STAY @ INN A DAY SUITE 4 O'CLOCK
This boutique hotel is family owned and operated. Nestled on the banks of the river in old Bangkok, far from the tourist crowd, this place is a hidden gem. An old warehouse converted into a hotel, this place is an instagram dream. Suite 4 O'Clock has a giant wooden tub that overlooks Wat Arun, perfect for soaking away the day. Design is fabulous, service is wonderful, Thai Iced Tea amazing. Don't skip lunch. The place is small but it is like having your favorite Thai Chef cook you a private dinner. Walking distance to Wat Pho and The Royal Palace. Easy Access to river cruises.
OVERNIGHT SPECIAL EXPRESS TO CHIANG MAI
Save some money on accommodations by taking an overnight train to Chiang Mai. We booked our sleeper cabin via ticket service a month before our arrival. The train was so comfortable and cozy. We had no trouble sleeping. When we woke, we were arriving in the mountains at sunrise! Dinner is surprisingly yummy and affordable. For breakfast, stick to the rice soup. The other options were strange. Meals are not included. If you order, they will collect cash just before arrival. For those adventurous souls, the bathrooms have a shower on board. It's a balancing act, but it gets the job done. I just washed my hair to freshen up.
An avid traveler and co-worker friend of mine, Megan Taylor, recommended this place. I saw the video of her experience and knew it was something I had to do. My husband and I credit this place as being literally one of the "best days," of our lives. A spiritual experience that is not to be missed. Thailand is plagued by terrible "animal tourism." From the Tiger petting zoo's to the Elephant camps. These animals are often mistreated for the sake of turning a profit. Patera Elephant Farm seeks to rescue and rehabilitate elephants. What you pay for is helping them care for the animals. You will be put to work, feeding, cleaning and walking them. Groups are small and each human get's one elephant and a care-taker for the day. They space out the experience so the elephants are not overwhelmed and each animal is paired with a human that fits it's personality. You ride bare-back. No saddles or whips are allowed. When an elephant first comes in, it is assigned a mahoout. This person dedicates their life to caring for this animal 24/7. This is the relationship you experience. This place takes no donations. They want you to help them care for these majestic creatures. It is difficult to articulate the magic that happens when you look an elephant in the eye. It's like seeing eons of wisdom and kindness in one moment. I cried when I hugged my elephant goodbye. We had two women in our group who were back for the third time. I now understand why. If you go to Thailand, do this!
Stay near the Old City if you want to visit more Wat's and eat street food. We found a delightful Air BNB just outside the old city. Ratchiangsaen Flora House, Ribbin, was a wonderful host. We were never far from a Tuk-Tuk to anywhere in the city and walking distance from an outdoor market that was open all night. Eat the street food, it will blow your mind. BBQ on a stick, soups, seafood, smoothies and ROTI. Meals are just a few Bhat each. Go to the Night Bazaar and see a Thai Boxing fight. Anthony Boirdain says, "Find the Cowboy Hat Lady at the gate and eat her food." Her stand is called, "Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak." We agree. Don't miss it.
travel like the monks
Hike the ancient path to Doi Suthep and stop at the best kept secret spot on the mountain: Wat Pha Lat. When we dreamed of Thailand, this was the place we saw in our dreams. A jungle temple at the top of a waterfall. We packed a lunch and ate it with locals on the rocks with a pack of temple stray dogs. The hike starts just behind the Zoo and winds up the mountain. You follow ties on trees left by the monks. It is magical. We snagged a Red Truck from Wat Pha Lat to the more famous Wat at Doi Suthep. The best part, no one here had "selfie sticks," and the place was quiet. I was the most connected to my meditation at this temple. "No Ego," etched into a step next to the waterfall. It is the perfect place to recharge outside the city. We got our hiking tips and instructions from Globo Treks. It was easy to follow their directions.
TIPS FOR THAILAND
Bring long skirts or pants to wear into temples. Some places, like the Royal Palace, require a collar on your shirt. I kept one in my bag and wore long skirts for most of our trip and I was never denied entry into a temple.
When inside a temple, women are not allowed to touch a monk. If you wish to get a blessing, you must place your donation or item in front of the monk and he will pick it up.
Schedule a "Monk Chat" in Chiang Mai.
The friendlier the stranger, the more suspect they are. Thai people are quiet and private. Those that were super friendly were trying to scam us. We were told many times that something was closed when it wasn't. If a Tuk-Tuk driver needs to "make a stop," on the way to your destination they will stop at a shop and ask you to go in while they run an errand. They get a commission from the shop owner if you buy something. We had it happen once. You'll learn fast.
Most signs are in English. Use Google Translator App if you are confused.
Price is negotiable on souvenirs. Don't be afraid to haggle for items or Tuk-Tuk rides.
The whole city will shut down for the King. If it happens, just go with it. There is literally nothing you can do.
Get a massage. Every Damn Day. Seriously.