Thailand | March 2018
A few months ago I made a spontaneous decision to travel to Thailand with 4 friends who I only met this year. Courtney struck gold and found round trip tickets to Bangkok for $400 a pop, and we all decided to grab tickets to go down to Phuket to get away from the hectic city scene. Packing for this trip, I kept in mind about how much weight I could actually handle given that I have scoliosis. You can check out my capsule wardrobe to see how I condensed the amount of clothes I bought with me on this trip in my Thailand Bound story.
Along with Courtney, Nolan, and Reed, we met up at the Honolulu International Airport to fly out to Shanghai, China. From there we flew into Bangkok, but we didn't stay there and took one last flight over to Phuket.
We landed in Phuket and Nolan immediately booked a driver to take us down to the Panwa dock where we took a ferry to Phi Phi island. Once we got to this touristy spot, we walked through a market to the other side and ate real food for the first time since the 16-hour travel from Oahu. I ate amazing pad thai with a pineapple shake. I've come to learn that fruits aren't so expensive, so the cost of smoothies and shakes can amount to less than $3.
We only stayed for about an hour since our ferry would be taking off for Krabi, where our first Airbnb is located. The boat ride took almost 2 hours, so we ended up napping at the bottom level of the ferry. Once we landed at Ao Nang Bay we headed to our Airbnb booked by Courtney. She found our first place to stay at the PB Pool Villa, a neighborhood of small resort houses with a pool right by the front gate of each unit.
The distance from our place to the management office was short, but we ended up to our place by tuk-tuk. This villa is a two bedroom with 2 queen beds an a bunk bed, a kitchen, dining area, living room, patio, and a pool next to the driveway gate. Every time we jumped into the pool the water would just gush out onto the driveway! That night we walked back to the management office where we enjoyed another authentic Thailand meal next door.
Our first morning at PB started with breakfast at the same little restaurant by the office management office. We hurried back tot he Airbnb to take collab photos at the pool before checking out. We actually waited more than an hour for our driver to pick us up to go to our next Airbnb. I grabbed some snacks for myself and got addicted to these BBQ flavored dried fish strips and ended up finishing two bags before the road trip. The ride didn't even take that long, and soon we made it to the Hilltop.
The Hilltop Ao Nang (booked by Reed) is where our Airbnb was at and it was literally at the top; at least overseeing every other building within the vicinity. Our place was actually split into 2 units, and fortunately we got the top floor, with an amazing view!
Unfortunately the rain had hit us right before we wanted to head down to a market flea in Krabi Town, so we just walked down to a restaurant located down the road by our place. I enjoyed the live music with the group while downing a Singha beer with my meal. For some reason I struggle tolerating the level of any spicy in thai curries! While I enjoyed the crab meat in my dish, I felt my mouth burning hella crazy! Still had a great time and wandered around the restaurant garden with Courtney while intoxicated (lol).
I ended the meal having sliced mango and sticky rice, an local fave. The savory and stickiness of the rice pair well with the natural sweetness and tender texture of the mango. Light cream is topped to add a little more sweetness.
After checking out of the Hilltop, the four of us ventured down to Krabi to shop and to also wait for the owner of our first Airbnb to meet up. I forgot my glasses from the PB Pool Villa, and only had to pay 300 baht ($10) to get it back. While were waiting on that, I bought some really cool shorts/pants from $10. What got my attention is the coconut notion; a fastener that looped the belt straps for adjusting.
After shopping and getting my glasses back, we took a 2-3 hour drive from Krabi to Ko Lanta. At one point, our driver transported us on a ferry, which to me is bizarre as I've never been in a car, while on a boat. The line to even get a ticket at the toll booth stretched for a mile. As we waited, I'd watch other passengers walking to the ferry, which has a small seating area for them to sit. Just imagining how this can be a daily routine for locals makes me feel grateful that I didn't have to take cargo ferry from home to school.
After arriving in Old Town, Ko Lanta, we settled at the last Airbnb that Reed also booked, the Mango House. This amazing seaside house has 2 bedrooms, 6 beds, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and porch with hammocks by the sea (see photos below).
Once the group got settled, we went to a moped rental shop a few houses away. I approached Top, the owner of the establishment as well as the restaurant attached. When he told me that one of us had to give our passport to him in order for us to rent mopeds, I gave him a hard time and was hesitant at first. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt, sacrificed my passport, and filled out documents that allowed us to take two mopeds around the island. I wouldn't be mad if I ended up stranded to be honest (haha).
I rode with Reed while Courtney rode with Nolan, and we took off after filling up on gas. We passed by houses spread out along the two way road, and sped through towns of markets, and wounded up on the west side of the island.. At one point we took a break at a beach that stood out to us with 3 swings hanging from a tree. Searching on Google Maps I was able to pin point the location, although the map isn't updated, and the name of the location is translated to Canal Rock. Next to the tree swings, two goats tie to a post were just chilling nearby. After hanging out and taking photos, we drove further south of the island and on the way back, Courtney and Nolan spotted monkeys!
I successfully got my passport back from Top and after chatting with him about what our group would like to do for the rest of our stay, he hooked us up with a discounted 4-island tour the next day. After we booked the tickets with thai baht, we ventured through Old Town to check out the shops and grabbed smoothies and beers. As evening approached, the sky was still lit enough to walk around, and the street began to fill with street food vendors. A young girl grilling ribs, an elderly lady deep frying a spiral of sliced potato on a skewer; I feel like Old Town had this amazingly friendly vibe that made me comfortable with eating street vendor food with out the worry of getting food poisoning. Everything is freshly made, and the people there are very hospitable.
When it got dark, us four went to Top's restaurant, the Shine-Talay, where we enjoyed more authentic Thai cuisine of pad thai and curries. Upon returning to the Mango House, we kanaked throughout the rest of the night.
Surprisingly I woke up on my own at 5:00am and got myself ready for the day. When 6:30 was approaching, I got everyone out for the first sunrise viewed across the ocean from the patio. After taking collab photos, we enjoyed breakfast at the Shine-Talay before heading to the dock where we started our 4-island tour by speed boat.
The first island we stopped at was Ko Chuak where we hung out to jump off the dock into the beautiful clear blue water. I actually have a fear of heights so I was very hesitant to jump, and getting back up was a struggle since I lack in upper body strength. After an hour or so, we booked it to Ko Chuak to snorkel, but it was so crowded, our tour boat took us to another island with just as amazing. I was afraid to jump in the water without a life vest, but soon realized I was able to float around with my goggles to view the reef. I felt so spirited swimming underwater and tried to chase after fish; I low key want to do more of this on Oahu now!
The third island was what I think known as Ko Kradan where the tour guides served us lunch. We decided to wander through a forest to get to the other side of the island but the trail ended up taking long, so we back-tracked and followed a clearer path to get to a secluded beach.
The last part of the tour ended at the fourth island, Ko Mook, know for their Emerald cave. I didn't bring my phone in because we had venture- swim, through a cave via life vest and follow a guide who had on flash light. The swim was a bit scary as I tend to imagine the possibilities of being pulled down by a kraken, but it turned out to be completely safe! Once we made it through, my view came to an enclosed beach surrounded by massively tall rock walls. There was greenery upon shore, but nothing more. A sign with Thai and English explained that back in the day the Emerald Cave used to be used as nesting grounds for birds, then later as a stashing spot for pirates.
We returned to Ka Lanta with daylight still on our side, and went back to Top's restaurant, thanking him for giving us an amazing experience during our stay. Top helped book our speedboat to Phuket for the morning, and also treated us to fruits and discounted our dinner!
Our last day in Thailand was greeted by another beautiful sunrise, and that morning we checked out to eat a quick breakfast before taking a truck ride to a dock where we met the speed boat that took us back to Phuket. During our stay, I gradually accumulated bug bites from shoulder to toes and they were painfully itchy! I was able to grab tiger balm for $2 from a 7-Eleven before heading out. After about 2 hours or so of the rickety boat ride, we were picked up by a driver that Nolan scheduled, and headed for the Elephant Retirement Park, where Courtney booked our tour. I fell asleep during the ride and woke up to a surprise of elephants by the window and tried to get myself together.
The park wasn't huge but sizeable for the amount of elephants residing. What's incredible about this place is that they strictly don't trek and they also create awareness to visitors about the history and current situation of this beautiful species. I always had an appreciation for elephants, but fell in love even more when I met them in person!
We started the tour with an introductory about the facility, followed by a quick cooking show on traditional pad thai. There were probably 50 visitors that time, so we split into groups of three and I followed Julee to the first pen where I met younger elephants including baby Tan Wa who is now 4 months old. I couldn't get over how cute he is trying to climb over the wooden pen to join his older companions on the outside. Everyone had a bag filled with bananas to feed the elephants with, and oh boy did they run out fast! Once you give them their first, they will continue to reach out for more and more and more. It's so precious to see how playful they can be and I have to say that this is my favorite part of my Thailand experience.
Check out Nolan's video from that day on his Instagram here!
I actually went on this trip right after I ended my last job so finances were tough; I had to secure money for my next student loan payment and be frugal with my spending in Thailand. Reed was kind enough to take care of my part of the Airbnb accomodations as well as the 4-day tour.
If your next destination is Thailand for foreign travel, I would suggest packing more than $500 if you just plan to stay in one place. The cost of an Airbnb can be inexpensive, but your spending can rack up when you commute by speedboat, ferry, and/or driver! Food for the most part is cheap and often delicious and safe (use your best judgement). Tours are very pricey so do your research and look to travel bloggers for reference. I'm grateful that Courtney, Nolan, and Reed planned the trip, but for next time I travel with friends I'll be better prepared and take action in planning!
- Adventure Spontaneously
- Amazing Food
- Learning Experience
- Bad Reaction To Bug Bites
- Plumbing Situation
- Still Costly
- Traveling With Your Ex