11 things to do in Thailand

photography, thailand, travel

Thailand is an amazingly diverse country.  You can be in the rural countryside, to bustling city-life, to laid back beach towns, to beautiful islands all in a matter of a few hours.  We were fortunate enough to visit all of these places.  And because I couldn’t stop at 10, here are 11 things to do when visiting Thailand:

 

1) ELEPHANT NATURE PARK IN CHIANG MAI.

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Probably the coolest thing I experienced in all of Thailand.  Where else can you get so close to these giant animals?  Plus, there’s no abuse or riding.  It’s a sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates abused elephants, dogs, cats, and buffalo.  We only did a half day visit, but you can actually stay and volunteer for the week.  elephantnaturepark.org


2) VISIT THE “WATS” AKA TEMPLES.

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There are over 40,000 Buddhist temples throughout Thailand.  Chiang Mai alone contains over 300 of them.  I never thought I would be so amazed by these structures, but they are a sight to behold.  My favorites were Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Pho.

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When visiting any wat, you have to dress respectfully.  No shoulders or knees showing, and you must take your shoes off when entering.  Some have shoe racks, and some give you a bag to carry your shoes in while walking through.  Also, you are supposed to step over, not on, any threshold- a tip I was glad I read beforehand.

3) CHECK OUT ART IN PARADISE.

 

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Art in Paradise is a 3d art museum with 3 different locations throughout the country.  We visited the Chiang Mai location because we are able to walk there from our hotel.  Adult admission is 300 Baht which is roughly $8 USD.  So worth it!  I could’ve spent hours here taking photos…if we hadn’t already spend all morning exploring the old city by foot.

4) GET AN ICED COFFEE AT 7-ELEVEN.

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I know it sounds weird, but seriously you will not regret it!  Why do we not have this in America?!  Also, the 7-Eleven brand pastries they have are delicious.  I tried pretty much all the danishes- coconut, pineapple, and the basic cheese danish were my faves!  7-Eleven’s are EVERYWHERE in Thailand, and are a good place to use up your big bills to get change for some of the smaller street vendors that might not always have it.

5) HIRE A LONGTAIL BOAT.

 

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You can’t go to south Thailand without riding in one of these!  In Laem Tong Beach, the boats were lined up all along the beach.  You won’t have to look too hard to find a driver- they will usually approach you as you walk by the rows of boats.  Our driver was charging 1500 Baht for 4 hours, which seemed to be the average going rate.  We could’ve bartered but $10 usd per hour seemed pretty reasonable- and was a cheaper rate than our hotel was charging.  We ended up hiring him again the next day for another excursion.

6) EARLY MORNING TRIP TO MAYA BAY.

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Maya Bay is where they filmed the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach”.  Might be the most stunning beach I’ve ever seen… until the boatloads of tourists start rolling in.  You have to get there early.  I cannot stress that enough.  If you’re taking a day trip from Phuket or Krabi, you won’t beat the crowd.  It’s too far away.  You pretty much have to already be staying on Koh Phi Phi Don and hire a long tail to take you out as early as possible.  We left at 7am from Laem Tong Beach and basically had the beach to ourselves…for about 20 minutes.  And then it started to fill up…

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…which doesn’t look bad from a far, but it feels much more crowded when you’re actually on the beach or swimming.  It’s a much smaller area than you would expect.  There’s also a pricy 400 Baht per person fee just to get on the beach.  I guess when you have a tourist hotspot in your country you can charge whatever you want.  Big crowd/fee or not, it’s worth the visit.


7) HIKE TO THE PHI PHI VIEWPOINT.

 

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There are two ways to get here from Tonsai Pier (the main town of Phi Phi Don).  Once you start walking, you will see signs.  Some are signs for the long way to the viewpoint, and some are for the shortcut.  We took the long way up, and the shortcut down.  I’m not really sure which way is less strenuous.  The shortcut is about a million stairs going straight up/down.  Nothing too exciting along the way.  The long way is a steep winding unpaved backroad that cuts through the jungle and takes you past where some locals live- much more adventurous.  I don’t think I’ve sweat so much in years, but the view was worth it.  Make sure to take enough water!  You’ll need it.  Also, there is a 30 Baht per person fee at the top, so don’t forget to have some Baht with you.

8) STAY IN INCREDIBLE HOTELS FOR CHEAP.

 

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I could probably never afford some of these places in America.  Avani Riverside Hotel Bangkok was amazing.  Rooftop infinity pool, 24 hour room service, waterfall shower, great views of bangkok- this place even had it’s own three floor shopping mall attached to the hotel-  all for about $105 USD a night.  I’m still in awe at how cool this place was.
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9) MONKEY TRAIL IN AO NANG.

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I was barely brave enough to venture onto the monkey trail.  One look at the stairs, and I almost didn’t go.  Flip flops are definitely not a good idea here.  The trail is mainly used for guests of the Centara Grand Beach Resort to get over to Ao Nang without having to come by boat.  But it’s also a great place to spot monkeys.  Just don’t bring any food.  The monkey pictured above just got done ripping someone’s chicken sandwich from their hands, with about 30 other monkey helpers.  They mean business when it comes to food.

10) EAT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

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I also mean business when it comes to food.  I had so many good things here.  And despite always hearing about people having stomach issues in Asia, I did not get sick once.  Some of my favorites were spring rolls, pad thai, pineapple fried rice, coconut ice-cream, chili sauce for dipping french fries, and- you’re not gonna believe it- PIZZA!  I had some of the best pizza of my life in Thailand.

11) THE FLOATING MARKET.


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We took a tour here from Bangkok with Tour East Asia booked through Expedia.  Highly recommended.  The guide was informative, had a good sense of humor, and everything went smoothly.  Normally I’m not big on group tours, but I wasn’t sure how else to go about getting here, since it was a solid 2 hours to Damnoen Saduak.  We stopped on the way to a coconut farm and learned how they make palm sugar from coconuts.  The market itself was cool to see and take photos of the boats, but I found most of the vendors to be too pushy.  Not my favorite thing in Thailand, but still something that I’d recommend seeing if you have the time.  Plus, they have coconut ice-cream and lemurs!
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All in all, I loved Thailand.  Each place we visited, I wished I had just a few more days to see it all.  We stayed for 2 weeks, but I can see how easily you could fill up an entire month with cheap things to do there.
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Until next time… ❤

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9 things to do in the exumas

travel

The Exumas are a chain of over 365 islands in the Bahamas, also knows as “cays”. The largest cay is Great Exuma – connected to Little Exuma only by a bridge.

The water is some of the bluest you will ever see. And the beaches are very secluded. You likely won’t have to share.  If that isn’t enough to get you there, here are some more travel tips!

1) TAKE A BOAT TOUR TO SEE THE SWIMMING PIGS.

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This is the #1 attraction in the Exumas right now. We used Robert’s Island Adventures and they were perf! We did the full day tour, which took us to a bunch of different stops. We hung out on an island full of giant iguanas. We searched for sand dollars on the most gorgeous mile-long sandbar. We passed islands owned by David Copperfield, and Faith Hill/Tim McGraw. We snorkeled through “Thunderball Grotto” – an underwater cave where they filmed parts of the movie “Splash” and the James Bond movies “Thunderball” and “Never Say Never Again”.  Had lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where we had the option to swim with the neighboring nurse sharks. And of course, we swam with the great swimming pigs of Exuma!

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2)SWIM WITH THE TURTLES IN HOOPER’S BAY.

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This was one of my favorite experiences, not only the in the bahamas, but ever! The turtles like to hang out around the docks, and once you spot one, you are likely to see many more. Trying to pick one up is almost an art form. If you aren’t ninja enough to grab them right away, they will shoot right out of your hands faster than I ever imagined a turtle could move!

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3) TRY THE LOCAL BEER.
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4) LAY OUT ON TROPIC OF CANCER BEACH.

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Also knows as Pelican Beach, this is probably the prettiest beach in the Exumas! It is located on Little Exuma. After passing the bridge that connects Great Exuma to Little Exuma, you will just keep driving until you see a sign on the left for the beach. It’s a very bumpy road down to the beach so DO drive slowly! Once there, you can actually stand on the Tropic of Cancer – the line is marked on the ground.

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5) EAT AT SANTANA’S.

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The reviews don’t lie. This beachside place is delightful. Have a Kalik light (my fave beer of the Bahamas) and try the fried lobster! Also, try “Mom’s” bakery next door for dessert.

6) RENT A BOAT AT MINN’S.

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We are no sailors. Neither of us had ever driven a boat, but decided this was the place to do it. Nothing like driving straight out into the ocean at your own pace. It took us a little while to trust our anchoring skills, but after that, we were golden. And besides taking a water taxi, it’s the only way to explore Stocking Island – which leads me to my next recommendation….

7) FEED THE STINGRAYS AT CHAT ‘N CHILL.

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The food is served up just like you’re at a summertime cook-out. I had a grilled cheese on a hamburger bun, with shoe string fries, and the most amazing garlic coleslaw on the side. Tried a bite of the grouper, and it was the best fish I’ve ever tasted!

The stingrays are almost always hovering around out front, waiting for food. They will swim right up to – and even on top of you – if you’re in the water.

8) TRY CATCHING THE LIZARDS AND FROGS.

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They are all over the place. All these pictures were taken right outside our cottage.

9) WALK ACROSS THE OCEAN IN ROLLETOWN.

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At low tide, you can actually walk across the ocean from Rolletown to Man-O-War Cay. It becomes a giant sandbar with tons of starfish and sand dollars to be found!

I truly believe that if you’re thinking about planning a trip to Great Exuma – the time to go is NOW.  The island is pretty undeveloped right now, but I think that will change in time and the beaches will no longer be the hidden treasures that they are now.

The plane ticket is the most expensive part.  We rented a 2 bedroom cottage complete with a kitchen for a full week for $900 (hoopersbayvillas.com), and rented a car for $350 (thompson’s rental cars).  Food is very expensive – I would recommend stashing some basics in your luggage to save some $$$.  And load up on sunscreen!  You will most definitely burn without it, and probably even with.  🙂

OREGON

oregon, photography, travel

Oregon is one of my most favorite places.  Everywhere is so scenic.  I could 100% live there and find new places to explore everyday.  Here are some spots we visited:

-Cannon Beach.  I love everything about it – giant rock formations, people walking their dogs, campfires on the beach!  So cool.  For me, the most fascinating part were all the starfish you can see in the tide pools around Haystack Rock.  You have to get there at low tide, usually early morning.  This website updates the tide times daily, which is extremely helpful.  The water is pretty frigid, but you won’t regret getting knee-deep and up close and personal with the starfish.  Grab some lunch at Mo’s.  The hot crab melt is delightful, but the great view is what makes this place special.

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