By Chelsea Ferguson Linde –
I had the thai-me of my life
At the ripe age of 26, I have been involved in my share of weddings. So when it came to planning my own, for this past December, I was no armature. Type A perfectionist and a creative, I would not settle for anything run in the mill. My goal was not to exploit my entire lifesavings, but seek out the unique. When it came to planning our honeymoon, my mindset was much the same. My poor fiancé’ (now husband). I had a long list of places I did NOT want to go. Planning for a January honeymoon was challenging, as we could expect that just about everywhere was going to be cold in the U.S. My enthusiasm was in lack with discussions of the Caribbean, since we live in Florida with some of the top beaches in the country. I’m pretty sure he shuttered every time I finished a rant about a location and ended with, “this is our honeymoon!” (Much emphasis on honeymoon). Needless to say, his journey on the internet searching cabins in Tahoe was cut short when he looked over at my laptop and saw crowding tabs with photos of the Andaman Sea tropics. “I know I said that I didn’t want to go international. But, this is our honeymoon!” Off to Thailand we went.
We had an overnight layover in Los Angeles, where we spent New Year’s Eve, before our trek from LAX to Chiang Mai. A 26-hour travel agenda can be daunting. (I recommend planning a wedding right before so that you are so exhausted that even the airplane pillows are heavenly). We scheduled our flights overnight to help adjust with the 12-hour time change, jumping ahead. This plan proved to be (somewhat) successful.
Our first afternoon in Chiang Mai, was cut short. After settling in our resort, a full lunch and drinks by the pool, we planned to rest for only an hour before exploring the area around us. An hour turned into a full sleep, waking up abruptly at 3AM the following morning. (We were the first ones at our 6AM breakfast!). Feeling rested and ready to take on the day, we hit the streets of Chiang Mai. My husband was on the hunt for the most authentic food and markets that Chiang Mai had to offer. We ate from multiple street vendors, viewed a temple, and explored the local shops in the area. Our evening was a little more “bazaar”. The Night Bazaar in Chiang Mia involves streets lined with vendors selling handmade goods, knockoff products, and of course…delicious and spicy food. We partook in it all! Our next day was adventurous. We drove an hour north to the more rural parts to visit the Tiger Kingdom, zip-line, and ride elephants. It was a full day, but we went back to the Night Bazaar for foot massages, while we waited for my husband’s custom-made suits to be completed.
The next morning, we boarded a small plane taking us down to the water. We stayed in Railay Beach, a secluded place off of Krabi that can only be reached by boat. We were in awe of the beauty that the limestones and coast provided.
Railay Beach had a reggae feel to it. Hotels and beach bars, side by side, the term “bar-hopping” must have originated there. Rarely did we not have a beer in hand, (our favorites were Chiang Beer and Lion) in between massages, walks through the caves, and frequent snacking. Railay is a haven for rock-climbers. Unfortunately, it was a little too gloomy and the frequent drizzles created a hazard for two inexperienced climbers to partake. However, we did join in on the excitement of a Thai boxing match. It was rainy, it was loud, but no one in the crowd cared. Once travelers from different walks of life, we became a community, cheering on both fighters.
Our last day in Railay was relaxing. We ventured to the grounds of the other hotels in the area, and finished our afternoon with a cooking class on the cliff side. The view was stunning. Watching the water roll on the side of the rocks while muddling herbs for curry, alongside a handsome husband was a priceless experience. When we completed our six-course meal, we thought the hard work was behind us. We had worked up an appetite, but there was no easy way to say no to eating it all. We were shameless.
Due to predicted weather patterns, the original plan for the remainder of our trip was altered. We found ourselves in Ao Nang, on the mainland of Krabi for a few days. We would not have chosen to stay there, but we made the best of it by selecting a hotel with an incredible view, an amazing pool and chose to relax. It was very touristy, but still had the Thai flair that we were fond of. We did a daytrip to the Phi Phi Islands, where we beach-hoped and snorkeled in the clearest blue water I had ever been in! I laid on my back, allowing the sun to soak in my skin, until my toes and fingers were pruned.
We finished the end of our 11 days with one night in Phuket. We chose to stay in Patong, against what we heard about its rowdy reputation, to see what all the hype was about. The inner-city certainly does not boast of Thailand beauty, but it was an experience. We stayed at a beautiful resort, dolled ourselves up for a romantic dinner overlooking the city, then went with the evening. Patong, known for its nightlife, has the best music in all of Thailand. With high-end clubs, DJs fly in from all over the world to perform.
The next morning, we woke up early to meet with a local, at a private beach, to have a unique and uninterrupted experience with his elephants. His male and female elephants were in the water, at the bottom of the hill, waiting for us, when we arrived in the back of a red pickup truck. Yaya and Lagoon were loving, playful, and seemed to be having just as much fun as we were! Our time with our new friends went too fast, but the time was well spent; I don’t know that I had ever smiled so hard. We spent the remainder of the day at the private beach, lounging under our own cabana and listening to the waves. We went paddle boarding, floated on the water, and took turns on the swing hanging from one of the trees. We wished that we could have stayed for even just one more day.
Thailand opened our eyes to a new culture, a new way of life, and what spicy food (really) tastes like! We were not homesick. The Land of Smiles made us feel as though we were right at home and we look forward to when we will return to the country that embraced us with open arms, that gave us an experience of a lifetime.
Chiang Mai: Khum Phaya Resort http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/boutique/kpc/
Railay Beach:Bhu Nga Thani Resort & Spa http://www.bhungathani.com
Ao Nang: Ao Nang Cliff View Resort http://www.aonangcliffviewresort.com/
Phuket:Banthai Beach Resort & Spa http://www.banthaiphuket.com/