In the middle of a global pandemic, travel across the world has stopped in its tracks. New Zealand remains locked down at a COVID-19 Alert Level 4, and my job in the hospitality industry has drastically slowed.
No different to other frequent travellers, we had several trips cancelled over the coming months – but will gladly stay tucked up at home as the world beats this scary and seemingly relentless virus.
While it’s certainly a strange and unsettling time, I’m thankful that we recently squeezed in an epic two-week adventure over Christmas – and for the distraction to reflect on it now. I needed to catch up on our Thailand recaps anyway – so here goes!
Thailand. What an absolute dream.
Since moving to New Zealand, we’ve been using our holidays as a chance to not only explore new parts of the world, but to catch up with family and friends at the same time. Thailand was the first big trip we’ve taken just the two of us in quite some time.
While we would have loved the company, I have to admit that it was really easy to go with the flow and do whatever we felt like day to day. Of course I had spent hours and hours planning the destinations, transport and hotels, but left much of the in between really flexible. It meant we were able to relax when we needed and ramp up the activity when we got bored – and it was honestly so perfect.
We spent the first week as city slickers – first Bangkok, then Chiang Mai. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with rest and relaxation while island hopping in the south.
From infinity pools to street food, an elephant sanctuary and a cooking class, longtails and cocktails – it was a perfect two weeks. I’ll separate out my posts by region, so first up…
Our Bangkok experience was made up of exploring ancient temples and watching smoggy sunsets from rooftops. And a lot of taxi, train and boat rides.
We stayed at the AVANI+ Riverside on the “other” side of the Chao Phraya. We wanted to start off the trip with relaxation and luxury, and found that our money went way further on this side of the river. The free 10-minute shuttle boat across to the city centre was only a very small inconvenience, made completely worth it by our rooftop infinity pool and the most amazing breakfast spread we’ve ever experienced.
Though our bodies were on 3:00am New Zealand time when we checked in, we couldn’t resist a celebratory arrival cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop bar. But we quickly called it a night after a quick cheers, so that we were well rested for our lazy pool session the next day.
I highly recommend easing into Bangkok this way. After a long flight directly from wrapping up work, we needed an anxiety-free mindset before navigating our Triple Temple afternoon. We took a taxi to Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) on our side of the river, and after ogling at its intricate mosaic design, stairs and spires (called prangs), caught another shuttle boat to visit our next two stops.
We popped in to see Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha), followed by The Grand Palace. These are very close together, but when crowded, the walk will be much longer as you’ll be directed through a maze behind a queue of tourists to the entry point. We had read about the scams – of swindlers trying to convince you the temples were closed due to Thai public holidays – and we were very proud of ourselves for being in the know when this happened to us. Don’t fall prey to these guys!
Though we were exhausted after our full day, by this point, we had our Thailand temple etiquette down. We came prepared wearing long pants (no small feat in the heat), shoes that we could easily slip on but that were substantial enough to meet The Grand Palace’s dress code, and with small bills to pay our tourist entrance fee.
After regrouping, we ended the night on Silom road, sipping cocktails in style at the Pullman hotel’s rooftop bar, Scarlett. But first, we had dinner at one of the highest rated restaurants in the city, Namsaah Bottling Trust. It was definitely Westernised, but also incredibly delicious and really high quality compared to some of the more authentic street food we’d have later on in the trip. Admittedly, I mainly chose it because it’s in a traditional bright pink house, each room restored with eclectic decor. The cutest!
On our second full Bangkok day, we explored the more modern side of the city. We started with the luxury shopping malls because we heard they were a must – but it wasn’t really our thing, so all we bought was overpriced Starbucks (another theme of the trip).
Wandering street markets with time to kill before our dinner reservation at Soul Food Mahanakorn (this place was incredible!), the heat became a bit too much.
After getting frustratingly lost down a side street looking for the Artbox Market (that was closed until evening), we started looking for someplace to stop for a beer – but something even better came along…
We regrouped at a random massage spa called Lavana, and it was one of the very best decisions we made all trip.
Massages are cheap in Thailand so we tried to replicate this several more times, but nothing compared to our “foot” massages in side-by-side La-Z-Boy chairs in a cool dark room. Our talented masseuses massaged our tired legs, plus head, neck and shoulders for 1.5 hours before sending us back into the chaos of downtown Bangkok. Pure bliss was the only way to describe this pace.
We tried to hang onto that relaxed feeling throughout the night and the next day – and did nothing else but squeeze in even more rooftop pool time before flying to our next city – Chiang Mai!