I had seen pictures of the beautiful long tail boats in Thailand beaches all over the internet. That made me want to be there and spend some time in one of them. However, years went by and I didn’t fully realize that dream of mine. Then two things happened: 1. A friend spent her honeymoon in Thailand (her pictures were a reminder of my dream) and 2. Another friend told me she was going there for three months. So, I started making plans. Kosovo citizens need to apply for visas to visit Thailand in Tirana, Albania, so I went to Tirana and submitted the necessary papers and got my visa within an hour. Surprisingly, the Thai Consulate was promoting their tourism so I didn’t have to pay for the visa. The visa process was a piece of cake compared with the seemingly ever-lasting Schengen visa application.
The flight itself went well, but not everything went smoothly upon checking-in for my return flight from Bangkok to Belgrade. I visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Phi Phi Islands, so my post includes recommendations from these places only. I hope to be able to go back to Thailand and spend more time and see more of it.
Six things to know before going to Thailand
- Bring cash with you – you can use ATMs and exchange offices and pay by card. The street food you’ll eat there can’t be paid for by card, so make sure to have cash with you.
- Learn few words in the Thai language – a few words open many doors, so why not learn the basics in the language of the country you are visiting. It might be difficult; however, even just trying gives you the advantage of being helped if needed. There are genders in Thai language, so, if you are a man, you end your sentences with khrup/ka and, if you are a woman, with ka/kap. Some basic expressions include: Chai (Khrup/Ka) – Yes, Mai (Khrup/Ka) – No, Khop khun (Khrup/Ka) – Thank you, Sawadee (Khrup/Ka) – Hello, La gorn (Khrup/Ka) – Goodbye, Mai phet – not spicy (I had to use this a lot since I don’t eat spicy), and Aroy – Delicious (because their street food is delicious).
- Use public transport in Bangkok – it is pretty organized and clean. One of the things that amazed me in Bangkok was how orderly Thai people would enter trains. I haven’t seen such order even in the most western/ized countries. Just lovely to see no one rushing or pushing through the line.
- Take a tour of an Elephant sanctuary, but please, please don’t ride the elephant – I love elephants and being near and feeding one was the highlight of my trip to Thailand and a memory I will always cherish. Why not ride an elephant, you might ask? Because that only fuels the cruelty towards elephants and makes the people profiting from this “experience” capture more elephants for pleasing people. Elephants can never be fully domesticated and, thus, can be dangerous: years ago, a Briton was gored by an elephant during a show.
- Be careful of scammers – there are people who will try to scam you and divert your plan by fooling you or lying about the working hours of certain temples or other sites. Always check the working hours so you don’t fall prey to those scammers. I had some of them even bearing some sort of badge and pretending to be from the Tourism Ministry!
- Thais drive on the left side – for some, this could be irrelevant, but for me coming from Kosovo this was something I had to get used to it and always to look a couple of times both sides to make sure I can cross the street.
Top attractions in Bangkok
Chatuchak Weekend Market – as the name suggests, this market runs during weekends and is the largest in Thailand. You can literally spend the entire weekend there if you like shopping (there are places to eat and drink as well so you will survive – no worries). I loved going around and looking at the goods for sale. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to “buy whatever you love right away because you won’t be going back to the same place” as the market is so huge and chances that you will find again what you saw (unless taking notes) are not that big.
Wat Pho – Wat Pho (or Wat Po), or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is a MUST-SEE when in Bangkok. Wat Pho is even older than Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. To make sure the site is open, check its working hours ahead of time. This way, you will also be able to avoid the scammers who try to convince you otherwise. If you have only a little time in Bangkok, the Reclining Buddha is the place to go. I really enjoyed looking at the statue and all the other accompanying buildings.
Lumphini Park – You can’t go wrong with a visit to this lovely park with many things to see. Whether you want to just rest, see some lizards, or some statues, you have them all here. This is the first public park in Bangkok and has several things within. I, generally, don’t visit parks when going to a foreign country; however, it felt pretty hot at the time I visited Bangkok so I was looking for an escape and Lumphini Park was just what I needed. I took some rest there under the shadow, enjoyed watching various sculptures and installments there, and wandering around with no set agenda.
Asiatique – When I visited, unfortunately, the Ferris wheel wasn’t working. However, there are other things to see in that area. An art installment which shows some workers carrying sacks, or visit the gift Verona city has given to Bangkok with all the love locks attached to it. There are also some cafés and restaurants where you can eat and drink. They’d usually be open later in the day, but if you find the workers cleaning around, you can grab a drink (that’s what I did, actually).
The Grand Palace – I didn’t go inside the Grand Palace as I didn’t plan properly my stay there. I had plenty of time in Bangkok so I took it easy and, thus, I missed it. That’s why you should check the working hours and make sure to go and visit it when you’re there. Nevertheless, the surrounding area is lovely and I managed to take few shots from the entrance which only made me curious about what else is inside. Anyways, there should be some reason to go back, right? Although, Thailand isn’t short of reasons to go back over and over again.
Wat Arun – or the Temple of Dawn. This is a Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The Temple has existed for at least since the 17th, but the spires were built about two centuries later. You can take a ferry from the other side of the river and go and visit Wat Arun. If you plan accordingly, you can catch a sunset on your way back and that will look great (or at least it did for me). I love looking at sunsets; it kinda gives me a good, peaceful feeling and, as I read somewhere, it’s a reminder that not all endings are ugly.
Top attractions in Chiang Mai
Take an elephant tour – One of my biggest reasons for visiting Thailand was to be close to an elephant (or more). I remember when I was a kid I had an elephant toy with which I used to sleep and “talk”. I kinda established a platonic relationship with the elephants without having ever seen one in real life. Later on, I got to see elephants in zoos but not in their real habitat – Mother Nature. This is why I took a tour with Bamboo Elephant Family Care (and I paid for it by the way – it wasn’t sponsored – I didn’t even have a blog at that time – February 2017), which included trekking to a waterfall and rafting. It was a lovely experience and the tour guide was a fun guy.
Art in Paradise – OK! This might sound like a place for kids, but once in a while, it’s good to pretend to be kids and just enjoy your time. I went to this 3D Art Museum and enjoyed my time there with my new South Korean friend whom I met at the hostel at which I was staying in Chiang Mai. It was time spent well trying to take the best shots and just going here and there until we were exhausted. Some shots were failures because of people we asked to take our picture, and some were just perfect. It’s a very good place to take surreal pictures or take kids (or as I said to be a kid yourself).
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – The temple is about 15 kilometers away from the city and there are 309 steps to go up to the Temple. They look lovely and it’s not that difficult to climb them (well, this depends on your physical strength but, if I did it, you can do as well). The view of Chiang Mai from there is also lovely and the temple itself is beautiful. I happened to be there during a monks’ prayer and watched them out of curiosity. You need a means of transportation to go up there from the city and that is not difficult to arrange. You can hail any taxi driver and just say Doi Suthep and agree on a price and they will drive you there.
Wat Chedi Luang – you’d think after seeing a couple of temples, there’s no need to see more. However, Wat Chedi Luang was a great one to visit; all the beautiful details put into its making and the decorations make it for a great place for travelers. I also witnessed a blessing ceremony, or so it seemed to me. It was a lovely experience.
Top attractions in Phuket
Patong Beach – In some way, the Patong Beach might resemble Times Square, with its lights, people, bars, loud music, etc. You can walk along the main street that leads you to the beach, and catch some nice live music in one of the bars while having a drink.
Phuket city – one of the reasons I loved the city was its colors. Colorful places like Phuket always make me feel great. I went around the city, just getting lost on purpose as I love to do occasionally when traveling, and loved it. I also had two pretty opposite experiences. One, a woman just talked to me randomly and told me she was going to a shopping center on her motorbike and if I wanted to go with her and I said yes (it was my first time on a motorbike) and the second one was at the bank when I was trying to exchange money and the bank employees couldn’t find Kosovo on their list.
Top attractions in Phi Phi Islands
I visited Phi Phi Islands last during this first time in Thailand (I hope to go back). I’m a water person and loved being on the beach. In particular, there were lovely long tail boats which I had been dreaming about for so long. With a new friend, we took a sunrise tour which turned out to be our personal tour since we were the only ones. It was a wonderful experience going to visit the small beaches (including the one from the Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie The Beach). Sun, water, watermelon, snorkeling, swimming – what else could one ask for?
New experiences, new friendships
Every travel, for me, is not only about visiting places but also getting to meet people, both local and tourists. I came to meet a few people here with whom I shared my time in Thailand and stayed friends still. We might never meet again, but I’m glad I met them and we still keep in touch through social media. One of them even invited me to her wedding. I couldn’t attend, though, as it happened in the Philippines and I cannot travel there.
Where and what to eat in Thailand?
Many people wonder and ask if street food is safe in Thailand. Let me be clear: I LOVED the street food. Thai street food is the best I have ever eaten. Everything tasted delicious, and I have been longing for it ever since. Try everything, eat it all. In particular, I loved a delicious sweet called Khanom Buang which I had in Chiang Mai. I’ve been saving the recipe, so I cook it at home. However, I’ve not been able to find the ingredients in Kosovo. The fresh smoothies were delicious (and cheap).
I ate a couple of times at Terminal 21 Shopping Center, which has a variety of kitchens. A great dinner at Ros Niyom at Silom Complex with my new Thai friend, Aof was very enjoyable to say at least. I then had dessert at After You (which was super delicious) with my new Filipino friend, Kristine, and her (at that time) fiancé, Antonio.
Where to stay in Thailand?
In Bangkok, I stayed at LiveItUp Asok, which is a pretty decent place and close to public transport and the shopping center Terminal 21, which was a lovely place to spend time and eat great food in their fifth floor.
In Chiang Mai, I stayed at Potae’s House, which was a lovely hostel and where I met my South Korean friend. The owner was very friendly, there was nice breakfast, and most importantly – it was clean.
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