“So I’m leaving for SE Asia in TWO WEEKS!! Are Y’all meeting me there?” asked my friend.
“I’m going to ask my boss about Thailand and Cambodia for the months of June or July. I will ask him tomorrow” I said.
That’s all it took. Ten years ago I never expected to be able to meet up with my friends in Asia to hang out. I was too worried about passing exams and making sure my financial aid came through. The friends that I met in college are some of the closest people I know. We decided to meet up in Krabi, Thailand because the beaches were nice and there was plenty to do, explore, and discover. It would be a perfect little five day and four night trip. I had a lot of fun and though it was exciting with close friends, I knew I wanted to check it out with my girlfriend when I returned.
Thailand has a bustling nightlife. Restaurants and bars are open until late and there are many tourist spots to check out for entertainment. You know that Windows XP background with the boats docked at the the beach? It’s the same as in real life over there. It’s not Photoshop. You can find the same colorful scenic beaches and phenomenal food. As soon as I had to take the flight back to South Korea, I was already wondering when I would go back. Now that I have the opportunity to do so, I have picked up some pointers to help interested wanderlusters regarding one’s mindset, awareness, and packing strategy in order to have an amazing time in Krabi, Thailand regardless if you are traveling with a group or by yourself. Variables such as flight costs, schedules, and layovers, as well as climate, housing, currency, and dietary restrictions may seem small, but could spell disaster for individuals who are particular about their needs.
Having a Positive Mindset is Key
If things do not go to plan, it is easier to have a go with the flow attitude and make the best out of a undesirable situation. Afterall, it is your vacation. That being said, doing a bit of research of the area and attractions is important so that options are available. While many check-list items are important, having an open mind ultimately influences happiness while on vacation. Keeping a low key night with a few beers while playing cards against humanity with good people is perfectly fine, if you want to get up early to go island hopping and snorkeling off of Phi Phi island. A good way to avoid disappointment is to outline what kind of goals and expectations your group is looking for. If said person is looking for a trip with friends to socialize, explore the area, and keeping their trip under a budget, then they would need to Paying attention to group rates, priorities, and of course agreeing with the majority vote for activities would be part of a group mindset. Although travellers would need to focus on specific preferences in regards to couple based activities if are hoping to plan a trip with their significant other.
Remember that plane tickets vary depending on the time of year so it’s important to request time off and book them early to get the cheapest prices. If you are planning on travelling from LAX to Thailand, tickets can run as high as $1300. If you have enough vacation days set aside for a trip, do the extra layover and use the few hundreds of dollars to invest in more activities once you are in Thailand. Keep in mind that prices will rise depending on the season. Pro tip! It’s cheaper to spend a night in Bankok and take an early flight from Don Meung Airport to Krabi. It works out to be around $100, which is far cheaper than flying directly to Krabi if you are short on money and the flights will fly in and out on a more regular basis. People have mixed opinions of when the best time to go would be. Some may argue that the cheaper flights are a reason to go, while others may say that clear skies and the least amount humidity are the most valuable indicators.
A quick Googling of the weather will clear up any weather issues you may have. Northern Thailand is best from November to May. However, the southeastern region has complicated weather patterns due to its bottlenecked geography. Southeastern Thailand weather is best from September to May and the southwestern is best from January through August. Depending on how much weather matters to you, this is important to take into account because it can affect your overall mood and fares.
When I first went to Krabi, it had a mix of rainy and sunny weather. As an ENFP who grew up in sunny Los Angeles, warm rain was actually interesting to experience. Krabi had a mix of rainy and clear skies when I first visited in July of this year. Although the weather was unpredictable, I got some good video and shots of the shoreline, greenery, and boats during the day when it was sunny. When it was raining, I focused on snorkeling and getting underwater footage. The fish don’t mind the rain. It was an eye opening to experience rain while snorkeling because the ocean was actually warmer than the raindrops. For the few hours it did rain, the rain gave my trip an authentic feel of Thailand, which I appreciated.
Events As A Group
Thinking as a unit will focus on events and activities that can be experienced together with friends and strangers. While in Thailand there were various hostels to stay at. Hostels can be fun with friends because you can meet other like minded travellers and even join up with them on their plans or itineraries. People tend to be very nice if you and your friends are respectful, positive minded, and thankful for the help or advice from others. In Bangkok I met up with my college friend got some beers and decent bar chow in the area and it decided to call it an early night. However the flight was very early and I would be flying out the next day to Krabi early with a so I didn’t want to stay out too late. For those of you who are interested in relaxing at the beach, exploring some islands, getting cheap real massages, I would suggest booking your beach destination in Ao Nang, in Krabi. I was able to find a great hostel that fit the needs of my friends and I and I met a lot of great people in the process.
With my friends I was able to book some beds at the Slumber Party at the Beach Hostel. The name is as fun as a spring break with your college friends sounds. It was filled with tours, island hopping, pub crawling, and socializing with a lot of people who were in their early 20s to their early 30s. It was an outgoing place that even included a retro arcade machine that had over 100 classic SEGA and Nintendo titles, which was wait for it... free. Yes it took me a couple of hours to figure that out, but once I did I think I wasted a good hour with my friend playing ‘Strikers 1945’ and ‘Metal Slug’. We were able to book island tours through the local companies, which were in walking distance from our hostel. If not having to worry about vetting tours and comparing prices of things to do is what you are looking for, then this hostel may be perfect for you and your party. It sets up events each day complete with opportunities to swim in the ocean, snorkel amongst the fish, hike on island, and explore some caves with a party oriented group of people. Also there was a cheap massage parlor across from the hostel that charged 200baht for one hour. I went there many times and starting snoring because they were that relaxing.
Cash is king. I made the mistake of not researching which cards would work and which wouldn’t. I am currently teaching English in South Korea so I have my U.S. credit and debit cards and my Korean debit card. I only brought my U.S. credit card and my Korean debit card because I assumed they would both work. Wrong. Most of the ATMs didn’t recognize my Korean debit card. I had to shuffle money around like Kevin Hart’s bank account explanation bit in order to withdraw money. It was a pain. I now know that I will be ready with both cash and the correct cards. If unsure, check with your bank before traveling.
There is a cultural mixture between Hinduism and Buddhism in Thailand and it can be seen in their food, art, fashion, and language. If you are not one for experiencing too much cultural food, then there are American fast food chains that have flagships in Thailand that include Mcdonald's, Subway, Domino's, and Pizza Hut. A lot of bars and restaurants also have comfort food that offers favorable items in their menus. As for me, I enjoy trying new food and I have always had a deep love for unhealthy eats. The greasier or more sugary something was, I ate it. Now that I am approaching my 30s, I can’t eat the same meals at the same quantities or occurrences as I could in the past. Thailand has some incredible food. Sure you can explore the usual take out items that you may have tried in the past, but they take it a step further with its presentation and flavor. Since most of the items are not being shipped off overseas and losing out on its freshness and quality, you may not find better Thai Iced Teas or coconut milk based curries, which are exquisite. Speaking of spice, I recommend packing all relevant over the counter medicine in regards to indigestion or discomfort. It will save your life and trips to the restroom, which means more time to travel and make use of your vacation!
Being Aware of One’s Surroundings is Wise
Reflecting on my trip with friends, I was still attentive to my surroundings and packed fairly well. Safety for men and women can vary in this part of the world, however it doesn’t hurt to have others who are also looking out for you in terms of leaving your items around, making sure that other people don’t harass you, and making yourself less of an easy target from con artists, scammers, and thieves. That being said, keep a concealed actual wallet. It also helps to have a fake wallet with $5-10 in it, so if you do get robbed or have to hand over something, you can use your acting skills and part with a small amount of money instead of all of your money.
The biggest issues they will run into would probably be men or women who are trying to solicit sex from them. It’s better for women to be vigilant about their surroundings, belongings, and general well-being. If you are travelling alone, I suggest you just stick to ordering beers at night. They are cheap, you can see the bartender open a new bottle in front of you or you can carry your own opener to make sure no funny business happens. The less you stand out like an affluent, clueless tourist the better.
Keep the name brand items at home if possible. People can snatch your cellphone or whatever you are holding in your hand if they are on a scooter. If you brought a high end camera or phone, you may have already lost this battle, but hey don’t let people take advantage of you for it. Unless you are in a group, it may be wise to stick to beers at night so you don’t get too drunk.
Smart-Packing Makes a Happy Trekker
In general try to find a happy medium between fashion and comfort. I suggest packing light. Sometimes wanting to show off on social media trumps your common sense, but don’t let it outweigh what is important. You will be able to find many hotels and hostels that will charge you a low price for doing laundry anyway. I can only speak on packing for men for a four day trip. When I come back I’ll update this to include more info. For men, I suggest packing two pairs of pants, two bathing suits, two buttoned up shirts, two t-shirts, a pairs of underwear for each day, and three pairs of socks. You will spend most of your time in sandals and a bathing suit, so socks would only need to come in when you are dressing up to go out at night. Same with shirts, you probably will wear them more at night. Since pants take up a lot of room, I only packed a couple. My bathing suits doubled as shorts so I realized that bringing an extra pair of shorts was overkill. For girls it may be easier or harder depending on how fashionable you want to be. Make sure you balance comfort with looking good. For fashionistas, it may be easier or harder depending on how fashionable you want to be. Wedges or flats will do. No one will care about your Jordans or heels, except for maybe thieves or prowlers. According to my iPhone I made 89,811 steps by the end of my trip. You’ll look good if you feel good.
If you are a photographer, blogger, or techie, it’s important to try to bring minimal equipment. If you do bring a small carry on suitcase or a duffel bag that could provide enough space and efficiency to haul your equipment. Try to bring a travel size camera. I suggest having a comfortable strap, compact bag, as well as a specific compartment to store it in your backpack to minimize theft. If you have a GoPro or another type of camera to document the outdoor activities make sure you get a case or make sure it is waterproof before you accidentally drop it or subject it to water damage. The same goes for your cell phone. Make sure that you don’t have a case that openly displays your wealth. I used a bright case with kermit the frog so that I would always be able to spot my phone and it would not blend in with the surroundings. I had this in mind in case my waterproof strap case broke during snorkeling and I would be able to see my phone on seabed.
Depending on how long you are planning on visiting Thailand for will dictate how much to pack. Invest in a backpack that has a lot of compartments and one that doesn’t have its zippers or straps exposed so that people can easily pickpocket you from the back or side. I wouldn’t recommend packing more than a carry on and backpack, but if you do need the extra space, please be smart and aware of your belongings because you will become a target.
Get one! Don’t be the tourist who doesn’t have data to see how to walk to find a restaurant, bar, hotel or hostel. Unless you are doing a trip to Asia for a long time, it is very useful to spend the 10 bucks each day so that you can have the option of enjoying your trip while staying plugged in. Yes you can get around with regular maps and asking for directions, but it will be useful to see if a taxi driver is taking you a roundabout way, or if it would be better to walk, take a bus, or scooter. If you are on vacation for a limited time, why not make sure you spend most of it having fun instead of getting lost or ripped off? If being unplugged is the goal, then I guess you wouldn’t have to worry about this issue.
I’ll be updating this post with any new advice after my second trip.