Friday, February 28, 2014

Building an Itinerary to Thailand and Beyond

When you don't know much about the place you are going, research and the itinerary tend to happen at the same time. I have wanted to go to Thailand for a long time. I thought about volunteering there, and I always knew I would get there eventually. I just didn't realize it would be this soon. That said, I really didn't have any idea what I wanted to do when I got there. Just like with choosing the destination and booking my flights, I tapped into my Asia experts and started the job of figuring out where this journey would take me. Luckily I have a very understanding travel partner who let me run wild with ideas. Of course I had to dial it back a bit.

Here's what we are going to do:

Day 1: Travel day. I have 3 flights with layovers in San Francisco and Japan and will be in the air for about 22 hours. This is my longest stretch in the air ever. Wish me luck.

Day 2: Travel day. I'm still in the air, and due to the time change I lose almost a whole day in transit. Arrive in Bangkok just before midnight. Take some sort of sleep aid and crash in the hostel.

Day 3:  Zamin (my travel buddy who I met at the Creativity Workshop in Dubai) arrives, and he will be meeting me at the hostel. We will then begin our adventure eating street food, walking the streets and doing some sightseeing around the city.  Stay the night at the same hostel.

Day 4: Another day in Bangkok sightseeing perhaps a temple or two and more street food. Take the overnight train to Surat Thani. I can't wait to write the post about taking this train. I have never taken a train like this except the Amtrak Auto Train from Virginia to Florida, and it's totally not the same thing at all.

Day 5: Arrive in Surat Thani early in the morning where we will then take a minibus to the docks. The ferry will take us to the island of Koh Samui. Spend the rest of the day on the island doing island things. Spend the night in the jungle (in a hotel).

Day 6: Koh Samui doing more island things like hiking in the jungle and lounging on the beach. I'm also thinking of taking a Thai cooking class while I'm there and definitely at least one massage. Spend the night in the jungle again.

Day 7: Koh Samui in the morning and check out of accommodation. Mystery Location for the night. But wait, as I was writing this blog, the mystery location turned into Ang Thong National Park. So for one night I will be living among the native flora and fauna in a bungalow.  If you are familiar with the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio, part of the filming was done here. It's a national park with about 42 different islands and crystal blue water for kayaking and snorkeling and hiking on one of the islands. I can't wait to get out there. I just hope I don't see any pythons.

Day 8: Ang Thong in the morning and back to Koh Samui for the night. More island things will happen.

Day 9: Last day in Koh Samui doing island things. Evening ferry from Koh Samui to a minibus to Surat Thani where we will take another night train back to Bangkok.

Day 10: Last full day. Arrive in Bangkok in the morning to do whatever else we couldn't fit in at the beginning of the trip like eat more street food and shop in the markets. Stay the night at an undetermined location. Again, part of the adventure, and it gives us a chance to see if we like the first place. If not, then we can choose somewhere else.
Somewhere awesome in Hawaii!

Day 11: Early flight to.........Honolulu!!

The trip continues to Hawaii where I will be spending a few days with some fabulous friends. The best thing about this trip besides the lovely people I will be staying with is that there is no itinerary here. I did request to take "da bus" at least once and eat some awesome food, but I know I would have done that anyway.

As I was planning this trip I came across a couple other strong contenders for itineraries. Since I'm hoping to go back at some point (I know I haven't even been there yet, but I just know), and because I think there are so many awesome places to see, I decided to compile them here.

Here's another itinerary option:

The first leg of the trip in Bangkok would be the same. Then instead of taking the train, hire a taxi or minibus to Phuket enjoying the scenery and crazy local driving along the way. Stay the night in Phuket. Using Phuket as a home base, explore the islands of Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang and Railay. Ferries are available to all locations.
And at the end, head back to Bangkok to do Bangkok things.

Here's an option for another trip:
So many people through blogs and the online travel community have recommended going north particularly to Chiang Mai. The more I read about it, the more I just have to find a way to get there some day. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of from this location. It is fairly close to both Myanmar and Laos, so train trips would be easy. There is also an elephant conservation and rehabilitation center right outside of Chiang Mai. Unlike the majority of elephants used for tourism purposes, this center is a place where you can volunteer and spend some time with these gray giants, and they don't get abused. Chiang Mai itself also has a lot to offer in terms of culture and, according to what I have read, a more authentic Thai experience.

****I will be doing a full review of all of the places where I'm staying, things I'm doing, and food I'm eating either on the trip or when I get back.****