Thailand has been one of the top countries on my list to visit since I was 15, along with Turkey and South Africa, and so I’ve finally been to each of these and Thailand did not disappoint. I think a part of me wanted the experience to be subpar so that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. In the end, the hype was warranted, and I highly suggest putting Thailand to the top of your list. It is easy to get around, cheap, beautiful, the food is good, the people are nice and speak English, and the place is still an adventure. It has everything you could want in a travel destination.
This will be a long post, but there are a ton of places to visit and so be patient.
Bangkok (Spent 4 days here, could have gotten by with 2, or 0 depending on time)
If you are just going to Thailand then you will almost definitely fly into Bangkok. It is a huge city, but if there is hype in Thailand, it is Bangkok, and so you could skip if you only have a couple of weeks in the country. Personally, I had a great time because I went to visit a close friend from college, Katherine, who lives and works in Bangkok, but I know that is a unique situation. So, keep in mind that the laying Budha, and the imperial palace, are the only two real tourist attractions that are family friendly. Other than that the famous street of bars, Khaosan Road is not as good as sixth street, bourbon street, Kuta Beach (Bali), or even Pub Street (Siem Reap).
With all of that in mind, however, if you need to be here for a birthday, just starting your trip, or meeting a friend, etc. there are still a lot of fun things to do in Bangkok. Also, anyone on a long trip needs to check it out, because even if not as good as they make it look in The Hangover II movie, it is still one of the largest and most famous cities in the world.
Do the following:
Take advantage of $5 massages
Go to the rooftop bars
Check out laying Budha, the Imperial Palace, and maybe do a tour of the city
Go out to Khaosan Road
Relax and stock up on whatever you need because outside of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Jakarta, there aren’t many cities with the same level of access to goods and services.
Chiang Mai (Spent 4 days here, you should spend at least 3 days here)
Most of my photos and experiences of Chiang Mai are from the epic water festival that is hosted there for the Thai New Years, Songkran. It is celebrated all over the country, as well as in Laos and possibly some other places, but Chiang Mai is the New York City of New Year parties. Water guns, buckets of water, soaked shirts, everything you could imagine.
While it is a Thai New Year celebration, there is a flood of tourists that come in to celebrate as well, and so it is more than 50% of the population in the streets will be white (often the Thai people are in the cars and the tourists are walking around).
Kho Phangan (Spent 2 days here, 2 days is fine but you can always chill at the beach for longer)
Kho Phangan is home to the famous Full Moon Party. This is probably the most “dangerous” part of Thailand and I suggest going with a friend, and/or not drinking much. These festivals and parties supposedly run by the Thai Mafia, and there are a ton of drugs, both that people buy and ones people are given without their knowing. That said, this place is not nearly as bad as people made it sound and I had a lot of fun. The popular thing to drink is a bucket of
The popular thing to drink is a bucket of liquor mixed with coke and ice. If you’re going to do this keep in mind the ice may not be safe, they may put something in there, or at the very least the liquor could be fake. So, be smart, don’t go to the cheapest place you see necessarily, and consider that if you buy something at a brick and mortar (or you know, wood and plastic for this area), at least there is a place to go back to or write terrible reviews of if they try to cheat you. Also, try to either mix the drinks yourself or just play it really safe and drink beer. Travel in groups, and don’t get so drunk, or high on drugs, that you can’t take care of yourself, because there are so many people here that you’ll quickly lose your friends and locals will prey on people who can’t take care of themselves.
Now, this all sounds dangerous, but again, I had a blast because I didn’t drink too much, didn’t take drugs, and it was a great time. Definitely worth seeing once.
Koh Phi Phi (Spent 2 days here, need at least 3 days)
Phi Phi (pronounced “pee-pee”) is a beautiful paradise that just so happens to be the hottest place on earth I have ever been to. Yes, it says it is in the mid 80’s or low 90’s, and I’ve been to deserts, jungles, and hell, grew up/live in TEXAS, but for some reason, this place got unbelievable hot. A big part is that there are no cars here, and so you have to carry your backpack as far as your hotel/hostel is. Another is the humidity, and that no cars mean you walk whenever you want to get anywhere.
Now, this may make me sound like a child, and yes, you will survive even if you don’t, but I strongly recommend you not come here unless you splurge on the A/C. This place is so much more fun if you have a cool refuge to go back to. If you have the money to splurge, find a place with a nice pool and good view, because you will definitely use it. Though, the beach is just right there.
Krabi (Spent a day here, spend 2 and go to the beaches nearby)
This is a transit city to get to Koh Phi Phi, but I do wish I would have stayed an extra day because apparently there are some nice beaches, hiking spots, and a famous Tiger Temple, that you need to check out.
Phuket (Spent 0 days here, I’d avoid)
There are beautiful beaches here, but from what I understand this is really just a paradise for old white guys to hook up with young Thai girls. I would avoid this place as a result unless you have just a ton of time and want to see every beach in Thailand. Which, at this point, why are you even studying up by reading this blog?
Chiang Rai (Spent 0 days here, I’d avoid)
There is nothing wrong with Chiang Rai, and is home to the “white temple” but still, it seems like just a transitory city. There are better places to spend your time. I’d just get a direct bus to Chiang Mai.
Pai (Pronounced “pie” I spent 0 days here and 2-3 would be ideal)
This place is a backpackers chill paradise where supposedly some people just went for the scenery, told their friends, and now it is a thing. Apparently, Thai people had to move here to accommodate the backpackers because there wasn’t much of a reason for them to be there before. I didn’t get to go due to time constraints, but this is supposed to be really nice and relaxing. The only thing is that it is a 3 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai that is really winding, and so maybe it is just relaxing in comparison to that drive of death.
Thailand is a wonderful country overall that I could not recommend more. It is easy to get around, cheap, safe, and fun. It is everything you could be looking for in regards to traveling, and while I may not suggest it be your first international adventure, it should quickly become a high priority on your to-do list.
Country level of difficulty – 4/10