If you are lucky enough to be an expat living and working in Thailand, you are probably familiar with the stressful process of Visa applications.
If, instead, you are preparing to move to Thailand for work, better you get familiar with the procedures on how to apply for a Non Immigrant Visa ( Business Visa), and a Work Permit.
The web is full of detailed posts about the procedures to apply for visas outside of Thailand, however this blog is updated to August 2023, since I just applied successfully for a Non Immigrant Visa.
Keep in mind that I applied in Penang, Malaysia, at the Royal Thai Consulate, and that every country (and even different consulates or embassies within the same country) might have different requirements. This post refers only to Penang.
Penang is a popular destination where you can apply for Non Immigrant Business Visas for Thailand (commonly referred to as Non B ). It's a short distance from Phuket and the South of Thailand, it's a vibrant island of long beaches, museums and delicious food and it's one of the cheapest options in the region.
There are several sub-categories of Non Immigrant Business Visas (one is for teaching, one for short business trips in Thailand, one for employees that intend to work in Thailand long term and so on...).
I applied as an employee for a Thai Tour operator based in Phuket.
The process to request a Non Immigrant Business visa for Thailand in Penang is relatively straightforward, but there are a few details you should pay attention to.
First, you need to prepare the necessary documents for your application in advance, only then you can travel to Penang (by plane or by road).
I recommend to carefully read the check-list published on the Penang Thai Royal Consulate website.
To be sure that the online list of documents was updated, I did email the Consulate, however the answer arrived ten days after I had successfully completed my Visa run, and in any case they just told me to consult the website, so save your time and skip the email consultation.
Moreover, even if you do check the Royal Consulate website, two important details are missing there: first, it is not indicated on the website, but you will need to show a Contract Agreement between you and your employer stating the date of your first intended day of work, how many hours per week you will work, how many days per week and the agreed salary that you will earn. It must be signed by you and the General Manager or CEO of the Company.
Second, despite the Consulate in Penang being open every day (Monday to Friday) from 9 to 11 AM, the application for Non Immigrant Visa can be submitted only for 1 hour (9 AM to 10 AM); after 10 AM only other Visa applications are processed.
If you step inside the Consulate at 10:10 AM, you’ll be asked to leave and go back the next day, even if you have been queuing outside since 7 in the morning.
I witnessed this happening last week, and despite the strong protests of the rejected applicants, they were forced to leave. So, queue early and be sure to submit your application before 10 AM.
Remember to check the website for Thai and Malay public holidays, since there are plenty and the Consulate is closed for all public holidays.
Four years ago, I didn’t do my homework, and I ended up being stranded in Penang for 14 days. Not that Penang is a bad place to be stuck, but if you go prepared you’ll save time and money.
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR IMMIGRANT NON B VISA
For Employee Non Immigrant Visa (B), the required documents are:
1) Completed visa application form. The form can be dowloaded from the Thai Royal Consulate website, and I suggest you download it, print it and fill it before going to the Consulate, because the office is crowded and the guard at the entrance will ask you to step out of the line if the papers are not in order, so you'll end up losing your place in the queue.
2. Original passport with at least 6-month validity and 2 blank pages
3. A copy of passport (ID page)
4. Two passport size photo (3.5x4.5 cm, white/ blue background and taken within the past 6 months)
5. Any of the following:
In this case, I did have the WP3 with me when I flew out of Thailand, but 4 years ago I wasn’t so lucky and had to wait for the WP3 in Penang.
6. Documents from employer in Thailand:
Once you have all the necessary documents, you can submit your application at the Royal Thai Consulate General in Georgetown, Penang.
The processing time for a Business Visa for Thailand usually takes around 2-3 working days (it can take longer if additional documents are required or you apply on a Friday or before a long weekend).
For example, if you fly or drive to Penang on a Sunday evening, you can submit your documentation on Monday morning and get back your passport with the Non Immigrant B Visa on Tuesday after 2 pm.
If your documents are accepted, you will be asked to pay cash for the visa (320 Malaysia ringgit, Thai bath are also accepted) then the Consulate will issue you a receipt with the appointment to collect your passport the following afternoon.
A WORK PERMIT IS MANDATORY TO WORK IN THAILAND
It is important to note that the Non Immigrant Business visa for Thailand (B) granted to employees is a 90 day, single entry Visa that you will have to extend in Thailand before its expiration.
To legally work in Thailand, a foreigner must also apply for a Work Permit: the work permit is a legal document that states a foreigner's position, job description and the Thai company he is working for. It also serves as a license to perform a job allowed for foreigners inside Thailand.
It’s best that you consult with your employer for this other procedure, which is quite straightforward once you have the Non B, but it requires a medical health check , blood test and a proof of residence.
Upon arrival at the immigration checkpoint in Thailand with your Non Immigrant Visa (B) you will be granted an initial permit to stay in Thailand up to 90 days.
Within 90 days after entry Thailand, you must obtain a work permit from the Labour Department. With the work permit, you can then apply for a 1-year extension of stay from the Immigration Bureau.
The extended stay permit is valid for multiple entries into Thailand.
GET EXTRA HELP FROM A LOCAL AGENCY
In conclusion, applying for a business visa in Penang can be a simple process if you go prepared and have all the necessary documents.
If you are willing to pay a small fee for the help of a local agency (which I recommend), you can contact Sharma Travel in Leith Street, Georgetown: Jim, the owner, is an institution in town, and has been precious in saving my time and helping with the application.
This time, I flew in on a Sunday night, went straight to Jim’s place to check that all the documents were in order (the agency is open on Sunday if, as it often happens, they have costumers that need to apply the following day ), found out that the Contract Agreement was missing, contacted my employer in Thailand, got the document sent by email, printed it at Jim’s place, then on Monday morning Jim drove me to the Thai Royal Consulate at around 7.30 am and there I queued with the rest of his group until the opening time.
When I was done with my application, Jim drove me back to my hotel.
The following day, he collected the passport for me so that I didn’t have to drive to the Consulate, I just walked from my hotel to his place in the city centre.
Jim’ service was around 700 THB, a vey honest fee for his help. Through Jim it is also likely that you will get your passport back before 2 PM, however this is not a general rule.
EXPECT LONG LINES AT THE CONSULATE
Queuing outside the Consulate can be a CRAZY experience: the line reserved to Chinese citizens was 500 meter long by the time I joined the queue at 7:30 AM. Some of those people had been queuing since 4 AM!
Luckily, there is another line reserved to other countries, and it was shorter.
Anyway, if you apply for a Non Immigrant B, be sure to go as early as possible before the official opening at 9 am, or you won’t make it.
In case you need to copy any document or take a photo, there is a minivan equipped like a copy centre parked outside the Consulate, however I advise you to prepare everything before and avoid more queuing.
One last info: there are agency in Thailand charging crazy fee for a Visa run to Penang (one told me to book flights and hotel by myself and “bring all the correct documents” but asked me 6500 THB . "For what?" I enquired. They never answered back but I guess that was the price for a return trip by taxi between the hotel and the consulate, a 10 minute trip).
So, I suggest you book your flight and accommodation in the city centre of Georgetown, then you either travel to the Consulate by yourself (by Grab or taxi) or go to Jim’s office and use his service.
No need to pay extra money to the agencies in Thailand, which, it turns out, 9 times out of 10 use Jim’ service but decuplicate the price.
In Georgetown I’ve slept in two different hotels over the years, both okay: Kim’s House Penang and Chulia Heritage Hotel. They are in the backpackers' city centre, surrounded by shops, bars, attractions, restaurants, supermarkets and easy transportation, including buses. However Georgetown has plenty of hostels, b&b and hotel available, and Booking.com is your best ally.
Good luck with your Non Immigrant Visa application for working in Thailand!
Chiang Rai is a charming little city located in Northern Thailand.
It’s popular for its laid back atmosphere, the lush, tropical setting, its closeness to Laos and Myanmar, and for hosting two of the most stunning temples of Thailand, the White Temple and the Blue Temple.
Most travellers only choose to visit the temples on a day trip from Chiang Mai, but my suggestion is to sleep in Chiang Rai a night or two in order to experience the city and take things slowly.
For a three-day stay, here are my recommendations on what to see and what to do in Chiang Rai:
Day 1: Get settled in your accommodation (I chose La Luna Resort which is settled in a beautiful lush tropical garden, a 10 minute walk from the Clock Tower, paying 32 euro for a Deluxe room back in October), then head to the famous White Temple (whose real name is Wat Rong Khun).
The temple is a stunning, all white structure with intricate details and sculptures.
The artist behind Wat Rong Khun is Thai artist and architect Chalermchai Kositpipat.
The temple opened to visitors in 1997 but it's still a work in progress, with new buildings still being added in 2023.
Kositpipat financed the project with his own money (from his job as a world known artist) but nowadays the entrance fee that visitors pay to access the temple are enough to support the building of new structures and maintenance.
The main structure, the ubosot, is an all-white building with fragments of mirrored glass embedded in plaster.
Kositpipat built the temple as an offering to Buddha, and he believes the project will give him immortal life. Wat Rong Khun is also dedicated to the late king, Rama IX, who passed away in October 2016.
One of the building hosts an interesting display of photos and paintings depicting the life of Rama IX.
To access the ubosot (the main temple hall) visitors have to cross a bridge over a small lake. All around the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolise unrestrained desire and greed, and the bridge is so narrow that visitors must cross it one by one. This escamotage is to signify that the road to happiness is not easy, in order to reach it, we will have to overcome greed and temptations, and we will have to do it alone.
After crossing the bridge, the visitors reach the "gate of heaven", guarded by two demonic creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decides the fate of the dead.
Once inside the White Temple you'll find yourselves astonished by the murals: monstrous faces in swirling orange flames are interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddy Krueger and Superman,but also Goku, Hello Kitty, Pirate Jack Sparrow, Yoda and Harry Potter. Other scenes portrait
nuclear disasters, terrorist attacks such as the World Trade Center attack, and oil pumps at work. The message is clear: weak and evil humans have a destructive impact on earth. And yet, all this madness and horror is housed in such a candid, angelic structure that symbolises the purity of the Buddha.
Before you leave the Wat Rong Khun, make sure to go to the toilet. The restrooms are indeed one of the most surprising elements in the complex: the golden building represents the body and human greed and desire, whereas the white temple represents the purity of the mind.
After marvelling at master Kositpipat's work, go visit his disciple's doing: artist and architect Putha Kabkaew, who built Wat Rong Suea, known as the Blue Temple, was indeed a student of Kositpipat.
Wat Rong Suea means “House of the dancing tiger”: apparently it was named after a tiger that used to roam the area. In contrast to the cotton candy white of the White Temple, this other Buddhist temple surprises for the incredible cobalt blue interspersed with orange flames and psychedelic paintings. Unlike the Wat Rong Khun, the Blue Temple is not an active temple, no monks live in the complex.
The main building, the viharn, is guarded by two huge Naga snakes. The style is traditional Lanna (the traditional style of Northern Thailand) with intricate floral motifs. If the outside stunned you, rest assured that the interior is equally outstanding.
Paintings on the walls show scenes from the life of the Buddha, while the ceilings are covered in a kaleidoscope of sapphire blue and violet ornaments with inlays of gold.
If after visiting the Blue Temple you aren't too tired, go on to explore the Baan Dam, the Black House. If instead you are too tired, move this tour to the third day and return to the city centre to grab something to eat at the Night Market: you'll find tasty street food and local products. A Norther Thailand dish you should try is Hunglay, a pork curry with garlic and ginger.
The Black House is a complex of 40 buildings in Lanna and Laotian style, mostly made of dark teak wood, occupying a vast, lush tropical garden.
Inside the buildings, which are per se an attraction worth to be seen, is a collection of paintings, scary sculptures, silver and gold items, animal bones and skins but also some unusual objects like phallic piggybanks and opium pipes.
The main theme of Baan Dam seems to be “The darkness of the heart of man”.
Buddhist themes like death and rebirth and suffering caused by human desire are always present in the art of Thawan Duchanee, the Thai artist who built the Black House in 1975 and lived in the complex until his death, a few years back.
Day 2: The Golden Triangle
North East of Chiang Rai, close to the village of Chiang Saen, lies the infamous Golden Triangle, once the center of opium production and trade in South East Asia. Those days are gone. Now the area is peaceful, known for the picturesque hill villages in the jungle, ancient temples and for the Hill Tribes, the ethnic minorities who captivate visitors with their bright coloured clothes and hand made artefacts.
After reaching the Thai side of the Golden Triangle viewpoint, you can see the two other neighbouring countries, Myanmar and Laos, the muddy Mekong River and the mountainous landscape dotted with villages and temples. You'll also see a large golden Buddha, an ancient temple perched on a hill and the House of Opium Museum.
The latter is a large museum that shows the history of opium growing and trade in the Golden Triangle. You will see objects like opium pipes and artefacts to prepare the drug, old photographs and short documentaries explaining the procedures to transform poppies into opium.
Another section of the museum is devoted to the British Opium Wars.
A third section is dedicated to the hill tribes that used to grow opium poppies.
The highly successful project started by the Royal Projects Foundation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej managed to eradicate poppy cultivation in the area in the last three decades.
The project succeeded in showing farmers an alternative to opium trade, in improving the life of local farmers and protecting the environment: nowadays the region is known for the good quality of its coffee, tea and rice and for the variety of its fruits and vegetables.
Motor-launches cruise the Mekong between Thailand and Laos and it's possible to board one for only half a hour or for a multi-day trip: the most popular destination is Luang Prabang, which can be reached with a two to three nights cruise involving some cultural stops along the way.
Before going back to Chiang Rai, a typical day tour to the Golden Triangle usually includes a visit to some local tea plantations, a quick stop in Mae Sai, the border village with Myanmar, and an interesting stop in Chiang Saen, a small scale Ayutthaya.
Chiang Saen houses several ancient temples (among them the well preserved Wat Phra That Chedi Luang), ruins of old palaces and monuments dating back to the Lanna Kingdom, and the most well preserved city walls in Northern Thailand. From 1300 until 1804, the year of its destruction, Chiang Saen had been a strategic city for the Lanna Kingdom and an important Buddhist center.
For a while it even belonged to Myanmar.
Speaking about Chiang Saen, for my next trip to Chiang Rai province, it's likely that I will choose this city as a starting point for future explorations, because a few hours here and there during a day trip are not enough to fully appreciate it.
By the time you get back to Chiang Rai on your second day you are going to feel tired, however if you happen to be in the city centre around 7, 8 or 9pm, don't miss the kitsch show of music and lights at the Clock Tower. Built by the same architect of the White Temple, the tower is a Clock, a roundabout, and a city attraction.
Day 3: Singha Park, Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park and, eventually, the Black House
Unless you plan to leave the city in the morning, use your third day in Chiang Rai to visit either the Singha Park or the Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park, or you could go to Baan Dam (the Black House) if you didn't see it on the first day.
Singha Park is a mix between a tropical garden, a farm and a zoo.
The least interesting section, which in my opinion you can skip, is the zoo where some giraffes and zebras are kept captive and fed by tourists. The rest of the park is worth exploring, though: it consists of endless rice fields, tea fields, fruit orchards, lavender fields, beautiful tropical flowers and a lake.
Instead of the Singha Park you can opt to visit Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park, 5 km west of Chiang Rai. It is a vast area housing ponds and lakes, traditional Lanna buildings and a collection of religious artefacts and contemporary art.
It's interesting if you are really fond of the history and culture of Chiang Rai, but I'd rather choose the Singha Park, if in doubt between the two.
Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park:
As you can see, Chiang Rai has plenty of temples, museums, natural scenery and attractions to discover, and you should consider to stay overnight instead of booking a day trip from Chiang Mai. It is not unlikely that after staying a few nights, you'll want to get back there for more exploration.
If you found the post interesting, feel free to give it a thumb up and share it, thanks!
Greetings from Chiang Mai!
After a year of stillness and work in Krabi, I’ve been taking a week off to travel solo, something that I like to do once in a while. It helps me recharging and relaxing at the same time. I mean, how cool is it not to have to make plans in advance or compromise on dinner or where to go next? I enjoy traveling with friends and family, but sometimes I need my time alone.
Taking advantage of the quiet low season, I decided to fly North, stop two days in Chiang Mai and the rest of the week in Chiang Rai: I’ve visited the former on a stop over some years ago, but it’s going to be my first time in the latter, and I can’t wait to be there.
However, this post is only about Chiang Mai, because there is a lot to say about this city alone, and Chiang Rai deserves its own post.
Table of content:
The city of Chiang Mai, a digital nomad favourite that looks like a village
Chiang Mai, or Chiangmai, is the largest city in Northern Thailand and the capital of Chiang Mai province. It lies 700 km north of Bangkok in a mountainous region.
The name Chiang Mai means “New city” in Thai, however the city used to be the capital of the Lanna Kingdom before the reign merged with other kingdoms as part of Siam, nowadays Thailand, so its story is longer than what the name might suggest.
Chiang Mai is crossed by the Ping River and because of its position it has become a religious, cultural and economic centre for Northern Thailand, as well as a strategic Northern hub for travels to and from the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, China and Laos.
Chiang Mai is also one of the favourite cities of digital nomads; this reflects in the great number of co-working spaces, cafes, clubs, organic shops and vegetarian and vegan restaurants that can be found all around the city but especially in the Old Town and in the Nimmanhaemin area. It’s also a renowned and appreciated tourist centre, thanks to the many attractions that satisfy most travellers, from stunning National parks like the Doi Inthanon to jungle and river adventures, trekking opportunities, elephant sanctuaries. Not to mention the thousands of temples and ruins that fill the province and the presence of the hill tribes, minority groups of Tibetan and Mongolian descent like the Karen, Hmong and the Miao who possess awesome clothing, interesting religious beliefs and a remarkable way of living. We all can absorb some wisdom from the hill tribes, and in fact visiting a village of White Karen has been one of the highlights of my trip.
Yet, despite offering a great deal of activities, Chiang Mai appears like a large village: it’s (mostly) very clean, it’s orderly, it’s quiet and traditional, and the high rise condos haven’t changed its appearance, yet. The Old City, particularly the 18th-century walled quarter, lies on the West bank of the Ping River; it contains ruins of many 13th- and 14th-century temples, while the modern East-bank area is a more open scenery. Two bridges cross the broad Ping River.
Flying to Chiang Mai
After Bangkok, Chiang Mai is probably the most well connected city in Thailand.
There are weekly flights to most Thai cities (including Bangkok, Hat Yai, Hua Hin, Samui, Khon Kaen, Krabi, Pattaya, Phuket, Nan, Pai, Phitsanoluk) and several low cost airlines like Air Asia, Nok Air, Kan, Nok Air, Tiger Air fly to and from Chiang Mai airport, on top of major airlines like Thai, Singapore Airlines and Korean Air .
Flights to Bangkok depart almost every hour, while International flights connect the city to bordering countries like Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, but also to China, South Korea, India, Taiwan and Qatar.
The direct flight from Krabi to Chiang Mai is operated by Air Asia and it costed me about 2000 THB, booking a week in advance. From Chiang Mai I plan to travel by bus to Chiang Rai, where I will be spending four days. On the way back, I’m going to fly from Chiang Rai to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Krabi with Thai Lion Air. For the three flights I paid 4500 THB, but the fare can double in high season (November to March) and during public holidays.
Where to sleep in Chiang Mai
The accommodation I’ve chosen is an original boutique hotel in the heart of the Old Town. It’s called Elliebum and I love it! The staff is not only welcoming but very professional and friendly, eager to share tips and info about the city and activities to do. The little garden at the entrance of the hotel is adorable, and you can sit there with friendly Gede and chat while sipping a glass of good wine at sunset, if you feel like enjoying some company.
The rooms are on the small size but spotlessly clean and well furnished with anything you need, from a bathrobe to hairdryer and safety box. My Deluxe room is on the second floor, there’s no elevator but the staff can carry your luggage upstairs if needed.
Breakfast is AWESOME. You get to choose among 8 or 9 options and they will prepare and serve it according to the time you prefer. So far I’ve tried Jok (a Thai porridge with pork meatballs, ginger and eggs) and a Lebanese dish of fried eggs in a bed of tomato sauce. You can book directly with the hotel or through Booking.com, always my first choice for reservations.
If you like to book your activities in and around Chiang Mai through Get your Guide or Trip Guru, the Elliebum boutique hotel is well known to their guides and drivers, and the address automatically pops up when choosing your preferred pick up location. Super easy.
Like myself, most travellers opt to sleep in the Old Town, which is the most charming part of the city, filled with temples, monuments, restaurants and shops. It’s enclosed by the old walls and very easy to explore by feet or by bike.
Just outside of the old city, at the four corners, are some shopping malls like Central or Maya, useful if you need to buy trekking equipment or go grocery shopping for imported food.
All around the city, in the countryside or on the hills, are some upscale resorts and boutique hotels that are the dream of Instagram influencers.
You can wake up in the mist that engulf the hills, surrounded by the jungle, and open your window to a suspended hammock or infinite pool. Of course all come for an expensive price.
To recap, the main areas you should consider for your stay in Chiang Mai are the following:
What to see in three days
1) Temples, temples and more temples
It’s raining heavily in Chiang Mai at the moment (not surprisingly, for mid October) so after landing I decided to spend the rest of the day walking lazily around the neighbourhood, dressed as a Smurf in my rain jacket, to check out bars and restaurants and visit a few temples.
The Warorot Market, which was one of the local places I wanted to experience, is unfortunately closed due to the heavy rain and flooding. But be sure to check it out when visiting the city.
Instead, on my first day in town I decided to take it slow, and get lost on purpose, walking without a precise itinerary. Isn’t it relaxing to get lost once in a while? Especially in a city that’s filled with temples, markets, design cafés, local specialties and interesting boutiques selling high quality cotton and silk clothes.
I had planned to rent a bike or a scooter for going around, however due to the very heavy rain and flooding I reconsidered, and went by foot.
The first temple I visited, just around the corner from my hotel, was the Wat Chedi Luang (entrance fee: 50 THB) where Chiang Mai’s City Pillar is hosted.
Chedi Luang, also known as The Great Stupa temple, is one of Chiang Mai’s most important temples. Its most easily recognisable feature is the massive stupa (or Chedi = pagoda) dominating the courtyard. It was built over a century and once finished, in 1475, it had reached an impressive height of 85 meters, the tallest structure in Chiang Mai province. A earthquake destroyed much of the pagoda in the 16th century, however it was partially restored in the Nineties .
The most sacred Buddha statue in the country, the Emerald Buddha, used to be housed inside the Wat Chedi Luang. Today, however, the statue is housed in the Wat Phra Kaew temple, in Bangkok.
The Sao Inthakin, Chiang Mai City Pillar is also housed in a small shrine inside the Wat Chedi Luang complex. The city pillar is believed by locals to protect the city. Women are not allowed to enter the shrine to see it, though, and you will find an explanation why on the sign at the entrance. Surprise, surprise...
The Wat Chedi Luang complex was partially flooded and everybody was walking in water at knee length, but I was enjoying my stroll and decided to keep going.
The next temple I entered was the Wat Phra Singh or “The temple of the Lion Buddha” , dating back to the 14th century when Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom.
The temple hosts a great number of monks and it was lively even in the pouring rain.
The most peculiar thing about this temple is the main golden stupa which is a circular structure mounted on a square base. Four elephant statues emerge from the 4 sides of the stupa.
Even in the grey sky, the golden pagoda is as sparkling as the sun, so much as to be blinding!
Golden reflections in the rain puddles and a backdrop of dark clouds made this temple look ethereal.
Admission is free.
Before going back to the hotel for a change of socks and shoes, I stepped on the grounds of a deserted temple, the Jedi Sriphuak Hong. I enjoyed some quiet five minutes right before sunset, then I walked back to Elliebum.
I had dinner in a restaurant nearby, where I ordered a very welcomed hot soup (Khao Soy, rice noodles in a chicken broth, a specialty of North).
2) Doi Inthanon National Park
On my second day in Chiang Mai I booked a guided tour to explore Doi Inthanon National Park, which is located about 60 kilometres from Chiang Mai.
Doi Inthanon is appreciated for its waterfalls, vegetation and the rain forest, and for housing Thailand’s highest peak, the 2,565 meter high Doi Inthanon.
Different altitudes mean different flora and fauna inside the park: the lower parts host the same vegetation as the rest of Northern Thailand, while the top of the mountain is covered in mist and evergreen forest: green ferns, lianas, mosses and several plants that cannot be found elsewhere in Thailand can be found here.
If Elves existed they would live close to Doi Inthanon Peak.
My guided tour (which I booked via Get Your Guide) comprised 8 people in a well kept minivan, plus guide and driver.
Once we reached the park, we first stopped to see Wachirathan Waterfall, the second biggest on the way to the summit of Doi Inthanon Mountain, and one of the most impressive.
The multi-levelled waterfall drops around 80 meters, and you get sprayed just by stand-in ten meters away. So be careful with your electronics and use a waterproof bag.
When the sun comes out, even for a second, a beautiful rainbow appears in the midst of the river.
You can stay overnight at Doi Inthanon, camping or renting one of the National Park’s bungalow, but the latter are to be booked almost one year in advance because they are in high demand. So camping looks like the easier option.
We then stopped at Sirithan Waterfall, another stunning waterfall which is named after the Queen Mother, Sirikit. (Than means Water in the old Pali language).
Due to the seasonal heavy rain, we could see the waterfalls and the river at their most powerful.
We then proceeded to the Doi Inthanon summit where we took a 45 minute walk in the forest. It was cold, though! Well, colder than expected, anyway.
At 18 degrees, this is the coldest day I’ve experienced in the last 4 years, except for the 5 freezing days in Copenhagen in October 2021.
But it was so worth it: the moss-and-fern covered forest is so beautiful I’m not sure I can describe it effectively, you must walk there by yourselves to see what I mean.
At the top of the summit there are two twin pagodas, known as The Royal Twin Pagodas. For some of my travel companions, the two pagodas were the highlight of the day, but in my opinion the enchanted forest and the Karen village deserve the first place.
The first and largest pagoda was built to honour the late King, Rama IX, on his 60th birthday, while the second, slightly smaller, pagoda is dedicated to his consort, Queen Sirikit.
More than the pagodas I appreciated the stunning view on the valley below, which came unexpected: after a foggy and rainy morning, the sky opened and the sun shone briefly while we were walking in the Queen’s gardens that encircle the two pagodas, and there it was, Chiang Mai valley and some part of the city!
3) The Hill Tribes
Doi Inthanon is home to a number of hill tribe villages, some of which can be visited on a day or multi-day excursion.
Inside the park we kept driving until we reached a Karen village of 800 inhabitants.
The White Karen are one of the three groups that make up the Karen Tribe of Tibetan descent ( the other two are the Red Karen and the Longneck Karen).
The White Karen are fierce protector of the forest, they live a symbiotic life with nature. They even bury their dead under the trees surrounding the village so that they can be one with nature.
Black piglets, cows, puppies, roosters and ducklings roamed around us while we walked in the village. We took our time to smell the flowers, pick up fruit from the trees, visit a weaver’s shop, some rice fields and a coffee roasting shop.
While tasting the very strong dark coffee of the Karen, we learned about the Doi Inthanon Royal Project which was started by the late King to educate the hill tribe people about modern agricultural techniques and how to improve their living standards.
The Royal Project aims to offer an alternative for the destructive slash and burn tactics that were used by peasants and farmers in the past and it also aims to give a profitable alternative to the production of opium, once the main product coming from these hills. Nowadays, the Karen village we visited grows coffee beans, rice and several vegetables and fruits, including avocado and strawberries. It's extremely peaceful and traditional, yet lively and beautiful.
We felt welcomed by the locals and when we left we didn't have the feeling of being in a tourist trap like the one set at the Longneck Village I've read about in several posts.
Did you know?
1) There’s a beach in Chiang Mai! In fact, you’ll likely spot some road signs pointing to Chiang Mai Beach along the road, even if the city is hundred of miles away from the ocean.
Since a few years, there has been a Chiang Mai river beach, a place where, despite the muddy coloured Ping River not being inviting for swimming, you’ll find sun chairs, swings, hammocks, a coffee shop and a beach playground for kids to play in the sand. I haven’t had time to check it out in person, but it seems to be quite popular and only a 20 minute drive from the Old City.
2) At the Wat Chedi Luang foreigners can speak daily with the local monks, and it’s a mutual learning opportunity: monks can practice their English while foreigners can expand their knowledge about Buddhism and monastic life.
3) Starbucks might not be your ideal coffee nest, however I was thrilled to learn that in Chiang Mai they buy coffee beans coming from the White Karen villages of Doi Inthanon. They go local, they pay a fair price (according to the villagers) and that’s good to know.
And that's all from Chiang Mai since tomorrow I'm going to travel to Chiang Rai, where I've never been before.
Three days in Chiang Mai is the minimum stay one should plan since there is a lot to see and experience, not too mention all the restaurants and art galleries that would require a month alone. However, a quick stay is better than nothing, and I plan to visit the city again at another time of the year.
If there is anything you would like to recommend me before my next trip, please do write it here!
1. Two less know markets
2. Amulets and Buddha statues
3. Directions to the Amulet Market
4. Flowers, fresh fruit and tons of ice: The Flower Market
5. Guided Tours
6. Directions to the Flower Market
If it’s not your first time visiting Bangkok, you’ve probably seen the top attractions: beautiful ancient temples like the Wat Arun and Wat Po, the Royal Palace, Lumphini Park and the Jim Thompson’s house; you’ve probably enjoyed shopping at the huge malls downtown, and you’ve ridden the ferry on Chao Praya River.
You may have been to Chatuchak market and sipped a cocktail at one of the luxury roof-top bar as the Vertigo or the Marriott the Surawongsee, taking in breathtaking views of the city at night.
But if you have a few more days left in the city and wish to experience Bangkok like a local or if you’re a repeating visitor who already covered the Must see/ Must do lists, here you'll read about two less known markets that make Bangkok so original.
The first market is not far from the Royal Palace and it’s known as The Amulet Market.
Thailand is (mostly) a Buddhist country and amulets play an important part in the Kingdom’s culture and religion.
The Amulet Market is where monks, collectors and Buddhism followers go looking for both ancient, expensive amulets and everyday talismans to keep at home or on themselves for protection.
The second market is not strictly religious, however the goods on display are, for a great part, used to decorate temples and public buildings, other than hotels, restaurants and private houses: I'm talking about the Flower Market.
Amulets & Buddha statues
The Amulet Market spreads from the area behind the riverfront of Maharaj Shopping complex, back to Chiang Pier, so it’s convenient to reach it by ferry as well as taxi, bus and BTS.
It is close to the Royal Palace, however I’ve never visited it before last month, for lack of time or because, to be honest, I never managed to find it.
I’m sure I’ve been in that soi (narrow lane) before, but either the market was closed that day or I can't explain how I missed it.
Once you get to the right alley, it’s really hard to miss: dozens of stalls sell thousands of sacred amulets bestowed with protection and Buddha statues, or other religious items.
It’s a local market that attracts residents who buy for their own collection and daily practice, and, of course, monks.
It possesses all the charm and the colours that you can hope for when visiting a market in a foreign land, however not all vendors are okay with tourists taking photos and videos.
You will notice many “No Photo” signs and some very rude merchants.
Most sellers are kind and polite, though, and a few even speak enough English to help with explanations about their amulets.
I ended up buying a few small amulets for Buddhist friends from a friendly vendor who was pleased by my interest and questions.
From what I understood from the patient seller (and from my friend Alice, always a helper in these cultural matters), the power of each amulet varies: some are believed to ward off spiritual evils, ghosts and imbalance; others are believed to shield owners from physical dangers like car accidents, bullets and so on.
So, each buyer who goes to the Amulet market has something specific in mind; they are looking for a special talisman who will guarantee them the protection THEY desire: blessing for a new project at work or for a new house, good luck for their family, a desired heir, or the winning lottery ticket.
The amulets can have the shape of medallions or Buddhas or other Hindu or Buddhist deities, and they come in different materials: wood, clay, stone, brass or even human body parts (like hair or bones of a deceased monk).
Unless you really know what you are buying, my suggestion is to choose what you like without bargaining too much on the price: some amulets are old and precious, most of them are made in series, so it’s a gamble!
Just pay the price you would pay for a souvenir, it can cost as less at 10 THB or up to several thousands, it all goes down to your faith OR your wallet.
Watching buyers at work to consult the vendors and identify their talisman, the one who will work the magic for them, is what makes this market so fascinating to see, even if you aren’t looking for a talisman to bring home.
The Amulet Market runs parallel to the Chao Phraya River, not far from the Grand Palace, in Maharaj (sometimes spelled Maha Rat) Road, behind the temple Wat Mahathat.
The main part of the market is behind the cafes and restaurants on the riverfront, so the easiest way to reach it is by Ferry (like the Chao Praya Express) getting off at Chang Pier, Maharaj Pier and Phra Chan Tai Pier.
Some stalls are along the main road (Maharaj road) while the core of it is in an alley marked as “‘Trok Maha That’, keep you eyes open until you see it. The Amulet Market is displayed also on Google Maps, so once you are in the area, you can check your phone and follow directions.
By BTS National Stadium, take Exit 2, then U-turn and walk to the bus stop of bus 47. It’s a 30 minute ride from there to the Royal Palace.
Flowers, fresh fruit and tons of ice: The Flower Market
The second market I’m going to write about today is called Pak Klong Talat (meaning “market at the mouth of the canal”).
It’s best experienced at night or in the early hours of the morning when at its busiest, the roadside transformed into a riot of colours from all the flowers and garlands that vendors are busy piling up and stocking, however I happened to be in the area one early afternoon and decided to visit it anyway.
Pak Khlong Talat, the Flower Market, occupies several alleys and buildings on Chak Phet Road in the Old City, south of Wat Pho and a stone away from the Chao Praya river.
One of the biggest flower markets in Asia
Pak Klong Talat is a wholesale market, one of the biggest flower markets in Asia.
Vendors sell flowers and props for flower arrangements of every shape and size, from vases to baskets and ribbons, but also fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and ice containers to keep the plants fresh.
The smell and colours of fresh flowers is intense: there are thousands of orchids, lotus, jasmine, lilies, marigolds and roses grown in Thailand, and imported species like irises and tulips.
Wholesalers drive to the market from every corner of Thailand bringing truckloads of fresh flowers to sell to retailers who will buy and resell around the city: restaurants, temples, hotels and government offices are the best customers, in need of new flowers every day.
You will see young and old vendors patiently assemble garlands and offerings for the temples or arrangements for funeral ceremonies, thin but muscled young men carrying enormous blocks of ice to distribute among sellers, cats roaming and playing hide and seek among cardboards and shipping equipment, a merchant or two taking a nap in a corner .
Mind your steps and don’t stand in the middle of the narrow walking lanes between the flower shops because people are working hard and fast here, and it can become frantic!
Moreover, be careful of the bikes and scooters running the aisles of the market like they own it, there have been accidents involving pedestrians in the past but drivers keep riding in the market despite a rule that forbids it.
Even if you are not up for a late night/early hour tour of Pak Klong, the market is open 24 hr a day, seven days a week, so you can visit anyway: it’s true that it is sleepier during the day, but it’s also easier to navigate; vendors are more relaxed and inclined to chat or pose for a photo and you can fit the excursion in a tour of the Old District.
In case you prefer to have a guide, there are ways to experience Pak Klong Talat by different tour operators, have a look at Get Your Guide or Tripadvisor.
Here's a few examples:
Pak Klong Talat lies in the Old District of Bangkok, not far from the Memorial Bridge.
I visited it after the Amulet Market, so I reached it with a short taxi ride from the Royal Palace (about 1 km away), but there are other ways to travel to Chak Phet Road.
The best way is by ferry (the orange flag Chao Phraya Express or one of the other Tourist boats) disembarking at Yodpiman pier.
From the pier, stroll along the riverside walk (Yodpiman Riverwalk) which is lined with shops and restaurants.
By MRT subway, take the Blue Line train to Sanam Chai station.
From there, walk for about 5 minutes on Sanam Chai Road East, then cross Rob Krung canal into Chak Phet Road.
Do you know any not-so-famous market in Thailand deserving a visit? Since I love to spend time at markets, I'm all ears for recommendations.
Have you heard about the Rot Fai Train Market?
It used to be my favorite night market back when I was living in Bangkok and I think it might be the best night market in the whole city, which says a lot about its awesomeness, considering that Bangkok is a metropolis bustling with night markets and bazaars.
As you may know, I know live in Krabi, Southern Thailand, but last month I was in Bangkok for a few days and, on a Friday night, I went back to Rot Fai to see how it looked after the two-year pandemic.
My father was visiting from Europe while my boss Pluto happened to be in town too, and both of them had never been to Rot Fai, so they joined me in the expedition to the outskirts of Bangkok. You can watch my video of Rot Fai here.
Rot Fai is an authentic open-air market selling an incredible variety of vintage memorabilia, from shoes and hippy clothes to antique forniture, old cars, spare parts and road signs.
There are also shops selling modern fashion and more typical stuff like toys, pins, socks and underwear; there are cool restaurants, bars and snack stalls, tattoo parlours, barber shops and even a skate park.
FRIDAY NIGHT AT ROT FAI
We (as per my father, Pluto, his wife Alice and I) left from La Pala restaurant in Asoke (which you must try if you fancy great authentic Italian food at a reasonable price in an informal and central location) at around 7.30 pm on a Friday night, after an early dinner. Our decision to visit Rot Fai was last minute and we were all very tired after a full day of walking in Bangkok heat, so we didn’t feel to go by BTS and decided to risk being stuck in traffic by riding a taxi. It took us about 45 minutes to reach Rot Fai, but it could have been a much longer ride.
We entered Rot Fai from the main entrance, flanking some Thai restaurants, a few bars, hairdressers and barber shops. A bunch of kids and teenagers were skating in a new skate park I didn’t notice on my previous visit. I was happy to see that the market was lively although not crowded.
THE FIRST SECTION
The first section of Rot Fai has shops selling modern clothes and bags, and popular Korean and Thai restaurants and cafes, some housed in containers, some in old train wagons and campers. Don’t be tricked into thinking that this is all the market is about, but keep going and explore the huge plot of land until you find more interesting sections.
Food stalls selling popular Thai street specialties are abundant, as are the ones selling insects, if you want to try something unusual for a Western palate.
One place I really like is an old style café selling juices, granitas, drinks and snacks in the first section: you will notice a bicycle with the Coca Cola logo and lots of old posters and advertising. Alice confirmed that this café looks exactly like the ones she used to buy her after school snacks when she was a little kid in the Seventies.
We had had dinner already, so we skipped the food stalls and headed directly to the second and third section of the market, where the car sellers and antique furniture shops are.
OLD STYLE AMERICA, BEATLES AND CARABAO
What makes Rot Fai Srinakarin stand out among all the other markets in Bangkok is the hard-to-find items located in the Warehouse and Rod’ Antiques sections of the market, such as 1950s Cadillacs and Volkswagen minibuses, old record players and juke boxes, tin kids cars and scooters, one-off vintage leather jackets and boots, 1960s Adidas sneakers and action figures combined with a few old style American diners and a Carabao and Beatles café. (Carabao is a Thai rock band, the Beatles are… well, I bet you know who they are).
This time I couldn’t find both the Carabao and Beatles venues, so it might be that they shut down during the pandemic, however most of all the other Road 66 style diners are still there and open. Gasoline pumps and rugged lamp posts and traffic lights give the place a ghostly atmosphere, like an abandoned mine city in the middle of a desert, somewhere in Arizona. An American bomber is set on a warehouse roof, its wings and cabin menacing above the stalls and shops.
At the Warehouse vendors are incredibly friendly and the array of products is astonishing, so we spent a long time there taking videos and photos. You’ll be surrounded by old cameras, Coca Cola , Ducati & Marlboro merchandise, ET puppets, household furniture, electronic equipment and shoes that will make you feel like you have been sucked into Netflix’s “Strangers Things”, then walk to Rod’s Antiques zone and you’ll be catapulted into another era, head first in a James Dean’s movie.
Some of the sellers are also collectors, always on the hunt for something original, so you never know what you’ll find next time.
A MIXED CROWD
What I couldn’t record on video, for copy right reasons, is the music coming from the shops: a good balance of Jazz from the Fifties, early rock’n’roll & old Thai folk songs. I couldn’t help but wanting to dance, there, among the piles of All Stars and Elvis’ records and life-size mannequins. And somebody was dancing.
This is what I like most about Rot Fai: the easy attitude of everyone involved, from the vendors to the customers, a crowd of friendly and chilled people that you don’t see often in tourist traps and bars downtown. Families with young children living in the area come to take their evening walk and dinner at the market, teenagers zig zag among the warehouses on bikes and skates, older people sit drinking a Chang and discussing the old cars and us, the foreigners, blend in the scene without attracting much attention.
Bargaining is expected at this market, yet the vintage items you’ll see displayed are guaranteed to be original, so don’t try too hard: if the price is high, it’s probably for a reason.
Even if you’re not an expert on vintage goods nor a fan, I promise that Rot Fai Srinakarin has an authentic charm and a friendly environment that you’ll end up loving. It’s far from downtown and you might struggle to find a taxi willing to bring you back to Asoke or Silom late at night, but the market really makes for a fun night out of the city centre and it’s a fantastic place to buy souvenirs.
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO ROT FAI MARKET
Koh Bida Nok is one of the most popular dive sites in South west Thailand. It’s a small island boasting wall diving and shallow reefs.
Koh Bida Noi and Koh Bida Nai lie to the south of Phi Phi islands, belonging to Phi Phi Archipelago. Together with Hin Bida they are known as The Bida Islands.
On a sunny Sunday morning I joined my friend Gianluca from Sea Gypsy Divers on board a brand new half catamaran half speed boat called the Ocean Manta for a dive adventure around the Phi Phi archipelago.
It had been a long long time since my last dive, about 3 years exactly, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself as a diver and from the marine environment of the area we were going to visit.
So I was a little nervous when I woke up at down in Klong Muang, but as soon as I grabbed my bag and hopped on my bike for the short ride to Sea Gypse’s office in central Ao Nang, I forgot all my worries and became excited for the day ahead.
At the office I met some of the other customers, we checked the equipment then we drove together to Port Tacola, the newest harbour just outside Ao Nang, where our boat was waiting.
Port Tacola is not affected by the tides as other piers in the area, and we could board the Ocean Manta through the main dock, loading all the equipment on trolleys for the short walk from the parking lot to the boat.
When we arrived at the pier, it was hard to miss that beautiful boat even among all the other catamarans and speed boat: the Ocean Manta was shining in the sun, all polished and neat, the prow pointing to the outer sea, eager to start her first official mission.
The boat has two very distinct zones, one dedicated to divers, on the back, and one in the front, for cruising, eating and chatting. The outside area, at the front, is spacious and super comfortable, and can easily accomodate 15 people.
Sun lovers rest assured: you can easily bask in the sun in between dives. I surely did that day!
Onboard I was introduced to the rest of the divers and snorkelers, the crew and the Finnish couple who are the owner of the Fast Manta.
The name is appropriate: the boat mounts 2 huge Mercury engines of 300 CC, and thanks to her catamaran shape it’s very stable and elegant on top of being fast.
We sat down at the tables in the lounge area and enjoyed the morning breeze and the splendid Krabi scenery while the boat departed.
It only took 1 hour and 10 minutes before we reached the first dive site, Bida Nok! That was really fast! I barely had the time to eat a slice of chocolate cake and prepare my equipment!
From the surface Bida Nok appears as a stunning limestone peak jutting vertically of the water. Underwater, it’s all about coral gardens, caves divers can swim through and vertical walls covered in soft corals.
Black tip sharks and leopard sharks are often seen parading around Bida Nok and typical reef fish like Clown Fish, red goby, angel fish, honeycomb eels can be spotted among the corals.
As soon as we approached Bida, the first shark appeared. We saw it from the boat, way before we were ready to jump in the water. Call it a welcome!
There was only another boat at the site, with a few snorkelers already in the water, but by the time we dove in, the black tip was still around. And it wasn’t alone. We saw three swimming in circle in very shallow waters, relaxed, not at all disturbed by us humans.
It was exciting to use a Go Pro during the dive for the first time, and I was so focused on getting on film everything that we saw that I was surprised once I realized the 60 minute dive was over. It was time to get on board.
On my first underwater movie I got the shark, a squid, some nudibranch, a baby banded sea snake, a ghost pipe fish, a group of large sea fans, some parrot fish and many more corals and creatures.
Turtles, barracudas and sting rays are often resting on the sandy area in the southern side, but we didn’t see any this time.
Back on board we cleaned our equipment and prepared the tanks for the second dive.
Lunch was served at the tables in the front covered area, consisting of a mix of fragrant white rice and diced tempeh in sesame seeds (or something similar that I can’t name, but very delicious).
We drank filtered water and soft drinks and there was some chocolate brownie as dessert, plus fresh fruits like pineapple and watermelon.
The only thing I really missed, but I hope the Ocean Manta guys will make it available in the future, was some hot coffee. A simple, instant coffee mix with hot water would be enough even for a coffee addict like myself.
I think that in between dives, specially if you get cold easily like I do all the time, some hot beverage would be very welcomed.
After lunch we had some time to relax or bask in the sun while the Ocean Manta headed to Phi Phi Leh.
We stopped for sightseeing and photo snaps at the entrance of Maya Bay, then we continued North along the coast of the island until we moored in a spot called Maya Nui, close to another dive site called Mushroom.
We could choose which one to dive, and we opted for the first one, more favourable given that a mild current was expected to rise by the time we finished the dive, and we could use it to push us back to the boat.
I honestly didn’t expect much from Maya Nui, but I was wrong.
Visibility wasn’t as great as in Bida, however we managed to spot black tip sharks again, and soon after a big, lazy, friendly turtle appeared, and decided to stay with us for part of our dive. She elegantly swam with us, keeping the same level and direction, then rising for breath on the surface before diving back down to us.
I love turtles and I was busy admiring her while, in the corner of an eye, I spotted a big octopus bouncing out at full speed from a cave.
I don’t know what pushed it to jump out, but it happened at the perfect time: the octopus was the biggest I’ve seen so far, and the bravest too.
From my experience, they don’t stick around mixing with divers for long, but this octopus did.
He started to show off, I would say, so much so that at the end of the dive my friend Bruno, who’s been a diver for 50 years, said: “I was about to ask him to leave, what was wrong with him wanting all the attention?”.
Of course he was joking, besotted as I was with the curious and friendly octopus.
Maya Nui is a shallow dive, but it boasts some colourful corals, large dramatic rocks and some interesting macro: It took me a while to see the tiny transparent shrimps that Gianluca was pointing to me.
Then, while we were ascending for the safety stop at the end of a 1 hour dive, a school of fish encircled us and I failed to understand the gesture Gianluca was doing to tell me what they were.
I got it later, but I enjoyed the swirling of the group none the less, they looked like a circus set up to amuse us during the required stop.
They were a large school of baby barracudas!
Back on board, more fruit and another piece of brownie, then we packed the diving gears and got ready to cruise back.
Again, the journey back was extremely smooth and fast: we all gathered on the outside deck to bid farewell to Phi Phi islands and to the adventurous day, and while the sky got dark and cloudy behind us we entered Tacola Pier and partied.
Hugs and googbyes, a few more photos, a pleasant ride back on my bike, riding ahead of the storm, and by 4.30 pm I was at home in Klong Muang, which is quite amusing considering that I had left Tacola pier at 9 AM in the morning and experienced so much in a such a short span of time.
Can’t wait to go diving again, that’s for sure!
For the divers: what is your favorite diving spot in the world?
Share it in the comment, and I'll share mine.
Koh Mook (Morakot Cave, Sivalai Beach resort),
Koh Kradan (The Reef Resort, snorkelling)
Koh Chuak (snorkelling)
Koh Ngai (Thanya Beach Resort)
With excellent weather, palm-fringed beaches and warm ocean, Thailand is an island-hopping destination all year round.
The Trang Islands can be described as the ideal exotic retreat that most people dream of when planning a tropical holiday.
Some of the islands off Trang province are almost unknown to foreign tourists; to name a few: Koh Libong, Koh Phetra, Koh Sukorn, Koh Bulon, Koh Lao Liang.
I guess you never heard of them, even if you are a repeating visitor of Thailand.
Others are a little more in the radar, yet still overshadowed by the like of Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao: this second group includes Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai and Koh Muk, boasting the most pristine and romantic beaches in the area and offering a large choice of beach front resorts and accommodation.
The sea encircling these islands is a palette of transparent turquoise and azure.
A day trip from Krabi
For a weekend day trip to the above mentioned islands off Trang coast, my friends and I started from Krabi, driving our car from Ao Nang to Pak Meng pier, at the border between Krabi and Trang provinces. It’s a pleasant 90 minute drive on good roads bordered by palm tree plantations and limestone mountains.
In Pak Meng harbour we boarded a private long tail boat for the day.
After about 30 minutes, we arrived in Ko Muk, the first island on our planned itinerary.
Koh Muk (sometimes spelled Mook) is best known for the Morakot Cave (or Emerald Cave), for its range of both affordable and upscale accommodation (Farang Beach vs Sivalai beach) and for the spectacular sunsets that visitors can admire from the West coast.
Koh Muk is especially convenient as a base for day-trips to the Morakot Cave, where a sea tunnel leads to a secret beach inside what looks like a volcanic crater cave, or to the nearby islands.
Plan to visit the cave at low tide and avoid the weekends, when many local tourists assemble at the entrance and the queue can be a little overwhelming inside the sea tunnel.
It happened to us on our Sunday trip but despite the long line of weak swimmers who had to be pulled inside by local guides through long ropes, creating some noise and traffic jams on one side of the tunnel, the wonderland that awaits at the other side still left us speechless and happy.
After spending some time at Morakot, we cruised along the west side of the island, past Farang Beach and the backpacker’s nest called Charlie Beach Resort, until we reached the Sivalai Resort.
The Koh Mook Sivalai Beach Resort lies on a quiet, white sand peninsula of pristine beaches bordered by shallow waters and fringed by palm trees. All the wooden and concrete bungalows and villas have a partial or full sea view and are shaded by exotic vegetation. We stopped at the Sivalai for a swim and a walk around the cape, then left for our next destination, a 15-minute ride away.
Koh Kradan is probably the most famous of the group thanks to the stark sugary white sand beaches and transparent waters very much alive with fish. You can snorkel right off the main beach (Kradan Beach) and at low tide you can even walk or paddle out to the reef.
We decided to stop at the main beach and have lunch at The Reef Resort, a corner of paradise consisting of simple but very well designed beach front and sea view rooms. And when I say "sea view" I mean it: the distance from each of the 18 rooms to the powdery beach of Kradan is probably 50 steps, and the sea view is the most amazing you will get on the island.
The resort’s owner is Italian but The Reef is very popular with North Europeans; many are repeating guests who have been returning to Koh Kradan for years.
If you visit the resort, spend some time at the lovely beach bar, reading the wooden plates that affectionate customers carved or painted for decoration and that are now part of the roof.
I recommend you to grab a bite at the hotel’s beach restaurant: the Thai and Italian cuisine is delicious, and the scenery one that you won’t forget.
Koh Chuak & Koh Ngai
After lunch and some snorkelling in Koh Kradan, we continued to the last island in our program, Koh Ngai, stopping on the way for more snorkelling in Koh Chuak, a little diamond-shaped limestone islet located between Koh Ngai and Koh Mook.
There are no beaches and accommodation in Koh Chuak, but the islet is not to be skipped if you like snorkelling: its aquamarine waters are bustling with fish and soft corals.
The last island we visited, Koh Ngai, boasts crystal waters, white sand beaches and some coral reefs (although not as beautiful as the reef in Koh Kradan & Chuak).
Among the Trang Islands, Koh Ngai has the most unspoiled jungle and it’s home to monitor lizards, snakes and a great variety of birds (including 2000 hornbills!)
The resorts on Koh Ngai are mostly upper/mid-range.
My favorite is Thanya Beach Resort with its Balinese style teak bungalows facing the beach and a nice, large swimming pool. All the buildings are immersed in a beautiful frangipani-filled tropical garden. The atmosphere is exotic and romantic, no wonders that the Thanya in Koh Ngai is a favorite destination for honeymooners.
In high season (November to April) Tigerline ferries stop just off Koh Ngai on their journeys between the islands of Phuket and Koh Lipe, while local long tail boats can be rent in Pak Meng for island hopping in the area. Join speed boats also run daily at fixed times.
After taking a photo tour in the marvellous garden of the Thanya Resort, admiring the tall frangipani trees and other lesser known but equally stunning trees and plants, we relaxed on the beach and enjoyed a last swim in the warm waters in front of the resort.
A large school of fish, like a storm cloud darkening the sea, kept following us while the islets-filled horizon started to turn from blue to gold. Sunset was coming, and it was time to start the journey back to Pak Meng pier to keep ahead of darkness.
We reached Krabi around 8 pm, happy, relaxed and charmed once again by the sensational scenery of Southern Thailand.
Good to know
When to go
Koh Muk, Koh Kradan and Koh Ngai are subject to the same monsoon as the rest of South-Western Thailand. The rainy season starts in May and keeps going until October; during this time many hotels are closed and transportation to and from the Trang Islands is not guaranteed
The dry season runs from November to April: the weather is generally amazing, you can expect blue sky, lot of sunshine and calm seas.
For this reason, dry season means high season: hotels can be fully booked and more expensive during the Christmas Holidays, New Year’s and Chinese New Year.
How to go to the Trang Islands
If you are staying in Bangkok or up north in the country, you should fly to Trang city, then hop on a shared or private minivan to Pak Meng Pier, a 40-minute drive away.
If you are already in the South, the best way to reach Trang is by driving your own car or taking a bus: a spiderweb of bus routes connect all the main Southern cities.
Join boats to Koh Mook and Koh Kradan departs from Pak Meng every day, however due to the current pandemic the ferry service is not as frequent as before.
Unless you are willing to rent a private long tail boat from the pier, I advice you to check the boat schedule in advance.
Prices for a private long tail boat start from 3000 THB per boat for a full day tour touching Koh Kradan, Koh Muk, Koh Ngai and Koh Chuak.
If you only need a transfer from Pak Meng pier to one of the island, the easiest way is to contact your hotel in advance, they will recommend and/or book a long tail transfer based on your needs.
How to island hop
In high season, island hopping is an easy ride. Hotel staff can book a join or private transfer for you to explore the whole area, including the nearby southern islands of Koh Libong, Koh Lao Liang and Koh Sukorn which we didn’t explore on this trip due to lack of time.
"The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Khao San Road".
The beach & The Movie
Have you read "The Beach" by Alex Garland? If not, perhaps you have seen the movie, starring a young Leonardo Di Caprio. Well, Maya Bay is The Beach.
Alex Garland was thinking of Palawan, Philippines, when he wrote his novel about a secluded, heavenly location which somehow attracts the attention of the neurotic American traveller Richard; however the movie based on Garland's novel was filmed in Thailand, particularly in Phi Phi Leh, a cliff jugged little island in Krabi Province.
Before the shooting, in 1999, Ao Maya ("ao" meaning "bay" in Thai language) was a stunning sugary white beach in sleepy Phi Phi Leh, only visited by small groups of travellers that slept in Phi Phi Don, the bigger island nearby, and rented local boats from the locals for day trips to Maya Bay.
Despite being located between Phuket and Krabi provinces, the Phi Phi Islands were almost unknown to mass tourism until the movie became a sensation.
A local village of wooden shacks and unpaved roads, Ton Sai, was the only inhabited settlement of Phi Phi Don, while Phi Phi Leh was simply a natural sanctuary where monitor lizards, eagles and colourful marine species were the only residents.
I fell in love with the place in 1993, way before Hollywood chose it as movie set and people started to flock in. Year after year, every January or February, I used to spend some lazy days in Maya Bay with my family and a few other lucky travellers: it was so stunning and quiet, so dreamy like, so tremendously marvellous that I couldn't kick it out of my mind and kept going back.
I was in Phi Phi Leh even while Di Caprio was filming the movie, and I witnessed some of the changes that the film production made to the beach: the removing of wild vegetation to plant palms, the construction of temporary wooden structures which were to become the main set for the film. It was bad, but I think that at the time nobody realised the devastating impact that "The Beach" would have on Maya Bay.
When I moved from Shanghai to Krabi, in 2019, the beach had already been closed for a year and for good reasons: after almost 20 years of over tourism, it had nothing of the placid atmosphere I remembered from the Nineties.
Despite belonging to Krabi's Hat Noppharat Thara- Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, it was a nightmare: countless speed boats and long tail boats would dash back and forth dropping off thousands of visitors every hour, every-day.
80 per cent of its coral reefs had been damaged by gasoline and sunscreen or by hordes of tourists stepping on them. The noise and the pollution were deadly to the local fauna.
In 2018, park officials finally stepped in and closed the bay, putting a halt to the flora and fauna carnage: a team of marine biologists and rangers began to work on restoring what was left of the reef and the fish and to plant more than 10,000 new corals.
Here's my latest video of the reopening of Maya:
New Rules for a sustainable re-opening
Almost four years later, on January 1st, 2022, with an unexpected decision, the National Park department officially opened Maya Bay again, reassuring all those concerned that a set of regulations would be put in place and police would make sure to protect the partially regenerated environment of the bay.
Regulations include keeping the number of visitors down to 300 people at any moment; banning boats and ferries from entering the bay and people from swimming from the beach.
On January 3, I was invited to join a day trip to Phi Phi Islands by one of the speed-boat companies that operate from Krabi. Group tours and crammed speed-boats are not my favorite way of travelling, I prefer slower, bigger boats or a private long tail, however I was eager to see how the tour would be run to include the visit to Maya Bay, and so I joined it.
The departure and first part of the itinerary was one I already knew pretty well: check in at Nopparat Thara pier next to Ao Nang at around 8 AM, a quick stop in Railay peninsula to embark more passengers, then straight to Bamboo Island, belonging to the Phi Phi archipelago, for a swim and beach time. Bamboo boasts an incredible scenery: a soft white sand beach runs all around the island, the crystal waters are ideal for snorkelling or soaking in mild currents, and often there is a delightful breeze to ease the heat.
In the past, Bamboo Island was another piece of cake very close to be devoured by greedy visitors, but the subsiding in the number of international tourists due to the pandemic bought it some time to rest and heal.
After spending about 90 minutes in Bamboo, our 35-seat speed boat headed straight to Phi Phi Leh, since the slot we were allocated to enter Maya Bay was between 11 AM and 12 PM (yes, now the entrance time is fixed, tour companies can't show up in Maya Bay outside the allocated time).
Since the re-opening, the only entrance point for the beach is at the back of the island: a new floating pier was built in Loh Sama Bay, previously a quiet corner of Phi Phi Leh with pretty good snorkelling. As soon as we approached Loh Sama Bay, I was dumbstruck: the boardwalk looked like madness, a trafficked parking lot where long-tail and speed boats were taking turns to drop off and collect tourists in a frantic, noisy scenario.
Groups were queuing on the narrow floating pier towards Maya Bay, bumping into others on their way to leave the island. I started to get sad and upset, and I wasn't the only one: the other passengers looked worried and unhappy too. My colleague Pluto said: "It looks like Tien An Men Square at rush hour". One of our friends, who had never visited Maya Bay before, was so shocked by the crowd that he considered not to get off the boat at all.
How was all this to be beneficial to the environment or to the visitors who had been dreaming of a tropical paradise? I thought: we all loose here, this is not the way to sustainable tourism.
Finally our boat approached the pier (a floating platform connected to a concrete walkway) and we disembarked. Walking in a line, we followed the path that cutting across Phi Phi Leh heads to the opposite side of the island, where Maya Bay is. It's a 5 minute walk past the rangers' houses, the toilets and a few smoking areas.
Maya Bay today
The first glimpse of the beach stole my breath. The incredible shades of blue and turquoise waters blend with the green of the surrounding karst peaks, the bluest blue of a sunny day sky and the sugary white of the beach in a picture that is too stereotypical to be real. Not for the first time, I witnessed the unparalleled breath-taking view of the bay wandering if it was true. There's nothing more beautiful than this, I thought.
But then, of course, reality came into the picture: I became aware again of the 200 people around me, taking photos, chirping with excitement, walking around in awe, sunbathing, drinking, plunging their feet in the water.
To protect the marine environment of Maya Bay, entering the water is now prohibited, and while the decision is one that makes sense if we want to give Maya Bay a chance to continue healing, the temptation to dive in for a minute is hard to resist.
Therefore, it was just a matter of seconds before the first person stepped a little too deep in the sea while a few others tried to have a quick swim, and the rangers on duty whistled repeatedly to call them out of the water. Far from my idea of a tropical retreat, it felt more like a kids' summer camp.
My thoughts on the reopening of the beach, then: I still get the goosebumps from seeing Maya Bay, and I'm still convinced it is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world, but the downsides of the reopening far outweigh the benefits.
Sure, visitors are not allowed to mess with the marine life, given the prohibition to swim, but they still produce and leave garbage behind, they still walk in the water wearing sunscreen, not to mention what is happening to Loh Sama Bay.
300 people per hour, for 6-7 hours a day, everyday, is more than Phi Phi Leh can take, and while the situation is still somehow manageable with the number of foreign travellers being limited due to the pandemic, I believe that it won't be easily managed once mass tourism come back.
I really hope to be wrong, and I'd like to hear the opinion of ecologists who worked so hard to restore the environment in the last 4 years, but for now my reaction to Maya Bay opening is a troubled and pained "No, thanks".
Have you ever been to Maya Bay yourself?
Do you think that the beach should stay open to travellers?
Hey there, what’s up?
It’s been a long long time since my last update, and a lot happened in the last 4 months.
At the end of July I decided to fly back to Europe to get vaccinated in my home country. It’s been great and also emotional to see some family members and friends after more than 2 years.
After getting my two shots, I even managed to travel to Denmark to spend a week in Copenhagen with a few friends. At that time (beginning of October) traveling around Europe was a breeze compared to travels in Asia. I only needed to show my Green Pass ( a certificate of vaccination) in order to board the plane and enter Denmark.
I enjoyed being a care free tourist again, trying new food, going to art exhibitions and discovering a new country. I even appreciated the cold and windy weather (for a short while!).
In Italy I spent most of the time eating and drinking at restaurants or family reunions, and caught up with my best friends.
However, it wasn’t all rosey. First, my mother broke a foot and had to wear a cast for almost two months, and then my beloved Birman cat Lila Grace, my soul mate for the past 17 years, died of sickness and age while I was at home.
She died peacefully in my arms, surrounded by the whole family, and I should be grateful for her long life and that she is now pain free, but the truth is it’s been devastating, and I’ll keep looking for her in any cat I meet, hoping to see her again, somewhere, somehow.
Thank you for being the most intelligent, affectionate friend ever, and for waiting for my return before living this world, Lila.
Bad things never come alone, and a very disappointing news reached me in Italy less than two weeks after I had left Thailand: my landlord decided to kick me out of the little house I had been renting in Klong Muang.
My two cats (and their pet sitter) were still living there at the time, waiting for my return, but the landlord didn’t want them to stay one day longer, and they had to move out to a temporary place.
The sudden reason for the eviction? The landlord got scared of Covid and emptied all his rental properties. There wasn’t much to discuss, I had to ask friends to host my cats and take care of them until my return.
My 3 and a half months in Europe went fast, and at the beginning of November I flew back to Thailand, looking forward to leave winter behind and to be reunited with my feline family.
Because I had already started the procedures for the Sandbox scheme, I had to book a hotel in Phuket for 7 nights, even if from November 1st the new Stop & Go scheme began, allowing foreign travellers from 62 countries to only sleep in Phuket one night before being free to travel elsewhere.
However, after all the stress I experienced in the past 3 months, I wasn’t upset of having to rest and relax in a hotel for a week; on the contrary, my mother and I 100% enjoyed our “forced” stay at Le Meridien Beach Resort in Karon Noi (best known as Relax Beach).
Paying for all the expenses related to the Sandbox wasn’t cheap: in order to enter Thailand through this scheme one needs:
to be fully vaccinated,
to book a 7 night stay in a SHA+ hotel
to pay for the transfer (airport to hotel)
to pay for two PCR tests (on arrival and on day 6th)
to have proof of an insurance specifically covering for Covid related expenses up to 100,000 US dollars.
Some of these requirements have been waved by now, but they were all in places when I entered Thailand, making it an expensive come back. However, it was time to be back, and I had a great week at Le Meridien.
As soon as I arrived in Krabi, I started looking for a new house.
Due to the lack of international tourists and long term tenants, there are many properties available at the moment, and prices are lower than what they used to be one year ago, so it wasn’t too difficult to find a bigger house at a convenient rate.
I had to give up a wonderful location right on the beach, and a single house where nobody disturbed me, however I’m happy with the new apartment in a condo with gym, pool and walking distance to the beach.
Now I have a guest room and a spare bathroom, and a kitchen that looks like a real European kitchen (not so common in Thailand!).
Now that I’m settled, I only miss one thing to get my life back on track: work.
We’re all struggling here in Krabi, several people I know had left for good, others went back to their home countries (or villages upcountry) not having a clue about when and how they will be back.
It’s depressing to see so many companies which were doing well before the pandemic shutting down and so many abandoned buildings falling in pieces.
A few tourists are back in Krabi and a few shops re-opened, but the recent outburst of a new Covid variant puts everything at stake, again.
It’s going to be another quiet high season, how quiet is still too early to say.
Hey, what's up? How is summer going in your country (or winter if you live in the Southern hemisphere)? Are the Covid restrictions easing where you live?
In Thailand, restrictions are increasing, despite all the public talks about the Phuket Sandbox project (basically, Phuket island reopened to vaccinated international tourists since July 1st).
In reality, Bangkok is again under a semi-lockdown (an unusual form of lockdown in which restaurants and cafes are closed for dine in, parks are closed, but shopping malls are allowed to operate almost as normal), more provinces have become red, new infections are in the thousands every day ( +9000 and something as yesterday) and vaccination is going very slow.
Not a rosey picture for a country which did really well for a year, but it's now facing its worst crisis since the beginning of the Covid 19 virus.
Krabi Province has been relatively untouched until now, however the combination of what we call Green Season (aka rainy season/ low season) and the Covid emergency created a very unprecedented situation: it's like being alive and kicking after a nuclear war, safe but shocked, unable to understand what happened for real.
I mean, of course we read the news, and it's pretty clear, here more than anywhere else, that foreign tourists are not going to come anytime soon, and domestic tourism is also 90% uncounted, the pandemic is not fading, and the country is struggling, but all the same we walk to the beach, swim, eat outside, go for a weekend picnic and enjoy the free time that usually come with the low season.
Only this time it's all that we are doing, and it's been like this for almost a year.
I've never really experienced a normal "low season", since I started to work in Krabi around August 2019, but what I'm experiencing now is good and bad at the same time. I like my long naps in the afternoon, I like to wake up and take it easy before starting the day, I like those silly moments I spend playing with my cats, Skyping with far away friends or just enjoying the breeze on the balcony.
If I learned anything from this pandemic is how much I value -and need- the extra off work time. We shouldn't spend most of our life working, we should be able to have a good balance and time to pursue our hobbies, too.
But it's not all good. Seeing entire communities struggling to meet month ends, and being myself at risk of facing money problems if Tourism doesn't restart soon, is painful and extremely destabilising.
I have such an enormous respect for the Thais, who seem so resilient and proud and never prone to complain. Once it became clear that the crisis wouldn't pass soon, they fled the touristic destinations where they had moved for employment and to start a new life and in great number went back to their villages and rice fields in the Deep South or the North East, only to be told that no help would come from the Government, and nobody could predict when the country will be ready to reopen.
But not all of them have a rice field or a support system to rely on. In big cities you now see crowds of homeless people sleeping and begging outside the MRT and Sky Train stations: they don't make the morning news, but they are many, and in great need. So, I have an enormous respect for these resilient people but, nevertheless, I feel like they have been too patient, and this should be the time to protest and find a way to be heard and supported by their Government.
As you can guess, I'm sad and worried and confused, torn between the soothing calmness and beauty of nature, and the everyday struggles brought by Covid 19. Sometimes I don't think I'm lucid, sometimes I get angry with myself for this tendency to complain, and sometimes I feel optimistic and happy - yes, even happy - for having been given the unexpected gift of time off work for such a long period.
Going back to the main topic of this post, my life in low season at Covid time, since almost a year, looks like this:
The alarm (which I still keep out of habit) rings between 7:15 and 7:30, but I'm usually awake before it because I sleep with the shutters partially open, and dawn comes early here in Krabi.
By the time the alarm goes off, I'm ready to jump off the bed (well, maybe not exactly jump...) and drag myself to the living room. My cats sleep in the bathroom, so the first thing I do is to open their door, say Hi and cuddle for 10 minutes.
Then I eat breakfast, consisting in a bowl of overnight oat porridge in cold milk to which I add a spoon of Nutella cream and half a sliced banana.
I eat while looking at the news or checking social media, sipping my hot Espresso or Americano.
After breakfast I like to take some time to relax: sometimes I answer text messages from friends in Europe, sometimes I watch Youtube videos, most days I play with the cats who are very excited and active in the morning.
Before getting ready, I brush the cats' fur and quickly wash bowls and cups.
My morning care routine is really basic: a 2 minute shower, then brush teeth, apply sunscreen on the face, neck and arms, put lipstick, massage some coconut oil on my hair ends. That's it. Quick and easy.
Getting dressed takes even less time, since I live by the sea, don't have to meet people for work, and the office is closed now. The "fanciest", closest town, Ao Nang, is a 15minute ride. So, it's shorts and t-shirt almost everyday for me.
By 10 am I reach the gym, a 5-minute ride from the house, where I spend a few hours, sometimes a bit more if the day is sunny and I decide to enjoy the spectacular outdoor swimming pools facing Klong Muang Beach.
The gym is inside a 5 star hotel, and, thanks to a really good Covid-deal, I now take advantage of a super cheap rate including the use of the gym and all the hotel facilities (tennis courts, squash and badminton courts, table tennis, Muay Thai ring, sauna and Turkish bath, pools and some Yoga, Zumba and Aerobic classes).
Joining the gym has really changed my life, since I was starting to become impossibly lazy and bitter, and wasting time doing nothing but feeling sad and restless.
Exercising is good for the body, but especially for the mind. I've become happier, days fly by and I don't spend time thinking about everything that is going bad in my life, focusing on what it's going well, instead.
After the gym and before going back home, I usually do some grocery shopping at 7/11 or markets nearby, just to buy the basics to cover lunch and dinner.
I like to eat a big lunch since I'm starving after gym, while I prefer to have only a light dinner at evening.
My favorite is always carbo: rice like Khao Pad Krapao (spicy rice with chicken or pork and Thai basil), rice and curry (like Massaman), or Pasta with Tomato , Cheese or Pesto sauce.
A few days a week I experiment new recipes like legume meatballs, a new hummus-like sauce, baked avocados or a new soup. I like to cook but I get bored easily if I don't try something new.
By 1.30 pm I sit for lunch, watching videos or reading online. After lunch, I wash dishes and pans, then turn on the air con in the bedroom and spend a few hours napping, cuddling with the cats or watching Netflix series.
About 4 pm I get up and drink my afternoon coffee, sometimes at home, sometimes at my boss' house, a 50 meter walk from my place. His wife is a superb cook, and 90% of the time coffee break becomes a cake and coffee appointment.
She is Thai but she likes to bake Western desserts as well. We sit and talk over coffee, commenting the news, Thai politics, Covid updates but also discussing work, when there's something important.
In a normal low season, we would still have customers coming to Krabi, and we would be visiting them at their hotels in the afternoon and evening to check about their stay, arrange their tours and help them having a great holiday. I would also have lots of emails to answer, and local suppliers to contact.
All this is not happening now, and that's why we have the luxury (but also the misery) to spend a whole hour over coffee and chit chats every day.
At around 5 pm I get back home and work at my laptop station (which is a pillow on the floor, in front of the fan, by the living room's coffee table ...).
These days it's mostly about posting content on social media or answering customers' messages from abroad. They ask questions about Thailand, about a future reopening, about the Phuket Sandbox plan, but they also ask about new routes and itineraries to book in the (hopefully near) future.
Some days I write this blog, some others I edit new videos (haven't done much in the last month, I confess).
Usually I'm done with work by 6 pm, and I spend the rest of the afternoon messaging friends, reading, watching the sunset on the beach behind my house, going for a walk or preparing dinner. I'm always behind on laundry or special cleanings, however I do try to do it, I swear!
At evening I Whatsapp or Skype with family and friends in Europe for about half an hour, then it's my cats' favourite part of the day, dinner time: I feed them first (cat wet food plus melon, they are both crazy for melon), then it's my turn.
Dinner is an easy business since I moved to Thailand: 5 days out of 7 I eat fruit (blended in a smoothie or full: mango, apples, papaya, melons, mangosteen or passion fruits, the choices are endless in this country!) or some veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes; leftovers are another option, and a couple of times per week I end up having dinner outside with friends.
My go-to places are Italian restaurants where I can have my weekly dose of Pizza, but I also have a few Thai favorite restaurants or the Irish Embassy for burgers and beers. I desperately miss Mexican food, but there is none available at the moment in Krabi. After dinner, I watch movies and play with the cats until it's time to go to bed.
I know it might sound weird, but they have been sleeping in the bathroom since they were kittens because they are serial killers who would destroy the house trying to catch geckos and other insects at night if I didn't keep them in a confined space.
They are used to that room, where they have all their stuff, and love to go in there after their evening cat-snack.
I go to bed myself around 10.30 pm, since I love to read for an hour in bed. By 11.30 pm my lights are off.
Quite a boring routine, you are probably thinking by now. And I agree.
But the truth is: I got used to it, and after struggling with the downsides of Covid for several months, I've come to accept this unexpected extra time for introspection and quietness, and the little gifts that come with it: sipping coffee without having to look at the clock, loosing myself in contemplation of the clouds and the birds outside, sleeping without worrying not to hear the alarm, not having to make plans, but going with the flow.
This is a typical, average day in my life now, but the truth is no day is exactly like the other. Sometimes I go for a swim in the ocean instead of going to the gym, some mornings I cook ragù for hours, listening to my favourite music from the Nineties, other mornings I bring my laptop to a panoramic or beach café where I spend a long time writing or reading.
National parks are closed at the moment, and travelling to other provinces is restricted, and that's why I'm not taking advantage of Phi Phi or Hong Islands or I'm not going to travel domestic, but even if they were open, money is becoming an issue and I try to stick to activities which don't cost much.
My budget per day, and I'm sure some of you will be shocked but I assure you it's manageable, even with two hungry cats in the house, is 400 THB, all included.
If there's anything that I learnt in the past year is that I can be happy being minimalistic -not the You Tube fancy minimalist who lives in an empty white flat in central Manhattan- but as a normal person who is learning that less is often better than more.
Checking my bank account balance often, sticking to a daily budget that I can control through an APP, buying food everyday instead of wasting it or throwing it away, taking advantage of the subscriptions I've already got and the wireless package I already pay are my ways of fighting the crisis, and they are working.
What is your daily life like during the Covid pandemic? Has it changed? Is there anything that you have started appreciating or that you value more than before?