My Thailand Top Ten
With so many things to do, see, discover, taste, etc, making a 'Thailand Top Ten' is like summing up your favorite food or something. Impossible ;) Anyway, I gave it go just to make sure you don't skip these on your Thailand trip..
1. River Kwai
The Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway were used by the Japanese army as a strategic supplies route into neighboring Burma and beyond.
Taking the train on the death railway, visiting the war museum and the Bridge, offer you a small history lesson and even more so, beautiful landscapes of the Kanchanaburi area.
My grandfather - originally from Indonesia - was captivated by the Japanese, and had to work as an army cook. He was away from home while my grandmother took care of the kids (my mother was not born yet at this time).
There was a small passage on army cooks at the war museum, so it kind of was special and weird at the same time to be there..
2. Koh Tao
There is something special about Koh Tao; less glamorous than neighbor Koh Samui but more beautiful and interesting.
Beautiful beaches and spots for snorkeling? Yes! Hiking from one side of the island to the other? Yes! Getting a professional tattoo for a reasonable price? Yes! (Didn't get one but saw some pretty works of art while strolling through the streets of Koh Tao). Cheap but not so crowded happy hours? Yes! The most impressive sunsets you have ever seen? Yes!
Koh Tao has its own guide, in a paper and online version. Make sure you get your hands on one from your hotel, hostel, bungalow,...We used it to hike and really enjoyed it. Check out the online hiking maps here.
3. Thai boxing
So you finally decide to go to a Thai boxing match but have no clue how it works. Chances are big that they will try to sell you the VIP ringside tickets but you don't really need to buy these expensive seats to enjoy the matches. Worse, sitting there will make you feel like a tourist :) The cheapest tickets are off-limits but sitting all the way up between the crazy fans shouting and betting on their favorite boxers, is not what you want either. Plenty of options in the middle section. When we arrived at the ticket booth they covered up the sign of the middle class tickets so we would stand in line for the VIP tickets but don't let them fool you, you have other options!
4. Mango sticky rice
The combination of these ingredients is so simple but for some reason Mango Sticky Rice only tastes good in Thailand. I mean it is just a perfect 4 'o clock treat when you come back from a hike or a good swim. I have tried making this at home but it is not the same. It contains mango (duh!), sticky rice (duh duh!), coconut cream or milk, sugar, salt and maybe some other secret ingredients, depending on who makes it.
Don't order it after eating pad thai, unless you need to load some extra carbs ;-)
5. Jim Thompson House
I love this place! When you are about to get a nervous break-down from the Bangkok heat or the noisy cars and motorcycles driving by, this little gem is exactly the place you need to go to enjoy some traditional Thai architecture mixed with some Western details.
Before strangely disappearing while on holiday in Malaysia in the 1960's, American Jim Thompson was famous for reboosting silk-weaving in the area.
The residence consists of six wooden teak houses surrounded by a lush garden where you can find all kinds of personal items and his beautiful collection of Southeast Asian art. The visit includes a guide that gives you additional information and background history while you wander from one impressive room to another. Am I really still in Bangkok?!
6. Lila Thai massage in Chiang Mai
The Lila Thai Massage is more than just a massage salon. It's actually officially an Ex-Inmate Employment and Skill Development Center that helps and supports ex-inmates. Here, they receive a massage training course from certified massage instructors. This training is endorsed by and meets the requirements of the Chiang Mai Public Health Department. Thai massage is not for the faint hearted as it is known for its somewhat hard but yet very effective approach. It is not unusual to scream or secretly want to hit your massage therapist because of the pain you are going through. Yes it will hurt a bit, but afterwards you will be glad that you did it and your body will feel like new again. I had a bit of a neck problem when going in and left the salon without it so.. A coincidence? Or maybe not?
Check their website for the current treatments and prices.
I don't know why, but for some reason, trips to the Khanom area are not so heavily promoted at Koh Samui, but maybe that's exactly why it was more pleasing than visiting the Ang Tong Marine Park. No crowds of tourists for this trip!
Couldn't find a travel agency in the streets of Bophut so I just booked the tour online with Koh Samui Tours, which included a pick-up from our lodge.
With this tour you have the opportunity to see the extremely rare pink dolphin’s native only to the waters of Koh Samui and the small neighboring islands. The boat staff keeps a slow pace and stays very attentive as they make sure the dolphins are not upset by our presence. After spotting these beautiful creatures the speedboat will take you to Koh Tan where you can enjoy a flavorsome lunch and make no filter kind of pictures that would even make Miley Cirrus really jealous ;-)
8. Siam Paragon
Bangkok knows how to do shopping malls. I mean really... The way they present clothes, accessories, etc., is really mind-blowing. It just makes you want to BUY STUFF. Siam Paragon is one of my favorites. Don't miss out on the food court on the top floor. Magnificent views guaranteed and modern gadgets to order your food!
9. Doi Suthep
The stairs leading up to the Doi Suthep temple alone are worth the visit. A colorful serpent (Naga) welcomes you to climb up the 300 stairs. From the temple, impressive sights of Chiang Mai - about 15 km from the temple - can be seen.
When walking down from the temple you will run into a small coffee bar. I remember having a really nice coffee there! Enjoy! ;-)
10. Cooking with Poo
This fun, easy to read cookbook with a cheeky title is the perfect souvenir to take back home, for yourself or for your loved ones. Khun Poo is actually the founder and head chef of a cooking school for tourists and local residents in Bangkok. You can read her remarkable story here. Don't forget to buy your copy. The recipes are easy to follow and have clear, illustrative pictures so you know what your dish is supposed to look like. No over styled food pictures!