In search of dreamy beaches, sunny weather, 25+ degrees, tasty food, sweet coconuts and unknown sup locations, Bananaway team travelled to Thailand. Do you wanna know, how to make travelling more active and less touristy? Read our story!
How the story began?
If we would have to choose two spices that keep our spirits high year round, we would definitely pick a daily dose of sports and at least one big trip a year. We are SUP instructors who from April to October spend every single day on the water. We teach, paddle, work out and explore. We spread the enthusiasm to Slovenian people and introduce Slovenia to active travellers from abroad. And when we exchange our travel experiences and impressions, it seems as though we would be on the road with them.
Do you remember how a 3-week long rainy period surprised us in September? One could say that, after almost a chaotic summer, we thoroughly enjoyed some peace and quiet. But still, we desperately wanted to feel at least a sliver of sunshine on our faces and this is when we received some seriously good news that quickened our pulse.
We are going SUPing to Thailand!
Our Director intended our trip to Thailand to be an exercise in team building and a reward for a job well done over the course of summer. Even though we stand-up paddle board for fun, the season was intense and exhausting. New co-workers were introduced into our midst and we complemented each other perfectly but, unfortunately, we did not get a chance to get to know each other better. Travelling to the other side of the world was therefore a good test of how we can function as a team in a different environment, what roles we will assume as individuals, how well we complement, challenge and encourage each other, and, of course, how we are going to have fun.
Why Thailand and how did we prepare for the trip?
We definitely started to think about Thailand because of:
- our good impressions and experiences during past travels (it is a safe as well as culturally and gastronomically very rich country),
- pure practicalities as regards travelling (it has good flight connections so it is simple to travel there),
- low cost (it was affordable for the company that covered flight tickets and accommodation as well as for the participants who covered food and additional trips), and,
- above all, because it provides us, the SUP enthusiasts, with 3200km of coastline and thus endless possibilities for exploration and fun.
A good introduction to our team building were travel plans because we all contributed to them. We wanted to make the most out of our 10-day trip and make it as varied as possible. Each of us picked their own SUP spots and then we gathered at a meeting where we presented them, combined the best options and confirmed the final plan. We bought inexpensive flight tickets, booked bungalows, packed all our SUP gear, and started looking forward to our first big SUP expedition.
How do airline companies treat SUP equipment and how does travelling with 25kg of baggage look like?
Recently we noticed that airline companies are becoming friendlier towards sports enthusiasts and make fewer complications regarding the transport of sporting goods. Specifically, the SUP equipment can be considered as a standard piece of baggage. In other words, an inflatable SUP board can be packed into a bag that conforms to checked baggage allowance (the sum of all dimensions does not exceed 158cm). That means that surcharges do not apply and prior notifications are not necessary.
We have to pay special attention to baggage allowance restrictions which vary among the airlines. On most economical flights only one piece of baggage weighing from 23kg to 30kg is allowed. For that reason, packing requires skills, good planning and a quality SUP bag. The basic process looks like this: we carefully fold the SUP around the pump, fix the collapsible paddle in the intended place, place the safety leash right on the bottom of the bag and then pad the SUP with clothes on all sides; then we proceed with selecting our clothes according to the weather forecast, put at least two thirds of them back in the closet, and arrange the rest of them into bags to preserve their freshness also during travel. You can trust us that most travellers take too many clothes on a trip – a fact you become very well aware of when you start travelling with sports equipment and realise that you really only need a bare minimum. You can simply wash your clothes and definitely count on buying some new items very easily and cheaply in Asia.
Travelling with an SUP and 25kg of equipment can be very simple if the bag is equipped with quality wheels so we can easily pull it along. It is important to weigh our bag before departing for the airport so we prevent having to reach for our pocket due to excess baggage.
Travelling tailored to the needs of an SUP enthusiast!
We started our trip in Bangkok where we quickly put our finger on the local pulse whilst savouring the varied offer of freshly squeezed juices and tasty food, affordable massages, feeling of safety, inspiring temples, fast-as-lightning tuk-tuks and vibrant night life.
After a short urban experience we ventured straight into the jungle where we awoke in the company of monkeys and lush tropical vegetation. More than anything else we looked forward to our first SUP adventures – we paddled along a tranquil river, a few faster flowing sections and a very colourful, placid lake. Of course, we obtained all the necessary information about the safety of both locations from the locals and made sure that we did not run into any crocodiles. We survived.
We spent the second part of our trip next to or on the ocean. In Krabi, we undoubtedly realised that our decision to travel to Thailand was definitely the right one. Bay after bay, new sources of delight awaited us. Cliffs, rocks, overhangs, arches, caves, sandy shores… it was a true SUP playground.
THE PHI PHI ISLAND
It goes without saying that we had to go and check out the turquoise shore made famous in the film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio! And we got very well acquainted with mischievous, pick-pocketing monkeys at the Monkey Beach. Unfortunately, choppy seas thwarted our plans to swim with the plankton which something we greatly desired. But what can we do – it is just as well we left something for the next time. 😊
What made the biggest impression on us?
An extremely colourful coastline. The bays boast a varied relief which can be explored on SUPs from close up. It was so much fun paddling through small caves, put our manoeuvring skills to the test among the rocks and anticipate what awaits us behind the next corner. And then the next one. And the one after that. We expected the coast to be stunning and the sea clean but realised that this was not all – the country had so much more to offer.
An escape from overly touristy places. We did not hang out with the crowds on nearby beaches but instead paddled away and dropped our anchor in secluded inlets. In fact, there are an infinite number of emerald bays but they are only accessible by the traditional Thai long tail boats. Our SUP and activities programme enabled us to escape the classic touristic offer and crowds during the tourist rush, save a fair amount of money, and experience that something extra.
A blend of travel, activities and new experiences. We cannot even imagine being a typical tourist who sticks to Lonely Planet recommendations and simply drifts from one popular sight to another. We crave something new and different. Something like paddling along a fast flowing river or running after monkeys who are about to steal our paddle. To us, experiencing is more important than seeing. SUPing combines all this and adds physical activity into the mix.
Is Thailand really too touristy?
We almost completely bypassed that over-touristy experience that is sometimes attributed to Thailand. If touristy means good connections, safe and simple manner of travelling, perfected and diverse selection of food, trips, experiences and accommodation, a tourist-friendly entry into the country and easy communication, then being touristy is just fine with us. If, on the other hand, touristy means a beautiful bay full of motor boats packed with 30 tourists who are dressed in life jackets and move from one location to another in a more or less orderly queue, we can say that this represents irresponsible tourism with very detrimental effects on the environment.
The latter is of course a reality also in Thailand but we managed to steer clear of it. We can thank our rich knowledge about kitesurfing and SUPing and our experience from previous travels for being able to enjoy some bays completely alone. All members of our SUP expedition dislike mass tourism and prefer to travel off the beaten track. And we already learned which offers must be turned down without hesitation.
To sum it all up: you are the one who decides if you wish to be a tourist or a traveller. 😊 Our team can say that it sees Thailand as a country of stunning beaches and clean ocean, or, in other words, as a one big SUP paradise!
Not every destination is a good SUP location!
If you enjoy SUPing you will undoubtedly also enjoy SUP travels so why not think about packing your inflatable friend in your bag for the next travel adventure. We would also like to point out that not every summer destination is also a good SUP location. Before going travelling, we have to study local weather conditions and coastline and foresee possible risks. Obviously, we have to be extremely careful on the water, make suitable preparations for longer expeditions and be aware of the conditions around us at all times. The ocean is unpredictable and we have to exercise caution so that pleasure does not turn into danger.
We invite all of you who are interested in an active and adventurous way of travelling to join our Bananaway SUP Adventure in Thailand in January 2019! Check out the SUP program!