Travel Journal: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi and Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Seen through the eyes of Aaron Hogan

Who went: Jency & Aaron Hogan

We went because: We often travel, regionally and sometimes internationally, as required by my work as a destination wedding photographer. We might use part of the time to vacation; however, we rarely take a trip that is 100% vacation. Well, our Thailand trip was exactly that.

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Hotel recommendations: In Bangkok, the capital, we liked the Chatrium Riverside, along the Chao Phraya River. In northern Thailand, we’d recommend the Royal Ping Gardens; located about an hour and a half north of the city of Chiang Mai, it’s in a rural area surrounded by elephant camps. In Krabi, a southern city, the Bananas Bungalow was a budget resort—just $28 per night!

Highlight of the trip: On a kayak trip, a thirsty macaque monkey jumped onto our boat and grabbed Jency’s bottle of water. Then it jumped onto my shoulder—a moment I’ll never forget.

Where to eat: In Koh Phi Phi Don, an island accessible by boat from Krabi, check out the locals’ favorite: Orange Place. It’s small (three tables only), but the food was among the best we ate the entire trip. And there’s a pet monkey to entertain you while you eat. The owner calls herself “Eat” and is vocally political. She hates the Thai government and isn’t afraid to talk about it.

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Favorite dish on the menu: Hot pot of Tom Kha Kai (chicken coconut soup) and anything with curry.

Local attraction worth a drive-by: Bangkok’s Chinatown. Walk around the back alleys in the daytime and you’ll find dozens of street vendors cooking delicious food.

Worth the splurge: A 5-star hotel. It’s not even really a splurge, as you’ll spend less than $120 per night—cheap by U.S. standards.

Not worth the splurge: High-end restaurants, which cost the same as in the U.S. The food just isn’t as authentic; you’re only paying for atmosphere. We preferred to get on the local level as much as possible.

Something surprising we learned on the trip: How far a single U.S. dollar can go! For $1 you can get a decent taxi ride, eat a good meal, and/or buy several bottles of water.

Item of clothing you shouldn’t leave home without: A light scarf to protect your face from the engine exhaust of vehicles. Pollution is a big problem in Bangkok.

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Insiders’ tips: Get as many massages on your trip as possible. Whether it be your feet, hands, head and neck, or full-body, there’s a new massage style you can experience each day, inexpensively. Try $30 for a 90-minute, full-body massage! During an hour-long massage of my head, hot oil was poured continuously onto my forehead and rubbed into my scalp. Strange indeed, but worth the experience.

We would suggest this trip to others because: It’s the least expensive way to experience true bliss. You’ll be delighted by everything, from the smiles of Thai people to the food.