Day 1 – Arrival into Bangkok and driving to Ayutthaya
Upon our arrival into Bangkok, I met with our trusted guide that would be with through the entirety of our trip, Yinne.I received a beautiful flower garland and we made our way to the luxury coach that would take us to Ayutthaya.
We stopped for lunch next door to our hotel at the Blue River restaurant which is known for their giant bowls of Boat Noodles! I sat with my feet dangling over the edge of a cliff and watched fishing boats float by as I dined on the best boat noodles and pad thai that I have ever had in my life.
After lunch, we made our way (about 500 feet) to the hotel Sala Ayutthaya. This adorable 24 room property was just as charming as it could be. My room had the largest tub I have ever seen in my life. I took a well needed nap and then got ready for the night’s festivities.
At the hotel, we were treated to what was like a cotton candy taco.It is called Roti Sai Mai and it is hugely popular in Ayutthaya. We learned how to make them and fish out of palm leaves. After our activities, we had a wonderful dinner provided by the hotel along with traditional Thai dancers. It was an excellent way to start to get to know the rich culture of Thailand.
Day 2 – Ayutthaya
The next morning, We made our way to a rice farm. We learned how rice is grown organically in Thailand from a local farmer. The family that ran the farm lived in a wooden house near the river that was over 130 years old. The lower level of the house is where the cooking is performed and the upper level is the sleeping quarters and the bathroom. The family was so very warm, welcoming and eager to show us their way of life.
They brought us to the rice patty and we were allowed to get in and plant the seeds. The family provided seedlings for us to get into the patty and plant into the water.
After the rice was planted and everyone was cleaned up, they brought us back to the house and we helped prepare a meal. All of the food that was prepared was locally sourced. They brought in prawns from the river and the chicken for the soup was one from their farm. I helped shred coconut to make coconut cream to go over the mango sticky rice. Of course the meal was superb and the mango sticky rice was something made from a dream.
After our busy day at the rice farm, we made our way to some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We explored Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Phra Sri Samphet. This is just 2 of the many temple ruins you see in Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was the first capital of Thailand. Even though a lot of people think of Angor Wat in Cambodia as a great place to see temple ruins, Ayuthaya is a hidden gem that you must see!
Day 3 – Ayutthaya to Bangkok
There are several ways you can get back to Bangkok from Ayutthaya. You can take a bus back or my recommended way is to take a water shuttle to Bangkok.
On our way, we stopped at a wonderful oasis along the river. It is a meditation and wellness retreat. The retreat features classes such as flower arrangements, cooking,meditation, stretching/yoga and how it can benefit your life. The owner recommends 1 – 3 nights at his beautiful property before heading back to the busy life in Bangkok. I do have to say the food that was prepared by the resident cook was one of the best meals I had in Thailand.
There was something special and exciting about floating down the river and arriving into the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Our boat had floated past the Grand Palace, the night market and the new shopping center, Icon of Siam onward to our hotel the Avani Riverside Bangkok.
I was so lucky enough to get a room that faced the night market and had an incredible view from the 24th floor. The rooftop bar and pool gave way to an even more breathtaking view of the ferris wheel at the night market. That evening, we dined at the hotel and enjoyed a traditional Thai dance troupe that performed a Thai puppet show.
Day 4 – Bangkok
This morning, we made our way to the crown jewel of Bangkok, the Golden Palace. I was awestruck of its sheer opulence, from the golden bell domes to the golden and jeweled statues. After a quick jaunt through the palace, we made our way to Wat Po, which is within walking distance to the Golden Palace. Wat Po is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, again, I was completely awestruck with the incredible size and attention to detail of the Reclining Buddha.
In the evening after a trade show with local hotels and tour operators, we celebrated with a dinner and a traditional dance. After dinner and the dance, we released lotus candles into the pond, a perfect way to end the evening.
Day 5 – Bangkok
This morning we began with food (my favorite). The walking route circled around an area called Khlong San and it ended near the Princess Mother Memorial Park. We began the morning with Pork Satay and then continued down the street sampling exotic fruits and perfect marzapan made with bean paste instead of almonds (so good!) After our food excursion, we made our way to Princess Mother Memorial Park to cut through to get to our tutuk that took us to Tha Din Dang and Kudeejeen Community (Thonburi).
This historical neighborhood has proven that all religions can live harmoniously in close proximity to each other for hundreds of years. Today, Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims live within several blocks of each other.
After our visit, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Baan Ice Restaurant. After lunch, we made our way over to the Akyra Thonglor Bangkok for our last night.
We made our way out on the town for an evening of foodie fun! Our night began at the 24/7 flower market. We enjoyed the crazy sites and sounds of a hustling and bustling market that had everything from flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables. Piles of tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh chopped ginger were at different stalls. A lot of the workers cannot afford to leave their stalls so they sleep right there in the market.
After the market, we made our way to Elvis Suki which is being considered for a Thai street food Michelin Star. The wood grilled scallops were nothing like I’ve ever had before. I also enjoyed Chinese fried seafood sukiyaki. The flavors were out of this world! After dinner, we had to get dessert! We went next door to a hot pot ice cream shop. We sampled flavors like beer, caramel macchiato, and durian flavored ice cream.
Now that our bellies were nice and full, we took an evening tuk tuk ride to Chinatown. The streets were jammed packed with locals and tourists sampling different delicacies from food carts. We made our way to a fantastic hole in the wall bar called Tep Bar. Tep Bar featured cocktails made with herbal liquor. It was a perfect way to end a long, hot day!
Day 6 – Bangkok to Pang Na
This morning we rose early to get to Bangkok airport to fly to Phuket. When we arrived into Phuket, we stopped for lunch at Tu Kab Khao. The food was outstanding and the setting was absolutely adorable. After lunch, we walked around Old Town Phuket and did a little light hearted shopping and sightseeing before heading to Khaorang Breeze, a look out point with wild monkeys. The monkeys were entertaining but I do have to warn you, do not buy the feed from the people selling them. The monkeys can get aggressive and nippy.
We made our way north about an hour to Pang Na. We checked into our home for the next few days the Akyra Phuket Beach Club.
Day 7 – Pang Na
Today was all about fun in the sun! We departed from the Pornphinyo Marine and made our way to the incredible scenery in and around Khao Ping Kan (aka James Bond Island). After stopping for a million photos (because it is one of the most beautiful places I have been to), we boarded our boat again and were whisked away on a 20 minute ride to go kayaking. We boarded kayaks and were chauffeured around incredible lagoons and caves. Our kayak driver was very warm and friendly and showed us breathtaking scenery.
We boarded our boat again and was taken to lunch at the Beach Club by the Como Point Yamu Resort. The beach club is a short boat ride away from the hotel property and a lot of hotels have beach club because the resort is unable to be placed right on the beach. It is very hilly and most of the hotels offer incredible views upon cliffs. So, the hotel and the beach are generally a little ways away from each other. Don’t let that sway your decision, because you get the best of both worlds this way! The Como was an incredible property and the Beach Club had wonderful grilled seafood and refreshing salads.
We made our way back to the Akyra Phuket Beach Club and enjoyed an extraordinary sunset.
Day 8 – Pang Na
I have to say, today was equally emotional, inspiring and motivating. I had the privilege of visiting Yaowait Pre Vocational Academy. This wonderful school was created after the tsunami happened and is for children who lost their family in the tsunami or families that are too poor to send their kids to school. It is a boarding school and you have the chance to stay here and learn from the kids! The children who attend this school learn the Thai curriculum as well as English. They additionally learn about hospitality and sustainable agriculture. The children are set up to have a promising future.
I learned how to make papaya salad (som tum) from adorable girls. We all shared a meal where I received top notch service from them. Marriott comes in every other week to teach the kids a new skill. The previous week, they learned about food allergies and how to ask in English if the guest is allergic to anything.
I forced back tears when I learned that the school had a significant amount of damage from landslides this past August 2018. As I am writing this, I am tearing up and smiling because it was a wonderful place of hope and promise. To know that they suffered such a blow, is hard pill to swallow. They currently have 20 beds that are unoccupied because of the damage the school suffered.
If you feel so inclined to donate to the school or to learn more, please go to http://www.yaowawit.org/help-rebuild-yaowawit/
Day 9 – Pang Na to Bangkok
Today we made our way back to Bangkok for our last night before flying home. We stayed one night at the Sukothai Hotel. After a wonderful Michelin star nominated restaurant, we set out on our own to a local mall. The mall is overwhelming to say the least. However, you’ll find the best and most reasonably priced souvenirs. The food court was quite amazing as well.
After our jaunt through the mall, another agent and I decided to check out Asiatique, the outdoor mall. We found exciting foods and did some last minute shopping. We were warned by Yinne that the taxi drivers will try to scam us. She told us that the best way to get back to the hotel is to use a metered taxi which is 20 baht. Then, the metered taxi should only be about 100 baht to get back to the hotel. When we arrived to the taxi stand, sure enough, the free lance taxi drivers told us they would take us back for 500 to 400 baht. I told them no and that we were going to go to the metered stand. The metered stand operators flagged down a driver for us and we told the operator that we were not going to pay more than 100 baht. We got into the taxi and the driver told us he would take us for 150. I told him we negotiated 100 with the meter stand operator, and he reluctantly agreed. So! Moral of the story, is to be persistent and do not let the drivers fool you.
Day 10 -Bangkok to Taipei to San Francisco
I experienced Business class from San Francisco to Taipei. This time, I got to experience Premium Economy. Of course, business class is super comfortable and just absolutely luxurious. Premium economy is a great alternative if you do not have the funds to do business class. The seats have a little extra legroom and it does recline slightly more as well. The food is the same as you will receive in economy class. It is good food, ,but not the delicious duck I had on the way from San Francisco. I had about a 3 ½ hour long layover in San Francisco before my flight to Houston. I didnt leave until about midnight and arrived back into Houston on Day 10.
I cannot say enough about the people, the food and the culture of Thailand. It is a destination that I feel I can visit over and over again and learn something new every time. It is one of the best and well organized trips I have ever been on.
Khob khun ka (Thank you!) and Sawasdee Ka! (Bye!)