Thailand: My First Research Trip

By: Melissa Brown, Luxury Travel Advisor

After joining Over the Moon Vacations, my passion for travel intensified in the best way possible. Thailand quickly became my favorite itinerary to work on. I was fascinated by the culture, landscapes and amazing properties. Fast forward to a year later I planned my first major research trip to you guessed it– Thailand!

With only ten days in Thailand, I was surely going to make the most of my time there.

My journey started on the world-class Qatar airline. I decided  to treat myself and upgrade to business because why not? Best decision EVER to start the trip in true luxury and style. One layover in Qatar, unlimited alcohol and delicious food + 24 hours of travel later, I landed in Phuket.

Upon arrival, I was ready to head to the amazing Six Senses Yao Noi!

Six Senses Yao Noi

My first stop was all about getting over jet lag and luxuriating on property. 

Located a 35 minute boat ride away from Phuket in the stunning Phang Nga Bay, Six Senses Yao Noi offers seclusion and adventure. I checked into my private pool villa where I was welcomed by Gwen, my General Experience Maker.  

Gwen was there to make sure my stay was flawless. From drawing a bubble bath to requesting a new pillow, no request was off the table. With a focus on sustainability, the details throughout the villa combine natural materials and modern architecture. The airy, spacious villa with modern Thai design and outdoor shower, was the perfect way to begin my trip. 

Filled with so much excitement, I put my bathing suit on and headed to the pool. The views from the infinity pool left me speechless. With a cocktail in my hand, I spent the rest of the day enjoying  the surreal backdrop of the iconic limestone cliffs. I was in heaven and never wanted to leave. 

I woke up the next morning feeling energized and ready to enjoy the Six Senses Spa Village. I walked through the lush tropical setting and enjoyed a welcome tea and warm Kaffir lime scented towel as I perused the spa menu. I decided on a deep tissue massage and as I entered my treatment room, I was transported to the ultimate relaxation environment surrounded by calming sounds and natural scents. I enjoyed the best massage of my life and left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. 

While one of my fav parts of my stay was my spa experience, I can’t forget about all the amazing food! The breakfast buffet had an endless amount of options and left me full for hours. From homemade pastries, to an egg, pancake AND waffle station, it was difficult to fit all the food on one plate. Naturally, I went up for seconds and admittedly maybe even thirds. There is also an ice cream shop with homemade ice cream flavors available from early morning until the evening which I treated myself to a few times. I could seriously go on and on about the food at Six Senses Yao Noi but I’ll stop myself here…

What I also loved about Six Senses is the importance of sustainability seen throughout the property. Six Senses focuses on energy efficiency, water management and so much more. Part of the proceeds of the hotel go towards building sustainable communities in Yao Noi such as providing filtration systems. I was able to see first hand the behind the scene efforts that go into these efforts. 

It’s impossible for me to fully describe the true beauty of Six Senses Yao Noi. After two incredible days of sun and relaxation, I was off to my next destination.

Railay Beach

Next up on my Thailand adventure was Railay Beach. I checked into Rayavadee where I was greeted by monkey’s running around the property and swinging from trees. Straight out of the Avatar movie, Railay Beach offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen with towering limestone, jungle topped cliffs surrounded by the Andaman coastline.

I decided to drop my bags in the room and explore! On Railay, there are no roads; only footpaths making it very easy to get around. First stop was Phra Nang Beach filled with beachgoers enjoying the sandy beaches and crystal blue water. The best part of Phra Nang Beach? The bizarre Princess Cave known for its collection of large phallic symbols and offers in hopes of getting lucky and making babies. After a few laughs and photos, I ventured back to Rayavadee to have some cocktails and watch the sunset. Nearby Rayavadee is Walking Street filled with shops, bars and restaurants where I spent the evening enjoying local food and music. 

On day two it was time for my full day tour of the Phi Phi Islands with Thalassa Boat Tours. The enchanting Phi Phi Islands are known for their dramatic cliffs, emerald green waters and white sand beaches. We began the day at Monkey Beach where I was able to get up close and personal with monkeys.  Though highly ill advised, many visitors playfully fed the animals providing endless photo opportunities. It was then time to go snorkeling! Crystal-clear waters, lots of fish and colorful coral, the Phi Phi islands are one of the best places I have ever gone snorkeling (being from South Florida, this is saying a lot).

After swimming in the azure waters, enjoying a private picnic lunch, and experiencing an unforgettable day, I was sad to arrive back at Rayavadee because it meant my time in Railay was coming to an end. My final night at Rayavadee, I enjoyed cocktails at the world famous Grotto Restaurant on property. The Grotto is nestled under an ancient limestone cliff creating a charming setting to watch the sunset. 

Railay Beach provided an authentic Thai island experience filled with a balance of adventure and relaxation.

Chiang Mai

After some much-needed island time, it was time to fly to the adventure capital of Thailand: Chiang Mai!

I checked into the beautiful 137 Pillars and quickly became obsessed with the history and décor of the property. The boutique property felt like an oasis and my room was serious GOALS. I knew I had to take advantage of the Victorian style bathtub while I was there. Spoiler alert: I did. 

My first afternoon there I participated in a traditional Thai cooking class. We went to local markets, learned about spices and then headed to a Thai home to begin preparing our 4-course dinner! Some of the dishes included papaya salad, tom yum soup, pad thai and mango sticky rice.  I am a huge spicy lover, but it turns out spice levels in Thailand are on another level. I may or may not have had a few tears in my eyes while enjoying my food. With a full stomach, I headed to the night bazaar to explore the endless stalls of chachkies. I spent hours admiring the local products and shamefully bought 5 pairs of elephant pants. 

I woke up on day two excited for my elephant experience at Elephant Nature Park. Elephant Nature Park is a rescue camp that does not allow riding of any kind. ENP is all about rescuing elephants from abusive situations all around Thailand and SE Asia. Elephants are one of my absolute favorite animals so I could not wait to interact and play with these gentle giants. Located about an hour outside of the city, we arrived at the park where we all changed into our fashionable volunteer outfits for the day. As we were chopping watermelons to feed to the elephants, I spotted the first elephant, Chang Yim and I fell in love. His name means ‘Smiling Elephant” and he immediately brought smiles to all of our faces. 

We spent the day feeding the elephants as we walked with them at their own pace. At times, the elephants would wander off and we would just admire them in their natural habitat. We were lucky enough that the elephants walked off into a river and we were able to playfully bath them. It was an amazing experience to learn about the rescued elephants while also being able to play with them on their own terms.

Day three was all about exploring Chiang Mai at my leisure mixed with a few property visits. Tough job, I know. No visit to Chiang Mai would be complete without spending some time at the various Buddhist temples (in Thai called ‘Wats’) around the old city. Even with over 200 temples around the city, Chiang Mai offers a vibrant modern scene with boutique shops and artsy cafes on every corner. I spent the day hopping from temples to exploring shops and stopping for many much-needed coffee/snack breaks. What truly amazed me is how Chiang Mai stays true to its history and values while incorporating new modern views and developments.

Koh Samui

The last stop on my itinerary was the picturesque Koh Samui. I landed at the outdoor Samui airport, a charming and tropical airport that makes you instantly slip into vacay mode . A quick fifteen minute drive later, I arrived at the Ritz Carlton. With the best sunset views on the island, the sprawling Ritz Carlton resort welcomed me back to laidback island life!

The next few hours were dedicated to enjoying the serene views by the pool and private beach. While I could’ve stayed there forever, I decided to venture out and explore Fisherman’s Village for a yummy Thai dinner. I then stumbled upon Coco Tams, the cutest beach bar with bean bags and chill vibes. As I sipped my cocktails, I enjoyed a fire dancer show that seriously blew my mind! I found my jaw dropping as three fire dancers sparked their flames to create what looked like fireworks.  

On day two of Koh Samui I was ready to explore the Angthong National Marine park with 100 Degrees East. An absolute must while in Koh Samui, the Angthong Marine Park is an archipelago of 42 islands with incredible marine life and stunning viewpoints. After an hour boat ride and a few rare pink dolphin sightings, we arrived at our first snorkeling spot. I jumped into the water and was amazed at how many fish were around me! Though the water was a little murky and we were told it was low visibility, I was surrounded by colorful schools of fish! I was so amazed at the marine life and the amounts of fish around me, I seriously didn’t want to get out of the water once it was time to leave. 

My final day in Thailand  I did what I do best and bummed it by the Ritz Carlton Koh Samui pool in style. I enjoyed my final pad thai and mango sticky in town before getting a good night sleep and hopping on a flight to Bangkok before my international flight. 

My trip to Thailand exceeded all of my expectations. I am forever grateful to Over the Moon Vacations and feel so lucky to be passionate about my work. Thailand remains one of my favorite itineraries and I love sharing my first-hand experience with all of our clients. 

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