10 Day Thai Trip
Story #1 of 4.
Thailand…it has in my bucket list for years. I mean, who doesn’t dream of traveling to Asia? I had that dream for too long until I finally decided to make it a reality. You see, the right time will never come because we are too busy filling our free time with dozens of excuses for why we shouldn’t travel. From budget issues, to vacation days, to the risks of visiting a foreign country…. I could go on for hours describing the million thoughts that crossed my mind every time I thought about traveling while I was still in the corporate world a year ago. I remember looking outside my office window and asking myself “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?” but every time I had the approved vacation days to travel I told myself it was better to save the money for my future. Future what exactly?! Retirement? Retiring from a job I’m not passionate about, like Private Banking, would’ve meant retiring with an old, stressed, frustrated soul with no energy to travel the world. So, I gave it all up for a life of wanderlust and eco-travel blogging and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past year. No, I’m not asking you to quit your jobs. I mean, if you’re frustrated with current situation, please by all means do something about it, but if you’re happy with your job and just can’t find the time to travel here are a two short but powerful advices that might help.
1) Travel is the best investment. Period! Don’t pay attention to what other people say. Travel fills your mind with culture, history, memories, new people and stories, while it also enriches your soul with freedom and fearlessness. No other investment can give you that.
2) Traveling does not have to leave you broke! There are cheap ways of visiting your dream destinations without breaking the bank. You just have to perform your research wisely!
Ok, now back to what you guys have been waiting for. My Thailand eco-friendly and animal-loving trip! Since this trip was 10 days long and I visited different cities, temples, eco-friendly hotels and an elephant sanctuary, I’ve decided to separate everything into four posts to keep the details short, clean and concise. This first one will cover Bangkok, the second one will cover the eco-hotel I visited in Kanchanaburi, the third one will cover the elephant sanctuary and non-profit I’ve been working with, and the fourth one will cover Phuket and the luxurious eco-friendly hotel I stayed at. I hope you enjoy the stories and the photos. Xx
Even though Bangkok might seem overrated or too touristic for some, it’s a city that has to be on your list. Especially if you are a culture-lover and spiritual junkie. Don’t plan to stay for too long in Bangkok though because there are other cities and towns worth visiting too. I spent 2.5 days in Bangkok and dedicated my time fully to visiting temples, getting a Sak Yant Tattoo (will explain later), paying the night markets a visit, and of course enjoying a boat ride through the famous Floating Market.
Day 1) Temples & night markets.
Thailand has over 40,000 mesmerizing temples and Bangkok holds over 40 of those. My friend and I started our morning with a delicious breakfast full of exotic fruits and juices at the hotel. The eco hotel I would recommend staying at is called Bangkok TreeHouse. Unfortunately, it was sold out during the dates I was there so I had no other option than to stay at a local hotel. The reason why I recommend this eco-hotel for all vegans and mindful beings is because the hotel is not only eco-friendly but it also has a vegan coffee/restaurant catering to all of your needs. Even though I enjoyed my morning breakfasts at the local hotel, my options were limited to fruits, juices and oatmeal. Everything else in the menu had eggs, milk or seafood. (Don’t be shocked if you see seafood, rice, fried food and meat in the breakfast menu options. Asians are used to having them for breakfast as well). We left the hotel early every morning around 8am, mainly due to our jetlag and also because we wanted to make the most out of our days there, and took a taxi to the daily destinations. Taxis in Thailand are extremely cheap! You can hire a driver for $8/272 BHT an hour. (The currency in Thailand is called Thai Baht- BHT- and the exchange rate is around 31-34 BHT per US dollar). He’ll take you everywhere around town and you can also have a little peace of mind about leaving your personal things in the car or about not speaking the language. (Our driver became our translator too!). During the first day, we visited the following:
1) Golden Buddha Temple: This is a must guys! Not only because it holds a 15ft high Buddha statue covered in gold and worth around $300MM but also because the story behind it is worth discovering. It’s been said that this statue was once covered in clay by monks over 300 years ago to protect it from being stolen by the enemy. These monks were sadly killed and nobody knew what hid behind that gigantic clay Buddha until new monks decided to transport it to a more secure monastery. The rain and the pressure of the crane cracked the clay and suddenly a beam of intense gold light blinded the monks. They removed the clay and the Golden Buddha came back to life.
Besides being amazed but this statue, you’ll also get the opportunity to see monks, get blessed by them and understand a little about their offering rituals.
2) Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho: This is one of Bangkok’s largest and oldest temples and holds a 150ft long reclining Buddha statue. This statue represents the last days of Buddha through his illness. The temple is beautiful to walk around and be contemplated by its colors and architecture. It also holds over 1000 Buddha images, statues and shrines.
3) Night Market: There are plenty of night markets to visit in Bangkok. It all depends on what you’re looking for. My friend and I wanted a place where we could shop for gifts, experience the local culture while also enjoying a good meal. The driver recommended Patpong Market. It’s GIGANTIC! Expect to be there for 3 hours of more. We did some shopping. Beautiful bohemian pants, bracelets, Buddha mini statues, books, elephant keychains at ridiculously cheap prices that got my mind spinning about the entire concept of fairtrade. I stuck to the vendors that made the products themselves and did my trip’s shopping with those two vendors. Always ask where the products are made, who makes them, and try to support handmade and natural please! To close our night, we decided to ride the crazy neon supersonic-looking cars you’ll see at the entrance of the market. Worth every penny! It was so much fun!
Day 2) Floating Market and Sak Yant Tattoos!
This was probably the most entertaining and fearless day of all!
1) We began our day with a drive to the Floating Marketing. It was about an hour away from our hotel but again, we hired our same driver. The Floating Market’s boat ride ticket per person is 400BHT (about $12) and it takes you around little houses on the sides of the river where the vendors are selling their produce and products. Prices here are 3 times higher than the ones at the night markets, mainly due to the amount of tourists that visit that area. I would recommend just taking the boat ride, tons of photos and videos, and enjoying a delicious cold beer you can buy from the vendors without even moving from your tiny boat.
2) Sak Yankt Tattoos: On our way to the Floating Market I performed a little research on google about Asian tattoo techniques and found this blog with the writer’s incredible story. He described the entire Sak Yant process and ritual and, as a tattoo-lover (I have 11 tattoos, each telling a different story or with a spiritual meaning), I had to find out more. Sak Yant tattoos are not your ordinary tattoos. These follow an ancient practice that was done on the bodies of warriors to protect them from physical and spiritual harm. They are performed by monks following a ritual, blessed before and after their done, and you have to give offerings to the monks in return (flowers, candles, incenses, cigarettes).
To my surprise, the temple Wat Bang Prah known for these tattoos was only 30 minutes away from where we were, so we asked our driver to take us. The entire ritual lasted for about 1 hour from the time we took our shoes off, bought the offerings, gave them to the monk, listened to him chant mantras, got our tattoo done by hand (no machine used here! Just a needle, ink and a good pulse), got blessed once again by the monk, and were sent home with a gold paper on top of our tattoos. This happens to be the same gold paper normally used as offering and placed on the Buddha statues at different temples.
The entire ritual is something I will never forget since it gives my tattoo an even more profound meaning and story worth sharing.
Note: if you intend on getting one done, please ask the monks to use a new needle (even though they soak it in alcohol the whole time, you can never be certain) and new ink.
Warning: it hurts more than normal tattoos.
Day 3: Wat Mahatat temple and Mae Klong Train Market on our way to Kanchanaburi.
Our last day in Bangkok and the day we headed to Kanchanaburi. Unfortunately, and almost as usual, I missed the morning train so my friend and I decided to hire a driver to take us to Kanchanaburi. We got a new driver, Phairot, whom I recommend 100%! Funniest, most charming and sweetest driver and tour guide ever! (I'll share his contact with you on my last story) Instead of driving us directly to Kanchanaburi he made a few stops at places he thought were a must see. And they were!
1) Wat Mahatat Temple: This was probably the first temple that truly helped me understand the steps involved in the Buddhist offering rituals. Once there, I decide to sit down for a minute and just contemplate at what people were doing. It was beautiful! There is so much more to these rituals than the eye can see. It all starts with buying the offering “package” for 25BHT (not even $1). It comes with orchids, 5 incenses, 3 tiny candles, and square pieces of gold paper. You’re first supposed to light up the incenses and place them on vase covered in sand in front of the Buddha statue. Next, you light up the candles and place them (standing up) on the tray in front of the statue as well. Thirdly, you place the orchids at the feet of the Buddha and lastly, the gold square papers around his body. (This explained a lot actually! Through the temples, you’ll see a few statues half covered in gold because of these gold papers). Once you are done with this ritual, you sit down in front of the statue and pray. It was incredibly soul-enriching!
2) Mae Klong Train Market: The story behind this market will make any of your worries seem tiny! At least they did for me. This decades-old hidden gem is located west of Bangkok. Years ago when the Maeklong Railway was built through the market, the vendors did not want to give up on what they called home. Since there are no laws that force the vendors to move, they have been running their business as usual with only one inconvenience: a train passing through their stands eight times a day, seven days a week. Vendors set their alarm clocks at different hours to have enough time to move their produce from the tracks before the 15mph traveling train hits their stands. Once the train has passed by, the vendors set their stands back again. How incredible is that?! There's always a story behind everything!
-Cellphone roaming in Thailand is great! I didn't have an issue with that. Connection is perfect!
-You will find vegetarian and vegan options almost everywhere since Thai food involves a lot of veggies. Vegan or not, be careful with your allergies! Please! My friend is allergic to seafood and Thai cuisine tends to use seafood broth for almost every recipe!
-My favorite dish? Thai Coconut Soup (no seafood) and Pad Thai with tofu instead of eggs.
-TAKE PROTEIN BARS and WATER with you!!! You will get hungry and thirsty constantly from walking so much and specially due to Thailand's temperature. The dates I was there (March 27-April 6) temperatures ranged between 100-105F!!
-In Thailand you can survive with $20-$80 per day. It all depends on what you're looking for. The "expensive" part (everything is cheap in Thailand) are the tours. Food, shopping, water, and even hotels are incredibly inexpensive.
My favorite planet-loving brands:
If you are wondering about the outfits I wore or the vegan protein bars I took with me, these are the brands you guys have to check. They are all vegan, charity-loving, eco-friendly and fair-trade.
Blue Bohemian pants and White Dress: Guadalupe Design. Handmade and hand-painted and help empower artisans worldwide.
White Crochet Crossbody Bag with Tassels: Metta Loving Kindness. Fair-trade and helps different charities worldwide.
Necklaces: 31Bits. Fair-trade, made from recycled paper and each purchase helps empower women and men in Africa.
Sandals: Melissa. Made from recycled plastic.
Sunnies: Westward Leaning. Made with natural materials and each designs supports a different charity.
Headscarf: WildzbyJD. Made with certified organic fabric (soy protein fabric, banana fabric and bamboo fabric
and with images that raise awareness about animal extinction.
Raw Superfood Bars: Shanti Bars. They are yummy beyond words! Imagine combining vegan protein and superfoods like chia seeds, turmeric, goji berries and so much more into 1 bar! I'm totally in love!!!
I hope the photos do justice, guys! Stay tuned for the continuation (Kanchanaburi and Phuket) tomorrow! xx