Chiang Mai and the Thai islands

Chiang Mai

When I last left you we were on a 12-hour train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, in hindsight the bus would have been a better idea but never mind. If I’m completely honest, it wasn’t half as bad as we were expecting, although it was about an hour late – I don’t think many things run on time in Thailand!

The hostel we were staying in boasted a free breakfast, and although Katie and I thought it was spot on – it had boiled eggs, tomatoes, fresh bread and one Asian option – Nia was less enthused and ate plain bread most mornings.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the city. We walked along to the local (Warorot) market and had a drink at a riverside cafe – it was boiling but it was good to see the city on foot. We also had a quite chilled evening, with dinner and a few drinks, but we were very conscious that we didn’t want to be feeling rough-as for the elephants the next day!

Adhering to that mindset, we got into bed at 11pm, ready for a good nights sleep. Just before I turned my phone off, I suddenly realised that we were leaving Chiang Mai on the 31st, but not getting to Koh Samui till the 3rd because of our long travel plans and 1 night in Bangkok. By this point, we were so done with Bangkok and couldn’t think of anything worse than spending another night on Khaosan road. So, we quickly booked flights from Bangkok (we’d still get the overnight train down from Chiang Mai) to Koh Samui – a 1-hour flight compared to a 2-day journey just seemed so worth the money!

It wasn’t until Nia was reading the booking confirmation that we noticed we’d booked them for the 1st September, not August – you’ve got to be kidding me. We quickly called the airline but they said they couldn’t change our dates or refund us fully – that’s what we get for flying Budget Air – but we still canceled them and booked new ones. The money for the original flights has yet to come out of the bank (touch wood), so we’re really hoping that the woman took pity on us! Either way, all three of us went to bed feeling a bit grumpy.

Luckily, one look at the elephants the next day and we’d forgotten all about the previous nights’ fiasco. The elephant park was really was amazing. We chose to go to an ethical park with no riding, it was called ‘Elephant Jungle Sanctuary’ and I would highly recommend it. They taught us that riding on their necks is fine, but not on their backs where the spine is. The elephants in this sanctuary are wild, they go into the jungle at night, but come back to the park every day because they know when they’re going to be fed!

They dressed us up in traditional costumes and we got to go feed/meet the elephants. There were even 2 babies! One around 7 months old, and one around 1 month old. They were too cute! After feeding them and getting photos, we were taught a bit about elephant medicine. Every day the park give the elephants a mixture of seeds, bananas, rice and pineapple to help with their digestion. After feeding this to the elephants, we had a traditional Thai buffet-style lunch and got changed into swimsuits.

Me having the time of my life and Katie, me and Nia with the elephants

We then walked through the jungle with the elephants to a mud bath, where we got to clean them with the mud and then wash it off in the river – it was an excellent day.

Our group in the river with the elephants

In the evening we went to this place called Zoe’s in Yellow, Nia and I weren’t really feeling a big night out but Katie was on a mission. We left her alone for about 30 seconds, and when we returned she was standing in a group of guys getting free drinks. Nia and I stayed for a bit and we met some of Katie’s men, but it was really loud, we were really tired AND we had the cooking course the next day! In the end, we left Katie to her own devices and headed home.

Pick up for the cooking class was at 8:30am and we had to check out of the hostel before then. It was reassuring when I saw that Katie had made it back to her own bed but things took a turn for the worst when I woke her up saying it was time to go. At first, I thought she was just sneezing or had the hiccups or something. It wasn’t until she ran out the room that I realized she was actually throwing up and using her duvet as some type of bowl.

Nia and I packed our bags and went down to get some breakfast. By some miracle, Katie actually joined us, although this was after she had brought her sick-filled duvet down to reception, tried to explain what had happened but the receptionist actually unwrapped her sick at the front desk next to everyone eating breakfast.

When we got to the cooking class Katie wasn’t much better, luckily the woman taking the cooking class was very sweet and understanding, and didn’t mind that Katie slept with a jumper over her face on a beanbag for 3 out of 7 courses.

Katie regretting the previous nights’ decisions at the cooking school

The cooking class itself was awesome, first we got given traditional thai hats to wear and were taught about all the herbs and vegetables in their garden. Then we were taken to the local market and shown what they would buy for the meals we were going to make.

Me and Nia having a considerably better time than Katie 

We got to make 6 courses, I chose to make pad thai, spring rolls, spicy chicken salad, green curry – including curry paste from scratch, Tom Sab and deep fried bananas. It was all so good and after eating all of it, we had to be practically rolled out of the building. We did the course with Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School and I would 100% recommend it. The people were lovely and the food fantastic. They have two locations – one in the heart of the city and one on a farm just outside of Chiang Mai (we went to the one in the city). They also have a lovely back story – the course is run by women only. The instructor was telling us how no one thought they could make it without a man in charge of their business but they did it anyways and it was heartwarming to hear their story and you could nearly feel the pride beaming out of them.

All the great food we made at the cooking class!

It was only when we were in 7eleven buying food for the train that we noticed the time… it was half 5, 30 minutes till our train, if we missed this train, we missed our flight. Obviously we were panicking, we had 4 hours between the class and the train and have no idea how we lost so track of time. The woman at reception was really helpful and quickly flagged down a taxi and told him to get us to the train station ASAP. The taxis in Chiang Mai are all pooled taxis and the driver actually told the other guy in it to get out! We could see the minutes ticking by and we weren’t getting any closer, every minute felt like 10 and in my mind we’d already missed it, unless it was delayed. By the time we got to the station we all had our backpacks on squatting awkwardly in the taxi with the money ready to absolutely leg it.

We got to the station at 5:59, threw the money at the taxi driver and sprinted through the station. It was like a movie scene – us legging it through this station with our massive backpacks on, Katie literally screaming “BANGKOK” and everyone in the station pointing us in the direction of the train. We ran onto the train, the whistle went, and the train started moving. How was this the only train in Thailand to ever leave on time. The whole train was laughing at us and we just had to laugh because if we’d missed this train, I would have probably killed myself.

The train itself was nice it was clean, the beds were comfortable and honestly, I passed out at about 8pm and woke up a couple hours before we arrived in Bangkok.

All of us crammed onto Katie’s bed on the sleeper train to Bangkok

Hostel: Hostel by BED – really swanky hostel. Really nice rooms and beds, and you get a free breakfast, water, tea and coffee. Not a party hostel for sure, it’s quite quiet with no bar or restaurant.  There is a kitchen however and the staff are helpful.

Koh Samui

We arrived into Bangkok very early in the morning and our flight wasn’t 5pm so we were in no rush to get to the airport. We figured out the metro system, awkwardly standing in that ‘frozen-in-time’ thing they do when the national anthem plays, and slowly made our way there. Our plan was to dump our bags and then head to a shopping mall (with air con), where we could go bowling and entertain ourselves for a couple of hours.

We got to the airport around 8:40am and after figuring out we could actually check in our bags, which in itself we were pretty chuffed about, Nia asked if we could get on an earlier flight. When the woman said “9:15?” We all just looked at each other nodded. Once again we were left pelting it through the airport to make the flight, although this time we were definitely not complaining about it. I feel like getting this flight was some sort of reward for messing up the flight booking in the first place!

By the time we landed in Koh Samui we were in such good moods – we’d made our train AND we had arrived nearly 8 hours earlier than we’d planned, giving us a whole extra day in the sun. Our hostel was directly opposite the ‘place to be’ in Koh Samui, called Ark bar. At Ark there was a restaurant, bar and loads of sun loungers. We quickly found Marcello and Lewis (who we’d met in Siem Reap) and Marcello’s friend from home, also called Marcello… I know right!? They were staying in Ark Bar but Lewis was in the same hostel as us.  We spent the day tanning and started drinking quite early, we felt like we had earned it after that journey!

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Us feeling a lot happier in Koh Samui!

On our third day in Koh Samui we went on a boat trip to Angthong National Park – it’s a must do while there, it’s absolutely stunning. We were all feeling a bit ropey from the night before and the choppy sea was not doing Marcello or Katie any favours!

Whole crew ready for our boat trip

The first stop was to do some snorkelling, so while Nia, Lewis and I jumped right in, Katie and the other boys stayed firmly on the boat. Katie ended up throwing up… quite a lot and Marcello didn’t leave the boat until the very last minute. Although my GoPro ran out of memory and the water was slightly mirky, I really enjoyed the snorkelling. Plus, I’m a firm believer that the sea can cure any hangover!

The snorkelling was so much fun

The next stop was to do a bit of sea kayaking and lunch. The kayaking was probably my favourite part of the trip and we got some great photos from it. Apart from Lewis nearly sinking our boat it was just a really nice time. As we sat down to lunch, a storm started. We could see other groups still out on the kayaks and we were so glad to be safely under cover!

Me and Lewis pre kayak sinking

The third stop was to a small island which boasted a view point at the top of the hill. The stairs were quite steep but it only took about 10 minutes to get to the top. The view was pretty nice and you got to see the lagoon which was in the centre of this island.

View from the top of the viewpoint!

The final stop was another island with a view point. We were told it would be a 45 minute round trip to get up there and with me still not feeling 100% there was no absolutly chance. Marcello and Lewis decided to do it, but they were so worried about missing the boat back they absolutely sprinted up. It took them 15mins, which isn’t bad as the record for it is 9 minutes! It’s safe to say they were quite sweaty by the time they got back down, I could see them glistening from the other side of the island.

On our last day in Koh Samui, we started off the day at the beach, but ended up going to a hotel called The Jungle Club for lunch. This place was up in the jungle (surprise surprise), but it was beautiful and the views were en point.

All of us at the Jungle Club, before it started to rain!

Just after we ordered and out of no where, it started to abosolutly chuck it down. Luckily our waitress said we could finish our meal in a private tree house – it was pretty awesome!

We ate and drank in there while we waited for the rain to stop. After we’d been told off a few times for jumping about while playing heads up – for any of you who don’t know it, it’s a great game on your iPhone – we decided that the rain wasn’t really going to stop so we might as well get drunk. That’s when we called the taxi driver to come take us back to Ark Bar where we stayed for the beach party.

Hostel: At (@) Hostel – would definietly recommend staying here! Staff were super helpful and the rooms really clean with good aircon and curtains. It also has a great location, bar and pool. You have to walk past a ladyboy club to get to it which is also mildly entertaining.

Koh Phanang

The next day we got the 4pm ferry to Koh Phanang, ate some food and then just chilled in the hostel – we really needed the sleep! The hostel was quite nice but the boys in our room, oh my god, they stank to high heaven. It was that kind of musty smell you get when you don’t wash your towels enough or leave them in a damp room. We spent the next 2 days holding our breaths every time we ran in to grab something!

We woke up quite early as we’d all passed out about 10pm, so just grabbed some breakfast and headed to the beach. Around lunch time, we met up with the Marcello’s and went to this place called the Slip n’ Fly. It was a kind of pool/water park/slide day party thing. It had two huge slides which sent you flying into the air, a smaller one, a volley ball court and a few bars.

All of us at the slip n’ fly

If I’m honest, I was abosultely terrified, it took me a while to even go on the small one, which in the end I fell off the float and it head butted me right in the nose when I hit the water.

After a Chang, and the fact that Sophie and Anna (two girls which had been in our room in Koh Samui) had just arrived on gone straight on it, Nia and I decided we just had to man up – Katie on the other hand was a lost cause, nothing could ever convince her! We went on the smaller of the two but I was still shiting myself! The video of me is hilarious, I have limbs going everywhere.

Me mid-air

After that it was happy hour and all cocktails were 100bht so we got straight on the frozen margs. They were lethal. That night was the jungle party and we met up with Lewis and his friends, Zoe and Miranda who were lovely! We drank a couple buckets at a beach bar called Cactus and then all jumped in a taxi to head to the party. As an aux cable isn’t a thing here, we did a sing-a-long for the full 30 minute ride… We are a very tone deaf group of people and my sincerest apologies go out to anyone who heard us that night. The jungle party had a really cool set up, it looked a lot like a festival with bars and a big stage in the middle, with everyone just dancing in the mud in the middle of the jungle. The atmosphere was buzzing and I think everyone had an excellent night.

All the girls looking very jungle party ready

We were feeling a wee bit peaky the next morning and i’ll shamefully admit that we went for pizza in our PJs.  Katie and I then went to the beach to try and top our tan a little, although the sun was not helping the hangover, the sea did make us feel a bit better! Nia on the other hand decided to stay in the foul smelling room rotting away.

This night was supposed to be the night to end all nights – It was the Full Moon Party! In the end there was a huge group of us which just made the night so much better. At an event which attracts nearly 30,000 people a month, knowing 15 people gave us all a much higher chance of not losing absolutly everybody.

The whole team armed with their UV paint and buckets at the Full Moon Party

Naturally, as soon as we left this one bar everyone lost each other. By some miracle we all found each other again an hour or so later and that just made the night. Everyone was really going for it and was more sweat than human, practically sliding off each other – the sand-sweat combo probs did wonders for a our skin – exfoliating! But I doubt the buckets were doing our bowels or our livers any favours.

Katie left us the next day – I don’t know how she managed to get all the way back to Birmingham the day after full moon, but she did! I was definitely sad to see her go, having her around was so much fun. We also said goodbye to Lewis for the last time as Nia and I got the afternoon ferry to Koh Tao – we just needed to get off that island!

We finally made it to Koh Tao – we went for a pizza, met Anna (also went to Edinburgh) and Lee, her friend from home and then just went to bed, we were knackered.

Hostel: Phanang Pearl – good location, far enough from the beach that you can sleep but less than a 10minute walk to it. The rooms themselves were fine, the beds were sturdy and the aircon good. It had big lockers for bags and charging points by each bed. They were lacking on lights though, it was pretty dark! No real communal space to chill, but as most people there were there just to party it did its job. If only the boys in our room didn’t absolute reek!

Koh Tao 

The next day we just chilled on the beach. I definitely preferred the beaches on Koh Samui and Phanang, but it was still a beach. However,  the water was so warm that there was just no way to cool down! After noticing we were probably both getting quite burnt, Nia and I wondered back up and found Anna and Lee and just chilled in a beachside cafe in the shade.

Koh Tao beach

We then just went back and got ready for the famous ‘Koh Tao Pub Crawl’. We went and got some food – a cheeky pad thai and a marg before the carnage began! Both Marcello’s, Anna and Lee also came along.

The girls looking good in their pub crawl T-shirts

The pub crawl was actually a really good laugh. First stop was a pool party – I lost odds on to go down the slide, so straight into the pool I went! The next stop was the Ladyboy cabaret show, followed by a beach party. It was a good, although slightly sad last night with the Marcello’s!

Me having too much fun at the pool party

I won’t lie, the next morning I woke up with a pounding headache. We checked out and just chilled in a restaurant until our ferry at half 2, although I couldn’t stomach much food… very unlike me.  It was going to be a very long day – 2 hour ferry to the mainland, 8 hour bus to Bangkok and then a 5am flight to Ho Chi Minh.

Hostel: Koh Tao backpackers hostel – this hostel was as basic as they come, small rooms with packed in beds. There wasn’t a lot of space in the rooms for bags or anything and although there were small lockers for your valuables, they really didn’t seem that secure. The aircon hardly worked and the fan was really loud and didn’t reach all the beds. On our first night they didn’t even give us blankets, I had to ask the next day. Saying that, the location couldn’t have been more perfect – a 5 minute walk to the beach and to all the restaurants and bars. You could use the diving school’s pool and the staff were nice. I probably wouldn’t stay here again but it could have been worse.

P.S. My GoPro died on me so there aren’t any more videos.

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