Thailand... This name rhymes with massages, sunshine, markets, pad thai and golden temples -and many other exotic wonders. My sister and my Mom couldn't stand my Instagram feed during my (many) trips in Thailand last year. So we've decided to meet there for the perfect girls' getaway: ten days across the country, from city to desert islands, passing by the northern mountains. They say girls just want to have fun...
Urban jungle, famous islands, dream snorkeling spots, flamboyant temples, lush mountains, historic cities, jungle treks, how are we supposed to decide where to go and what to see when there is so much to explore? It took us some time to create our perfect Thailand trip itinerary, the good balance between relaxing, getting some adrenaline, shopping and discovering Thailand's cultural identity.
We won't go outside the box (not this time!), as it's the first time in Thailand for my two travel buddies: we're off to Thailand's must do in ten days. Bon voyage...
ITINERARY OF A GIRLS' GETAWAY ACROSS THAILAND
Three girls, ten days, and an overwhelming desire to make the most of our time in Thailand...
Bangkok is a great option for a first stop -just landed, your eyes sparkle, you're in for anything, including tuk tuk races in the city -true story!- and crazy traffic. Believe me, you won't be able to stand all that adrenaline rush after a stay in desert island. Next, we've headed up to the mountains, to finish on dream beaches to get a perfect tan before go home -by perfect tan, I obviously mean beautiful sunburn that makes us look like sexy lobsters.
From Bangkok > Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai > Phuket, we flew with Air Asia, which is generally the cheapest option. They've got many flights every day. We've opted for the latest ones on the evening, to avoid loosing day time on transports (we can sleep on the beach -got to work on this pink lobster thing). Otherwise, the cheapest option remains the bus. It might be a long (and not so comfortable) way, but less expensive + you travel by night, so you also save 1 night of accommodation.
2 days in Bangkok, the city of Angels
Just as a small anecdote, my travel buddies are actually my sister and my mother. They live in France, while I'm based in Hong Kong. We haven't met for months. There's no better place for our first night together than the Moon Bar -that fabulous rooftop terrace perched on top of the Banyan Tree Bangkok. Fancy cocktails, the most impressive views on the city from 61 floors up (arrive before sunset!) and lounge music, what else could we ask for?
Two days. That's what we need to get a good perspective of Bangkok. To shop in one of the biggest markets in the world, Chatuchak Market, explore Chinatowns' tiny alleys, have a glimpse at the Royal Palace, get a post-temple-hopping foot massage in Wat Pho, stroll around Chao Phraya River -then get the steam down after all these explorations THAI BOXING along the river with Muay Thai Lab awesome crew. While you're in Tha Maharaj, you can enjoy a delicious lunch at Savoey -the Signature fresh spring rolls are to die for! And if you need to cool down, try the Stickhouse's delicious ice creams.
2 Days in Chiang Mai, the rose of the north
Chiang Mai holds an authentic craft atmosphere that makes it really special. It's a city of artisans and craftspeople, with lots of beautiful hidden boutiques and art galleries. To start our stay in the best way, we've booked a massage at Tamarind Village Spa -we kind of had to, after two days in the bustling Bangkok (good excuse, yes, I know). I took the Village Signature Massage and highly recommend it -prepare to be pampered like a princess.
Afterwards, all relaxed and refreshed, we choose to get lost in Chiang Mai -the best way to explore the city. From little markets to hidden temples, hip cafes and shops, time flies and the Sunday Night Market is already starting. Oh, this market! I love it not only for the shopping, but mainly for the street food: banana spring rolls, lemongrass tea served in a bamboo, take-away sticky rice with mango, fresh strawberries... You know it, we're French, we're ALL about the food. Thus the next day, we're up to master the art of curry, pad thai and spring rolls at the Thai Farm Cooking School! It's the second time I do it, it still a true pleasure to cook thai, the staff is still adorable, and the most important : it's still delicious!
2 days in Mae Rim Valley, the wild jungle
Mae Rim Valley consists on the mountains north west of Chiang Mai. It's known for the tourist attractions it holds, from Elephant Camps to extreme sports and Tribe villages. It's also a stunning valley with lots of trekking opportunities. And a perfect place to relax, high up in the hills, close to nature and far away from all civilization.
If Chiang Mai is a great place to explore, it has even so a noisy traffic, that can be tiresome at the end of the day. So we had the (brightest!) idea to get on a two days retreat at the Panviman Chiang Mai, a gorgeous hotel perched on the mountains, that offers stunning views from sunrise to sunset. I usually don't spend my days in hotels, but the Panviman is so spread in the jungle, it doesn't feel confined. It's the opposite, it felt more like we had the nature for ourselves. This is such a privileged to get this sunrise light waking us up every morning, with the singing peacock as a background...
1 day in Phuket, the pearl of andaman
It's 9:00 am, we just woke up, and we already have decisions to make : coconut or lavender oil? Oh, life can be so harsh in Phuket. The Orientala Wellness Spa awaits us with the most incredible Spa treatment: steam, bubbling bath, body scrub, aromatherapy oil massage, facial relaxing, tea and homemade coconut cookies. At some point, we're not sure if we're actually living it or dreaming it.
Then after a 40 minutes drive, we arrive in Nai Harn Beach, a great expanse of soft white sand and clear, turquoise water in south Phuket. We finally get our green coconut on the beach -so cliché, but we've dreamed about it all winter. We go back to the Deevana Plaza for the happy hour in the pool. Yes, there is a bar in the pool -the stools are fixed in the water. And yes, that is pretty cool indeed. Three mango cocktails later, we're off to Phuket town for the night.
2 days in the similan islands national park,
the turquoise paradise
It's never been easier to wake up at 5:30am! When you know you're heading to paradise, life gets effortless. Two hours drive and 90 minutes boat ride later, we are in the middle of the Andaman sea, anchoring in one of the many Similan Islands. We'll go from island to island, snorkeling and exploring around, until 3pm, when the crowds leave... without us.
Well, you have to know one thing about the Similan Islands: as beautiful as they are, they are very popular. So from 11am to 3pm, there is a big traffic of tourist boats. The only way to enjoy the place at its best is to stay overnight. It's literally not the same place when it's empty. We were only 15 people staying, alone one this stunning island. All very busy napping in the sand, snorkeling, hiking up to the Sail Rock, taking perfect-sunset-photos and getting to know each other. Exhausting day, as you can imagine.
The easiest way to book your excursion is in one of the many, many travel agencies in Phuket -we went with Similan Prodive, and were happy with it. Booked only one day in advance -luckily, they still had spots left.
1 day in phuket, end of the trip
What a delight to come back in Phuket after this camping trip -to check in in a nice hotel and get a proper shower! And a cocktail by the swimming pool. Our last day in Phuket is short, as we have our flight back home end of the afternoon. Just enough time for a last foot massage, a mango shake on the beach and a bit of shopping in Phuket town's beautiful boutiques.