During my semester studying abroad in Brazil, I met amazing people whom I am not sure our paths would have crossed any other way. One of my friends who I met while studying abroad in Sao Paulo and I planned a college post-graduation trip to Southeast Asia. What better way to clear my mind before the start of my corporate career than to visit the region of the world where meditation originated? So July 2015, myself and three friends traveled through SE Asia, starting first in Thailand.
Our SE Asia journey began after flying from New York (JFK) airport. One layover, 28 hours, and 12 time zones later, we arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, aka Bangkok International Airport (BKK). We spent a couple of days exploring Bangkok and shortly traveled to Cambodia, Vietnam then back to Thailand. Post Vietnam and three weeks later, we arrived back in Thailand. We tried pad thai, tom yum kung, and learned some local Thai phrases like, “Sa wa dee ka” (hello) and “Kub Koomkuh” (thank you). I enjoyed each city for a unique reasons.
Chiang Mai is in the Northern part of Thailand where there are many elephant sanctuaries, tiger sanctuaries, monk monasteries, meditation retreat, yoga retreats and other ways you can find your inner peace and appreciate nature. Here, we participated in a 3-day meditation retreat, learning Buddhist chants and how to center our “intentions” toward actions and thoughts. We learned that every action and thought in your life should have meaning; with the power of concentration, anyone can achieve this. It was very difficult and I noticed the monks that we met were very disciplined and had immense concentration. If you’re into nature and ecotourism like I am, you can visit animal sanctuaries. We visited and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary called Elephant Nature Park for one day. I think you are able to stay there overnight as well but we did not. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about tiger sanctuaries as well. This place is very trust worthy and takes great care of the elephants, so I would trust them with their recommendations versus what Google might bring up in a search.
The fast-paced city life with lots of nightlife, street food and pad thai. This is where we initially flew in since it the BKK airport offered the cheapest international flights. We rode in tuk-tuks that you can hail off the street in seconds. The street food in Thailand is known to be safe to eat and it was very delicious. I even tried snake there! Pretty tasty. There are people lined along the road to sell food and other goods, but it never felt like they were being too pushy or sell anything to hard (like my experience in Vietnam). The chaotic nature of the city was exhilarating.
After Bangkok, we flew from Bangkok to Krabi in order to explore the island life in Ko Phi Phi (Phi Phi Island). You can get to Phi Phi Islands from either Krabi or Phuket. We heard Krabi was less touristy crowds and better atmosphere, so we opted for Krabi. When you get to Krabi, you take a small boat from Ao Nang Beach to Phi Phi Island after which you can either walk/hike through the island or take another ferry to the side of the island which you are staying. The second ferry is an extra charge most likely not included in your hotel price. We decided to hike in order to be more adventurous and also to see a bit more of the island. It took about 30 minutes through rough terrain. There were a few walking trails. If you have rolling luggage, I advise you to take the ferry. However, if you are backpacking (like we were), you should be fine going this route. We stayed at Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, which I highly recommend. Pure bliss and relaxation in the clear, warm waters where you can see straight to the bottom in the translucent ocean water. Phi Phi Islands was perfect for swimming in the ocean, resorts, and escaping it all. Perfect way to end my trip!