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Archive for Thailand

3.5 Weeks Island-Hopping in Thailand

I saved the islands of Thailand for the end of my 3-month trip through Southeast Asia because I had a feeling they were going to be my favourite part. Turns out I was 100% correct in my prediction. I had such a fantastic time hopping around from one gorgeous island to the next.

Here’s a little highlight reel of the islands I visited!

 

Koh Tao

The first stop on my island-hopping tour was the small island of Koh Tao. My favourite thing that I did while staying here was to take a longtail taxi boat over to the tiny nearby island of Koh Nangyuan and climb the stairs up to the viewpoint. Koh Nangyuan is only a 15-minute boat ride from Koh Tao (300 baht for a return trip). This island is one of those incredible places you can’t believe is real. The view from the viewpoint is breathtaking. I would have sat and stared at it a lot longer than I did if only it hadn’t been so crowded and there hadn’t been a long line of people awaiting their turn on the viewing rock.

 

 

There are also a few really nice viewpoints in Koh Tao that you can hike to. The best one is probably the John-Suwan Viewpoint, but be aware that the path up to it is extremely strenuous. It’s not a long hike to the top, but I literally had to climb uphill on all fours, squeeze through narrow crevices, scramble over rocks on a path that was barely there, and pull myself along using ropes that were dangerously frayed, all while somehow holding a 1.5-litre water bottle in one hand.

I think the view was worth the struggle though.

 

 

The path up to the John-Suwan Viewpoint begins at Freedom Beach. It’s supposed to cost 50 baht to go up, but when I went there was nobody there collecting money. Sweet!

My biggest disappointment in Koh Tao was that the famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl had been indefinitely discontinued shortly before I arrived on the island. I had been really looking forward to taking part in what is supposedly one of the world’s best pub crawls. Luckily Koh Tao still has great nightlife every night of the week. I went out by myself, met some cool people, and had a lot of fun. The Fishbowl is definitely the most popular bar on Sairee Beach, Koh Tao’s main party beach. I constantly heard people talking about it, and it was always packed with fun-loving partiers when I was there.

Koh Tao was good times and good vibes!

 

Koh Phangan

Stop #2 was Koh Phangan, a party animal’s island paradise. The main reason I wanted to go to this island, of course, was to attend the infamous Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach. Actually, the biggest bucket-list item of my whole trip was to not only make an appearance at the party, but to stay there until sunrise. I’m happy to report that although I required a half-hour power nap on the beach, I successfully stayed out until 8:00AM. At that point I walked back to my hostel and immediately headed straight for my bed, which I did not leave again even once until 6:00PM. I finally managed to drag myself out of bed to eat dinner and take a shower, and by that point it was just about bedtime again. That day was the only real hangover I had throughout the whole trip, but the Full Moon Party was so worth it! I had a blast there.

 

My morning-after painted legs and sandy bed

 

A word of warning about Haad Rin beach: Theft is rampant there. I found that out the hard way when my phone got stolen on my second night in Koh Phangan, two nights before the Full Moon Party. Actually, BOTH of my phones got stolen — I always travel with one phone that takes decent photos but doesn’t have GPS, and one phone that takes shitty photos but has functioning GPS. Normally I only take the latter phone with me on a night out, but for some reason I had decided to take both phones with me the last two or three times I went out. It was late at night — probably 2:00 or 3:00AM — and I was drunk (surprise, surprise). I was at one of the bars on the beach when I happened to look down at my handbag and notice that the zipper was wide open. I immediately panicked and looked inside. Sure enough, both phones were gone. The next day was spent travelling to the police station to file a report, and then wandering around town trying to find the supermarket where the lady at my hostel advised me to go to buy a new phone.

I’m a very frugal person (some would call me cheap), so I bought the second-least expensive smartphone at the store. (The absolute least expensive didn’t look too promising.) It was called the Wiko Sunny2 Plus, which is something I had never heard of before. The box said that the phone’s camera was 5 megapixels. Now, I know absolutely nothing about phones or cameras or megapixels, but a lot of the phones at the store had cameras with 5 megapixels, so I figured that would be okay.

Well, as soon as I got home, I took the phone out of the box and snapped a photo with it. The picture quality was absolutely horrendous. I’m pretty heartbroken about it because having decent photos of the places I visit is really important to me. Serves me right for being cheap, I guess! (Anybody want to buy me a GoPro?)

What’s also unfortunate is that I kind of missed out on all the beautiful sights that Koh Phangan has to offer. Since I was staying so close to Haad Rin beach, I spent all my nights drinking and partying at the bars there, which meant that I never had enough energy to do much during the day. It’s such a shame because I know there’s so much to see and do on the island, and I hardly saw or did any of it. I did manage to go for a walk to a lovely, deserted viewpoint one day, but sadly most of the photos I took that day were lost when my phone got stolen. I guess that means I’ll have to come back someday, right?

 

Ao Nang

After Koh Phangan, it was back to the mainland to spend four nights in Ao Nang. I would say the #1 thing to see if you stay in Ao Nang or Krabi is Railay Beach. It’s one of the most famous beaches in Thailand for good reason. The combination of the emerald water and those majestic limestone karsts makes for some strikingly beautiful scenery.

(Sorry about the poor quality of the photos. I wasn’t kidding when I said that my new phone takes the shittiest pictures ever!)

 

 

It’s super easy to get to Railay Beach from Ao Nang. Just walk to Ao Nang Beach and buy a longtail boat ticket for 200 baht return. I recommend taking the longtail boat past Railay all the way to Phra Nang Beach (same price), then walking from there to Railay and from Railay to Tonsai Beach. I believe you can take a longtail boat from Tonsai Beach back to Ao Nang, but if not it’s a short walk between Tonsai and Railay. (Just be prepared to get wet, as you have to wade through waist-deep water in order to reach the sand at Railay Beach.) You can then take a longtail boat from Railay Beach back to Ao Nang Beach.

 

Tonsai Beach

Tonsai Beach

 

If you’re in the mood for a day trip, there are lots of little islands nearby Ao Nang that are easy to get to via longtail taxi boat or organized tour. I chose to visit Koh Poda, only about 8km away from Ao Nang, after seeing some gorgeous pictures online of its pristine white-sand beach. I bought a ticket for a longtail taxi boat ride to the island, and then waited over half an hour before enough like-minded travellers showed up for the boat to leave. I paid 300 baht for the return boat ride and another 400 baht for entrance to the island, which is part of a national park.

Koh Poda certainly is gorgeous, but there is literally nothing there except the beach. You can’t wander off and go hiking around the island; you can only wander the length of the beach and back. The place is not completely deserted, but it’s far less busy than anywhere in Ao Nang, and there were definitely moments when I was on the far side of the beach and there was not another human in sight. I’m not sure that my short trip to Koh Poda was worth the 700 baht that I paid for it, but I’m glad I went because I got some beautiful photos out of it. (Or at least as beautiful as my awful, awful camera can manage.)

 

 

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta was such a breath of fresh air after all the partying I did on the other islands. It’s a place where people come to just chill out, and I can’t imagine a better place to do so. You probably won’t find any nightlife as wild as what you’ll find on islands like Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi. One night, there was supposed to be a Half Moon Party on one of the beaches, so I decided to go with a few people I had recently met. We walked and walked along the beach but couldn’t find a party anywhere. We did come upon a bar where live music was being played and quite a few people were listening. But the strange thing was that not a single person was dancing or partying. Everybody was just sitting down on the ground in front of the bar, watching the musicians and just chilling out. It was a nice atmosphere, but we were disappointed because we were looking for a party.

What Koh Lanta lacks in terms of nightlife though, it makes up for with its abundance of beautiful, almost-deserted beaches. I stayed at Blanco Hostel, which is only a couple minutes’ walk from Phra Ae Beach (also known as Long Beach.) Long Beach is a beautiful, white-sand beach that stretches for almost 4km. Its considerable length means that it’s never crowded, so it’s easy to find a nice place to lay out your towel.

 

 

On my second day in Koh Lanta, I went swimming at a lovely little secluded beach close to Relax Bay with a couple of new acquaintances. We laid on the beach from 2:00PM until sunset and saw probably fewer than 25 people all day.

 

 

Koh Phi Phi

While conducting research for this trip, I kept reading over and over that Koh Phi Phi is over-crowded, over-rated, and good for nothing but partying. I didn’t find any of that to be true. Okay, so I guess I was there at the tail end of the high season or even the beginning of the low season, but I didn’t find the island over-crowded at all. I mean, yes, there were a lot of people there, but certainly not so many that it was annoying or inconvenient. Furthermore, I think Koh Phi Phi might be the most beautiful of all the islands I visited in Thailand. If you want to snap a photo of that quintessential Thai scenery — brightly decorated longtail boats floating in clear turquoise water — Koh Phi Phi is the perfect place to do so.

 

 

Of course, Koh Phi Phi’s main tourist attraction is Maya Bay, which became internationally famous in 2000 when it starred in the aptly-titled Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach. It seems that most people visit Maya Bay as part of a group tour, but since I hate tours I decided instead to hire a longtail boat with three other people from my hostel. We each paid 450 baht (plus the 400 baht entrance fee for Maya Bay) to hire the boat for three hours. We decided to leave at 6:30AM in order to reach the bay before the massive crowds rolled in. Unfortunately, I had been partaking in Koh Phi Phi’s wild nightlife the previous evening and I overslept (oops!), so we didn’t end up leaving until about 7:15. By the time we arrived at Maya Bay around 8:00, there were already lots of people there, but not so many that it seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the place. Crowds or no crowds, The Beach is definitely a sight not to be missed.

 

 

At 9:00 we left Maya Bay and our boat driver took us to another beach called Monkey Bay. It was a lovely beach, but unfortunately we didn’t see a single monkey. We stayed at Monkey Bay for 20 or 30 minutes, then our driver took us back home. (After a quick breakfast with my dorm mates, I went straight back to bed.)

 

 

If you’re looking for an easy but highly rewarding activity to do in Koh Phi Phi, I wholeheartedly recommend hiking up to the famous viewpoint. Actually, there are three viewpoints (appropriately named Viewpoints 1, 2, and 3), and each one is more spectacular than the last. They’re all connected by a single trail, so that you have to walk past Viewpoints 1 and 2 to get to Viewpoint 3. Getting to the last viewpoint is not a long or strenuous hike by any means, and the views at all three points are absolutely killer. The natural beauty of Koh Phi Phi is something I won’t soon forget.

 

Viewpoint 1

 

Viewpoint 2. Now we’re talkin’.

sunset at Viewpoint 3

 

Phuket

Out of all the places I visited during my 3.5 weeks of island-hopping in Thailand, I liked Phuket the least. (I’m not alone in that feeling — every single person I met who had been to Phuket told me they didn’t like it.) It’s not that the place isn’t beautiful or that there’s a shortage of things to do there, it’s just that it’s so much more expensive than anywhere else in Thailand. Phuket is a huge island, and all of its sights are well spread out, so there’s no way you can walk between them. Since I don’t drive, the only way I could get around was by taxi or tuk-tuk, and the prices they charge are outrageous by Thai standards.

For example, I wanted to visit the Big Buddha, which is one of Phuket’s most popular attractions, and it turned out to be the most expensive taxi ride I’ve ever taken. For the 30-minute drive there and the 30-minute drive back to Patong, I paid a whopping 1,000 baht. That’s $40CAD! Insane. There were so many other attractions in Phuket that I wanted to see, but I just couldn’t afford to go to them. If I could drive I would have rented a scooter for 300 baht a day and driven myself around, but alas! I’m a wimp and would never attempt to drive a motorized vehicle here or anywhere else for all the tea in China.

As for the Big Buddha though, it’s definitely worth visiting. (And entrance to it is free, which made my 1000-baht taxi ride a little easier to take.) I spent a decent amount of time wandering around the huge statue, taking pictures of the magnificent views, and trying my best to avoid the monkeys that were always attempting to steal people’s food.

 

 

On my second-last day in Phuket, I joined a full-day group tour of the islands in beautiful Phang Nga Bay. As I’ve said before, I hate group tours, but I couldn’t possibly leave Thailand without seeing Khao Phing Kan (more commonly known as James Bond Island), and a tour was the easiest and cheapest way to do so. The lady at the tour agency where I bought my ticket gave me a great deal on the tour. The price in the brochure was 3,400 baht, but she only charged me 1,000 baht! (To be honest though, I don’t think the tour was worth anywhere near 3,400 baht, and I wonder if anybody else ever actually pays that.)

Our first stop was the main attraction of Phang Nga Bay and the sole reason I came on the tour: James Bond Island, home of Thailand’s most famous rock. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of pictures of it before, but here are a few more. Doesn’t that rock look like it’s about to topple over?

 

 

After that we went to Hong Island, where we all got into kayaks and had an expert boatman paddle us around through limestone caves and hidden lagoons. It was pretty cool to get up close and personal with that amazing scenery.

 

island

island

 

After Hong Island we stopped at Naka Island to go swimming. I definitely could have done without this part of the tour, as Naka Island wasn’t even picturesque enough for me to bother taking a single photo. All in all, it was a pretty decent day, but I would have been happy if I had just seen James Bond Island and then gone home.

*****

Saving the Thai islands for the last part of my three-month trip was a great decision. I enjoyed them more than any other place I visited in Southeast Asia. It was with a heavy heart that I left Thailand and flew back home to reality. The three months that I spent in Southeast Asia were probably the best three months of my life, and I fully intend to find myself back in this magical corner of the world one day!

6 Days in Pai, Thailand

Unfortunately, I was super sick for five out of the six days that I was in Pai. I drank quite a bit the night before I left Chiang Mai, so when I woke up feeling nauseous the next morning I thought it was just a hangover. While I was waiting for the minivan to Pai to come and pick me up at 10:00, I threw up. I then proceeded to throw up four or five more times in the minivan on the winding road to Pai. (Good thing I had brought a plastic bag with me, and my fellow minivan passengers were well-equipped with plastic bags too.) I spent the rest of the day puking and didn’t leave my hostel, except briefly to go and buy some fruit because that was the only thing I felt like I could eat.

I felt a little better when I woke up the next morning, but after walking around a bit I realized I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish much that day. I felt weak, drowsy, and feverish, and I had no appetite. I managed to walk as far as the famous roadside cafe Coffee in Love, where I hung around for a little while taking pictures of the lovely views.

(I should explain that I can’t drive and would never, ever trust myself in the driver’s seat of anything with more horsepower than a bicycle, so renting a scooter was absolutely out of the question.)

After that, I went straight back to my hostel and once again didn’t leave except to buy some fruit so I wouldn’t starve to death.

When I woke up on the third day, same thing. I felt fine when I opened my eyes, but shortly after I set out on my walk, my stomach started feeling funny and I realized I wasn’t going to make it very far. My original plan was to walk as far as Mae Yen waterfall, which I had seen described on some website as an easy stroll. Well, it sure wasn’t going to be an easy stroll for me that day. When I looked at my map, I saw that Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Pai’s temple on a hill) and its giant white Buddha statue were much closer, so I directed my steps towards them instead. It would have been a nice, easy walk if I hadn’t been sick, but I had a pretty rough time in my condition. I made it there however, and the view was worth it.

Guess what I did afterwards? Yup, I headed straight back to my hostel and crawled into bed. By the end of the day, I felt so much worse than I had at the beginning. Not a good sign of things to come, I thought.

On the morning of my fourth day in Pai, I again woke up feeling okay. I was finally feeling well enough to eat something other than fruit or smoothies, so I walked to a cafe across from the bus station and ordered a bowl of muesli with fruit and yogurt. As I had expected, I started feeling sick while I was eating. However, I was determined not to waste a whole day lying in bed, so I decided to walk to Hyun Lai Viewpoint.

Oh man, was that a rough walk. It was 5.7km there and 5.7km back, and my stomach was hurting the entire time. I felt like I was going to pass out by the time I reached the viewpoint. The first thing I did when I got there was to sit down in the shade and not move for about 15 minutes. The view at Hyun Lai was certainly nice, and I recommend going if you’re in Pai. Was it worth nearly killing myself over? Probably not.

Later that day, I decided that my illness wasn’t going to disappear by itself, so I walked to a pharmacy and picked up some meds that the pharmacist recommended.

On Day 5 I decided to give my body a break and just stay in bed all day, only emerging from my room to get something to eat or drink. It was obvious I was severely dehydrated, so I was trying my best to drink as much water as I could. Even though I was extremely tired in the afternoon, I forced myself to stay up, sipping water constantly. Around 4.30PM, I decided to take a couple of the charcoal pills that the pharmacist had given me. After taking the first one, I felt super full because of all the water I had just drunk, so I had to wait a few seconds before taking the second one. Just then I felt a sudden urge to vomit so I ran to the bathroom, where I puked so violently that a bit of it splashed up out of the toilet into my face. It was the first time I had thrown up since I got off the minivan from Chiang Mai.

Great, I thought. Now I’m puking again. I resolved to go to the hospital in the morning.

But then a funny thing happened. I felt much better after I had thrown up, probably the best I had felt since arriving in Pai. After a couple of hours, I was still feeling so good that I decided to go and check out the night market that runs every night from 6-10 on Pai’s Walking Street. I even managed to sample quite a bit of food without feeling sick! Dared I to hope that I might be on the road to recovery?

Pai’s night market, by the way, was far less crowded than the night markets in Chiang Mai, and was as a result much more pleasant to stroll through.

After checking out the night market, I went back to my hostel. Turned out they were having a barbecue for guests that night, so I hung around outside for a little while, chatting and watching people play beer pong. I bailed early though, since these kinds of things are not so much fun when you’re sober. (I felt like it would be a few days before I was brave enough to drink alcohol again.)

Turned out I was right about being on the road to recovery. On my last day in Pai, I felt almost completely back to normal. Yay! I felt so good, in fact, that I decided to walk all the way to one of the attractions I had most wanted to see in Pai: the Land Split.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Land Split was created in 2008 when a farmer woke up and saw that his farmland had suddenly been split in two by seismic forces. Since he couldn’t use the land for farming anymore, he decided to turn it into a tourist attraction.

When you arrive at the Land Split, the landowners immediately offer you a delicious spread of food from their garden. The food doesn’t cost anything; just put however much you want to give into the donation box. How awesome is that?

The split itself is pretty cool. I would definitely say it’s worth a look if you’re in Pai.

When I got back to my hostel, I found out that a bunch of people were taking a taxi to Pai Canyon at 5:00 to watch the sunset. I jumped at the opportunity to go with them. Pai Canyon was the #1 thing I most wanted to see in Pai, but since it was so far away (about 10km from my hostel), and since I was leaving Pai the next morning, I had given up hope of being able to see it.

That would have been the hugest shame, because Pai Canyon was even cooler than I had expected it to be. It’s definitely my favourite place in Pai. If you’re in town, don’t even think about missing Pai Canyon.


Watching the sunset at Pai Canyon was a perfect ending to an otherwise shitty stay in Pai. I left town the next day wishing that I could have explored Pai a little more, but feeling satisfied that I had managed to hit up all of the sights that I really had my heart set on.

Fingers crossed I can make it through the rest of this trip without getting sick again!

Next stop: Hanoi, Vietnam!

5 Days in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

The second stop on my Southeast Asia tour was Chiang Mai, the second-largest city in Thailand. It was a nice change of pace from hectic Bangkok, with a much more chilled-out vibe.

The first thing I did when I arrived in Chiang Mai was to go and visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple at the top of Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep). I took a red songthaew up the mountain for 50 baht, and another one back to the city centre at the end of my visit for 60 baht. When my songthaew dropped me off at the top of the mountain, I ascended a beautiful dragon staircase up to the temple. From there you can supposedly see over the entire Chiang Mai valley. To be honest, the view was a little disappointing when I went because it wasn’t a clear day, so I couldn’t see very well. Still, it was a memorable excursion and I’m glad I went.

My second night in Chiang Mai was a Sunday, so I had to pay a visit to the city’s famous Sunday night market. When I arrived around 6:30 or 6:45PM, the market was busy but not unbearably so. There was still plenty of room to move around and look at everything. Within about 15 minutes though, the streets were so packed that I could hardly move. It completely ruined the experience for me because I could hardly even see what was being sold at each stand, let alone be able to cross the street and walk over to a stand that looked interesting. Everybody was inching along at a snail’s pace because it was impossible to move any faster, and all I could see on any side of me were people, people, and more people. You should definitely check out the Sunday night market, but I strongly advise you to get there as soon as it opens in order to avoid the insane crowds. (The market runs from 6:00PM till midnight.)

Besides the famous Sunday one, there are a few other night markets in Chiang Mai to check out. I went to the best-known one, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, to the east of the old city. I enjoyed idly wandering among the stands selling clothes, food, and various bric-a-brac. The night bazaar is open every night of the year from dusk till midnight, and it wasn’t nearly as busy as the Sunday night market when I went. I could actually walk at a reasonable pace in any direction I wanted. It was quite an enjoyable way to spend my evening. Don’t miss it if you’re in Chiang Mai.

Some people will probably hate me for this, but I couldn’t leave Chiang Mai without visiting Tiger Kingdom. I debated with myself for a long time whether I should go or not because I know a lot of people believe tiger tourism is unethical. I support animal rights as much as the next person, and I would hate to think I’m giving my money to a company that mistreats animals. But I wanted a photo of me petting a baby tiger so so so badly that in this case my self-interest won out. I was too weak to resist the desire for an Instagram photo that would make my followers weep with jealousy. Please believe that I spent a considerable amount of time researching ethical ways of seeing tigers, and it looked like Tiger Kingdom was the only semi-ethical option that would be available to me on this trip. Honestly, it didn’t seem to me that the tigers at Tiger Kingdom have it that bad. They all looked pretty healthy and didn’t appear to be in any kind of distress. Furthermore, I believe Tiger Kingdom when they claim that they don’t drug or sedate the animals. The tigers I saw there certainly seemed to spend a lot of time sleeping, but have you ever met a cat who didn’t?

Anyways, I’m sorry but I went to Tiger Kingdom. I found a tuk-tuk driver who agreed to take me there and back for 500 baht round-trip. After arriving and looking at the price list, I decided to only pay to go into the cage with the smallest tigers because damn is this place expensive. I paid 1200 baht to go into a pen with an adorable 3.5-month-old female tiger for probably 10 or 15 minutes. There was a professional photographer constantly snapping pictures of me and telling me to look at the camera and smile as I stroked her back. The whole thing was a little bizarre actually, because it just feels like a photo shoot rather than a genuine experience. I mean, yes, I was mostly there for the purpose of getting a good Instagram photo, but it seemed strange to me that the people who work there were treating it the same way. Like the whole purpose of meeting an exotic animal is to get a staged photo out of the experience. It all felt very fake.

Anyways, the photographer was nice enough to take a bunch of photos of me using my phone, in case I didn’t want to pay 300 baht for a USB with all the photos he took on his fancy camera. It was really nice of him to do that, but unfortunately I didn’t like any of the photos he took with my phone, so I ended up paying for the USB after all. Oh well.

How cool are these photos though, honestly?

I saved something special for my last day in Chiang Mai: a visit to Elephant Nature Park. I paid 2500 baht to spend a day feeding and observing elephants that had been rescued from their former lives of forced labour and abuse. My guide for the day came to pick me up at my hostel around 8:15AM, and I got into his minivan with the 11 other people in my tour group. When we arrived at the park at 9:45, the first thing we did was to take turns feeding watermelon to an elephant. After that, we walked around the park observing other elephants for a while before heading back to the platform for an amazing vegetarian buffet lunch. After lunch we got to watch the elephants bathing in the river. When they were finished bathing, we watched them walk past us to a muddy spot and give themselves a mud bath. Later, after touring the grounds a bit, we went down to the river again, took off our shoes, waded into the river, and threw buckets of water on an elephant while she stood eating bananas. By that point it was 2:30 and time for the ride back to our respective hostels/hotels.

All in all, Elephant Nature Park was a pretty cool experience. I thought I would get tired of seeing elephants after observing the first four or five, but it was actually fascinating watching them perform all their different daily routines. They are truly the most incredible creatures I have ever seen.

Important: Make sure you book your visit to Elephant Nature Park at least a few weeks in advance, because spots are limited and they sell out quickly.

To conclude, Chiang Mai is a great city to spend a few days in. To be honest, there isn’t as much to do here as there is in Bangkok, but it was nice to get out of the big city for a while and just chill out.

Next stop: the Thai hippie town of Pai!

Six Days in Bangkok

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting Bangkok to be like, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. (If that makes any sense at all.) I guess I was expecting it to be more… Asian. Turns out that it’s a highly Westernized, cosmopolitan city that often feels a lot like somewhere in Europe or North America. At the same time though, everywhere you look there are beautiful, intricate Buddhist temples and other architectural wonders that could only be found in Asia. In short, I found Bangkok to be a nice balance between East and West.

My first full day in Bangkok was a Sunday, so I decided to visit the Chatuchak weekend market. Apparently it’s the largest weekend market in the world, and I kept reading over and over that it’s an absolute must-visit when in Bangkok.

The market certainly is large, with vendors selling nearly everything you could ever want. It would be impossible to walk down every aisle in a day. I’m not sure that I would want to though, to be honest, since after a while all of the stalls start to look the same. I wouldn’t classify Chatuchak market as an absolute must-see, but if you happen to be in Bangkok on a weekend you might as well check it out.

What I would classify as a must-see is Bangkok’s most popular tourist attraction, the Grand Palace. It’s the city’s #1 most visited sight for a reason. I know nothing about architecture, but I can say without a doubt that the buildings that make up the temple complex here are exquisite. You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around and gazing in awe at the amazing craftsmanship on display. The price of admission is surprisingly steep (500 baht in January 2018, which is $20CAD), but I think it’s worth it. After all, you won’t have to pay that much for anything else in Bangkok!

Right beside the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, another one of Bangkok’s most famous temples. You might as well visit both temples on the same day, since they’re so close to each other. Like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a thing of incredible beauty.

Wat Arun, a third famous temple, is located directly across the river from Wat Pho. You can travel between the two via a very short and very cheap ferry ride. Keep in mind, however, that temple-hopping can be quite exhausting in Bangkok’s unrelenting heat. After seeing the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, I was too hot, sweaty, and tired to face the task of touring yet another temple, so I decided to save Wat Arun for the next day. I’m glad I saw all three temples though, because they’re all different and all stunning. Here’s Wat Arun for you:

If you feel like you need some green space after all that temple-hopping, take a stroll through Lumphini Park. It’s got a picturesque lake, a fancy clock tower, lots of cute stray cats, and even a population of monitor lizards!

Another worthwhile activity is taking a stroll through the city’s Chinatown. If markets are your thing, make sure you check out Sampeng Lane market. It’s a refreshingly untouristy attraction in a touristy city.

Chinatown is also home to Wat Traiwit, which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue. It’s worth paying the 40 baht fee to pop inside and take a look. This thing weighs 5.5 tons!

As for nightlife, I’m sure you’ve heard about Khao San Road. Well, I can affirm that it’s just as crazy as you could hope, every night of the year. I had a couple of really great nights here, dancing in the street with people from my hostel. Don’t even think about missing a night out on Khao San Road if you visit Bangkok. I didn’t take any pictures of the street at night because I was too busy enjoying myself, but just know that it is LIT. Here’s what it looks like during the day:

Before I left for my trip, somebody told me that six days was too long to spend in Bangkok. I completely disagree with this; I felt like six days was a decent amount of time to spend there, but one more day would have been perfect. I had meant to take at least two day trips outside the city, but found that there was so much to do in Bangkok that I only had time for one. I chose to go to Erawan National Park, and I highly recommend anyone who visits Bangkok to do the same. The park’s claim to fame is its hiking trail that winds past seven tiers of waterfalls, each of them unique and absolutely gorgeous. If getting pretty Instagram photos is important to you, you should definitely visit Erawan National Park.