Thailand – My 5 Favorite Places
I haven’t written much about Thailand on LashWorldTour, which is exceedingly ironic because Thailand has been the single most significant country of my entire world travels.
For starters, I kicked off my life-long world trip in Bangkok. I thoroughly explored that vast & intriguing city before setting off on a long bicycle journey down to Singapore along the east coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. I wasn’t in any hurry – it took me three months. I explored national parks, beaches, islands, small towns and many off-the-track rural areas.
During following years I cycled Thailand’s entire west coast, the length of Kanchanaburi Province, the shores of the mighty Mekong River near Nong Khai and several other regions of the country.
Bangkok was loosely my travel base from 1998 – 2004 while I explored SE Asia. I returned there several times each year, staying one week to one month at a time and taking all my flights to/from there.
I celebrated the turn of the century New Year’s Eve on Phuket. I enjoyed my first solo Christmas on a small Thai beach. Over the years I’ve visited 80-90% of Thailand’s gorgeous tropical islands.
I’ve been speaking and reading Thai since 1998 when I cycled down to Singapore. I’ve had a few Thai boyfriends and have made many Thai friends & acquaintances around the country.
In 2002 at Koh Tarutao Island I was recruited, literally off the beach, to crew on Thailand Survivor – as a Thai translator. I learned all about working with Thai people, which is an entirely different ball game from traveling through Thailand as a visitor, let me assure you!
In 2004 I completed most of my scuba training in Thailand, receiving my Instructor’s License at Phuket. From 2004-2010 I spent half my life at Tonsai Beach, Krabi, teaching diving and hanging out with rock climbers from all over the world. I worked in dive shops with western dive pros, Thai colleagues, Thai bosses and Thai subordinates. Whew, what at trip!
You might say I’ve really immersed myself in the full Thai experience for over a decade. Although I’ve explored a huge chunk of that amazing and diverse country, I do have my select favorite places, some that I’ve returned to year after year, others that I’ve just visited once or twice.
1. Tonsai Beach, Krabi
Without doubt, this is my very favorite place in Thailand.
Tonsai/Railay Penninsula is the premier rock climbing mecca in Asia. Climbers of all skill levels from Europe and N. America flock there to challenge themselves on sheer limestone walls that soar high above the stunning Andaman Sea and golden powdery sands. More than 700 climbing routes have been set in the cliffs and more are in progress all the time.
I did a short climbing stint but then moved on to scuba diving, working as an instructor at Tonsai. As mentioned earlier, from 2004-2010 I spent literally half my life at Tonsai diving, hanging out with climbers, living in thatched bungalows and enjoying dance parties on the beach. What a life!
Bangkok is an immense and fascinating city filled with hundreds of elaborate Thai temples, dozens of districts and neighborhoods, the world’s largest market (Chatuchak Weekend Market), fascinating shopping malls, incredible food, fun-loving people and a vibrant night life.
There’s no mystery why it’s one of SE Asia’s most popular, most visited cities. Bangkok is exciting, overwhelming, exotic, edgy, fun and awe-inspiring.
Unlike most travelers to Bangkok, I completely avoid the tourist areas of Khao San Road and Sukumvit. Instead, I stay in an entirely Thai neighborhood right beside the mighty Chao Phraya River. I immerse myself in the real Thailand, the real Bangkok. Very few locals speak English. The only westerners there are staying at the same little hotel as I am.
I love cycling Bangkok’s super-hectic roads, riding Chao Phraya river ferries, re-visiting Bangkok’s amazing temples, checking out massive shopping malls full of Thai teens, eating street foods, getting massages, stocking up on trendy clothes at Chatuchak Market and going out dancing.
3. Kanchanaburi Province
I’ve only explored Kanchanaburi once, but it was an amazing trip. I took my bicycle on a train then bus to the province’s far western border with Myanmar. At the border there’s an unusual lake, temple ruins and a large Burmese village. I explored that intriguing area then slowly cycled back to Bangkok.
Kanchanaburi is full of National Parks with lush forests, mountains, rivers and hot springs. I spent two weeks cycling, hiking and camping.
The Province is also famous for it’s notorious WW II Bridge over the River Kwai. Thousands of tourists visit the spot, riding the train built by prisoners of war during horrendous conditions. The train passes along the very edge of the river and through dense jungle with spectacular scenery. I joined the tourist throngs for that exciting historic rail ride.
My two-week trip through Kanchanaburi still remains as one of my most memorable explorations of Thailand.
4-5. Tiny islands of Trang and Satun Provinces
I first visited the little-known islands of Trang & Satun Provinces back in 2001 on a 3-month island-hopping adventure. The islands were quiet, lush and peaceful. The coral reefs just off-shore were in pristine condition, full of colorful corals and thronging with reef fish & marine creatures.
My absolute favorite island, Koh Ngai, I returned to several times after that trip. In 2013 I embarked on a second island hopping journey, only to discover that most of the beautiful islands have been over-run with Thai tourists, the once gorgeous coral reefs 80% destroyed. It was heart-breaking.
But two of those numerous islands are still basically quiet & unspoiled, at least during off season. They are Koh Bulon and Koh Tarutao National Park. I wrote about both of them in more depth during my 2013 visit.
What are your favorite places in Thailand?
Have you visited any of my favorite places? If so, what did you think of them?
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