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Thailand: Top Three Things in Top Three Destinations

Thailand has been a very big surprise for us.

What we expected of the country and what the reality is are very different.

It’s WAY more modern and developed than what we thought it would be.

The roads are great, the drivers follow rules of the road, things are orderly and not chaotic, the people are super friendly, and helpful, and all in all, we have been very happy to be here. We spent 20 days in Thailand absorbing as much as we could of this beautiful country.

After some thought as to how to adequately show how much we loved it here, I decided to present the Top Three Things we’ve done in our Top Three destinations in Thailand:

Destination #1 Bangkok:

Wow, what a city. Totally not what we were expecting.

We knew it was big and that there were a lot of people there. But it was SOOOO different than what we thought it would be. Color me naïve and ignorant, I didn't expect that it would be like this:

But, It was amazing!!!! One important reason that we grew to love Bangkok so much was because my cousin Giga (she came from Israel to join us) introduced us to the city and made it not seem so overwhelming. With Giga and Guy, it became a very manageable place, and lots of fun.

Awesome thing #1:

Celebrating New Year’s Eve from the rooftop of a skyscraper condo that Giga stayed in! Wow, was that fantastic! Looking at the cityscape, with the river

and then watching the fireworks blew our minds.

And as an added bonus, the next day Jay went swimming with Guy in the rooftop pool. (it was too cold for me and Giga).

It was spectacular to be in such a huge city and welcoming in the new year.

Awesome thing #2:

Riding many very interesting modes of transportation: We took our first tuk-tuk ride. Tuk-tuks are motorbikes with a back or side cart attached to it. So when you ride, you are in the open air, which feels cool for a few minutes until you get stuck in traffic behind a bus or something, with its hot exhaust blowing on your face and then you realize why everyone is wearing a mask as they are riding motorbikes or in tuk-tuks.

We took the river taxi (awesome),

the skytrain, and a regular taxi. Each was a lot of fun and very adventurous in its own way.

We especially liked the river taxi, because that was super exciting and it was like a two-fer. You got the taxi to where you needed to go, but you also got a river cruise and were able to view the entire city from the vantage point of the river.

The taxi ride to the airport was quite adventurous, especially at 6:00 in the morning when 6 empty taxis refused to take us to the airport. Then finally, when the 7th driver finally did agree, he drove at supersonic speed so we wouldn’t miss our plane. That was interesting (and a big tip for him).

The skytrain was fantastic. I have to admit I was initially feeling intimidated by it, but with Giga, it all went very smoothly.

Awesome thing #3: The food. Oh man/woman. The food!!

You could easily eat your way through Bangkok. We were astounded and mesmerized by the variety of food that we discovered. For example, we stumbled upon this market at the mall complex,

(where we happened to watch Jumanji in 3-D IMAX, which is, by the way, the only way to see this movie)

This market was AMAZING! The fish and seafood and mango and pad thai were to die for.

And then a gigantic food court in the mall with gourmet Thai food, row after row of things to try. OMG. And then the street food at Khao San road and adjoining streets.

We ate and ate and ate all day, every day. It was incredible.

I want to give one last shout out to Giga and Guy who made our time in Bangkok so wonderful and gave us a fantastic orientation to Thailand! And thanks to Guy who insisted we take that second tuk-tuk ride to Asiatique on the last night!

Destination #2 Koh Lanta: an island.

We had been eagerly anticipating going to this island ever since we made the reservation a year ago, and when we were freezing cold in Nepal, we dreamed about how amazing it would be to be warm on this island in the sun. The reality was just about as good as the dream, as you can see below.

Besides what we did in the photos above, here are the most fun things we did in Koh Lanta.

Awesome thing #:1

Learned how to ride motorbikes.

By now, after reading some previous blog posts, you know that I am a nervous person and everything scares me. So even though it has been a dream of mine to learn how to ride a motorbike/scooter, when faced with the opportunity, I balked.

No, it’s too scary, it’s too dangerous, it’s too much of a risk, they drive on the wrong side of the road, too many accidents happen on motorbikes in Thailand, and the list went on and on. But Jay wasn't hearing any of those excuses. He wanted to learn to ride also!

On the actual day that we were going to rent the bikes I dawdled over breakfast, I dawdled over drinking coffee on the porch, I kept silent, hoping that Jay would forget that this is what we had planned to do this day. Finally, at about 10:30 he could be silent no more. “Come on,” he said. “it’s time to get started.”

Achhchch, I thought to myself, this is one of those things that I had hoped that if I just ignored it it would go away. But it didn’t.

We walked over to one of the seemingly hundreds of motorbike rental places, and for just $6.00 for the day per bike, we rented two Honda motorbikes.

Jay got his bike first and the bike rental guy rode it to the dirt lot behind the shop, and taught Jay how to ride. After about 3 minutes, Jay was cruising around the lot, bumping over the many pits and holes in the dirt. He called me over and now it was my turn. I did it, and while I was shaking, I saw that it wasn’t that bad. In fact, after the initial maneuvering, I saw that it was very manageable. I then got my own bike, and we spent the next half hour or so riding up and down a deserted street, perfecting our riding technique.

Finally, we both felt confident enough to venture out onto the one main road of the island, taking a left hand turn and then keeping to the left hand side, ensuring that we would not have to cross over any traffic.

And so we rode, and rode and rode. And it was REALLY FUN!!!! As we continued on, we gained confidence and started riding more than 15 miles per hour. I think we may have gotten up to 25 miles per hour at one point! After we rode for about a half hour or so, we saw a sign advertising the next…

Awesome thing #2

Khao Mai Kaew (Cave)

I quickly looked at TripAdvisor reviews and saw that this was a good place to go. So we turned right, crossing over traffic, and rode down a long street that soon turned into a dirt road, and we got to the cave.

Wow, what an adventure. Hiking through the jungle,

climbing up cliffs, hanging onto ropes to get up,

gingerly walking over narrow streams. It was pretty fun.

The cave itself was AMAZING! We had to squeeze ourselves through a crack in the rock and make our way down a slippery slope of a hole and a chute until we reached the floor. Twisting and turning and slipping, our way was lit only by the light from our headlamps,

We peered into corners and craned our necks to look at the cathedral-like ceilings. This was a truly fantastic adventure. I would say the highlights were not only seeing the gigantic spiders, the hundreds of bats,

and crawling on our stomachs through a narrow tunnel on the route out,

but the fact that this was not a groomed, luxury cave walk like we've done lots of times in the U.S. This was pretty rustic and natural. We felt like true explorers.

Amazing thing #3

Snorkeling at Koh Ha and Koh Rok.

The boat ride out to the islands was pretty fun. I love boats, but they packed us on, with about 30 people tucked into every corner.

The snorkeling itself was pretty good, but it was disheartening to see all the dead coral. There were hundreds of snorkelers, and people come out every single day. They really overburden the area.

So the reefs have really paid the price. Even after the guide told us to not stand on the coral, this one doofus guy stood on the coral and posted himself there the entire time. The guide yelled at him to get off the coral and he ignored him. I said to the guy, Hey, you aren’t supposed to stand on the coral. He said he just needed to rest. When I asked him if he wanted me to get him a lifejacket so he could feel more secure, he snapped at me that he knew how to swim perfectly well and just needed to rest. What a guy! So, multiply that a few times every single day, and you will know why the reef is not in good shape. But we did see some amazing fish and other sea life. If I just tried to block out all the other hundred people,

it was pretty spectacular.

Destination #3 Chiang Mai:

After Koh Lanta, we flew to Chiang Mai, a city in the north of Thailand. We LOVED Chiang Mai. So different from Bangkok. So manageable. So cute and so much character. There are LOTS of expats living in Chiang Mai, and we could definitely see the attraction.

Amazing thing #1:

The night markets, which includes the food.

There is the Saturday night market, the Sunday night market (which is the best one), the Night Bazaar, the night market across from the university, and about twelve other night markets.

We only made it to five of them and they were such a blast. You make your way down the aisles of stalls and look at the souvenirs and crafts the people are selling, and you look at and smell the most amazing food you have ever seen in your life.

We just ate our way through the markets. So Much Fun.

Amazing thing #2:

Massages, many of them. I started in Bangkok with a shoulder and neck massage with Giga, and in Chiang Mai made my way through a Thai massage, a foot massage, and a facial massage. Even Jay got in on the action with several foot massages, and a facial massage. As a person who is not in the habit of getting massages, it took me about 5 minutes to get used to it and then to actively seek out the next one. Massage places occupy about every other storefront in the places we were in. And they are super cheap. Look at all these people getting massages at the night market.

You gotta do it.

Amazing thing #3:

The cooking class. So MUCH FUN!!! First we went shopping with our chef instructor and learned about the different ingredients we would be using.

Then we learned how to cook about five different dishes each.

We felt like professionals when we tasted the food. It was amazing! I definitely recommend taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai. And I'll let you know when Jay and I will be making these dishes when we get back home.

In summary, Bangkok, Koh Lanta, and Chiang Mai were perfect places for us to go. Each place was so different from the others and offered us a unique perspective of life in Thailand. But, there is one more thing we did while here, that I did not even mention.

So, coming soon:

The adventure continues with: The Trek through the Jungle…

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