now that we have the activity portion of phi phi covered, let’s move on to food and lodging!
there are many hotels and hostels available on phi phi but i really think we lucked out with the hotel we chose — pp palm tree. it is in the hub bub of the island “city” but we never heard any noise and it made it convenient to explore. we were provided with complimentary beach towels for the pool / beach, in room air conditioning (thank the heavens. not sure how people survive with just a fan), breakfast served daily and a hot shower (it’s the little things when you are away from home you know). pricing was fairly reasonable for the island but i will say phi phi was the most expensive place to stay of the three cities.
below is a view from our patio. it was the perfect island escape.
A lot of the restaurants are fairly similar — meaning a mix of thai and western food. i swear three of the restaurants we ate at were probably indistinguishable from each other so let’s just keep to the best of the best.
le grand bleu – we ate here on our last night on the island and i am so glad we saved the best for last. b’s scuba instructor actually recommended it to us. after living there for many months, he had decided it was the best food on the island and i would have to agree. it is a mix of thai and french food. we ordered a couple appetizers along with our entrees and each dish was delicious so i am sure you can’t go wrong. i especially loved the duck dish (on the french portion of the menu) and yellow curry (thai portion of the menu). le grand bleu is a complete step above the other restaurants available.
it is located fairly close to the dock where the ferries arrive / depart.
anna’s restaurant - tucked away from the main road, this place is also a gem. again, it is another mix of thai and western food. i heard or read somewhere that the owner of the restaurant (a european man) married a thai woman and so that is why the mix of western and thai is so authentic. i did ask our waitress if anna was around so i could meet her but sadly, she was killed in the hurricane.
b claims anna’s serves some of the best wiener schnitzel of his life! the food was all around tasty but i especially love the mocktails. i couldn’t get enough of the refresher, which was made up of orange juice mixed with another juice and topped with crushed cucumber. how refreshing right?
ps are you dying over b’s pants above? they are his “thai pants”. they were sold everywhere and b insisted he had to get a pair to fit in with the locals. b said they were the comfiest pants he owns. we bought them in chiang mai and tried to get another pair in phi phi but they were way more expensive. one will have to do.
and no i did not see any locals wearing them. insert crying emoji here.
blue lagune - ready for some pure thai food? blue lagune is the place for you! it is a little bit aways from the hotel meaning you will have to take a water taxi to the other side of phi phi to get there but why not have a little adventure? the owners of the restaurant are so welcoming and help you find the best entree for your tastebuds!
amp cafe & restaurant – another great thai option but this time located a little closer to home base (for us pp palm tree). it is rustic and has a view of the ocean. what is not to love?
oh and i can’t vouch for the food but there is an amazing fire show attached to a restaurant right on the water. you will see signs for it as you walk around. you must attend! the performers are so skilled. it was definitely a highlight on our trip.
so we knew we wanted to see thailand from all facets of life hence why we started in the big city, worked our way north to the jungle and finally flew south for the island life.
there are many islands/peninsulas to choose from including koh samui, koh phi phi, railay, krabi, phuket… this list literally goes on and on. it made it quite difficult to choose where to have our home base. i had heard that it was easy to visit surrounding islands by water taxi but home base to me was crucial. i finally settled on koh phi phi (pronounced pee pee) but it really was on a whim after much frustration with weighing the pros and cons for all the islands.
i don’t regret my whim one bit.
koh phi phi is stunning although time consuming to travel to so be warned. we took a taxi from our chiang mai hotel to chiang mai airport then caught a flight to phuket (via air asia because one of the only direct flights — great airline). from phuket, we took a taxi to the ferry station (40 min+ taxi ride) then a ferry to koh phi phi (about 2 hour ferry ride — it is air conditioned!).
stepping off the ferry into the heat of koh phi phi was thrilling and overwhelming. there are so many people getting off with you and trying to find their hotel rep.
we were told by our hotel that there would be someone to greet us and take us to the hotel. little did we know that all the hotels provide the same service and so the long list of hotel reps can be daunting. we finally found our rep after countless questions to the other reps. i expected him to show us the way to the shuttle. wrong! there are no cars on the island. he took our bags and led us through a sea of people and dirt roads. ten minutes later, we had arrived (my whole body completely sweating ha — the heat and humidity are real).
but please don’t let all the traveling time get you down, it really is worth it. i just wanted to add a little background because i felt a little clueless when arriving.
now to the fun part. i have put together a city guide of all the best things to do , eat and see on this picturesque island they call phi phi.
TO DO / SEE: snorkeling tour of surrounding islands – there are many companies on the island that provide similar snorkeling excursions. we chose to do the afternoon excursion with ibex climbing and tours. it was a great way to see the surrounding islands including monkey beach, maya bay (no sign of leo sadly) and pileh lagoon. i do recommend ibex because our tour guide, richard, was so fun to be around and knowledgeable. we actually booked the tour online before traveling to thailand but it was not necessary.
below is a picture of maya bay. it is a little overcrowded during the day because of all the different boating companies but it really took my breath away. some of our friends that we met in thailand actually camped on maya bay for a night and i think that would be a great option to beat the crowds.
scuba diving - don’t have your scuba license ? no problem. most scuba companies on the island will allow you to dive down to 12 meters without a license. i was a little apprehensive so decided to sit this one out but b went and loved it. he claimed it was 1000x better than snorkeling. b was able to swim with eels, small sharks, schools of fish, etc. his two dives in phi phi are going towards his scuba certification! he is hooked.
hike to the viewpoint – completely exhausting yet completely worth it. please do this hike in the early morning or early evening and not as we did in the heat of the day because it is intense with the sun beating down on you and lots of humidity. and yes i am not the most physically fit person so you may say pish posh to my advice but it appeared everyone around us was winded by the end of the hike (besides the locals who climbed it speedily and with ease).
the hike to the viewpoint is about this steep the whole way up.
then you see this view and it all seems worth it.
how darling is the seating up at the viewpoint? makes me wish i would have brought a deck of cards or tea set.
hire a private long tail and escape to bamboo island – one of my favorite activities! there are many boats available for hire on the island that will take you anywhere you want to go. we were deciding between mosquito and bamboo island and in the end settled on bamboo island. bamboo island is a 40 min boat ride from phi phi. it is a small island with nothing on it but a small snack bar and gorgeous beaches–just the way i like it! the sand is white and soft. the water is crystal clear. i kept on pointing out how pretty the water color was to b on the boat ride. it was like nothing i had ever seen before. be sure to lather up on sunscreen because the sun is strong and the white sand reflects back on you (or so we think because of our sunburns ha).
note! you may try to haggle with them about pricing to the nearby islands but it doesn’t do much good. it appears they are all in an alliance to have the same pricing. oh and you will have to pay a national park fee in addition to the taxi fee for bamboo island, maya bay and mosquito island.
hike to long beach – we originally thought it would be a short walk to long beach from our hotel. news flash–it is a hike through the jungle. you may feel lost at times since there appears to be no clear path but never worry, the thais have you covered with their storybook style road signs. long beach is the best beach for swimming and lounging on the island. there are two restaurants close to the beach that provide decent food so i would recommend eating before or after. there are a few hotels on this side of the island and part of me thinks it would be dreamy to wake up with a view of long beach but it is fairly secluded from the city portion of the island.
and now I am looking at what a long post this is turning out to be so what do you say we keep the best place to eat and stay for next time?
it is safe to say that chiang mai was our favorite city that we visited during our trip.
heck, b even brought up the idea of living in this jungle city at some point in our life.
we enjoyed the less humid climate, easy navigation through the city (compared to bangkok) and the slower pace.
it is referred to as ” the rose of the north” for good reason.
so without further or do here is a list of our favorite things to do, eat and see!
elephant nature park – are you tired of me talking about my love for elephants and this incredible experience that elephant nature park offers? hope not!
elephant nature park provides people the opportunity to walk, feed, bathe and love on asian elephants. it is a great humane option but on the pricier side! check my previous post for more details.
rent a scooter – the best way to tour the city in my opinion! it is also very cost effective. we rented a scooter for a few dollars a day. do note they don’t drive on the same side of the road as we do in the states so that can get a little confusing.
shop at night bazaar – a bustling outdoor market with souvenirs, clothes and food galore. it has by far the best prices i have seen for merchandise in thailand!
exfoliate your feet – have you ever seen those tanks with the fish in them that supposedly eat your dead skin? well those tanks are available at the night bazaar. b loved it and kept putting his hand in the tank for the fish to eat the skin off. i, on the other hand, am way too ticklish. i am not even a fan of pedicures because they touch my feet too much.
i didn’t think i would be able to feel the fish as much as i did. i could literally feel every single fish sucking and i was not having it. you have to have a lot of self control to participate!
get a massage at zabai thai massage – massages in thailand are cheeeap. like ben got a massage almost every night cheap. this place was on the pricier side when it came to massages but both b and i agreed it was well worth it with ambience of the spa and the professionalism / experience of the employees. b said it may have been the best massage he ever had.
i paid around $18 for a one hour aromatherapy message (thai massages are a little too rough for me but b prefers it).
take a tuk tuk – tuk tuks are more readily available than taxis in chiang mai so this was another way we would get around to dinner/massages. i love tuk tuks. i love the wind in my hair. i love bartering with the drivers before hand (you must decide on a price before entering or they will swindle you!). i love all the different smells you encounter on your drive through the city. it really is so thai.
a lot of thai – another highlight of the trip for me was taking a half day cooking class with chef yui. the half day class includes three dishes and a tour of the local market (full day is 5 dishes + local market tour — wish we had that kind of time!). this is the perfect way to bring a piece of thailand home with you.
yui is an amazing teacher with a low key approach that makes you enjoy the dish you are creating. not to mention she is hilarious!
the house restaurant – lovely atmosphere with vibrant thai dishes ; gingers restaurant located next door is also a great dinning option but a little pricier!
the riverside – a great mix of western and thai food ; moderate pricing ; live music ; eat on the patio by the water!
la fourchette – confession. we did not eat thai food the whole time we were there. sometimes my body just wanted to mix it up and la fourchette is the place to do it. it is a french restaurant with exquisite dishes like duck and lamb.
mamory delicious for good memories – we actually did not eat here but it was recommended to us so i thought i would pass down the recommendation to you. please let me know what you think of it!
angel’s secrets – this is the kind of bakery / coffee shop that you could spend your whole day in and be content. the food is delicious. the restaurant is located in the center of the city and they have a garden. what more could you ask for?
wat chedi luang – to be honest, this was the only temple we were able to visit while in chiang mai. a lot of our time was eaten up by excursions and so we didn’t have as much time to explore as we would have liked.
this temple is 600 years old and used to house the emerald buddah, which is now at the grand palace in bangkok. i love the elephant statues and the steep staircases. i can only imagine what it would have looked like in its’ prime!
do explore the other exquisite temples in chiang mai for me! here is a great guide.
we simply adored the city of chiang mai. our only wish was that we could have spent at the very least a couple more days. we were only there for 2 full days and one day was with the elephants. but we will take what we can get it!
oh chiang mai, you have a special piece of my heart.
the highlight of our trip to thailand was going to the elephant nature park located about an hour outside of chiang mai. okay, maybe it is even a highlight of my life.
b and i are very much animal people. we knew there would be many opportunities to interact with animals when traveling to thailand and we were very excited by this. but we also wanted to be cautious of what kind of interactions to have. we wanted to make sure that all the animals we were around were treated humanely.
there are many companies in thailand that use elephants just for the sake of tourism. the elephants are often beaten and taken away from their families in order to break the elephant’s spirit. these tactics help the owner to show the elephant who is boss.
this treatment of elephants breaks my heart and i knew i didn’t want anything to do with those type of companies. i didn’t want to ride an elephant. i wanted to love and nurture an elephant.
elephant nature park rescues abused elephants from tourism and provides them with a sanctuary inside their camp. all the elephants are treated with care and given free rein to roam the entirety of the estate. the elephant nature park has rescued baby elephants when they were stripped away from their mothers in tourism and provided them with adoptive parents and loving aunts. it is a wonderful oasis for these elephants who have lived rough lives. elephant nature park hopes to one day release these animals back into the wild.
we signed up for “pamper a pachyderm” program through elephant nature park. i will be honest, it is a bit more expensive to have an experience like this. we paid about $185/person but it is a full day and after visiting the camp, i knew my money was completely well spent. the money was going to feeding the elephants (did you know an elephant eats about 3 tons of food a day?), employing nurturing guides/care takers and running a business.
the tour included transportation to the park (approx. 1 hour outside of chiang mai), lunch (one of the best meals i had in thailand mind you) in a hut overlooking the river, white water rafting and loving on these gentle giants.
b and i were able to feed, bathe, walk with and love on 4 adult female asian elephants and 1 four year old male asian elephant. it was a dream come true. not to mention the landscape surrounding the park was completely breath taking.
this is one day i will treasure for many years to come.
tip! you do have to walk a lot with this tour so be prepared. i would also advise you to bring water shoes for crossing the river, bug spray and sunscreen.
if you haven’t heard…b and i recently returned from a 10 day trip to thailand.
it was an amazing trip full of everlasting memories
& b may or may not have the travel bug now (yipee)
we decided to visit three different cities while in thailand. although, i do i feel like we could have spent 2 more weeks exploring this wonderful country; we made the most out of the time we had and really got a great glimpse of thailand. b is already talking about when we can return.
first stop, bangkok!
10am: arrive in the bustling city of bangkok via airport taxi. bangkok is full of high rises and little grocery huts within feet of one another. we immediately noticed the diversity of living quarters in this up and coming city. the drivers here are aggressive and scooters flood the streets (just the way b likes it). so take it all in as you enter the city because i don’t think i have seen anything quite like it.
12pm: everyone i spoke to prior to heading to thailand raved about the street food. i must admit i may have one of the most sensitive stomachs out there so i was a little skeptical. i also can’t take that much spice in my meal which made me that much more apprehensive about trying street food but when in thailand, right?
we stayed at the park plaza sukhumvit hotel and i would highly recommend it. the park plaza sukhumvit is located walking distance to the sky train (so easy access to all parts of the city) as well as lots of shops / restaurants. for our first lunch, we decided to throw caution to the wind and wander the streets for some grub. we definitely were among the locals that afternoon!
don’t miss out on the fresh juices located on almost every block in bangkok. a nice watermelon juice was the perfect treat in the heat!
1pm: travel to the grand palace via sky train + express boat or taxi
we decided to go by way of taxi to the grand palace because i was extremely jet lagged and the heat was not helping. it is about a 30 min ride from our hotel and taxi service is cheap in thailand!
the grand palace is always insanely crowded but a beautiful and iconic site to see. i love the peaceful feeling when entering the temple. it is recommended to arrive in the early morning (temple opens at 8:30am) as to beat the crowds but b and i were not able to fit it in so in the afternoon we went. tip! entrance fee is 500 Baht, inclusive of access to wat phra kaeo, the royal thai decorations & coins pavilion and queen sirikit museum of textile, which are located within the grand palace compound, and to vimanmek mansion museum on ratchawithi road. additional 100 Baht for a rental personal audio guide in english, french, german, spanish, russian, japanese or mandarin. be sure to dress appropriately so you can enter the temple. pants are recommended and be sure to cover your shoulders.
2pm: chatuchak weekend market
you do not need too much time at the grand palace because the crowds can become exhausting. head on over to the chatuchak weekend market (open 9am-6pm)and peruse the hundreds of stalls for souvenirs and diverse food.
6:30pm:dinner at the local bangkok
this restaurant is on the pricier side in bangkok (approx. $40 usd for two people) but boy is it good. the service is exceptional, the food is flavorful / perfectly cooked and the atmosphere romantic. we especially loved the authentic menu to welcome our taste buds to thailand. do ask for the milder version of their dishes because even the mild version was a little much for b to handle (i could not handle ha). my compliments to the chef!
another bonus is this adorable restaurant is walking distance from our hotel.
7am:breakfast at park plaza sukhumvit every hotel we stayed at offered an american style buffet but the park plaza was by far my favorite! their selection of fruit, cereals, breads and egg dishes was divine. i could eat the museli they made for every meal.
we booked the breakfast when booking our room but outside guests are also allowed to visit the hotel’s restaurant for any meal.
8am:take a tour with Pandan Tour group
this was our favorite part of bangkok.
before heading to thailand, i greatly wanted to tour the floating markets but the iconic one was located a couple of hours outside of the city (time we did not have) so i looked into other tours. after much research, i came upon pandan tour group. pandan tour group offers many different tours as well as customized tours. at first, we were going to have pandan take us to a closer floating market but after more research (i research everything) it didn’t seem like the local floating markets hold a candle to the one outside the city. so we changed gears and settled upon a customized half day canal tour. for this tour, they gave a long list of sites and you were to pick two from the list. i liked doing a customized tour because then it was just us and the guide and we felt like we had a more local experience.
pandan tour group picked us up at our hotel and took us to the boat express for travel to our first stop, the flower market (my choice obviously). our tour guide, tao, mentioned the flower market is more busy/bustling in the evening but we had an enjoyable time perusing the market at a slower pace. this is the fifth largest flower market in the world (first being in brazil). tao had us try some of the local fruits and explained what the different flowers are used for — give you a hint it is not for a man to give to his significant other!
second stop, wat pho (reclining buddah) and wat phra kaew (emerald buddah) (b’s choice)! so much history here! it was so incredible to see all the details (asthetically) that go into these temples. not to mention the architecture!
(b and i loved the statues placed all around the grounds of the temples.)
i think i snapped a photo every two feet because of how breathtaking these temples are and sadly, pictures don’t even do it justice. the thai know how to make temples!
tao really helped us learn the culture and lifestyle of thailand. i thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring these stunning structures.
we also walked by the temple of doom but sadly it was under construction. we hope we can return and see it once it is restored because it looked like another great temple to explore!
b likes to call me the monk stalker. i don’t know why but i loved seeing the monks roam the temples.
following the tour, we said good-bye to our new friend tao and roamed the streets for lunch. i really enjoyed walking the city and experiencing what life would be like as a bangkok resident.
so technically, the above city guide is not even 36 hours but that is the exact itinerary we did and we loved every moment of it. if we would have had more time, we would have fit in the floating market (damnoen saduak) and dinner at issaya siamese club. b also would have enjoyed renting a scooter and seeing the city that way but many people warned scooter driving is too dangerous for a tourist.
before heading to bangkok, many people and blogs warned not to stay in the city too long. they said it is an over crowded city with much pollution and i do see where they are coming from. but there is beauty in the city of angels (nickname for bangkok). you just have to look a little deeper and enjoy it for what it is. i recommend making a stop in bangkok for any thailand trip!
it has been a dream of mine for quite some time to visit thailand and last week i was able to do so. before visiting thailand, i had never been to asia so i didn’t know exactly what to expect when stepping off the plane. but let me just say that thailand exceeded my dreams and provided me with so many amazing memories that i will treasure my whole life.
here are 5 reasons why you need to visit thailand….
1. the scenery. every where i turned i felt like i was walking through a post card. from the high rises in bangkok to the jungle in chiang mai to the white sand in phi phi. every part of thailand is breathtaking in its own way.
2. the culture. before heading to thailand, i read a lot about the culture and etiquette. i think it is important to know customs of any country before heading there so you understand the people more and do not offend them (sometimes without even knowing it). for example, when entering a thai home or temple (or some restaurants and spas even) it is customary to remove your shoes. second fun fact – did you know thailand has had the same king for 60+ years? the king and all the royal family are held in extremely high regard and you must never speak negatively about them. if you do, you could find yourself in prison.
3. the spirituality. there are so many temples to see while in thailand and these temples are viewed as the holiest of places. our tour guide in bangkok, tao, told us that the country is 95% buddhist but they do have a catholic church in bangkok and respect those who are of different faith. he also explained to us that since most of the country is buddhist, they are very superstitious. you must not walk directly on the bottom of a door frame because there could be spirits there and they would be angry with you.
i also could not get over the plethora of monks roaming the streets. tao (our bangkok tour guide) told us that most teenage men study in the temple and are monks for at least a couple years (he was a monk before becoming a tour guide). i really felt such a strong sense of peace while traveling throughout the country.
4. the animal encounters. where else can you bathe, feed, walk and love on asian elephants? where else can you chill on the beach with monkeys trying to steal your food? where else can you scuba dive with sharks? okay there may be a few other places to do all of the above but that is beside the point. b is such an animal lover (as am i) and that is part of the reason we wanted to go to thailand so bad. there are so many opportunities to be around wildlife in their natural surroundings.
5. the food. i honestly can’t do a lot of spicy food but one of my favorite experiences while in thailand was taking a cooking class. it was eye opening for me to see how different curries were made ( & how to make them less spicy ha) and the origin of these dishes. did you know pad thai is the national dish but it has only been the national dish for 50+ years? for how old thailand is that was a bit surprising. i also loved how there was fresh juice around every corner!