Kasia and Simon (aka 40 Litre Travels) are a young couple who became disillusioned with their jobs back home and the 9-5 lifestyle. Having already travelled before, they knew this would make them happy again so they made the decision to squeeze all their essentials into 40L backpacks and revisit their dream of travelling Asia. Kasia and Simon were on their travels in South-East Asia when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in early 2020. In this interview they share their experiences and Instagram photos from an extended stay in Thailand.
Why did you choose the name 40 Litre Travels for your website and social media handles?
Before we left we bought two Nomatic 40 litre travel bags. From our previous travels we worked out that a 40 litre bag is all we really needed. Any more than that and we found we were carrying around stuff that we never really used. Having said that, 40 Litre Travels seemed like a short, unique and memorable handle for all of our platforms so we just went with it.
How long did you spend in Thailand?
The funny thing is that we were not even meant to be heading to Thailand on these travels, but once the pandemic hit, our flight from Myanmar to Malaysia was cancelled. We weren’t ready to go home and we didn’t want to stay in Myanmar as we didn’t know how good the healthcare system was, so we booked on one of the last flights that were allowed to enter Thailand. It turned out to be the best decision we have made! In the end we stayed in Thailand for six months, including the lockdown period, and had an amazing time during our long stay.
How did Thailand deal with the Covid situation during your stay?
The Thai authorities were quick to try and get Covid under control by stopping all but essential travel between provinces. We were on Ko Chang island which, as well as not allowing people on or off the island, also had roadblocks to stop people going from one part of the island to another. Masks were introduced very quickly and you had to sign in and out of shops and restaurants as well as using the provided hand sanitiser before you were allowed in. At one point there was even an alcohol ban and a curfew to further try and stop the spread. Not once did we hear someone making a fuss over wearing a mask. Everyone was very understanding and on board with all the rules even when sometimes it seemed like an inconvenience. We must say that we were impressed with how the country managed the situation and got it under control so quickly.
Where did you travel to?
We spent the first few months locked down on the island of Ko Chang. However, once the domestic travel restrictions eased we pretty much travelled the whole of Thailand. After spending some time in Bangkok we went to the South and visited a number of locations including:
- Hat Yai
- Hua Hin
- Khao Sok National Park
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Lipe
- Ko Phayam
- Ko Yao Yai
- Surat Thani
After arriving back to Bangkok we decided to rent a car and explore more of Thailand. Via Kanchanaburi we headed to the North and North-East with visits to:
- Bueng Kan
- Chiang Mai
- Chiang Rai
- Nakhon Ratchasima
- Udon Thani
What destinations surprised you (in a good way)?
The destinations that surprised us the most were Bangkok and the North and North-East of Thailand. Although we have been to Bangkok many times it was normally for just a couple of nights before moving on to somewhere else. We never thought that it’s a place worth stopping by for any longer than that. This time we were there for around a month and we didn’t realise there is so much to see. North and North-East Thailand surprised us due to the various unique places and temples that can be found if you go off the beaten tourist path.
What off the beaten track destinations would you recommend?
We rented a car so we were able to see a lot more things that were off the tourist path. The highlights would have to be Three Whale Rock in Bueng Kan, Wat Ban Rai (elephant and turtle temple) in Nakhon Ratchasima, and Wat Phrathat Phasornkaew in Phetchabun. These are all located in the North-East (Isaan) which is less visited by tourists than the rest of Thailand.
Do you have a favourite beach or Thai island?
Our favourite island now has to be Ko Lipe. We were there at a time when there were hardly any other foreign tourists at all which gave it a more authentic feeling. The water is crystal clear, the beaches are sandy and empty, and you can borrow a kayak from your hotel and go out to explore the surrounding small islands and snorkel around them. Paradise!
If you had to choose the one most memorable moment from your travels in Thailand, what would it be?
Spending a night in one of the raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park. It was such a beautiful, isolated location and staying here was definitely one of the best and most memorable moments from our travels in Thailand.
What are your top three tips for couples travelling in Thailand?
- Look for double rooms rather than hostels as it’s the same price or even cheaper.
- Make sure to get a local SIM card. You can get a month of unlimited 4G for around £1. Just one is enough as you can share unlimited WiFi to your other half for free.
- Get yourself a document folder to keep all your documents, visas and necessary passwords and contacts in one place in case of an emergency.
Please share the funniest/strangest moment from your travels
Probably the fact that we ended up on the wrong island of Ko Chang. Who knew there were two of them!* We only realised we were going the wrong way when the dot on Google Maps started moving the opposite direction to one we had planned when we were on the bus from Bangkok. But there was no going back. Luckily it turned out to be one of the best islands we have seen in Thailand so there were no regrets. Ko Chang has got many beautiful beaches and offers so much to see and do.
The best-known Ko Chang island is located in Trat province on the East Coast. The other, much smaller Ko Chang island, is located in Ranong province on the Andaman Coast. And don’t get confused with another little island, Ko Si Chang, not far from Bangkok in Chonburi province.
What is your favourite Thai dish?
With the wealth of amazing food in Thailand it is hard to narrow it down to one favourite. As always, the curries there are amazing. Whether it is green, red, panang or massaman, you can’t really go wrong. A great dish is papaya salad (som tam) which goes great as a side dish when you have a number of dishes, or just with a big piece of barbecued chicken made famous in Isaan. Pad krapao moo (stir fried pork with holy basil) is a very basic dish, but packed with flavour and great for fussy eaters. One dish that we hadn’t had on our previous visits to Thailand but quickly became a favourite was Thai-style Sukiyaki soup.
Do you have any specific restaurant or street stall recommendations?
When you go to Thailand you should just try every single food stall like we do! Even the dodgy looking ones can sometimes surprise you in a good way. One of the things that we would definitely recommend you try is pa thong koh – deep fried dough (which is basically mini doughnuts) that can be found all over Thailand and are great dipped in the accompanying pandan custard. If you are visiting Bangkok you can find a famous stall that serves them fresh in Chinatown.
It is hard to remember specific restaurants because a lot of the time we just walk around the streets and go in whichever place takes our fancy at the time and often they don’t tend to have names. So just be adventurous and try different things. Big fancy restaurants are almost always a miss for us. The most delicious and authentic food can be found on the streets.
Did you pick up any Thai language? What words or phrases were the most helpful?
The Thai language is not an easy one to pick up (for us at least) so we only got to learn the very basics:
Hello: Sawatdee (with an added khap or ka depending on whether you are male or female).
Thank you: Khop khun khap/ka.
Are there any apps that you found useful on your travels?
Maps.me is a great app as it gives you directions from one place to another even if you are offline. Grab is the Asian version of Uber and is good for when you can’t be bothered getting public transport or haggling with taxi drivers. ViaBus is a real-time public transport tracking app so you know exactly where and when your transport will arrive and the route it takes. Google Translate is also essential for when you are off the beaten track and helps deal with any communication issues
You both travelled with small backpacks. What do you recommend packing for a Thailand holiday?
The most important thing to pack is a camera. And a waterproof cover for your bag/backpack is great not just to protect the bag from the rain when travelling, but also for protecting the bag when it’s being handled by flight and bus companies. A small dry bag is ideal for day trips and essentials, especially when you will be travelling on or in water. Other essentials include a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, rain jacket (especially during rainy/green season) and a sarong for covering yourself inside temples.
A big thank you to Kasia and Simon for taking time to share their experiences and photos from Thailand. You can read more about their travel adventures on their website, 40 Litre Travels and connect with @4oltravels on Instagram.
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