You may have noticed that at the top of both of our lists of favorite countries visited is Thailand. Sometimes I wonder whether Thailand really is a better holiday destination than other places we have visited, or if we are just sentimental. After all, Thailand was the first foreign country I ever visited. Yep, even before venturing to neighboring Mexico and Canada, George swept me away to Thailand and Japan in 2004. But, after a lot of thought, I would have to say that Thailand really is magnificent. On our 2008-2009 adventure we started out with a blissful month relaxing at Kata Beach on Phuket (Pooh-get) Island in Thailand. Then after spending five months traveling throughout SE Asia we returned for one week on Samui Island, Thailand. And even after all the other places we had been, we still loved Thailand.
Powdery white sand beaches, delicious food cooked hot when you order it, mango smoothies, and friendly smiley people. And although the prices have been increasing steadily since our first visit in 2004, it is still much cheaper than Hawaii. So it may be partially the feeling of a home away from home that keeps pulling us back to Thailand, but I think even new-comers would be hard pressed not to fall in love with this tropical paradise.
We did not have this travel log back when we ventured to Thailand in 2004, but I thought I would share some photos now from that first magical voyage.
High on my to-do list for Thailand was an elephant safari. Riding an elephant just sounds so cool! Turns out it was not a very comfortable ride, but definitely worth doing once! And we did not really go on a safari through the jungle as I had expected. Instead, we went right up to the edge of the jungle, where you could hear the loud buzz of the insects, and turned around.
We took a package eco-tour from Patong Beach on Phuket Island, which included visiting a rubber plantation, an elephant safari, and kayaking on a river out to where it met the ocean.
And we just had to visit tiny little Phi Phi Island, which we had heard so much about. On our first visit there in 2004 it was a truly wonderful place, like an island you would find in Never-Never Land. Too bad it is now over capacity with tourist and unable to deal with the garbage and waste of so many visitors. Perhaps if they capped how many visitors could go each year it would help preserve the island and its charm. But the way things are going, the hoards of people visiting the island are destroying the natural beauty that draws people there. In 2009 there were also no longer the bargain bungalows that had been there in 2004. The December 2004 tsunami swept across the center of Phi Phi Island, washing out many of the accommodations (and taking many people’s lives). The resorts that were re-built afterward are now more upscale, making budget bungalows hard to find.
Phi Phi Island how it was back in 2004 will remain in my memory as one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. From Phi Phi Don, the main island where accommodations are located, we took a longtail boat ride to Phi Phi Le, an uninhabited island.
We hired Maan as our long tail boat driver on all three of our visits to Phi Phi (2004, 2006, and 2009). He had really aged when we saw him in 2006, after the death and destruction wrought by the tsunami.
Our first stop on our longtail boat tour was Pi-Le Bay on Koh Phi Phi Le. It was a gorgeous aqua blue circular bay, like a calm bath tub in the middle of the ocean, which I dubbed, “My favorite place in the world.” It is so easy just to float on your back in the salt water and gaze up at the lime stone karsts jutting up into the sky. No return visit to Pi-Le Bay could ever quite capture the joy of that first visit. We returned again in 2006, but it was beginning to rain, and not so warm and soothing as I remembered. We were not able to go in 2009, since the waves were too big on that side of the island, so we visited some other little coves on Phi Phi Le Island.
Our longtail boat driver, Mann, also took us to some prime snorkeling spots. The coral is another thing that was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami, and still has not fully recovered.
We also stopped off at the beach in Maya Bay on Phi Phi Le, where the movie “The Beach” was filmed.
Then we headed back to our bungalow at Bay View Resort. We stayed at Bay View Resort on our first two trips to Phi Phi, but the price just keeps going up. On our third trip we found a cheaper bungalow, further inland, at Chunut House.
The next day we snuck in one more longtail boat ride, before our ferry ride back to Phuket. We had time for some more snorkeling.
And a stop at a beautiful long white sand beach.
Then it was time to stop at our bungalow to pick up our suitcases and head to the pier. And…
That’s when George proposed to me! 🙂 We were back in Patong Beach on Phuket Island that evening, in perfect time to celebrate with dinner at Baan Rim Pa, one of the best restaurants in the world!
To wrap up our visit to Thailand, we spent a couple days back in Bangkok, shopping at the night markets and visiting the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is truly spectacular and a must-see if you visit Thailand!
Ever since our first trip to Thailand in 2004, it has held a special place in our hearts. If you are looking for a get-away in paradise with beautiful tropical beaches, our top recommendation would be Thailand.
What is your favorite beach destination? If you have been to Thailand, do you agree that it really is all that?