Heading to South East Asia for the first time? Well look no further!
This past May, I had the pleasure of heading over to South East Asia, starting my trip in the Land of Smiles, Thailand.
Throughout my research of Thailand, I quickly came to realize that there were SO many places to start, routes to follow and things to see/do, even for a travel agent (haha) it all became a bit overwhelming. To pin point the exact itinerary I wanted to complete in my three-week time span, it took careful consideration, however all I knew was that I wanted to ensure that my holiday actually felt like a holiday.
I wanted the ease of travel, everything to be sorted for me before I went, someone to tell me all the best places to go/see/eat/drink/party and on top of that to have an awesome group of people to share it with meâ€¦ and then I came to the realizationâ€¦ all I wanted to do was Thaintro!
Thaintro is an amazing group tour commencing in Bangkok and finishing up on the island of Koh Phangan. Itâ€™s the perfect option for solo travellers, couples, or for anybody heading to South East Asia for the first time.
With a jam-packed itinerary (donâ€™t worry you’ll still have plenty of free time for sun-tanning and cocktails on the beach) â€“ Thaintro is able to tick off your Thailand bucket list in 9 days! With thai massages, elephant cuddles, beach partiesâ€™, floating bungalows & heaps of new friends â€“ Thaintro is the trip of a lifetime.
Day 1: Arrival into Bangkok
The day was finally here! I landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok (BKK) and was pleasantly greeted by our groupâ€™s guide for the week Dan. Dan was waiting at the airport’s meeting point to ensure we landed safely off the plane and made it with ease into the madness of Bangkok city.
The streets of Bangkok are fast-paced, covered in market & food stalls, eager tuk-tuk drivers and keen Thai sales people trying to sell you their local city tour for only 100 baht ($4 AUD). For a first time visitor â€“ it can be quite full on but itâ€™s all about the experience and within a couple hours it will seem quite normal.
Our accommodation in Bangkok was at a guesthouse called the Wild Orchid Villa. Wild Orchid Villa is conveniently located in the centre of Bangkok – close to the shops, temples, various cafes/restaurants and the very well known Khao San road. The villa is decked out with an all day restaurant & bar, private outdoor poor & local travel agent on site.
Wild Orchid Villa Twin RoomsÂ
Outdoor pool at Wild Orchid Villa
After checking in and getting settled into our twin share rooms â€“ we were given the remainder of the day to explore Bangkok before the welcome dinner later in the evening. I decided to spend my day sampling some of Bangkokâ€™s best food & cocktails, and splurging on a 150 baht ($6 AUD) 1-hour long traditional Thai massage. This easily became a trend throughout the rest of my Thailand trip as well.
Some of my favourite Thai appetizers – Chicken Satay & Spring Rolls!
The welcome dinner was the first opportunity to get everyone together. We had a very diverse group with people coming from the UK, Canada, America, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Spain; all ranging in age from 18-35 years old.
By the end of the night it didnâ€™t take long to realize it was going to be an amazing week!
Day 2: Temples, Tuk Tuks & Party Night in Bangkok
Day two rolled around and it was time to explore some Bangkokâ€™s most popular highlights! We headed out after breakfast and walked to our first temple Wat Arun where we meet our guide â€œMr James Bond.â€ He knew absolutely everything about Thailand, temples, Buddhism and more! He even called me Miss Universe Canada so I instantly became his biggest fan!
When in South East Asia it is always advised to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting temples. This shows respect to the people praying in the temples, the monks on the premises and other visitors to these temples.Temple visits in Bangkok
On arrival to the first temple we were taken through a traditional Thai blessing ceremony â€“ surrounded by beautiful lit candles and incense sticks. As we made our way through the rest of the temple we entered a room where a monk blessed our group with holy water and sent us off with well wishes for the rest of our travels in Thailand.
Following Wat Arun temple our group walked through the city towards the river where we would boarded a long boat along the Chao Phraya River. Along the river were beautiful man-made river bungalows and little ladies in boats selling their goods those passing by. One lady absolutely stole my heart with her beautiful smile and charm, so much so I had no problem purchasing a few cold drinks and souvenirs off of her.
Cruise along Chao Phraya River
Our river cruise took us to the entrance of the second and a more popular temple, Wat Pho Temple. The Wat Pho Temple next to the Grand Palace is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. At Wat Pho you will find the magnificent 46 meters long gold plated Reclining Buddha, and plenty of other smaller buddhas around the area.
After a full morning of temples we jumped into our tuk-tuks (Thai-styled taxis) and made our way through the city back to our villa. In Thailand, road rules simply donâ€™t apply. Traffic lights arenâ€™t abided by, passing other cars is the norm and jay-walking is extremely common.
Tuk tuk madness!Â
Our tuk-tuk driver gave us the full crazy experience as he whizzed in and out of the lanes speeding his way to our destination!
Our â€œparty nightâ€ out in Bangkok began at a little Indian restaurant named Bombay Blues. After some food and some cocktails we finally hit Khaosan Road. Khaosan Road is a famous street amongst Bangkokâ€™s hustle and bustle. Lined with bars, Khaosan Road attracts tourists, backpackers from around the world for itâ€™s nightlife, cheap drinks and exotic street food. The party atmosphere on Khaosan is great and every night thereâ€™s something going on so if youâ€™re ready to cut loose, this is the place to be.
On Khaosan road, our first stop was a bucketâ€™s bar named Kimâ€™s Cocktails. Drinking from childrenâ€™s beach buckets (where they make sand castles out of) is a very popular thing to do while in Thailand. We all had the chance to test this out ourselves â€“ choosing from hundred of different drinks on the menu; everything from pina coladas, daiquiris, long island ice teas to mystery Thai concoctions. After a nice pre-game we were ready to hit â€œThe Clubâ€ to finish off our night.
Traveller trip: These buckets are strong (not like your standard measured drinks back in Australia, UK, Canada or Europe â€“ These are best shared with someone else if you want to remember your night! However â€“ they are delicious and a great way to get your buzz on for the rest of your night on Khaosan Road. Not to mention they are cheap (~300-400 baht – $12-16 AUD for way to much drink!)
Day #3: Thai Cooking Class & the Overnight Train
With a sore head and the after taste of a late night McDonalds burger from Khaosan Road; I awoke ready for day 3. It was the Thai cooking class day and I was so excited! I love to cook and I LOVE Thai food â€“ what a perfect activity!
Mai-Deeâ€™s Cooking School hosted us for the morning and we were going to cook three classic Thai dishes. We had the chance to make a Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai and a Massaman Curry. Itâ€™s crazy to now know how simple it is to make some of your favourite Thai dishes!
Ready to cook!Â
Simple ingredients, simple steps and a bit of love and youâ€™d be able to cook some of your favourites too. And the best part of this classâ€¦ was of course tasting all of our creations! Following the cooking portion â€“ the group was lead through some dancing and Thai sing-alongs, which had everyone in hysterics.
We had the afternoon free to do some last minute shopping, get a Thai massage, grab some lunch or visit some of the local sites we missed. A lot of people chose to venture down Khaosan Road for some market shopping, while I decided to lounge by the pool and recover from my alcohol-bucket hangover.
Shortly after 5pm we met in the lobby to begin our journey on the overnight train that would take us from Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park. I am not going to lieâ€¦ I was a bit apprehensive about spending a whole evening on the sleeper trainâ€¦ but this train was lush!
Overnight train fun!
The beds were extremely comfortable, food was served on board, you had your own little cubby to put your belongings, and every bunk had curtains for privacy while sleeping! Before we knew it â€“ it was 7AM and it was time to depart the train!
Day #4: Khao Sok National Park
After we arrived off the train, we grabbed a quick breakfast before jumping onto a bus + longboat into Khao Sok National Park. Thaintro makes this journey from Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park absolutely seamless â€“ I would have had NO clue how to navigate these bus and train timetables if I had to do it aloneâ€¦ especially with a Khaosan Road bucket hangoverâ€¦
The longboat journey into the entrance of the National Park is nothing short of spectacular. The pictures speak a thousand words, and my description and photos wonâ€™t even begin to do it justice. We stopped for a swim stop along the way. In a quiet little bay lined with beautiful cliff edges the longboat stopped for us to cool off, and enjoy some rock jumping!
Khao Sok National ParkÂ
Shortly after we made it into Khao Sok and our accommodation for the evening. For a backpacker trip this place felt like absolute luxury! We were staying in floating bungalows on the water, had access to jumping platforms to swim from, rubber tubes to relax in the crystal clear waters, kayaks to explore the park and plenty more.
Our group spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine, (some people enjoyed the sun a bit too much â€“ donâ€™t forget to wear your sunscreen!) having a few drinks and cranking tunes on the dock. It was the perfect day and goes down as one of my top 5 best travel experiences to date!
The fun didnâ€™t stop in the evening. After a yummy Thai dinner the whole group sat around in the common area and played some camp games including The Box Game, Mafia, and Whoâ€™s Coming to Dinner?Â You are never too old for these kinds of games!
Day #5: Khao Sok National Park to Koh Pha Ngan
Off to the southern islands of Thailand today! We said goodbye to the stunning Khao Sok National Park and jumped on the long boat back to the mainland. A 2-hour bus journey and 2-hour ferry; we finally arrived at Koh Phangan, our home for the next 4 nights.
Sarana Bungalows is the â€˜home of Thaintroâ€™ in Thailand and was our accommodation on the island. Situated directly on the beach with a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean â€“ this place was lush. When we arrived we were all given our room assignments and were put in either twin/triple or quad share rooms. They were all en-suited and had hammocks on the front deck â€“ the perfect place to read a book or have a mid-day nap to get out of the sun.
Welcome to Paradise!Â
Our day was left for us to enjoy. Some people went into the town to check out the market and shops, whereas others decided to kick it at the resort; have some lunch or chose to enjoy the sun by the pool. Around the accommodation there were two resort dogs that were so friendly: Dave and Rosie. They had been taken in by Thaintro a while ago and have now made themselves resident on the property.
The evening was set for our first beach party on the famous â€œFull Moon Partyâ€ Island of Koh Phangan. We headed out for dinner at a restaurant called Mattyâ€™s Joint and then ventured to the Pirates Bar to get beach party ready: buckets, neon paint and glitter!
One bucket each? Sure, why not!
Haad Rin is the area where the legendary Full Moon Party is hosted. Even though our trip didnâ€™t follow on a Full Moon Party, Thaintro creates itâ€™s own beach party for everyone to experience a taste of the real deal. On the beach you will experience fire shows, table dancing, musical chairs, limbo, basketball shooting contests and plenty of other party games to get people in the spirit!
Day #6: Massage and Chill Day
What could be better than a traditional Thai massage on the beach after a late night out at Haad Rin beach? Absolutely nothing! Thaintro includes a 45-minute massage at Sarana Bungalows overlooking the ocean in your packageâ€“ what a treat!
The remainder of the day was spent sun-tanning by the pool, visiting the markets in the town and playing some beach volleyball at the resort.
In the evening the group gathered in the yoga hall for the travel talk. Dan our guide went through various different destinations to visit following our week on Thaintro and some of the other Intro travel products in other countries (Bali, Vietnam & Australia). Thaintro really focuses on the total travel solution for each and every one of their travellers. From even before arriving into Thailand, to landing at the airport, to the entire week and leaving the group â€“ you are sorted from start to finish!
Day #7: Island Boat Trip + BBQ
Instead of exploring the island of Koh Phangan by land, Thaintro includes an island boat trip to experience the beauty of the island by water.
Our boat had a sun deck, bar and jumping platform which led into the water. We spent the day cruising the island, stopping along the way to snorkel, swimming from the boat and going kayaking.
Following lunch we headed to Malibu Beach for the rest of the afternoon. Malibu Beach has a nice beach bar serving food, drinks, and a secluded private beach just for us! We had the afternoon to ourselves to catch some rays, or play some beach volleyball.
When we got back from the boat trip our evening finished off with a freshly prepared BBQ at Sarana Bungalows.
Day #8: Elephant Experience & Farewell Dinner
On the bucket list of many backpackers to South East Asia is to visit an elephant sanctuary. Getting that elephant selfie is a must for any travellerâ€™s Instagram page. If you didn’t get an elephant photo in Thailand did you even go? Well no, so of course Thaintro pre-included this experience in the trip and it was definitely a highlight for many people. Just after breakfast, our group headed out and had the remainder of the morning to spend at the elephant sanctuary.
Splashing around with the elephants
The farewell dinner was hosted at a lovely Thai restaurant in town. As we were all going separate ways the following day it was nice to share stories from the week. We all looked back on day 1 in Bangkok and couldnâ€™t believe how well we all knew each other, all the amazing places we had seen and all the amazing things we had done. From temples, to tuk-tuk rides, overnight trains, boat trips, beach parties and more â€“ it really was an action packed week!
What an amazing week!Â
Day #9 â€“ Onward travels or off to the Phi Phi Islands!
For those who only booked onto the 9 day Thaintro package their trip finished on day 9. Many people (if they have time) choose to continue to travel with Thaintro on their 4 day Phi Phi island add-on package from Koh Phangan across the Gulf.
This add-on package is a separate trip to the 9-day trip. Included in this package is your transfers across the Gulf from Koh Phangan to Koh Phi Phi, 2 nights on Phi Phi, a half day sunset boat trip and the highlight; the overnight Maya bay sleep aboard trip.
To continue reading more about my Thailand trip in the Phi Phi Islands with Thaintro click HERE.& the adventure continues…
For more information on booking a holiday with Thaintro you can find their website HERE.