Travelling Thailand in 3 weeks

Hi everyone! Some of you might know, myself and a crew of my mates went travelling around Asia for five weeks. We started off in the Philippines for ten days and we went to Palawan Island where I was last year (link to read about Palawan: https://minimintnd.com/2017/09/17/palawan-the-philippines/ ) and we then met up with a couple more of our friends in Thailand which is where we spent the majority of our trip.

Below I’m just going to give a quick breakdown of where we went and for how many days and then I will go into more detail on what we did in each part of Thailand. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun and cultured holidays I was ever on. Everything from the food to the activities we did were just incredible and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. 

Our itinerary:

  • Phuket – 2 nights (flew from Manila straight to Phuket via Singapore)
  • Phi Phi Island – 3 nights (2 hour ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi)
  • Koh Lanta – 3 nights (2 hour ferry from Phi Phi to Koh Lanta) 
  • Koh Phangan -3 nights (drove across Thailand in a mini bus)
  • Chiang Mai -4 nights (flew from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai)
  • Bangkok- 2 nights (flew Chiang Mai to Bangkok)

 

Phuket

We landed in Phuket at around 8pm and met up with our friends who had already been there one night. There was 11 of us altogether so we booked a Villa on Air B&B which was ideal for a big group. The first night we landed we were so tired from travelling all day from the Philippines, we just threw on some clothes and headed out for the night. We headed towards the strip in Phuket located on Bangla Road just off of Patong Beach and let me tell you, it was an experience.. First of all it’s so packed with tourists and second of all I did not feel safe there. It was basically just pimps and strippers promoting sex shows and ping pong shows, it was kind of uncomfortable walking around so we went straight to a few bars for some buckets which is what we mostly drank while on holidays because they were such good value for money.

We went to the New Moon Party located on paradise beach, tuk-tuks are super cheap over there and they brought us directly there for a couple of euro. The following day there was such bad weather we split up between just chilling at the house and watching movies or going shopping down at the markets. We all met up that night then for dinner at the Hard Rock cafe. One of the great things about Thailand is when eating out with a group we didn’t have any issues with paying separately and the servers are all very accommodating. 

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New Moon Party on Paradise beach

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The white room nightclub, Phuket
The following morning we got a two hour ferry over to Phi Phi Island which we booked online at phuketferry.com the night before.

Phi Phi Island

When we landed in Phi Phi we could not get over how small it was. Everything is within walking distance so we got off the ferry and walked down the road to our resort which was called Phi Phi Charlie. We stayed here for three nights and had such a great time. The rooms are standard but very clean and the pool is located just in front of the beach. We ate in a cafe called Chorn Kham around the corner from the hotel two days in a row because it was so delicious. They do everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel had a superb buffet breakfast included with everything from fruit to freshly made omelettes to pancakes.

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Phi Phi Charlie Resort
We went out two nights there and we went to a couple of different bars such as one called Stockholm Syndrome, The Dubliner, Banana Bar and a few more down at the beach. The banana bar has a lovely rooftop bar and they show a film up there every night. They also do an unreal breakfast, Thai and Mexican menu. We did a day trip which is a must-do when on phi phi because you get to visit Monkey Island and Maya Beach. A morning hike to the phi phi lookout point is also a must do. (Pro tip: don’t attempt while hungover because it’s a pure workout lol)

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Monkey Beach
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Sunset over Maya Beach
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Phi Phi lookout point
I loved Phi Phi because it had a good mix of fun things to do, a great beach and pool to relax but also a fantastic nightlife. We then got a two hour ferry to Koh Lanta and organised the transportation to Koh Phangan while on the boat for  the 11 of us. 

Koh Lanta

When we arrived in Koh Lanta we quickly realised there were very few tourists around the place because it was off-season so we went straight to Lanta Resort where we stayed for three nights. We spent the days relaxing by the pool or the beach because we were pretty wrecked from the hectic going we had been doing all along so it was a nice break before we hit the madness of Koh Phangan. We went to the funky monkey bar for dinner one night and a couple of us stayed on because they whipped out a karaoke machine and we stayed on an extra few hours to sing and drink with a couple of fellow travellers.

The following day we hired a mini bus which took us all around the island. We hiked through the jungle to Khlong Chak waterfall which was actually pretty scary walking into a massive jungle without a guide surrounded by scorpions and pythons, definitely get a guide because if we got lost, we were pretty screwed lol. We then visited the Lanta Animal Welfare centre because it was the most highly recommended thing to do on trip adviser. You can volunteer to walk a few of their dogs and play with their cats for a small donation. We also went to a restaurant called the Salad House @ Lanta which was down the road from our hotel and got a lovely meal there. (it has a sign on the outside saying Happiness is in the food we serve)

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Khlong Chak waterfall
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Lanta Animal Welfare centre p.s this is scooby and he’s a very good boy
We then travelled across Mainland Thailand to Koh Phangan which is where we did most of our partying. 

Koh Phangan

We got a ferry across to Koh Phangan and once we arrived it was crazy, the whole place was filled with backpackers all ready to go to the Full Moon Party. We stayed at Baan Kew Chaw which is across from the Space Cats hostel. We then went to the Jungle Party which is literally smack bang in the middle of a jungle and one of the craziest parties I have ever been to. The following day we just chilled at the pool and went for dinner in SOHO Bar which had a gorgeous mexican menu, it’s located across from the Pantip market. It was one of the nicest meals we had on holiday so definitely check it out if you’re paying a visit to Koh Phangan.

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Getting decorated inside the Jungle party with some UV paint
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Our finished work at the Jungle Party
That night was the Full Moon Party and it was very intense. Make sure not to get too drunk because there are so many dangers there between the ocean, skipping ropes lit on fire and people spiking drinks you really do need to have your wits about you and make sure not to separate from your group because there are tens of thousands of people attending.

It was still one of the best nights of my life, we watched the sunrise on the beach and had a full dinner at 6am lol. We spent the following day eating and relaxing before packing up our stuff and making the journey to Chiang Mai.

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Girlband reunion in matching dresses and bum bags? Check
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Finishing off the Full Moon party with watching the sunrise and a full dinner.

Chiang Mai

Koh Phangan doesn’t have its own airport so we had to get a boat over to Koh Samui airport which is actually ranked as one of the most beautiful airports in the world! We flew from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai. We had organised to stay in an elephant sanctuary for two nights and they kindly organised transport to collect us from the airport and took us to the sanctuary which is about 2 hours outside Chiang Mai. The Chai Lai Orchid was definitely the highlight of my trip. We spent three days and two nights staying the jungle playing with elephants and going on jungle treks and bamboo rafting. 

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Our first day arriving at Chai Lai Orchid  (I was clearly super excited)
IMG_5182[1]Check out https://www.chailaiorchid.com/ for more info on their mission and how to book your own tour. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough.

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Our second day we did a jungle trek and we were able to wash the baby elephants in the river
We then drove back into Chiang Mai city and stayed in an Air B&B for two nights which was so stunning. We spent those days doing our shopping in the markets which are so so good and cheap if you’re looking for fake designer bits and pieces. While we were in the city we came across a booking company promoting a cooking class so we said we would try it and it was so much fun! We cooked a five course dinner and had the best laugh while doing it and it only cost about 700 baht each. 

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Pra nang cookery school evening class.

Check out http://www.pranangcookeryschool.com/ for more info on Thai recipes and making a reservation. 

We also hired a tuk tuk for 140 baht each to take us around to a couple of the gorgeous temples located around Chiang Mai city.  Chiang Mai is deffo one of the most cultured cities I have ever been to and hands down one of the most beautiful. Check below to see for yourself. 

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Bangkok

We then flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to finish off our trip. In Bangkok we stayed two nights in Cloud on Saladaeng Hostel which was fab. It was one of the nicer hostels I’ve stayed in, it was very clean and the staff were so helpful. We went to the famous Kohsann road for a few drinks and dinner in the Macaroni Club. We then went to a late bar place called The One and it was all on a massive set of stairs, it kind of resembled a church and I genuinely did not want to leave the music was so good lol. 

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Cloud on Saladaeng Road Hostel (chinese oriental design inspired)
The following day it was torrential rain so we decided to go to the massive BMK shopping centre which is SEVEN stories high with a range of shops and market stalls. There was even a cinema inside there which we went to and it was deffo a completely different experience to going to an irish cinema. Firstly, you order your snacks and drinks and then they drop them into you in the screen so we felt like VIPs. Secondly, once you get inside you receive a glass of juice and a fleece blanket to get all cosied up and you have to stand for the National anthem before the movie plays.

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We didn’t do too much touristy things in Bangkok because we were pretty wrecked by this stage and we still had another week in Dubai to go so we wanted to save our money for that. Overall, I loved Thailand a lot more than I expected to. Chiang Mai became one of my favourite places I’ve ever travelled to because of the mix of culture there is so diverse, and the elephants were the highlight of my entire trip.

If you’re thinking of travelling to Thailand, I hope you found this little itinerary some bit helpful and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send on a message to me via Facebook or Instagram and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Mini Mint x

 

Vietnam: Halong Bay & Hanoi

About Vietnam

Vietnam is a southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its bustling cities, picturesque beaches and vivid history. Hanoi is the capital city and at its heart is the old quarter where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade amongst the french colonial architecture. Halong bay in northeast Vietnam is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rain forests. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994.

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Getting there

You can fly from Dublin to Hanoi however we flew from Manila which was only a 3 hour flight. When we got to Hanoi we had organised a car to drive us straight to Halong Bay. We arrived at 5 am and absolutely fell into the bed in our hotel. We stayed in Halong Bay for 3 nights and got the same car back to Hanoi where we stayed for 3 nights before flying home.

 

Accommodation

Halong Bay is absolutely filled to the brim with hotels however there’s not much else there in the the city itself. Looking back, I would recommend anyone to just go down to do the boat tour and then leave again. We stayed in the Halong Palace Hotel and it was fab but the restaurants were expensive inside the hotel and there is not much around in Halong itself. We stayed a night on the Castaway boat tour which was great craic. Then in Hanoi we stayed in the Splendid Boutique Hotel in the old quarter it was very small but clean and in the perfect location.

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Halong Palace Hotel

What we did

  • The Halong Bay Castaway tour. We did the two day one night trip and to be honest it was enough. It includes kayaking and free alcohol so what’s not to love?
  • Visit Hoàn Kiêm Lake and Ngoc Son in Hanoi.
  • Explore the Old Quater.
  • Visit the Dong Xuan Market.
  • Hoan Kiem Bia Hoi. This is the street bar scene in the old quater where you can sit and drink some of the cheapest beer in the world. A bottle will cost about 15 cent.
  • See the Long Bien bridge over the red river.

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Hoan Kiem Lake
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The red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake

Food

Halong Bay:       Halong Palace Hotel
1958 restaurant
Café Nam Phong
Hon Gai restaurant
Hanoi:                 Hanoi Taco Bar
Marvellous hotel
Splendid boutique hotel
Giang Cafe (try the Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
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Egg Coffee
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Honestly, I wish we had more time in Vietnam to explore the rest of the country such as Sapa and Nha Trang but I guess that just means we will have to go back lol. It is such a beautiful country filled with an immense amount of culture and history so if you plan of travelling through Asia put Vietnam on your list!

Mini Mint x

 

Palawan: The Philippines

About Palawan
Palawan is one of the largest islands in the Philippines however over half is completely undeveloped. It has been voted the world’s most beautiful island in 2013 and 2015 and they weren’t exaggerating. It is without a doubt the most beautiful and breathtaking place I have ever been and would 110% recommend putting it on your bucket list.
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Getting there
From Ireland it is a big journey. We had already been in Boracay (another island in the Philippines) so we flew on a little 20 seater plane from Boracay to El Nido direct which took an hour. We flew with Air Swift which is a tiny airline that only flies to El Nido. AirSWIFT has daily flights from El Nido to Manila, Boracay and Cebu. El nido is a group of islands located in the north of Palawan and we stayed there for a week.
Accomodation
We stayed in a hostel called “Spin Designer Hostel” which I definitely will not be recommending to anyone. We were given a towel each on arrival which was so damp and moist you couldn’t dry your hands on it but that would not have been too bad except when we got to our room it was destroyed in ants. We said we would give it a chance and stayed there that night but oh my god when we woke up we were covered head to toe in bites. Our bed sheets were nearly black there was so many ants and we couldn’t stop scratching ourselves. Nightmare. We were gone for the day on the ATV tour and when we came home and showered we were so depressed about having to stay another night we just packed our bags and left. We arrived at the Sea Cocoon Hotel down the road and managed to get two rooms super cheap and it made such a difference to our trip because when we came home at least now we had air conditioning!!
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Hidden Lagoon and Secret Beach
What we did
  • The ATV day tour was one of the best days of my life. We went quad biking all over the island including Nacpan beach and Duli beach which have the clearest waters and whitest sands on earth.
  • We booked our island hopping tour on the website elnidoparadise.com and we did the Tour A & C combo. It includes 10 destinations including the secret lagoon and secret beach where you have to literally swim through a cave to get to the beach. There is genuinely no words to describe that day other than pure MAGIC.
  • Las Cabanas beach for a day of relaxation
  • Go out: the 3 main spots are Sava, Coco Bar and Pukka club. Great tunes and such a good way to make friends because they are the only places you can properly go dancing.

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ATV Tour with our guides

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Duli Beach
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Las Cabanas Beach
Food
We had the best meals in El Nido over the course of our travels. I’ll leave a list of the places we ate in here :
Sava: fab dinner
Lucky Alofe: vegetarian burrito and the burgers are lovely
Gustos: ice cream / crepes
Altrove pizzeria: we went here twice it was so delicious
V and V: a nice breakfast spot
Art Cafe: fab for lunch or dinner
Side note: we got food included on our day trips and it was amazing,creative and so tasty. Have a look down below!
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To sum it up El Nido is the most beautiful destinations I have ever been to and I think it has ruined any other trip I go on because nothing will compare to it. Definitely make it your mission to visit the Philippines before you die. We all said we would go back on our honeymoons because it just has the best mix of relaxation and adventure.
Mini Mint x

Boracay: The Philippines

About Boracay
Boracay is a small island located in the Philippines. Boracay was awarded as the 2012 best island in the world from the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure. In 2014, the resort island was at the top of the Best Islands in the World list published by the international magazine Condé Nast Traveler. It now has an excess of over 350 beach resorts ranging from 5 star to budget accommodation. We went in August which is their rainy season but were blessed enough that we didn’t get any rain and had 30 degree heat everyday and sunshine.
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Getting there
From Ireland it was a bit of a trek, I won’t lie. We flew to Dubai with Emirates first and spent a day at the Oceana beach club on The Palm Jumeirah which was a great way to kick start our tans. We then flew to Manila (with Philippine Airlines) which is the capital of the Philippines and had to stay there for a night until our flight the next day. Manila is super overcrowded and dangerous so I would definitely say to try to go straight to the islands if you can and if not, stay in a hotel near the airport for the night. Manila is the most densely populated city in the world FYI so good luck trying to sleep there.
We flew from Manila to boracay caticlan airport with Cebu Pacific. However to get to the actual boracay island you have to get a speed boat but we were lucky enough our hotel arranged the private transfer for us at an additional cost.
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Accommodation
We stayed in Fairways and Bluewater Newcoast resort which is located north of the island. It’s a massive resort with loads of restaurants and facilities including an 18 hole golf course, 5 infinity pools, private beaches, zip lining, horseback riding etc. The staff were so polite and helpful and our rooms were so luxurious especially because they weren’t even that expensive. The hotel provides a shuttle bus down to the town every couple of minutes which is handy as well.
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What we did
  • The pools and beaches in the resort are to die for, the water is so clear and there’s not a bit of pollution. The pictures speak for themselves.
  • Zip lining and horseback riding provided by the hotel.
  • Day trip to Ariels point which is unreal, they provide kayaks and snorkelling gear and there’s a selection of diving boards. Probably our best day in Boracay.
  • The Boracay pub crawl. This was SO MUCH FUN! You’re forced to make friends with everyone and you all get drunk together in yellow t-shirts and end up in Galaxy Nightclub at the end.

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Food
We ate in the hotel a good bit in their restaurants but in hindsight it was very expensive compared to places down at D’Mall which is like the beachfront and a hive of activity. Down there we ate at the Red Coconut and Epic. Both meals were lovely and looking back we should have gone down to the town more often for dinner.
Overall we loved Boracay and it was a great spot to start our holiday. There’s a really good balance of nightlife and relaxation there and it’s probably one of the most touristy islands in the Philippines so we made a couple of friends along the way! I cannot recommend this country enough so definitely put it on your bucket list.
Mini Mint x

Packing for a summer holiday

I can’t sing. I’m shocking at sport. One thing I actually can do though, is pack for a holiday with expert precision. While most people dread packing, once you know how to do it correctly it’s a breeze. I’ve written about some tips that I live by so worrying about over or under packing will be a thing of the past
Note: this is for anyone travelling to a warm climate, if you’re going skiing I’d suggest to bring jumpers and wooly socks.
Rule 1 – Clothes
  • You won’t wear jeans. So stop debating weather to bring black, denim or white because you won’t wear them. Wear one pair while travelling and they will do you.
  • Shorts and skirts that are cotton and can be rolled up small are what you want. They’re lightweight and you won’t sweat your eyes out. They’re what your going to live in if you’re doing any tours, excursions or shopping.
  • Two nice summer dresses for going out for dinner.
  • Shoes: bring a pair of runners for walking, hikes, tours etc. A nice pair of sandals for going out, a plain brown/nude pair of sandals/flip flops that you can pair with any outfit for everyday. There is absolutely no need for heels cause the roads are uneven af and you’re on holiday mate no one knows you, may as well wear flats and have a savage night out.
  • String tops are your life on holiday I usually bring a couple in different colours and they can be worn every day cause it’s going to be super hot and also for nights out with funky shorts/skirts.
  • Bring a jacket just in case it’s breezy at night time. I have an oversized denim jacket that can go over any outfit dressy or casual.
  • A playsuit or two for some nights out because they’re comfy and lightweight.
Rule 2 – Toiletries
  • Why are you even debating which foundations to bring? They’re so cumbersome to carry and you’re not going to be wearing it during the day. My advice is to bring one light foundation (with an spf) and a powder so you don’t sweat it off. Realistically it’s going to be too warm to wear much makeup so stick to your basics i.e no need for the 30 different eye shadow pallets.
  • Sun cream and AFTERSUN!! Just because you “don’t burn” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring them. We are one of the worst countries for skin cancer so use your brain and wear spf, even when you’re flying because believe it or not UV rays come in through your air plane windows so keep your blind down as well.
  • Moisturiser and eye cream are essential because you’re going to be sweating and more than likely drinking alcohol so you really need to hydrate your skin properly.
  • A roll on deodorant
  • Mini toothpaste
  • Toothbrush

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Rule 3 – Travel accessories 
  • Download some good songs/books that you will be able to play when your phone is going to be on air plane mode.
  • An empty water bottle. Empty so you can bring it through security and then just fill it up at a water fountain. This will save you spending a tenner on a bottle of Evian.
  • A baggy cardigan/scarf. This will save you from the chill of the air plane air conditioning as well as doubling up as a pillow for a quick nap.
  • Sunglasses and a good hat
  • Headphones
  • Mini speaker
  • A backpack or bumbag for day trips
Rule 4 – Lists
I live for making lists on my phone, especially when planning a trip. One tip I would recommend is make a checklist for all the essentials you need before you leave the house:
-phone and charger
-passport
-tickets & booking confirmation for hotel
-keys
-credit card and money
-drivers licence
-toothbrush
I hope this helped at least one of you. The most important thing to remember when packing is less is more. Most likely you will be doing shopping over there, so there is no need to have a whole new outfit for every day of the week. Trust me.
Mini Mint x