On March 25th 2015 i packed my backpack and left home with a one way ticket to Bangkok. I had an itinerary that included the following countries: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Little did i know how much i would learn, how many people i would meet and how many phenomenal dishes i would taste. Here are just some of my favorite finds along the way.
My hotel, The Rikka Inn is situated directly in the middle of the Khaosan Road. Often described as ‘backpacker Mecca’ the Khaosan road is a portal for all backpackers beginning their journey or flying to a new destination. It is jam packed full of wonderful restaurants, bars, entertainment, massage parlors, souvenir shops, tattoo shops, travel agents and pretty much anything you can think of. You cannot help but feel the sense of anticipation and excitement in the air here, it is one of my favourite places in the world.
Chinatown is certainly an experience not to be missed. The Khaosan road is always swarming with tuk tuks and for a small sum you can ride all the way to Chinatown. It will take approximately 15 minutes, on arrival be prepared to be taken aback by the 1km stretch of buzzing market stalls, street-side restaurants and shops.
Once the beers were flowing the fried food was ordered! Both the dishes below were from a Disney themed street-side restaurant. The Seafood was battered and fried fresh in front of our very eyes.
Ko Tao is one of the smallest of Thailands southern islands but do not let this fool you. Ko Tao is a place for complete escapism and relaxation. I had a remarkable time here, diving during the day, enjoying fire shows and drinks on the beach at night. There are also options to go hiking and of course the opportunity to enjoy beautiful food.
Take a taxi or hire a moped and make your way up to shark bay, Ko Tao is known to have sharks and sting rays in certain areas. Shark bay is home to some of the more exclusive places to stay and is also a stunning view (although i wouldn’t recommend swimming in that area!).
Lets talk about 995 Duck. Dare i say it, this tiny restaurant in tiny Ko Tao serves some of the biggest, boldest, dishes i have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Home to possibly some of the best food in Thailand. Had i known at the time i would have eaten in there for breakfast, lunch AND dinner! There is something so beautiful about such authentic, big flavours coming from a tiny kitchen on such a tiny, tiny island. I would go back to Ko Tao purely for their duck soup.
Koh Pha-Ngan is famously known as the location of the Full Moon party. As a result the island pretty much becomes a ghost town inbetween party season. Luckily i planned my itinerary so i was able to make it in time. During my stay i was pleasantly surprised by the foods the island had to offer.
Lets talk about Mama Thai –A true example of authentic food. A family run business, Mama Thai would cook and serve food whilst her children would be free to roam around and interact with guests. The restaurant was always packed with hungry travelers and the quality of food served was outstanding.
Unfortunately i became very ill when i arrived to Koh Samui and did not get to see as much of the beautiful island as i had hoped. However I did manage to get hold of a Thai pancake or two. This is one for all the travelers that have a sweet tooth. You can find them all over Thailand. Most stalls have an endless list of flavours including all fruits, sweets, sauces and spreads such as nutella. Below is a coconut pancake with condensed milk and toffee sauce.
One thing i miss the most about Thailand is the restaurants that display all their fresh daily catches on ice right outside their front door. Enticing you in, ready for you to pick and sent straight onto the BBQ. Below is my whole Seabass and Prawns with corn, salad and a chilli, garlic and ginger dip. Healthy and fresh it doesn’t get much better than that.
Railay Beach – I took the long-tail ferry boat from Ao Nang to visit this stunning beach. It was a day of beautiful scenery, relaxation and the occasional peckish visit to one of the boats serving up the freshest of meals.
Lets talk about Tom-Ma-Yom… Owned by a friendly local family, the downstairs of their home has been transformed into this breathtaking restaurant serving authentic food at reasonable prices. Due to the size there are just a few tables and the restaurant gets full quickly so it is best to book in advance. The location is tucked away from the main roads, giving the restaurant an even more of a calm and traditional ambiance. Their fully stocked bar offers a range of cocktails, pictured below is a refreshing Lychee Fizz.
The time of year i visited, Koh Lanta seemed like a very quiet place. There was not much going on and most travelers appeared to be elsewhere. I did however discover Time for Lime. The first cooking school on Koh Lanta, opening back in 2003, situated on the beachfront of Klong Dao. Time for Lime proudly built the Lanta Animal Welfare Center. To this day when you enjoy a great night of delicious Thai food, you’re also helping keep the Welfare Center.
They offer a 6 course tasting menu to broaden your pallet and get you to try the true flavours of Thailand. My visit include Papaya Salad, Sword Fish, Clams, Sticky Mango Rice, Soup and a ingredient leaf wrap Palette.
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi is often referred to as an ‘experience’ island. A lot of drinking – not as much culture and i am sorry to say, not great food. I did however have a lot of fun on this island and met some of my closest friends here. I would recommend Phi Phi to anyone that wants to let loose and have a great time. Go and enjoy a day snorkeling, cliff diving, visit the local monkeys, go an have a picnic on the infamous Maya beach and after sunset swim with the glow in the dark plankton. After that get ready to party the night away.
Although i could have given each area their own blog page, Chang Mai was the most difficult to cut down into just a few pictures. I arrived a few days before Songkran (Thai New Year festival) because of this i was lucky enough to see Chang Mai in two very different lights. It will be a week i will never forget. If you ever have the opportunity to be in Thailand during this holiday, i recommend settling in Chang Mai for the duration. The atmosphere is another level of exciting. Whether your watching the locals water-fight or purchasing your own water-pistol and running head first towards the thousands of buckets of water being hurled across town. You will never forget the time you were in Thailand for Songkran.
Once the festivities were over and normal life restored. Chang Mai night markets were certainly another highlight of my visit. Arrive early and observe the transformation of a busy road into a thriving night market. From officers closing down traffic to locals setting up their fresh catches and cooking from scratch.
Although its not food I had to add in a bit about Happy Elephant Home…
I was lucky enough to find a sanctuary dedicated to the well-being of injured Asian elephants. The trip is designed to give you a wonderful experience without riding, hurting or exploiting the beautiful animals. Instead you help take care of the elephants, spending the day feeding, bathing and learning interesting facts about Asian Elephants in their natural environment.
My final stop was the white temple – Wat Rong Khun. A must see if you are on your way to catch the 2 day slow boat to Laos. A journey i certainly recommend if you have the time.
Next stop, Laos.
Until then happy travelling!