THAILAND

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56 DAYS IN THAILAND – THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

The best, worst, scariest and most bizarre moments from our first 56 days in Thailand

REFLECTIONS ON KOH PHRA THONG

Looking for a gorgeous Thai island unspoilt by mass tourism? Look no further. We only decided to visit remote Koh Phra Thong at the last minute. And what an inspired choice it was

ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK

How to get the most out of 24 hours in Bangkok, Thailand’s frenetic capital city

THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR THE ELEPHANTS OF CHIANG MAI

How we spent an emotional day with elephants at Lek Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park, near Chiang Mai

THIRD CLASS TRAINS AND WORLD CLASS SEAFOOD

Our favourite way to travel in Thailand and how we discovered some of the best seafood we’ve ever tasted at Prachuap Khiri Khan

SENSORY OVERLOAD AT KHAO SOK

The sights, the sounds and the smells of the jungle

CONFRONTING SNAKES, BATS & SPIDERS AT CHEOW LAN LAKE

A fantastic two-day tour of Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park, where my phobia of spiders was to be well and truly put to the test

TREKKING & CAVING AROUND THAM LOD

Exploring Tham Lod and some of the other natural wonders of beautiful Mae Hong Son province

KOH KRADAN – A PARADISE LOST

Another island, another glorious beach, another 38 degrees of blistering heat

KOH LIPE – STILL AN IDYLLIC ISLAND?

The beaches and the food. The crowds and the rubbish

LIMPING INTO LIPE

All aboard for the Tigerline hi-speed ferry from Ko Lanta to Ko Lipe – tell you what make that the “slow boat to Lipe”

REFLECTIONS ON RAILAY

Widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches – so naturally we had to check it out

FOODIE HEAVEN IN PHUKET OLD TOWN

Our first point of call when we landed in Thailand was Phuket Old Town, for which our taste buds were truly grateful

 

WHERE WE’VE STAYED

 

PHUKET TOWN

99 Old Town Boutique Guest House
Our guest house

99 Old Town Boutique Guest House

Cost 890 baht per night

What that included bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 3 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 5 Food n/a Value for money 4

What we thought
Located right in the centre of the old town in historic Thalang Road it was perfect for getting the most out of Phuket Town. Lovely old building, four-poster bed and very comfortable mattress. The only downside were the paper thin walls and noise from the street – which is why we took ear plugs away with us!

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

AO NANG

Ban Sanai Resort
Ban Sainai Resort, Ao Nang

Ban Sainai Resort

Nights 2

Cost 4400 baht per night 

What that included bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

Rating ***1/2
Friendliness  3 Cleanliness 3 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 5 Food 3 Value for money 2

What we thought
This was our splurge for when we were acclimatising with our travelling and, in that respect, it fell short of what we expected. For instance the bathroom was rather shabby and the food was average yet expensive. However, the pool was superb, as were the grounds and location. Ultimately we felt it was overpriced and we found better accommodation for much less.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

KRABI TOWN

Greenery Hotel

Nights 2

Cost 850 baht per night

What that included Room only, air-con, wifi

Rating **
Friendliness 1 Cleanliness 3 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food n/a Value for money 2

What we thought
We didn’t like Krabi Town particularly and neither were we over-fond of this hotel overall. The surly staff didn’t help. Neither did the burst plumbing which led to Ian getting soaked while he tried to stem the flow. Ultimately we used it to catch up on things using the wifi which, to be fair, was efficient enough.

Trip Advisor reviews

KOH LANTA

Lanta Castaway Resort
Lanta Castaway Resort

Lanta Castaway Resort

Nights
5 (wood/bamboo bungalow) + 5 (concrete bungalow)

Cost
1147 baht per night (wood/bamboo bungalow)
1600 baht per night (concrete bungalow)

What that included
Room only, fan, wifi (wood/bamboo bungalow)
Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi (concrete bungalow)

Rating ****1/2
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 5 Food 5 Value for money 4

What we thought
Super-friendly and helpful staff, great food, superb location on the beach, PADI dive school on site. The only negative was the oppressive heat in the wooden bungalow. Thoroughly recommended.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

KOH LIPE

Gypsy Resort

Gypsy Resort

Cost
892 per night

What that included
Room only (wood/bamboo bungalow), fan, wifi

Rating **
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 3 Location 4 Comfort 2 Facilities 1 Food n/a Value for money 2

What we thought
We got off to a bad start when we found out that, despite booking for seven nights in advance online, the advertised rate for walk-ins was actually 100 baht cheaper. In addition, the wifi hardly worked, the whole place closed down by 7pm each night and we were ripped off on a boat trip they arranged for us. Nice flower garden and sunrises on the beach, though.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

KOH KRADAN

Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost, Koh Kradan

Paradise Lost

Nights
3

Cost
1300 baht per night

What that included
Room only (wood bungalow), fan, wi-fi

Rating ***
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 2 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 3 Value for money 2

What we thought
We were divided on our opinion of the room. Ian liked it but Nicky felt it was dirty, particularly the bathroom. The location away from the beach and within the jungle was lovely, but the owner appeared somewhat disinterested and everything was unnecessarily over-priced (40 baht for a bottle of water!). The food was certainly plentiful but it was definitely a case of quantity over quality.

Trip Advisor reviews

TRANG

Yamawa Guest House
Yamawa Guest House

Yamawa Guest House

 

Nights
2

Cost
450 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 3 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food n/a Value for money 5

What we thought
Amazing value for the price. The room itself was basic but spotlessly clean, the wifi was fast, the air-con good and it had a fridge! Best of all, the family who run it were very friendly and helpful. Thinking about the place just raises a smile for both of us.

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Trip Advisor reviews

KOH SAMUI

Kanlaya Park Motel

Nights
2

Cost
1000 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wi-fi

Rating ***1/2
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 2 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food n/a Value for money 4

What we thought
Great value for money and spotlessly clean, it’s only let down being a rather poor
location. Our expectations were low but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

 

KHLONG SOK, KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK

Our Jungle House
Our Jungle House

Our Jungle House

Nights
3

Cost
1177 baht per night

What that included
Room only (wood/bamboo bungalow), fan, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

What we thought
Ian liked the room and its setting within the jungle more than Nicky did. A stunning location overall, let down by fairly average food. Although it wasn’t the resort’s fault, there were a number of extremely noisy French, American and Danish guests who made it difficult for us to get a full night’s sleep – you’re in the jungle with open-to-nature rooms, not a club 18-30 resort guys!

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

CHEOW LAN LAKE

Tone Tuey Floating Bungalows
Tone Tuey Floating Bungalows

Tone Tuey Floating Bungalows

Nights
1

Cost
(Included in two-day tour – 450 baht if booked independently)

What that included
Room only, mattress

Rating ***
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 2 Location 5 Comfort 2 Facilities 2 Food 3 Value for money 4

What we thought
This came as part of a superb two-day package to Cheow Lan Lake. The bungalows are basically over-sized kennels on a raft with a mattress, mosquito net and lightbulb. The boardwalk along the front of the rafts was a bit rickety though – and the toilets were a scary 50-metre walk along those boards in complete darkness at night. But the setting on the lake and waking up in the morning to the sights and sounds of the jungle were unforgettable.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

KHLONG SOK, KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK

Palmview Resort
Palmview Resort

Palmview Resort

Nights
2

Cost
780 baht per night

What that included
Room only (wood bungalow), fan, wifi

Rating **** 
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 5 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 4

What we thought
Very friendly and welcoming family run resort, close to Our Jungle House and set amongst palm trees. Clean and spacious wooden bungalow too.

TripAdvisor reviews

RANONG

Palmy Home Resort
Palmy Home Hotel

Palmy Home Hotel

Nights
2

Cost
500 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wifi

Rating **1/2
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 2 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food n/a Value for money 3

What we thought
As a basic room with wifi and air-con it was ok.

 

KHURABURI

Khuraburi Resort
Khuraburi Resort

Khuraburi Resort

Nights
1

Cost
500 baht per night

What that included
Room only (concrete bungalow), air-con, wifi

Rating **
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 1 Location 3 Comfort 2 Facilities 2 Food n/a Value for money 2

What we thought
The room smelled damp and the floor was carpeted with lino that had lifted. Dated furniture and a very basic bathroom. However, wifi was good and there was a porch to sit on overlooking the river. For one night only en route to the ferry boats in Khuraburi.

Website

KOH PHRA THONG

Phra Thong Nature Resort
Phra Thong Nature Resort

Phra Thong Nature Resort

Nights
12

Cost
600 baht per night

What that included
Room only (wood/bamboo bungalow), fan, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 5

What we thought
May 2015 (6 nights): Beautifully relaxing place on a gem of an island. Sleep in your wood/bamboo bungalow to the sound of wildlife and the waves crashing on the nearby beach, And it’s a shoes-off experience too, as all the grounds are sand-based. Highly recommended.
December 2015 (6 nights): With different staff and some issues over transportation we had a less positive experience on our second visit, which also coincided with the Christmas season. Our ratings are based on our first visit.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

CHUMPHON

Chumphon Gardens Hotel
Chumphon Gardens Hotel

Chumphon Gardens Hotel

Nights
3

Cost
590 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wifi

Rating ***
Friendliness 1 Cleanliness 4 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food n/a Value for money 3

What we thought
More like a business hotel than a tourist one. Surly staff but it served its purpose well (air-con and wifi) while we planned ahead.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

Sun Beach Guest House
Sun Beach Guest House

Sun Beach Guest House

Nights
4

Cost
1100 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wifi, pool

Rating ***1/2
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 5 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 4 Food n/a Value for money 4

What we thought
Spotlessly clean and bright room, with good wifi, air-con and balcony overlooking a lovely small pool. Could have been perfect had it not been for the German co-owner who took it upon himself to get blind drunk on our last night and trash the place at two in the morning (furniture thrown into the pool, Buddhist shrine vandalised, two panes of glass in reception kicked in). Bizarre.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

 

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

Grandma’s House
Grandma's House

Grandma’s House

Nights
3

Cost
890 baht per night

What that included
Bed & breakfast, fan, wifi

Rating ***
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

What we thought
Lovely old converted Chinese shophouse – all polished wooden floors and antique furniture. Our room faced the street and so was quite noisy at night but it’s perfectly placed in the centre of PKK to explore the seafood restaurants on the promenade and the morning market.

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Trip Advisor reviews

 

BANGKOK

Phranakorn-Nornlen
Phranakorn-Nornlen

Phranakorn-Nornlen

Nights
4

Cost
2340 baht per night

What that included
Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 5 Location 3 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 5 Value for money 3

What we thought
Lovely retro-styled boutique hotel with very friendly staff. Kudos to whoever designed the place as the attention to detail on the retro-stylings from the 1950s and beyond is incredible. Best of all was the sumptuous breakfast served freshly in front of you on converted rickshaws by a small army of mini-chefs. Our favourites were the Masaman/Red/Green chicken curry with rotis, three-egg omelettes and ultra-fresh vegetable spring rolls. Highly recommended.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

PAI

Pai Chan Cottages
The view from our Pai bungalow

The view from Pai Chan Cottages

Nights
2

Cost
500 baht per night

What that included
Room only, wifi

Rating ***
Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 2 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 4

What we thought
The best thing about our bungalow was the setting next to rice paddy fields and the mountains beyond, which we could look out to from our bedroom by opening a set of four large doors. Unfortunately, the owners didn’t seem too interested in maintaining the place – a dirty swimming pool, overgrown garden and pathway, despite the fact that they seemed to spend most of the day sitting around with their extended family and/or friends. Which is a shame because the place could be a real gem. Not overly friendly service either.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

THAM LOD

Cave Lodge
Cave Lodge

Cave Lodge

Cost
700 baht per night

What that included
Room only, fan, wifi

Rating ***1/2
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 4

What we thought
Perfect rural/jungle setting for a few days trekking, caving and kayaking. The accommodation is basic, but we were glad we upgraded to the sealed bungalows as the noise around us at night from the local wildlife was a bit un-nerving! The lodge is owned and managed by a legendary caver in these parts – John Spies, an Australian who’s responsible for discovering most of the 200+ caves in the area. Most of the activities in the area can be arranged directly through the lodge and this is a good enough reason alone to book in here. As long as you don’t get freaked out by the sounds and wildlife of the jungle surrounding you.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

CHIANG MAI

Baan Hanibah Bed & Breakfast
Baan Hanibah

Baan Hanibah

Nights
7

Cost
1450 baht per night

What that included
Bed & breakfast, aircon, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 5 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 3 Value for money 3

What we thought
Comfortable, clean, friendly and in a good location, away from the noise of the busy old town. Possibly slightly over-priced but we found it a relaxing place to stay for a week. Lots of dark wood throughout,including the upstairs floors. Our only complaint was that we had a ground floor room which meant that we could hear anybody moving around in the bedroom above us. And they certainly did move around!

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

CHIANG DAO

Chiang Dao Nest 2
Chiang Dao Nest 2

Chiang Dao Nest 2

Nights
4

Cost
945 baht per night

What that included
Room only, fan

Rating ****
Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 3 Food 4 Value for money 4

What we thought
Beautiful setting beneath the mountains and a great base to explore the local area. The place is renowned for its authentic Northern Thai food, and we certainly did have a few stunning dishes. But to be fair it was also a little hit and miss – and we couldn’t work out why as the chef didn’t change. Nevertheless, we’d still recommend it as a place to stay. You can use the pool in its sister guest house (Chiang Mai Nest) just up the road, too.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

TRAT

Rimklong Boutique Hotel
Rimklong Boutique Hotel

Rimklong Boutique Hotel

Nights
2

Cost
1100 baht per night

What that included
Room only, air-con, wifi

Rating ****
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 4 Comfort 5 Facilities 4 Food n/a Value for money 3

What we thought
Everything you’d expect from a quality “boutique” hotel – large super-comfy bed, immaculate room, top service, great location in Trat’s “old town”. Just too many mosquitos!

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

KOH MAK

Good Time Resort & Villas
Good Time Resort & Villas

Good Time Resort & Villas

Nights
7

Cost
1800 baht per night

What that included
Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

Rating ***1/2
Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 3 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 4 Value for money 3

What we thought
We were upgraded to an “Island Suite”, which was lovely – huge, comfortable bed in a huge, clean room with a large balcony overlooking tropical gardens. One caveat, though – the first room we were put into was just awful. Musty smelling room, old furniture, uncomfortable, cheap mattress etc – and this was next door to the room we eventually ended up in following our complaint! Bizarre. The food in the restaurant was great but there was just no atmosphere or a sense of anybody caring about the place or its guests. A shame, really.

Website

Trip Advisor reviews

IMAGES OF THAILAND

PHUKET OLD TOWN

Away from the beaches and crowds of Phuket’s coast, the Old Town has its own charms. If you’re foodie it’s not to be missed, and just wandering around its old streets is a nice way of spending an afternoon, too.
Read more at Foodie Heaven in Phuket Old Town.

GREEN MANGO SALAD

Speaking of food, it doesn’t get much better than in Thailand. Even if it has a Burmese influence, such as this Green Mango Salad from the excellent Forever Restaurant in Koh Lipe.

KOH LIPE

It may not be the undiscovered tropical paradise of merely a few years ago, but Koh Lipe still has its fair share of powder white beaches. However, the increasing onslaught of tourism is already stretching the island’s resources to the limit.
Read more at Koh Lipe – still an idyllic island?

KOH KRADAN

Just a few hours by boat from Koh Lipe is another of the South Andaman’s island paradises, Koh Kradan. Its fabulous beach gets overrun with day-trippers between the hours of 11 and 3, but there’s always the escape route back through the jungle to the Paradise Lost resort.
Read more at Koh Kradan – a paradise lost.

KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK

Jungle, lake and spectacular limestone karsts combine to make Khao Sok one of our favourite places on the planet. Make sure you spend the night in one of the lake’s floating bungalows, too.
Read more at Confronting snakes, spiders and bats at spectacular Cheow Lan Lake.

KOH PHRA THONG

11 kilometres of fine, golden sand with nobody else around, except for the occasional crab darting its way down to the sea. The perfect place to spend Christmas Day on what was our second visit to the island.
Read more at Reflections on Koh Phra Thong.

2004 TSUNAMI ANNIVERSARY

Ravaged by the infamous 2004 tsunami, the islanders of Koh Phra Thong commemorate the anniversary with candles, music and reflection. Meanwhile, turtles are sculptured into the sand as a symbolic nod to the loggerhead turtles that are synonymous with the island.

DRIED SQUID SNACKS

Revered for its promenade seafood restaurants, Prachuap Khiri Khan is still visited by relatively few foreign tourists. Which is all the more reason to go and sample its gourmet delights. These dried squid snacks are sold in converted rickshaws all along the promenade.
Read more at Third class trains and world class seafood.

GRAND PALACE, BANGKOK

Get there early to avoid the tour groups and you’ll be rewarded with hassle-free access to one of the most spectacular complexes in South East Asia. Then get the hell out of there!

WAT PHO, BANGKOK

Arguably even more impressive than the Grand Palace, and much less crowded, Wat Pho is home to the amazing Reclining Buddha statue and the original Thai Massage school.
Read more at One night in Bangkok.

NORTH GATE JAZZ CLUB

Live music in a tiny bar filled with seats spilling out onto the street. We’re not particularly fans of jazz but it remains one of the highlights of our time in Chiang Mai.

SEAFOOD NOODLE SOUP

We loved this breakfast dish from one of Trat’s old quarter cafes. We’ve no idea what the name of the cafe was but this unpretentious, exquisite, spicy broth was the best thing we ate for breakfast on our entire 15-month trip. Love Thai food!

MORE ON THAILAND

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