Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is Thailand’s western province, bordering Myanmar. This part of the country is far removed from the tourist hub of Phuket or the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. In Kanchanaburi you will find farmland and lush forest landscapes. This part of the country is however home to a number of famous tourist attractions including the infamous Tiger Temple, which I had the common sense to avoid due to its horrific animal cruelty and black market smuggling activities. Aside from that, you will find Erawan Falls, Thailand’s famous floating markets, the bridge over the river Khwae and Death Railway amongst others. If you have a spare few days in Bangkok, I would suggest spending it here instead as it isn’t a far drive and there are plenty of tours available to take you. If you have yet to see monkeys in the wild, this is the place to do it, because they are literally all over the place in this region. Floating hotels built on the rivers are common in this area too if you would like a unique experience.

 

Floating Markets

The floating markets are one of Thailands best known attractions and normally feature on the walls of Thai restaurants in other countries. These markets are an amazing experience, but an enormous tourist trap. I recommend browsing at these markets for fun, but buying elsewhere, as you will find the exact same items for a fraction of the price. If you pay for a markets tour, you will be taken by boat through the floating market place itself and then on a brief tour of the canals in the surrounding area, passing through farms and housing areas. It’s a great experience and definitely worth doing.

http://floatingmarketthailand.com/index.html

 

Erawan Falls

Erawan Falls are part of Erawan National Park and are a protected area with some of the most stunning sites I have ever seen. The waterfalls and pools in this park are cleaner, clearer and bluer than anything I had ever seen before or have seen since that day. You can easily spend hours exploring the park, swimming in the pools and having a free foot massage from the local fish.

https://www.thainationalparks.com/erawan-national-park

 

Bridge on the River Khwae

This bridge is what inspired the famous 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, which went on to win 7 academy awards. The film focused on the building of the bridge for the Burma Railway, a horrific two year project by the Japanese during WW2 which led to the deaths of 330,000 labourers through forced labour conditions. Of theses deaths, the vast majority were civilians and prisoners of war, all dying  in order to construct a 415-kilometre stretch of railway between Thailand and Burma. The bridge and the railway still stands and operates to this day. The bridge has become a pilgrimage for many who fought in the war or who lost family or friends in the war, as well as for film enthusiasts wanting to see the bridge from the movie. In actuality, the film was shot in Sri Lanka using a similar looking bridge, but the meaning of this bridge remains the same regardless.

http://www.bridgeriverkwai.com/

 

Death Railway

Death railway as discussed above was the forced labour project of Japan during WW2, resulting in the deaths of 330,000 prisoners of war and civilian labourers. The railway still operates and can be ridden in order to experience a portion of what was build at such an immense human cost.

http://www.deathrailwaytours.com.au/

 

Floating Hotel

You will find plenty of floating buildings including hotels built on the Khwae River. If you get a chance, I highly recommend staying in one for a unique experience and the chance to watch the sun rise and set over the river.

 

Monkeys

If you still have yet to see monkeys in the wild in SE Asia, then this region is the place to go, as there are plenty of  them to be found and they are relatively friendly and playful.

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Bangkok

Bangkok is amongst the best known cities in the world. This is not only the hub of Thailand, but one of the largest and busiest cities in SE Asia. People from around the world visit Bangkok every year for numerous reasons. The city itself houses 8.8 million people, but including the city’s surrounding area, the total rises to over 14 million. You can feel the hustle and bustle the entire time you are in Bangkok, where the city never really sleeps. Unfortunately for me, my visit coincided with the Occupy Bangkok movement. I got stuck in protests, dropped off in a conflict area and had hand grenades go off two blocks from my hotel killing numerous people, as well as a public assassination of a protest leader. Due to this I had to cut my stay in Bangkok short before the bridges in and out of the city were completely  blocked off. I managed to cram as much as possible into the time I had in the city, but felt that it was unwise to stay any longer. Additionally, I made a bad choice in my accommodations’ location, staying in a rather dodgy area of the city where almost nobody spoke English, so if you visit, just remember that Khao San Road is the place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the city and amongst other tourists. I did actually enjoy staying in a non touristy neighborhood and met a member of the merchant navy who took me out to local food places and bars and translated for me.

 

Canals

Bangkok is built in the Chao Phraya River delta and as such the entire city is traversed by rivers and canals. The Thai people have historically always used these waterways in most aspects of life. The river is used for transportation, as well as a food source. If you manage to have time, make sure to take a river tour and explore the canals to see a whole other side of the city.

http://www.bangkokrivertours.com/

 

Temples

Bangkok is one of the Buddhist capitals of the world, housing a vast array of temples of all shapes and sizes. Sadly due to my time constraints I wasn’t able to explore nearly as many of these as I wanted to.

 

Markets

Bangkok is also well known for its numerous and varied markets. Whatever you are looking for, a market somewhere in Bangkok probably sells it. You will see animals, fruits, plants and other items that you have never seen before. I could  honestly have spent an entire day just visiting market places throughout the city.

Ko Phi Phi Don

Ko Phi Phi Don is the central island in a collection of islands known as the Phi Phis. This island has become a tourist haven in recent years, drawing an astounding number of visitors for its size. While the island is somewhat of a tourist overload, you can put up with it due to the absolutely stunning scenery. Views from this island are almost unreal, with clear blue, bathwater warm water, white sand beaches and palm covered hills. Sadly for me I only had one day on the island and poorly allocated my time, spending almost the entire day getting a tattoo done, traditionally with a stick and poke needle. It was a unique experience that I cherish and would not trade, but it did however prevent my from seeing much of the island. As such, my review of Ko Phi Phi Don is limited to the town center, a tattoo parlor and the central beach. Despite that, the beach on the island alone was worth the trip and I spent several hours there relaxing and swimming. sssss

 

Phuket

Phuket is world famous as a beach and party destination. Being one of the biggest tourist hubs of Southeast Asia it draws extremely large numbers of visitors each year and provides plenty for them to do during their visit. Phuket is divided into two halves by a large hill. The more touristy part is on one side called Patong, with hotels, shopping, beaches and the vast majority of the city’s clubs and bars. The other side of the hill houses Old Phuket, the original heart of the city, which is home to more local residences and businesses but is where you can see Phukets historic side. While the Old Phuket has more historical buildings, Patong houses the Big Buddha and the largest temple complexes in the region. If you are looking for nightlife and partying, Phuket is the place to be and definitely Patong in particular. As far as bars, clubs and evening entertainment goes, the only place I have seen outdo Phuket is Las Vegas, however, you can’t have a massive night out in Vegas for less than $50. The beaches are the perfect place to rest and recover the next day and Phuket has plenty of them. The Phuket Botanical Gardens are also a fantastic place to relax and unwind amidst some beautiful gardens. If you are looking for elephant riding, Phuket has that too at a reasonable cost. You can find far better elephant experiences in other parts of Thailand and even better in Laos, but if you aren’t leaving the tourist haven of Phuket, its still definitely worth doing.

 

Phuket Big Buddha

Phukets Big Buddha has been completed since my time in Thailand and having seen pictures, it looks fantastic. The statue is located on a peak looking down over the city. The sheer size of the statue is impressive and the temple leading up to the statue is beautiful in itself, having incorporated the trees on the temple grounds to hold bells and other religious items. Definitely worth a visit.

http://phuket-big-buddha.com/

 

Wat Chalong Temple

Wat Chalong Temple is not by a longshot the most impressive in Thailand, but is still stunning nonetheless. If your only time in Thailand is going to be spent in Phuket then you have to visit Wat Chalong to get a basic glimpse into Thai religion and culture and to see traditional Thai architecture, which in my opinion is amongst the most stunning in the world.

http://wat-chalong-phuket.com/

 

 

Patong Nightlife

Phuket’s nightlife is absolutely crazy. As I stated, the only place I have been that rivals or beats it is Las Vegas. The difference being that you can leave home with $50, have an entire night out in Phuket and come home with change. Drinks and street food are dirt cheap and can be found literally everywhere in the city. You stay a week in Phuket and not have to drink at the same bar or club twice. Make sure to hit up the Thai street-food market located at the end of  Rat-u-thit Songroipi Rd for some of the cheapest, tastiest and most varied food selections you can find.

 

Elephants

Patong does in fact have elephants despite being more urbanized than a lot of Thailand. The company will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the elephant riding location just outside of the city. As I stated earlier you can find far nicer elephant experiences in other parts of Thailand and even nicer in Laos. If you are only visiting Phuket though, its definitely an amazing experience to have.

http://phuketdir.com/campchangkalim/

 

Phuket Botanical Gardens

Phuket has one of the nicest botanical gardens I have ever visited, being almost on par with that of Singapore. If you need a place to escape the bustle of Patong or to recover from your hangover from the night before then this is a fantastic place to do so. The exhibits and environments created here are almost works of art in some cases. I highly recommend spending some time here, especially if you are on a budget.

Langkawi

Langkawi is a tropical paradise located off the coast of Malaysia. Not only is the majority of this island area a nature reserve, but the entire island is tax free, making it even cheaper than mainland Malaysia. There is one central urban area, consisting on a coast-hugging  main street with a few alleys branching off of it. Along this street you will find hostels, hotels, pubs, clubs, shops and restaurants. Despite being an increasingly popular tourist destination, the island has yet to be developed to the level of its counterparts in Thailand. Here you will find beautiful beaches, lush jungle terrain, mangrove swamps, mountain terrain and plenty of wildlife. I highly recommend taking a couple of days to spend on the island as I personally wish I had stayed longer myself and not booked a return trip ferry ticket from Georgetown.

 

 

Islands Day Cruise

This tour can either be done in a chartered boat or in a shared boat for a fraction of the cost. Its a fantastic way to spend the day both seeing the islands and relaxing. You’ll get to experience SE Asian motor-boating if you have yet to do so, which is an experience in itself, as well as seeing some beautiful scenery. You will be able to swim on tropical beaches and see some forest areas with local wildlife up close, particularly native sea eagles. Finally you will get to visit an island lagoon that you are able to swim in.

https://www.viator.com/tours/Langkawi/Island-Hopping-Tour-from-Langkawi/d338-3705LGK12

 

Cable Car

The Langkawi cable car is the longest distance free-spanning cable car in Malaysia and takes you from the base of the island to one of its highest peaks. This will give you a fantastic view of the area surround the mountain. Once at the top of the mountain, after taking in the view, you will begin your descent to the starting point. On the way down you will be able to cross over the sky bridge, a glass walkway built between two peaks overlooking jungle area. Sadly when I was there it was in the process of being repaired. The trek will take you down through the jungle back to the starting area, with a guide explaining the terrain around you on the way down.

http://www.panoramalangkawi.com/

 

River/Nature Reserve Day Tour

This day tour in my opinion lets you see more than the island hopping tour. While the scenery is not as spectacular, this tour will take you through mangrove forest areas allowing you to see plenty of monkeys and eagles up close, and to feed tropical fish by hand. The tour will also take you through a bat cave where you will see numerous sleeping bats in their natural habitat, as well as visiting a fish farm and a floating restaurant.

https://www.viator.com/tours/Langkawi/Private-Half-Day-Tanjung-Rhu-Beach-and-Mangrove-Forest-Boat-Tour-in-Langkawi-Including-Eagle-Watching/d338-29580P19

 

Sunsets

If you decide to spend no money on tours in Langkawi, then the sunsets on the island alone will make it worth the visit. The view of the sun setting over the ocean from the islands beaches is spectacular and draws a large crowd every evening.

 

Monkeys

If you have yet to see monkeys in their natural habitat, Langkawi is the place to do it. There are PLENTY of monkeys spread across these islands and you can get pretty close to them on several occasions throughout any tours taken or just walking around the island yourself.

 

Sea Eagles

The island of Langkawi itself and the surrounding islands and mangrove forests are home to vast numbers of sea eagles. Luckily the island has been declared a UNESCO protected ecosystem and as such the habitat of these animals has been protected, accounting for their vast numbers.

 

Georgetown: Penang

Georgetown, the hub of Penang is an island city with the second largest population in the country. The island is connected to the mainland via several large highway bridges. The city was a British colony established by the East India Trading Company and later become an official British territory. Georgetown has a highly unique culture due to its history and its ethnic makeup. The majority group in the city is Straights Chinese, a unique ethnic group in itself. After that the majority is Malay peoples, followed by Indians and Europeans from primarily Great Britain and Germany. Populations of traders and migrant workers from Myanmar, Thailand and various Arab states also had notable communities on the island. Having such a unique heritage, the city has an amazing blend of architecture, culture and cuisine. This uniqiue mix granted it UNESCO world heritage status.

 

 

Clan Jetties

These jetties house entire communities all build along boardwalks stretching out into the ocean. Along these boardwalks are houses, shops, cafes, bars and other services all built in tin and wooden shacks. These jetty communities are a unique experience worth visiting. Keep an eye out for mudskippers along the side of the boardwalk in the seaside mud and sand.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is one of the remaining mansions of Cheong Fatt Tze, a rich Chinese business tycoon and political advisor in the 19th and early 20th century. He amassed a fortune from nothing and became one of the richest men in the world, building mansions in several countries including this one in Georgetown. If you would like to see some stunning historic architecture unique to Georgetown, then the mansion is a must visit.

http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/

Fort Cornwallis

Built by the East India Trading Company in the late 1700s, the fort was named after General Cornwallis who fought in the American War of Independence at around the same time. The fort is in remarkable condition and can be walked and explored freely or seen via guided tour to explain its history.

 

 

Chinese Temples

Being majority Chinese, the city of Georgetown is filled with Chinese Buddhist and Taoist temples. The architecture on some of these buildings is simply spectacular, with carvings of immaculate detail.

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands are in my opinion one of the most beautiful places on earth. Located in the mountains amongst dense jungle landscapes, the Cameron Highlands is a tea growing plantation town unlike any other. You will find Dutch and German style architecture throughout this region, mixed with vast tea plantations amidst jungle terrain. This is a mix I have yet to find anywhere else to date. If you want the backpacking experience then I suggest finding a hostel in town itself. However if you want to spend a little more there is a fantastic resort located a short drive outside of town, closer to the tea plantations called Equatorial Cameron Highlands. There are plenty of jungle hikes in the area, just be careful not to get lost and probably don’t go out in a storm as jungle terrain can be far more dangerous than a normal forest. The fruit markets located near the Equatorial are definitely worth a visit, selling every type of fruit you could possibly want, in particular the freshest strawberries I have ever had.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/my/equatorial-cameron-highlands.html

 

BOH Tea Plantation

BOH is the largest and most developed of the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. This plantation has a large and beautiful property with lush tea fields surrounded by jungle. There is winding road leaving the main road in the Cameron Highlands that will take you to the plantation, which you can either drive or walk. Personally I walked it and took in the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery. The plantation has a fantastic café with a stunning viewing platform overlooking the rolling hills covered in tea fields. A tour of the plantation is also available, which will take you through the tea making process.

http://www.cameronhighlandsinfo.com/attraction/BOH_Tea_Plantations/

 

Jungle Hiking

There are plenty of jungle hikes located around Cameron Highlands, manyt of which start in town itself. Personally I did and loved Jungle Walk No1, which took several hours on a barely marked mud trail through thick jungle. I found out later that the trial is not recommended without hiring a guide, but luckily I managed to complete it myself without getting lost. I did however get covered in a thick layer of mud and moss and get soaking wet from rain. The jungle on the hike itself is stunning, trees are covered in thick moss and are gnarled and misshapen. If you like hiking, I highly suggest attempting the trail. Views on the climb are spectacular certain points, but cloud cover hid much of the distant rolling hills.

http://www.cameronhighlandsinfo.com/jungle_trekking/

 

Floral Greenhouses

The Cameron Highlands is home to numerous floral greenhouses, which house vast numbers of beautiful flowering plants in all shapes sizes and colours. These are located just down the street from the Equatorial, near the markets and strawberry farms.

 

Cameron Butterfly House

This facility, while being a butterfly house is actually far more impressive for its reptile, amphibian and insect collection. Here you will see numerous snake, frog, toad, spider, lizard and other species. Definitely worth a quick visit.

http://www.cameronbutterflyfarm.com.my/butterfly-house/reptiles-and-amphibians/