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Month Fifty Four was a fun one – spent in two of my favorite countries in the world: New Zealand and Thailand.
I started the month in Papamoa at my Mum’s, for a weekend of beach, hiking up the Mount, and hanging out with family for my Mum’s birthday.
From there, I headed back to Auckland for a night, with a couple of detours along the way to do a hike in Karangahake Gorge and to visit the farm I used to live on when I was a kid.
My bestie Kurt and I then headed out for a six day road trip to Taranaki and Tokoroa, to explore the region and hike the two day Pouakai Circuit. We stayed with a friend in Tokoroa for two nights and visited the nearby Blue Springs in Putaruru and had a big night out at the local watering hole.
I had three nights back in Auckland to finish up my time in New Zealand, which was mostly spent running last minute errands, and getting some work done, although I did fit in a trivia night with friends at the Empire.
And then I flew to Bangkok!
After a looong day of flying and two stopovers, I finally reached Bangkok and was reunited with Toby.
We spent six nights in the city and most of the time was spent getting dental procedures or recovering from said dental procedures, but we also fit in some sightseeing – visiting Chatuchak Market, the Jim Thompson House, Temple of the Golden Mount, Benjakitti Park, and a scenic hop-on hop-off canal boat trip.
Then it was time to hit the islands for some much needed beach time.
We started off our Trat island-hopping adventure with four nights on Koh Chang, which we loved exploring by scooter. The sunsets on Koh Chang were incredible!
From Koh Chang, we ventured onwards to Koh Mak for four nights, where we met lots of friendly locals, hung out with our new German friend Rebecca, and spent lots of time at the pool of our excellent accommodations – Bamboo Hideaway.
We could have easily extended our time on Koh Mak but we didn’t want to miss the island we had heard had the best beaches in Thailand: Koh Kood.
We spent four nights on Koh Kood and everything we had heard about the beaches was true – they were some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and we had such a great time beach-hopping around the island.
Our last night was spent back in Bangkok, where we chilled out in our fancy hotel after a long day of travel.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: New Zealand, Thailand
- New Zealand: Auckland, Papamoa, Mount Maunganui, Tokoroa, New Plymouth, Whangamomona, Opunake, Okato, Tirau, Putururu
- Thailand: Bangkok, Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Kood
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Egmont National Park in New Zealand, Mu Koh Chang National Park in Thailand
Islands Visited: Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kood in Thailand
Best Meal: Fresh snapper with sautéed asparagus, fennel and walnut sauce from Somerset Cottage in Tauranga; Smoked Fish pie from BP Service Station in New Zealand; All the mango sticky rice I ate in Thailand (there was a lot); My daily banana rotis with sweetened condensed milk on Koh Chang; Our seafood extravaganza at Koh Mak seafood – particularly the crumbed calamari and giant prawns with garlic butter; Proper Wood-fired oven Margherita pizza from Little Red Oven Pizza on Koh Mak; Vegetable Penang curry from Chill Out Restaurant and their amazing Passionfruit Smoothies.
Worst Meal: My very dry Fish of the Day from The Empire in Auckland – it also gave me a very upset stomach.
Best Craft Beer: I didn’t get to drink much craft beer this month. The best thing I drunk was the Summer Ale with ginger and honey by Monteith’s in New Zealand – not exactly a craft beer but craft style.
- Mount Maunganui Summit track in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 2 miles/3.4km return
- Pouakai Circuit in Egmont National Park, New Zealand 15.5 miles/25km loop over two days
- Benjakitti Park loop walk in Bangkok, Thailand 1.25 miles/2km
Reading: It was a great month for reading, especially as I spent two weeks on the beaches of Thailand – a great place to read. I got through about five books and really liked Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult, and When we Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal (although the author needed to do more research on Auckland before publishing – she made some embarrassing mistakes.)
Watching: I really got into The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Dirty John this month. What can I say – I love true crime.
A Family Weekend in Tauranga
My brother came down to Mum’s for the weekend so we could all celebrate Mum’s birthday (which had been a couple of days previous) together. What none of us knew was that my Uncle Grant and Auntie Joanna were coming too – to surprise Mum for her birthday.
I hadn’t seen them for a few years so it was great having them there as well, and we all went out for dinner to Mum’s favorite restaurant, with my Auntie Di coming too.
I definitely appreciate time with family so much more now than when I was younger, and it was such a fun weekend.
Hiking in Karangahake Gorge
I first hiked in the Karangahake Gorge when I was a kid, that was also the last time I hiked it so I was well overdue for a repeat. On the way back to Auckland from Mum’s, I decided to stop and do the classic loop track along the river and through the old railroad tunnel. It was a beautiful day and I loved re-experiencing this short but super sweet hike.
Re-visiting my Childhood Home
Also on the way back to Auckland, I decided to take a detour to the farm I grew up on between the ages of 9 and 14 in Te Hihi. I have such fond memories of living on the farm, and I still dream about it all the time, but I hadn’t visited in at least six or seven years.
I drove to my old primary school, down the private road to the farm, and to the house we lived in for six months while our house was being built. It was the strangest feeling being back, some things – like my school – have changed so much that they are barely recognisable, but other things looked exactly the same, like the 23 years since we left hadn’t even happened.
It was all pretty surreal, but in a really wonderful way.
A Taranaki Road Trip With my Bestie
Taranaki is a region of New Zealand that I have only visited a handful of times, with the last visit being ten years ago. Kurt hadn’t been at all so we decided that we would do a road trip down there, staying a couple of nights in the biggest city – New Plymouth – and spending two days and one night hiking the Pouakai Circuit in Egmont National Park.
I loved driving along the coast to sleepy beach towns like Mokai and Opunake, stopping for a beer at the quirky little country town of Whangamomona, and driving the scenic Forgotten World Highway.
We were also impressed by New Plymouth, and were particularly blown away by the beauty of Pukekura Park – a place we had never heard of before this trip.
Hiking the Pouakai Circuit in Taranaki
The highlight of our time in Taranaki was definitely hiking the Pouakai Circuit. We were pretty lucky with the weather and we had some pretty spectacular views of the iconic Mount Taranaki as we hiked around it. The scenery changed a lot – we hiked up mountain peaks, through a swamp, and through dense New Zealand bushland. It was all so green and beautiful.
The hut was great and we met a cool group of people during our evening there, and on the last day I heard a kiwi – likely only metres away from me! Unfortunately I couldn’t see it, but even hearing it so close in the middle of the day was amazing.
I found it a bit tough on the second day, I hadn’t slept well and was just generally struggling a bit, but overall I loved our hike and would highly recommend it.
An Unexpected Big Night out in Tokoroa
Kurt and I spent a couple of nights in the quiet country town of Tokoroa with our friend Eddie on our way back up from Taranaki. Along with visiting the beautiful Blue Spring in Putaruru, we went out to the Tokoroa Club – basically a country pub frequented by local farmers – to play some pool and have a couple of beers.
Our planned quiet night ended up getting a bit out of hand and we ended up befriended a big group of local farmers who were celebrating a birthday and took us under their wing.
What a fun night it turned out to be, singing and dancing to songs we had turns picking on the jukebox with our new friends, although my hangover was pretty rough the next day.
A Visit to Jim Thompson House in Bangkok
The Jim Thompson House is on a lot of lists of best things to do in Thailand, but I had never been particularly interested in visiting. I had never heard of the guy before so why would I want to see his house?
Well, turns out the story of Jim Thompson and his disappearance is pretty intriguing, and his houses are full of beautiful art, with the buildings that make up his home being worth a visit alone – traditional teak houses that he altered to fit his needs. It was definitely worth visiting in the end.
Getting to Eat all my Favorite Thai Dishes
Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines, so it was great to be back in Thailand where it is good and cheap. I loved all the vegetable curries, chicken and vegetable stirfries, whole deep-fried fish with garlic, banana roti pancakes, pineapple and shrimp fried rice, my daily fruit shake, and most of all – Mango sticky rice!
All the Kitty Love in Thailand
I got so much kitty love in Thailand! There were loads of cute cats everywhere, with most seemign to be being looked after by locals so they were pretty healthy.
My favorites were Cannela, the resident cat of Bamboo Hideaway, who let me pick her up and stroke her about a million times, and the family of two black cats and their four little kittens who lived at our favorite restaurant on Koh Kood – Chill Out.
Amazing Koh Chang Sunsets
I hadn’t been super interested in visiting Koh Chang, but as it was right by Koh Kood and Koh Mak, which were firmly on the itinerary, Koh Chang was added too. I’m pleased it was because I really loved my time there.
We scootered all over the island to a fisherman villages and different beaches, we saw a baby elephant swimming in the sea and families of monkeys beside the road, we swam under a waterfall, ate banana roti pancakes everyday and it was all wonderful, but what I remember the most are the incredible sunsets from Khlong Prao beach, where we went to a beach bar every evening.
It’s hard to beat a Thai island sunset and the sunsets here are some of the best.
Being Welcomed Like a Local on Koh Mak
Koh Mak is a small island between Koh Chang and Koh Kood in Thailand, and one that we decided to go to because we had heard it was a bit off the beaten path, and was quiet and relaxing. It did turn out to be all of those things, but what we loved about it the most were the friendly locals.
We stayed at Bamboo Hideaway, which is my favorite accommodation on this trip so far. Our bungalow was the perfect combo of luxury and rustic, the pool was to die for, the Manager – Jake – was super friendly and invited us to a couple of different local parties on the island, and we met some other great guests too.
During our short time on the island we went to a birthday/hotel opening party on the beach and a food truck village launch party with traditional Thai dances and entertainment, as well as beautiful beaches and the delicious Koh Mak Seafood for a group dinner hosted by Jake.
We loved our time on Koh Mak so much – it definitely felt like a home away from home.
Every Single Beach we Went to on Koh Kood
Wow, are the beaches in Koh Kood spectacular! The beaches of Koh Lipe had always been my favorite in Thailand, but Koh Kood blew them out of the water. Every single beach we went to during our four days on the island was just stunning, with super fine white sand and gorgeous turquoise water – and there weren’t a lot of people on any of the beaches either.
If you love beach life – seriously, get to Koh Kood now before the secret is out.
Wisdom Tooth Removal and Recovery
This was actually horrific enough that it was a lowlight of the whole year. When I got one of my top wisdom teeth out back in June 2018, it was such a non-event that I wasn’t super worried about getting the rest of them out this time around.
Unfortunately I ended up with a callous old man Dentist, that couldn’t care less that he was causing me pain when he stabbed me multiple times in the mouth with injections. I wasn’t in a good state before he even started taking out my two wisdom teeth, and getting the bottom one out was a nightmare.
I could feel a deep, dull pain as he drilled and he had to give me another injection, and it took longer than it was meant to because he broke my tooth so it was harder to get out. By the time I went to pay I broke down sobbing in the waiting room, I couldn’t control it which is very unlike me.
It was a really traumatic experience for me, and my mouth was super swollen and sore for a few days, with some dull pain sticking around for about a week. The last wisdom tooth can rot out of my mouth for all I care, I will not be getting it removed after this experience.
Sudden Sickness on Koh Mak
I’m not sure what caused it, but we were swimming off a dock on Koh Mak when I suddenly started to feel nauseas. I lay on a deck chair, thinking it would pass, but it only got worse and I just wanted to get back to our bungalow.
We made it about half way back on our scooters and I wasn’t in a good way. We ended up stopping so I could throw up, then I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. I felt fine by evening, so I have no idea what caused it – maybe something I ate or the heat. Who knows.
Very reasonable if you take off the $700 I spent on my teeth this month – which was a bargain compared to prices in New Zealand and the US! Even though the Thai Baht is strong at the moment so the exchange rate isn’t great for me, everything is still pretty cheap.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of two nights in a shared private room at a Boutique Hostel in Taranaki, one night in a hut on the Pouakai Circuit, seven nights in nice hotels in Bangkok, four nights in a private room at a hostel on Koh Chang, four nights in a private bungalow on Koh Mak, and four nights in private bungalows on Koh Kood.
For the rest of the month, I spent two nights at my Mum’s in Papamoa, two nights at a friend’s place in Tokoroa, and four nights at my Dad’s place in Auckland.
Food and Drink $540
I’m pretty happy with this total as I was purchasing two to three meals a day for three quarters of the month, but luckily the food is very reasonably priced in Thailand.
- Birkenstock Sandals $30
- Bikini $10
- Sarong $5
- Gas $31.50
- Grab taxi $3
- Trains in Bangkok $10
- Bus and Boat from Bangkok to Koh Chang $11.50
- Songthaew on Koh Chang $2.50
- One Week Scooter hire and gas $49
- Parking $1
- Bang Bao Boat from Koh Chang to Koh Mak $13.50
- Bang Bao Boat from Koh Mak to Koh Kood $13.50
- Boat and Bus from Koh Kood to Bangkok $30
I don’t include International Flights in my spending recaps
- Thai Massages x 2 $17.50
- Jim Thompson House in Bangkok $6.50
- Hop on Hop off Canal Boat trip in Bangkok $6.50
- Temple of the Golden Mount in Bangkok $3.50
- Khlong Plu Waterfall Entry Fee $6.50
- Toiletries $56.50
- Phone $20
- Kindle books x 3 $38
- PDF Guidebooks for Thailand, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal $26 (my half)
- Trusted Housesitters Membership Fee $50 (my half)
- Visa photos $11
- Daily Planner for 2020 $4
- Travel mouse $8.50
- Travel Insurance for One Month $37
- Dentist in Bangkok -Checkup, x-rays, five fillings, two wisdom teeth pulled, cleaning, medicine $700
- Laundry $3
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van Costs $0
What’s in Store for Next Month
Month Fifty Five will begin with the end of our time in Thailand – we will have one more night in Bangkok then will be flying to Vientiane in Laos – country number 61 for me and my first new country in nearly two years!
We have just over three weeks in Laos, and are planning to do a loop around the north, visiting the most visited parts of the country first over the Christmas and New Year period – Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang.
From there we will be taking the two day slow boat to the Laos/Thailand border, then traveling up to Luang Namtha near the Chinese border to do some trekking.
I’m not too sure after that but we are thinking of visiting Nong Khiaw to experience the natural beauty there, and maybe the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan, before traveling back down to Vientiane to catch our flight to Bangkok.
We have one night back in Bangkok after leaving Laos, then we fly to another new country for me: Sri Lanka!
The last five days of the month will be spent in Sri Lanka, starting in Colombo. I have no idea what route we will be doing from there – guess I better get planning!
To read additional Monthly Round ups, you can find them here