It is a long flight to the other side of the world, but it is a small sacrifice for a true world traveler and after landing, we were greeted by our guides from Triyaka tours and began our trip with a drive through Thailand’s northern metropolis, Chiang Mai. On our way to the hotel, Tong, one of our guides, explained our itinerary and offered us an abundant choice of activities for our first night in Thailand. Our destination, the Ratilanna Resort, was magnificent and has the look and feel of Thailand, with temple-like roofs and friendly staff who warmly welcomed us.
We were pleasantly surprised when we were informed that our room had been upgraded! At first glance, the room offered a stunning living room and space to relax. The living room gave way to a large balcony with a great view of the turquoise swimming pool and the famous Ping River. The second half of the room included a beautiful king size bed and a majestic bathroom filled with every accessory imaginable. The bathroom had a rustic yet artistic feel to it, and the decorations were inspired by a spa with a small waterfall pouring into the bathtub.
That evening, our guide suggested a fine Thai restaurant, with authentic and traditional Thai dishes. From the free run chicken, to the slow cooked pork and the cashew rice served inside a pineapple, we were very impressed. After desert, we had a pleasant surprise and got to meet the owner of the restaurant who made sure everything had gone according to our expectations. This first taste of Thailand was nothing short of fantastic, and eating beside the Ping River offered a lovely romantic setting to say the least. The following morning, we had breakfast at the resort which consisted of a well assorted buffet that ranged from Asian cuisine all the way to American standards.
Our first stop would be the Patara Elephant Farm, an amazing animal refuge. After meeting some of the new born elephants, we chatted with the staff who offered us a little background through Patara’s mission statement and the story behind the Farm’s creation.
We were truly touched by the Farm’s commitment to helping and rescuing elephants. Their motto is the 4 R’s: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Recover and Reproduce. This is their way of insuring a sustainable elephant population in Thailand.
We were assigned an elephant friend for the day, and learned how to identify a happy elephant by its gestures, physical appearance and their features. We then got to feed our companion sugar canes and bananas and then pampered him with a brushing and cleaning. After taking some pictures, we hopped on our elephants and went on a small trek into the jungle. An hour later, we arrived at our destination and enjoyed a lunch with three different types of rice along with ripe Thai fruits and freshly grilled meats. What a wonderful experience!
It would be hard to top the elephant park, but the next day we drove out to the top of the mountain in Chiang Mai to visit the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. Our guide Tong told us the history of this temple built in 1383, and it is said that a bone from the Buddha’s shoulder is kept within the temple. Sacred to many, religious Buddhists from all over Asia come to the temple to pay their homage. The temple also offers a spectacular view of the city. To top off the day we visited the Tiger Kingdom, where we had the privilege to take pictures with the 4 year old giant tigers.
Day 3 started off with a long drive up the mountain into the jungle to go experience a once in a lifetime zip lining adventure. We zipped our way through the 23 different stations, some of which offered a stunning views of the jungle. Our guides during the activity kept it entertaining, making us try different body positioning for gliding (all within the safety guidelines). The activity was followed by a greatly satisfying lunch in the mountain. We then made our way back to the city where we would visit one of the biggest jewelry factories in the world. To finish our journey in Chiang Mai, our guide recommended we visit the hand-made umbrella factory which was quite charming, in its own way.
The following morning, our guides drove us to the airport where we flew to the beautiful island of Koh Samui. We met with a representative of Triyaka tours at our hotel, who gave us our 3 day itinerary for our stay on this island. First up, we took an early shuttle bus to the pier, where a boat crew was waiting for us and other guests to begin another adventure. After a few cold beverages and a smooth ride we arrived at our first destination, a small bay area between two islands where there was the perfect spot for some snorkeling. The coral was as colourful as the fish as we swam in the warm sea.
The next stop was Mae Koh Island where we trekked up the mountain. We realised our climb was worth the effort upon arriving at the top where a breathtaking view awaited us. After a quick boat ride took us to another island, lunch was served. After digesting our scrumptious Thai lunch, we partnered up and went kayaking. Our guide led the way while describing the scenery. We paddled over the crystal blue water, through amazing cave formations and under wonderful blue skies…another memorable experience.
After a good night’s rest, we made our way to a private cooking class at the Samui Institute of Thai Cooking SITCA. We were given a cook book that our chef instructor went through with us to make sure we understood the uniqueness of Thai ingredients. This would help us comprehend the nature of our flavorful concoctions. On the menu were traditional deep fried spring rolls, massaman curry chicken and spicy prawn salad. She walked us through all the steps from preparing our ingredients and grinding our spices to garnishing our creations to complete our dishes. The final result was as pretty as it was tasty. It’s no wonder Thai cuisine is world renown! Morning found us packing up and taking a catamaran ferry to the island of Koh Tao.
Our hotel, The Tarna Align, was located right off the main road in the center of the action, but far enough to enjoy a peaceful environment. The hotel’s infinity pool was a great place to relax after a long day. When looking to the horizon, the sun would set into the sea, what a beautiful sight. Prior to arrival on the island, our guide had set up a snorkeling excursion and we visited some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling bays in the world. Our personal favourite was Mango bay, where schools of fish would circle us for food and infant sharks would swim along the reef.
After a fair amount of swimming and sun bathing we dined on the boat as we sailed towards Nang Yaun Island. A unique feature of this island is that it is connected to its neighbor islands by a white sandy pathway. We decided to venture out to the next island. Following our hike, we arrived at the top of the island where the view was absolutely breathtaking and, to put it simply, true post card material.
At sunrise, we headed towards the island of Koh Phangan, and as we arrived at the city’s port, we were greeted and then driven by a staff member of the Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa. Before even entering the lobby, we knew we were in for something special. The hotel has an extremely charming wood theme throughout and its large lobby gave way to a view on the ocean. One of the great features at the hotel’s pool was the waterfall, which looks so realistic, dressed up with flowers and natural decor, and was also located right by the private beach. Our villa was simply marvelous, from the king size bed to the large balcony equipped with a pool and spa, nothing was spared at this 5 star jungle experience resort. What really stood out was the exterior bath, which gave us the sense of being in the middle of a Thai forest.
Making our way back to Koh Samui in style on board the hotel’s private speed boat, we would then embark on the final leg of our journey. We arrived in Thailand’s capital where a representative of Triyaka tours assisted in the transfer to the Landmark hotel. The staff explained all of the great treats offered, such as two morning buffets, including one on the top floor with a fantastic view on Bangkok. The lobby buffet had a variety of dishes from all over the world, and after breakfast you can make your way up to the 9th floor where you can sit by the roof top pool and sundeck to enjoy the weather. Between 5 and 7 pm, if you have worked up an appetite, the penthouse buffet opens its doors and offers a great little buffet and drinks for free.
Bangkok offers many tourist opportunities, and we started with a tour of the Klong Canal. We made a stop at the Royal Barge Museum where a short video explains the history behind the massive handmade barges. We then walked around and got to see the different naval installations, each had different meanings and purposes. Originally designed for war, these beautiful ships are a piece of art and part of Thai history. A change of pace, the Wat Pho temple, Bangkok’s oldest and largest temple complex, is home to the famous Reclining Buddha as well as the School of Traditional Medicine. The temple was simply breathtaking, filled with history and art and is a must see.
We then enjoyed a scrumptious lunch before departing for a 2 hour traditional Thai massage at the Rarinjinda Wellness Spa. What a treat and what a day! The following day, we visited the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in South-East Asia which houses a large variety of goods all within the market’s 1 7,000 stalls. Our guides then showed us some of the biggest and most popular malls in the city; needless to say, a shopping spree was in order! The ever-amazing Thailand was a trip of lifetime. Memorable in every aspect. From the comfortable refined accommodation to the Elephant and Tiger experiences, the exotic cuisine, the historic sites, the wonderful beaches and especially for the kind welcoming Thai who made us feel so at home in a land so far away.