Almost a year ago my life changed dramatically. November 2018 I was finishing up school, living in Logan, married, and planning on becoming an Engineer. 3 months later I was graduated with a degree, divorced, and living in a yurt. Talk about a dramatic change. I was living in a Yurt working for a backcountry ski resort as a yurt host, guide, and photographer. I decided that with my little to no expenses I currently had, and the way my life had changed, that now was the time for a BIG trip. Some of my friends had traveled to Thailand, and it had always intrigued me. I started looking at flights and found one out of San Fransisco for $432. Done. Booked. April 4th I was flying to Bangkok.
The weeks leading up to the flight I was trying oh so hard to rope friends into going with me. I had solo traveled for a month before across Morocco and parts of Eastern Europe. But I wanted to travel with friends, have a sense of familiarity. It didn’t happen. So I trekked on alone.
Bags packed, and nothing booked. I learned from my last adventure that plans need to stay open. I also thought Thailand would be very similar to my last trip, lots of sightseeing, pretty photos, and wandering a country. I learned very quickly that was not the case.
April 6th, 2:20am. My flight lands, and I taxi across Bangkok to the only hostel I booked. A single room to crash in and adjust to the 14 hour time change. Staying on freeways and major roads, nothing seemed to unfamiliar.
I walked out of my hostel with no plans. Camera and water in pack and already facing the sticky heat. Almost 90 degrees at 10 am with humidity nearly maxed out and a UV index as high as it goes. This was the first taste of my next month.
I frequently use the app Couchsurfer when I travel. Sometimes to stay with people, but almost always to meet locals and foreigners to mingle with. I opened it up and saw a mass of people meeting at Chatachuk market. The biggest market in the city, and only on Saturdays. I headed that way to meet up with some locals to show me around.
Now if I traveled back to Thailand I would not bring ANY clothing with me. Rather buy everything at Chatachuk. I bought so much and could not help my self. Awesome clothing for insanely cheap prices. Shirts that were identical to US brand shirts for $3-$5.
Stoked on shopping, which is rarity for me, I shifted to the night market at Ratchada with more locals. New food experiences, a bit more culture shock, but an amazing time. The stoke was at an all time high for the next month. The cherry on top was getting back to the hostel. Calling an Uber(Grab is the app there) is cheap, practically free. You can choose what type of vehicle, so of course I opt for a scooter. Zipping through the streets of Bangkok on the back of a scooter is one of the most adrenaline inducing highs one can achieve.
April 7th I transferred to a new hostel, one with a pool, a bar, and 4 floors of rooms. Seemed like a good place to meet folks. It was also The place where my perspective of Thailand changed.
I spent the day traveling solo, exploring the city, into all the nooks and cranny’s. It was fun to end up in places where there were no other travelers, and really get to see the day to day culture going on. I eventually made my way to China Town. The street food destination of the world. The entire street lined up with hundreds of carts, all with something different. I ate so much, and wanted to eat so much more.
Eventually the little group of travelers I met (consisting of an American and some Filipinos) made our way to Koh San Road.
Up to this point, I had the naive head that Thailand would be like all my other travels; calm, pretty, easy, chill. I never even though about it being a party destination. Not once. Koh San Road showed me oh how wrong I was.
Clubs, lights, food carts, entertainers, and all of the travelers and locals in one place to party. Music blaring so loud you can’t even hear the chatter of the crowd that is shoulder to shoulder tight. What an experience. And this was really just the beginning.
All over the street you could buy buckets of alcohol. A literal sand pail filled with the drink of your choice for quite cheap. This was common place all over Thailand though.
April 8th continued on the same way, explore the city, see the crazy huge malls, pool party to cool off, then back to Koh San Road with the hostel for another night of partying. This cycle would go on for the next month more or less. It really never got old either. So much to do and see, and so many fun people to go out at night with! Plus night was really the only time to escape the insufferable heat.
April 9th and 10th I headed to a town north of Bangkok, Pak Chong, a town at the entrance of one of the National Parks. It was a much quiter town, no partying, and definitely no tourists. I rented a scooter to zip around and saw all sorts of amazing sites that were off the beaten path.
Going to Khao Yai National park was a refreshing place to hike, shoot some photos, and take it in Thailand. Plus seeing mass amounts of monkeys and other creatures roaming around was quite crazy,
The downfall with coming at this time of year (April), it is the dry season. A lot of the big waterfalls were just a trickle, and most of the fauna was cooked brown from the heat. It did mean that there was no monsoons though.
April 11th was a transfer day. Flying to a new city, Chaing Mai. This is the largest city in Northern Thailand. I chose up here due to the MASSIVE holiday coming up, Songkran.
Songkran is the Thai New Year. It is a 3 day holiday with the entire country shutting down for a massive waterfight, everyone has squirt guns and buckets of water.
Envision this if you can, streets to a dead stop (LA rush hour traffic), mostly trucks with people in the back, all spraying each other with squirt guns, and the streets packed like the Las Vegas strip. All with everyone pretty smashed. So much so, that 386 people died last year during songkran.
I started Songkran a night early. I couldn’t help myself with the massive new water gun I had bought, plus the scooter I was renting for the day. I decided now was the time to some drive-by water gun fights. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much in my entire life.
Every day started the same; water clothes on, squirt gun ready, attach gopro, jump in a truck, get with friends and have a water fight all day! Lunch was eaten on the fly as you tried to grab something quick and to hide away from the water for just a few moments. As the day wound down, the squirt guns and swimsuits were traded for drinks and parties.
To escape the water, even if only for a few hours, I went outside of the city to an elephant sanctuary. Many tourist choose to just see elephants, go ride them, etc. A sanctuary provides the elephants the wild they need, while providing a safe environment for people to interact. For us, that meant feeding them, bathing with them, and swimming with them! All with no harmful chains, or bad training practices.
The following day, I got up at 4:30 to travel 3 hours by moped to Pai, the backpackers escape. We got up this early to 1. beat the heat, and 2. avoid bribes to the police, as I already had to pay one….
The road was not an easy one. 762 turns to Pai, most of which were hairpins. I was up for the challenge, and stoked more than anything to do something new! I rallied that scooted like it was my longboard for much of the journey. Nine was struggling to keep up.
Pai was refreshing. Few to no people, quite crowds, no parties; a good place to refresh mid trip. Most of the time up there was spent hiking, visiting the jazz bars, chatting with the friends I had made, and really relaxing.
Finishing up in Pai, I drove back the 762 turns I came, readied my things, and jumped on a plane to head to the Islands down south! My journey on the islands would be spent more adventuring and exploring, then the partying and big city living I had been experiencing!
TO THE ISLANDS
Originally, I had planned to avoid the big party everyone goes to in Thailand, the full moon party. So popular that they also through a new moon party to compensate for that whole month between. However, I was convinced. I changed my flight plans, and traveled down to Koh Phanang to start my island hoping experience.
The full moon party, one of the largest parties in Thailand. Every full moon, the whole island gets swamped with thousands of travelers to party from dusk to dawn. The following few days, everyone recovers and leaves, leaving the island a ghost town till the following party. I believe when I was here, the party had around 20,000 people. Each bar on the beach has a different type of music playing, so there is something for everyone!
The night went on and everyone had a blast. A few didn’t make it to dusk, but those who did were awarded a great view. We celebrated with a nice dip in the ocean to cool off (yes, even at 5am it was over 85 degrees) and enjoy the colors of the sky.
The party ended and I got my things together and traveled to the next island, Koh Tao.
I legitmately could spend the rest of my life on this island and be happy. It was big enough to have freedom to move and rent a scooter, but small enough everything was close. The tourism was limited here compared to the other islands I visited. And everyday I could adventure! What more to ask for? Rock climbing, hiking, SCUBA, snorkeling, all within reach!
After a couple of some of the best days of my life traveling, I left Koh Tao to head to Koh Phi Phi.
I arrived to Koh Phi Phi and realized this would be much different from my last island experience. Loads of tourists and boats coming and going, with everything catered to them. This meant the partying was back up to 11. Not something I was disappointed about, just that I felt a longing to go back to Koh Tao
The days on Koh Phi Phi were much the same. SCUBA, rock climbing, hiking, but more lounging, partying, and watching Muai Thai fights.
After a couple days on Koh Phi Phi, I was on to my last area in Thailand before heading back to Bangkok and flying home. This would be Railay beach, the location I had filled half of my bag with climbing gear for. I planned on spending a week here, and exclusively climbing some of the coolest rock and routes I have ever seen.
The first night I arrived, I was so taken back by how quite it was. I went out to go to a bar, or find a party to meet people, but nothing like that existed. The place that had the most people had a grand total of 7. Including the tourists. Luckily I had already made plans before I had left my trip for people to meet up and climb with. This just meant that I really got to focus on climbing and the beauty of this area, rather than the loud blaring music. A nice pace of change.
Each day I would wake up, grab a bite to eat, then head out with the climbing crew I had met to go put some routes in. We would go all day, cool off with a dip in the ocean, then head home to get the much needed sleep to do it again.
As a climber, my favorite type of climbing is stemming. It is using your limbs to keep you locked in spaces requiring a stretch. Works really well for a tall guy, probably why I love it. This is what almost everything is in Thailand. It was incredible stemming on stalactites for an entire climb, or squeezing through a chimney on hollow limestone holds. Most of the climbs seemed almost mythical, as no way nature could create something abstract and crazy.
We also had visitors watching us most of the time. Really trying to steal our snacks too.
All in all, it was an epic week of climbing with some of the raddest people out there. I really pushed myself more than I thought I would, and climbed stuff that will be very hard to beat! But at the end of the trip, as day 25, 26, then 27 came around, I was ready to go home. My body was demolished from a mix of sand fleas and cuts and scrapes from climbing and coral. I was sore and tired from not getting to bed any earlier than midnight.
The trip finished with me taking the sketchiest bus I have ever seen back to Bangkok, getting dumped off in the city at 3am with no accommodations, finding a hostel to just have a place to dump my stuff and sleep on a couch in the front room. All of this to fly out less than 12 hours later.
All in all, Thailand was incredible. It was everything I needed, and nothing I expected.
TIPS AND WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENT
I figure that I have now inspired you to head to Thailand, travel for a month, party, and explore!
- If you can, don’t plan your accommodations completely out. I eventually only booked a hostel for the first night of the city I traveled too. I tried to book to much at first and ended up missing out with staying with friends I had made
- I mentioned it above, but research which elephant sanctuary you would go to. Don’t support the wrong cause! Also don’t do a tiger sanctuary. They dope up the tigers with extreme amounts so they can be handled somewhat safely.
- SCUBA dive or plan on getting certified. It is one of the best places in the world to go and it is very cheap! I paid 99$ for a day of diving, refresher course, and all the gear needed.
- If you haven’t, download couch surfer and get on there. Its an easy way to meet people who are also solo traveling!
- Get out of Bangkok. I started there and thought it was the greatest till I came back to fly out. Then I realized why everyone is so over it. Just spend whats necessary here, but get out to see the rest of Thailand!
- Download Grab, the uber of thailand. You can request a vehicle and it is by far the easiest and cheapest way to travel. You can also request a scooter ride, the real way to travel!
- If you plan on rock climbing, bring your own gear. Its expensive to rent and the gear is not cared for. I ended up leaving my rope (brought an older one) as the Thai’s will use it for replacing anchors.
- Go to 7/11 and get toasties. Basically a panini they warm up for you. Its the best midnight snack you can think of.
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENT
- DON’T BRING CLOTHES! No seriously, bring little to none. Thailand has amazing markets with everything extremely cheap. I ended up leaving a lot of my stuff there to buy stuff I really wanted to be able to wear back home.
- Get an international drivers license. Odds are you will be on a scooter at some point. Its illegal if you don’t have one, and you will end up paying a bribe like I did (1000 baht…).
- Spend more time on Koh Tao, and less on Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi is a tourist trap, with so many people flocking there to be at the same place “The Beach” was. Everything was much more expensive then anywhere else, lower quality, and all catered to the tourists.
- Get better accommodations for the full moon party. I got whatever hostel was available as it was last minute. They put way too many people way too close together. Everyone came at random times of the day and night, I got no sleep. Pay to get a nice room.
- If you end up traveling with folks you are wanting to go separate ways from, then do so. At times I felt like I was required to stay with people I had met, but its your trip, do what you want.
- I did as best as I could, but be social, more social then you have ever imagined! Everyone is in the same boat as you, traveling to a foreign place, with no idea what is going on, wanting a familiar face. Be that face!
More than anything, if you decide to travel out to Thailand, reach out to me! I’d love to help give advice and get you stoked on one the greatest places to travel!
My instagram also has the whole trip, with no filters or editing, for your viewing pleasure! Its the saved stories, part 1 and 2.