About Time: You Explored the Best of ThailandBy Gemma Perlin
If by some miracle you have not travelled Thailand as a backpacker (read: worked in a bar for six weeks and found yourself, probably picked up a dreadlock or two) follow our whistle stop tour of Thailand. Don’t miss the mango sticky rice – here’s how to whirl through Thailand in style:
Bangkok is not just dwarf wrestling, sex tourism and ping-pong girls. There’s incredible food, great hotels and all the street markets your heart could desire:
Banyan Tree Bangkok is located South Sathorn Road, in the business district – a large, impressive hotel, with the most incredible rooftop bar and restaurant. Come here for the amazing views over the city and a much-needed break from the mania of Bangkok – it’s a sanctuary for your senses with elegant rooms, classic service, and awesome spa offerings. One of the tallest and most innovative spa hotels in the city, Banyan Tree Bangkok is a little haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Bangkok is famous for its street food. Lose your inhibitions and try sticky rice, mango and coconut which might just be the best dish on the planet. Head to Chatuchak Market: an endless maze of anything and everything your mind can conjure – from rip-off bags and huge stone buddhas to marzipan kittens and local clothes.
Shopping malls have arrived in Bangkok with fury and weird fads sweep the nation (while we were there, we witnessed hysteria over goldfish shaped croissants). Check out some food courts which would put Selfridges to shame.
It is time to leave the manic capital behind and head to the second biggest city of Thailand, Chiang Mai, in the North.
Situated a fifteen-minute tuk-tuk ride outside of the old city of Chiang Mai, the Puripunn – named after the King of Thailand – is a boutique hotel set around a courtyard with a tranquil, shaded pool.
Thai service is like nothing you have ever experienced – iced drinks on welcome, fruit in the room, no bog-standard granny smiths but durians, lychees, longans galore. A private tuk-tuk service drops you in the old city. This is necessary in 42 degrees heat, where a five minute walk turns into a marathon challenge.
Chiang Mai is a fantastic cultural hub. Peruse the temples around the Old City, and punctuate with the ever-present coconut water stops (see you later Vita Coco) and Koy Soy, the specialty dish of the south, a spicy moreish chicken coconut soup.
Don’t Miss: Elephants
If you are willing to pay a little bit more, you can enjoy the company of an elephant who is not being secretly whipped whenever you turn your back. Visit Rantong Save and Rescue Elephant Sanctuary – these elephants used to be employed in the logging industry, but are now cared for here after the trade was banned.
It is hard to have a bad meal in Chang Mai. Our favourite was at Cooking Love – the Morning Glory (a favourite despite the name… and the context of Thailand…) – a beautiful dish of greens and oyster sauce. I suggest saving your party spirit for the South, but if you cannot wait then head to Zoe’s in Yellow AKA ‘Square of Despair’. We discovered backpackers here who hadn’t left the Square for four days.
Islands – Koh Tao
Private infinity pool, your own villa and a bathroom that challenges the boundaries between outdoor and inside – it’s enough to induce romantic feelings towards a toad.
Rent a moped to get to a secret reggae bar and beach, boasting the best papaya salad. We awkwardly forgot the name, but head left from Sairee, and it’s the first place after the pier. Wear a helmet though – Koh Tao has the highest rate of moped accidents and I accepts no responsibility for your injuries.
For night time barefoot fun, head to Lotus Bar. Drink a bucket, pretend you are on your gap yah and snog a dreadlocked Australian to the sounds of Rhianna’s Umbrella.
This resort is the real deal. Imagine the atmosphere of Triyoga transplanted on to an island. With a vegetarian menu with over 500 dishes, The Sanctuary imports quinoa, chia seeds and brown rice galore. Don’t become an Instagram cliché: we recommend you turn off your phone off and immerse yourself in everything from thrice daily yoga, hula hooping and mindfulness to spiritual exercises for your vagina.
Come for a week, and leave six months later. The crowd is a mixture of LA film directors, backpackers (in the incredibly reasonably priced dorms), burnt out bankers and hippy spirits.
Words by Gemma Perlin and Lisa Peitzal