If you haven’t read Part 1, about how we planned our Europe portion of the trip, read here.
Thailand has been at the top of my bucket list for over 10 years since I took a college Geology course on Natural Disasters. It was the spring 2005 semester and the TA had spent the previous Christmas in Thailand. She was in Phuket the day of the major tsunami that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage. She had documented the day – even pre-tsunami disaster – via picture,s and shared her experience running for her life with our class one morning. Like many others, I don’t always remember too much from college, but I definitely remember her story.
Typically learning about a country based on a devastating natural disaster would deter one’s interest from visiting the destination. But those pictures, and all of the pictures and stories I’d be exposed to over the next 10 years, made me fall in love with the beaches, the food, the culture, and the people. I knew I had to visit Thailand someday.
In the Trip That Started It All, I mentioned the flight options took us from New York to Milan, and from Prague to one of four Asian cities (via 24-hr stopover in Paris). Those four Asian cities were Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, and Bangkok. Bangkok! Even better than getting to go to Europe after 2 previously failed planning attempts, I’d also have a chance to get to Thailand! Choosing which city was easy. It was choosing how to spend our time in Thailand that was impossible.
Our work and personal lives ended up dictating how long we had to spend in Thailand – which was unfortunately less than a week. We briefly discussed ditching the flight to Thailand in favor of staying in Europe a full extra week, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to not only finally make it to Thailand, but to also complete an RTW trip (round-the-world). So, we accepted the short window and laid out our options.
In a dream world, I would’ve had our 30 days in Europe, and at least 2 weeks devoted to Thailand. I would spend a night or two in Bangkok, head to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant sanctuary, and then fly down to Phuket and Krabi for some beach time. But, given our reality, we had to make some tough decisions. We were already spending so much of the trip traveling – why add in even more traveling at the tail end of the trip, despite how badly we wanted to see ALL of the Land of a Thousand Smiles?
In the end we compromised - we would spend 1 night in Bangkok so the Mister could experience all of the amazing street food the top 10 city in the world has to offer -- and I could hit Sky Bar at Lebua a la Hangover 2 (Hello #bucketlist item) -- and we'd spend the rest of the time parked up at a beach with drink(s) in hand. And we ALL agreed that another trip to Thailand was imminent so we could see the elephants in Chiang Mai.
Thanks to TripAdvisor, we narrowed down our beach options to 3 nights in Khao Lak, an hour or so north of Phuket airport, and the last night at Karon Beach in Phuket. After months of debating, bartering, and googling "best place to go in Thailand," we finally had our destinations set.