All about our three-week Thailand honeymoon, including stops in Bangkok, Chiang Dao, Phuket and Phi Phi island

Thai vendor, Floating Market

My husband and I took a three-week honeymoon to Asia in Oct. 2007, visiting Bangkok, Chiang Dao and Phuket in Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Unlike my other reports, this one is chronological, and I apologize for the length in advance. Hopefully, it will help others planning a similar trip.

We took a non-stop direct flight to Bangkok out of New York’s JFK (which unfortunately is no more). We had bought premium economy seats and tried to use the “honeymoon plea” to get upgraded. They did give us the bulkhead row – great for my 6’5 husband – and we found that we had plenty of room. Didn’t sleep much as we were too excited. Thai Air does give you three meals during the flight so you won’t go hungry – quality was a step above the food you get on other airlines.

Shangri-La, Bangkok

Day 1 – Bangkok. We arrive around 4 p.m. The driver from the Shangri-La was there to greet us. Once we get to the hotel, the clerk suggests upgrading (at our expense) to the KrungThrep wing as there is a big conference in the other wing. We decided to do it and are very happy we did so. Our room was spacious and had a balcony on the river. Great way to start out the honeymoon! We tour the hotel…love the pool and garden area (although we ended up not having enough time to use it). We are too tired to do much other than get a foot massage from a store near the front of the hotel – for about $8 US, we are in heaven! I vow to get a massage every day of the trip, a promise that I very nearly keep.

Erawan Shrine, Bangkok

Day 2 – Bangkok. We go down for the Shangri-La breakfast buffet and are impressed with the variety of the selections. We have booked a guide, Tong, for two days in Bangkok, but today we are on our own. We grab a map and take the Skytrain to the Jim Thompson House. The Shangri-La is right on the Skytrain line and we find it very easy to use. We enjoy the architecture at Jim Thompson, the tour by the site-required docent and have a coke in the gorgeous gardens.

After Jim Thompson, we go into the MK shopping complex. What a trip! It’s exactly what I thought an Asian shopping mall would look like, with seven floors crammed with all kinds of stores and kiosks. It’s a little overwhelming for actual shopping, however, and I quickly get a headache. We meander along the Skytrain line, getting off for various shopping. We go into Gayson mall, which has very upscale brands, as well as Siam Paragon.

On our way back to the hotel, we venture upon the shrine outside the Erawan Grand Hyatt and take a look. This is our first experience watching people make merit so we’re a bit confused by the offerings of jasmine, marigolds, incense, fruit and the like. I am dying to have tea at the Oriental Hotel, so we finish up our first day of sightseeing by sampling both the Thai and English high tea in the Author’s Lounge. We then collapse in the hotel.

At night, we decide to venture out to Patpong, just to see what the fuss is all about. We’re underwhelmed by all the touts asking us if we want to see ping pong shows. And I hate fake handbags so the stalls don’t have much to offer. We leave and go down a side street to find Eat Me, a restaurant recommended in my guidebook. It’s a hip place, filled mostly with Westerners and trendy Thais. We have a snack and exhaustedly find our way back to the Shangri-La.

Tong

Day 3 – Bangkok. This is our first day with Tong so we meet up with her in our hotel lobby at 8 am. I had booked her on the recommendations on the Fodor board, and she really lived up to her billing. I would place her in her late 30s, very bubbly, great personality.

Many people have asked me if you need a guide in Bangkok. I would say that one is essential if you know very little about Buddhism or Thai culture. Tong’s explanations put everything that we had seen the day before into context, and in our two days with her, we received a foundation in the culture that helped us the rest of the trip. Good value for the time that she puts in – about 3,000 baht per day, not including admission fees and other costs (boat trips, train tickets, etc.) Contact info: tourwithtong@yahoo.com

Our time with Tong starts with a trip to a temple, where we receive our first course in making merit. Next, we take a Klong boat trip for a tour that lasts about 1 ½ hours. We really enjoy this part of the day – sociologically, it allows you to see parts of the city that you can’t imagine from the road. And I’m fascinated by the “spirit houses” that people place outside their homes for former occupants.

Grand Palace, Bangkok

Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha. I had worn capris that fell below my knees, but these weren’t long enough: you really do need to wear ankle-length pants. Tong is a great guide for the complex: she steers us around and gives us the full story behind this amazing collection of structures. I’m fascinated by the history; my husband is more intent on taking photographs. We probably stayed there close to 3 hours. Definitely recommended as a crash course on Thai history.

Chedis, Wat Pho

Wat Pho. A short tuk tuk ride away from the Grand Palace. We are in awe of how huge the Buddha is. We get some coins and make merit in the buckets alongside the Buddha. Tong tells us that it’s good luck for newlyweds to make the wishes together, so we have fun with that. We spend another 30 minutes or so walking the grounds, where she explains the Chedis to us.

We are starving at this point so Tong brings us to a Thai restaurant near Wat Po where we see no other tourists. We ask her to order for us, just to see what she selects (my husband likes food that is really spicy; me, not so much). Our resulting feast is delicious and satisfying – and under $30 for the three of us.

Tong suggests going to see another temple, but we’re a bit templed out (and I’m dying for another massage!) So we go to the masters at the Wat Pho school, in an air-conditioned building that the temple runs not far from the site. It’s our first traditional Thai massage and it’s a bit brutal, especially for my husband who had only had Swedish massages in the past (and his masseuse was a big guy!)

Tong drops us off and we immediately collapse. She has a packed day for us tomorrow, we go to bed early.

Floating Market, Thailand

Day 4 – Bangkok. We meet Tong in the hotel lobby at 6:30 a.m. Our first stop is the Floating Market outside of town, although she does take us to a lovely temple along the way. As we pass a “cat museum,” we stop for 15 minutes (I love cats). This museum is allegedly trying to “save” Thai cat breeds. It seemed dirty and mismanaged to me, but I did like playing with the kittens.

The Floating Market. Tong grabs us a boat with a paddler, not a motor (there is a difference in how you experience the market with these different boats, I think) and we set off on an eating adventure. Everything that Tong selects for us is yummy and I laugh myself silly when she orders my husband a soup that is too spicy for even him to eat. It’s raining a bit, but we don’t mind as we float down the canals, throwing leftover food to stray dogs on the bank.

Tiger Temple

Tiger Temple. Tong tells us about the disputes involving the place – that the tigers are drugged, that the monks are too commercial, etc. – and she tells us to make up our own minds. I was just excited about petting the tigers! (My husband was much more cautious and asked many questions, just to make sure his new wife wasn’t going to lose an arm!) When we get there, it’s obvious that Tong is a regular and that she knows how to work the system. She positions us so we’re first to play with the tiger cubs and we have a ball petting them. Then she makes sure that I’m first in line to walk the big tiger down to the canyon. I pay the extra 1000 baht to get my picture taken with the tiger’s head in my lap – well worth it for the sensation as well as the shock value back home! We are there for about 3 hours, playing with the sunbear, the tigers and other animals.

River Kwai. It’s another hour to get here, so we stop for lunch. Again, Tong does the ordering and we love all of the dishes (although I can’t eat the tom yam soup because it’s way too spicy!) Tong tells us the story of the death railway, which I had never heard before, so we’re solemn as we take a half-hour trip along the river. We arrive at the River Kwai bridge and do the requisite walk across it. By this point, we are exhausted, and we sleep in the back of Tong’s car (she thoughtfully puts on Norah Jones) until we get back to Bangkok around 7 p.m

Summary thoughts on Bangkok: On our first day, we were a bit underwhelmed and thought the city seemed crowded and overwhelming, with very little green space. After some time with Tong, however, we were able to appreciate the city’s hustle and were more curious to explore. We wish that we would have had another day actually in the city on our own, to do some shopping and see some other sites such as Wat Arun, which we only glimpsed from the water.

(Days 5-7 – Siem Reap, Cambodia)

The Nest, Chiang Dao

Day 8 – Siem Reap to Chiang Dao

Today was a day of transit. We leave Siem Reap around 9ish for Bangkok. We’re supposed to change airports to make our connection for Chiang Mai, but the lovely people at Thai Air put us on an earlier flight that leaves from the international airport (we do this again going from Phuket to Bangkok – saves us a taxi across Bangkok!)

Our flight to Chiang Mai is uneventful. A driver from the Chiang Dao Nest picks us up, right on time, and we drive about 90 minutes over some very bumpy roads (construction). We are staying at Nest 1, and while the owners aren’t around to greet us, a woman named Air is quite friendly, (even though we have MUCH bigger bags than the people who usually stay here).

In general, the Nest is geared to more of a budget traveler than the other places that we visited and the cottages, while cute, are on the rustic side. Our cottage contained a large comfy bed, a table, a dresser that’s it. No TV, no reading lamps, which would have helped because the rooms were a little dim. I felt a bit like I was back on the backpacker circuit, with the good and bad that entails. The resort is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, though, and it is a spectacular “get away from it all” location.

Nest 1 has western food and the Nest 2, about 10 minutes away, serves Thai. We head down there and notice that Nest 2 has a better bar area than Nest 1. We order the spicy lovers meal (along with too much wine) and happily fall asleep after a day of transit. I do wake up that night with some abdominal pain, which makes me start to worry about how things are going to go on our scheduled 3 day, 2 night trek. So I tell Don about the pain, but add that I won’t mention it as we’re trekking unless it gets unbearable.

On the trek

Day 9 – Chiang Dao

Today we start our 3 day, 2 night trek into the Hill Country, arranged by the Nest. Over breakfast (not included in the room price), we meet our trek companions: Gaithen and Shawn from Wales and Nick from Melbourne. They all look very fit and have better backpacks for the trip. This is my first inkling that Don and I might be the weakest links on the tour!

Our trek starts out with a drive through Chiang Dao National Park, while sitting on the back of a flatbed truck. We go up and up, past gorgeous mountains. It’s lightly raining, but we don’t mind. When we get out, at the top of a mountain, we meet Nata, our guide for the trip. He’s a member of the Lisu tribe and speaks fairly good English. He tells us that we will be hiking about 4 hours today. We’re only about 30 miles from the Myanmar border, and the views are incredible.

The trek begins with a steep walk down to a Lisu village. It’s pretty rustic, with lots of pigs and chickens running around, so we’re surprised to see solar panels! Nata tells us that many of the Hillside tribes have switched to solar power. We have a nice lunch here, leave our things and start trekking toward a cave. It’s a nice walk through rice and corn fields. Once at the cave, however, I start getting claustrophic (I covered a mining accident once and I guess it’s made me more skittish than I thought). I tell Don to go in without me. So I wait outside while the guys go in. They come out about 45 minutes later, extremely muddy. “You would have hated it,” Don tells me. Apparently they wriggled through some tight sections on their stomachs and Don feared he was stuck more than once. I’m OK with my wussiness.

We collect our things back at the village and set off toward our next destination, a waterfall. It’s a pretty challenging hike in places, particularly because it had been rainy recently and the path wasn’t completely dry. Here, again, we lag behind our more fit counterparts. At one point, Don knocks over a pipe that brings water to the village, forcing Nata and the others to put it back into place. I’m cringing – feel very much like the ugly Americans. It’s worth it, though, when we get the waterfall. Gorgeous!

The rest of the afternoon is spent on a steep uphill climb to another village. The path in some places is non-existent, and Nata uses a machete to cut through the undergrowth. I’m puffing, but handling it (I worked out with a personal trainer before the wedding and have also run in the past) but Don is not in good shape. It doesn’t help that our counterparts are more interested in racing through the trek instead of taking pictures. But we finally make it to our destination – another Lisu village so high in the mountains that we are practically shrouded in fog.

Don and Kata

Dinner, served in a small pavilion with a view of a huge mountain that we can glimpse through the fog, is very pleasant. We have some beers, and Nata gets a bit drunk. He asks the guys about their love lives (as newlyweds, we get our share of teasing as well!). We ask him about his and he says, very matter of fact, that the best-looking girls from the Lisu villages usually leave to work in bars as prostitutes in Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Despite this sobering thought, it’s a fun and festive dinner.

We’re tired so we retire to our hut. (the three guys on their own are in one hut, Don and I have our own). It’s extremely Spartan – basically, just a mattress on the floor with mosquito netting and blankets. All this wouldn’t be bad – except my abdominal pain is also back, worse than ever. Only now it’s combined with a case of vicious diarrhea. I spend most of the night in the bathroom (which, thankfully, had a western-style seat toilet, although you self-flushed by dumping water into the bowl). The bathroom also contains perhaps the biggest spider I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo, and I stare at it obsessively during my repeated trip, willing it to go away. Cue the roosters, which start crowing about 1:30 a.m. , and it all adds up to a sleepless night for both Don and I.

We’ve been told that our guide for the rest of the trip speaks minimal English so I tell Don that all things considered, I don’t think it’s a good idea to head out for another day of trekking when I’m feeling that sick. He agrees (and actually, I think he was a bit relieved to not have trek for 8 more hours). We resolve to leave the trek the next morning and seek medical care in Chiang Mai.

Hill tribe family

Day 10 – Chiang Dao

The morning brings fog over the mountain. It’s so pretty that we almost decide to stay, but then I think about 8 hours in the woods with the runs, and leaving seems like the best option. Our Lisu hosts agree to bring us back down to the Nest. I’m anticipating some problems but WIchia, one of the Nest’s owners, is fabulous. She arranges for us to have transport into Chiang Mai, rebooks us into our original cottage and says she’ll adjust our bill so we don’t have to pay for the rest of the trek.

Our ride into Chiang Mai takes place in one of those taxis that is open in the back. It’s a bit dusty, but at least we can lie down inside. The driver drops us off at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. Most of the intake and nursing staff speak some English, and they order up an ultrasound of my abdomen.

Turns out I have a gallstone! The Thai doctor gives me some pain meds (as well as some Cipro for the runs) and tells me that it’s probable that I can wait to deal with the gallstone until I get home. That’s all I needed to hear!

We go back to the Nest and resolve to take things easy for the next few days. It’s raining anyway, so we’re pretty happy that we’re not out in the wilderness, trekking. We have tea in the afternoon, read in the open-air pavilion and chat with some other guests. Nice mix of people, many with kids (the owners live on the premises and they have two of their own kids, so children are definitely welcome). That night, we eat at Nest 1, which has very good Western food. The place is packed, not only with Nest-ers, but with people from neighboring bungalow accommodations. Don enjoys the socializing, as he never had that backpacking experience The meds from the hospital knock me out that night so no pain. So it was a good decision to abandon ship!

Recouping at the Nest

Day 11 – Chiang Dao

We awake to another rainy day. Wichia had given us the option of rejoining our tour for the scheduled bamboo rafting and elephant ride, but we’re really not interested in doing it in the rain. So after breakfast, we bring our books and blankets up the pavilion and settle in for a long day of reading. Hours later, we are still in the pavilion when the guys from the trek reappear. They look muddy and very tired. Don is happy we are not either of those things.

In the afternoon, I take advantage of the Thai massage services that the Nest arranges. A woman from Chiang Dao arrives at my cottage carrying a hot pot of compresses. She proceeds to give me the best massage of the trip – two hours of stretching, massage and herbal compresses. I feel like a new woman when it’s over!

That night, we eat again at Nest 1 (I really liked the Thai food at Nest 2, but I’m afraid it will aggravate the gallstone). We meet up with our trek companions and hear about the rest of their trip – the trek portion of Day 2 sounded pretty intense and the accommodations at the Karon village were even more primitive. They forgive us our wussiness, and we all drink wine and play bourre, a Cajun card game that Don and I teach them (we both used to live in Louisiana). It’s a big drunken night, with many promises to meet up in the future.

Chiang Dao summary: We are divided on whether or not it was a good idea to pack our itinerary to come up here. On the plus side, we did get to see some fantastic scenery and interact with some fun people. But we could have used the extra time for shopping in Bangkok and more beach time in Phuket. The enforced rest was probably good for us – in the future when we travel like this, I will definitely schedule more “down time.” (well, that and I’ll assess our fitness level a bit more accurately). If you are into trekking, the Nest is a good option – the owners are great, and it attracts a good group of people. Just be prepared for something a bit more rustic.

Busy Patong street

Day 12 – Chiang Dao to Phuket

Another day of transit for us. We take the direct flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket. It runs late so it’s about 4 p.m. by the time we arrive in Phuket. I had read that Patong was busy, but had no idea it would be THAT busy. Just crazy with the signage, fake bag hawkers, massage offers and tailors. And in this age of Netflix, Don and I couldn’t understand why so many people were trying to sell DVDs. Is there really that much of a market for them?

Our hotel was the Impiana Cabana Phuket, the only hotel in Patong that is actually right on the beach. We really enjoyed this hotel, especially after “roughing it” at the Nest – it had a nice infinity pool and tons of lounge chairs so you never actually had to go on the beach and deal with the hawkers if you didn’t want to. Our room was spacious and had a sliding glass door that went out to the pool area. And, the lobby had free Internet access! (we hadn’t had this since Bangkok). The whole place was definitely a respite from the tacky craziness of Patong. We take a walk on the beach, grab a quick dinner at one of the little beachfront cafes, and retire early.

Day 13 – Phuket (Patong)

This is a day of relaxation for us, so I get up early and race out to snag prime lounge chairs (Don wonders if this is necessary; I think of some of the Fodor postings I have read and assure him that it is. Isn’t he surprised when all of chairs are gone by 9 a.m.? Yes, lots of German tourists). We forgot that our room included a breakfast buffet, so we go to one of the beachfront cafes for banana pancakes. Yum.

I book a 90 minute massage for the two of us, assuring Don that it will be of the Swedish variety (he’s finding the Thai massages too tough for him). While pricey, the Impiana’s spa is gorgeous and we are thoroughly zonked out. We lie outside most of the day, even though the sky is mostly overcast.

We wandered around town a bit, looking for a restaurant before finally deciding to eat dinner back at the Impiana. We’re glad we did, as the 7-course Thai meal we get is fantastic! And a good value – 675 baht each (our alcohol bill doubled the price, however – wine in Thailand is expensive!)

Thai island beach

Day 14 – Phuket (Patong)

Today we take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast buffet. It’s extensive, with many Thai choices in addition to the Western food. I’m becoming addicted to noodles in the morning!

We had originally signed up for an overnight trip with John Gray, but decided not to do it because of the weather and various illnesses (while I’m feeling fine, Don is fighting the vestiges of his stomach troubles). So we’re just going to do the Hongs by Night tour instead. The guide comes to pick us up around 11:30 and we head out to the marina. It’s about a 45 minute trip there.

At the marina, we board a boat that has about 30 other tourists on it. We’re given sodas and snacks as we set off across Phang Nga Bay. Unlike many tours in this area, John Gray doesn’t go to James Bond island. Instead, the boat’s main guide tells us that we’re visiting Hong Island and another one. He tells us that the visits are timed carefully so we can float into the hongs (caves) and get out before the tide rises, and that in at least one of the caves, we’ll have to lean back in our inflatable kayaks to get through.

We’re served a yummy lunch and make it to the first island in about an hour. Each group of two or three is assigned a guide, who stays with you the entire day. He (they were all men) also does all of the paddling. We get in our kayak and head toward the limestone cliffs. Once there, our guide takes us into a hong (this one is large, so no need to lean back). It opens into a gorgeous lagoon. We paddle in here for about 45 minutes, checking out the little crabs and silverfish (I think?) on the mud flats and tropical birds. Once our guides take us back through the hong, we’re given about an hour to swim off of the boat or play around with the kayaks.

Our boat heads over toward Hong Island. Our first trip here goes into the Bat Cave, where tons of the little buggers are hanging off the ceiling. In the lagoon here, we see a monkey and are able to get very close to him. We go back to the boat, which takes us to the other side of the island to visit the Diamond Cave, so named because the ceiling sparkles with stalactites.

Afterward, we go back to the boat for dinner. It’s pretty good, for a buffet on a boat. Noodles, rice, spring rolls – the usual. Also some western dishes like fries, which the annoying woman scoops up like she’s never seen friend potatoes before.

After dinner, our guides tell us about Loy Krathong, a Thai festival usually held during the first full moon in November. During this festival, people make little boats out of banana trunk and float them on the water as an offering. With our guides, we all make krathongs, arranging banana leaves, flowers, incense and candles on the trunk round. Don and I feel like we’re at a Thai arts and crafts camp, and I’m happy with our krathong until I see the ones put together by the other guides are much more elaborate. I sulk for a while about how shabby ours looks compared to others until Don tells me to get over it.

Our last hong trip of the night takes us through the one where we have to duck our heads. It’s only scary if you think about the tide rising while you are in there! Once we enter the lagoon, the guide tells us to turn off our flashlights and stick our fingers in the water. We are rewarded with trails of silvery plankton, under the starry sky. The guide lights the candles in our “offering” and we’re told to let it float and make a wish. It’s kinda cheesy, but somehow it felt moving.. We’re out in the lagoon for about 30 minutes, watching all the different offerings bob around. It’s very peaceful.

Simon Cabaret, Phuket, Thailand

Day 15 – Phuket (Kamala)

Today we’re scheduled to move from the Impiana and Patong up to the Layalina in Kamala. Don really likes the Impiana, so he’s a little sad about leaving. Neither of us are upset to be leaving Patong, however – we’re ready for something quieter. We enjoy our last Impiana breakfast buffet and the driver from the Layalina picks us up around 11:30.

Kamala is about 15 minutes north of Patong, and it’s not nearly as developed. It was very hard hit by the tsunami, and there is a memorial to those who died not far from the town center. Our hotel, the Layalina, is only two years old and althought small, it has lots of nice touches. The room is HUGE – much bigger and nicer than the Impiana – with a fantastic bathroom, wood floors and a balcony that looks right out to the pool and the beach. The facilities at the hotel, though, aren’t as developed. The pool is not very big, and there is no attached restaurant.

We continue to have sporatic rain, so we spend most of the day chilling out – reading by the pool when it’s sunny, getting a Thai massage in our room when it’s not. We do take a walk around town and notice that there isn’t much there, other than the usual tailor shops. Signs for tourists seem to be mostly in German instead of English, and we hear Russian while on the beach.

That night, I decide that we’re going to take in the Simon Cabaret show back in Patong, and they come and pick us up. Basically, the Simon show is a Las Vegas-style review with very realistic transvestites and transgenders, with glittery sets and amusing lip-synching. It’s a little more earnest than I thought (I was expecting a bit more camp), but Don is blown away by how feminine the performers look. “They can’t ALL be guys,” he said. But, of course, they were. All in all, Simon was an amusing diversion, but it’s not for everyone.

Phi Phi island, Thailand

Day 16 – Phuket (Kamala)

Snorkeling was big on Don’s agenda, so we take a day trip to Phi Phi. There are a bunch of operators who do this. We picked one that seemed to have the fewest stops, yet still allowed us to see everything.

The driver came to pick us up at 8:30. We didn’t actually make it to the boat until 10, tho, because they spent so much time picking everyone else up along the coast! (including one family that made the car wait for 25 minutes). That was annoying. Anyway, we make it to the tour office at the Marina, where we learn that while masks and breathing tubes are included in the price, fins are not. We buy them anyway. We are then packed into two speedboats (and when I say packed, I mean it – a couple of people didn’t have proper seats!)

It was raining a bit as our speedboat took off, but as we got further away from Phuket, the weather cleared up a bit. By the time we reached our first destination – Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lay, where the movie The Beach was filmed – it was still drizzling. No matter. The beach is gorgeous! We had about 45 minutes to walk around and swim if we wanted to.

The boat then takes us to the other side of Phi Phi Lay for some snorkeling. I jump off the boat and suddenly we’re in a school of fish! They were all different colors too – brilliant greens and blues. It’s drizzling a bit, but that doesn’t affect our fun.

After a quick stop at Monkey Beach (where indeed, there were monkeys in the trees – and a gazillion tourists feeding them. I’m not impressed), the boat takes us down Phi Phi Don for lunch. We pull in and have lunch at the Phi Phi Beach Resort. It looks like a nice place, with bungalows going up the hill, but if I was staying at this resort, I certainly wouldn’t want all these day trippers coming around at noon! Food was only OK.

After lunch, the boat takes us to Khai Nok island, for more snorkeling and relaxation. And FINALLY, the sun came out and we could really sunbathe! Our boat’s guide has promised to take us out to an area to see sharks and Don is hot to go. I’m not quite as excited, but I do want to see a Nemo fish. Right off the island, there’s a bay full of coral and it makes quite a picture as we swim out. The guys go further out, but I decide to go back and get some sun in while I can. We stay at the island until about 4:30 or so, then back to the marina. Again, we’re the last people dropped off. We get to our hotel around 7ish.

It’s our last night, so I’d like to drive down to Kata to go to the Boathouse, but the weather is getting dreary again and I don’t want to take a 45 minute tuk tuk ride. Instead, we have a pretty lame meal in Kamala. Overall, while we did like the Layalina, we wish that we would have gone down to south to Kata instead of Kamala. Kamala was a little too quiet for us.

Day 17 – Phuket (Kamala)

Our flight leaves around dusk, so we have most of the day free. Again, it’s raining so we decide to go into Phuket Town for some shopping. We call our driver from the day before and see if he’ll come get us. He arrives about 30 minutes late.

Once in town, we go to Robinson’s Department store. We find a few things here, but are more impressed with the savory pastries in the front. We buy a few trinkets, but realize that we aren’t really finding the quality souvenirs that we could have gotten in Bangkok or perhaps Chiang Mai. The whole trip was a bit of a waste, and I keep thinking that we could have better used that time to squeeze in an elephant ride.

The Layalina allows us to check out late, so we squeeze in one more tasty Thai lunch. The driver takes us to Phuket airport, where we are able to check out bags through to JFK. We have about 9 hour layover in Bangkok, however. We spend it getting one last foot massage at the spa, shopping for souvenirs and eating. Our trip back on Thai Air is uneventful, although we are exhausted when we finally make it home to Philly.

Thai McDonalds

So here are some lessons learned:

1. We should have limited ourselves to only three locations: Bangkok, Cambodia and Phuket, as we could have easily spent more time in these places without cramming in the north.

2. We need to schedule more downtime so we don’t get burnt out.

3. We’re not as fit as we think we are.

4. We were glad we had medical insurance.

5. Even if it’s not the rainy season, it can still rain a lot.

And 6. Your resort in Phuket really makes the trip.

Read the Cambodia portion of the trip.

So that’s our honeymoon! Read a report from our first anniversary on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.