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Ayutthaya Temple

6 WEEKS IN THAILAND For Under $3000

6 WEEKS IN THAILAND For Under $3000

Welcome to a world of beaches and mountains. Welcome to a world full of temples and full moon parties. Welcome to rural towns and expansive cities. Welcome to Thailand!

MY HEART SWINGS BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE NEED FOR ROUTINE AND THE URGE TO RUN.

VISA

A number of nationalities can enter Thailand without a visa, whilst others can obtain a visa on arrival. Arriving via plane, you will be granted a 30-day visa, whilst border crossings only allow you 15 days to visit. Note, some lucky countries will automatically be given 90 days upon arrival ie. Chile, Brazil & Korea.

If intending to stay longer, it is easiest to extend your visa upon arrival, however if you need to do it as an afterthought, you most definitely can! Simply visit a local immigration office, fill out the paperwork, pay 1,900 baht, and you’re in!

Check out these links to help you on your way:

WEATHER

Thailand has three main seasons to be aware of when planning your travels:

  1. Cool: (October – February) Also considered high season, so expect more people, higher prices & more action
  2. Hot: (February – May) April is typically the hottest month; Burning takes place throughout March & April
  3. Rainy: (May – October) At the first rain, smoke from the burning clears to reveal beautiful blue skies, but do prepared to get wet

SEE

Check out overviews of the places we visited:

EAT

You’ve probably tried a number of Thai dishes in your home country – Pad Thai, Green Curry & Fried Rice are popular choices in Thailand too. There are also a number of popular regional dishes – Isan is known for its spicy flavours; Chaing Mai is synonymous with Khao Sok & the infamous Tom Yam Goong. Don’t pass up the mango and sticky rice offerings – our personal favourite! To wash it all down, you can’t go wrong with a Thai tea. For something a but stronger, opt for a Chang beer or the local whiskey, Sang Som.

BUDGET

We budgeted for $66.42 USD/day (for 2 people). Actual was $66.58/day x 39 days = $2,609 total.

Breakdown below:

  • Accommodation – $396
  • Beverages – $328
  • Food – $507
  • Transport – $460 *
  • Entertainment – $835 **
  • Miscellaneous – $82 ***

*includes inter island transfers & flights; excludes international flights

**includes our visa extension – $109; excludes starting our Advanced Open Water Course – $291 for 2 people & Rob’s tailored suit – $242 

***includes laundry, dive bag, ring, pants & ATM fees

OUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Diving at one of the worlds top 10 sites – Hin Daeng & Hin Muang
  • Catching up with family in Phukhet
  • Khao San Road!
  • Cruising around Ayutthaya temples by boat
  • Camping in the jungle and interacting with wild elephants & gibbons
  • Taking in a 2015 champions (Go Buriram!) soccer match
  • Learning to cook amazing Thai food
  • Completing the Mae Hong Son motorbike loop
  • Celebrating Songkran!

TIPS

  • Be aware when budgeting that Phuket is far more expensive than anywhere else in Thailand
  • Save time & money by renting a motorbike to tour around – well worth it if you are confident on Thai roads
  • Some stores won’t sell alcohol between 2pm-5pm, so be sure to stock up if you’re planning on doing some day drinking
  • Show respect by dressing appropriately when visiting the temples (mostly relevant to females – keep your knees & shoulders covered)
Mae Hong Son Loop

Mae Hong Son Loop – 1 Bike – 700 Km – 4 Days

Motorbike that is. We’re not crazy enough to do the loop on a bicycle as many of the cyclists we’ve seen on the road.
Whilst our story is not an original one (as thousands of people do the Mae Hong Son Loop every year), it is a colourful one. So sit back, read along and enjoy the ride.

SOMEWHERE, SOMETHING INCREDIBLE IS WAITING TO BE KNOWN. -CARL SAGAN

DAY 1: CHIANG MAI => PAI

128 kms. We packed our bags, loaded our bike and away we went, approaching the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. We heard from a number of reputable sources that Chiang Dao was worth the slight detour (80 km deviation). We checked out the Chiang Dao Cave, cruised around the town, and had some lunch. We didn’t see what the fuss was about and aptly named this place ‘Chiang Dud’, before heading off to Pai.

The road to Pai is mountainous and very scenic. It is a great ride for bike lovers with many twists and turns to keep you entertained.  We were glad we didn’t take a minibus to this location and if you do (which a lot of day trippers do), we’d suggest travel sickness tablets!

Pai. From the stories we’d heard, we painted a mental picture of a packed tourist town where backpackers get ‘lost’. This left us with mixed feelings on whether to visit. But, we’re glad we did as we were completely wrong!  We checked in and retreated to our bungalow, away from the party scene at the villa pool. Upon venturing out, we discovered a beautiful world full of life and adventure! The party scene is there if that’s what you’re looking for, but you can just as easily escape from it all and become engrossed in the beautiful surroundings. We had a great dinner with new friends and a bigger night than expected.

STAY: Darling View Point Bungalows – 450 baht typically gets you a room, though we were fortunate enough to be upgraded to a private bungalow. Once Anne found out we were from the US, she insisted we stay in her “America” bungalows

PLAY: Sunset Bar – enjoy your favourite drink, have a mushroom shake or buy weed from the bar – yes, anything goes in Pai.

Circus – learn to twirl fire, flip on trampolines and much more if you’re up for it

EAT: Walking Street

TIP: Enjoy Pai for the laid back vibe and experience this lovely community for yourself

DAY 2: PAI => MAE HONG SON

109 kms. There are plenty of opportunities for trekking, visiting waterfalls & rafting down the river. Stop in Soppong to check out the Tham Lod cave, where you can ride a bamboo raft through the middle of it.

We went in April, the hottest month of the year. And the driest. Rivers were low, streams were dry and waterfalls were reduced to a trickle, so we had to give most of the water activities a miss.

We arrived in Mae Hong Son, namesake of the loop, quite hungover, so we were happy to check in and relax in our room for a bit. Later that night, we emerged and took a walk around the lake. The night markets weren’t on due to it being off season, but we enjoyed our time nonetheless.

The next morning we headed to the “Long Necks” village. It was a beautiful trip, about 20 minutes out of town. These villages have often received bad reputations – claiming to be exploiting its’ people. However, upon further research and speaking to a village local, we found that the tourist money is helping supplement the locals’ income, similar to other village attractions.

It was a great insight into the local way of life and even more pleasing to see that the customs have evolved over time. We were happy to see that no longer do young women wear the large neck rings which cause harm – they’ve downsized!

STAY: Palm Guesthouse – 400 baht will see you comfortably settled for the night!

PLAY: Stroll around the lake – take in sunrise or sunset; Visit the local Karen ‘Long Necks‘ for an authentic look at their lifestyle in the village (250 baht/person entrance fee)

Check out the Sutongpe Bridge

EAT: Sunflower – prime location on the lake with great food & affordable prices

TIP: Beware of ‘Wet Crossings’ – small rivers that run over the road creating a very slippery surface which can be a challenge to cross on a motorbike

DAY 3: MAE HONG SON => MAE SARIANG

164 kms. Lush greenery, followed by dry riverbeds. It’s sad to see the country in such a drought, as they so heavily rely on the waterways for business and pleasure. There were also buffalo in the fields, followed by cows walking down the street (always using the shoulder for safety purposes, haha).

Be sure to take the opportunity to venture up mountain lookouts which test your nerves (and brakes on the way down) and provide you with excellent panoramic views over the countryside.

Arriving at Mae Sariang, we could immediately tell the town had a nice, welcoming feel. Accommodations are located to take in views over the river. We ventured out to eat at the local market and embraced our senses as we were struck by the smells of local cooking (and our cheapest meal in Thailand – only 10 baht!)

STAY: Good View Guesthouse – nestled along the river, 300 baht gets you a riverside, double room with fan and private bathroom

PLAY: Ching Ching Cafe – for a couple quite drinks in a cool, eclectic atmosphere

EAT: Night market; Cowboy Night

TIP: Look for swings overlooking the river hidden along the road

DAY 4: MAE SARIANG => CHIANG MAI

190 kms. Ah, the last day after a trip filled with adventure. We set out early as we had some ground to cover and we were eager to arrive back in Chiang Mai to prepare for Songkran.

We stopped for an early breakfast along the roadside and ordered two of the house specials – even with the language barrier we have been fortunate enough to eat delicious food.

It was the end of burning season so there was minimal smoke and fire along the route, but we did however see a number of spot fires, so caution is still required.

The roads on the last part of the trip are straight with sweeping bends and allow for opening the throttle on the 125cc scooter 😉

Be sure to check the contract and return your bike within the allotted time. Often there is a grace period or small charge for an extra hour or so.

STAY: House No. 11 – 500 baht (raised to 600 for Songkran) gets you one of the best facilities we experienced in Thailand – private room & bath, A/C and cable TV, and a lovely host to boot – thanks Tony!

PLAY: Songkran! Check out our top tips on surviving Songkran

EAT: Blue Sky – amazing local food; Loco Elvis’ – best chips & salsa in town!

TIP: Rent your bike/scooter from Mr. Mechanic

Songkran - We're Ready

Top 10 Tips For Surviving Songkran

LIFE IS A BALANCE OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO. -RUMI

Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year, held 13-15 April each year. It is a time to forgive, forget and start anew. Water is a key part of the holiday, used to wash away ones sins and bad luck.

Today, it has evolved into a huge water festival, taking part in every town, on every street and we wanted to share some handy tips to making the most of Songkran!

1. Stay central. Not for the festivities (as there’s plenty of fun to be had down the backstreets too), but for accomodation purposes. It’s good to have the option to be able to retreat, rest and refresh as need be.

2. Buy a second hand watergun. We bought ours at Big C for 250 baht. Upon checking in at our hotel, we found out they were selling bigger and better, second hand guns, for only 100 baht.

3. Watch the parade. The Thai New Year is about so much more than waterguns and buckets. It’s about tradition, and like New Years in most cultures, it’s about starting anew. Make the time to take in the cultural side of the festivities as well.

Songkran Local Traditions

Songkran Local Traditions

4. Stay hydrated. With clean, bottled water of course! Try to keep your mouth closed, which will greatly reduce the chance you’ll end up sick from ingesting dirty water (yuck!)

5. Don’t put any conditions on getting wet. You will get wet – head to toe – so be prepared. We saw a man pleading not to be shot at because he had documents – he was instantly bombarded. We saw a Japanese couple taking pictures with their iPad (unprotected) – drenched. Carry a dry bag , or invest in one of the phone protectors they sell on the street.

6. You can leave early. If you’re on a tight schedule, or are happy that a day or two will satisfy your experience, it’s good to know that you can get out of town before the festival concludes. Just make sure you leave early in the morning to stay as dry as possible as the real action doesn’t start until mid morning.

7. Tours still operate during Songkran. You may still get wet getting to and from, but if you are keen to visit Tiger Kingdom or Night Safari, services still operate.

8. Don’t ride a motorbike. There’s really no need as you can walk everywhere and you’ll be even more of a target. Plus, it’s really dangerous. There was 30% increase on accidents this year over last – please, don’t become another statistic!

9. Make friends with the local ‘gangs.’ Safety in numbers. There are two types of people in Songkran: 1. people walking/riding past who get drenched and 2. gangs of people with a large water supply attacking people passing by. We chose to be the latter and had a great time.

Songkran - Cheers

Songkran – Cheers

10. Be respectful. Don’t wet monks, babies or the elderly. Although this is tempting when you are holding a watergun, it’s all about respecting the local culture.

Khon Kaen - Welcome

Khon Kaen with Friends

LAUGHTER IS TIMELESS. IMAGINATION HAS NO AGE & DREAMS ARE FOREVER – WALT DISNEY

Khon Kaen would have been just another blip on our radar, another train stop, another passing town, but it wasn’t. Not even a little bit – not even at all.

We met Amphai. A gentle man, extremely proficient in English. He introduced us to his wife, Tiu, and within an hours chat on the train, they invited us to visit them in their home town.

We were actually headed the other way. But we told them we’d do our best and try to come back and visit after our next stop which we had already planned.

In deciding whether to make the trip, we determined if it was only 3 hours, we’d go. If it was 5, we’d have to break the news to our new found friends. In asking at the bus terminal, they advised it would be a 4 hour trip – so it was decided; we wouldn’t go. But, at that exact moment, we received an email from Amphai asking about our arrival details. We instantly knew it was our destiny – we changed our mind, bought the bus tickets and away we went.

Amphai, a man twice our age in years (73 to be exact) anxiously awaited us at the bus station. He was eager to show us the local sites – to introduce us to his friends. He invited us into his home and into his family (literally – he called us his daughter and son). He shared stories of his pastimes, showed us photos of his boxing days, and entertained us with food aplenty. It was a memorable 48 hours that will forever stay in our hearts!

Funny Hats

Funny Hats & Posing

 

Lunch with friends

Lunch with friends

For us, it was more about the simple pleasures – where our best experiences were getting to know our new ‘family.’ So, whilst we can’t give you a full rundown of Khan Kaen as a place, below are the highlights we can recommend.

Khon Kaen Temple

Khon Kaen Temple

STAY: The Cotton – fresh, clean & comfortable, 450 baht for a private room

PLAY: Explore the temples & uncover the mystery of the dinosaur

EAT: Like most cities in Thailand, head to the markets!

TIPS:
– Become friends with people who aren’t your age

– Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours

CHIANG RAI – SOMEWHERE BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL

Being a little ‘templed out’ from the previous 5 weeks in Thailand, we knew we’d have to make a couple exceptions in Chiang Rai.

The city boasts the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), which is absolutely stunning! To enter to Nirvana, you must first cross through Hell, with ghoulish hands reaching up – not sure if they’re trying to escape or pull you in. Either way, on the other side, you’ll be surrounded by white structures, with mirrored mosaic tiles scattered throughout, giving it the perception of sparkling. The only thing not pure white at the temple is the women’s toilets – they are situated in a beautiful, ornate building covered in gold (nah, not 24 karat – just in colour). It’s definitely worth the visit, and being free, you really have no excuse not to go!

White Temple

White Temple

 

White Temple - Hands of hell

White Temple – Hands of hell

Another free attraction worth visiting is the Black House (Baan Dum). As a contrast to the heavenly White Temple, this indoor/outdoor museum showcases a local artists’ interpretation of hell. Famous, now deceased, Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee, had a wild imagination and a skill of tactfully sharing his vision with the world.

Black Temple - Hell Horns

Black Temple – Hell Horns

 

Interpretation of hell

Interpretation of hell

The Emerald Buddha is located in Wat Phra Kaeo. The temple was peaceful, charming and had an authentic feel (though it must be noted that the Emerald Buddha is actually a replica of the original, residing in Bangkok). Monks are actively wandering the grounds and are happy to invite you into the temples or onsite museum. The Buddha is said to protect the Kingdom and as a result, the Thai King is the only person that can touch the statue!

 

The emerald buddha

The emerald buddha

 

Temple Bells

Temple Bells

To offset the touring, we decided to take a cooking class the following day. We were picked up in the morning – enthusiasm filled the air instantly when we saw her. This is Tik, owner of Cook Thai Yourself and our host for the day. She was a little fireball and shared her energy with us as we toured around the market, gathering supplies for the days cook. We decided to learn how to make Pad Thai, Green Chicken Curry and Stirfried Mushrooms.

After buying all the necessary ingredients, we headed out to Tik’s home, 20kms from the city. It was a beautiful setup surrounded by an immaculate garden. We picked herbs, tomatoes & flowers to add to our dishes. Then it was time to cook! We had simple instructions to follow and Tik provided guidance along the way. After cooking up a storm, it was time to feast. The food was delicious and even more importantly, something that we’d definitely be able to make again on our own (yummy!)

As part of the package, Tik offered to take us to a number of local sites, time permitting. We took time to feed the fish at the bamboo bridge in her village. Then, we stopped in at the tea plantation the way home. At only 1,000 baht ($29 USD) per person, it was an exceptional value that we’d recommend to anyone!

 

Kim & Rob - Cook Thai Yourself

Kim & Rob – Cook Thai Yourself

 

Stirfried Mushrooms, Pad Thai & Green Chicken Curry

Stirfried Mushrooms, Green Chicken Curry & Pad Thai

 

What a wonderful day! The White Temple and Black House were the perfect contrast of good vs. evil – wonderful artistic expressions that leave so many people in awe. This reiterated to us that our perception is our reality. Even at home, I say I’m a terrible cook – but put me in the kitchen and away I go. Today, I vow to change my perception – to change my reality!

STAY: Jansom House – only 300 baht for private, fan room with ensuite

PLAY: White Temple, Black House, Emerald Buddha, Cook Thai Yourself cooking class – after a long day touring around, be sure to treat yourself to a 1-hour Thai massage – at 200 baht ($5.50 USD), how could you go wrong!?!

EAT: To be honest, we ate quiet frugally in Chiang Rai! One night we ate 35 baht pad Thai from a street vendor. Then, we had enough food from our cooking class to last us for dinner. Breakfast was included & the only lunch we ate out was at 7-11 (not for a lack of good food around) but we were happy with something simple!

TIPS: 

– Save time & money by renting a motorbike to tour the city and take in the sites

– If interested in a cooking class, go with Cook Thai Yourself! Seriously, we saw other cooking class groups here and in Chiang Mai, with upwards of 15 people per group – lucky for us, Tik caters to individual groups, so we had a more intimate experience

– At night (every hour, on the hour), be sure to check out the clocktower for a sound and lights show

Buriram - Lessons from the road

BEAUTIFUL BURIRAM!

After sleeping in a hammock in the jungle the night before, the firm beds at Jintana in Buriram were a welcome relief!

We hadn’t researched much about Buriram before rocking up, but we instantly felt at home. Our lane-way was a retreat from the hustle and bustle on the main road, and we loved it! We had laundry, delicious local food, a small mini mart, and even a lake all at our doorstep!

After settling in, we hired a bike and away we headed off to visit Phanom Rung. Part of the Khmer ruins, it was an immaculate site. It is sometimes referred to as the “Angkor Wat” of Thailand, and while we can’t yet vouch for this comparison, we enjoyed it just as much as a standalone.

 

Phanom Rung Ruins

Phanom Rung Ruins

 

On the way back to Buriram, we stopped at Khao Kradong. 300 steps straight up, and away we went. Rob started running it, though it appears life on the road has softened his fitness skills, so a few stops were needed. We were in awe of the golden Buddha at the top! Afterwards, we walked down to the volcano crater – nothing special to look at but cool to think it used to be an active site.

Khao Kradong - 300 steps

Khao Kradong – 300 steps

Home to Thailand’s largest football (soccer) team and reigning champs, we were wrapped to find out Buriram United had a game on whilst we were there. The town is mad – full of footy heads – which we loved, as we’re passionate about our own teams back home! We arrived at Thunder Castle (yes, that’s the name of their stadium) to find 20,000+ fans congregating outside, eating, drinking Chang, and gearing up for the game. Inside, the cheering never stopped – the stand across from us was non-stop from the word ‘go.’ We played a good game, but unfortunately it ended in a draw, 2-2. Bummer – we’ll get ’em next time!


When it came time to leave, we were a bit sad as this place had really become a part of us! And that’s when we knew that

home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling…

STAY: Jintana Resort – Clean, friendly staff, our private room with TV, Fridge and hot water was 450 baht per night

PLAY: Take in a football match; Visit the nearby temples

EAT: Try the local establishments around the corner from Jintana

TIPS: Use Expat Rentals for car/bike hire. They are a well priced professional business and were a pleasure to deal with.

Loei Street Art

LOEI, A TASTE OF THE WEST

We had read about Loei before visiting and were expecting a small village like town where you can explore, relax and enjoy some downtime. We were surprised to find a well developed town with it’s own charm and plenty of sites for the modern traveller.
Our accommodation ‘Sugar Guesthouse’ was a popular choice in Loei and a comfortable, well run facility. The location was within walking distance to town, restaurants and convenience stores.
We travelled through picturesque roads to Chiang Khan, which sits on the banks of the Mekong offering views over the river to Loas. Unfortunately the day we visited was very quiet and many restaurants were closed – it took about an hour before we eventually found a restaurant serving food (which is funny considering the amount of small eateries facing the river).
In the end, the restaurant we found was well worth the wait. We ate ‘Aroi Mak’ (very delicious) food as we took in the calming views over the river. We never found out exactly why the town was so quiet, though we did enjoying exploring in serenity.
Chiang Khan Dining

Chiang Khan Dining

After being in Thailand for 3 weeks we felt like a western fix, so we were excited to hear about two local establishments to scratch that itch. Outlaw Brewing offers an assortment of local craft beers with Canadian, come local, Mike, doing a great job. Be sure to check out ‘The Beast’, a beer with a 10% alcohol content if you’re feeling brave. Oh, and did I mention that this brewery is also an Ice Cream shop? That’s right! So there are plenty of flavors you can indulge on after a few beers if your that way inclined.
Outlaw Brewing - The Beast

Outlaw Brewing – The Beast

Loei’s American Burger is strangely enough ran by a Thai man, nah just joking, it’s an American guy named Doug. He’s an ex-serviceman with mad cooking skills! Everything is made onsite, from the pickles, through to homemade spaghetti sauce using his grandma’s recipe. This place was the perfect find after sampling a few too many of Outlaw Brewing’s beers. I went for the Tree Burger (named due to it’s size) whilst Kim opted for the cheeseburger (though she would have been happy with a plate full of home made pickles). The burgers were delicious, with fresh toppings and juicy patties – we could have easily been sitting in a diner back in the States, a testament to Doug and his wife.
Loei's American Burger

Loei’s American Burger

STAY: Sugar Guesthouse, 300 baht for a private room with fan, ensuite & TV
PLAY: Chiang Khan for views across the Mekong to Loas
EAT: Or drink in this case 😉 Outlaw Brewing for delicious craft beer & Loei’s American Burger for mouthwatering American style burgers – our western needs were definitely taken care of, though there is a plethora of local food to enjoy as well
TIPS:
– As per a couple of local expats, the highly recommended local tip is to visit the lake and laze about on a bamboo raft (unfortunately we missed this one)

KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK – WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK – WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

Welcome to the jungle
We’ve got fun ‘n’ games
We got everything you want
-Guns N’ Roses

Get off the beaten track! Experience the beautiful, less discovered Khao Yai National Park. Only 3 hours from Bangkok, uncover a whole new world in the middle of the jungle!

One of our definite highlights in Thailand has been an overnight trekking excursion in the Khao Yai National Park (in a UNESCO World Heritage Site nonetheless). Below, we’ve provided a simple overview so you can follow in our footsteps. For around $100 USD per person (including the adventure, equipment, food & accommodation), you will have the experience of a lifetime!

Note, we’ve outlined the details based on our personal experience on the ‘OVERNIGHT IN THE JUNGLE’ package with a locally owned tour company, however we are not getting any kickbacks – zip, nadda, nothing! We just want to provide an open & honest review with all the information you need to go yourself if you so choose (which we highly recommend!)

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Depending on where you’re coming from, there are a number of transportation methods to Khao Yai National Park.

From Bangkok, you’ll have several options:
Minivan: hourly from Victory Monument (around 160-180 baht, 3 hours)
Bus: half-hourly from Mo Chit station (around 180 baht, 3.5 hours)
Train: irregularly from Hua Lampong station, though this is the slowest and often most expensive method (prices vary, approx 4-5 hours)

From Ayutthaya, take the train to Pak Chong (between 50 – 400 baht, approx 2 hours)

From the North, there are plenty of bus & train options depending on your origin

– Check out an overview of transportation options

– For train services, you may also want to confirm time table & prices www.railway.co.th as prices vary drastically depending on the time/service you opt for, so do your research ahead of time to avoid any surprises

– You may also arrange a private car / taxi for the trip – this is a much more expensive option

Be sure to check out Travelfish’s overview of Khao Yai National Park – they also have some great information regarding getting there & as well as your onward journey!

Whatever direction you come from, expect a smooth transition to the campsite. Even though our train was delayed 2 hours, we were greeted at the Pak Chong train station without any hassles. From there, we were driven about 30 minutes to the entrance of Khao Yai National Park. We were seamlessly handed over to our guide, Deaw, and away we went…

WHY DO I NEED TO GO ON A TOUR?

You may be thinking, “I’ve got this – I’ve done plenty of hiking before – so why should I bother paying for a guide for Khao Yai National Park?” Below are our top 5 reasons it just makes sense:

1. These guys know their stuff! You will be led by a guide (or combination of) and a Park Ranger – ours had over 20 years combined experience!

2. It is the jungle! It is also unpredictable! You need to be well equipped to handle any situation that may present itself, and you can trust in their expertise!

3. You won’t get lost! There is not just a single entry and exit point. Sites and sounds along the way will lead you on different paths. Guides mark the path in non-obvious ways, but in ways they can easily identify.

4. You will get the most authentic experience! Not only will you get to explore the jungle, but you’ll get additional insights into the Thai lifestyle. Open fire cooking, sporadic animal stalking and sleeping in a hammock under the stars just to name a few.

5. You will have more fun! Growing up in this region, Khao Yai National Park was the guides’ / Ranger’s backyard – they know the lay of the land, how best to track the animals, and will share a wealth of knowledge with you about the region and jungle itself.

Remember, we’re not making a dime off you booking a tour with these guys, so whatever you decide is cool with us – promise, we can still be friends 😉 We are simply committed to giving you the best info possible and part of that is recommending you do it the right way!

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY TREKKING?

Upon being picked up by your guide, you will pack your gear (more on what is provided in the “WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING” section). You’ll be driven 15 minutes from the gate entrance to the viewpoint, and then a short distance past that, before heading into the jungle.

Whilst a number of years has passed since Nomadic Matt’s visit to the park, we’re happy to report that his take on Khao Yai National Park from 2008 is still alive and well!

The park is truly amazing—beautiful, empty of tourists, and filled with lush flora, fauna, and even a few wild elephants.
-Matthew Kepnes

On the first day, you’ll walk through the jungle. Among dry leaves. Over fallen logs. Across streams (it was exceptionally dry when we were there, so encountered minimal water). Through grasslands. Up and down hills. Pace yourself – there is no rush. In total, expect to walk approximately 15 kms.

As evening draws near, you’ll enjoy an easy trek through the grasslands on a night safari. Anticipate about 90 minutes round trip. The ground is mostly flat, with the only tricky bit being that it will be pitch black by the time you get home, but your guides have flashlights (and we’d also suggest a headlamp).

On the second day, you’ll make your way out of the jungle. You’ll start early to beat the heat. Head towards a viewpoint where you’ll climb to take in the 360 degree view. Absolutely stunning! Then slow down and enjoy the relatively flat terrain as you continue making your way through the jungle and across the grasslands. Wind up and around until you reach the observation tower. Now you know you’ve almost made it! With around 20 kms clocked up this day, your legs will feel it, but your body will thank you for conditioning it.

You can now venture back to ‘Coca Cola’ as they call it, and relax! You have survived a night in the jungle (seriously, how cool is that!)

WHAT ANIMALS WILL I SEE?

As you are becoming one with nature, it is obvious (but important to note), you are in the wild. We’ll walk you through our experience, but of course everyone’s experience will be different. After all, if you wanted a guarantee of what animals you’ll see, we’d suggest going to the zoo. We personally looked at seeing any animals as a bonus, and lucky for us, we had a few bonuses (and you likely will too, but of course we can’t promise anything).

At both the park entrance and initial viewpoint, we saw a number of Short-Tailed Macaques. They are better watched from a distance, as they are quite aggressive little monkeys – always after food due to human conditioning.

Upon entering the trail, within the first 30 minutes, we were led to a group of Gibbons. High in the trees, we watched one swing from tree to tree, whilst another one just bummed around with this arms flailing in the air – surprisingly, he was sleeping, haha.

As we continued on our hike, our guide would periodically stop to listen. Listen to the sounds around us. Listen for any animal noise. Listen for a branch breaking. Anything that would give us a view of an animal. At one point our guide yelled, “Sun Bear“, and requested we move back to stay out of harms way. This bear species, though only approximately 1 meter tall, is very territorial and protective of its babies. Not knowing if it had its young with it, we had to be extra pre-cautious. After Deaw advised it was safe, we tracked the bear, following his steps, but he was too quick and escaped before we could take a closer look.

As evening drew near, we took part in the night safari. Over the hill, we saw a Guar. As we continued, we saw 3 more. And as we turned to head back to camp, we were surrounded by about 10 of them! These bison-like creatures have a keen sense of smell and hearing. Lucky for us, their vision is not as sharp. So whilst the Ranger shined the light across the ridge, we could see the near dozen sets of eyes staring back at us, but they could not see us. Being unpredictable animals, we quickly retreated and waited for the them to do the same. Once the coast was clear, we made our way back to the camp and celebrated with a shot of homemade Whisky. That night, we slept well!

In the morning, we awoke to the sound of a family of Gibbons. We watched in awe as they swung through the trees above us. Soon afterwards, we heard a loud ‘whoosh’ sound roar overhead and looked up to see two Great Hornbills flying. Amazing – we really were in the jungle!

Amidst the jungle, of course you always want to see the classic Elephant. Whilst we heard several on our night safari and throughout the night, we were still keen to witness one. As we missed out seeing one the first day, we asked our guide, Rung, if we were likely to see one as were walking through the grasslands on our second day and he said probably not as it would be too hot for them. Much to our surprise, soon after, he ushered us to the side of the path as we watched a solitary male elephant slowly cross 50 meters in front of us. It was breathtaking! The Asian Elephant is slightly smaller than its African cousin, but still an enormous being. With a diet over 150 kg / day, they require a lot of energy to sustain themselves. He was relaxed and calm, ears moving and tail swinging from side to side. Knowing there was no threat, we were able to just enjoy his presence until we saw him disappear into the neighbouring jungle.

In addition to the big animals in the jungle, we also saw beautiful dragonflies, stunning butterflies, spiders, porcupine spines and a million insects. Besides wildlife, we witnessed some amazing flora too. Coral mushrooms, 200 year old trees, and snaking vines just to name a few.

You also have a chance to see Sambar (part of the deer family), Dhole (fox-like animals), Black Bears, Pythons & maybe even Wild Boars (though we weren’t lucky enough to see any of these on our trip).

WHAT ABOUT FOOD?

Let them know if you are a vegetarian or don’t eat specific meats (ie. chicken, pork or fish) ahead of time. Also, if you’re not keen on spicy food, do let them know. Thai’s do love their spice, but are happy to cater to any taste. They just need to know in advance so they can prep the food to bring into the jungle. Outside of that, all food is provided and it is delicious! Here’s a look at what we had on offer:

Day 1
Lunch: Vegetable fried rice
Dinner: Chicken green curry with rice
Desert: Pineapple

Day 2
Breakfast: Pork porridge with rice & coffee
Snack: Pineapple
Lunch: Whilst a standard lunch option was included in the tour price, we decided to upgrade to a buffet. We thoroughly enjoying our guides company, so joined them for an all you could eat buffet with chicken, steak, fish & vegetables (that you could have cooked for you or that you could cook yourself at the table), a selection of sides such as french fries, spinach maria & salad and desert options including fruit & ice cream. At 190 baht/person, it’s a bargain!

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?

Upon arrival, you will be provided with:
– A backpack (don’t worry, if you have a bag you don’t want to bring trekking, they will happily store it for you)
– Hammock with built-in mosquito net (aka your bed)
– Rain cover for your hammock
– Sleeping bag
– Small tarp (for sitting)
– Leech socks
– Poncho
– Bottled water
– Bowl, cup & spoon
– Pineapple (yes, each group must participate in carrying part of the meal)

We suggest bringing:
– Hat
– Sunglasses
– Camera
– Insect repellent
– Long pants & short sleeve shirt (for trekking)
– Shoes / boots
– Change of clothes (for sleeping)
– Sandals / flip flops
– Headlamp
– Toilet paper / tissue
– Antibacterial gel
– Toothbrush / paste
– Water purifying tablets (make sure to get these well before you head to the area, as these are not sold locally)

Remember, pack light as you’ll be walking for two half-days with your bag.

HOW DO I BOOK?

Ok, I like it, I love it, I’m there – how do I reserve my spot?

Don’t just take our word for it – check out the reviews on TripAdvisor and have a look at their website: (they also offer a number of other Khao Yai National Park tours, so see what strikes your fancy).

And then – easy, peasy. Give them a call (+66 899461906) followed by an email to secure your spot. Let them know:
– Your name(s)
– How many people are in your party
– When you’d like to go
– Which tour you’d like to do (as a friendly reminder, we’ve summed up the 2 day / 1 night ‘OVERNIGHT IN THE JUNGLE’ tour)
– How and when you will be arriving
– Any dietary restrictions / preferences

Confirm the rate (as though they are published on their website, sometimes they have different offers available) and ensure you have money ready upon arrival.

After this trip, we can guarantee you’ll be SIMPLY TRAVELLED. After all, you can’t get much simpler than back to the basics in the jungle!!

If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re happy to help!

And if you do go, drop us a line to let us know the highlight of your trip – we would love to hear about it!

Enjoy every moment.
Rob & Kim

AYUTTHAYA – RUINS, TEMPLES & BUDDHA’S

Who would have thought that Thailand had so much diversity? After spending time enjoying the hustle and nightlife in Bangkok it was time to move on to the former Thai capital, Ayutthaya. Known for its UNESCO World Heritage historical sites this place is definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

There are multiple options (car, bus or train) for travelling to Ayutthaya from Bangkok. We went with the train option (the longest ride) which took about 2.5 hours, though at 15 baht per person for 3rd class we weren’t complaining 😉

Like most places in Thailand, if you are comfortable riding a scooter, it is the best way to see the sites on your own schedule. We located a motorbike rental shop across from the train station which was super convenient, and for 150 baht, another bargain!

Be prepared to be amazed by temples, ruins and huge golden Buddha’s. We arrived late in the afternoon, though we still had time to check out Wat Maha That. The entry is 50 baht per person. If you intend to visit a number of sites, you can opt for a 6 temple pass for 220 baht which can be purchased at most temple ticket booths.

Walking around the grounds allowed us to be immersed in Thai history. It was believed to be built around 1374 – we were immediately in awe of the grand scale of the site.

You could easily spend a few hours walking around this area, though we spent approximately an hour before moving onto Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit.

This temple has a huge golden Buddha. We arrived just before 5:00 pm, which was closing time, so we only got a chance to have a quick look before the doors were shut, though in our opinion a quick visit is all that is required.

A short walk around the corner takes you to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. This was considered the holiest temple in the ancient city of Ayutthaya prior to it being destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. Don’t miss the three beautifully designed Chedi’s (though at their size, they are hard to miss).

Our accommodation was close by so we retired for the night intending to take in a number of attractions the following day. In actuality, we skipped the sites during the day and opted for a boat tour at 4:00 pm (200 baht per person) which took in a number of stops outside the town center over 2 hours.

We highly recommend the boat tour. Although ‘touristic’ and preset in its’ course, we were able to see a mixture of different temples and ruins as well as viewing local life along the river.

Our first stop was at the Buddhist temple, Wat Phanan Choeng (20 baht per person entry). There was not a lot to take in at this site, so the 20 minutes allotted was plenty of time. It was a definite highlight to see the largest Buddha statue in Thailand and we were lucky enough to be blessed by a monk during our visit – a very special experience.

We then moved onto Samphao Lom to view the famous Reclining Buddha and take in a classic Buddhist temple. Again, this place was pretty magical – we particularly liked the lineup of golden Buddhas.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a Khmer designed temple and was constructed in 1630. It is another UNESCO World Heritage site and was a highlight of our boat tour. This place was great to visit during sunset.

Although there are similarities between the historical sites, prangs, ruins & Buddha statues, we found ourselves in awe of each one we visited. Be sure to respect local culture when visiting these sites – dress appropriately and have respect when taking photos.

OUR PICKS

STAY: Stockholm HostelA funky hostel with great amenities and good location, 7-11 & temples nearby

PLAY: Any of the historical sites the town has to offer – our recommendations include Wat Maha That, Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phanan Choeng*, Samphao Lom*, Wat Chaiwatthanaram*
​ * indicates sites visited during boat tour

EAT: Earls – within walking distance to Stockholm Hostel, it boasts great food at a reasonable price

TIPSDecide if the 6 temple pass is worth it for you – a number of temples are actually free, so suggest researching the ones you want to see first to ensure this is a good investment.

Dressing appropriately mostly applies to females – keep your shoulders and knees covered, and you’re safe (though most temples don’t enforce it, it’s a respect thing)

WHEN IN BANGKOK…

EAT TIL YOUR HEART’S CONTENT

Whilst in Bangkok, we were lucky enough to catch up with one of Kim’s friends from graduate school. Krissada Suwanbenchakul (affectionately known as “Tom”) introduced us to a whole new world of varying Thai cuisine, including: Thai spicy papaya salad, Acacia insuavis coated with egg & shrimp in hot & sour soup, Steamed seafood curry paste filled in young coconut, Tom Yum Kung, Charcoal grilled prawns & Thai tea crepe and coconut cake for desert!

If you’re brave enough, check out other local delights like worms, maggots, grasshoppers, spiders & scorpions. Any bets on if we gave those a taste!?!

SHOP TIL YOU DROP

With Siam Paragon, Square & Center, all within arms reach of each other, experience Thailand’s most luxurious shopping malls. With 6+ floors in each building, there is something for everyone’s taste. If you’re into cars be sure to walk past the show rooms of Rolls Royce, Bentley, McLaren and Lamborghini just to name a few – this place is crazy!
Of course your shopping adventures would not be complete without a visit to the floating markets. There are a number of half day tours to Damnoen Saduak (200 baht + 150 baht for the paddle boat), about 90 minutes drive (unless you have a rally car driver like we did – then hold on, buckle up, and he’ll have you there in an hour – eek!) Not sure how much money they make but looks like they’re making enough to stay afloat (no pun intended). For a more traditional taste of the floating markets, go on the weekend to Amphawa.


TRY MUAY THAI

Being such a massive part of the Thai culture, it is hard to come to Bangkok without checking out some form of Muay Thai boxing.

Take a class to learn the basics yourself or sit back and watch instead. There are plenty of options to take in a fight at the local stadiums. We were lucky enough to be in Bangkok when the International Thai Martial Arts Games & Festival was on, so we saw plenty of free entertainment near the Siam shopping complex. We saw an Australian take out an Italian (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!) and cheered on USA versus Brazil. Steeped in rich traditions, taking in a Muay Thai fight is an experience not to be missed!

GET TAILOR MADE

“Just look” the tuk tuk driver said, “good for you and me.” We would get a ‘discount’ on our ride and he would receive 5 litres of petrol for delivering us to the shop. We hesitantly accepted his offer to stop at a tailor on our way to dinner. Upon entering Kim threw me under the bus by acknowledging to the staff that I was in the market for a new suit (up until this point we were just looking as to appease the tuk tuk driver), whilst she could browse in peace. I was ushered to the private room with Ram and started to browse the many suits and fabrics on offer.

The tide was turning as Ram explained the benefit of a custom made suit with fine fabric and quality workmanship. I decided on a slim fit, blue grey suit with classic white shirt and tie for a mere 7,000 baht ($200 USD) plus shipping.

In the end it was a great experience and we were happy to have crossed paths with our tuk tuk driver 🙂

EXPERIENCE THE KANCHANABURI TALES

Relive a brutal piece of history – Japanese used Allied prisoners of war to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea. Weekend trains from Hua Lamphong (120 baht) take you on a tour through the war stricken areas from WWII. Space is limited so it makes sense to book in advance, but if you miss out, head over to Thonburi train station to take in the 3 hour journey in third class (100 baht). Don’t let the third class option put you off as seats are comfortable, trains are not over packed, and there is plenty of airflow with the fans and open air windows. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

​If you have time, continue another 2 hours to take part in the Wampo Viaduct (Wang Po) & Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) along with the nearby museums.

Unfortunately, we didn’t quite allow enough time to do the latter. Upon arrival at the Bridge on River Kwai station, we watched as the train passed over the bridge so many POW’s had lost their lives building. Although very busy, it was definitely worth visiting.

​From there, we shared a motorbike (140 baht) to the Chong Kai Allied War Cemetery which was a brief, but sobering experience. The enormity of the situation really sinks in. Then, we headed to the JEATH War Museum, which was built to commemorate the deaths from the Burma-Siam Death Railway efforts, aptly named to represent the countries affected by this atrocity (Japan, England, Australia & America, Thailand & Holland).


OUR PICKS

STAY: Jade House – situated in a slower paced area with plenty of eateries and convenience stores, but still within 10 minutes walking distance to Khao San Road (250 baht/dorm bed or 600 for a private room with satellite TV)

PLAY: Being a big city, it seems easier to organise tours via a local travel agent which offer good value for money – shop around for the best price

EAT: Chill Time – take advantage of their 50 baht Pad Thai & Green Curry specials; street vendors galore!

TIPS:

– Google maps is not always accurate in Bangkok so be careful relying too heavily on it

– If looking to get a suit made, don’t rely solely on price – sure, someone can always do it cheaper – but is the quality there? After all, it is an investment

– Though our tour guide ushered us to the 150 baht paddle boat stand, we later saw deals for 100 baht – the choice is up to you