There are so many things to love about Thailand!

One of my favorites is the melodic Thai greeting, “Sawasdee Ka,” pronounced sah-wah-dee-khaa. To get it right, I draw out the khaa like the last note of a favorite song.* Then I fold my hands in front of me, as though praying, and bow.

After a couple days in Bangkok, practicing the greeting with my daughter who accompanied me on this memorable girls’ trip, I began to spring my newly learned greeting on strangers—my masseuse, the tuk-tuk (taxi) driver, and the staff at our hotel. To my delight, my new Thai acquaintances returned huge smiles, bowed and returned the greeting. I was falling in love! Not just with Thailand, and all the warm-hearted people that welcomed us to their country with “Sawasdee Ka,” but with the delightful night markets and the food.

Oh, the food! Thailand is world famous for its street food. Why? Because it’s absolutely scrumptious, varied and costs almost nothing. It’s fair to say that my daughter and I ate our way across Thailand. It is a true foodie paradise!


It didn’t matter whether we could identify what we saw simmering on the makeshift grill on the side of the road, we simply paid the small price for it—$1.50 or so, and then practically inhaled it. Whatever, it was—maybe chicken—maybe not; it was savory, perfectly seasoned and it left us wondering if we could ever find it again when we returned to the U.S.

This trip introduced us to stir-fried morning glory, a delicious green scallion-looking vegetable that I ordered often. And we couldn’t get enough khao soi, a wonderful noodle soup from northern Thailand made of egg noodles, lime, ground chilies, pickled mustard greens, chicken or beef, and shallots in a coconut milk curry sauce.


We began our trip in bustling Bangkok, the capital city, with a population of over 8 million people. The key to Bangkok is to slow down. Never be in a hurry. That way, we weren’t perturbed by traffic congestion or hard-to-find addresses. It was an adventure, rather than a late appointment, when our tuk-tuk driver dropped us in the vicinity of our massage appointment, then left us alone to wander the alleys of Bangkok in search of the exact spa that TripAdvisor said we must visit.

Ko Lanta Island

We only spent three days in Bangkok before hopping on a flight south to Krabi Province and on to Ko Lanta island. Ko Lanta, especially during shoulder season (April-June) is the perfect place to enjoy a super chill, almost-private island getaway. Most of the tourists had cleared out at the end of high season in February. We arrived in mid-May when it’s hotter and more likely to rain as monsoon season begins for most of Thailand in June.**

Throughout our stay in Ko Lanta, we enjoyed pristine empty beaches and soothing, solitary dining at restaurants and bars nestled on the shore. Ko Lanta turned out to be the perfect respite, as all the stress of daily busyness melted away into a boating excursion, lazy grazing on street food and massages every other day. What’s not to love about Ko Lanta? Wild monkeys running amok! Fresh seafood everywhere, and plates of lush, gorgeous fruit piled high. And did I mention the mopeds? Mopeds outnumber cars on the island, as a family of three zipped by—mom, child and grandma, all perfectly balanced on the back of a motorbike.

After a blissfully relaxing week in Ko Lanta, we headed on to Railey Beach. I had one goal in traveling to Railey—to kayak amongst the limestone behemoths that towered up out of the ocean. I’d seen pictures of these mountains of sublime rock sculptures and I was dying to view them up close.

Kayaking & Cavesat Railey Beach

Railey turned out to be so much more than a stunning day kayaking in the open ocean with my daughter. Railey Beach boasts an insane labyrinth of mysterious caves and cavernous rocks that could literally swallow you up whole. We spent a day exploring the trails that meandered between soaring precipices and sandy coastline. All the while, the bright green water stretched out calm and inviting all around us.

While in Krabi Province, we also took a speed boat out to Maya Bay—best known as the backdrop for Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach. That same day we docked at party island Ko Phi Phi and spent a couple hours perusing the tourist shops that dot the shoreline. Along the way, our boat paused mid-ocean to allow us to snorkel in the clear waters amidst the colorful sea life.

From Krabi, we jetted off to the northern city of Chiang Mai! Before I’d left for Thailand, I had gotten tons of travel advice from friends and colleagues who had visited before me. One sentiment was consistent no matter who I asked, “Chiang Mai is great! You’ll love it,” everyone told me. They were right.

I Adored Chiang Mai

I adored Chaing Mai. Our hotel sat smack in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood on Nimmanahaeminda Road. From my hotel room window, I could see the backside of One Nimman, a beautifully designed, upscale shopping plaza. The plaza encompassed several cute boutiques, and a tidy food court that mimicked the assorted food stations of an open market, but with neat clusters of comfortable seating. And on my fourth day in Chaing Mai, I discovered a lovely spa in One Nimman that served guests complimentary drinks and gave each patron a fresh pair of ornate pajamas to wear during your first-class Thai massage! I regretted that I hadn’t found it earlier and didn’t have enough time left to explore the full menu of spa treatments. We only had six days in Chiang Mai.

My daughter and I spent a couple days wandering the inviting shops and art galleries in the blocks near our hotel. The boutiques proved just as rewarding for clothes shopping as the night markets were for tasty food. I bought several high-quality pieces by Thai fashion designers for a fraction of what I’d pay for similar items at a boutique in San Francisco. In the evening, we meandered through the small night market directly across the street.

To top it all off, our hotel, the U Nimman Chiang Mai, offered free daily breakfast. My expectations were low as free breakfasts are rarely memorable. But U Nimman’s breakfast buffet turned out to be mind-blowing. Friendly chefs stood ready to cook made-to-order, specialty dishes. The serving tables and chafing dishes overflowed with a dizzying plethora of appetizing Eastern and Western breakfast and lunch items. The buffet served everything from eggs benedict, and fresh waffles to Thai rice and meat dishes.

I couldn’t stay away from the long table laden with stacked tiers of Thai fruit. Finally, I could taste the enigmatic rambutan (see photo below), which looks more like an organic ninja weapon than something edible. I’d seen it in the market, but its prickly exterior intimidated me. I didn’t know which part was edible, or how to peel it, or if you peeled it at all. Here the chefs served up rambutan and other esoteric Thai fruit, pre-cut and ready to eat.

Elephant Sanctuary& Back to Bangkok

On one of our last days in Chaing Mai, my daughter and I took a day trip to an elephant sanctuary in Mae Wang. We spent the day feeding elephants sugar cane in the wild, forested area where they lived. We watched them play in the river and sponged them off with a prepared spa treatment. I won’t lie, I really wanted to spend the day getting my own spa treatment, but there’s nothing like the content smile on your child’s face when she’s accomplished her Thai vacation goal of roaming with the wild elephants! #vacationgoals (Check out the video of our elephant sanctuary visit.)

After Chaing Mai, we returned to Bangkok for two final days before heading home. My daughter and I agreed, this vacation had been one of the best we’d ever had.

*This is the proper greeting to give women. You greet men with “Sawasdee Krab,” and cut the last syllable short.
**The wettest months for most of the country are August-October.

All Thailand photographs and videos by Adele C. Berry.