Have you ever traveled overseas before? If so, stop for a second and imagine your first time. The way that crazy long flight felt, how confusing it was to get around, and what on Earth it was that you were eating!
Well, I finally took Coby on his first overseas trip this month! He spent some time in Canada playing hockey as a kid, but other than that it’s been all US travel! So for our birthdays this year, we went to Thailand!
Most people thought I was nuts for taking Coby to Thailand for his first overseas adventure. The flights were long, the language is so different, and the place itself is just so… different from anywhere I personally have been. So I might have been a little crazy for taking him to Thailand for his first overseas trip, especially since I have never been there either, but it was so wonderful getting to experience this new place together!
So I thought I’d share my travel journal with you all! Get a first hand look at this newest adventure of ours. I’ll be sharing tips, tricks, and other itineraries in a later post but I thought this one would be a good place to start! So sit down, get cozy, and prepare for a long post!
We woke up at 3 am, which isn’t super unusual for me but considering I was too stressed out to sleep it was a bit early! I had spent all night the night before going through my packing list in my head, wondering if I had everything, wondering if Coby had everything, printing out documents, etc. But here we were, with our new Osprey Backpacks (we got them on sale, but they are soooo worth the price! Honestly the best backpack I’ve ever owned), passports in hand, and loading the car! We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare of course, it’s not like the Billings Airport gets crazy busy! Our first flight was an easy hop over to Minneapolis, then a couple hour layover before getting on our long flight to Seoul, South Korea! This was a 13 hour flight, which is long for sure, but I’m not sure Coby realized HOW long that was! I upgraded us to comfort plus for this leg of the flight, which was soooo worth it, I promise!
Day 2 (ish):
Somewhere in Day 1 the times got tricky on us, when we crossed the International Date Line. So we ended up in Seoul technically on day 2! Anyways after our long flight to Seoul, we had a quick layover than a 6 hour flight to Bangkok! We ended up getting into Bangkok around midnight their time, which was so perfect because we were exhausted! We stayed at the Old Capital Bike Inn, which was a cute little b&b/cafe. They greeted us at 1 am with a warm smile, amazing iced tea, and a weird cookie thing that was so delicious! Then it was off to bed in our adorable little loft!
So we finally got to do some exploring on our 3rd day of travel! First up was breakfast though, and our first taste of real Thai food! We had some sort of Thai style egg dish, I’m not sure exactly what it was but it was delicious! We started out our adventure walking towards the Grand Palace. We made it maybe 2 blocks before a super friendly man caught us gazing at a beautiful Wat. He talked to us for a bit before asking where we were headed. I told him we were headed towards the Grand Palace, and he told us that it wasn’t open until the afternoon because it was “Factory Day”, a sort of Thai Labor day. I had heard about the Tuk Tuk scams of course, so I was a little suspicious but it made sense in my head because it looked like there was a big event being set up across the street and it was labor day back home. So the guy hailed a Tuk Tuk, and off we went! Riding a Tuk Tuk in Thailand is something you must certainly do, but just be sure they take you where you want to go! Our first Tuk Tuk stop was a beautiful little temple, where we “made a wish” by pouring water on a statue. It was kind of fun and beautiful! Next stop was the Thai Silk Factory, which is where I started getting suspicious. I took to Google, which in return told me that there was in fact no “Factory Day” in Thailand. So I made sure to tell Coby to be cautious since we were now wrapped up in the Tuk Tuk scam I had read so much about. We got to the Factory and told the Tuk Tuk driver that we didn’t want to go in, and we would like to just continue to our destination. He pretty much guilt tripped us into going in, saying that’s where he made his money since we were getting in. Once we were inside, we were under a tight grasp. I bought a little gift just to get us out of there, and even still it was a struggle. On our way to the next stop, a giant sitting Buddha, the driver told us we would go to one more factory to see the silkworms. At the Sitting Buddha we told the guy we were going to have lunch in the area and not come back, so we gave him his 40 baht and got out, thank goodness! We made our way to the Grand Palace, stopping first at the City Pillar.
From there we were able to walk to the Grand Palace, and we finally made it! The Grand Palace was as beautiful as you’d think it is. Construction began on this site in 1782, to mark the new capital and provide a resting place for the Emerald Buddha. It’s surrounded by walls, and is basically a city within a city! It was all very beautiful, but our favorite part was entering Wat Phra Kaeo, the resting place of the Emerald Buddha. No photos are allowed, and it’s a quiet place of gathering and a sacred place for the Buddhism practice. The Phra Kaeo was dressed in his Rainy Season garb, and it is changed at the start of each season by the king himself.
After the Grand Palace, we headed towards a different Wat. After learning it was packed full until later in the evening, the gate guy suggested we visit Wat Saket and The Golden Mount. Wat Saket is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, built in the late 18th century. It’s 344 steps to the top of the Golden Mount, and the view at the top is so worth it! Especially during the rainy season, when you can watch the clouds roll in.
Of course, watching the clouds roll in was beautiful, but it meant one thing- rain! We were about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, so we started booking it back. We weren’t quite fast enough, however, and it started down pouring! I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen more rain in my entire life. It got so bad at one point, we were standing across the street from our hotel but too afraid to run for it because it was raining so hard! We finally made it, but ended up soaked!
After our little rain adventure, we grabbed a cab and made our way to the train station to pick up our tickets for the Night Train to Chiang Mai! The train station was an interesting place, full of people just trying to get out of the rain. There were people sitting everywhere, sleeping on the floor, and visiting with each other. We finally caught the #9 Train to Chiang Mai, in our first class sleeper car no less! The First Class car was about $60usd/person, and sooo worth it! It was surprisingly comfortable, although the wifi was terrible. We fell asleep before they even came to help us turn down our beds! The coolest part was the little TV’s that told you when the bathroom and shower were open so you don’t have to awkwardly wait outside. So nice!
Waking up on the night train was a fun experience! We woke up right as we were going through a national park, which was so gorgeous. As we got further into towns, we got to see the locals on their way to work, kids on the way to school, etc. It was very fun to observe, especially the people stacked high on their scooters and motorcycles!
We made it to Chiang Mai well rested and a bit smelly if I’m being honest. We decided to skip trying out the cramped train shower! The train station was only a short walk to our hotel, so we decided to run there first and have them store our bags so we could go for a hike.
We stayed at Rimping Village, and they were so sweet. We arrived about 8 am, which is well before check in time. We asked them if they could store our bags, but they told us if we waited about a half hour they could have our room ready, which was so nice of them! They also told us to have some breakfast while we waited, which was wonderful since we hadn’t paid for breakfast for that morning. And the breakfast at this place is a DREAM let me tell ya, my mouth still waters thinking about the pineapple jam and sticky rice! They also booked us a private driver for the afternoon, which was a huge time saver. It was a bit on the expensive side but so worth it.
Next stop was hiking the Monks Trail up to Wat Pha Lat! You can actually find the trail on AllTrails, which is super helpful. It’s a beautiful hike, even during rainy season, although it can get a bit muddy. It features a ton of wildlife, insects, waterfalls, interpretive signage, and more. We even saw a few monks with some school kids working on trail maintenance, and they all greeted us warmly! At the top is the incredible Wat Pha Lat. It’s got gorgeous stone statues, and is a quiet place. Although the hike is so worth it, you can actually drive up near the Wat, which is surprising since it’s not overcrowded with tourists. My guess is that it gets overlooked since it’s on the way to Doi Suthep, and most people seem to go to that instead.
After venturing around Wat Pha Lat, our driver drove us up to Doi Suthep. The legend says that Doi Suthep was placed at the top of the mountain when King Ku Na’s white elephant marched up to the top and trumpeted and turned 3 times. There are two ways up to the 5,250ft summit: a cable car and stairs. We chose what we believed to be the smart option, take the elevator up and the stairs on the way down. The top can be somewhat crowded and hectic, but still beautiful! The views from the top are legendary, but unfortunately it was rainy season so we were basically up in a cloud and couldn’t see anything. Still worth it though!
Our driver then dropped us back off at the hotel, where we had a quick nap and shower before our evening Food Tour! We took a Northern Food tour through A Chef’s Tour, which was so much fun! We learned the different regions of Thai cusine, how to properly eat Thai food, and ate a ton of good food! We started out our journey at the famous Cowboy Hat Lady stall at the nearby market! Her khao ka moo is legendary, and for good reason. It was well worth the hype, and beyond delicious! From there we tried some other great Northern Thai cuisines- pork belly slow cooked in clay pots, different types of fruits, the “King of Fruit” (Durian), northern Thai sausage, curry, sugar cane juice, spicy pork salad, and rice noodles! Oh, and can’t forget the best Mango & Sticky Rice ever! And also crickets, so that was fun.
After a solid food coma sleep, we woke up early to go check out the Old City! We checked out the 3 Kings Monument, the Lanna Folk Life Museum, and the other museums that you can get with the combination ticket. We also explored a few wats such as Wat Chedi Luang (where the Emerald Buddha used to sit), and Wat Chiang Man. We also headed in search for some of the legendary Khao Soi, which was well worth the search and has officially replaced Pad Thai as our favorite Thai food!
After some wat exploring, we headed toward the Tha Phae Gate to meet our group for our cooking class! Our cooking class was through Lanna Smile, which was wonderful! We each got to choose our own menu to cook, and then we went to the market to shop for it. We made pad thai, green curry, red curry, spring rolls, a coconut milk soup, sago balls in coconut milk, and of course sticky rice with mango! It was so fun and well organized, and we had a great time!
After two wonderful days in Chiang Mai, we ventured out to the Chai Lai Orchid for a “Highlights of Chiang Mai” tour. We started out the day feeding their local elephants, then we got in the river to “bathe” them, which made me feel very uncomfortable and turned out to be more of an “instagram photo shoot” than an actual good experience for the elephants. However, they seem to be very food motivated and got lots of bananas as a reward so that made me feel much better. After hanging with the elephants for a bit we hopped on a bamboo raft for a relaxing float down the river, which was super fun!
After a quick lunch, we headed to a local Karen village to do some hiking and find a waterfall! It was a pretty solid hike and a little tough, but tons of fun with great views! We had plenty of time to visit with the couple that we were on the tour with during this time, and found out that they had unfortunately got super wrapped up into the Tuk Tuk scam in Bangkok. They ended up buying over $2,000usd in suits and scarves! We felt pretty bad bursting their bubble and telling them that it was a scam, but we are hoping the suits end up nice for them!
After the hike, we checked into our treehouse then headed to dinner. On the way we saw a few more things that made me a bit uncomfortable, which is why I haven’t put a link to this place yet. It wasn’t quite all it was said to be online, but it wasn’t the worst place for the elephants to be. It just wasn’t the best either unfortunately. However, we did have an adorable little dog family adopt us and hang out on our porch and watch the rain with us! It was super sweet!
We headed out pretty early in the morning to catch our flight to Krabi! This was such a nice flight, we weren’t in the air 15 minutes and they already had us our beverages and even a meal! It was shrimp and noodles so I didn’t partake but Coby said it was delicious! Once we landed, it was straight to the Tiger Cave Temple! This one was all Coby’s idea, so blame him for what happened afterwards! So after we arrived, with our 35 pounds of luggage each, we realized that the place we wanted to go was on TOP of the mountain. Which we kind of knew, but when we read 1,237 steps we kind of assumed they were those short little fat steps. I can tell you, they are NOT those short little fat steps. They call it the “Monk’s Ladder” for a reason! Coby had the heavier luggage and made it about 2/3 of the way up before almost throwing up, so I met up with some lovely girls from Malaysia and together we trudged our way up there! Coby is a much stronger hiker than me though and made it up about 3 minutes after we did! The view from the top was amazing, and well worth the hike up. We just fully recommend not doing it with all of your luggage!
After our insane hike, we had a private driver pick us up and take us up to Our Jungle House in Khao Sok National Park! We checked into the Sunshine Treehouse, had some dinner, than enjoyed our night on the porch!
We had a Full Day Lake Tour in Khao Sok National Park! This was a ton of fun. We started out with a ride on a longtail boat, and learned a bit about the history of the park. From there we visited one of the floating raft houses, where we swam for about an hour! You can also borrow a kayak to go around the lake too! After that we had traditional Thai lunch of fish, green curry, Thai omelet, stir fried vegetables, and sticky rice!
After lunch we took the longtail boat back out for a hike. We landed at the boat ramp of a wildlife reserve, where we began our hike. It was a pretty moderate hike, with lots of interesting animals such as monkeys, lizards, and tarantulas. After a short hike, we ended up at the park ranger camp. From there, the rangers took us on a large bamboo raft to the trailhead to the cave. If you can call it a trailhead that is, it’s a very rocky “trail” but has nice hand ropes! The cave is pretty small in length, but the rooms in it are huge! It’s full of beautiful formations, and it’s super easy to navigate.
After the cave, we headed back on the bamboo raft where we saw a giant lizard and a “crocodile” (I’m hoping they were just kidding that it was a croc, but it sure looked like one!). Then it was back to the raft house to pick up the rest of our group and head back!
Then it was off to dinner and a nice evening relaxing on the porch!
We slept in a little bit for today, then spent the morning having a nice long breakfast and about 5 Thai teas! Then we spent some time getting finished packed, and enjoying ourselves down by the river! After that we walked Nature Trail #1 on the property, and checked out of our fabulous treehouse! Then it was off to the airport to fly back to Bangkok to catch our flight back home! Which, naturally, was delayed by 3.5 hours. But, we finally got on the flight about 2:30 am, and on our way home!
After our delay in Bangkok, we arrived in Seoul much later than planned! We originally had a lot planned to cram into our short 12 hours in Seoul, but after we got through customs and on the train we only had about 4 hours total in the city. Luckily the train was super easy to navigate (except we forgot to get our “refund” of 100 won and it wouldn’t let us through the gate, *Note*- the T Money cards work much better than 1 way tickets!). I even taught Coby how to ride a subway which was tons of fun! He caught on very quickly and we didn’t even take 1 wrong train! We ended up at Gyeongbokgung Palace just in time for the free English tour! The palace itself has a super interesting history, as well as amazing architecture. It was well worth the time to go there! There was also some sort of festival or something going on, and so many people were dressed in the traditional hanboks which were all so unique and beautiful! Here we got to walk along the Kings road, learn about the poor queens that lived there, and how the line of succession worked!
After the Palace we visited the Bukchon Hanok village, which is a collection of traditional Korean homes and a ton of fun shops. We continued the tradition of stopping at the 7-11 to try some interesting candy, and then we saw the WHOLE reason we decided to go to Asia in the first place. A quick glance at our phones and all our dreams were revealed. There it was, a few blocks away, the ever elusive Farfetch’d! Naturally we ran up to catch it! After that we spent some more time walking the neighborhoods and then ran to catch the subway back to the airport! We made it back to the airport with about 25 minutes to spare, which meant we had to skip out on Shake Shack which was a huge bummer. But we made it through customs and even got a bite to eat as our flight was boarding!
It was quite an adventure, thanks for sticking through my travel journal! Like I said, I’ll be adding some tips and tricks to later posts so keep an eye out for those!