After our epic adventure in Thailand last year, in which we managed to visit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi and a fair few islands too, we were super excited to book our next adventure for this year.

We spent absolutely ages poring over forums and websites, considering where to go next. Coming out on top were Vietnam, India and Nepal. Unfortunately though, we simply couldn’t decide where to go! There were so many pros and cons to each place.

It was difficult because Thailand last year was just such a pull [not least because I’d wanted to visit for so long]. It was super easy to choose where to go because we both had a set idea of what we wanted and expected from our travels. The country has the best of everything. Shopping, nightlife, animals, tranquillity, bustling cities, religion and culture alongside just the right amount of sleaze.

We managed to fit a hell of a lot in, although we had to cut out some must-go places simply to fit into the time we had. On our hunt for the next adventure, we kept finding ourselves saying things like “Why don’t we try to fly to XX via Chiang Mai” and “Perhaps we could do half in XX, half in Thailand?”. In the end, we just looked at each other and decided there and then that we’d return to Thailand.

And here we are.

We worried that returning to Thailand would be a cop out. Why not try somewhere new? But then again, why not return to somewhere you loved? We’re changing up our itinerary to fit in all the stuff we couldn’t get to last time.

We also have more time, and a considerably bigger budget than last year [watch out, ballers coming through], so we can afford to live in style. Here’s what we’ve got planned so far. Let us know if we’ve missed something amazing.

Be massive poshos in Bangkok
Our first night in Bangkok, we were happy to forgo Khao San Road and head to the Sky Bar from The Hangover for ridiculously overpriced cocktails. Totally predictable, but whatever. Unfortunately, the receptionist at the hotel who was arranging our taxi took one look at Mr Jones’ shorts and told us they wouldn’t let us in. It wasn’t the end of the world, we just had the craic in the form of buckets and a game of checkers above KSR. We’ll make sure Will has something suitable to wear this time round and head to the bar. I feel like it’s just one of those things that needs to be done. Literally so excited for hangover Schweppes Manao as well – we’ve missed this shit so much!

Patong
We have a thing by which we visit a strip bar in every new place we visit. That sounds wrong, but it’s out of hilarity’s sake than anything else. Whilst we went to a few go-go bars in Bangkok, we found that the main ‘action’ was over in Patong. However, last year we’d heard about a few scams and because we were fresh off the boat as it were, we decided not to go. We’re going to head over this time though. I’ll write about it here if I can get away with not being TOO graphic.

Although, I’m not sure anything will beat the guy in the go-go bar in Chiang Mai. He was basically dressed as the KFC Colonel, drinking tea from a cup and saucer and cheers-ing with it every so often.  He was loving it!

Pai
One of our friends travelled around Thailand before heading off to Australia – he recommended Pai as the place to go. I’ve heard about the 726 curves to Pai and don’t really fancy sitting in a mini-bus trying to avoid other people throwing up on me [Will included, he’d get motion sickness on an escalator!] – but apparently it’s worth it.

There is also an opportunity here to visit a Karen Long Neck tribe…but I’m torn on this. This is something that really interests me, but I’ve read a fair few reviews that have put me off slightly. Quite a few have mentioned how much of a tourist trap it is – and really, how authentic can it be? Like the elephants last year, I’m going to have to do some more research into whether or not this is ethical, or even worth it.

Cooking class
Since we began living together, we’ve cooked up a storm in the kitchen. We’re always up for trying new things and I’d love to learn how to cook some authentic Thai food in an authentic setting. We couldn’t do this last year as we ran out of time, but I’ve found an amazing deal to do a half day at the famous Mama Noi cooking school for under £20 each! Bangin’.

More animals
One of the best experiences of my life was visiting the elephants at the Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We did a load of research and found so many cheaper options. Unfortunately, a vast majority of these had tethered and ridden elephants. So sad! The elephants at EJS looked so happy and were literally loving it – although we did nearly get trampled by some over-zealous teenage ‘phants! You know when they say “my life flashed before my eyes” …literally.

Anyway, similarly to the above, we want to have the best experience possible…ethically. I do like the idea of hanging out with tigers in theory – but it’s unlikely we’ll find somewhere we can see them where they’ve not been drugged or taken from their mothers. Do you know anywhere?

More beach time
As I say, we crammed a shit ton of stuff into two weeks, and barely rested. We spent one or two nights in different places and lived out of our bags. We finally slowed down and spent four days and three nights on Koh Phi Phi. Absolute dream – stay at Beach Front Divers Resort for a brilliant experience and practically your own private beach! They also run a diving school which is much less overrun with tourists than the ones nearer the ferry port.

ANYWAY. We loved those days on the beach to just chill, take boat rides island hopping, eat and drink at leisure without worrying about catching our next flight. In fact, we loved it so much we considered missing our flight back to Bangkok and booking a new one because we really didn’t want to leave.

This time, we’ve been able to learn from experience and have set aside a good five days to be beach bums and simply be. That being said, which island should we choose? Top of the list are Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta or Koh Tao…

We’ve got a whole travel bucket list [and another 14 holiday days spare later in the year], so are looking for inspiration to go elsewhere this year and next. Where would you recommend?

We recently got back from a weekend in Berlin [Ella’s Christmas present to Will – NBD] and wanted
to share some of our experiences with you. Plus, we’ve got a whole host of new camera equipment
and wanted to try it out!

We love making videos like this – we did the same thing for Thailand last year and will aim to do
something similar when we head back there this year.

There’s a few Berlin-centric blogs coming up too, covering the best food, experiences and top tips,
so keep an eye out for these.

Enjoy!

I’ve recently returned from the holiday of my dreams to Thailand. I’ve literally been dreaming about the trip for the last 17 years, and I’m so pleased Will came along for the ride. You can read more about that here. You can also view our video here.

Anyway, there were a few things we were surprised, shocked and delighted about over the two weeks, and we wanted to share our experience with you.

Mosquitos are little bastards
Oh my actual god though. My housemate gave us some industrial bug spray that we used in like two days. After that, it was practically a free-for-all on my body. I was basically one big itch. And it’s not like they were just NORMAL bites – they were practically fucking MOUNTAINS. If you’re susceptible, like me, grab some Jungle Spray with that DEET ingredient in it, or whatever. Or just don’t ever go outside.

Avoid animal tourism
Leaflets, leaflets everywhere offering trips to see elephants, tigers and other animals in zoos. Don’t do it. The elephants are often chained and they are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE RIDDEN! The tigers at tiger temples are also regularly sedated so they are all floppy and cute for you to get your Facebook picture with them. No no. I was desperate to see elephants. It was the one massive thing on my bucket list and I wanted to make sure we did it right. We chose the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

There is no riding of the elephants – despite their large and strong build, elephants do not have the spines to support a rider. Long days of being ridden, either bareback or with a saddle, can cause painful damage to their spines not to mention the additional pain caused by the saddle itself and the wear on their feet from walking all day with improperly supported weight.

Chains, bull hooks and the like are not used to subdue, coerce or manage the elephants. In Thailand, there is a long-standing tradition of training elephants for the tourism industry. The training method, called the Phajaan or crush, is exactly as it’s English translation would suggest – a method to crush the spirit of the animal. Bullhooks and chains are part of this method and are usually continued to be used while tourists are enjoying their ride through the jungle. BIG NO.

We did the afternoon half-day – it was enough, from about 11:30am to 6pm, with pick up from the hotel. We got water throughout, lunch and snacks. They also gave us souvenir bags made by a local village.

Never pay full price
Like, never. There are wonderful, wonderful markets with anything and everything, already at a cheap price. Check out the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and the Sunday Market in Bangkok. We found out that it’s super fun to haggle. I mean, don’t take the piss – they are trying to make a living. But knocking a few hundred baht off an item gives you a little thrlil – try it!

Don’t take the piss out of the King
Thai people absolutely love their Royal Family. There are MASSIVE shrine things everywhere, and the country has been in a state of mourning since the King died last year. In fact, it was recommended we wore a black ribbon when we went to visit The Grand Palace. I found it pretty funny at first – like, could you imagine huge shrines to Liz and Phil all over the UK!? But make sure no one hears you say ANYTHING about old Kingy – it’s actually illegal.

Absolutely do not feed the monkeys
We went on a boat trip to Monkey Island which was lovely – we saw the monkeys, they were SO cute. There was a mummy one with its little, tiny baby clinging onto it –  I nearly cried. Until I saw a couple of them absolutely terrorising another tourist. Actually vicious. Keep ya distance.

Embrace the butt spray
The word ‘bathroom’ in Thailand is err…relative. Expect no toilet roll, ever. If there is some, it’s a miracle. Instead, embrace the butt spray. I first encountered these in Dubai, but they always had toilet paper so I never had to worry. Coming home to England after Thailand, we actually MISSED the butt sprayer. It’s a fresh feeling – don’t knock it til you try it.
Yes, people are actually that nice
At first, I worried about Thai people coming up to us all the time just to chat, because I assumed they would be trying to sell us something. I then felt guilty, because they are actually that kind and helpful. They’ll recommend places to go, what time to visit somewhere, what to eat…all with a smile and will wave you on your way. Super refreshing.

Greet people with the Wai
This was another one that threw me a bit when we landed. Most Thai people greet you with ‘hello’ (sawadee ka) and perform a little bow with their hands in ‘prayer’ position just under their chin or upper chest. I was so shocked and I didn’t know if it was good form to return it. Do. It’s really polite and by the second week it was second nature to greet people like that.

The scam is real
So many scams! You can usually tell pretty quickly though. Usually, these come in the form of men offering a tour at a ‘too good to be true’ price. They’ll take you, but will ask for more money at the end – we knew about this and didn’t go, luckily. Another one is taxis – insist on them putting the meter on, otherwise they can just choose a price out of thin air. If they don’t have one, get out. We only used one taxi, until we realised Thailand (the main cities anyway) have Uber – yay! So much easier. There are also people that say an attraction is closed, i.e. we got told The Grand Palace was closed about sixty times on the way to it – don’t listen. They just want to take you somewhere else for more money.

Eat all of the food. All of it.
I mean, within reason. It took us a couple of days for our stomachs to er, get acquainted with the food. Ahem. Anyway, once you’ve settled in, just go for it. We chose something different every night, and took FULL advantage of the street food carts. Our main rules were, if there’s no queue, don’t buy. You can get meat on sticks for like ten baht, it’s amazing. The fresh fruit is wonderful. Try mango and sticky rice – they pour a sort of condensed coconut milk on it and IT. IS. AWESOME.

Road rules do not exist
Like, at all. Try your best not to die.

Beware the bucket
This is no ordinary cocktail. It’s a toxic mix of spirits, mixers and that godawful Thai Red Bull that will make you feel very, very odd indeed. Drink at your own risk – even I was a bit tiddled and I can handle my drink (lol).

Dress politely for Buddha
Remember what I said about the King? Buddha is even more of a big deal. If you look like a Western hussy, like I usually do on a daily basis, they will not let you fling your assets at Mr Buddha. Grab some Thai pants or sarong from a market at about 150 baht (about £3.50) and wear a t-shirt that covers your shoulders. It’s worth it – the temples are absolutely beautiful, and learning about Buddhism was a fantastic experience. You can see the monks going about collecting alms and people visiting them. For the love of god, take your shoes off before going into the temple and keep your mouth shut and don’t point at anything.

Ladyboys are beautiful
Absolutely so jealous. Will had to stop me going over to one because I wanted to ask how she got her contour SO on fleek. You really will have to double-take! Head to a go-go bar – one that doesn’t require entry or payment for ‘shows’ if possible – it’s an experience!

Get loads of massages. Treat yo’ self
We paid 180 baht (£4.00) for an HOUR long foot massage that was just absolutely amazing. They also cracked our backs and did all this reflexology stuff. They even gave us tea afterwards. For that price, I’d get one every day!

Spot the 7-Eleven
There is 7-Elevens EVERYWHERE. Just everywhere. Even up in Chiang Mai where there’s no other building around for miles. They also sell everything. Thirsty? 7-Eleven. Need a plaster? 7-Eleven. Got a craving for a chicken burger in a bag, with seaweed crisps side? Yep, 7-Eleven.

We had the best time ever – we’re already planning our next trip around the globe. Where should we go?

Literally can’t get over it. Thailand has been at the top of my travel list for absolutely years – destination numero uno. I think my longing to go there stems as far back as watching The Beach for the first time (hellooooo early 00s Leonardo!)

It’s always been one of my major goals – earn enough money to pack a back pack and piss off somewhere and not even worry about it for a bit. I’ve been through a lot of changes over the last year and had planned that I would definitely go to Thailand in 2017. Enough fannying around, time to go. On my own if necessary.

I’d mentioned it to Will about a billion times. I was probably (definitely?) on the verge of boring. Skip to a few weeks later and I’m in the pub showing him flights on the Skyscanner app, showing him Instagram pictures of beautiful island beaches, that prices of Tuk Tuks aren’t that bad and CLEARLY eating a scorpion on Khao San Road is beneficial to my health – he just turns to me and says: “Okay, book it.”

Cue Ella’s jaw hitting the table and almost knocking over my ridiculously overpriced Pino. 2017 achievement goal unlocked.

Taking no chances, those flights were booked in five minutes flat, and my 65L backpack was on Express delivery so fast Amazon didn’t know what had hit it.

We’ve planned roughly where we want to be and when, but obvs don’t want to plan too much – but I thought I’d share it to open up our itinerary to suggestions of experiences, places to stay …and bars obviously. Also I’m so damn excited I just have to get it out there boiii.

Flying into Bangkok
We fly into Bangkok early as hell in the morning and are staying at some guest house. We haven’t planned to do anything, except go to Khao San Road in the evening. The research I’ve done suggests this is the vanilla tourist approach, but I don’t think I can NOT go! I’m also hella intrigued to see what the gogo bars are like out there. I went to the Red Light District in Amsterdam and for some reason places like that, rightly or wrongly (discuss?) hold a strong fascination for me. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that it’s a life being lived that’s so far flung from my own, or what.

I’m also going eat a few insects. Because you’ve got to, haven’t you?

Flying to Chiang Mai
I was a liiiiittle disappointed as I really wanted to try out the sleeper train to Chiang Mai – but looking at the prices vs time spent travelling, flying won out every time. We’re again, staying in a little guest house. I thought it was pretty cute that they had a MASSIVE SERIOUS disclaimer on the website that WARNING, breakfast WILL BE CHARGED AS EXTRA. Putting the price into the currency converter told me we can receive that luxury for the grand total of £3.50 each. Banging.

We haven’t planned anything except visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, which we’ve booked ahead. I’ve heard all about the bad things that happen in elephant ‘sanctuaries’, plus the drugged tiger thing. I don’t want to contribute to that. I spoke to a lot of people, did a bit of sleuthing and I either read reviews mentioning the poor treatment of the animals or saw that riding the elephants would be part of the program (no no). EJS came out on top.

This was the one massive thing on my bucket list and I wanted to make sure we did it right. See the below from the website:

  1. There is no riding of the elephants – despite their large and strong build, elephants do not have the spines to support a rider. Long days of being ridden, either bareback or with a saddle, can cause painful damage to their spines not to mention the additional pain caused by the saddle itself and the wear on their feet from walking all day with improperly supported weight.
  2. Chains, bull hooks and the like are not used to subdue, coerce or manage the elephants.In Thailand, there is a long-standing tradition of training elephants for the tourism industry. The training method, called the Phajaan or crush, is exactly as it’s English translation would suggest – a method to crush the spirit of the animal. Bullhooks and chains are part of this method and are usually continued to be used while tourists are enjoying their ride through the jungle.

We’ve got a few days here. What else shall we do? I heard about a day-trip to Chiang Rai, is it worth it?

Flying to Phuket
Again, we’re flying to save time. We haven’t booked anywhere to stay yet and are toying with the idea of staying in a hostel dorm. I have never done it – not even in Amsterdam – and it’s not a very ‘me’ thing to do, but…YOLO right (sorry).

Where should we head?

 Island hopping, yah?
Obviously this was going to feature. We just want to lie on the beach with beers and pretend we’ve not got real life to go back to. Koh Phi Phi is top of the list. I never realised there was so many though – it’s difficult to choose what to do in the time that we have. Incidentally, we haven’t booked anywhere to stay as we don’t know where we’re going to be. Is it worth chancing it and just turning up to find somewhere to stay on the day?

I’m super excited to get some more stamps on my passport, and I’ve already got a mental list of the other places I want to visit over the next few years (sorry Will).

So, what do you think of our plans so far? Have we missed anywhere that we really should visit? Let me know, I’ll add it to our itinerary. Otherwise, I’ll update you when we get back…!