For our last day in Chiang Mai we decided to indulge ourselves in a spa package prior to getting on board our overnight sleeper to Bangkok. I’d read great reports about Cheeva Spa on tripadvisor so after careful deliberation we all booked in for the luxury package. This 4 hour package worked out to about $100 each. You probably can get cheaper in Thailand but I don’t think it would come close to this experience. We were picked up and taken to the spa where we had our feet washed then a soothing foot massage followed in the softly lit room. As we were together, Mr Market Basket and I were then whisked away through a tropical garden to a private villa as our package continued. It included an all over body scrub, body wrap, aromatherapy milk bath, aromatherapy massage and a facial. It was glorious and I didn’t want it to end. The staff were phenomenal and I’ve never enjoyed a spa experience so much. The bath was amazing, I wish I had a picture of it filled. It smelled heavenly and was scattered with orchids, kaffir lime and pandan leaves. As a lovely touch, the staff left us ginger tea and mango with coconut rice to feast upon. I will definitely return to Cheeva next time I am in Chiang Mai!
Before we jumped on the train we squeezed in a quick meal at what was probably our favourite restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thais That Bind. We had the best tom yum soup ever, and they also served the elusive sticky rice. Although some restaurants have sticky rice on their menu, in our experience it’s actually hard to come by although I’m not sure why. In any case it’s a shame because it’s so delicious! It comes out in a little woven container and the rice is cooked but kind of dry so you can roll it into a ball and dunk it into your food. This tom yum/ sticky rice combo was out of this world and cost us a few dollars. Another food highlight of the trip for me was some street food in the form of a banana and nutella roti. Roti is a Malaysian flatbread that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and I’m a big fan. Watching this lady make this tasty creation was entertaining and I could not wait to tuck in. The roti did not disappoint, it was buttery and crisp, slathered in nutella and filled with banana. I declined the offer of sugar and condensed milk as it was sweet enough already for me! Costing me just over a dollar, I only regret that I had this but once.
After a brief stopover in Bangkok we moseyed on down to the island of Koh Tao. It’s a about a 3 hour boat ride from the mainland, or from the island of Koh Samui. Whilst it is a bit of an effort to get to, it’s totally worth it once you’re there. The island is carved out by a series of bays, each one offering something different. Previously we had stayed on Chalok Ban Kao which was good, although as we wanted to splash out on some special accommodation this time, we stayed closer to the main town of Sairee. Through my trusty tripadvisor I had found Chalisa Villas. What a treat it was to have our own villa with a little pool. The owner was so lovely and helpful, and we were about a ten minute walk from town. As you do when on Koh Tao, we hired scooters to ride all over the island which is a lot of fun in itself.
Koh Tao is developing quite quickly, and doesn’t have a great infrastructure in that some of the roads are unsealed, and you do see some rubbish around, however amongst that you will find pockets of paradise. What surprised us was how well you could live and eat there, still so cheaply given its location. We had a couple of memorable dinners, Barracuda in Sairee was an amazing dining experience – I had the freshest tuna sashimi, and a fish tikka masala dish that was out of this world. It was expensive for Thailand, but to have such a fantastic meal with drinks for less than $30 is still a lot cheaper than what we would pay at home. Towards the end of our trip we managed to wrangle a table at Jam’s Boomerang. Located in a small bungalow, I’d heard good things about this place and despite being fully booked, the lovely Jam fit us in. She helped us select from her Thai menu, all which had a focus on being healthy. Everything was so good and so cheap. I wish I had taken some photos. I still dream of her garlic pepper chicken and fried brown rice.
Snorkelling on Koh Tao is awesome and we had a blast riding all over island to various bays and plonking ourselves in the water to visit beautiful aquatic worlds. Ha Wing was our favourite bay. My brother learned the hard way the perils of not putting sunscreen on, and after a day of riding around and snorkelling with his back exposed, he was feeling pretty sore and out of action the following day. It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re faced with such beauty below the water’s surface and we all definitely got a bit of colour. At one point we refuelled at a little restaurant overlooking Shark Bay. With a stellar view, we had the best BLTs ever accompanied by fresh fruit shakes for next to nothing.
As we came to the end of our island adventure, we couldn’t let my brother leave Thailand without trying a famed bucket or two. Buckets are essentially really big drinks. Like ridiculously big. We met up with our villa neighbours and continued on to a bar where we hung out on a bamboo platform hanging over the gently washing waves and watched one of the best fire twirlers I have ever seen. It was a great night although it did lead to us being pretty subdued the following day.
On our last day we farewelled Koh Tao for a bit of an epic journey home, but it all went smoothly and without a hitch. As always it was good to land on Aussie soil and make our way home. I’m already on to planning our next trip now, cmon Europe! But I’m sure we will return to Thailand again in the coming years just because it is such a fun and easy place to escape to. I hope you all have your own special holidays to look forward to, and I look forward to bringing you a recipe soon. As they say in Thailand, Sawasdee Ka!