Thailand and Cambodia Travel Diaries

I recently got back from a trip to Southeast Asia and could not be more excited to be sharing all about it with you. Throughout our two weeks there, we traveled through several cities in Thailand and even made our way over to Cambodia. It really was one of the most magical trips I have ever taken, filled with experiences unlike any others (looking at you, the full day we spent surrounded by elephants!). It was also the biggest trip my boyfriend and I have ever taken together, so we did tons and tons of research in an effort to prepare for the trip. Seriously, I must have searched “what to do in Thailand?” in Google about a thousand times–maybe even more like two thousand–so I hope that this breakdown will not only convince you to travel there, but also make your planning much easier than mine was.

We kicked off the trip in Chiang Mai, which is in the North of Thailand, and I think that was smart planning on our end. While it is a pretty big city, it feels very manageable and is easy to navigate–both of which were huge reliefs to two jet-lagged travelers. We spent three full days in Chiang Mai, and while we would have been happy to stay even longer, we left feeling like we had covered a lot of ground and truly experienced the city’s magic.

Where we stayed: Shewe Wana Resort. We absolutely loved this boutique hotel–it was so quaint and the staff were all so sweet and helpful. They had a delicious buffet breakfast every morning and a shuttle service that ran every hour to take you into the Old City. If you can’t tell, I’d highly recommend staying here should you find yourself in Chiang Mai.

What we did: As I mentioned, we had a total of three days in Chiang Mai so we did our best to make each day count. We knew we’d be exhausted on the first day, so we let ourselves sleep in and be lazy in the morning. That afternoon, we took our hotel’s shuttle into the Old City and visited several temples, including Wat Chiang Man (my absolute favorite), Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Chedi Luang. After that, we got some massages, ate dinner, and called it a day thanks to our trusty sleeping pills.

During our second day in Chiang Mai, we headed to Patara Elephant Farm. This may very well have been my favorite day of the trip–despite the fact that I was still a zombie–and definitely one that I will never forget. We took care of elephants all day long–feeding them, bathing them, swimming with them, etc. It was honestly magical!

After another spa session at our hotel, we headed to the Night Bazaar for some fish pedicures and shopping. Naturally, I scooped up some elephant pants because, well, when in Rome.

On our last day in Chiang Mai, we booked a private tour of the Chang Village and Wat Doi Suthep temple. The village tour was one of our favorite experiences (beware, I’m probably going to say that for just about everything in this blog post), and I loved walking through the area and learning all about its history. We bought a beautiful textile from a Thai woman right as she was making it, which was certainly a highlight for me.

Back when we landed in Chiang Mai initially, our taxi driver told us that a trip to Chiang Mai without a visit to Wat Doi Suthep is an incomplete one, and I think he was right. Being on top of the mountain overlooking the city was incredible in and of itself, let alone being able to explore the stunning temple that sat on top of it.

We wrapped up our tour in the early afternoon and headed straight to Nimmanhaemin Road. When I say I fell in love, I am not exaggerating. Nimmanhaemin Road has lots of side streets with cute cafés, juiceries, shops, and the like–aka it’s right up my alley. We had so much fun walking up and down the alleys and popping into every storefront that caught our eye.

We wrapped up our time in Chiang Mai with a walk through the Old Town and a tasty, tipsy dinner.

Where we ate: My favorite food spots in Chiang Mai were Ginger & Kafe for dinner, Rustic & Blue and Terracotta Arts Garden for lunch, and Baristotel for a coffee break.

Next up, Siem Reap, Cambodia! Even though we were only in Siem Reap for a little over a day–seriously, I think we were there for exactly 26 hours–we had such a wonderful time and didn’t regret the fairly extensive travel for one second.

Where we stayed: Golden Butterfly Villa. Free massage? Free bike rental? Delicious breakfast and drinks? Check, check, check. This place was a gem, tucked away from the crowded and busy streets and filled with the nicest staff there ever was.

What we did: During our brief time in Siem Reap, we did what all tourists do: headed straight for Angkor Wat. We woke up at 4:00 AM the day after we landed and made our way to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. While we were definitely tired, it was a magical string of moments that were well-worth the dark circles and need for caffeine. We spent the day temple touring–from Angkor Wat to Bayou to Angkor Thom–and were so happy to have a private tour guide leading the way the whole time. We booked the tour through Asean Angkor and were seriously obsessed with our guide, Mr. Ho. If you book through them, ask for him!

With just a couple hours before our flight, we walked through Pub Street and checked out all of the vendors, restaurants, and bars in the area. We did some shopping and bought the most beautiful hand-woven tray, ate some pizza, and bid farewell to Cambodia.

Where to eat: Sister Srey Café is an absolute must. We had the most delicious smoothies and acai bowls ever. We also loved the vibe at Miss Wong Cocktail Bar.

One word to describe Bangkok? Hot. Extra extra hot. Ok, that’s three words. Of course, it’s also beautiful and bustling and totally worth the visit.

Where we stayed: 3 Howww HostelI do my best to avoid hostels as much as possible when traveling but since hotels are pretty expensive in Bangkok, we had to compromise somewhere. We opted for a private room in this hostel and while it was perfectly nice, I wish we would have done a bit more research to find a proper hotel in our budget. You live and you learn!

What we did: Just like Chiang Mai and Siem Reap, we only had a couple days in Bangkok so we did our best to pack as much as we could into every hour. It just so happened that we were in Bangkok during a weekend, so we were able to hit up the Chatuchak Market, which was like the flea market of my dreams. It was absolutely massive (imagine a maze filled with thousands of vendors and people everywhere you turned) and was where I did most of my shopping during the trip. My favorite thing that I bought was actually from one of the first stalls I visited: the most beautiful hand-woven purse that you can see below. Ahh, I actually can’t stop swooning over it.

We were at the Chatuchak Market for almost 4 hours I think, and after all of that walking and hustling, all we wanted to do was sit down and enjoy Bangkok’s beautiful scenery. Though it may seem super touristy to some, we hopped in a longtail boat for a klong (canal) tour and had so much fun. It was really eye-opening to see the stilt homes that exist along the Chao Phraya river, especially juxtaposed with the vast skyscrapers that exist just beyond them.

We capped off the night with sunset drinks at Sky Bar (talk about touristy, but so amazing) and then a celebratory anniversary dinner.

Our second and final day in Bangkok was largely spent at the Grand Palace, which was truly stunning. By that time, we had seen our fair share of temples but the ones at the Grand Palace still managed to take our breath away. It was also on this day that I sported my glorious aforementioned elephant pants because you have to cover your shoulders and knees in most temples (it’s good to keep that in mind as you’re packing because I saw so many people get turned away due to improper attire).

For the remainder of our last day, we visited the flower market and then took the ferry to Rambuttri Road. Of course, we did some more shopping shopping, ate some pad thai, and then took an Uber back to our hotel. Side note: Ubering in Bangkok was crucial and super cheap. Like $5 to go across the whole city cheap.

Where we ate: Our meals in Bangkok were on point if I do say so myself. We had two delicious breakfasts at Chu Chocolate Bar & Café and Kuppa, the yummiest ice cream at Farm to Table, and the tastiest dinners at Elements and Madame and Monsieur.

After a week of nonstop running from place to place, arriving in Koh Lanta felt like landing in heaven. We must have spent a total of a million hours researching all of the different islands in Thailand, and narrowing it down to one was incredibly difficult (they’re all so beautiful!). Ultimately, we chose Koh Lanta because it seemed to the perfect quiet oasis–just far enough from an airport to deter the crowds–and it proved to be exactly that.

Where we stayed: Pimalai Resort and Spa. Another big reason why we ended up going with Koh Lanta was because we stumbled upon this paradise of a hotel. With two infinity pools, a white sandy beach, and all of the amenities you could hope for, this place was nothing short of perfection. I’ll be sharing an entire post tomorrow all about the Pimalai, so stay tuned (and be prepared for a serious case of wanderlust).

We went into full-blown vacation mode as soon as we arrived in Koh Lanta–mai thais by the pool and sunset walks along the beach were the only items on our to-do list. A typical day during our week on the island looked a little something like this: wake up, eat a delicious breakfast overlooking the sea, head down to the beach for some sunbathing and reading, swimming in either the sea or the pool, and then happy hour followed by a casual dinner. We also made sure to squeeze in several spa sessions and a cooking class, which were oh-so-fun.

Like I mentioned before, Thailand has a plethora of stunning islands so we wanted to try to see a couple more while we were out there. At the top of our list was Koh Phi Phi, one of the most visited islands in Thailand due to its central location (and the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio filmed there doesn’t hurt either). It very well may be the most stunning place I’ve visited in my entire life and I savored every second of our day trip there. From visiting Maya Bay and Monkey Beach to snorkeling in a stunning lagoon, we had the most wonderful day. Major shout out to the excellent boat company that transported us.

In addition to Koh Phi Phi, we ventured to Koh Rok for a day of snorkeling adventures. We took so many photos on our underwater camera, which I can’t wait to share with you all in an upcoming These Days post.

Where we ate: We pretty much set up shop at the Pimalai and ate their for most meals during our time in Koh Lanta. When we ventured into town one day though, we had smoothies and lunch at Pad Thai Rock ‘n Roll and dinner at Drunken Sailors. Both were delicious!

Have you ever been to Thailand or Cambodia? Share your favorite memories from your trip in the comments!

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