From Bali, we arrived in Bangkok. Short flight, but a long drive into the city. Traffic is insane, and it felt like we crawled along those busy busy streets for-e-ver. We had chosen a hotel that was super central to the major temples and attractions as we knew we would have to jam-pack our days in Bangkok to cover everything we hoped to see and do. The kids jumped up and down with excitement when they saw the breakfast buffet, a welcome change from the toast-with-jam in Bali.
Our first evening, we ate right across the street from our hotel at Madam Musur Samsen 2. It has a nice décor, and the food was good. We were surprised with the lack of service however – the staff was not at all friendly, surely not patient, and somewhat rude. Quite the difference from what we had just experienced in Bali, but luckily also not at all characteristic for the remainder of our stay in Bangkok and Thailand. We mostly ate street food for lunch, snacks and dinners and loved it! Our kids would eat the meat skewers, noodles soups and fried rice without hesitation. We loved pulling out those plastic, colorful little stools and watch our food being fried in the wok right there.
Our first stop was the Grand Palace where we admired the Emerald Buddha (somehow way smaller than we had imagined), made up the stories pictured in the wall paintings and sprinkled holy water on our heads with flower bulbs. The Palace and Palace grounds are impressive, but all I remember now is how incredibly hot it was, and how incredibly busy. We shuffled shoulder to shoulder with a million other tourists. This is the first time an Asian couple asked to take our picture! We cooled off at Favour Café around the corner – where the kids loved playing with the resident cat – and we enjoyed incredible ice coffees and the most delicious desserts. Worth a stop! (Around the corner is a cute little shopping center as well).
The next day, we travelled to the Temple of Dawn by boat taxi. Well, we wanted to go to the Reclining Buddha, but got off on the wrong side of the river :). Not bad, as the Temple of Dawn is impressive as well. Along the way, we picked up delicious strawberries and mangos and pineapples from the street vendors. We had a streetfood lunch a little later – little balls filled with a meaty type filling (no, not quite like “bitterballen”!) and more skewers. Next streetfood cart for delicious coconut icecream, served in a coconut, with coconut shavings. (Yep, most our days revolve around food in case you hadn’t noticed).
We visited the Siam Museum with Siam Cafe– a highly entertaining, modern and interactive museum giving you a glimpse into what modern day Thai culture is all about. The kids got to play dress-up here in one exhibit, and in another got to pick out boxes filled with artifacts related to a typical Thai activity, festivity or ritual. We ended our day with a visit to the Reclining Buddha, who was way way bigger than we imagined. The place was serene and peaceful, and we got make our offerings in silence. You can exchange a small banknote for a bucket filled with small coins. The coins you drop into offering “pots” that are lined up all along the wall. A little walking meditation .
Our kids loved the tuk tuk rides, which we found efficient, fast and “economical” (ie cheap). Hazardous also as we zipped through traffic at relatively high speeds. The drivers were so amused by our kids that they would turn up the music volume and make it a party. The tuk tuks are lined with colorful lamps and neon lights. Like a driving disco! That night we had dinner at Khao San Road. We tried fried crickets, but shied away from the scorpions. Dessert that night (that we al had before dinner) were thai crepes with banana and nutella. Finger licking yumm! We made our way through the night market with not too much damage to our wallets, and finally made it back to our hotel, exhausted but happy.
The following day we left early again for a guided day tour. Our main attractions that day would be a railway market and a floating market, with a couple temple stops along the way. The Maeklon railway market was rather fun – stalls with all sorts of food (fresh fish anyone?) and nick knacks are spread onto the railway tracks. When the train comes through, everything is quickly packed up, taken of the tracks, canopies folded away. And immediately after the train passes, everything is put back just as fast. Quite the ritual! (Some tourists are idiots though – standing on the track to capture the perfect selfie with the train approaching, so close that the train driver honks its dramatically loud horn. Or maybe that was the selfie-making-tourist’s intent?).
Along the way we stopped at 2 distinct temples. One had the most exquisite woodwork you can imagine. When we got up the steps to the temple, I did not notice that our picture was taken. When we exited the temple, those savvy entrepreneurs had printed our picture and put it in a frame. I did not have the heart not to buy the picture… The other temple was essentially edged into a tree. The atmosphere here was lively, busy with locals praying and bringing offerings. During this trip, we found our own family ritual – in any temple, we also sink to our knees and pray briefly, and that always feels inspiring.
We had high expectations of the Damnoen Saduak floating market, but turns out not much of the market is actually floating. We took a boat tour (which we thought would take us through the market, but that would be short ride! Instead, you essentially tour the canal going around the island, watching homes, fields and temples from the water). Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few boats in the market – most little floating kitchens where food is prepared, that is then served and enjoyed on little stools on the quay. We found ourselves a spot and ordered crab. I have no idea how the locals get the crab meat out of these tiny crabs. I did not succeed. It was a mess! We loved the hustle and bustle of the place. The market was jam-packed and fun to navigate.
Our final day in Bangkok, we celebrated Elyse’s birthday. A little early, but ever since she saw pictures of the Unicorn Café, she had talked about wanting to go there. We had called them in advance to have a small birthday cake made. And oh – did they deliver! It’s a small-ish café, but everything, e-ve-ry-thing is unicorn themed. From the chairs to the tables to the walls to the drinks and cakes. You can even rent a unicorn costume while you are there. Elyse was in heaven!! She loved every second of it (and so did we)! These guys understand what it takes to brand something. It was quite a walk to get there, and Elyse had wanted her first ever massage as a birthday gift. (I was at least 30 when I got a professional massage. She’s 6!!). So on our walk over we stopped at a massage parlor. Later we learned this was on your typical night-bar street, but in broad daylight it was all decent. Afterwards, we continued on to Lumpini Park as we read there is a big playground there and we wanted to kids to be able to run free after days of being such troopers during sight-seeing. But the playground was closed off and under construction :(. So dad took the kids on water pedalos – which was fascinating for the boys as they spotted dead fish (yuck) and massive leguans. That night, we all felt festive, and treated ourselves to a celebratory dinner at Jamie’s Italian (that I had spotted on our ride into town, and Matthias is obsessed with Jamie Oliver after watching his cooking shows). Oh yes, it was worth every dollar – even though it burnt a whole in our pockets! Truly an experience. The kids’ menu for example is presented in a viewmaster…
We loved Bangkok, and after a couple very busy, long and hot days we were ready for our next stop in Thailand, Chiang Mai.
Our first 2-3 days we took it super easy, relaxing by the pool and planning/booking our next stops. We stayed at The Grand Napat in a serviced apartment. It was a little out of town, but perfect with a nice pool and large gym. And then our good friends the Lambers’ came to town! We had looked forward to meeting up with them again! We had met in Costa Rica, again in Australia and couldn’t wait to hear the stories of their adventures since. That night we had dinner at Cat’s Café, a local, top tripadvisor pick. The food was so good!
We spent a day together at the Grand Canyon waterpark, and all the kids had a blast. The waterpark is fun and affordable, situated in an abandoned quarry. Elyse could not get enough of the ziplining!
Our next stop would be an elephant home. I know, I know. At Chiang Mai Elephant Home, the owner focuses on buying abused elephants (either from farmers, or places where elephants are ridden). Buying an elephant is difficult (as it is a major source of income for its owner and his/her family), requires quite a bit of sensitivity and negotiation (you don’t want them to go and abuse another animal!) and thus expensive to purchase at about 25 to 30.000$. They are also expensive to keep as a grown elephant eats anywhere from 200 to 600 tons of food a day. These animals were domesticated and had their spirits broken in the most grueling ways. We had heard good things about this particular elephant home, and so we took one of those local taxi-trucks to take us there. The team did a great job of explaining and showcasing the abuse these animals were subjected to, and what needs to happen to stop it. They create great awareness around the issues, and made sure our visit that morning was varied, well-paced and interesting. It is so majestic to experience these gentle giants up close. Feeding them bananas. Going out to the fields to chop banana trees. Taking a mud bath with them in the mud pit. Walking a mile to the river with them, to wash the mud from ourselves and the elephants. There was a playful young elephant around that would charge at the kids to play (a little scary sometimes! Even a little elephant like that could knock me over).
Lunch was super too, a rice noodle soup that we got to “prepare” ourselves by putting ingredients in a basket and boiling it in broth. This made it so interesting for Elyse that she actually tried the rice noodles and learned to appreciate a new food (she is our picky eater, remember). And finally, we all jumped in the pool as the next group arrived.
But yet, again, this is a “routine” and a “show” for the animals to follow. Dozens of people coming through every day; being touched, being fed bananas, taking the mud bath, walking to the river, and back. Rinse and repea the next day and every day. In speaking with the volunteers there, I get it. They have to make enough money to feed the animals, and to buy/free more animals. I have mixed feelings towards our “volunteerism” – in Western media quickly depicted as sustaining the problem (eg kids are kept in orphanages, as kids in orphanages draw tourist-volunteers and donations). I hear you. Speaking with locals and locals guides however, every single one of them states that at the present moment there is no alternative. Without offering an “experience” to well-meaning tourists, there would simply not be the type of money flowing in that allows to buy/free and keep these elephants and give them a relatively relaxed retirement home. But I do hope the cycle gets broken so that farmers and tourist attractions stop short from domesticating a new animal. Please people, do NOT ride elephants!
To end this one on a funny note … elephants do poop. A lot. In the mud bath, in the river, everywhere. We got a sh***-load right as we were in the mud pit. Hallelujah.
Another day, we all hired a driver for the day to go waterfall-seeing. Our first stop was the Bua Thong waterfall aka sticky waterfall. So so so fun!! Seriously one of the most fun things we did all trip. And for free! The waterfall rushes over a type of stone that literally “sticks” to your bare feet or shoes. It allows you to climb up the waterfall like spiderman. Fantastic. It was not busy at all so we got to rush up and down a couple times. Later that day we stopped by a “10 layer waterfall”. Not quite as fun or impressive, but still made for a nice hike up next to the falls.
Our 2 families also took a day tour to Doi Inthanon, the highest peak of Thailand. This time we opted for the comfort of a mini-van, and glad we did! The King and Queen pagoda’s at Doi Inthanon were impressive, and the gardens surrounding them even more so. This apparently is the only place in Thailand where the rhododendron grows (due to the milder temperatures and distinct seasons up the mountain), and it’s quite special to Thai visitors. We stopped by yet another waterfall (this time only to watch, not to play). Final stop on our way home was a local indigenous village. That was so sad. One house/room was set up to weave and sell weaving products. Just a couple homes around…
In Chiang Mai, we also went shopping for books, new pens and pencils. There’s a great mall around; could have easily been a Portland mall. I discovered that Matthias loves malls and wants to live in one !
While we were with the Lambers, we stayed at a hostel for a couple nights … . We had the bunk room with 4 bunks. The hotel was clean enough, but the beds so hard! And then the smell!! We all quickly decided to change hotels, and Tracie found this absolute gem just 5 minutes walk from the food night market. (Did I mention the night market yet? We ate there so many evenings. Everyone can eat what they fancy, it’s delicious and cheap). I also dropped some clothes at the seamstress around the corner who repaired holes for a nickel and a dime with her cast-iron sewing machine that must have dated from the sixties. I love that stuff.)
And then it was time to say goodbye to our friends. Smiff! We hope to see them again in Europe. How cool would that be? Saw them in Central America, in Australia, in Thailand and hopefully in Belgium!
While the Lambers family set off to Cambodia, we flew to Chiang Rai, in the North-East of Thailand and close the Golden Triangle. We stayed at a good hotel a little out of town.
Our first day we cooked with Tik of cookthaiyourself. What a blast! Our kids could not be more excited about the cooking class and Tik made it unforgettable. She picked us up in her car, this tiny woman, a ball of energy even though she is well into her sixties. First stop, the market. She handed us a paper with phrases in Thai, handed the kids a little purse with money and off we went. Vincent negotiated the purchase of limes. We admired some local delicacies for the Songkran festivities, like ant eggs (!). We needed fresh coconut milk but the poor guy was cleaning the machine. Tik obviously made him power it up again just for us to see. We got chicken. Anyone who’s been to Asia understands how interesting it is to buy meat or fish at the market. Our kids were kind of shocked at the butcher’s handicraft, chopping up a whole chicken in front of their eyes. I still can’t believe my kids’ response … they prefer buying it packaged at the supermarket as “that’s not so cruel”. What?!? Okay, we had a little lesson about how there is nothing even remotely romantic about how meat for mass-consumption is raised and handled. Tik then took us to her home, where we picked fresh herbs from her yard (I am embarrassed to say we didn’t even recognize half the plants…). It was close to Elyse’s birthday, and Tik made it very special with a festively decorated table and candles to blow. We made an absolute mess in her kitchen. And to this date we yell “oh-my-gooooodddd” in the same way Tik did when she corrected the boys. We had a blast!
We also undertook a bike tour of about 20km through the hinterland of Chiang Rai with … Chiang Rai Bicycle Tours. They were fantastic! The bikes were super well maintained, they had bikes for our kids and even a “connect on bike” for Elyse (don’t know the proper name for those). We biked from the outskirt of the city to the temple Wat Rong Khun aka White Temple. That was one amazing temple. The work of renowned local artist and architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, the temple is an eccentric and modern day example of what Buddhism can be. And the artist has humor! Our guide did a phenomenal job immersing us into all that the temple had to offer, and as he could tell we were all really into the Buddhist culture he went to great lengths with stories of his daily life. Sadly, one is not allowed to make pictures of the sacred inner temple, but that is were the magic is. A spectacular mural runs from the back of the room (where you enter) to the front of the room (where Buddha sits) – and depicts the process towards enlightenment. From the darkest depths of mankind, with references to recent war, pop culture, etc, the mural pictures the gradual transformation to an enlightened soul. Very very very impressive.
Our last day in Chiang Rai, we visited the Union Village. We had long debated whether we would, researched quite a bit and called our guide ahead of time for guidance. Oftentimes described as a human zoo, where the tribes are on display for money. We learned that the tribes people don’t have a legal status in Thailand, and thus can’t work or participate in society really. Here, it is said that the people in the Union Village live there voluntarily and earn an income, can live in community, and their children can go to school. I believe this is the last generation of tribes people, as their children receive mostly a Catholic education and hopefully, through advocacy, also a path to citizenship. It was heart breaking. We learned so much that day, and felt so humbled. And felt that we, as a society, are so wrong to eradicate these cultures and customs; they have no means of survival. Would it be so wrong to provide them with a living wage so they can continue to live in their communities and sustain the culture? Would it be wrong to teach them how to supplement that living wage with desirable and sustainable tourism? No matter how you look at it, these tribes here in the village are exploited. I kept asking but could not get a straight answer as to who receives the money from the entrance fee. I feel strongly there’s a savvy business man operating in the background. Yeah, I made it worse for sure by purchasing a ton of souvenirs. The Karen Long Neck women were so gracious, curious and interacted with us. It was a school holiday and so the children were very visible along the village too. Young pregnant women. Elderly women. Obviously the most attention from the tourists goes to the long neck and big ear tribes. But there are other tribes in the village – a total of 5. There’s some pretty good info out on the web on the village. When we arrived in a different part of the village, someone blew a whistle. The tribe’s people rushed to the stage, putting on skirts etc of their local dress. We were “asked” (told) to sit, and souvenirs were rudely pushed onto us. The men and women (a total of maybe 10, ranging in age from what felt like 8 to 80) performed a sort of dance. It was sad and heartbreaking. None of them wanted to be there. At all. Our guide even said as we continued our path through the village that they had had many conversation with them, that with some enthusiasm and more folklore they would draw far more excitement, and thus .. donations and purchases. Connecting with the tourists, I believe is what he called it. Or selling their souls?
We made it a point to buy a souvenir from every tribe (a purse, a windchime, a bracelet), to not negotiate the price, to just pay what they ask, to buy not from the loudest but rather the quietest of the stalls. None of it felt right. None of it.
The enormous struggles of the local indigenous communities hit us hard, both in Thailand as well as later in Cambodia and Vietnam. I hope it is imprinted in our children’s memory. We need more compassion and inclusion – not less of it.
We left the Union Village quiet and depressed, and where still quite impressed by the time we got to the Baandam Museum aka Black House. Like the White Temple, The Black House also is the brainchild of a local renowned and eccentric architect, artist and collector named Thawan Duchanee (he studied in Holland of all places!). We spent some time walking the grounds, and couldn’t quite understand the eclectic collection and how it related to preserving the local culture (lot of crocodile skins, … ). We were still very quiet on our ride back to the hotel.
We felt like it had been go-go-go for weeks, from Bali to Bankgok to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. We longed for some quiet time and were excited to head for one of the islands in the south-east of Thailand … Koh Tao! In the pouring rain we took the bus back to Chiang Mai, and flew to Surat Thani. A long travel day and we had another one ahead of us. We stayed overnight at Inn Khun House, a nice, clean little hotel. The food served was OK and the hosts courteous and warm. Recommended as a stop on your way south. The following day we had a long long boat ride ahead of us … and the sea was rough. We all got so sick! I could not hold it together and by the time we arrived on Koh Samui (the first stop) I felt utterly miserable. A fellow passenger who knew the drill had travel sickness pills, and I gladly took one. I know they don’t help once you are sick, but we had an hour layover at Koh Samui; long enough to settle my stomach and for the pills to do their magic. On Koh Samui, Steven ran to the pharmacy to get motion sickness tablets for the kids as well. Good thing he did! We kind of kept it together on our way over to Koh Pha Ngan and then Koh Tao. But oh my! Well over half of the passengers were very sick! Plastic bags were handed out by the dozens, and were, for the most part, effectively used. Or not. You can imagine the scene, and the stench. Elyse wasn’t able to swallow the pills, but was saved again by a friendly German co-passenger – she handed her a chewing tablet, and that helped her overcome nausea.
Koh Tao was incredibly relaxed. We … did not do much … !! We took one excursion to the island of Nang Yuan for a bit of snorkeling but snorkeling there was very very (very!) poor. We hiked up to the top of the island for a great view. This was an island that I felt was overrun. Hundreds off people (if not thousands) arrive at this tiny island every day, and hang around for an hour or two. We saw pictures of what Nang Yuan and Koh Tao were 20 and 10 years ago, and it doesn’t resemble that at all anymore… A long strip of hotels has been built along the coast line. Don’t got me wrong, it still has charm, but not quite as rustic as you might like. We stayed at the Sea Shell ‘resort’; a nice enough hotel but it needs some serious TLC. I am sure that a couple years ago this was a 4 if not 5 star place, but now it just feels a little neglected.
Everyone was getting ready for Songkran, as so did we. We bought a total of 5 water guns – our kids “practiced” ahead of time just a little too enthusiastically and the guns break in no time. Before Songkran even began we had already gone through a batch of water guns. More landfill. Oh; to make this post even more depressing: we haven’t talked about trash yet. It is horrendous. It is everywhere. It is undeniably a huge issue. We are so aware now of the enormous amounts of single use plastic that goes through our hands every day. We have to do something!! All of us!!
Okay now. Songkran was fantastic. Such a great atmosphere, where everyone takes to the streets and walks around splashing everyone in sight. It’s one big waterfight. The evening before, we had a foam party on the beach – and the day of Songkran itself, Steven and I even got to dance a little. While we were on the dancefloor, Elyse joined us and that was fantastic. All those early 20 somethings giving her a big thumbs up. The boys … were just embarrassed by our dance moves. (Mom! Everyone can see you!!!). Songkran is a beautiful tradition really; washing away the old so you can welcome the new ….
A couple final notes – all through Thailand, and especially on Koh Tao, we have been so surprised with the cell-phone usage. Everywhere people are hanging, and always on their phones. In shops, in restaurants, at the pharmacy, everywhere. I like to think about the good of having mobile phones – the ability to learn anything anywhere. But now I am not so sure it is helpful . It just distracts from boredom, but also from activity to make life better.
Along the way, Steven broke a molar, and scrambled to find someone to fix it. He took a day trip back to Koh Samui. The service was impeccable!
We spent so much time at Koh Tao just hanging and lounging – by the pool, by the bar, by the beach. Watching the sunsets. Livin’ the life. After an energizing couple days we headed back to Surat Thani, and to Bangkok. (Calm sea this time!). From there, onwards to Sieam Reap, Cambodia the next day. Another bucket list destination!
For our fellow travelers, a reference list of the places we liked to stay, eat and play:
Where we stayed:
- Bangkok: Nouvo City Hotel – connecting rooms, spacious and OK breakfast buffet. Central. In the heat of Bangkok, a pool on the rooftop is a must with kids to cool off at the enf of a hot and sticky date, and this hotel even had a nice little gym. Here we paid 100$ per room, breakfast included. Pricier for sure, but it paid off to be in the heart of the city near all the sights.
- Chiang Mai:
- The Grand Napat – very spacious, serviced apartments. Very friendly staff. Small restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great pool and gym. A couple minutes outside of the old town, but couple nice street food vendors around and a Grab taxi was just a couple dollars. We paid 127 dollars per night for a 2 bedroom apartment, breakfast included.
- Your Space Hotel Prasingh – the rooms were modern and clean, the personnel very friendly. This is a typical hostel. But our room smelled so so bad … nauseating. You also have to step onto a small (open-air) balcony to get into the bathroom. Not our thing, this one. Looking at TripAdvisor not everyone would agree with me – most people seem to love it. The location is fantastic. The pool very small – the pictures are a little deceiving. We don’t complain as we paid 88$ per night, breakfast included, for the family (one large bunk room). Good value for money.
- Baan San Singh – What a fantastic, family run hotel. Spacious room that fit the 5 of us, nice hotel and super friendly and helpful owners. Varied breakfast in the morning. We had 2 double beds in our room, and then a bunk-bed that was a double-decker London bus. Big hit with the kids! Walking distance to the old town, and the night market. For 77$ per night, a steal.
- Chiang Rai:
- Baan Soon Tree – this hotel was set slightly out of town, but taxis are just a couple dollars. Staff was very friendly and helpful. The room was spacious – 1 shared bedroom for the 5 of us, with a small sitting area out front with a fridge. 2 double beds in the room so Elyse slept with us for the occasion. Also here we paid 77$ per night, breakfast included.
- Surat Thani:
- Inn Khun House – good the spend a night en-route to the islands. We even got picked up at the airport for free. The family here was super friendly, made us nice dinner and breakfast. We paid 37$ for our 2 rooms total.
- Koh Tao:
- Sea Shell Resort – we had a small “villa” near the pool, consisting of 2 connecting rooms. Both rooms had a double bed, but no room for an extra bed. We got a mattress to put on the floor that one of the kids slept on. Truly, this could be such a gem, but felt a little run down. On the bright side, it was low season and I can only hope that before the high season starts, repairs are being made and every brought back into tip-top shape. The location is perfect.
Where we ate:
– Madame Musur Samsen 2 – across the street from our hotel. Nice décor, food was good. But see my note on the service … not great!
– Khao San Road – the famous backpacker street. Food is as you can expect …
– Streetfood, streetfood, streetfood. I can’t emphasize enough. Fresh and oh so good. We had amazing Tom Yum in the alley right across from our hotel.
– Little café with spectacular desserts and coffees: Favour Café
– Unicorn Café: everything unicorn themed – our kids loved it!
– Jamie’s Italian: this is one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants – should I write anything about it? It was de-li-cious and such a welcome change after days of streetfood (spoiled, I know).
- Chiang Mai:
– Also here, just focus on the food night market. There’s something for everyone. Juices, sushi, burgers, thai off course, …
– Bear Hug Café: we had Easter brunch here. The waffles were amazing. And the cappuccino shaped into a bear :).
– Kats Kitchen: omg – the food here was fantastic! It’s #38 of restaurants in Chiang Mai on TripAdvisor, and if you are looking for a moderately priced restaurant, this must be one of the better ones.
– The Flying Chang: around the corner from Kats Kitchen and so not on the busy street. We had heard from friends this was a great place to go, otherwise I don’t think we would have ever found it. The kids loved the roti. The owner here was so welcoming and the food seriously good. So good we went twice …
- Koh Tao: so so many options here along the beach, that it’s hard to choose. I am sure there are many other great options!
– The bar where we ate a couple times and just sat on the beach, people watching :): Blue Water Café. Great décor, people and food.
– The resto on the beach with great food: Unassuming place but good sandwiches (kids loved it): Marina Restaurant.
(I see the reviews are bad. No idea why really.)
– The Italian resto on the corner, with yum pastas: V.Nizza
– The restaurant from our hotel: we were a little hesitant, but the food was actually quite nice. Good for a quick bbq bite: Seashell
– The coffee and breakfast bar where we did schoolwork many days: New Heaven Cafe
– The other resto where we had fantastic pizza out of the woodoven: Sairee Cottage Diving Restaurant
– The other café where I enjoyed my morning coffees: Café Culture
– The Mexican café: Cantina De Koh Tao. Our mouth watered at the thought of Mexican food. They delivered.
Where we played:
– We visited the following landmarks on our own: Grand Palace, Temple of Dawn, Reclining Buddha. You can take an audio tour at the Grand Palace – but make sure you arrive in time. We arrived 90 minutes before closing, and could not get the tour anymore.
– As I wrote, we loved Siam Museum, giving a peak into “what it means to be Thai”. Very engaging and hands-on. Great with kids.
– We then took a daytour to the Railway and Floating market. You have to time the Maeklon Railway Market just right so that you can see a train come in or leave. As for the floating market, there are several options in the area. We chose the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as this market is fairly busy in the evening. In season, you can take a boat tour there to see the glow worms light up the way. Note that we had underestimated how much driving would be involved. Traffic was almost at a standstill the entire way out of Bangkok – apparently there was a long weekend coming up and all of Bangkok was making it out of the city.
– Lumpini Park: when the playground is open, this is a nice place to get the kids to roam free and play.
- Chiang Mai:
– Bua Thong waterfall aka Sticky waterfall. Access is free. You can just get a local taxi to get there. We took a “red truck” or Rót daang which you see everywhere. There’s couple stalls there selling water and snacks, and we had a great lunch actually (fried rice, noodles)
– Mae SA Waterfall Doi Suthep aka 10 layers waterfall. You pay a small entrance fee here. You can hike up, and will find 10 layers of waterfalls. You can swim in most layers. It’s very do-able with kids. Our kids lingered at waterfall 5, while I hiked up to level 10. There’s not a massive “reward” at the top – just one more very pretty waterfall :).
– Doi Inthanon National Park with King and Queen pagodas.
– Maerim Elephant Sancturay (Elephant home) – we picked this one because friends of ours (fellow world travelers) had recommended it. See our write-up of our visit above.
– Grand Canyon water park – not expensive at all, and what a blast. Worth the money for an afternoon of fun!
- Chiang Rai:
– Cooking with Tik, aka Cooking Thai Yourself. Be ready for a very energizing day!
– Bicycle tour with Bee, we chose the half day option but we could have easily gone a full day with Bee. It was a relaxed, easy bike ride for all of us.
– White Temple – a spectacular temple, a must visit when in Chiang Rai.
– Baan Dam Museum aka Black House
– Union Hilltribe Villages. Visit or not? Up to you. See my notes and doubts on our visit above …
- Koh Tao:
– Koh Nang Yuan island, beach and viewpoint. We took a local boat to get us there.
– There is so much more to explore on Koh Tao… We did not do it justice as we lazed around. Snorkeling is supposedly superb!