beach”

Do you have any favourite beaches in Thailand?  Leave me a comment below!

-Kristen

7 Things to Pack for Thailand

Since I’ve been writing and working on so many blogs posts about traveling in Thailand lately, I thought I would write up a little list of things you should pack for Thailand in particular. Keep in mind that basically everything in Thailand can be purchased, and for a low price. Although some things are harder to find than others (like tampons).

What to pack for Thailand:

Maxi Dresses. Dresses in general are perfect for traveling because they make such an easy outfit. Instead of packing tops and bottoms that will all go together, a dress is an outfit in it’s own. I personally love maxi dresses. And an added bonus of packing maxi dresses instead of minis is that you don’t have to worry about showing too much leg while touring the many temples of Thailand. Just make sure to pack a light cardigan to cover your shoulders when going to temples.

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Baby Powder. A trick for combating the large amounts of sweat due to the extreme humidity in Thailand is to use baby powder! And when I say use it, I mean feel free to use it anywhere you may be getting sweaty… including on your inner thighs. Because we all know that sweaty inner thighs rubbing together can equal quite an uncomfortable time. Baby powder can also be used on your face, back, chest, etc.

Towel. There is a stigma surrounded the sharing of towels in Thailand. People just don’t do it. Even when I was an exchange student and would go spend the night at a friends house, it was always expected that I would bring my own towel. You will find that as a traveler, a lot of guest houses and even some hotels will not provide towels for you.  In my experience, I prefer to buy a cheap towel in Thailand rather than bringing one of the microfiber travel towels from home.  I just found that the microfiber ones never completely dried right (maybe due to the humidity) and that it just ended up smelling musty.

Face and body lotion, moisturizer, etc. Again, while these types of beauty products are available in Thailand, most of them contain some kind of skin whitener in them. This is because Thai people have a desire to look more pale, just as we are always trying to look more tan. And as a result, most beauty products do contain a whitening agent.

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Sunscreen. While this one does seem obvious, it may not be so obvious the actual amount of sunscreen that you will need while in Thailand. You may find yourself going through a bottle within a couple of days. And don’t even bother with anything less than SPF 50 unless you want to end up in the hospital with heat stroke and have the nurse scoff in your face for not using the appropriate SPF. You’ll also find that sunscreen is one of the items that is actually relatively expensive to buy in Thailand, and therefore it is somewhat worth it to stock up at home.

Sandals. Or footwear that can easily be taken off as opposed to lace up sneakers or boots. This is because a lot of places, including temples and stores, will ask you to remove your shoes before entering. It’s just more convenient having slip off foot wear. Also, if you’re planning on staying in hostels it’s a good idea to take (or buy) a cheap pair of flip flops for using in the shower.

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A sweater or hoodie. Yes it will be hot outside in Thailand, but keep in mind that many stores, malls, airports, etc. crank at the air conditioning. You may want to have a sweater on hand for these types of situations.

I hope you found this list helpful!  What else would you pack if you were traveling to Thailand?

-Kristen

Top 5 Things to do in Bangkok

A friend of mine who is planning a trip to Thailand recently asked me about my top 5 places to visit, things to do, and things to see in Thailand.  And I thought to myself, what an excellent blog post this would make! I’ve broken it down into 5 categories: Bangkok, Beaches, The North, Street Food, and Experiences.  Today I’ll just be sharing with you my favourite things to do in Bangkok, but be sure to check back for the rest of the posts in this series!

BANGKOK – The province where I spent the majority of my exchange year, and although I was technically living on the outskirts of the city, I still feel like I got to know the crazy city known as Bangkok quite well.  Here are some of my favourite things to see/do in and around BKK.

JJ Market.  Hands-down the best place for shopping in Bangkok is Chatuchak weekend market.  At almost 40acres, this sprawling market is not for the faint of heart!  It is easy to spend an entire day wandering around the market without realizing it.  The coolest part is when the Thai national anthem plays in the evening, and ALL of the Thai people instantly freeze until the anthem is over.  Not something you experience in many countries, that’s for sure.  But be warned, there are many pickpockets and purse slashers who may try to steal from you (I speak from experience).  Chutuchak (or JJ Market as the farang call it), is easily accessible by taking the BTS to Mo Chit station.

the depths of JJ Market.

the depths of JJ Market.

Khao San Road.  Possibly the most well-known area of Bangkok by backpacking standards.  As exchange students, Khao San was the place we always tried to visit without our host parents finding out.  It’s basically a street lined with hostels, restaurants, and lots of shopping, and it’s definitely worth a visit- especially during Song Kran festival.

walking down Khao San Road.

walking down Khao San Road.

Wat Phra Kaew.  One of the most popular attractions in Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaew is the home of the Emerald Buddha.  Although very beautiful, you may be surprised by how tiny the Emerald Buddha is in real life (similar to seeing the Mona Lisa in person).  Make sure that when you visit this temple you either wear or bring conservative clothing, or else you will not be let in to the grounds.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you legs and shoulders are covered (no short shorts or tank tops).

the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

Wat Phra Kaew.

Wat Phra Kaew.

Siam Ocean World.  Probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in Thailand (and in my entire life) was swimming with sharks at Siam Ocean World.  Located in the basement of Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, the aquarium is worth a visit even if you aren’t planning to walk with the sharks.

Laura and I, about to put on those helmets and walk with sharks!

Laura and I, about to put on those helmets and walk with sharks!

Floating market.  Another notable shopping experience is visiting the floating markets at Damnoen Saduak.  Even though many of the items for sale are the same that you would find at JJ Market, just the experience of shopping from a boat is worthwhile.

souvenirs for sale at the floating market.

souvenirs for sale at the floating market.

ladies selling fruit and flowers out of boats.

ladies selling fruit and flowers out of boats.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it and digging through my old pictures from Thailand.  Make sure you check back for the rest of the posts in this series!

-Kristen