Exploring North Thailand with Contiki

I recently did a 5 day trip with the lovely guys over at Contiki where we explored North Thailand. Apart from doing some touristy stuff we managed to do some offbeat exploring as well. This was my first time in Thailand and I was quite pleasantly surprised by what all this country had to offer. From beautiful palaces with intricate carvings to meeting and spending time with elephants, from raging waterfalls to ladyboy cabaret shows, from short tug tug rides to a long beautiful train journey. The 5 days were jam-packed with fun stuff and I am here to take you through some epic experiences that you cannot miss in North Thailand.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok 

This place looks a lot like Samarkand in Uzbekistan but it’s right in the heart of Bangkok. It was suuuper crowded but for very good reason. The architecture was absolutely stunning and super intricate and our Contiki trip guide Aaron, told us a ton of stories about the Thai history and the King which I was impressed by. The country has a really interesting history which unfortunately we don’t otherwise get to know about! Thailand is SO much more than just good massages and ping pong bars. The Thai respect their king a lot and so out of respect you have to cover your knees and shoulders when entering the palace. So make sure you wear the appropriate clothes when heading there.

Floating Raft on The River Kwai

This has to be the most beautiful place we stayed at on our trip with Contiki. Floating raft cottages on the river Kwai with hammocks on the balconies and little patios jutting out front. It took us 45mins by boat to get to them. It had been a long, hot day and the sprays of water and the light breeze were super refreshing. We lazed on hammocks, dangled our feet in the river and chatted till wee hours of the morning. Wish we had more time here!! But then is there ever enough time in a stunning place like this? 😁 The best part about it though, was the no electricity and no wifi. We were scrambling around in the darkness and I almost did fall into the river. 😅 It was the best way to get the group to actually just chill with each other and we pretty much killed it!! Such a memorable night!!

Erawan Falls

Rule number 1 of a waterfall adventure- soon as you find THE one, jump headfirst, find the perfect spot, stand under the gushing waters and get a nice shoulder massage. Our misadventures at the Erawan National Park led my friend and I to this remote waterfall on level 6 and three quarters. People would stop at 6 or 7 but no one seemed to be interested in this particular waterfall so we decided to give it a go. We were the only ones here. The trek leading up to this one had been a treacherous one. With slippery rocks, river crossings and slushy mud. We had lost our group ( which had stopped at level 3), we didn’t have a functional sim with us and no way to get in touch with them. But I guess there’s a reason why Contiki’s tagline is #noregrets. 😬 Still feel massively guilty for delaying the group cuz of a stupid brain fart. But well, it did lead us to a pretty kick-ass spot. 😅 After these glorious falls, we went down to level 6 and got ourselves a cheeky foot spa by some pretty creepy looking fish.

How stunning are these falls!!

Ayuthaya

The day I met Amir Khan from Rangeela, my friend Prakriti. 😂 We weren’t prepared for a temple visit so this is us wrapped in a random sarong and quick dry towel over our clothes. Our trip with Contiki took us to this place called the Ayuthayya Ancient City full of temple ruins and we made it there just in time for the sunset. These guys cycled through the ruins with a quick stop at the Reclining Buddha. Geared cycles freak me out so I opted for a pimped out TukTuk instead.

Overnight Train to Chiang Mai

Thai trains are the coolest! Super clean, extremely well designed and have brilliant use of space. The officers on the train as well were super fit, disciplined and helpful. We took the train from Ayuthayya to Chiang Mai. Being Indians on a train, all our indian-ness came out full on! Soon as we boarded, we’d taken up compartments, put our feet up and within half an hour the Gujju snacks were brought out courtesy the lovely Hemal. 😎 Needless to say, they were devoured within seconds. The khakhras, achaar and mathri, no train ride is complete without them. The classic Indian train smell was missing but don’t think we missed it too much. 😅 It was a great call by Contiki and our lovely trip leader Aaron to take us by the overnight train so we got to experience an epic train ride.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants that are old, rescued from captivity or sick. After a lot of research and visiting several elephant centers, the guys over at Contiki zeroed in on this particular one as it is ethical and takes sustainability very seriously. Even the buffet lunch we had was completely vegan and so was the cafe. Elephants are extremely gentle and intelligent creatures and they all have very different personalities. I found this so interesting. Apparently if they don’t like a person, they walk away and make it very clear that they don’t like them. Mahouts have been known to use cruelty to make the elephants submit to them so they listen to the instructions out of fear and don’t disobey them. A lot of the elephants at the nature park were subject to elephant rides for tourists which severely injure their backs for life, some lost their eyes because the Mahouts would hurt them for not following instructions. It was so disheartening to see what humans put them through. Although we did see an elephant enjoying in the rain, completely immersing herself in mud and just having the time of her life. My heart sang watching the little one having so much fun!

Thai Cooking Class

Honestly, I have never enjoyed cooking too much because I have always felt like its a lot of work. So when we signed up for this Thai cooking class I was very apprehensive as we were not only supposed to cook 4 courses but we were also supposed to eat what we cooked ourselves, which made me very nervous as I had zero confidence in my cooking skills. But well, there we were chopping veggies, making sauces and flambe-ing veggies. YES, we actually flambe- ed! Like the pan was on fire and everything! Here’s video proof of it if you don’t believe me!

Notice how far I am standing from the counter haha!

So with Chef Ritchie guided us and we successfully ended up making the following dishes:

  • Tom Yum Soup
  • Pumpkin and Chicken Penang Curry
  • Cashew Chicken
  • Pad Thai
  • Mango Sticky Rice

I was the most proud of my lovely Tom Yum Soup.

Lady boy Cabaret Show

The Ladyboy cabaret show was most definitely the absolute highlight of my trip with Contiki. It was a pleasure to watch them perform the cabaret with so much grace and dignity. From Ariana Grande to Niki Minaj, they had the characters Pat down!! A little about the ladyboys in Thailand: they are also referred to as kathoeys or katoeys, which means ‘someone of a third gender’. They are famous for having beautifully feminine appearances and are more often than not impossible to tell apart from CIS women. They usually go through cosmetic procedures post intense therapy (to make sure that they indeed want to live as women). Most of them are disowned by their families while coming out which results in ladyboys beginning to work young, often underage, and being thrust into the Thai nightlife and prostitution scenes very early. Therefore it Is extremely important to ensure that you do your research and avoid going to areas where underage ladyboys are forced to grow up too fast and work in terrible conditions. We were lucky to have been taken to a top notch, ethical place by Aaron.

A few things to bear in mind while seeking out the ladyboy cabaret show:
1. Do your research and make sure it’s an ethical place.
2. ALWAYS tip them. During and after the show. For a lot of them this is their only source of income. Remember that the 100 baht you tip them isn’t gonna matter much to you, but it will go a long way for them. You like the performance tip them, you take a photo with them, tip them.
3. Be respectful and confident. Respect that this is their job and don’t take their flirtatious nature too seriously. It’s all fun and games.
4. Have fun!! This is the reason you’re there. 😁

If you enjoyed reading this blog and want to visit North Thailand head on over to Contiki to view their complete 8 day Itinerary and use ANKITA100 for USD 100 off on your next Contiki trip!

**Book by 15 November. Valid for trips 7 days or longer. To book, drop an email on asia.res@contiki.com

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