All good things must come to an abrupt, juddering halt, and for our time in Thailand this is that moment.
After nearly 4 years of living in Bangkok, we are heading back to Europe for new opportunities.
And what a time to leave! Entry restrictions are loosening in Thailand and beyond. Outdoor mask mandates are dropping, the streets are paved with newly-sort-of-legal marijuana products (remarkable how fast it grows), tourists, touts and traffic are flooding back. It feels like the city is coming back to life, for better and worse.
The taste of the old Bangkok in all its awful, magnificent glory is definitely in the air, so in many ways it’s a shame to leave now.
I’m proud to say that after 70+ posts, thousands of words and some naked keyword stuffing on this site – best trips in Thailand – readership has ballooned from almost no readers to relatively few readers.
Seriously though, thanks for reading – I write as a hobby, and seeing that people read these pages, and occasionally hearing from people about this or that article being useful or interesting, is very gratifying.
I realise at this point that I’ve gone pretty hard on the whole Thailand angle of this site. It’s going to look mighty strange when I start posting about the highlights of a weekend trip to Aachen or whatever, despite the ‘Bangkok and Beyond’ tagline. There’s a limit to ‘beyond’.
So, this site will keep going under a different guise once I’ve figured it all out. Suggestions for names and also how to keep my pitiful but hard-earned SEO on a postcard or in the comments please.
It’s the right time and the right reason to move, but we’re going to miss this often sublime, occasionally ridiculous country fiercely. Everything from the vibrant and varied scenery to the people, both local and international, who made us welcome from the first day to the last, the pleasure of discovering new things to eat.
So in what I will almost certainly recycle into a standalone listicle in around two weeks, I thought it was an ideal time to look back at some of the most enjoyable trips and places we’ve visited over recent years.
The links to the in-depth posts are in the titles.
The Best of Thailand
The Mae Salong Loop and northern road trips
Road trips in Thailand are an unexpected joy, especially in the mountainous north. Thailand tends to market itself with beaches and sunshine, but there is a lot of fun to be had exploring the cooler, greener north.
While the Mae Hong Son Loop is much better known and we had an absolute blast doing it by car – the driving scenery is unparalleled – for us the Mae Salong Loop offers an ideal balance of scenery and places.
Both loops can start with the added fun of the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and on the Mae Salong Loop you could easily spend a few days in Chiang Mai before setting off, and still finish in a week or so.
Taking in the natural beauty of Chiang Dao and its nights of endless stars, the unique hilltop enclave of Yunnanese descendants at Mae Salong and the fever dream temples of Chiang Rai, the Mae Salong Loop packs a huge amount of variety and interest into a short and scenic distance.
Picture perfect Koh Kood
Thailand has excellent islands. That’s well known and well documented. In Thailand there’s an island to suit every need, from the high end luxury of Samui to the so-laid-back-it’s-horizontal Koh Mook.
However, we all carry a picture of a tropical island in our heads, and the closest you’re likely to find in Thailand, perhaps anywhere, is on Koh Kood.
Think powdered sugar sand, crystal clear water, shoals of the brightest tropical fish lazing about in the shallows. Mass development has thus far stayed away from Koh Kood, and making the little extra effort to get there rewarded us with the best island trip of our time in Thailand.
Southern Charm in Songkhla
Songkhla was a surprise hit and somewhere we knew little about before visiting. Wedged between a lake and the ocean, the little city and particularly its gorgeous old town are unforgettable.
An intriguing blend of old and new, with well-preserved buildings housing cafes and galleries, right next to shophouses and stalls that have been around for decades.
Packed with street art harking back to the city’s past and with a particularly good viewpoint all within walking distance, Songkhla makes for a fantastic break.
Khao Sok and Cheow Lan Lake
In a list that’s leaning hard towards nature, it would be remiss not to include the beautiful Cheow Lan Lake and Khao Sok national park. Thai national parks are generally great, and I could easily include the safari at Khao Yai or the Phra Nakhon Cave temple at Khao Sam Roi Yot here too. That cave though, phwoar.
But it’s Khao Sok that lives most in the memory. At least a day trip on the lake is a must, you can stay overnight in floating resorts too, while the thick jungle of the national park with its wildlife, hiking and great accommodation more than make up for having your insect balm stolen by foul-smelling monkeys and nearly falling down a waterfall.
The Best of Beyond
For at least part of our stay, we were able to get out and about in the region, and here are a few highlights.
A wintry trip to Seoul
There are still parts of my body that don’t have feeling after our December trip to Seoul – tingling numb reminders of a beautiful, absolutely freezing city.
It’s not like Seoul is even that cold, but our time in Thailand quickly eroded both our ability to handle chilly weather and our stock of suitable winter clothes.
No matter though, as Seoul was a gem regardless of the temperature. Incredible palaces, a fascinating trip to the DMZ, hours happily lost wandering the warren of the old hanok neighbourhoods, and sensational food. What a city.
There’s something for everyone in the Laotian town of Luang Prabang tucked into a compact, relaxed and scenic package.
Luang Prabang was among our last trips before you know what in 2020 and I was sad we never got to go back to this pretty and welcoming destination.
Watching the sun set over the mountains, walking over a bamboo bridge for dinner, having a cold beer Lao while boats drift lazily down the Mekong.
The nearby Kuang Si waterfall was also very beautiful, though the path up and down is not for the faint-hearted! For a similar vibe in Thailand, we also really enjoyed Chiang Khan in Nan province.
Our final overseas hurrah, and our first trip in the region for a long, long time, was to the vibrant Malaysian island of Penang and its capital, George Town.
We ate ourselves silly on the endless and varied local cuisine, floating from high end Peranakan meals to in-with-your-hands nasi kandar from meal to meal. All of which was backdropped by a picturesque and walkable old town and one of the best hotel stays we’ve ever had. Ending on a high!
There may be a bit of a lull while we get settled, but I’ll look to start up again in the near future.
So it’s a fond farewell for now, thanks for reading and we’ll be back in some form soon!
Loved the Bangkok beat! Please keep the website & all the best for Berlin!
Hi Mark, I love your writing. It’s taken me to a world I’ll probably never see with my own eyes. Your balance of commentary on food, animals, scenery and the South East Asia urban landscape has been brilliant. Thank you for bringing it all so vividly to life.
I look forward to the next episodes from Berlin.
What’s the title going to be?
A real shame in many ways as I’ve loved your Thai-centric content and looked forward to each bulletin. It’s given me a list of targets for future trips but also informed me on what I’ve missed; I’ve been to Songkhla a few times and still learned plenty for the next venture. Thanks for what you’ve shared and I look forward to ‘Euro Spicy’ or whatever it becomes.
Thanks Scottie – very kind of you.