It seems like eons ago that I first told you about our plans to honeymoon in Thailand. When it became obvious that we couldn’t make Thailand happen right after our wedding, we took a shorter holiday to Tulum, Mexico (we already had the days off and it was nice to escape from the NYC winter). But we had labeled Thailand as “our honeymoon destination” years ago (we decided on Thailand long before we decided on a wedding date) and being able to finally take this long-awaited trip of a lifetime in mid-March was awesome.
Our 12 night tour of “the land of smiles” started in Koh Samui, a beach town in the southern part of the country. After a 26 hour journey across the world (Mr. S survived the airplane rides with lots of movies and midnight servings of instant noodles), we checked into Buri Rasa Village where we spent the next four days and four nights watching the sunrise, eating, lazing on the beach, eating, wandering the markets, eating, getting massaged, and eating.
Entering Buri Rasa Village
Our patio area and plunge pool
Early morning in Koh Samui
What did we eat? Well, for one, all the fruit. We binged ourselves on familiar varieties like mangos and pineapple that were smaller, sweeter, and juicier than their American cousins. And gorged ourselves on the fruits that we never get to indulge in in the States: mangosteen (my personal favorite), dragon fruit, jack fruit, marian plum, dragon eye fruit, etc. The only fruit we couldn’t stomach was the infamous durian. We tried it. It wasn’t for us.
Dragon fruit at the market
Gigantic jack fruit
Dragon eye fruit (can you tell how it got its name?)
Breakfast was provided by the hotel and included a mix of Thai and western offerings. It turns out there is no conventional Thai breakfast food—Thais eat the same food all day long: noodles, soups, curry, etc.
Breakfast is served!
As for lunch and dinner, we found some cheap and delicious eats right across our hotel at Ninja Crepe or at the night market. A lunch of noodles or chicken curry over rice set us back about $3 and a dinner of freshly grilled fish was about $8.
Pad see ew—wide rice noodles stir fried with chicken, egg, and leafy greens
But the highlight of every meal was always dessert and we soon became connoisseurs of the traditional Thai dessert: mango with sweetened sticky rice.
Mango with sticky rice in a crepe!
When we found ourselves tired of the beach (and later in Chiang Mai and Bangkok when we were looking out to close out a particularly active day), we sought out what seemed to be the Thai national pastime: massages. We found massage parlors on almost every corner and with prices ranging from $8 to $20 for an hour’s massage (depending on the type), we spoiled ourselves at every chance. I think I was massaged, on average, every other day while we were in Thailand. Thai massage, foot massage, head and shoulder massage, full body without oil, full body with oil—we had it all.
After four days at the beach, we bid farewell to Koh Samui and boarded a one hour flight to Chiang Mai. If Koh Samui was the part of our trip where we did basically nothing, Chiang Mai was the part of our trip where we did basically everything.
We stayed at U Chiang Mai, a hotel in the old city (within the walls), and walking distance to many of the landmark temples. Tourist tip: make sure to wear appropriate clothing when visiting Thailand’s temples (i.e., no shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless shirts) as there is often a strict dress code. Wat Chedi Luang was my favorite temple in the old city, decorated with a myriad of colorful paper streamers that I might have to replicate in my daily life.
Inside Wat Chedi Luang
We also spent a day driving up to Doi Suthep, a bigger temple complex which sits on top of a mountain. Unfortunately we didn’t get the best views of the city below since we were visiting during a time of year when neighboring farms were burning off their crops and all of Chiang Mai was enveloped in a hazy fog while we were there.
About to ascend the steps to Doi Suthep temple. We procured a selfie stick for our Thailand honeymoon. Best idea ever.
Inside Doi Suthep
But the real treat in Chiang Mai (and why Thailand got my vote for our honeymoon destination in the first place) was the Elephant Nature Park (ENP). We booked the Pamper a Pachyderm program which gives a small group of people the unique opportunity to spend the day with a herd of elephants, intimately observing them in their natural environment at their own pace (eating, bathing, rolling in the mud, etc). This particular tour is somewhat of a pilot program, hoping to set a trend of non-abusive practices in the elephant tourism industry. The mahouts (elephant trainers) used no hooks (the elephants responded to voice command), there were no shows or elephant rides, and yet our day spent hiking through the countryside with these majestic creatures was no less enthralling or memorable. The animals at ENP are all rescued from darker pasts (the stories of how most elephants end up in the tourism industry is not always so warm and fuzzy) and with Chunk at the forefront of our mind most days, Mr. S and I really appreciated ENP’s mission to give these animals a safe and loving home.
A cooling mud bath
Bathing in the river—the older elephants stood guard while the baby elephant rolled around in the water
Our final day in Chiang Mai was spent at the Thai Farm Cooking School where Mr. S and I learned how to make the dishes that we had so been enjoying during our trip thus far. On our way to the farm, our guide/teacher stopped at a local market, pointing out key ingredients to Thai cuisine.
An education in the different varietals of rice.
At the farm, we toured the various produce and herbs grown on the property (all used for cooking at the school, not for commercial purposes) and cooked a full three course meal, plus a serving of pad thai and spring rolls to take home to enjoy for dinner.
The school’s small farm
You might recall that my skills in the kitchen are virtually zero, but the cooking school was very approachable and easy to follow, and dare I say, my Thai dishes were far better than any Thai take out I’ve had in NYC. That last bit is probably due to the fresh and native ingredients we used, but just let me have my moment will you?
Coconut soup made by Mr. S
Tom yum soup made by me
Chicken with basil and green curry made by Mr. S
Yellow curry and chicken with cashew nuts made by me
For dessert, banana in coconut milk with pandan leaves made by me and mango with (a lot) of sticky rice made by Mr. S. Mr. S used iris flowers to give his rice that blue-ish lavender color.
Other notable sights in Chiang Mai included the “handicraft villages” showcasing a variety of trades—silk weaving (we saw the whole process from worm to thread), silver smithing, and umbrella painting to name a few.
Spinning silk thread from soaked cocoons. You can only see the edge of the bowl (bottom right) where the worms were disposed of when the cocoon ran out of silk.
Umbrella and fan painting
Up next, spending our last days in Thailand in the city’s capital: Bangkok.
(All photos are personal.)