Once we arrived in Phuket we soon realised we were in the tourist hot spot. We stayed near Patong Beach and it was a far cry from the beautiful Phi Phi. The weather wasn’t great when we arrived (cons of rainy season but pro is that touristy places aren’t busy) so treated ourself to the cinema. If you get a chance in Asia you should see a movie; the theatres are amazing, and so cheap! England needs to take some advice! After a lovely evening watching Toy Story 4 (yeah I cried) we headed to the famous Bangla Road. After being on the Koh San Road I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. This place is on another level. You can’t walk two feet without people trying to get you into their club or offering you sex shows non stop! We hid in an Australian bar away from the hustle and bustle before escaping back to our apartment. The next day we headed for the beach before trying to face the Bangla Road again that night. We managed to survive a bit longer on it this night but I won’t be going back any time soon!
If you find yourself in Phuket definitely try and explore the outskirts as they are much more appealing than the city!
We then grabbed a flight to Chiang Mai as travelling the whole way up Thailand via bus did not seem appealing. We stayed in a super nice hostel called August Hostel which had private bunks with your own curtain and light which was much appreciated in an 8 bed dorm. We actually enjoyed it and our stay in Chiang Mai so much that we stayed another night.
If you can, stay in the old town of Chiang Mai; it’s super sweet with markets most nights of the week with such good food for a few pound! The following day we headed towards Huay waterfalls. Make sure you continue hiking higher to see more of the waterfalls. We stumbled upon a swimming hole where a bunch of young monks were jumping and swimming in the lakes and of course Jamie joined in. After getting caught in the downpour again we headed to the cat cafe where you can grab a drink and hang out with the adorable kitty’s otherwise known as ‘Catstronauts.’ Not a bad end to the day!
To end our trip in Thailand we decided to see some elephants. South East Asia historically has a really bad reputation for cruelty towards wild animals, such as elephant riding and sedated tigers for tourists selfies. I was 100% sure I wanted to see some elephants but wanted to make sure that my money wasn’t being put towards this tourism trap. After hours of researching we heard that Elephant Nature Park was really the only ‘ethical’ sanctuary, that also had a sister sanctuary called Elephant Refuge Park. We decided on this one as the group would only have 6 people in it and we would see the elephants out of enclosures.
We met four elephants here, two older females and two younger ones. These elephants are owned by a family who, up until 5 years ago were using the elephants for dark tourism, taking them to the city’s, allowing them to be ridden and mistreated for bad behaviour.
Thankfully Elephant Nature Park stepped in and educated the family on proper care for the elephants and opened up their land for their business so that they could still earn money. The elephants have a great amount of space to wander and eat as much bamboo as they can while (from what I saw) being treated with compassion. We walked with the elephants as they took a mud bath and explored their territory all while learning a lot about the history of Thailand and its animal trade. It was an extraordinary day, these creatures are huge and magnificent, and should be protected at all costs. These elephants will never be able to live in the wild because of their history, and we don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but as long as they are not used for damaging and intolerable circumstances these elephants will lead better lives than they had before.
If you ever visit countries where they offer experiences with animals that they wouldn’t do naturally think twice about it. Do your research, never ride animals or stroke tigers, they’ve had a severe dark life in captivity for your entertainment. Even if you visit a zoo, make sure the facilities are right for the animals, make sure they’re making conscious efforts for conservations and don’t be afraid to call them out or ask questions; I asked the poor volunteer about 5000!
After what had been the best month in Thailand, our visa was running out and it was time to explore a new country. Although we would have loved more time here we will definitely be back! Our next destination was Laos and to get across the border we had a wild ride ahead of us.
Our journey began with a 4 hour mini bus which then changed to another bus and then finally arrived at the border, which was, thankfully an easy crossing before our night bus journey began.