On this trip, I really wanted to visit one of Thailand’s three ancient capitals, and I set my sights on Sukhothai, arguably the most impressive of the three capitals, and smack dab between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. When I left Chiang Mai, I had three days to reach Bangkok to meet Alex, so I made a pit-stop. I arrived in Sukhothai to find it unbearably hot, but spent my single day there braving the 100-degree heat and riding my bicycle all around the ruins in the old city.
If we completely ignore the fact that there was absolutely no way for me to escape the heat in Sukhothai (there wasn’t even air conditioning in my sad little hotel room), it was a really amazing place. And it was a good solo-travel day for me. I navigated the historical park’s 70 square kilometers all on my own. I climbed giant hills, marveled at all of the gorgeous Buddha statues, and tried really hard not to suffer from heat stroke. In the end, it was one of best things I did in Thailand. I’ve realized on this trip that ruins are totally my thing.
My next couple of days following Sukhothai were mostly uneventful. I took another 7-hour bus ride from Sukhothai to Bangkok, where I spent hours wandering around the streets (as I always seem to do in Bangkok). I spent one quick night at a hostel before heading to a hotel Alex and I booked the next morning. We paid about the same as you would to stay at a Motel 6 in the U.S. for a room at what is definitely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, and man did I take advantage of it. After weeks spent in non-air conditioned, $5-a-night, 16-bed dorm rooms, I was like a kid in a candy shop at that hotel. I spent all day at the pool, got the worst sunburn of my life thanks to some Thai sunscreen that turned out to not be water-resistant, and basically just twiddled my fingers and waited for Alex’s plane to arrive at 11 p.m. I was excited to see him, and even more excited to spend a week doing basically nothing but lying on a beach with him.
We had a quick couple of days in Bangkok, mostly spent lounging around so Alex could get over his jet lag. We went to the Royal Palace, which was eons busier than when Rach and I had visited two years earlier. I wanted Alex to experience a temple, but it ended up being a really unpleasant trip with the heat and throngs of Chinese tourists all around us. After a quick hour, we found our way to the airport for our flight to Krabi. We were so ready to be on a beach.
Descending onto Krabi was magical. I felt the same as I had two years earlier when I watched as we passed over beautiful Thai islands on the flight to Phuket. It was sunset as we landed, and Krabi was lush and green, unlike the dry north. It took us a long time to get to our island paradise, Koh Yao Yai. After a bunch of buses and boats and taxis, we were dropped off at the back of our resort which seemed to be under construction. There was no reception that we could see, and we were worried we’d somehow booked a terrible place for four days. We walked around the building, though, and were greeted with a rush of wind from the ocean, and a gorgeous reception and restaurant area overlooking the beach. It was perfect.
Our little bungalow was maybe 100 feet from the water’s edge with a porch for two, one of our favorite things in the whole wide world. It was a modest little room, but we were so happy and excited to swim and do nothing for a few days, we didn’t even care. It was everything we needed.
Alex and I haven’t ever really vacationed together. Typically, our travel excursions end with us coming home more exhausted than when we left because we end up exploring more than we relax. Our time on Koh Yao Yai, though, was definitely a vacation. The most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had. For three days, we laid under trees, we swam, we kayaked, we sat on our porch for hours, and just hung out. Of course, we needed one day of adventure, so we booked a boat trip around Phang Nga Bay, an area near our island surrounded by gorgeous limestone cliffs. It was the best day of our entire trip, and we had so much fun climbing hills and swimming in the crystal blue sea and staring up at the cliffs jutting out of the water everywhere.
After our time at Koh Yao Yai, we spend a couple of days at Railay Beach. It was set up like Pai – with little backpacker hangouts everywhere and kabob and roti stands and massages on the beach. Our hotel was amazing, atop a hill with a giant karst in view from the swimming pool. We swam and relaxed and spent a morning kayaking among the cliffs. And somehow, before we knew it, it was time for us to fly to Cambodia to round out our time together at Angkor Wat. We savored one last curry dish, and started making our way to a brand new country.