Our trip to Southeast Asia originated with dreams of Thailand. The white sand beaches of the south, the culture and jungles of the north, and the bustling city of Bangkok. It was the first destination where it was exactly what I expected it would be.
It was busy, the tourism is very well developed, its surprisingly clean (in comparison to Vietnam), and getting around was cheap. Thailand is rich in culture, and a multitude of experiences — something I loved about this country. In a matter of a quick flight, you could be on the beach and in another breath, in the jungles of Northern Thailand. The food was flavorful, and we ate our fill of as many local dishes as possible. Something that is great about this country is that you can make your experience exactly how you want it. It can be either super luxe or you could backpack, it's all up to you. I'd recommend mixing a few budget hotels with a few luxury spots for relaxation.
Take a look at the ultimate Thailand itinerary.
Know this before hand....
+ Understand how to get around. Tuk tuks are cheap, taxis can often be a nuisance, pre-arranged transfers are convenient, public transportation is hit or miss, and Uber rocks in Bangkok.
+ Vaccines are really not necessary. Many will say to, many don't, I didn't and I was fine. Each to their own, but I personally wouldn't recommend it.
+ Travel insurance will save you in the event the weather may have a turn. I'd recommend World Nomads Insurance for the best policy for your adventures.
+ The best food is on the streets, but remember that the water must be boiling, and a local recommendation is always in your favor.
+ PDA is not acceptable, so best to keep your hands to yourself.
+ Respect the King, do not say a word about him. Seriously. At temples be sure to cover up to show respect.
Best time of Year to visit Thailand: the cool season, November through February.
10 Nights: Chiang Mai - Southern Thailand - Bangkok
Day 1: Chiang Mai
Land in Bangkok, and don't bother leaving the airport — catch the next hopper flight to Chiang Mai. You'll spend most of the day traveling, but you'll arrive to a city worth a thousand miles. Get acquainted to the city, walk around and take it all in. I'd recommend the Hotel Yayee for a chic, affordable artistic hotel.
Day 2: Chiang Mai
This city is full of surprises. Take a look at the coffee scene, hop between temples, or take a Thai cooking class. At night, be sure to go to the food market at the North gate and eat the famed pork dish from the lady in a cowboy hat (Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak). See this post on coffee shops not to miss when in Chiang Mai.
Day 3: Chai Lai Orchid - Elephant Experience
This morning make the journey to Chai Lai Orchid for one of the most incredible experiences in the northern jungles of Thailand. The first day is a great time to just enjoy the elephants, take in the scenery, and relax in the jungle. See this full post on our experience at Chai Lai Orchid.
Day 4: Chai Lai Orchid
Today do the full day trekking tour to the tribe, raft down the river, and play with the elephants.
Day 5: Phuket
With a quick hopper flight down to Phuket, arrive to one of the busier islands. Bypass the madness that is Patong, and head to the more quieter area of Cape Panwa. The Cape Panwa is a great hotel to call home for private beaches and some great down time — for more luxe I'd recommend the Sri Panwa.
Day 6: Phuket
Enjoy the beach, soak in the sun. Schedule sunset drinks at the neighboring hotel Sri Panwa, at their infinity bar called Baba Nest, with dinner at any of their restaurants — the views will not dissapoint.
Day 7: Krabi
I usually only enjoy a day on the beach and then I'm due for some adventure. I headed to Krabi to get a home base for island hopping and new scenery. The area of Tubkaak is especially a great place to be based in Krabi for it's proximity to Hong Island. I'd recommend the Tubkaak Boutique Hotel.
Day 8: Krabi
It's time to island hop. Grab a local tender boat or have your hotel arrange a day trip. You can reach Hong Island, one of the most pure islands to visit in Southern Thailand. The earlier you arrive, the less crowds there will be.
Day 9: Krabi
There's many other neighoring beaches that are beautiful to explore, and it's really up to how you want to spend your time. I personally passed on Phi Phi island, even though you could do a day trip there from Krabi. A few other options include: Ao Nang Beach, Railay Beach, or the Tiger Temple day excursion.
Day 10: Bangkok
With a quick flight to Bangkok, arrive and be ready for one of the busiest cities in all of the world. Be sure to pre-book a transfer as it will save you time if you're limited. You could spend a week in Bangkok and not see it all. We stayed at the Anantara Sathorn Hotel, as we had no idea where to stay. It was a good location to see some of the new and upcoming neighborhoods, though far from the tourist sites. We went to Bangkok to see the night market and cafe hop.
Day 11: Head home.
In the early morning is a good time to see the main sites, like Wat Pho or Wat Arun. Another way to spend the morning is to go see the floating markets.
Other destinations to add:
+ Chiang Rai
+ Koh Samui
+ Koh Tao