Last Month, WIT Agent Lindsay embarked on a FAM trip to Thailand, exploring Phuket and Bangkok and inspecting tours, tour guides and accommodations on the way.
The next morning we caught our shuttle boat to drop us off near the Grand Palace, a very fitting name for such a sight! Across the street is the temple of the Reclining Buddha where there are many many Buddha statues from all over Thailand that show the diversity in how he is represented. There were amazing smells of delicious food that I wish we had time to try! This was a short day as we had the evening to meet with Thai vendors and learn about their products. At the reception they hosted an early Loi Krathong festival, which happens in November every year to pay respects to the goddess of water by either creating floating flower baskets for the river or in regions not near water, they create floating lanterns.
Our driver, Mr. Joe, picked us up drive us to go explore some street food in the Thonburi area. Our walking tour explored the neighborhood where Catholics, Chinese, and Muslims live together harmoniously, unique to Thailand. Our guides Yin and Net led the way sharing pork satay, snake fruit, and a popular dessert of miniature fruit lookalikes made of muk bean (Thai marsapan) and coated in gelatin.
We walked to see one of the last few salt warehouses on the river and Princess Mother Memorial, the house of the late King Rama 9th. We continued on to see a couple different Chinese temples, including Kuan Yin Shrine on the river. As seen in the picture, Chinese temples had vibrant colors and ornate decorations (you will see a few scattered throughout Thailand).
Next was Santa Cruz church which was built by the Portuguese on land that was gifted to them for their help in fighting Burma in 1767. The church was originally wood and burned down in 1833 but was rebuilt and renovated in 1916. We stopped at a small museum in a house that showed history of Thai food and their influence by missionaries, then had a refreshing drink downstairs before continuing to Wat Kanlayanmitr, to see a giant golden Buddha, where we concluded our tour.
Mr Joe drove us to Aykra Bangkok where we were greeted with delicious ginger sweet Thai tea and inspected their gorgeous two bedroom suite with washer, dryer and kitchenette, available for $300 night! Their gym did not disappoint, better than my apartment gym! The infinity pool and Jacuzzi overlooking the city looked very relaxing. After freshening up we headed out for a food tour, starting at the 24 hour flower market and continued to a Michelin recommended restaurant for dinner called Elvis Suki. We had scallops that were so tender and perfectly seasoned, served in shell with pieces of pork.
After dessert we hopped in Tuk Tuks to drive to China Town, for sightseeing. We zipped through the streets and pulled up to an area reminding you of Times Square except every inch of the street was lined with food carts, it was packed on a Saturday night! We navigated through the streets filled with every smell imaginable, to meet up with our Tuk Tuks and ride to Tep Bar, famous for creating Thai inspired cocktails. It was reminiscent of a speak easy jazz bar and inside live performance on Saturday night. To conclude the evening, I tried a refreshing herbal liquor cocktail with passion fruit, lime, simple syrup and ginger, it was delicious!
Early morning we caught a plane on Thai airways headed for Phuket. There are quite a few food options in the airport, even in the morning all were open. The plane was very spacious and I was impressed with the business class seats as we walked by to our economy seats. It was plenty of space for myself in economy and the male colleagues as well, plus they offer free checked baggage of 30kg. They have USB ports available to each seat and they offer you blankets before takeoff because it is freezing on the plane! All Thai flights offer a snack, and they served chicken satay calzones very quickly since it is only an hour flight. I was surprised how big the plane was and how many people were headed to Phuket, they get 1100 incoming flights a week!
Phuket has buildings with Sino-Portuguese influence making it very unique to Thailand. We stopped in old Town Phuket for lunch at Tu Lab Khao which is in a beautiful old building and a large colorful lobster on the side of the building. Another delicious multi-course meal served family style but there are also options for individual servings; there is a large selection with great variety, I highly recommend trying! Phuket night market was setting up when we arrived. It is definitely a highlight our tour guides and I wish we could’ve stayed for, this part of town was very relaxed and made you feel by the sea. After walking through the streets lined with boutique coffee shops, it reminded me of pictures I have seen of Havanna. On our two hour drive to Phang Nga, we stopped at a lookout point where monkeys roamed freely and were free entertainment, and then Pornthip, a grocery store with all sorts of souvenirs. There was a cute koi fish fountain out front and ice cream stand.
Finally in the southern region of Thailand I was excited to be near the beach! We spent the day exploring limestone islands by boat with our first stop at James Bond Island, in Phang Nga Bay, famous for starring in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Beautiful views and a unique rock structure to make it appear you are holding the rock on your back. We zipped over to a floating dock where we boarded kayaks to explore caves and grottos. Our guides were so kind and comical! Lastly we stopped to visit Como Point Yamu Beach Club for a light and fresh lunch including ceviche, guacamole, refreshing beverages and of course grilled sea food. It was my favorite meal in Thailand as it was a change up from much of the hot or fried food offered. This spot is complimentary to all hotel guests and has a free shuttle to transport guests a couple times a day. There were lounge chairs galore, a beautiful pool and plenty of water activities- we watched a group of guests get whipped around on a blow-up raft being pulled by a Sea-Doo. The water was perfect temperature and the sand beautiful and soft, I could’ve stayed for a week!
My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Yaowawit in Phang Nga, a pre-vocational school that also provides housing for students. It was started in 2006 after the tsunami in 2004 wiped out a good portion of the region. Many children were left orphaned so it was opened to teach them skills enabling them to provide for themselves in the future. The school is a full functioning hostel as well that is very well priced! Children do board on a different part of the campus and the funds raised through the products they sell and the hostel help provide food, housing and resources for the children that stay at the school.
After breakfast on the beach at Akyra Beach club we caught our 1 hour flight back to Bangkok for a full afternoon of exploring. We checked into Sukothai, a serence and peaceful hotel in the middle of the city. The property had an amazing central garden that the rooms looked into as well as Michelin rated restaurants and a fabulous pool and spa. It was the perfect place to end our busy trip as the ambiance was very relaxing and I loved that the decorative details of the hotel incorporated history and culture of Thailand. After exploring our incredible suites we hopped over to MBK, a massive shopping center that was basically several malls all connected. We quickly made our way to the food court, which is it’s own floor and had tons of cheap and delicious options! Definitely a great place to grab souvenirs at the end of our trip as well as get great Thai food for cheap. A few others opted to explore the night market on the river, it doesn’t open until 5 and has endless street food options as well as a Ferris wheel. I wish I had had the energy to go leaves me with something look forward to for my next visit to Thailand.