Thailand, a beautiful multi faceted country that boasts both turquoise waters with thriving aquatic life and lush green mountains home to monkeys, temples and world heritage sites.
This summer I took a trip around modern day Siam and filled 16 days with as much of the country, culture and cuisine as I possibly could. I fell in love with this little nook in South East Asia and wanted to journal it for myself but also for you, dear reader, to possibly help inspire you to consider Thailand for your next adventure. Or if you’ve already been but are considering going specifically as a backpacker, perhaps this will give you the push you need!
Welcome to my Thailand Diaries!
What a way to start one of the best summers of my young life. All I had scheduled was a flight into Phuket on the 1st July and a ticket out of Chiang Mai on the 16th July. I knew I would have to put my trust in the process of authentic, slow travel and leave the rest to be set by time and tides (quite literally for the latter!)
After a long 12 hour flight from London to Phuket, with an hour layover in Bangkok, I met up with my best friend Melissa for what would be a truly eye opening and magical 16 days.
I knew that I was going to push myself to make this trip as minimalist and sustainable as possible so all I had was my carry on backpack and a smaller daytime bag. Very few items of clothing, no laptop and only the essentials of my cosmetics.
When we arrived in Phuket we went straight to our hostel, the first of what would be 7 hostels in 16 days. It had been recommended to us to stay out of the busy area of Phuket near Patong beach simply because it’s a tad overrated, especially if we’d be going to the beach on other islands we would visit. So we instead decided to visit the less frequented but just as lovely, Old Town Phuket.
Where to Stay: Hostel life
In case this is something that you may not be familiar with, if you’re doing a low budget backpack trip, the best way to get accommodation is in hostels. The most popular website is called HostelWorld and the general idea is that you stay in a dorm with fellow travelers and usually share a bathroom. Don’t worry, you can find everything you need to know about hostel living right here.
They provide pillows, blankets, sometimes a towel and a locker to store your valuables. It’s quite basic and the best way to pick a good hostel is to check their ratings, reviews and maybe even their Instagram page. Most hostels do have private rooms available but personally, I just think that means you miss out on some awesome bonding experiences.
So, in Phuket, we stayed at L’Atelier Poshtel for two nights. The first day we went to bed very early and I caught up with my jet lag, which meant we had roughly one full day in Phuket. The hostel was very quaint, clean and comfortable with tea and coffee in the morning and a TV room (where we indulged in a movie on our last night).
It has a very modern decor and the staff are super friendly. For only £9 a night, it was located right near a Tesco Extra and a local market, as well as being right on the doorstep of a swanky cabaret!
Where to Eat & Things to do
It was an easy (and cheap!) 10 minute taxi out to the Old Town from the hostel so we made the trip there on our second day.
That was the day I had my first Thai foodgasm. After walking around the Old Town Walking Street, with its beautiful, colonial style, multicolored buildings housing everything from artisanal clothes and bath products, to herbs and street foods, we worked up quite an appetite.
We stopped at the first place that looked like it had a good variety of Thai food, a little nest called the China Inn (not a very Thai name I’ll admit) but the old lady who was serving was so friendly and authentic that we immediately knew the food would be good.
And it was! I mean, sure, I had tried thai green curry before but never in Thailand. That simple bowl that that sweet old lady put on our table was THE best explosion of flavors and spices. It made me see sounds and hear colours! It was my first taste of real Thai food and cross my heart I’ll never forget it even after having spent 16 days eating so much more of it.
That bowl of hot tofu and veg in that emerald green sauce accompanied by that steaming scoop of rice is seared into my soul forever.
There are plenty of similar restaurants and street food options in the Old Town area so you’ll never be short of food options!
After lunch we decided to walk off the food by taking a hike to the Khao Rang viewpoint that our google maps said was about a 45 minutes walk away. So walk we did, because we weren’t too keen on getting on a scooter, which is the most common form of transport in Thailand.
At the viewpoint we saw some monkeys just living their best lives and we stood gazing out at the view of the ocean on the left and the famous Phuket Big Budhha on the right.
Oh, have I mentioned the mango smoothies yet?! Because if I haven’t we need to backtrack. The temperature when we got to Thailand was around 30-31 degrees Celsius and coming fromSeychelles, of course, I’m quite used to that weather, but Thailand has a remedy for the heat that took me by surprise. The mango smoothies, or any of their smoothies really. Just fresh fruit and crushed ice and some secret Thai magic that makes it that if you tried it at home it just wouldn’t be the same!
And in keeping with our sustainable goal this trip, we made sure to ask the vendors to pour the smoothies straight into our reusable cup and bottle, which they were more than happy to do.
In the early evening, we walked around a small Indie Market with stalls pilled high with local delicacies, from sesame balls and mango sticky rice, to stacks of shrimps and pad thai.
Where to next?
After two nights in Phuket, being teased by the ocean we had seen in the distance, we felt we had seen a pleasant cultural side of the town. There is however plenty more to do in Phuket such as several beaches, lush waterfalls, the famous weekend market, fabulous lady boy shows and lots of culture to see.
However, we were eager to head to the islands and throw our worries into the ocean along the way. Which is exactly what we did.
A high speed ferry and slight sunburn later, we arrived on Koh Phi Phi, the popular party island and major backpacker hub, having already made four new friends and in desperate need of… you guessed it, a mango shake!
A few things to note about visiting Thailand:
- DO NOT flush toilet paper down the toilet. If you do number 1, just place the tissue in the bins provided, if you do number 2, read up about the bum gun
- Don’t drink the tap water. In order for us to be sustainable, we had to fill in our water bottles every day at the hostel when we could (they usually have refill stations for 10 baht)
- Don’t worry too much about laundry. There are soooo many places that offer laundry services and prices depend on where in Thailand you are (40 baht/kg in Koh Tao and 100 baht/kg in Bangkok)
- Don’t be afraid to barter with the taxi drivers or vendors on prices
- Most places will ask you to take off your shoes before you enter
- It’s normal for hostels to ask to keep your passport while you’re staying with them
- Don’t expect everyone to speak English and don’t be that person that gets annoyed and complains when locals don’t speak your language, it’s their country so be kind and patient
Don’t forget to get travel insurance! World Nomads is a reliable and cost effective insurance provider to cover you while you’re on your epic world adventures.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of our Thailand adventures! If you don’t want to miss out, be sure to sign up for email updates in the sidebar on the right (don’t forget to check your email where it might as you to confirm your subscription). Or follow me on Instagram if you’re not already!
Why not follow my bestie and travel buddy Mel while you’re at it too for extra snippets of our trip!
Sit back, grab some Oreos and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next