Thailand, the first country I visited as a solo backpacker, has been constantly popping in my head lately. It’s been almost three years since I went there, so by now, I’m craving to go there as much as I did when I went there for the first time.
While planning my way to Southeast Asia during my RTW, I’ve been looking every now and then for flights to Bangkok, keeping an eye on a flight that will make me take the plunge again to re-experience the Thai things I’ve been missing, like:
1. The street cart Pad Thai, Roti, and other foods…
I had never tasted Pad Thai before trying it from a street cart in Khao San Road. That dirty, little, greasy cart served the best Pad Thai I’ve ever tasted! Not even fancy-restaurant-Pad-Thai tastes as good as the ones from the street carts in Thailand.
Then, there is the Roti, a type of pancake-like dessert fried in a dish like pan, which is deliciously addictive! I liked mine with sugar and condensed milk. Yumm!
I have to admit that every now and then I missed my western-like food, especially Italian food. In my opinion, the best Italian food was at Scoozi Restaurant. Great taste and affordable.
Chiang Mai was also another surprising city to eat well. And even better, it was cheaper than Bangkok too.
My favorite local restaurant there is Huen Muan Jai, with its delicious Khao Soi. You must try it! I loved walking the Sunday Market to buy some of their best local food and even went often to the Maya Mall where they had a strictly local food court.
There I had some of the best teriyaki chicken ever! And, it’s worth mentioning also, that while I’m not vegan, being a vegan in Chiang Mai is a delight. There are so many options and so many good dishes that you won’t have a problem eating there.
Cheapest Meal: A Pad Thai and a Roti for 40 bahts. That’s roughly $1.30.
2. The crazy cool people in Khao San Road
Khao San Road is a crazy backpacker party scene. Even though I knew that before going there for the first time, I was shocked when I was welcomed with open arms by complete strangers the moment I walked into the street.
Everyone from expats, backpackers, lady-boys, ex-monks, and everyone in between were there seated on the sidewalk and inviting me and my friends to join them for drinks and a good time.
As you walk the street, you’ll see countless bars, tattoo parlors, clubs, and dozens of shops with souvenirs, clothes, and anything else you can imagine.
If you’re looking for some interesting souvenirs in Thailand (from permanently inked on your skin to the typical ones), Khao San Road will surely have some.
Needless to say, that first night in Thailand was restless as I stayed all night long hanging with relative strangers who treated me like a long time friend.
Favorite experience: Spending my first night in Bangkok hanging with strangers until daylight, when we had the chance to see the monks coming out of the monasteries.
3. The ancient wats and temples
Thailand has wats (temples) all around the country, but one of the best places to see the ancient wats and palaces is the city of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand.
Today, only a few remains give a glimpse of the impressive city this place once was. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Ayutthaya is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site given the great cultural value of its ruins.
Its proximity to Bangkok makes Ayutthaya a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok or travelers going on their way to Chiang Mai.
And, just a bit north, is the popular Lopburi Monkey Temple, where you can see hundreds of monkeys roaming around the temple.
Favorite Wat: Wat Chai Watthanaram. Considered one of the most imposing ancient Buddhist monasteries. It was built in 1630 A.D.
4. The beaches and islands
If you’ve seen the movie The Beach, you know what I’m talking about. Islands like Phi Phi, Koh Rok, Koh Muk, and many others live up to the hype they are well known for.
Pristine beaches, white sands, turquoise waters, beachside camping, tropical weather, monkeys… what else is needed to make a perfect beach scene?
And have you seen Koh Nang Yuan? That island is a tiny paradise!
And Koh Samui is another great island to visit, thanks to its stunning beaches and great parties. Still, the island is super family-friendly. You can see here a list of resorts for families in Koh Samui.
Favorite beach experience: Feeding peanuts to a monkey in Monkey beach.
5. The tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis
While I was badly scammed with the “tuk-tuk scam”, I find tuk-tuks to be a charming part of the Thai culture. They have different looks depending on which part of Thailand you’re at, but they’re all interesting to look at and many of them lure you to sit in them and go for a ride. Pimped tuk-tuks? Sure, in all sizes, colors, and shapes!
Favorite ride: It was actually in a motorcycle taxi. I was carrying two full backpacks and the driver was speeding between traffic. A pretty scary balancing act, if you ask me!
Have you been to Thailand? What would you like to re-experience?
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The food is something that I really miss. Spicey curried and pad thai. Mmm. There is a Thai restaurant where I live but I can’t bring myself to pay £12 for a meal when it was so much better and cost about £1.00 in Thailand!
I know! Now in NYC I find it hard to pay more than $8 for a meal I had for $1.50… one of the reasons why I need to go back!!
Norbert!! I miss everything on your list too–As a girl, I miss feeling totally safe at 3am in the morning when I’m going home after a night on the town. And also the ingredients for food were sooo fresh and yummy. I hope I can get back there sometime next year!!
Oh yeah… all the food I ate was fresh and delicious! I can’t think of any thai meal I didn’t like… On safety, I never paid attention to it, but now that you bring that up, I do agree that I felt relatively safe all the time… no matter at what time of the day or night.
I’m living in Chiang Mai at the moment and I love love the Sunday walking market, the night markets, & the chinese market is my favorite place to wander around. The street food here is awesome! Those pancakes have me hooked. My favorite: banana, honey, raisins, and sweet milk. Come back and visit! I got a spare room. In the meantime, I’ll raise a pancake toast to you soon.
Oh, I remember the Sunday Market! Believe me… I really want to go back, and I will sometime soon! I don’t blame you on being hooked with those rotis! I got so hooked too!! 🙂
I miss Pai! The week I spent there was one of the most spontaneous, delicious and friendliest times of my life. The food was the best I had in all of Thailand as well. I would very much love to go back, but I dont know if it can live up to my memories.
I didn’t have the chance to go to Pai, but it sounds like it is a great place! I know what you mean with things living up to your memories, but hey, we can always create new ones about different things that we might fall in love with! 😉
Ah, Pai. Fantastic place. I agree about living up to memories. The thing is, you can never expect somewhere you go back to to be the same. Expect different experiences. If you expect the same or better than when you first went to a place, it will hard to live up to. I went back to Pai, and it was fantastic. But I was with different people, doing different things (still just a relaxed and peaceful though…)
I agree with you Steve. Expecting for a place to be the same when you return will probably leave you disappointed or wanting for more. The best I can recommend to do is to keep an open mind and always welcome new and different experiences.
I just can’t believe that Chang beer isn’t on this list xD
I like Chang beer (and Singha), but since I’m not the biggest beer fan, I thought I’d let them out. But, Chang is great! Maybe I should add it on a post update!
I miss eating lar pet toke (burmese tea leaf salad) at Nong Bee’s Restaurant & Library, burmese street-side restaurant in chiang mai, Soi 8 off of Nimmanhaemin if I remember correctly… it’s been 4 years…
Even more I miss staying with wife’s family in the simple bamboo houses in the woods/hills north of Chiang Mai. There’s a perfectly beautiful waterfall in the jungle, secluded place, 2.5 hours walk from the village…