Heads up – This is going to be a long post!
So as I mentioned before, I decided to go on a huge travel adventure this year, and I’ve documented some of my journeys along the way. Here is a little blurb from my first stop:
My 7 day solo trip to Bangkok and ChiangMai, Thailand!
I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand on an adventure, and when the time came to it , and all of my friends weren’t available to go anymore, I didn’t let that stop me. Sure, I was concerned about doing a trip alone. Mainly worried about : getting lonely, being robbed, being prostituted, being lost alone, no one to take pictures of me, no one to split the bill with, getting kidnapped and sold for my organs or sold as a sex slave. But fear should never cripple you from following your dreams, so I booked my trip anyway.
Here are my trip essentials pictured: neck pillow, osprey backpack, draw string bag, water
I’ll be mentioning Thai bhat currency throughout , just so you know 1USD=34-35 Thai bhat
I’m sure everyone is curious as to how much my trip actually cost. My total 7 day trip in Thailand came up to roughly $700 USD. Mind you, this was counted from the start of my South East Asia trip so if you want to adjust it for a solo trip to Thailand alone, I’d just at an extra $250USD to account for a round trip ticket instead of the one way ticket I bought at $395USD. Now that the numbers are out the way let’s begin!
Day 1 – Tuesday- touching down in Bangkok.
So after just about 24hrs of traveling from NYC To Bangkok , I was reading to explore! I got a bit of sleep on the plane thanks to aleve pm, so I had the energy and was ready to go. I did some research before and found out different tourist traps, so right off the bat, I was ready to be a thrifty solo backpack traveller.
As I stepped off the plane, I looked for an atm and got money. I have TD bank and they actually reimbursed me for all those atm fees, so you should definitely get a bank that would cover your international atm fees (or else it would run you approx $5US per transaction!) I asked aboutt the taxi prices, which the first lady told me it’ll be about 1400 baht to khao San Rd. Area. I decided to look around more and found other options: 1. The sky train and 2 . A shuttle service to khao San rd. I opted for the shuttle which was only an 100bhat, direct and air conditioned ride. It was great. I was with 3 other visitors who were very friendly.
I stopped off at Khao San Road, the very popular tourist area which was about a 2 min walk from my hotel. My hotel accepted me early at 10am instead of the regular 2pm check in time so I was very happy. I showered and got ready to go hunting for food and adventure. I bypassed my hotel’s attached restaurant and opted for a place where only Thai people were lined up. The food was superb. From there I got lured into the tuktuks I was warned about online. But honestly it was great and I actually felt bad for him. Here comes my first Thai pearl.
Pearl 1. Use the tuk tuks to your advantage
He offered me a ‘tour’ for 40 baht. I haggled him down to 20 baht, as the going rate for this tour was 35bhat.
He took me to the Giant Buddha, which was cool and then took me to a gem shop and suit shop for his purposes, then I reminded him about my purposes and he took me to the Grand Palace (500bhat to enter but so worth it) and left.
I walked to Wat Pho (must see temple for 100bhat) as it was near to the Grand Palace and even saw Wat Arun from the other side of the river where water taxis were stationed. I thought the deal wasn’t too bad since I got to see the temples I wanted all for 20bhat.
I then decided to walk home and while watching kite flying in a park, I randomly got interviewed by college students on the transport that tourists take in Bangkok. Look at for me on YouTube or somewhere ;). I wish they interviewed me on day 2 though…
Pearl 2: anticipate dress code for temples. Pack a wide scarf, pants to cover up and remember to always take off your shoes.
Day 2- Wednesday – Amazing
Now that I’d seen a lot of the coolest temples of Bangkok, I decided to visit 2 more, one of which I highly recommend , the Golden Mount. You get to see great views of the Bangkok skyline, with free wifi and it’s only 20bhat.
From the Golden Mount , I took a taxi to Wat tremmit, and the MRT subway station Hua Lamphong was very close by, so I walked over there shortly after.
I had also planned to also visit Lumpini park, Caturday Cat cafe and the Jim Morrison House. I did that and so much more thanks to the terrific Bangkok public transportation.The subway is immaculately clean, user friendly, efficient and cheap! I payed 21bhat to get to Lumpini Park. The park was really nice, like a little Central Park of Bangkok. I left Lumpini Park and took the MRT train to Sukhumvit, There was a mall, Terminal 21 right by the Sukhumvit station too, so I browsed it. And it was a very cool ‘city themed’ mall, so I’d definitely recommend you pop in, if only to see another side of Bangkok.
I then took the sky train which was right at the station as well to Ractachthari where Caturday Cat Cafe was located. Caturday was fantastic. It was cute, quirky and the desert I had was delicious. Caturday was a 10min walk to Jim Morrison house. So after that I decided to go to the MBK mall to get free wifi. It was 5 min walk from Jim Morrison house. I got wifi in the mall to figure our how to get home and google maps , being my best friend said to take the 47 bus to Khao San road. No problemo! As I was walking to find my bus, I stumbled upon a boxing ring?! It was free Muay Thai fight night right outside MBK mall. That was pretty cool. After the fight , I stumbled into a night market to get food. I got some squid and octopus which was pretty good and then found the bus (cost 7bhat to khao san road) and went home. I was a happy camper and so proud I figured out the transport system that day 😀
Pearl 3 : Google maps is your friend and also pick up a physical tourist map too so you can point to things when asking people for directions
Pearl 4: I’ve noticed Thais eat food mainly using chopsticks and a spoon, the fork is used as a knife and to gather food onto the spoon.
Day 3 – Thursday – Cool and relaxing
Pearl 5: Book your Thailand trips at the local travel agencies
So if you didn’t know, Khao San Road and environs is the most popular young tourist spot in Bangkok. There are a lot of travel agencies which are pretty helpful when planning things. I visited an agency right next to my hotel and booked a trip to the Damnoen Saduk Floating Market for 200 baht.
So the next day I met up at the agency and got in the shuttle to the floating market tour. I actually met another solo female traveller on my tour and we hit it off really well. She was German, and had a knack for meeting other Germans so we also ended up having lunch and then drinks on Khao San Road later with 2 other German travellers. I highly recommend visiting the floating market. It was a wonderful spectacle and a unique cultural gem.
Pearl 4: Bangkok gets very very hot. Dress accordingly and get an air-conditioned room.
Pearl 5: always carry water and toilet paper on you. I always got my water at 7/11 which can be found every 5 blocks.
I’m from Trinidad and Tobago and very accustomed to heat, but this was the hottest I’d ever been. I think it reached to 39 Celsius this day, so I had to eat lots of ice-cream and go back to my room to cool down after the floating market.
That night I went back to the same travel agency to book an airport shuttle for the next morning. I payed 130 baht for a nice air conditioned ride.
Day 4- Friday – Going to Chiang Mai
I reached in Chiang Mai around 2pm and definitely felt the smaller town vibe right away. The airport was pretty small and taxis were lined up to take passengers. I looked around the airport for competing services but the best one was 150bhat to my place. Not bad, but considering it was only a 15min drive, kind of a rip off compared to prices I’d previously payed for transport. Anyways, I reached to my place, which was twice as bigger and nicer than the one I payed the same price for in Bangkok. I walked around the city for a bit and really liked atmosphere. It was different to Bangkok. Cheaper, friendlier, smaller, not as hot and more walkable. I walked to a market and found my favourite restaurant of the trip.
I walked around to look for travel agencies and there was approximately 2 in every block so I shopped around for prices to an elephant camp and Tiger Kingdom. I found amazing deals: 1200bhat for a full day of: elephant riding, water rafting, visiting the Karen long neck tribe and visiting a waterfall and 100bhat to go to and from Tiger Kingdom. It seemed too good to be true, especially the Elephant camps program, but I booked anyway. I was skeptical on what I was really going to get.
Pearl 6: Shop around for a good price.
Day 5- Saturday – Frickin great!
My driver came to pick me up In an half open back pickup truck (typical Chiang Mai taxi) and ee went to pick up other guests to begin our day. It ended up being 7 of us on the adventure. I’ll admit, we took a few pit stops to an Orchid Garden, Butterfly Farm and Acha Hill Tribe, which were not part of the plan, but I openly welcomed it and was happy for the extras. We went to the Elephant camp where the Karen Long Neck tribe also resided here and bathed the elephants and then got to ride them. I had a permanent dork smile at this point.
We rode and fed the elephants for about an hour and that was enough with the hot sun and all. They also had their own professional photographer taking pictures the entire time, so you had the option to buy their digital pictures for 300 baht extra.
We then proceeded to go water rafting. The water flow was low, but it was still a fun time and we were told that they would also take us river tubing and bamboo rafting as extras. Now you all know by now that I welcome extras! So it was a really nice surprise. The last stop was the short 5 minute hike to the waterfall. It was the most ‘disappointing’ part of the day, but it really wasn’t that bad, the water flow was just so low because of the season that the water was more like a stream into a small deep pool. We still made the best of it and canon balled into it. Our guide then took us each back to our place. It was fantastic and completely worth it.
I came back to my hotel, refreshed and went to dinner at my favourite restaurant again 🙂 . After having such a great day, not even losing my debit card after forgetting it in the ATM machine could break my spirit.
Pearl 7: In Thailand, they do things the Thai way. It’s not as regulated as NYC or London, but things always managed to get done. Have faith!
Day 6- Sunday Did I say how much I love Thailand?
So I had scheduled my Tiger Kingdom trip this day and was picked up at my hotel by a nice air conditioned van and went to tiger kingdom which was about 30 min from the city center. We were allowed to stay 2 hours there before they would pick us up. Two hours was just enough. I payed 600bhat to see and touch the biggest tiger plus 300bhat for a CD with professional pictures of my encounter. I was able to interact and take pictures (directed by their photographer) with all the big tigers in their huge enclosure. The photographer was even nice to take pictures with my camera and phone as well. I walked around and saw all the other tigers especially my favourite one of all: the 1 month old baby tiger!!! I was slightly upset that we weren’t allowed to truly interact with the baby tigers, but nevertheless it was a great experience.
The driver picked us all up and took us back to our hotels. I stopped off in town to get food and souvenirs. I had remembered that my travel agent said there would be a huge night fair that Sunday night so I came out to explore later on as well. It was really big and filled of thousands of people. I love street fairs! I went home with a smile that night. It was a great end to my last night in Thailand.
Pearl 8: Don’t speak Thai? In the case that they don’t speak English : Communicating is easy if you are logical, point to pictures of things, use main words ‘bhat’ ‘tiger kingdom’ and do a slight bow to say thank you.
Winding down and going to Vietnam
That morning , I slept in and checked out of my hotel at 11am. I had planned to kill time by eating and walking around before my flight to Vietnam at 4pm. My hotel was great and allowed me to store my luggage before I was ready to leave for the airport. I went back to my favourite restaurant one last time and the trusty 7/11 for last minute snacks. I decided to flag down taxis on the main road to ask them to take me to the airport. The going rate was 150 baht, but I wasn’t in a going rate mood. This is when I learnt my last valuable pearl.
Pearl: Don’t ask how much it cost, say how much you’ll pay. Haggle haggle haggle.
If it doesn’t have a set price on it, it’s negotiable.
I stopped 1 tuk tuk and said hey can you take me to the airport now, I’ll give you 80bhat. He said no impossible. Lol. So I kept it moving and flagged down a taxi this time. I said the same thing. She said ugh, gimme 100. I replied, all I have is 80bhat, she said fine. I said wait 5 min for me to get my bag. I ran back to my hotel, got my bag and headed to the airport to catch my flight to Vietnam!
I had a fantastic time on my solo trip in Thailand and I’m glad that none of my fears came true. So if the thought of traveling solo to Thailand is the only thing holding you back, I strongly suggest you challenge yourself, bite the bullet and have a great trip!