For both of us, our first entry into Asia was Thailand. I visited back in 2011 as a graduation gift to myself with a group of college students, it being my first time in Asia. So, it was only fitting that during Matt’s first adventure, we started in Thailand! We began on a 10-hour flight from Cologne, Germany straight to Phuket, Thailand with no food and no entertainment (yay budget flights). We arrived at 4:00 am to a hotel that wasn’t able to accommodate us even though we paid for the night before, and then it started to rain… Yay Thailand! Our journey didn’t immediately get better. The next morning, we got up a little late and headed out for breakfast. I started to feel a little nauseous at the restaurant and decided to go the bathroom to splash some water on my face. As I was asking the waitress where the bathroom was, the room went black and I passed out. If you know me, this is not too uncommon, although it usually happens at the doctors when needles are involved. Either way, Matt and all the waitresses helped me into a nearby massage parlor to make sure I was ok. As I was coming too, I was a bit confused by the Asian woman pulling my shirt up and rubbing me down with Tiger Balm! Turns out my body didn’t agree with my dose of malaria medicine I’d taken that morning in combination with the lack of food and the unexpected Thai heat. All the women, both from the restaurant and spa, were so kind and took great care of me. They even continued to ask if I was ok every single time we passed by for the next 3 days. After a few hours of recovery, we ventured out that night to the infamous Bangla Rd, the main street full of strip clubs, “ping pong” shows and lady boys. It was a bit of a shock for Matt, but boy did it lift our spirits! We enjoyed a few drinks and an eventful evening of people watching. Definitely a paradise for single men!
The next day, we ventured to Phuket city center, and endured another randomly interesting day. We were meandering through the streets when we came upon what appeared to be a party at the temple. We peaked our heads inside the corridor just to see, and was immediately greeted by a sweet, little nun. She was obviously a bit confused about how we made our way to their party, but instantly excited that we were there! She spoke very good English and told us that there was a celebration at the monastery, so of course we must join her! We followed her as she gave us a wonderful tour of the temple. But it soon became clear that there were no other tourists at this celebration. Our nun friend decided that we needed to meet EVERYONE at the party and try the food they brought. As budget travelers, we rarely said no to free food. But after 6 full plates of food, we honestly had no room left to eat! She was so kind, and we could tell very excited to practice her English and show off her new American friends. The other guests were the kindest we had ever met and made us felt like celebrities! We left the monastery with warm hugs, full bellies, and 4 to go containers left of food to try! After exploring a few more temples, we hit our last stop for the day – the cat café! If you’re not familiar, it’s a place where they serve coffee and cake, and have cats you can play with. Many of the cats are up for adoption, and this specific café specialized in fluffy Persian cats. We spent the next 2 hours blissfully playing with kitties and eating matcha cake.
After Phuket, we travelled to Koh Phi Phi islands! We stayed in a small island bungalow on the far side of the beach, but it was pure heaven. Not many people, beach to ourselves, a nice coconut drink – yeah, we could’ve stayed there forever! At night, we ventured to the main section of the island and saw a fire show. Matt even volunteers during the show, and the performer spun 2 fire balls towards Matt’s face and lit the cigarette he was holding in his mouth! Afterwards, we found some food and the infamous Thai buckets for a night cap. The next few days were spent enjoying our semiprivate beach with crystal clear blue water, small fishes swimming by, and the perfect island vibes. On our third day, we decided to take a snorkel tour of the island. We went to Monkey beach to play with wild monkeys, saw a cave that houses $3,000 eggs for a special Thai soup, and swam with glow-in-the dark plankton. While we are usually not the tour type of people, this one was definitely worth it! Our last night we spent at a Muy Thai bar that allows anyone to jump into the ring (and you’re even rewarded with a bucket of alcohol!). It was so funny to watch the amateurs fight, until one guy got his nose broken! Koh Phi Phi easily was a highlight of our trip, and a beautiful stop!
Onward we went to our next coastal town of Krabi! It was here that I got to celebrate my 27th birthday. Matt has arranged for a nice hotel for us to stay at, which was a welcome change to some of our other stays. We spent the 1stnight just enjoying our hotel, the pool and the beautiful gardens surrounding it. The next day, we decided to go rock climbing at Railay Beach! We had heard it was a “rock climber’s paradise” and we were eager to go. Our guide’s name was Porn, and he thought there was no way I could belay Matt. Of course, he was wrong, and we had an amazing day climbing the cliffs along the beach. We even had a sighting of a possible Thai princess on vacation while we were there! On our way back to Ao Nang beach, a terrible storm started. Our boat was delayed for about an hour before the operators thought they could make it. I’m not sure they waited long enough, because it was a terrifying trip! Well, terrifying for me, a blast for Matt. The waves were so insane, I thought for sure we were going to flip over. “This is the crazy sh** my mother told me to avoid!” was running through my head while Matt was laughing and filming the whole time. Needless to say, we made it back to our beach safely, but soaked.
The next day, we got ready for our trip to Hua Hin and the Elephant Sanctuary. But with one day left in Krabi, we decided to explore one last temple – Tiger Cave Temple. The lower temple was beautifully built into the side of a cave, decorated with hundreds of gold Buddha and tiger statues. The upper temple was…more memorable. You know when you are doing something challenging and you think, “well if I could get through this, I can get through anything!” This was upper Tiger Cave temple for us. Ascending 1,270 steps in 100-degree heat and high humidity, there were times we surely thought we would die. But after 40 mins of the jungle and macaque monkeys passing alongside our path, we finally made it to the top. It was less impressive than lower temple, with just one large statue, but it did have some nice views of the surrounding jungle. Needless to say, we could’ve skipped the hike to get to the top, but Tiger Cave temple will forever remain proof of our willpower (or insanity). To finish off our day, we started our trek to Hua Hin. We took a tuk tuk and minivan ride to the sketchiest bus station I’ve ever been to. Totally open air in the middle of the woods, roosters running around, the roof propped up but a thick tree branch and so many mosquitos! Then the bus arrives, which surely was from the 1960’s and decked out in fuchsia purple and chrome. But we boarded, found a chair/bed and hunkered down for night. Throughout the night, we were woken up twice – once to change buses on the side of a dark road, and another for a 1 am food stop. We arrived to Hua Hin at 3 am, in dark and foreign streets with nowhere to stay. We walked into a hostel and planned on just sleeping in the lobby until our next bus. But as we were settling in, a woman in her pajamas came to reception. We haggled for a shower and 6 hours of sleep at half the nightly price, and tried to get some rest.
If we hadn’t guessed already, Thailand was going to be a whirlwind adventure, and this was only part 1! We had many ups and downs, but we were ready to continue this crazy roller coaster ride! Next stop: Elephant Sanctuary!