Travel diary - Thailand

I've been lucky enough to have my parents living in Phuket in the south of Thailand from September 2010 until August 2013. And maybe even luckier that the company my dad worked for would pay for a certain number of family flights per year, so I would get to spend every holiday from university out there.
Long tail boat off the beach in Phuket
It really is a beautiful country, and I wish I had gotten to see more of it. I mostly spent time in Phuket, as that's where we lived, but I also visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.


Phuket is a very touristy part of Thailand. Some people say it isn't like "real" Thailand, because everything is artificial and set up for the tourists. I think this is a shame, as it discourages people from visiting for the culture. If you want to go to a beach resort and lie by a pool for a week then you can go to Spain for much, much cheaper - the Thais don't seem to understand that that's not why a lot of people visit Thailand. We're often more interested in seeing the beautiful natural scenery, such as the deserted beach at the end of our driveway, or the waterfall surrounded by jungle just a short walk from our house.
Buying chillis at the market
While I was there, I enjoyed doing "non-touristy" things, such as meeting the people, such as the teachers at the Good Shephard school, who were trying to educate children to a good enough standard that they could be accepted into Thai schools, or the volunteers at the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation, which helps children - particularly orphans from the 2004 tsunami - to learn and improve their English.
I also frequently went shopping at the local markets for ingredients and then learnt to cook delicious Thai dishes such as red curry, massaman curry, penang curry, pineapple fried rice, tom yum soup, pad thai and mango sticky rice.
Possibly one of my favourite memories from Phuket is that of Songkran festival - or Thai New Year. It is celebrated by everyone having huge water fights in the streets. We went on the back of a pick up truck with water guns, and the locals found it hilarious to try and throw water on the truck full of tourists. Maybe wouldn't be such fun in England, but when it's 30 degrees and full sunshine, it's brilliant!
Yes it is cheap to buy things there, and yes it is usually sunny and has lovely beaches - but those are not the only things that to like about Phuket.
A gypsy village at one of the islands off Phuket


I only stayed in Bangkok for a few days, so I didn't have much time to really get to know the city. It is a classic example of an Asian city, being quiet(ish) in the day time when the sun is at its strongest, and then coming alive in the evening as everyone finishes work and congregates at restaurants and street food stalls for an evening socialising.
At Cabbages & Condoms, Bangkok
There are many street markets and food stalls, similar to Phuket, but my favourite place that we ate was a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms. This was set up to promote awareness of sexual health, and to make contraception more available. As Thailand has a generally high HIV rate, I thought this is a fantastic way to go about promoting something that is desparately needed in the country. All the restaurant's proceeds go towards promoting contraception and safe sex, and to fit in with this theme they decorate the restaurant appropriately - condom lampshades, condom flowers as a centrepiece for tables, and even a condom with your bill instead a mint at the end of your meal. An ingenious idea that has been a huge success - they have now opened up a restaurant in Oxford!

Condom flowers!

Chiang Rai
From the hill near the Royal Villa
Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are real Thailand - and I loved them. Very quiet and undisturbed compared to Bangkok and Phuket, and barely any other tourists are - I think I probably saw less than 10 other white people the whole week I was there.
In Chiang Rai, we visited the Doi Tung Royal Villa and botanical gardens, which were beautiful, and our taxi driver also took us on a tour through the local hills to a temple called Wat Phra That Doi Tung, which can be seen from the Royal Villa.
Also while driving around Chiang Rai with our taxi driver, he stopped off to show us the tea plantation, where we also had a lunch of green tea salad and green iced tea! There are literally hundreds of rows of tea, with workers - mostly women - out in the sun all day picking the leaves. Some even had their babies strapped to them whilst they worked. It's astonishing, and makes you feel as if you're in colonial India or somewhere.
In Chiang Rai, there is also a beautiful Buddhist temple called Wat Rong Khun. It's all white with sculpted hands coming out of the lake surrounding it, apparently to represent people in hell, with a bridge over the top representing your journey into the temple, and into heaven.
Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun

Wat Rong Khun

 Chiang Mai

Lin Ping at Chiang Mai zoo
One of the main things I was excited to see was the pandas at Chiang Mai zoo! We don't have any pandas in English zoos, and there are two in Edinburgh zoo, which is at the opposite end of the country from where I live. When I visited Chiang Mai zoo, they had 3 pandas - a mating pair, and a baby called Lin Ping, who has since been moved back to China. The zoo was definitely worth going to, as they have a fairly large selection of animals and seems to be a very well run business that cares for its animals well.
While in Chiang Mai, we also visited a Buddhist temple called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This is a huge golden temple that sits on top of a mountain, providing beautiful views of the surrounding Chiang Mai province.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep


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