The evening of Saturday 9th March at about 9pm was when I headed to the airport. Mind you, my flight wasn’t until 6:50am the following morning but me being the ‘on a budget’ girl that I am I really didn’t want to pay for a taxi and the last train was at about 10/11pm. I had to do what I had to do.
I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. Anyone who knows me knows it had been on my bucket list for ages and my heart had been yearning for it. I was super grateful for how local it was to Shanghai because whenever I’d look at return flights from London I’d feel attacked. Now all of a sudden I’m living in Asia so nothing was holding me back. There was literally no excuse.
Yes I waited at the airport for 84 years, but what matters is I saved money; especially since most cab drivers in Shanghai do the most to bump up their prices when you’re a foreigner travelling alone.
The first stop was to Bangkok. Shanghai to Bangkok took no longer than 3 hours and the stopover was only about an hour before I boarded my next flight from Bangkok to my final destination, Phuket. Stepping into Bangkok I already knew this was going to be a great trip. Thai people are some of the warmest and welcoming people I’d ever come across. The transition from being in China not too far away and seeing such a massive change in the vibe itself was crazy!
I flew with Thai air Asia. It was fairly satisfying, considering it was a budget flight with no tv, food (unless prepaid) and minimal leg space….. again, on a budget. Nonetheless the staff were super friendly and the customer service was great, so I guess that cancelled out the cons. I was glad that about 90% of the staff in the airport (only to find out this was the case for Thai locals in general) spoke English because I do tend to struggle a lot in China.
I originally took ¥2,000 Chinese yaun (about £227) with me which I exchanged giving me about 9,000 Thai baht spending money. Initially, this was actually enough as it aligned with all of my plans until I got to the hotel and found out I had to pay a deposit of 2,000 Thai baht. I knew this had been mentioned on the website but I completely forgot and was so rattled. But it didn’t hurt too much.
When searching for a driver to take me to my hotel, I went to a transport information desk and was given all of these options and was recommended to do a group drop off. This was a mini van with a bunch of other foreigners where everybody gets dropped off one by one. It was the cheapest option but also the longest duration for obvious reasons. Once again, on a budget. However I quite enjoyed it. The driver was friendly and so were the other foreigners. We even stopped at a tourist shop and was shown all of these wonderful tourist attractions and activities and was offered large discounts.
It was about a 2 hour drive before we finally got to my hotel. I was even the last person to be dropped off but the driver’s positive aura made it all worthwhile, it felt much shorter than 2 hours since we were chatting away. I stayed at the beautiful hotel Ikon. Absolutely stunning. Everybody from the front desk to the maids were the cutest things and looked after me well.
Since it was late afternoon I decided to freshen up, chill and just explore the hotel. It had a gym, restaurants, pools, spas and yoga. My room was amazing. It was their superior room (thought I’d treat myself a tincy wincy bit) with a view to die for. It was nice being around foreigners again, it was like a breather coming out of China. In the evening I decided to check out the restaurant menu and ordered a pineapple fried rice dish.
I woke up early so that I could get me some breakfast which they served everyday from 6am – 10:30am. I knew exactly what to expect. I knew it wasn’t only going to be your average eggs, toast and bacon. These were full on heavy meals; fried rice, plain rice, noodles, chicken, you name it. When I first came to China and stayed in the holiday inn it was exactly the same. I don’t know if it’s an Asian thing but breakfast is not actually breakfast. Nonetheless, who’s really complaining.
After breakfast I got myself ready to start my day. I decided to have a mini photoshoot on my balcony. Prior to this trip I watched loads of YouTube videos on how to take photos yourself when solo travelling. It worked out pretty well considering it was my first time doing such.
Then I went for a walk. I liked the way the location of the hotel was set up because it was close to so many convenient stores and spots and it was very easy to find my way back since it was a straight route with no turns.
I didn’t have much planned for the rest of the day so I decided to chill by the pool and enjoy happy hour. I got a strawberry daiquiri and I must say it was the best I’ve ever tasted.
My birthday / The Tiger kingdom
I turned 23 on 12th March and was hyped to get my day started and go to the tiger kingdom which was what I was most looking forward to. From always envying others when looking at their photos to searching the hashtag on Instagram to actually visiting the website, I guess you can say I was pretty determined.
I liked the way the site was set up because it had all these different options depending on the type of tiger you wanted to see (baby, small, medium, large) there was even an option for a personal photographer at an additional cost. I considered it because I really wanted to get the shots I wanted (you know when you envision the type of photos you want to take) and I wasn’t sure if there would be someone available to take my photos for me or if the staff would be able to. I went for the medium tigers and decided to make my decision when I got there.
The hotel receptionists kindly booked a taxi for me for both there and back. It was about a 20 minute drive which was exactly what I anticipated from looking at the distance from my hotel before arriving. Once I arrived, I asked the woman at the front desk if the staff inside the cages would be able to help me take pictures and she said they may be too busy catering to the tigers so it’s best if I purchase the photography package.
But I knew she was only saying that so I spend more money so I decided to take the risk and just go in with my phone and mini tripod and hope for the best….. Only to find out I wasn’t even allowed to bring in my tripod looool. It was back to the drawing board with just my phone and still hoping for the best.
I’m so glad I didn’t pay for the photography package because the guy looking after me and the tiger was literally my personal photographer who didn’t even complain once! He was the best and really tried to make my day as sweet as possible. I couldn’t believe I was finally up close and personal with a tiger. I got the coolest shots ever.
The elephant sanctuary
I pre booked my visit to the elephant sanctuary and decided to go with the morning programme which was a 6am pickup and a 7am arrival and ended at about 11:30am.
We were first greeted by a member of staff who pretty much gave us a background story of the sanctuary, it’s purpose and why it’s so important. We then got the chance to prepare breakfast for the elephants. It was bananas, corn and rice, some of which were all mixed together in a mushy way. I really loved the host because you could really tell how much he loved his job. He was an absolute comedian and had the whole group in hysterics. You could tell he got fulfilment from that. After preparing the elephant’s breakfast we finally got the chance to feed them, it was a very calm and soothing experience and I realised how chilled they were.
After feeding it was time to bathe them. Although I was excited I wasn’t exactly keen on getting down and dirty in the muddy water, if I’m honest I just wanted to get some really cool pictures whilst others actually enjoyed getting messy. I was lucky enough to meet and befriend two girls who helped me out with pictures and vice versa. I guess it was a more soothing experience knowing that the other tourists in my group were friendly and bubbly.
After all interaction with the elephants it was time to eat! We were able to have the food being made right in front of us right on the stove and also a step by step to process just like a mini cooking class. When the visit was over and I got back to the hotel room, I knocked the hell out and slept like a newborn baby. It was definitely a long day. Pick up was at 6am and I think I woke up at about 3/4am to start getting ready because I wanted to look my absolute best. I’ll never sacrifice sleep for Makeup like that again lmao!
Thailand will 100% be seeing me again! I felt so at peace and unsurprisingly I didn’t want to leave. I’m happy I got to do what I’ve always wanted to do and that I went ahead and did it alone, moving to China alone definitely played a huge part in finding the courage to solo travel elsewhere and now I feel as if I can go anywhere alone.