I am sitting in our hotel room in Krabi, Thailand with a touch of heat exhaustion from yesterday’s excursion. Not because I didn’t drink water but because I am salt depleted. Turns out when the humidity is above 60 % your sweat doesn’t evaporate right, or something scientific like that. The aches have me in bed, but I just drank a Coke and feel good enough to give you my take on Thailand!
For starters, push the H2O and throw in something occasionally that will act like electrolytes! I have only had water, coffee (which dehydrates you) and a couple pineapple juices this whole trip. I never drink Coke but today called for it and has made all the difference. So much for being a healthy eater!
Since we’re on the topic of food I would like to exclaim joyfully that we have not had a bad meal in Thailand. Unlike some of our trips earlier this year (ahem: Spain). In Chiang Mai, khao soi (pronounced cow soy) is the traditional dish of the region and one of the tastiest soups I have had the pleasure of meeting. We found a hole-in-the-wall Islamic restaurant appropriately named Khao Soi Islam. You might need to buy a dozen bowls to bring it up to American portion sizes, but try one for starters and thank me later!
Krabi and the south of Thailand is known for its seafood. Like Lobsters the size of your face. Prawns that are as gigantic as lobsters stateside. Along with a variety of other seafoods you could spend weeks devouring your way through. The open air markets are the best way to see the plethora of seafood, teas and spices.
I had my eye a Thai cooking class before we arrived and it was everything I had dreamed of and more: a highlight! If you are a foodie like me this is a must-do experience. Even my husband, Roy, cooked along side me and his highest level of culinary skill is “cooking sandwiches”, as he puts it. Now the man can cook up a mean bowl of Tom Yum Kung, fried spring rolls and green curry. We created my all time favorite Thai dish for the dessert coarse of Mango Sticky Rice. The cost ran us about $40 USD and included all the ingredients, a fascinating tour of the farm where the ingredients are sourced and of coarse the instruction by a lovely girl named Kim. There are several cooking schools to choose from but we loved to one we chose.
Roy never had the pleasure of a Thai Tea cross his lips and he is now hooked! Thailand is also known for its street foods ranging from a chicken kebob to rice and spicy sauces served in tiny plastic bags to deep fried crickets (the Thai version of American fair food). Street foods that are cooked over heat will generally not cause tummy upset.
It is almost unavoidable for most western travelers but to minimize the degree of discomfort there are a few tips. For starters, only drink bottled water. Be sure when you crack your bottle’s seal that it in fact does crack. It is not unheard of in countries where you should only drink bottled water that clever people will take empty water bottles, fill them with tap water (!!!) and then super glue the cap back on so that it still cracks. Examine for super glued lids prior to opening the bottle. This usually happens on the street and not in restaurants.
Keep a bottle of water by the bathroom sink. If you drink bottled water but brush your teeth with tap water you’ll end up with the dreaded hershey squirts even after all your careful bottle buying.
If you are dining in a restaurant that is upscale then pouring your beverage over a glass of ice is most likely safe. This also goes for eating fresh vegetables or salad. The cleanliness standards are a bit higher than a beach side drink stand. Use discretion there.
With that said! Bring Imodium! Also it may benefit you well to bring a little trick I learned when I trekked in Nepal: Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE). The liquid version is the most bitter thing you’ve ever swallowed. Put the suggested amount of drops into shot of citrus juice and throw back. The benefit you’ll get using the liquid is that it has to pass your throat and helps kill unwanted germs on the way down. If you’re not worried about getting a cold then toss back the recommended dose of the capsules.
My husband is such a trooper. It seems when we travel abroad he is the one who gets sick or hurt. In Cartagena earlier this year, he came home sick with Malaria. Homeopathic remedies did the trick for him. It took the doctor’s office a slothful 2 weeks to get results back and by then I had him feeling almost 100%.
Mosquitos cause more fatalities than any other natural killer. Bring bug dope. The kind with DEET. Essential oils are my jam but they don’t quite cut it most times for me in that regard. Roy is my best bug repellant though! 9 times out of 10 the mosquitos will choose him. He’s so sweet!
Along with the Imodium, GSE and DEET include in your first aid: hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl (the pill form), Ibuprofen and/or tylenol. I also bring leftover prescription painkillers just in case of an injury that causes severe pain. Never had to use them though! Bring your regular meds, of coarse, too!
We took a lovely day excursion out of Krabi. I’ll tell you all about that in a moment, but first… Vinegar. If you plan to visit the Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea be sure to pack a bottle of vinegar or buy one upon arrival. Cheap white vinegar works just fine as that is all they use on the islands. My poor, sweet husband was snorkeling and had his face hugged by a jellyfish. We saw hundreds including the box variety that are deadly and the lion’s mane jelly fish as well. These guys are no joke. We are fortunate that our guide had vinegar ready for such a painful moment. Our guide was freaking out and for good reason. Roy is still alive and well, thankfully!
Krabi is a town located near the more notorious Phuket where the Tsunami of 2004 caused heartbreaking damage. Phuket is vibrant and rebuilt but also a larger city. I chose Krabi for our Thailand visit because it is smaller and more laid back. You can take all the same excursions of both.
There are tour desks galore for day trips! They all have similar pricing but you can find one cheaper than the others if you take your time. We spent our first day in Krabi figuring what we wanted to do and where to buy our excursion. We chose Krabi Kingdom for about 1100 Baht, $35 US bucks. They picked us up from our hotel, provided all the long tail boat transportation, lunch, all the chilled bottled water you can drink and a fresh fruit snack. Our guide was funny and quick to react when Roy had his jellyfish mishap. Safety was always observed unlike some boat rides I have taken (ahem: Cartagena).
The beaches were luscious and the turquoise waters clear, giving snorkeling a brilliant view of the rainbow assortment of fish and unfortunately the jellyfish too. Unless you are Roy.
I was delighted to not be barraged by vendors suckering me into trinkets that break before you get them home. The beaches are peaceful. Unless your tour takes you to one where you’re laying on the sand and can’t see the water for all the excursion speed boats parked touching each other. We did spend 30 minutes at a beach like this and that was a waste of time. I was relieved our guide understood this and took us to a nearly empty private beach on Hong Island.
Our tour also included a tandem kayak to paddle our way around the entirety of Hong Island. There is nothing like the view from a kayak to get you up close and personal with sea life. We saw more jellyfish that we can recall. Hundreds. A sea snake made an appearance; very venomous! Tropical fish for days. Sea caves with stalagmites and stalagcites. The water was pristine allowing us to gaze down from our kayak perch to the sea floor observing sea urchins.
Roy spotted a monitor lizard on Hong Island near the little restaurant waiting for kind strangers to drop tasty morsels.
Let’s Talk Practical
Once you disembark in Bangkok you will go through immigration and receive a tourist visa at no cost. Your next step will be to collect your baggage. I suggest pulling out cash at the ATM on the other side of baggage. You get a decent exchange rate and don’t have to carry loads of cash. If you do bring USD cash, examine them before arriving in Thailand. They will not accept any bill with the slightest blemish or tear. For serious. They are picky!
If you plan to fly domestic between cities I highly suggest Thai Airways. They allow a whopping 30 kg in luggage compared to Thai Lion Air who allows a meager 10 kg and charges you $14 USD for every kg over. They are among the WORST airline experiences I have ever had. (This includes flying Royal Nepal once where I had a drunk and high man whip it out and try to pee on the back of my seat.)
On previous travels we have purchased the ATT international plans and that is a HUGE ripoff. For two weeks abroad we’ve paid an extra $300-$400 USD on top of our regular cell phone bill. You can purchase a Thai Sim Card as you depart immigration and baggage, but if your phone is locked then the sim card is no good. Found this out the hard way. Fortunately for, us we discovered how WiFi worked even better for us. Restaurants and hotels all have free WiFi, just ask for the password if you are a patron. We can call and do all our data stuff on WiFI and it cost us nothing extra in our bill.
Thai’s are modest and classy. Not modest to the extent of Indians but appropriate clothing should be observed to honor the people of this beautiful country. For example, you must wear long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders to visit the Buddhist temples. There are extravagant temples on every street. It is not acceptable to only wear a bathing suit anywhere except the beach or pool.
Now would be a good time to mention PDA. It is offensive to hold hands or show affection. To kiss publicly is scandalous.
Chiang Mai temperatures in November and December range from mid 60s at night and mid 70s in the daytime. Very comfortable. Krabi has much higher humidity and temperatures: upper 80’s in the day and mid 70s at night.
Electric plug ins in Thailand do fit the format of a US two prong plug so you don’t necessarily need an adaptor. However, for items like hairdryers and curling irons you definitely need a converter to convert the power from 220 to 110. I have seen appliances melt down and people lose large chunks of hair not using a converter. Don’t let that be you!. I love how cell phones and computers are 220/110 adaptable. I plug straight into the wall with my Apple products with no problem.
If you have 3 days or more head to a tailor and have a custom cashmere suit made or that dress you’ve had your sights on. Roy’s suit took about 4 days including two fittings tukand cost 6800 baht (that’s approximately $220 USD).
You have a few choices only varying slightly in price! Tuk Tuks are fun 3 wheeled, open air rides that can take you short distances. Think motorized rickshaw. You can get most everywhere around the walled city of Chiang Mai with about 80-150 Baht. ALWAYS negotiate and agree on the price of your ride based on number of people and distance BEFORE you step into the ride. Most Thai are very honest but as with anywhere you can be taken advantage of. The covered red trucks will take you anywhere when they are empty. You flag them down like a taxi or tuk tuk. If they have people already inside then they’ll only take you on their established route. If you do have a cellular plan or Thai sim card then download the Grab app. It’s basically Uber or Lyft. They are comfortable, air conditioned rides and a fraction of the cost of a tuk tuk, oddly.
I think I have spilled my entire brain into this blog for you. The people are LOVELY. I can’t say enough about their kindness, honesty, and respect especially in comparison to some places I have traveled. They are especially warm in Chiang Mai.
Bon Voyage, my wanderlust friends!