The Land of Smiles

If there’s one thing I have learned from living in China for a year now, is to escape the country during any national holidays! To make sure I didn’t get caught up again into the China’s Great Migration, I planned a trip to beautiful sunny Thailand. Yes, it is one of the most touristic countries in Southeast Asia, but hey, within a 3h flight I can eat 1$ Pad Thai, watching the sunset on a beach, after a full day of scuba diving! I didn’t have to think twice before booking my plane ticket!

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I only had one week of holiday so I had to plan accordingly. I picked three destinations: Bangkok for the sightseeing, Koh Tao for the scuba diving and Koh Phangan for the legendary full moon party; which unfortunately got cancelled because of the King’s funeral that was held at the end of the month. As you probably know, the King died last October; a man who was greatly respected by his people. Thus, this October was a mourning month and the government was banning all sorts of festivities and outdoor entertainment, which made wacky Thailand a little quieter than usual. Regardless, I still had a very enjoyable trip. The weather was great, the sceneries stunning and I had wonderful encounters as I always do (the joys of traveling alone!). The Land Of Smiles lives up to its name.

So here’s a few of my highlights (and must-do if you come to Thailand):

Temple hopping in Bangkok: There are over 400 wats (temples) scattered around Bangkok. My favorite one was the Wat Pho. I went at the end of the day when the crowds were gone so I could fully enjoy the serenity of this complex. I walked around, admiring the hundreds of stupas and even took the time to meditate with some Buddhist monks in one of the temples. However, the highlight of the Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha: a 46m long and 15m high statue illustrating the passing of the Buddha into nirvana (his death), very impressive!

-The never-ending nightlife on Khoa San Road: The “centre of the backpacking universe” as it is described in the book ’The Beach’. Khao San Road is a 1 km strip that comes alive at night. In one night, you can easily get a tattoo, a cheap foot massage, eat a scorpion, down a few buckets and finish off the night dancing on a table in a bar. (I did 4 out of 5)

-Doing my advanced scuba diving course in the wonderful underworld world of Koh Tao! This was the main reason why I came to Thailand; after 7 years of scuba diving, I finally got my advanced certification! Koh Tao is one of the world’s most popular diving destinations (and also one of the cheapest place to get certified!). There are over 50 scuba diving companies on this tiny island! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the famous whale sharks (many other divers saw them during that week) but it was still some of the best diving I did! The marine life and the visibility were stunning!

-Beach hopping Koh Tao by scooter with my friend Jess! Apart from scuba diving, this small island offers incredible beaches where you can easily spend the day working on your tan while hitting a book and drinking a cold Chang. And of course, riding a scooter is a must when visiting Thailand!

-The « light version » of the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan: Even though it was cancelled, because of the high number of tourists on the island there was still a party (but no music!) on the infamous Hat Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach). The Full Moon Party is a monthly party (yes, held on the night of the full moon) where thousands of tourists from around the world come to dance on the beach from dusk to dawn. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to experience the real one!

-And of course, the amazing Thai food! Pad Thai, Green and Red Curry, Spicy Shrimp Soup, Green Papaya Salad, Fried Rice, the ‘Best’ Pancakes on Koh Tao, Coconut Ice Cream, Mango Smoothie, you name it, I had it and it was delicious! 🙂

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