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Guest Post: 6 weeks, 3 countries! First Stop Thailand

I spent about 3 weeks in Thailand, and you would think it's enough time to do everything, but it wasn’t. Thailand has something to offer for everyone, with all its beautiful islands, activities and landscapes. I could never get my fill in and will definitely have to go back. Starting from Bangkok, the capital city, I would say it's comparable to any busy, high traffic city. With amazing rooftop bars, night markets, a beautiful grand palace built for the king, and numerous temples to visit, it's as if this city also never sleeps. I was especially surprised by the public transportation in Bangkok, which was fast, well organized and had air conditioning!! This was one the biggest luxuries as I was dying from the heat. You get a metro pass and fill it up with Thai baht (the currency there), which will allow you to take the train anytime. I spent one full day exploring the grand palace, Wat Pho temple and had amazing Thai food. There is often local Thai people around the temples and palace hoping to trick tourists into buying their “tour” services, but let me assure you it’s a scam. So DO NOT fall for it. You can get to the temples yourself by following simple maps available and walk around at your own pace to enjoy it.

Travel tip: Bring water!

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My next stop was south Thailand exploring national parks and the most beautiful Islands. Starting with Koh Tao Island, which is by far my most favourite Island, it is known for its numerous diving services. Many of my friends got their diving license; I had opted out on the account of not knowing how to swim. The island itself is quite small and walkable. It is even hotter on the islands as one could imagine, but the views and food were all worth it. Koh Tao has beautiful coffee shops to sit in and enjoy the view and weather, multiple Thai massage places, and amazing food options from street food to Italian food. Of course, the islands all cater to tourists so you won’t be short of anything, but it is generally pricier than main land. On every street you’ll see signs for “American breakfast” or “European Coffee”. It was really interesting to see how much tourism has affected businesses and how everything is tailored to and for tourists from food to clothing. The only issue I had with Koh Tao island was the amount of taxi boat drivers hounding you everywhere you go, but in hindsight this is how they make money so can I really even get annoyed? From Koh Tao you can get a taxi boat to take you to a private Japanese island called Koh Nang Yuan. THIS! Oh man this was the most beautiful island I have ever seen in my life. Words cannot describe how clear the water is. You have to pay 100 baht to get onto the island and you can’t take any plastic bottles. This is the locals attempt to keep the island as clean as possible. The island tries to minimize garbage from all the tourist traffic. This island has a hiking trail, which takes you to the top of a cliff allowing you to see the whole island from the top. Below is a picture of this viewpoint. I should also point out that from Bangkok to the islands is a 14 hour night bus journey (7 hour bus ride, 3 hour wait, 4 hour ferry).

Hiking Tip: take appropriate shoes and water.

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Onto the next island, the one all the kids talk about and the island that parties harder than any club, bar or house party I have every been to: Koh Phangnan – where the infamous Full Moon party is hosted. This island is much bigger than Koh Tao so it's not completely walkable. I was fortunate enough to have a hostel owner who took a few of us on a day tour around the island to see some beaches. My most memorable moment was going to a restaurant, which gave us a 360° view of the island. Watching the sunset from the top was absolutely breathtaking. For the full moon party, I'd suggest wearing closed toe shoes because the beach can get very dirty.

Travel Tip: get the ticket to this island at the active ferry stop and not your hostel where you will be charged more.

My next adventure post full moon partying was Khoa Sok National Park. This national park was raved about on many blogs so my friend and I decided we had to check it out. We were fortunate enough to get a bungalow (at a super cheap rate), which overlooked a beautiful river (see below). We stayed for two nights, with the first night just exploring the area and getting to know my friend (who I had met at the Bangkok airport). On day 2 we did a full day lake tour that was probably one of the best decisions I made. The tour was about 1300 baht, which is expensive, but well worth it. It included a 2 hour catamaran ride through the lake, jungle trekking, swimming in a cave, and included lunch in a remote area of the national park. The landscapes of this park are to die for; I could just sit for hours admiring the scenery.

Khoa Sok National Park

Travel tip: wear rubber boots for trekking because it is extremely muddy. Don’t take any valuables because it can rain and you’ll be in water.

Onto the southwest region of Thailand I went on to explore Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi Island. Krabi was a wonderful place to stay as there weren't too many tourists, which I loved. The hostel I stayed at was quite close to the night market, which was perfect for some cheap eats. Most Thai are Buddhist, but in Krabi you can see the Muslim influence too, and that was a very nice change. The famous Railey Beach is located in Ao Nang (40 minutes from Krabi). Travel tip: most people think Krabi and Krabi Ao Nang are the same place. They are not. If you want to party then I would say go to Ao Nang, but if you want a more relaxed atmosphere then stay in Krabi. From this province it's about a 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi, an island seen in many movies like Leonardo Dicaprio's The Beach. Koh Phi Phi is an extremely small island but filled with lovely people, places and things to do. This island has the most amount of tourist traffic, and for some reason is also well known for its pizza. Every few feet is a pizza stand; it was strange but great when you’re hungry and looking for something to munch on. The best part of Koh Phi Phi are the fire shows that happen every night. It's amazing to watch all kinds of people from younger kids to older men participating in it. This definitely a must see! The famous reggae bar is another must see on this island along with the Ibiza hostel pool party and the various boat parties marketed throughout the island.

The south of Thailand provides such an amazing adventure with activities for everyone. After exploring the south I went to Cambodia and Laos before coming back to Thailand to explore the north. I went to Chiang Mai where I think I left a part of my heart because I truly fell in love with this city. I can’t say if it’s because of the food or the hospitality of the hostel staff but I had such an amazing time. I felt so safe in the city and had a great time exploring on my own. There are numerous night markets to check out, and during the day there are many small boutiques to tempt you into buying souvenirs. Chaing Mai is known for a few things: elephant sanctuaries, cooking classes, trekking, and monastery stays. While I didn’t do it all, I was fortunate enough to check out a sanctuary and cooking class. If you’re thinking of going to Thailand please make sure you’re going to an elephant sanctuary where riding isn't condoned. This particular type of elephant park actually focuses on the health of elephants. I attended a half-day tour where I got play, feed, and bathe rescued elephants. There was one particular elephant I fell in love with, and she was 10 months pregnant. She was sweetest thing.

Travel Tip: Chaing Mai is known for its numerous small cafes so make sure to check those out, always take a swimsuit to an elephant sanctuary, and if you’re going back to Bangkok take the train!

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This is a short recount of my time in Thailand, and I feel as though I have only scratched the surface. I would recommend visiting Thailand if you can. I know I would definitely go back and explore the many places I didn’t get to see.

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