Excited to go to Thailand but don’t know where to start? You have come to the right blog…
BEFORE YOU GO
- Decide when to go. Phang Nga and Phuket Thailand are definitely seasonal destinations, with the peak season being between November and April and “ghost town” season occurring during the rainy months from May to October. Low season offers low room rates, but many restaurants and shops will be closed and trips to Ko Similan will stop running between May 1 and November 1 due to choppy seas and the closing of Similan National Park. We went in February, and it was sensational. If you love turtles, you will love the 7-day Turtle Releasing Festival in March where you can release baby turtles into the sea at Thai Muang Beach.
- Decide which activities appeal to you the most. Would you like to sunbathe on gorgeous beaches, explore exotic cuisine, see the region’s plentiful Wats (Thai temples), go diving or snorkeling in some of the best locations in the world, hike through the gorgeous national parks surrounding Khao Lak, visit the International Tsunami Museum and monuments, or visit the region’s numerous natural hot springs or waterfalls? Khao Lak has all this and more, so do your research before you go. I love using TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Look into booking activities in advance. While many activities can be booked through your hotel or in the town of Khao Lak from tour companies on the main strip, some should be booked in advance, such as diving. If you want to dive exclusive destinations such as the Similan Islands, Surin Island, and Richelieu Rock, you should consider a liveaboard that will need to be booked in advance. We decided to get our PADI open water certification through Wicked Diving. We attended a two-day classroom course that met in Khao Lak followed up by a three-day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands. We chose Wicked Diving because of their commitment to ethical diving that encompasses everything from the organic bio-degradable shampoos they provided for us on the liveaboard to giving back to the local community. The instructors were great, the food on the liveaboard was amazing, and needless to say the diving was phenomenal (for dive pics, click here). We. Loved. Every. Second!
- Choose a hotel that meets your price range and transportation needs. Khao Lak has a huge range of hotels to appeal to every budget. We chose Nang Thong 2, because the location was perfect (right on the beach and a short walk into town) and the price was right. It was clean and the food was delicious, so we were delighted with our choice. If you’re looking for something even more quiet or secluded, search up and down the Phang Nga coast for more romantic alternatives.
- Pack appropriate attire. Obviously you are going to pack sandals and swimsuits, but when you’re packing, be considerate of the local customs. Topless swimsuits are not appropriate (but you would be surprised at how many topless bathers I saw). Also, if you are going to be visiting any Wats, make sure that you bring a long skirt and a blanket scarf to cover up with for the ladies and pants for the guys (they will make men in shorts wear sarongs). They do have cover ups available for rent at the larger temples if you forget.
- Learn a few Thai phrases. What’s neat about the Thai language is that it is gender specific. And it’s not very difficult to learn a few key phrases, which will go a long way in making a positive impression with the Thai people.
- Check the U.S. State Department before you go to get the most up-to-date information about security alerts, vaccinations, and passport/visa requirements. You don’t need a visa if you are staying less than 30 days, but you will need a passport with 6 months of validity left on it. Serious crime against foreigners and passport theft is prevalent in Thailand. Khao Lak is definitely more low key than other areas of Thailand, such as Bangkok and Phuket, but it still happens. Further, the last decade has been marked by periods of political unrest and martial law, and the airports are magnets for demonstrations of violence when this happens. This could significantly disrupt your travel plans.
WHEN YOU ARE THERE
- Drink lots of water. BOTTLED water. Do not drink the tap water in Thailand, unless you want your vacation ruined by an explosive case of tummy troubles. This includes ice cubes! And don’t brush your teeth with the water! Also be cautious of salads and raw vegetables that may be washed in contaminated water. Many people forget about these little but oh-so-important details. Some hotels include a bottle of water per day in your room. To supplement, I like to buy a huge bottle from a convenience store that I use to refill a portable water bottle–less plastic to recycle and cheaper. Please make sure that you are recycling your water bottles when possible and not contributing to the pollution of these beautiful areas!
- Tip generously. In Thailand, tipping is not expected; however, if someone is working on your behalf, realize that your tips go a long way in boosting the Thai economy and supporting Thai industry, so tip appropriately.
- Don’t pay for pictures with endangered animals. More often than not, these tourist-driven photo ops are illegal–for good reason. These animals are generally victims of animal trafficking, subject to horrific abuse, and even hooked on drugs to keep them docile or awake. If, like me, you are dying to experience the lumbering, rolling gait experienced from the top of an elephant, the best place to do it in Thailand is at a few of the wildlife conservation centers, such as Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park, and Baan Chang Elephant Park.
- Be aware of proper etiquette. In Thailand, always remove your shoes when entering a temple or personal residence, have proper hygiene, and never insult the king or government. In many Asian cultures, the feet are considered the “dirtiest” part of the body while the head is the holiest, so make sure to put your best foot backward, and never point or touch objects with your feet–especially not the Buddha. Also note that holding your hand with fingers up is considered rude, so if you’re trying to hail a taxi with that gesture, you may be waiting for a very long time…
I could go on and on, but this post is getting super long. I’ll stop here for today, but feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for visiting!