Pai is a very small unique hippy town in northern Thailand, northwest of Chiang Mai. It’s so weird because we nearly didn’t travel here and now I am so glad we did because it has been our favourite place in Thailand! Even though it’s small, it has a lot to offer and the atmosphere is incredible!
1. There is one long main street in Pai, across from the bus station theres a place called Pai Expert. They have the most brilliant full and half day tours, wonderful staff and its a fun way to meet new people! We booked most of our trips there, such as visiting the Lod Cave where we spent an hour and a half trecking through the most breathtaking cave walking also on bamboo rafts! The scenery is unreal and definitely a must in Pai!
2. Hot Springs! Get there early in the morning and you can enjoy hearing nothing but nature, blissful!
3. Waterfalls! Rainy or sunny weather, you can take full advantage! There is a big variety of waterfalls in Pai, take your pick and enjoy!
4. The White Buddha! I’d suggest going during sunrise or sunset, you can overlook the whole of Pai, and it’s not full of tourists! (but be ready to climb a LOT of steps!)
5. Sunset Cafe! We found and stopped off at this place whilst trecking up to visit The White Buddha, outstanding view! Lovely place to have a drink and something nice to eat, especially at sunset!
6. Beach Club Pai Waterpark! This was so much fun when it’s sunny and you want a day to relax!
7. Night Market! It’s definitely not hard to miss the night market, there’s only one main street in Pai and it’s there! The yummiest food, and such a fun atmosphere! Treat yo’self!
8. The Nightlife! This little town is so much fun to have a good drink! Visit all the unique bars with live music on the main street of Pai and then end the night at the Don’t Cry Bar, the last place that is open! Get yourself coloured in neon paint, wear hippie attire and buy a Chang beer.
9. Renting a scooter! Practice before doing so, but Pai is probably the most funnest and safest place to drive about on a scooter! You see the most beautiful scenery on wide open roads!
10. Thai Massage! Best way to end any day! I think we had one maybe every night, as we wanted to try every massage…but just go for a full body oil massage! Unless you like it rough..
Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand; It’s a small and very attachable place with beautiful surroundings. Here is a simple guide of places to stay, eat and visit!
Where to stay
- First place we stayed in Chiang Mai was East Gate guesthouse, the location is in the centre of Chiang Mai, which makes it extremely easy to get around. We payed 500 baht (£11) a night. You can book this place in advance online at booking.com, but when we arrived we just found the place and checked in! The staff are very helpful and kind, they are very knowledgeable about the city and can give you advice on things to do. Their English wasn’t fluent but was perfectly understandable and they helped us with all our needs. The room was very small but came equipped with all the essentials that were needed. The room appropriated with Thai culture, so it was a nice experience.
- The second place we stayed was Kamala’s guesthouse, still within the centre of Chiang Mai but more hidden amongst one of the main backpacker’s sites. This is a good street to stay to meet fellow backpackers! We booked this place through Airbnb for 343 baht (£8) a night. The host was kind and fast with replies when we couldn’t find the place. The room is spacious, equipped with the right necessities, a very simple and standard room for 343 baht. They also supply a lot of flyers, leaflets and day trips at the guesthouse, so it gives you a good start!
Where to eat
There are many great places to eat in Chiang Mai but nothing beats street food that you can find on any corner, but if you know what you like and wanted something more western, there is also great places for that also, a few of our favourites were;
- Beast Burger
The Beast Burger is little restaurant that sells a small variety of massive handmade burgers (Vegan and vegetarian options!) We tried the famous beast burger and their vegan burger. A little pricey but 100% worth the money!
- Loco Elvis’
A nice little place that serves Mexican food, provides live music and a fun bar scene. Lovely food with a great atmosphere and service! Right in the centre, you can’t miss it!
- The Salad Concept
Yeah, you may think…salad. Really? Honestly take my word for it! A great place for vegans and non-vegans. The portions sizes are ridiculously big! Not only healthy but extremely delicious meals and an amazing variety of smoothies and shakes! (Also, down the road from Kamala’s guesthouse)
- Fat Elvis
Without a doubt one of my favourite places to go, American restaurant and bar! Extremely cheap drinks and food considering the portion size is huge! Great service and atmosphere and extremely welcoming! (Down the street from Zoe In Yellow)
Things to do
- Visit an Elephant Sanctuary! There are many options in Chiang Mai for this attraction, but please don’t ride any elephants! Elephants spines are not the same as horses. They cannot support weight from above, therefore riding causes long term harm. Not only that, they’re not for our entertainment! We visited Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, help feed, bathe, give medicine and also clean big and baby elephants and receive an amazing experience!
- Visit The Three Kings Monument, a sculpture of Kings Mengrai, Ramkamhaeng and Ngam Muang, the purported founding fathers of Chiang Mai.
- Visit a variety of temples throughout Chiang Mai such as Wat Chiang man, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and Phra Singh Temple. All very unique and beautiful temples filled with statues, murals and ancient manuscripts.
- Renting a scooter! If you’re brave enough! Personally I had no problem and found it cheaper to go to all the places we wanted to visit and certain attractions which were far away and was better for just exploring! Realistically if you’re only in Chiang Mai for a little while and staying in the centre, it’s very small place, most places are within walking distance!
- If you’re the one for the crazy nightlife, I’d definitely suggest Zoe In Yellow. It has really cheap drinks and cocktails, an enormous dance-floor surrounded by several bars. It get’s crazy busy, but please be careful with your drinks and watch who you surround yourself with. Other than that it’s a great place with a fun atmosphere and a place to let your hair down!
- Climb the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon! Beautiful scenery and a fun adventure! The only way up the mountain is via road, so hire a scooter, car or you could provide your own transport by booking with attraction sites.
Bangkok is a truly beautiful city full of vibrant colours, temples and street life. There is so much to see and do, we never had a dull moment! We met so many amazing and down to earth backpackers but unfortunately only had a day to spend in Bangkok, as they had so many other places to visit in such a small amount of time. So I took it upon myself to make a small guide for those who are in this big city just for the day.
- First of all you need somewhere to stay for the night! If you want to do the backpacking way and find a hostel when you arrive, that’s great! But if you’re wanting to get away from the backpack life for just a night, I would defintly recommend The Park Plaza. The staff are extremely lovely and very helpful, It has a rooftop pool and bar, jacuzzi, sun lounges, gym and a stunning view. Our room was spacious, it had a queen sized comfy bed, a flatscreen TV and quite a big bathroom with an amazing overhead shower. The food is quite pricey considering it wasn’t great quality, there’s also not a lot of vegetarian or vegan options; but overall it’s a beautiful place to relax after a long day and to get a good night sleep. It’s also in a great location within the city.
- After you’ve settled, I’d suggest either going to any tuk tuk driver and asking them to take you to a canal tour, a lot of them get money for taking you to tourist destinations so they will know where to go. You can either pre-pay the tour on Trip Advisor, or try and barter and most likely get it cheaper in person. We payed 1,000 baht (£23) and you get a hour and a half canal tour and see how the locals live, temples and views you wouldn’t be able to see with any other mode of transport. It’s an eye opener and really beautiful.
- I would then suggest the floating markets, extremely breathtaking and it’s something that shouldn’t be missed! Look into how the locals earn money, buy some stunning handmade jewellery, fresh fruit or just enjoy the view!
- You can’t come Thailand and not at least try some Muay Thai! Beginner, experienced or just for fun! Don’t just experience it in any gym, why not experience it in one of the most renowned thai boxing gym’s in the world…Yokkao Training Centre. Where one of the greatest muay thai fighters to ever live trains, Saenchai. You can pay to do private 1-1 session which lasts for an hour, with Saenchai himself or his trainer Kru Manop. To see many more options and to book we visited the Yokkao website. It cost us 2,000 baht (£26) to train with Kru Manop, it was worth every penny. It had such a very welcoming environment and you learn so much in such little time!
Time to relax, walk around the streets on Bangkok, check out the indoor market! Get some cheap but amazing street food! Also, take a look into Terminal 21, it’s a 9 stories shopping mall, the concept is market streets of the world all on different floors!
- After such an eventful day already, I’d definitely suggest taking Bangkok’s subway, the MRT. It’s a two way system and easy to use! It’s connected and just outside Terminal 21, it’s a really cheap way to get around, it was no more than 100 baht for two people (£2.33) We visited Lumpini park, the scenery is beautiful. It is a really lovely place to have a picnic, go on the boats, feed the fish! You witness a lot of tortoise, lizards and other animals whilst being there, it really is worth the visit! When visiting Lumpini Park, do not get off at Lumpini Station. Exit at Silom Station!
You’re now probably exhausted from the busy day you’ve just had! If not I’d suggest checking out some temples such as, Wat Arun and Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. Also, If you’re up for it, venture out into the Bangkok’s crazy nightlife, but if you’re done for the day get yourself a nice Thai massage and be ready for your next adventure!
So you have booked your flights and ready to pack, but what do you take?
We will be giving you a guide of what to and what not to take on your travels, tailored to where you’re travelling to.
Research the various temperatures and climates you will encounter on your journey. If you’re only going to hot countries, pack 3 light outfits, 1 pair of comfy shoes and 1 pair of sandals (If you’re going to encounter monsoon weather, don’t worry as you can buy cheap disposable raincoats out there, still really humid). I can’t emphasise enough about packing light. We thought we packed light when we came, we didn’t wear half of the clothing we anticipated and ended up sending it home in the mail which ended up costing a hefty fee. If you’re encountering cold weather on your travels, follow the same principle, aim to pack light. Remember there will be loads of laundrette’s and 90% of them are relatively cheap, so don’t worry about a change of outfit.
First of all make sure you have the right adapter for the places you are travelling! You can buy these in almost any big supermarket, if not Amazon. It is your personal choice whether to take a phone or not, for us it was good decision. If you’re planning on working abroad you will need one anyway to be contacted by employers but not only that, almost every hotel and hostel has wifi and that will be the best way to get in touch with family and friends and also to share pictures of your adventures through social media. Camera, once again it is your personal choice, if you have a good camera on your phone just use that, but if you’re like me and addicted to capturing moments and into photography or want to create your own blog on your travels, it is definitely worth taking a camera. We took the Canon 70D. The other suggestion is a GO PRO, not only is it really small and very ideal for travellers but you can take pictures, video and use underwater. Yes, you may be thinking ‘expensive!’ but there are substitutes. We were on a budget and got the APEMAN action camera, this does the same jobs and we’ve not had any problems with it so far! We also took our macbook pro, this added weight to our backpack but was so we could write along the way and upload photos from our camera’s, but If you’re thinking the same I’d suggest maybe a tablet, a lot smaller and lighter. Next are your chargers/cables for everything. Make sure you have your headphones if you’re taking any electronic’s, It honestly helps pass time on them really long bus/train and plane journeys. Also, we bought waterproof cases for all of our electronics, even though we are in hot countries; monsoon season means very heavy rain. You can buy these from most places; the cheapest place we found was Amazon!
Once again, it’s all depending where you are travelling to. It cannot be stressed enough, anything you may need or want you can buy over there, don’t over pack. So pack the essentials, such as any medication which you are prescribed stock up or research to see if it is accessible to get over there. The only type of medication we brought was a pack of paracetamol/sleeping tablets. Anything else you may need, just buy when over there and when it is needed. If you’re going to a hot country, pack a small bottle of sunscreen and insect/mosquito repellent. Take a small deodorant, there’s no need to over pack with shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. 99% of the time the hostel/hotel will provide them, but if not you can always buy them when you arrive. The reason I stress to buy it where you are travelling is because if you’re backpacking and have not paid to have luggage and you’ve classed it as hand luggage, take into account you have a 100ml limit on each bottle of liquids and they all have to fit in a transparent re-sealable bag, otherwise they will throw it away! Not only that, but if you are planning a trip to South East Asia, everything is a lot cheaper over here. Also, with regards to makeup, I was so convinced I would be wearing it every day, turns out I’d only use it once a week because of how hot it is where we are travelling. So when I say keep it to a minimum, I really mean it.
For this, I got a thin blue transparent folder so everything was in one place. The documents you may need is your flight order printed off, your travel insurance, any certificate proof of your educational background from college or university (Only vital if you’re wanting to work abroad). Also, you will need the appropriate documents for any medication you have (for the airport in case you need to go over 100ml liquid limit) and your passports. Also, take a little purse or wallet to put in this blue folder. Your debit or travel card, which ever you have decided to put your funds on. If you’re unsure how or what travel card to use I explain in a previous post which we found best and used. We also took our provisional license in case of any needed proof and we didn’t want to use our passport. Also, take some start-up money for airports and for when you land so you don’t get charged at the ATM straight away.
If you want to know which backpack we used, you can always go on my previous post, Planning Your Trip To SouthEast Asia.
We had quite a bit of help from others with planning our trip; different opinions, different options. Honestly it did become a bit stressful considering you never know who is trying to sell you their products for the sake of commission, or the company they work for. So a lot of research has gone into this plan, so far, so good.
FLIGHTS/TRAVEL INSURANCE/DEBIT-CREDIT CARDS/BACKPACK
We started off with a company called STA Travel. You book with them online, over the phone or within the store. We personally chose to go in store as we had a lot of questions and wanted more options. They were very welcoming. At first we had no clue where we wanted to go, so they threw out some popular suggestions such as Thailand, Bali and Vietnam, which was the right direction we were looking for. They were incredibly nice and had a lot of knowledge within the places, They were incredibly friendly and knowledgable. They also give you brouchures and leaflets of the countries and will eventually give you a guide map to you show where you will start off and where you will end. Remember this is your trip, you’re in charge. They are just there to make sure you are going in the right direction. Even if you only have a certain price range, you tell them and they will work around that.
All we booked with them is flights and travel insurance, they are your main priorities. We did not book any hotels or any of the tourist attractions they offered to us, because realistically if you are on a budget and backpacking, there are decent cheap hostels you can get when you arrive at the destination you’re going too. One of the best things about booking with them is the Multiflex pass, this means if you decide you do not like a certain place, an emergency occurs, you decide travelling is not for you, or you just want to go home; you email your travel agent and they will change any flight to suit your needs free of charge! So our booked flights in the end were….
Manchester – Bangkok (THAILAND) for 4 months
Singapore – Bali // for 4 months
Bali – Philippines // for 4 months
Philippines – Hong kong // for 3 months
Hong Kong – Dubai // for a week
Dubai – Manchester
Total: £2,400 (for the both of us)
Yes, I know, £2,400 you immediately think “I will never save that” because I definitely did. We were full time students, working part time jobs. If you are living with your parents this should be a lot easier to save! If not, do not worry it is still achievable. Initially we used every student loan we received in our first year and put it into a savings account. All we lived off to pay bills and necessities was from our part time jobs (If we worked extra hours, we would put all the money into the savings account) So all at the end of our savings we had £10,000 altogether. Take off the flights, we had £7,600 spending money for the whole year. This is more than achievable to live off. Obviously it all depends on how long you chose to go for, and you can make it far with a really small budget, but the more you save, the better! If you ever get to a point of running low, you can always work out here if that’s something you’re interested in doing. We had to cut off from a lot of parties and events, which at the time, especially as a first year student…it was pretty awful but right now it was the best decision we ever made. You have got to have priorities, and if you’re determined to do something, you will have the will power.
We are also going to be travelling by sleeper trains, buses and cheap flights to other places within the 4 month gaps, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Phuket etc. But don’t worry about that because there are cheap ways to get to them countries and we have done it while we are here, and it’s a lot cheaper! You never know, you might decide you want to add places or change your mind, so trust me when I say the less you over think and plan the better. Trust me, it was the best advice we got, especially when I overthink everything and anything.
For Insurance, when you’re buying your flights they offer you a decent deal with travel insurance at first we declined as we wanted to look around a bit more but there weren’t better or trustworthy ones we were comfortable booking with, but obviously this is your trip, your choice! They go into explicit detail with the insurance so any questions you may have, they will find the best option for you as there is a few! But because we didn’t pay for it there and then and chose the Blue Allianz insurance, it cost us £926.00. I know…I cried too, but it covers a lot and that’s for a year, your trip may only be 6 months or less.
Debit/credit cards, this is important and we did a lot of research for this. Do not go for STA Travel card that they offer, they try to sell the card to you and tell you how great it is, but we did some research and the feedback was awful, that was on multiple websites. In the end we went with the Caxton card. Getting hold of a card is easy for anyone with a UK bank account. You normally apply
online, choose the currency in which you would like your card denominated, load it with funds from your current account and wait for it to arrive in the post typically, five to seven days later. You can top up and check your balance online, by app on your phone. We are currently travelling now and haven’t had a problem what so ever. We go to a ATM over here and typically withdraw around 5,000 Baht or more (around £114) each time and should last you quite a bit as it saves money and a lot of places don’t take card, obviously don’t take more out than you need in case you lose that money. You will be charged a small fee (under £5 depending on the ATM) So I recommend getting multiple day’s worth of funds to save on these charges.
Your backpack, once again the best advice I got was the less you take the better! I honestly couldn’t agree more, trust me if you ever need anything, you can get everything here 10x cheaper! We ended up taking a little more than planned and ending up paying a hefty fee to parcel it back home as it was quite a bit of stuff and expensive clothes we didn’t want to throw away but we didn’t want to carry it around because it was extra weight to carry for things we wouldn’t wear or use. You indulge in the culture and buy from the markets, comfy, light and beautiful clothes which are insanely cheap.
The backpack we bought was from Amazon, there are hundreds you can chose from but this one we found was the right size and space, Tigernu backpack (£29.99) It’s water resistant and anti-theft. A lot bigger than the picture shown, so trust me there’s enough room for whatever you’re wanting to take on your travels. For a more in depth guide, I will be posting a short article about on what to pack on your adventures!
Now that you’ve got a good understanding on how we planned our trip to save you unnecessary hassle, research and stress. Concentrate on what you want to visit when you’re here, get excited, start saving. Start your adventure; there is no time like the present!