Spring Break Part 1: Thailand

This post is about three weeks overdue, proving that I am in fact studying abroad and am very busy with schoolwork… (and other trips). My spring (or autumn?) break began on April 11, 2019. I flew alone to Brisbane to meet up with the other Fairfield girls who are studying there. After a night in Brisbane, I spent Friday, April 12th in Coolangatta, a beach town on the Gold Coast (a region named for its golden sand and ideal surf), before flying out on Saturday with five friends. We had a brief layover in Singapore before touching down in Phuket on the 14th. Nine hours of flying later and we were ready to have the THAIme of our lives…

Sunday, April 14: We made it to Phuket- Thailand’s largest island! We spent the next five nights in the Chanalai Garden Resort on Kata Beach. I highly recommend this resort for its location and value for money (not too expensive!). Kata Beach is one of Phuket’s three main beaches- the others are Pa Tong (hub of Phuket, very touristy) and Karon. We spent our first day exploring the resort, catching up on sleep, and checking out the local beach. Jetlag and heat exhaustion hit mid afternoon so we had a low-key evening swimming in the pool and getting dinner.

Boats at Kata beach
One of the pools at our resort

Monday, April 15: This morning we took a taxi to Old Phuket to explore. We made our way down Thalang and Rommanee roads, the two most well-known colonial streets. There wasn’t as much to see in Old Phuket as we initially thought so we just shopped. It was SO difficult finding a taxi to get us back to the resort, which was surprising since we were right in a city center. Heat exhaustion had again taken the best of us so we returned to the resort and spent the afternoon swimming. We ate dinner at Two Chefs which ended up being one of the only restaurants that didn’t upset our stomachs, so eat here!

Thalang Road

Tuesday, April 16: A big day. This morning we woke up early for a day tour of the Phi Phi islands, famous islands in Thailand’s Krabi province. I first saw images of these islands online in high school and have had them pinned to my travel board on Pinterest ever since.

Our tour began at Green Island off the coast of Phuket for some snorkeling. Despite all the litter in the water, we were able to see so many starfish! Our next stop was Maya Bay. This is one of Thailand’s most iconic spots as it was the filming location for Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach, but unfortunately Maya Bay beach was closed when we visited due to damage from over-tourism. The bay was very overcrowded with tourists, but still left me speechless. We got back on our speedboat and went to Koh Phi Phi Don next, the largest Phi Phi island, for a buffet lunch and time on the beach. From there we went to Monkey Beach- a beach inhabited by hundreds of monkeys. This stop was my least favorite because the monkeys were really aggressive. They would grab anything that looked appealing to them and even climb you if you stood still! They carry so many diseases so I made sure to keep moving along. Our last stop was to Khai Nai island for more beach time and shopping. This island was set up solely to accommodate tour groups and was not my favorite place. Overall, I am glad I visited Phi Phi, but the amount of tourists overcrowding the various sites definitely took away from the experience. There were 50 people on our boat alone and everywhere we went had dozens of boats docked! It also made me upset to see the effects of over-tourism on the environment first-hand; this part of the world is damaged because of ocean pollution and single-use plastic. I usually drink from my reusable water bottle but the tap water in Thailand is undrinkable, so it’s a never ending cycle.

Koh Phi Phi Don island
Erica, Carisa, Juliana, and I on Koh Phi Phi Don

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Boathouse on Kata Beach that night and watched the most colorful sunset that we’ve ever seen!

Wednesday, April 17: We enjoyed the pool this morning and spent the afternoon at Green Elephant Sanctuary Park in Phuket. This was by far my favorite part of the trip! We got split into two groups and had the opportunity to meet and feed five elephants, including a baby. We got shown the night enclosures where the elephants comfortably sleep, and learned about their relationship with mahouts. A mahout is an elephant caretaker. They form a relationship with the elephant from the time that they are born and care for them throughout their entire lives. At this particular sanctuary, the mahouts actually live in cabins across from the elephant enclosures so that they are always near one another. Even while we were bathing the elephants in mud, the mahouts were right there with their elephant. What a job!

Hugging one of the oldest females in the sanctuary
Emily and I with mother & son
Mud bath (notice the mahout!)
Erica, Juliana, Carisa, Emily, Kelley, and I bathing two elephants
Bath time!

I HIGHLY recommend this particular sanctuary. It is brand new so the facilities are really great and the buffet was delicious. Not only do they treat the elephants ethically, the mahout’s wives are given work by being employed in the kitchen and looking after the facilities.

Ten female elephants and two baby boys live at the sanctuary and were all rescued from logging, riding, or circus abuse. The mistreatment that these animals often endure is terrible. Babies are forcefully separated from their mothers and are starved until they stop crying for them. Adult elephants are hit with sharp hooks when ridden to make them move, and their spines are in constant pain due to the weight of riders on their backs. I learned so much during my time at the sanctuary and want to share the facts to educate others. Do not ride them.

Thursday, April 18: This morning we did a Phuket city tour. We visited the Big Buddha temple, Wat Chalong- Phuket’s most famous temple, several lookouts, and a few obscure spots, including Gem World International and a cashew farm (they were part of the tour- not my first choice). The cashews were yummy and we did get to try on a $30,000 ring at the gem place so that was cool. “Wat” is the term for temple in South East Asia and there were several different temples for us to see on tour. We went inside a few of them, making sure to remove our shoes and cover our shoulders before entering.

Big Buddha temple
Juliana & I at Big Buddha
Wat Chalong temple

We ended our last full day in Thailand with a sunset swim. Because of the 100+ degree heat, the ocean felt like bath water. Floating in Thailand’s salty sea water while watching a breathtaking sunset is a memory that I will cherish forever.

Juliana & I enjoying our last sunset swim

Friday, April 19: We spent the morning shopping and swimming in the pool before departing for the airport. The airport was a nightmare and our layover in the Singapore airport between 12-5 am was less than ideal, but we safely arrived in Bali on Saturday, excited to kick off part two of our spring break adventure.

If you’ve made it this far- thanks for reading! If you want read about my time in Bali- keep an eye out for my next post!

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