I went to Thailand for a few simple reasons: to ride elephants, play with tigers, and see glorious temples. I was accompanied by my buddy from Miami, Florida who shared the travel bug. We spent two days in Bangkok and three days in Chiang Mai. Here is our bucket list of the best things we saw and did!
Visit an Elephant Sanctuary: We visited Ran Tong Elephant Rescue for a cheap 1,600 baht or $50 each for a half day including hotel pick-up and drop-off. Me and my buddy rode an elephant together who we also got to feed beforehand and bath in a small pool after.
Our elephant was the biggest and naughtiest of the bunch. Stealing our bananas and splashing us with mud. Our elephant trainer, a small Burmese man, also escorted us during the trail and offered us a “cigarette” rolled with tobacco from Burma. We initially asked if it was weed but he told us it’s just a strong tobacco from his country.
Riding elephants bareback is different from a horse but definitely more humane as opposed to riding an elephant equipped with a carriage. They don’t endure pain or cruel training through this method of riding such as “crushing” or the use of bullhooks. You simply put your knees and shins on the back of the elephants ears and sit on his neck which doesn’t cause them any discomfort, they also have a thin rope collar that is advised for you to hold onto as well.
Watch Thai boxing live: I was disappointing to say the least going to this event. We were simply passing by when a stranger handed us a flyer with entry for 400 baht or VIP for 600 baht. We bought the VIP but soon discovered every fight was either a circus act like watching three boys fight each other blindfolded or corrupted such as watching a fighter take a dive smiling then get up and grab a beer. I walked out disgusted. 400-600 baht for a ticket, 100-120 baht for a beer, plus bets, plus tips, times a 100 people. They made some easy money off some of us farangs.
Visit random temples: Literally Thailand is plagued with temples that any stroll or drive you are bound to come across a few. Stop and take a gander.Ride in a tuk tuk: A sound tip is to always negotiate the price beforehand.
Ride the ferry for 3.50 baht … and arrive at a flooded dock. Upon arriving at Bangkok the first thing I did was get a Grabbike, a motorcycle taxi, to Wat Arun and ran into a German foreigner who was doing the exact same thing. He offered to show me around and the first thing we did was take a ferry across the river only to discover the barge had flooded. We took our shoes and socks off and braved the waters barefoot. Afterwards I simply took a dirty shirt out of my backpack and used it to dry our feet off.Visit the Wat Arun: Basically the Eiffel Tower of Bangkok. A must see!
Visit the Long Necks: The Long Necks are a group of rural people and in their culture the more rings worn around your neck the more attractive you are deemed. Therefore children to elderly women wear these rings permanently and add on over time.Go to a Tiger Kingdom: I have a lot of mixed emotions when it came to visiting Tiger Kingdom. Tiger Kingdom advertises that their lions and tigers are not sedated but are trained to not be aggressive as they are hand fed and therefore do not have the instincts to hunt. Their claws are also cut and petting their upper body and face is strictly prohibited. That being said, the longer I stayed the harder time I had believing that these animals weren’t sedated. I’m uneducated in their sleeping patterns but they all seemed more groggy than what seems usual for mid-day and their eyes always had blank stares and seemed foggy as if they were under the influence of something.
For just over a 1000 baht or $30 each we were able to pet adults tigers and lion cubs (11 months old) as well as feast on an all you can eat buffet. We also got to view the caring of a newborn white tiger cub which was a delightful experience.
See a burlesque show: I wandered into Ram Bar looking for a quiet place to have a drink and within an hour I finally realized I wasn’t in a typical dive bar. I was in a gay bar boasting a burlesque show and figured, “f**k, it. I’m already here.” and kept drinking. The show must go on, right?
Visit Khan San Road: Backpacker street of Thailand the prices here are a little pricey but you can experience so much culture and of course fellow tourists here from food to bars to people.
Try the street food: I recently began working for a TV show in Vietnam where foreigners try different local bizarre foods, as a result I try delicious and exotic foods on my own by force of habit. Ironically, I was the pickiest eater growing up and now I’ll try foods without hesitation that most people would turn down without thinking twice. Here my favorites were coconut ice cream, fried tarantula, and fried emperor scorpion.
Try local beer like Leo and Chang:Visit Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha: The 500 baht entrance was more than worth this experience. The vast temples and palace grounds are enclosed and there is a strict dress code enforced such as no tank tops and shorts. You can easily spend a couple of hours here but be warned the grounds becomes packed with tourists so it’s best to come as early as possible to avoid the crowds armed with selfie sticks.
Try McDonald’s: One of my weird travel peeves is I like to try McDonald’s in every country I go to. The menu is always a little different as well as the quality of food depending on what you get. In Thailand they had an Angus beef burger as well as a triple-decker cheeseburger!
Get your stamps: US citizens don’t need a visa for visiting Thailand, essentially all you need to do is fill out an arrival/departure form saying where you’re staying and for how long