Beijing’s winters can be cold (and sometimes with poor air), so it’s always nice to escape it you can!  While winter this year had surprisingly great air quality, it’s still nice to escape some of the cold in the winter.  I’ve never actually traveled to a warmer climate in the winter time until now – it was nice!

We’ve heard numerous friends talk about their visits to Thailand, so decided to visit!  We wanted a beach getaway and opted to go to Phuket after hearing about it from others.  Before landing in Phuket though, we decided to spend the weekend in Bangkok.

Bangkok

Bangkok is another big city – but one that is warm!  It’s quite warm, so I’m glad we visited during a milder time of year for them.  I think I would have melted if we went in the summertime.

The weather was nice and sunny and warm when we landed so we were off to a great start!  We got our new sim cards, got a taxi, and were on our way to our hotel.  After checking in, we went out to explore the city.

While in the city, we (or I!) wanted to shop and see the famous temples, so that’s what we set out to do over the next couple of days.

We went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market and found some good deals there.  There were a good amount of people there but it was fun walking through and seeing the different stalls.  Some of the side alleyways were just too crowded for us to want to attempt, so we probably missed out of some of it (not that Ben minded!).  Nonetheless, I had fun and found some cute things for a good price!

There are so many different temples in Bangkok, so we wanted to at least get to the main ones.

We went to the Grand Palace early one morning.  One word to describe is would be:  bedazzled!  It is so shiny there…almost too much.  It was pretty walking around and while we got there fairly early, it was still pretty crowded.  I’m glad we went to see it though.  Tip:  If you go, make sure that you wear something that covers your knees (men too!) and you can to have a shirt that covers your shoulders (scarves do not count-I still can’t believe that one).

From the Grand Palace, we walked over to Wat Pho and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  This was my favorite one (and they even gave you a complimentary bottle of water!)!  I thought the Giant Reclining Buddha inside the temple was very interesting.  It was huge!!  I also enjoyed walking around as it was very quiet.  While it wasn’t big, you still had some areas to yourself.  It had some sparkle to it but not too much.

The next part was fun as we took a water taxi over to see Wat Arun.  This was my second favorite temple.  It was just a brief walk from the boat to the temple.  It was very small but I like how you could climb up to the top and get a bit of a view.

We got a tuk tuk after this and headed back across the river to Wat Saket.  We climbed up the 300 steps to the top to get a view of the city.  I probably would have enjoyed this one more if it was earlier in the day – it was definitely starting to warm up at this point!

After checking out some shopping malls and enjoying some Western foods that we had been missing, we ended our time in Bangkok by doing a River Cruise and seeing all the temples and shrines we saw during the day, then lit up at night.

What I loved about Bangkok was being able to eat outside because it was so warm.  I loved all the Western restaurants that you could find there (yay-Outback!).

What I didn’t like about Bangkok is always having to barter with the taxi drivers and the tuk tuks drivers.  I think if I lived there, then I could easily tell them no and argue more.  However, our time was limited and even if I did get them down, it really was only about a $1 saved in the end.  We can pay a little more if we’re pressed for time.

Overall, I’m glad that we stopped in Bangkok so we could see what the city was like but I don’t have a need to go back.

Phuket

Now, Phuket on the other hand, I could go back to!  I can see why so many people choose to honeymoon here (however, I don’t know if it would be quite worth a 13+ hour flight…I feel like there are probably some other amazing spots closer).

We opted to stay at the JW Marriott which was a great choice.  I see why so many people like staying here.  Everything you could need was at the resort.

It was a gorgeous property right on the beach.  I loved how everything was open air.  It was so nice how they brought us a yummy drink as we were checking in.  They also did these awesome performances on certain evenings…very cool!

We got a room on the ground level and by the “quiet” pool…it was the perfect location for us.  We could just walk right out the back of our room, pick up a towel from the pool, and walk a few more steps to be on the beach!  And that beach-oh, it was so pretty!  And calm, so it made swimming enjoyable.  I loved the beach chairs that were available.  I also loved that you could kayak or paddleboard for free.  I went paddleboarding many times!

Besides relaxing on the amazing beach, we got to enjoy some happy hours and enjoy some yummy food.  My drink of choice there was the Thai Mojito.  It did not have such a strong minty taste which I liked.  And the donuts–oh, those were good.  And the chicken caesar wraps were pretty tasty too!

We loved our days at the resort but there were some other things that we wanted to do as well – like see the elephants!

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary (PES) is related to the one in Chiang Mai.  This is an ethical place where they rescue elephants who have suffered abuse either from touring or the logging industry.  Elephants here can experience life like elephants should.  They get to roam around and enjoy the water when they want.  Sadly, you could see the scars from years of abuse so it was nice to see these gorgeous animals having the chance to enjoy life.

This place does not allow rides (which hurts the elephants’ backs) nor do they allow swimming with the elephants (which is a special time for the elephants).  They do, however, allow you to feed the elephants (and the elephants love getting their favorite treats!).

I got to feed the elephant who is blind.  She was a sweetie.  She did not like the veggies, so they brought out more fruit for her.  She especially enjoyed the bananas and watermelon.

Here, I also got to try the famous mango sticky rice!  People just love it.  I did not. 🙂

Sea Canoeing

Seeing the elephants was one half-day adventure.  Another day adventure we had was to go sea canoeing.  I had heard about this from friends who recently visited Thailand.  It was a highlight for them, so we thought we would check it out.  I’m glad we did!

We were so lucky that it was just us and a family from Australia.  Ben and I got our guide and the family was split into two groups, so they each had their own guide.  We went to a few different spots and enjoyed these special caves that can only be accessed from the water.

With this, we didn’t have to do any paddling.  We just sat back and let the guide take care of us, which he sure did!  A couple times, it got a little tight, but he just deflated the raft, so we could fit (we were already on our backs).

They have a tough job and sure do have to know about the tides.  At one point, we left just as the tides were changing.  Every lagoon we went to was so quiet and peaceful.  It was just us there.  And sometimes the monkeys!!  I loved that.  I saw my first wild monkey on this trip.

In one of the caves, we saw a whole family of them.  They were so fun to watch, especially the baby hanging on to the mom.  We also saw bats and the plankton that glows in the water.  It was an awesome day.

Horseback riding

While we enjoyed more beachtime and such, our week in Thailand was quickly coming to an end.  One day I saw a couple riding horses along the beach.  During one of our bike rides, I kept seeing signs for horseback riding.  So finally, on that last day, since we had to check out but didn’t have to be at the airport until the evening due to our night flight, I decided to go for a ride in the afternoon.  And what better way to spend an afternoon and you last day in Thailand!

This was by far my favorite activity of the whole trip (I loved the elephants, but this was just what I needed).  I’ve been missing trails rides (while I do get to ride in Beijing, it’s all ring work).  And this was one thing I didn’t plan in advance (I’m such a planner!).

I actually thought it may not happen because they were calling for storms in the afternoon (we lucked out weatherwise all week).  I got there and it was just me and the guide for our ride.  They put me on this adorable large pony who was just so much fun.  We headed straight for the beach and got to cantering soon after that.  While we did get some rain, that didn’t matter.  Cantering along the beach was SO fun!  We then we to canter some more through this jungle like area.  It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip!

TOTE:  Sometimes unplanned things can be the best!