A few weeks ago, travel agency TUI offered me to go on a short trip to Thailand. Since i’ve never been to any country in South-East Asia before, it was an offer i obviously couldn't refuse. A few days later, i was sitting comfortably on a plane, destination: Thailand, the land of smiles.
After a pretty long and exhausting flight (i just couldn't get any sleep) my travel buddy Derek and I arrived at our destination, Phuket airport. From here, we would take a taxi to our hotel which was in Khao Lak, about an hour drive up north. I’m usually the kind of guy to be traveling with a tent, or sleeping in a cheap AirBnb, so arriving at Robinson Club (= our hotel) was kind of an exciting experience. After passing a big and secured gate, we drove next to various sports courts up to a big fountain in front of the hotel lobby, where we received a very warm welcome. A golf cart (i’m not kidding) took us and our luggage straight to our rooms. Well, rooms wouldn't be the correct word. My ‘room’ felt more like a small villa, it even came with my own private swimming pool. Can’t get any better than that i guess.
Anyway Khao Lak would be our homebase for the next couple of days and from there, the plan was to explore the surroundings and see what Thailand had to offer.
One of the first things that comes to mind when you think of visiting Thailand, is riding on the back of elephants. But sadly this is a cruel experience for the animals themselves, where they're even being tortured just so that they behave ‘correctly’ when there are tourists around. TUI, who organized my whole trip, is investing heavily in an organization which frees captured elephants out of this tourist trap, to let them spend the last days of their lives in a place where they can live peacefully. People can still visit them, feed them and even bathe with them here. Knowing that these majestic animals are being treated well, makes the whole experience of being close with them so much better. So if you ever visit Thailand for yourself, i definitely recommend you to go and see elephants, but only at a place where they're treated with respect. If you want to read more about the TUI care foundation, you can do so by clicking on this link.
When visiting a country, i often try to see some less know/historical places just to understand more of the culture of the area. We did so as well in Khao Lak, visiting the small town of Takua Pa, which used to be famous for it’s mining activities, and was home for many people who’d work here.
In the evening, we had a ‘sunset dinner cruise’, which translates into going out on the ocean, on a boat, during sunset and eat (good) food. While dinner was being prepared, I couldn't resist jumping from the deck of the boat in to the sea to enjoy a swim in the warm Thai waters. Once the sun had set, we had a lovely meal and headed back to main land.
Today was probably the day i was looking forward to the most: TUI agreed with my plan to visit the Khao Sok national Park. There, we would spend the whole day on the Cheow Lan lake, using a typical long tail boat as use of transportation. I’ve seen many beautiful lakes in my life, but this one was right there at the top. The bluest waters, huge limestone cliffs and mountain shapes i hadn't seen before… incredible views around every corner! I’ll just let my photos do the talking in this case:
Day four was already our last day (i told you it was a short trip, right?) but i wanted to make the most of it before catching my flight back to Belgium. So Derek and I decided to head out to the Phang Nga national park to make a quick stop at Koh Panyee, a small fishing village located in the middle of a river. We left our hotel very early in the morning, so we’d bere there in time for sunrise. We were the first ‘tourists’ to arrive at Koh Panyee so we decided to make a small stroll around the village since we had some time left. Watching the town wake up, fishermen getting ready for a day of work, locals preparing everything for a market, kids already running around on the local football court,… such a cool experience. We snapped some photos and headed back towards our hotel, where our transport to the airport was already waiting.
During our flight back, i realized one thing: no matter when and how, i’ll make it back to Thailand to really explore this beautiful country for a few weeks. Thanks a lot to TUI for giving me a first taste of South-East Asia, and hopefully see you soon.
Sidenote: here’s a video my travel companion Derek (see more of his awesome work here) made of our visit to Thailand, enjoy!