Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Ko Tao
Thailand was spent with our friends, Steph and Brandon, and while the weather often left something to be desired, we made the most of it.
We met our friends Stephanie and Brandon at the airport in Bangkok for our flight to Chiang Mai (where we were originally supposed to meet them). Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand that is known for beautiful mountain scenery and delicious food markets. We splurged with our friends and stayed at the Panviman Resort. While the resort itself was beautiful, the one downside was that it was a bit of a trek to get anyway as it’s isolated outside of town. One of the main tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is visiting an elephant sanctuary. While it was once popular to visit places that offered elephant riding/trekking, the trend has turned to more ethical reserves. We visited Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, where we were able to learn about the elephants, feed them and lastly, help them bathe in the nearby river. It is always difficult to visit wild animals in captivity–the brain is flooded with questions–however, there are over 2000-3000 captive elephants in Thailand, including many who were rescued from less than stellar tourist operations. We also took one full day meandering through downtown Chiang Mai visiting the numerous temples and in the evening exploring the Sunday Night Market.
Ko Samui and Ko Tao
From Chiang Mai we traveled south to the island of Ko Samui. Because the airport on the island is private flights to Ko Samui are very expensive so instead we booked a flight + bus + ferry package from Air Asia for 100 USD less. The drawback is that it’s 4 hours more travel time. Ko Samui is Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket and like Phuket, is a jump off point to exploring other nearby islands. Along with enjoying the beach we also visited the Giant Buddha and partook in a cooking class. Prior to the cooking class we went to a local market to shop for our ingredients we would need for the dishes we chose: papaya salad, Tom Yum soup, stir fried yellow curry and chicken cashew.
After Ko Samui we took a high speed boat for 2 hours to the island of Ko Tao. While Ko Tao has been nicknamed “murder island” and is struggling with it’s image after 7 tourist deaths in the last 3 years, including quite a few mysterious ones, the island was still quite busy with young backpackers. On Ko Tao we took a half day snorkeling trip with multiple stops around the island. The weather was not in our favor. We battled strong winds and downpours on and off for the duration of our trip but the water temperature was so warm that it mattered more on the boat then during snorkeling.