I had the pleasure of co-leading a study abroad group to Thailand. We have to plan these about 18 months before going and so I happily suggested my favorite places which meant we spent a few days in Bangkok, a couple in Hua Hin (south) and then up north to Chiang Mai. Not going to lie, it was a tough 10 days of travel with nonstop exploring and socializing. Packing and unpacking with a night her and night there is not my favorite way to travel. We much prefer slow travel but it was a great way to have student experience different places.
We did the Palace and reclining Buddhas etc. but also were able to attend a class in meditation (walking and sitting), visit a big STEM high school, and take a wonderful cooking class. We made the best food and the chef was delightful. It was extremely well organized with plates of ingredients for each person appearing at one station where we learned about them before going to another station to cook them. We made four dishes and could barely move as so full. If you are there check out:
In Hua Hin we hit the night markets and beach but then drove to a huge national park with a lovely lake. We took a boat ride around it and visited islands with monkeys on them. You could also rent bikes and ride around although I chose to sit in the shade as afternoon sun in Thailand is a tad intense.
In Chiang Mai we again shopped (always popular) and spent a day at an elephant sanctuary. We fed them, ground up herbs to make healthy snacks for them, and then it was bath time. Quite a muddy process!
Another muddy process was visiting a seed saving NGO called Echo. It was really interesting to hear about their work around the world aimed at helping collect seeds to share with small holding farmers and also to work on promotion of better farming practices as well as sustainable (and cheap) tools. It was cool to see them collecting natural methane gas from pig poop and then fire up a stove with it. We were able to sit and clean seeds and do some weeding in the gardens.
One of the best events was visiting Chiang Mai University and interacting with the students and faculty. Their students put on quite an event at the American Center on campus as they love to practice English and make connections. They had us playing some drawing games and fact finding warm ups that had everyone holding their sides from laughing so hard. Everyone was so welcoming and gracious that it was a really lovely day.
All in all, a wonderful “work” trip (struggle to call it that as it was so much fun with incredible students). It did remind me of how much I’ve missed S.E Asia.
Our favorite restaurant U-Saw-Mass across the street from the condos:
We have had three holidays in Hua Hin and love the place. Aside from the fun things to do, we discovered wonderful places to stay. Our favorite is in John and Kay’s, Busaba Pool Villas. They have a couple of 2-bedroom condos in a unit called SeaCraze and we have stayed in both. This is located near to restaurants and the beach and is a fun, quieter side of Hua Hin (and the best beaches). The building has a HUGE pool and nice gym.
The condos are furnished with the softest mattresses and high quality pillows and bedding. In S.E. Asia this is rare so we appreciated it. John also gives a lot of extras such as providing a cell phone, loads of English TV stations, and even a hard drive loaded with movies and music.
This last visit we rented a car and so stayed in one of their amazing villas.
We had a 3-bedroom house with a great private pool. The villas are in a small, very safe gated community about 10 minutes to main shopping areas. You don’t need a car but it helps as nothing is easy to walk to from here (the security always call a taxi though). The houses are L-shaped around the deck and pool with large glass doors that pull back (also has air con if wanted). There are even two outdoor showers, which is fun. Again all appliances, upgraded media, soft beds, and great furnishings are provided.
John even arranges pick up in Bangkok with private driver and has a grocery list you can send him to pre-arrange food and drink on arrival.
I’m not in advertising nor get anything from this blog post but just wanted to share this place as John and Kay really have worked hard to provide a great place for people to stay. I sure hope we get back soon.
We hired a car (cheap in Thailand and pretty easy to drive here – at least if you are used to driving in Dubai!) and one day headed out of town to the West, into the hills to the local winery.
There is a lovely restaurant, which is quite upscale and of course expensive. But we had a wine tasting of three of their wines plus selection of cheeses, meats, bread and olives grown onsite. The wine was good and the kids liked the local grape soda. It was nice to see how much was grown onsite and used in the menu.
The drive down is easy with good highway and roads but we appreciated our GPS. The park costs 200 Baht per person and you are asked to show the tickets at a few stops. We first took a canal long-boat ride which was through a quiet area of mangroves. Pretty and saw monkeys, lots of birds, crabs and mudskippers.
Then we headed to a beach area and sat at an outside restaurant overlooking the beach. Good food and cheap plus no one at the beach which was great.
Then it was on to take another long-boat out to another secluded beach. From there you can climb up pretty tough steps hewn out of rock to reach caves with a temple inside. This is a tough climb in the heat.
The beaches are lovely and again were empty. It was a great day out.
We have visited Hua Hin a couple of times now and really enjoy it. This is the summer palace of the King and Queen of Thailand about 3.5 hours south east of Bangkok. It’s a good and easy road to get there and usually more Thai people than foreigners. It has great night markets, beaches, temples, elephant sanctuaries, a winery, and enough of a party vide at night to keep the young’uns happy (big young’uns). We like the Ko Takiab side past Monkey Mountain.
It’s been enjoyable going to the same town a couple of times as there is comfort in knowing our way around.
There is a nice little mall with enough variety of restaurants, small shops and a Tesco to entertain and provide enough shopping to keep all happy. The night market has good street food and outdoor restaurants for the evening entertainment. Plus at weekends there is the nighttime Cicada Market that has handicrafts (good ones) and loads of food stalls.
During the day the beach is a good walking place. We tend not to swim as jellyfish seem a problem and the water is rather murky but then mine all prefer swimming in pools anyway. But there are horse rides on the beach and people collecting clams, plus even better there are lounge chairs to rent that are connected to the beach restaurants/bars.
Once ensconced on one of these, the vendors make their way past and you can purchase all kinds of clothing, ice cream and snacks, have a pedicure or manicure, and even get a massage. It’s pretty easy to spend the afternoon having an hour-long massage, a couple of icy cold beers, pedicure and lunch for less than $25. Throw in a good book and it’s my kind of day!
This is a great sanctuary that has taken in animals that need care. They do have some of them perform small shows but they are caringly done and the animals are well looked after and also get free time. They do the shows to raise needed money.
We signed up for the mahout experience and we were able to spend a few hours visiting and helping are for the elephants. We helped feed vitamins to them inside their fruit and veg and then we took the baby for a walk and helped wash him later. It was so amazing to wander around in the fields with the little one loose – no ropes or anything. The volunteers who run this segment are a British couple who retired there. Great people and it made for a memorable day.
At the beginning of the day, the mahout who looks after the baby elephant comes to work and first goes into the temple to pray. The baby was always following him and so just went along too but what was amazing is that the little elephant started copying the mahout by bowing down and lying in front of the shrines. No one taught him to do this and he simply copied his mahout’s behavior. He got a bit big to fit through the door so the sanctuary remodeled and made the entrance bigger so he can continue. It’s amazing and very peaceful to watch this young elephant potter around the temple with his care giver and copy him in prayer.
There are some elephant “sanctuaries” and shows in Thailand that are less than stellar with elephants not well treated. You have to research them well. Sad situation too for those giving tourist rides in Bangkok in the center of the city. They have to walk most of the night to get to the center where they work before plodding hours back out in the evening. The elephants are not allowed to be housed inside the city so need to travel a long way every day. Their feet get very sore and blistered from hot roads and constant walking. One of those elephants is happily at Hutsadin now.
We flew up to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand as everyone raves about it. Stayed at a neat hotel and could walk to markets and old part of city. It’s an OK place but we were not as enamored of it as others are. We preferred the south for many reasons and one of them was the food. Overall we did not enjoy the food up north as much. Just not as tasty and I had a very nasty bout of food poisoning.
But it’s fun to go elephant trekking and bamboo rafting up there.
We also had fun at the zoo and various animal park areas with tigers and snakes.