Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia. Known for its rich culture, tourist-friendly facilities, accessibility and affordability, Thailand is a great destination for first time travelers and seasoned travelers alike.
Its capital Bangkok is one of the major regional flight hubs for Southeast Asia. Filipinos can easily enter Thailand because no Visa is required for ASEAN passport holders and flights are pretty affordable coming from Manila.
Aside from the famed beaches and temples, shopping is a major tourist draw and the food is arguably the best in Asia. For international travelers, this country is often the start of the backpacking trail as you can travel overland to other countries like Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Thailand was actually my first travel abroad for a family trip years ago, and over the years I’ve been to Bangkok several times for work-related conferences and leisure trips including solo trips. I recently got to revisit Thailand as one of the lucky delegates of “Thailand through Her Eyes 2016”, a campaign of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) tapping bloggers, social media influencers and photographers from different parts of the world. From August 2-7, our group of 9 photographers from the Philippines, China, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Romania and Canada got to visit Bangkok-Amphawa-Hua Hin and Kanchanaburi.
I’ll be writing more stories about the different activities (to be linked here), but here’s a quick summary of all the amazing destinations and uniquely Thai experiences we got to try in the span of a week.
DAY 1: Bangkok
To formally kick off the campaign, there was a formal welcome reception presided over by Deputy Prime Minister H.E General Tanasak Patimapragorn and Minister of Tourism and Sports, H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul. There were special appearances by Sheikha Hend Fausal Al Qassemi, Princess of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Michelle Yim, Hong Kong actress; and the Miss World Australia 2016 and the runners up as well as Ms. Wanda Corazon Teo, Tourism Secretary, Department of Tourism, The Philippines.
DAY 2: Bangkok
On the second day, we visited Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The temple is the first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest of the first class Royal temples.
After lunch at Saveoy, an organic Farm to table cafe, we rode a long-tailed speed boat, cruising down the Chao Phraya river and canals of Thonburi, passing through wooden houses on stilts, floating restaurants, and riverfront temples.
We dropped by Yod Piman River Walk, a lifestyle mall by the river with Victorian & Thai architecture. Then, we boarded tuk-tuks for a temple-hopping and food tour of Bangkok at night starting with Rom-Pho, a homey restaurant in the back alley of Klong-San market.
The Jam factory, an area where old factories were converted into a trendy dining and lifestyle hub near the market, was also pretty interesting.
After visiting several temples including Wat Pho, we went to a secret riverside bar overlooking the city. We had some ice cold Singha beers. Our hotel the night was Courtyard by Marriott Bangkok.
DAY 3: Bangkok-Amphawa
On the road from Bangkok to Ampahawa, we went to Rom Hup (which means “umbrella pulldown”) Market in Maeklong, a unique market located on an active railway track. This is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand.
Shoppers have to walk on the narrow railway track lined with stalls on both sides. To clear the way for the coming train, vendors quickly fold away their umbrellas and awnings and remove containers and goods off the track. Vendors and tourists alike have to squeeze in the narrow space on either side whenever the train passes, which happens about 8 times a day.
We went hands-on in a community-based tourism program in Baan Rim Klong Homestay, where we witnessed how organic coco sugar is harvested and helped prepare local delicacies and rice cakes.
After lunch, we passed by Wat Bang Kung Temple, a small ancient chapel that is completely enclosed within the roots of a banyan tree. Though not as grand as some of the most famous temples in Thailand, I liked the natural Tomb Raider feel of this temple .
We took a leisurely sunset river cruise on Hatthatara boats while getting on-boat foot massages and capped our day with dinner and drinks at one of the riverside bars. Our hotel for the night was the homey Thanicha Resort, a riverside homestay / inn in Samut Songkhram.
DAY 4: Amphawa – Hua Hin
Each morning, monks accept offerings of food from locals, chanting a blessing in exchange for alms. We had the honor of offering alms prepared by the resort where we were staying.
We were given the rest of the morning to go around or sleep in, so I borrowed one of the bicycles at the hotel to explore a bit on my own. I ended up biking in Amphawa to the floating market, the scenic riverside and visited a few temples in the vicinity.
On the way to Hua Hin, we stopped by an accessible, family-friendly beach area right along the highway. We also stopped by a Thai Silk Village Factory to learn how delicate Thai silk is traditionally made and visited the 7 Kings of Siam Statues, a historical landmark commemorating seven of the greatest kings in Thai history.
Our hotel for the night was the Intercontinental Hua Hin, a luxurious beachfront resort. After dinner out, we did some souvenir shopping at the night market and bazaar in Hua Hin.
DAY 5: Hua Hin – Kanchanburi
It was a beautiful morning at the beach in Hua Hin. But as much as we wanted to stay longer, we had a train to catch.
The Bridge over the River Kwai is the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma (now Myanmar). The bridge was made famous by the British-American World War II epic war film released in 1957, which was loosely based on the construction of the said railway bridge.
After lunch at a local restaurant and some encounters with wildlife, we proceeded to our hotel for the night – River Kwai Village Hotel, a jungle resort located in the upper part of the River Kwai Valley. What a view!
DAY 6: Kanchanaburi
In the morning, we went canoeing down the the Kwai Noi River to visit a traditional Mon Village before proceeding to lunch at Kwai River Resotel. In the Mon Village, we saw kids studying at a local school and visited a temple hidden in the jungle.
The afternoon was spent at Rock Valley Spa and Fish Spa, a natural spa resort just a short boat ride from the Hotel. We enjoyed the Dr. Fish spa, soaked in 5 herbal pools scented with everything from coffee to eucalyptus tea and got pampering treatments including full body mud spas and mud spa facials.
DAY 7: Kanchanaburi-Bangkok
Our last day was spent mostly on the road, heading back to Bangkok from Kanchanaburi. We stopped by the floating restaurant on the River Kwai for buffet lunch and few more photo ops without the crowds.
The last activity for the whole trip was dinner and shopping at Asiatique, a riverfront night bazaar and mall with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex. The area is open until 11 pm, so we were able to get all our last-minute souvenir shopping done in time.
All in all, it was an amzing 7-day trip around Thailand with ladies from all over the world. Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for the invitation and all our guides from Absolutely Fantastic Holidays for letting us experience the best that Thailand has to offer! Stay tuned for more updates and travel tips on the different destinations. For more information on the campaign as well as special deals for female travelers this month of August, visit: http://womensjourney.tourismthailand.org/