Back in April, Sean booked all of his trips to come see me: June for Machu Picchu, September for Eastern Europe, and December for Thailand. Not gonna lie, I thought it was a little crazy to book travel 9 months in advance, but it was great to know when I’d see him and (I think) a good coping mechanism for him.
This was also the longest time we’ve ever spent together consecutively: two full weeks traveling. I couldn’t wait (and was a liiiittle nervous to see how it would go). I had previously been to the eastern coast of Thailand (Koh Phangan) with my bestie Angela, so this time we headed west to the Andaman Sea.
I met Sean in Bangkok after a long flight for him, and we stayed the night near the airport to catch an early-morning flight to Krabi. It was so great to see him and not have any plans for the first night so we could just enjoy each other’s company.
A quick flight to Krabi later, we were checked into our very-cool hotel, The L Resort, and enjoying some pool time. Ao Nang, where we stayed, is very touristy and doesn’t have a great beach, so we were happy our pool was huge and awesome. At night, we went out to Centerpoint, basically a courtyard surrounded by a bunch of bars. Sean shot some guns at a gun range (it was loud and scary), we shared a bucket (basically a huge mixed drink served in a bucket), played some pool, and broke out the military gum because we were so tired.
The next day, we chilled at the pool, ate delicious seafood for lunch, and took a longtail boat taxi to nearby Railay Beach, where we watched the sunset sitting on mats on the beach and drinking cold beers. Ahhh, vacation.
Koh Phi Phi
A ferry ride later, we were on Koh Phi Phi, one of Thailand’s most famous islands. This is where the Leo movie The Beach was filmed, and it’s considered to be one of the most touristy but most beautiful islands. Our hotel, Phi Phi Banyan Villa, was in the center of town but shockingly quiet. Right away, we hopped a longtail taxi to check out Long Beach, and witnessed a gorgeous sunset.
Later in the evening, we stumbled onto a Full Moon Party (which actually happens every night) and had fun observing the crazy drunk kids running around and making out with each other. There were fire performances, lots of fist-pumping music, and a calm-ish outdoor bar with hookah (where we ended up).
We spent the next two days with our hired longtail boat driver, checking out different beaches and snorkeling spots. We saw some colorful fish, almost capsized during a storm (I dunno, it felt like it), and made it to Maya Bay (made famous by The Beach) and Monkey Island (made famous because there are a ton of monkeys living there).
We got lucky with an incredible sunset on our last night in Phi Phi after hiking up to the viewpoint, and then got to spend the night back at the “Full Moon Party” with fellow Remotes Heather & Darrin. This time we participated a bit more than we observed :).
We were only in Phuket for one day, basically as a stopover to fly to Chiang Mai from there. Our hotel, The Senses, was again beautiful, but we spent the first day being cranky after a fight. (Obviously, we made up.)
The next day we checked out Old Town Phuket, which reminded me so much of Penang with its colorful Chinese-style shophouses and beautiful street art, and had lunch with some Remotes that were in town at Blue Horizon. It was deeelicious.
We had another quick flight to Chiang Mai, and immediately met up with some Remotes at The Corner Bistro for hip-hop night and the main event of the evening: Sean finally meeting my RY-bestie Arestia for the first time! Crazily, they hadn’t crossed paths because of travel schedules and this was the one night for it to happen before Arestia headed to the islands. (Naturally they loved each other.)
The rest of our time in Chiang Mai was spent enjoying outdoor activities and hanging with other Remotes – the first time Sean got to do so in a significant way this year.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
We spent a day in this no-ride sanctuary feeding, playing with, and bathing elephants. While many camps in Thailand offer riding (and I even did this last time I was in Chiang Mai, not knowing the harm it causes), it’s a very cruel and spirit-breaking activity for the elephants. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary doesn’t permit riding and is more focused on letting people experience elephants in more-or-less their natural habitat. It was so fun to see these playful creatures interact with each other and with us.
On Christmas Day, a group of us took a trip to Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls in a national park near Chiang Mai. Some mineral on these falls make them “sticky” – it feels like walking on concrete when you walk up, even though they are covered in water. It was such a cool experience!
Christmas Dinner at Rustic & Blue Farm
Rustic & Blue was one of the first restaurants I checked out in Chiang Mai. I learned that they were having Christmas dinner on their farm, and decided to organize this for any Remotes that would be around. About 20 of us ended up going. The farm was truly magical, with incredible flower and lighting arrangements. The food was delicious, and the wine free-flowing. Most importantly, the company was great, and we had fun taking “family photos” in this enchanting setting.
Wat Doi Suthep
We made it up to Wat Doi Suthep – one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai – twice! Once during sunset, and then less than 12 hours later for sunrise. We got to hear monks chanting the evening prayers and see the first break of day illuminating Chiang Mai. Sunrise at Doi Suthep was a peaceful experience that I’d recommend – there weren’t many people and it was beautiful to watch a new day emerge.
The rest of our time in Chiang Mai was spent exploring different temples, including getting blessed by a monk at Wat Chedi Luang, getting Sean a custom suit (so many fittings!), getting amazing massages by former inmates at the Women’s Massage Center (so relaxing), and seeing a ladyboy cabaret show (one looked just like Rihanna).
At the end of our trip, we spent two nights in Bangkok. A highlight was the Midnight Food Tour, during which we got driven around in a tuk-tuk to experience the many delicious dishes of Thailand. The most memorable was Pad Thai at Thip Samai, since we got to try traditional and modern noodles.
We also explored the many temples and sights of Bangkok, including Wat Arun (decorated by shards of broken porcelain that was used to balance ships’ weights during the time of the Silk Road), Wat Pho (temple of the Reclining Buddha, with feet the size of my whole body), and the Grand Palace (where we got to witness the changing of the guards). We got foot massages at Wat Pho’s famous massage school, a nice and relaxing break during a hot day.
Our last dinner was at Karmakamet, a beautiful and romantic setting with tasty food and cocktails. We also made it up to one of Bangkok’s famous rooftop bars for a last cocktail.
On New Years’ Eve, Sean left for his flight to LAX and I chilled by the pool before heading to the airport to meet my Remote Year family for our flight to Phnom Penh. Our Thailand adventure had come to a close after many memories made. I’ll always remember the magic we got to experience on this trip together: stunning sunsets in the islands, sunrise at Doi Suthep, being up close and personal with elephants, celebrating our first Christmas together and being blessed in one of the holiest temples in Thailand.
But for now, it was onto a new month, a new city, a new year…