Cultural Notes and Observations: Thailand

  • Buddhist
  • Very touristy
  • ATM fees are expensive – 200 baht per transaction
  • So many curries!
  • Use plenty of peanuts and basil in cooking
  • Street food is cheaper than in other parts of South East Asian
  • Elephant pants for sale everywhere
  • Moi Thai boxing is very popular. You always see posters and car with megaphones advertising them
  • Throughout the country, there are posters and shrines to commemorate the dead king
  • Lots of French tourists
  • Local’s English is not as good as in other South East Asian countries
  • Signs at major tourist attractions are only written in Thai
  • Tour guides do not provide much information
  • Hard bargainers – will not budge much on prices

Food I Tried:

  • Green curry
  • Red curry
  • Yellow curry
  • Massaman curry
  • Penang curry
  • Thai Pumpkin soup
  • Mango sticky rice
  • Pad Thai
  • Indian pancake
  • Coconut ice cream
  • Grilled octopus on a stick
  • Patongko (deep-fried dough) with custard
  • Satay
  • Rick crackers with custard sauce
  • Sesame seed coconut balls
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Feb 25, 2017 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Two Thai Girls Eating Popsicle on the staircase leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskV1gos1

On my mom’s last full day in Thailand we decided to take it easy. In the morning we relaxed and hung out at our hotel’s pool. In the afternoon, we rented a motorbike and drove to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is a beautiful average-sized temple and located on top of a mountain overlooking all of Chiang Mai. The view is magnificent and you can regularly see planes landing and taking off from the airport just outside the main city. It is one of Northern Thailand’s most sacred temples and you often see Buddhist monks walking the grounds. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the temple was built in 1383 to enshrine Buddha’s relics.

Feb 24, 2017 – Learning to Cook Thai Food in Chiang Mai

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See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskRH79Pj

Ever since taking a cooking class in Bali, Indonesia with Franki and Ranah, I have been keen to try one again! Clearly my heart and stomach are on the same page.

My mom and I found a tour agent that we liked so we booked a half day cooking course at MaMaNoi Thai Cookery School through her for 750 bhat each. It also included a short local market visit to explain about the different ingredients used. We got to look at and touch miniature eggplants (the size of a lime), different varieties of ginger, chili peppers, etc.

The van then drove our small group of ten to a small farm with a beautiful garden about 15 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. Most of the participants in our class were from North America. We had the option of choosing one stir fry, one soup, and one curry and then either spring rolls or Cha-Yen (Iced Thai Tea). I chose pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles), tom-kar-gai (chicken in coconut milk), and green curry.  My mom chose the pad Thai, tom yum kung (hot and sour prawn soup), and gang penang (panang curry). As a group, we decided to make iced thai tea.

Our cooking instructor had a great sense of humour and was a lot of fun. She always said, “How sexy you are you? The hotter you make your food the sexier you are!” All of the food was delicious and I was so full I couldn’t finish all my food. Overall, it was a great experience and I’m glad that I got to share it with my mom!

Feb 23, 2017 – Kissed by an Elephant

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My New Best Friend!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPSyHyD

Today was one of my favourite days in Thailand because I got to spend it with elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. It does not offer elephant riding and actually rescues elephants from riding camps and farmers who cannot care for them.

The site is located hour and a half outside the Chiang Mai in the countryside. The sanctuary is adjacent to a forest and has a river running through the property which is perfect for the elephants. We decided on the morning half day program which is 1700 baht. It was well worth the money and I was extremely satisfied; I couldn’t stop smiling.

We were surrounded by two adults, one adolescent, and two baby elephants. One of which was six months old. I had never been that close to an elephant before. I was a little nervous at first, but they are very gentle creatures for their size. However, the young ones are a little crazy! The elephants’ skin is leathery and rough with black hair sparsely spaced on it. Their eyes are intelligent and calm. My mom was actually quite scared of getting too close so I got some funny photos of her reactions to them.

Not only did our group (probably around 20 people) get to feed the elephants bananas and sugar cane, but we also got to take a dip in a mud bath with them, followed by washing them off in the river. Lots of photo opportunities were presented and the company even had its own photographer. Later they uploaded to Facebook (free of charge).

We arrived back at our hotel around 1:30 and jumped in the pool!

Feb 22, 2017 – Temples and Monk Chats in Chiang Mai

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A Temple at Wat Phra Singh

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/0g4hz6

After applying for my 30 day E-tourist visa for India, my mom and I stumbled upon “The Square” café and I had the best iced Thai tea there that I have ever tasted. My mom got a mocha and enjoyed it so much that she went back and got another one right after she finished the first!

The first temple we visited was Wat Phra Singh. It is a large Buddhist temple with outstanding architecture. It houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and its restored murals depicting the lives of locals hundreds of years ago.

The second temple we visited was Wat Chedi Luang. It is a 600 year old pagoda, the tallest in Thailand Lanna Kingdom. The current temple grounds were originally made up of three temples — Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin. One of my favourite parts of Wat Chedi Luang are the shrubs that are pruned and manicured into the shape of elephants!

On the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang is a specific area is set up to chat with Buddhist monks! This was a great way for my mom and I to learn more about Buddhism, the daily lives of monks, and Thai culture. The monk we chatted with spoke English very well and was easy to talk to. I was a little nervous because I had never talked to a monk before. This was one of my favourite experiences in Thailand and I am going to look for more monk chats around South East Asia because I have so many more questions!

Feb 21, 2016 – Flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Tasting a Singha Beer for the First Time at Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPJ8sUs

My mom and I stayed only one evening in Phuket because we were flying out to Chiang Mai the following day. When we checked into Kingsacre we learned that we had been upgraded to a private bungalow. It was absolutely gorgeous! Later, we swam in the pool and were the only ones there. It felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. Kingsacre also had a stunning garden with lush trees, plants, and flowers. Additionally, it is only a five minute drive from the airport.

In the morning, my mom and I took a quick stroll along Nai Yan beach. I wish we could have spent more time there because it was incredible. I loved the colourful beach umbrellas lined up in the sand.

Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, the two of us checked into My Chiangmai Boutique Lodge which was wonderful! The rooms are clean and spacious, and the pool is lovely. All the staff are hardworking and provide great customer service as well.

In the evening, we checked out the famous Night Bazaar. It is one of the largest street markets I’ve been to and it seemed to never end. The mango sticky rice there is delicious!

Feb 20, 2017 – Koh Phi Phi Islands Tour

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Maya Bay Overcrowded with Tourists

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/J28B3k

My mother and I begrudgingly had to book a tour to see the famous Phi Phi Islands because it was substantially cheaper than taking a private boat. We decided to go with Barracudas Tour because it seemed to be the most popular company and our hotel recommend them. It costed 900 baht (which did not include the 400 baht park fee). Expensive! It seemed like a major tourist trap.

We were picked up half an hour late from our accommodation along with a few other people and later arrived at Ao Nang Beach to check-in. We were all provided with blue rubber bracelets which confirmed that we had paid. Afterwards, we were guided to our boat. It was a beautiful speed boat which held our tour group of 30 people and had three 250 horse power engines. It was by far the nicest boat I’ve been on in South East Asia. Luckily, my mom and I were keeners and sat at the very front which was great!

On our way to Bamboo Island, I caught a glimpse of Chicken Island! An island that actually resembles a chicken and can be visited on other tours. I giggled to myself as we drove past.

Bamboo Island was our first stop, and it was stunning. The white sand is  powdery and water is very clear.

Next, we passed by a Viking Cave and Pileh Bay. Pileh Bay is a cute blue lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs.

Afterwards we jetted to Maya Bay which is one of the most famous beaches in Thailand. It was featured in a scene in “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000. Unfortunately, the beach was so crowded with boat traffic and people that it was not enjoyable. I think it really raises the question, of “What makes the perfect beach?” My mom and I also ventured to the other side to see a viewpoint of a lagoon which was pretty, but so overcrowded with people that I thought the wooden structure supporting us was going to fall.

Monkey Beach was quite an experience. It should be renamed “Watch Silly Tourists Get Attacked by Crab Eating Macaques”. Any tourist who brought a drink, food, or bag on shore was investigated by a mischievous macaque. The tourist would think it was cute or funny that the monkey would come so close but then would feel alarmed and scarred once several tried jumping on them. My mother and I stayed well away as I do not intend to get close to wild animals and I don’t have my rabies shot. Sadly, the park rangers sat just behind the beach apathetically. Additionally, the snorkeling was not the best.

We had a lovely buffet lunch on Phi Phi Don which had less development on it than I expected. The water was incredibly shallow and warm!

Our last stop was Lohsamah Bay for snorkeling. It is a very charming spot. Although, I did not appreciate the tour company feeding the fish bits of bread. That is not appropriate as it causes the fish to die.

Overall, our tour guides did a good job of letting everyone know the times they needed to be back on the boat and told us where would be going next. Even though I am not a fan of group tours, I did enjoy myself (most likely because I got a spot at the front of the boat).

Feb 19, 2017 – Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach

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Railay Beach West

see more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPHvZ9Y

My mom and I took our motorbike from Krabi Town to Ao Nang. It’ only a 10 minute long-tail boat ride from Ao Nang to Railay Beach and the boats come much more frequently than the 40 minute ferry from Krabi Town. A round-trip boat ticket costs 200 Bhat.

Railay Beach West was remarkable! It had beautiful sand that stretched far and wide. Its only downfall is that it gets crowded. Railay Beach East is only a five minute walk away but no one seems to like it because of the mangroves on one side. It is still pretty though. I enjoyed watching rock climbers on East Beach who were dangling above the water.

Phra Nang Beach is perhaps the most popular beach in Thailand. It is by far the most entertaining beach I have been too. I saw crab-eating macaques and a water monitor at the entrance. One end of the beach is engulfed by a cave. Additionally, there is a small shrine near the cave that is a huge tourist magnet. Lastly, there are the rock climbers and boulderers just behind the beach which are fun to watch. Again, the only downfall is that the beach is largely populated by tourists.

Feb 18, 2017 – Sightseeing around Krabi Town

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Climbed 1, 237 Stairs to the Summit of the Tiger Cave Temple

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPRkHTi

Motorbiking around South East Asia is one of my favourite ways to sightsee. You are totally engaged and aware of your surroundings. Whereas in a van you hardly pay attention to what’s going on around you. It also allows you to see whatever you want on your own time and is much cheaper.

Today, my mother and I took a scooter to the Tiger Cave Temple. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist sights in the province. There is a building built around the cave at the base of the mountain and it is easy to enter and see the multiple tiger statues and relics inside.

To reach the Tiger Cave Temple, one must climb 1, 237 steps! It took a while, but was well worth the effort. At the top sits a large golden Buddha statue overlooking the amazing view.

Afterwards, we drove to Ao Nang Beach which is situated on the edge of the main road and shops. The shops along the road adjacent to the beach are very expensive and I’m glad we decided not to book our hotel there. The actual beach was average. The sand was great and had tiny seashells were strewn on top. The backdrop of the limestone cliffs are outstanding. It is just a little crowded with long-tail boats and vacationers, but I’m glad I went to enjoy the sunset.

Feb 16, 2017 – Overnight Cheow Lan Lake Trip Day 2

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Floating Bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPPvnzV

At 6:00am you could hear the gibbons calling and birds lively chirping. By 7:00, everyone was in the long-tail boat and ready for our morning safari. The water was calm, and the forest was peaceful. The animals were very elusive and again we did not see anything.

After breakfast we did a 45 minute hike up to another cave known as Snake Cave. Although, I only saw bats and spiders inside and no snakes.  Again, we were rushing because our guides said“a group of 60 people were coming behind us”. Everyone hurried back down the mountain too, but there we no need whatsoever. After lunch, the long-tailed boat headed back to the pier and were dropped back to our respective lodgings.

Overall the overnight lake tour was okay. The park and lake are spectacular, but I felt very hushed and herded around. Not enough information was provided about the places we were taken to. Even a sign in English would have been nice. I would not recommend this tour.