Thailand, the “land of smiles,” has something to offer everyone.
The warmth of Thai culture, the delicious food, stunning beaches and lush mountains are enough to persuade anyone that Thailand is bucket-list worthy.
There’s SO much to do and see and taste… let this 10 item list inspire you on your visit!
1. Chiang Mai: Old City Area
Again, SO much to do and see in Thailand… where do I start? For the kick off, the city of Chiang Mai was most impressionable to me. See I am a huge fan of cities that have a strong COMMUNITY feel, rich history, beautiful architecture and bomb food. That being said, Chaing Mai is NOT the city to visit if you’re looking for those stunning Thai beaches and long tail boats (those are great too, but more on that later). Old city Chiang Mai is protected by conservation measures stating that no high-rise construction is allowed within “93 meters of a temple, the Ping River, or the city walls…” so the experience in old city here is quaint and rich with beauty, history and precious culture. There’s a beautiful blend of modern society and distant history.
Chiang Mai is:
“Achieving the balance between preservation and progression…” Chiang Mai by Hotels.com
Surrounded by a 600 year old moat (see below), the experience staying here is really so unique. I’m always missing it!
Map Pic from http://thailandtravelbag.com
See that square on the map? That’s Old City. When searching for an AirBnb (highly recommend this accommodation type for the area), look for something inside this square on the map. Makes for such a fun, walkable and rich experience!
We stayed here at our host Chadtaphim’s place and absolutely adored it. Check it out here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6804071?s=51
Use my referral link for a discount 🙂 https://www.airbnb.com/c/sarac643?currency=USD
A few things you have to do when in Chiang Mai:
- Chiang Mai Night Baazar: If you only take one suggestion from here… let it be this one. The Night Baazar is DOPE. Tons of vendors come set up on Chang Khlan Road, right near the city gate on the east side of old city. Toniell and I still talk about these pot stickers we found a lady selling here that night… the food stalls are mandatory… like.. soo… much.. good.. food. Period. *Not to mention the shopping opportunity.. (you know ya girl is down with that shopping, especially when bargaining is involved!) So many beautiful souvenirs, gifts, art, jewelry, clothes and everything a girl could ever want! Plus I met a few members of the local Deaf community which made.my.night. So fun to connect with different cultures and find our similarities. Take me back!!
- Phae Gate (East Gate): This is a good area to check out to see the Three Kings Monument and several temples. Theres also a ton of shops, restaurants, cafes and museums… all close to the Ping river making it a good place for some pics 🙂 Sunday night walking street takes place here, and so does the Saturday market.
- Temples: Theres a ton of them here! I loved wandering around and stumbling upon one of the many and learning which one it was and more once I was there… I call this the “fate guided temple walk” 😉 they’re all so picturesque and stunning… remember to take your shoes off if you enter!
- Chat with a Monk: Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most popular locations for Monk Chats. They happen daily from 9am-6pm, just walk up to the outdoor tables and start chatting! It’s a great way to learn about Buddhism, Thai culture, and more. Ask questions! Come ready with an idea of what you’d like to ask, it’ll make the experience unforgettable.
Please remember temple etiquette: there is no charge to chat with a monk, but consider making a donation to the temple if so, just as a sign of respect. Also ladies should know it is important to never touch the monks or be alone with them at any time.
- Elephant Sanctuary: https://elephantjunglesanctuary.com/chiang-mai/ ohhhhh this experience is a must! Bathe, feed and care for an Elephant all day. It is a beautiful way to connect with nature and take care of these elephants who were rescued from places that used to exploit them by selling “elephant rides” to tourists… side note: do NOT condone any place that offers elephant rides. Self explanatory, I hope? These gentle giants will make your day and your entire trip feel like a dream. My heart swells just thinking about it!
- Flight of the Gibbon Zipline:
if only to be able to say “I zip-lined on the longest single zip-line in Asia,”
it’s worth it, yeah? But really, this is such a cool experience. One hour out of Chiang Mai, Flight of the Gibbon is located in Mae Kampong Village. Spend the day deep in the rainforest and get educated on local flowers and plants… get your adrenaline pumping as you swing through the trees, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a gibbon too! Transportation and lunch is included.
Side note: the lunch is an amazing experience. Beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the river and food hand crafted by local families who’ve grown the food organically and locally. You’ll really get to experience “northern Thai” cuisine. You don’t want to miss this! Plus they picked us up at the hotel across the street from our airbnb, super convenient and easy!
- Day Trip to Chiang Rai to see the White Temple
There’s TONS of great options that are super cheap on booking.com as well click the link below to check some out!
2. Bangkok: Khao San Road
The “center of the backpacking universe,” also known as Bangkok’s Khao San Road, and its surrounding area, is an experience that must be had when visiting Thailand.
Abundance of street food (yum), budget-friendly hotels (wallet says, “thank you!”), internet cafes (sup instagram?), and more!
With its carefree, anything-goes vibe, it’s quite unlike anywhere else in Bangkok. The area around Khao San Road has an infectious atmosphere.
What to do near Khao San Road in Bangkok:
- Visit The Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha, Grand Palace
- Visit Wat Arun
- Day trip to Ayutthaya (ancient capitol)
- Day trip to the Floating Market (super cool!)
-there are TWO, Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market will be less crowded with tourists!
- Street Food
- Foot Massage
After visiting Bangkok and all its busyness, you’ll be thrilled to trek over to Krabi and explore some of its islands.
This is the good stuff. Warm sunshine, islands to hop, fresh fruit smoothies to sip… and its ALL budget friendly. Well most of it anyways. Krabi provence is home to a bunch of amazing islands! Its so incredibly easy to, from Ao Nang Beach (Krabi’s main beach), hop on a long-tail boat (cheap) and coast over to one of many islands. Some are less than 10 mins away from shore (ish).
Cheaper than nearby tourist hub Phuket, Krabi is a great option for anyone wanting to see some of Thailand’s beautiful islands and enjoy that tropical vacation! The Ao Nang area of Krabi is a great place to stay. There’s plenty of restaurants, markets, shops, beach and island hopping opportunities from here!
We stayed at the Phu Phi Maan Resort and LOVED it. It has multiple pools, one of them an infinity (heart eyes) and for some reason eating breakfast here was very memorable. The breakfast area was on the 5th floor and opened up to beautiful views of Krabi’s limestone cliffs and mountains, which are stunning at sunrise. Some areas of the hotel also offer views of a beautiful mosque nearby. Keep in mind, you will hear prayer from this church early in the morning. We didn’t mind it or find it bothersome but just something to consider if you’re a light sleeper. They also provide a free shuttle to the beach (only a 5 min ride or so) which makes it super easy to get to and from the beach on those island hopping days.
Also: check out my post on visiting the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi https://outvoyaging.com/krabi-tiger-cave-temple-worth-the-1237-steps-absolutely/
4. Koh Phi Phi Islands
So when in Krabi, you’re in perfect proximity to quite a few islands. You can purchase a ticket for the long tail boat ride over to Railay Beach at about 100 baht per person ($3 USD). Railay is fun with great beach space and food boats that offer yummy selection of fresh fruit smoothies and a ton of food options as well.
You could also hire a private long tail boat to tour you around the surrounding islands for the day.. we didn’t find this necessary but for those travelling with a group or families this could be a good option. Not too expensive (as you’ll notice this theme in Thailand.. if something seems “expensive” it is probably a scam).
There’s also a well known “4 Island Tour” that will take you to Krabi’s popular surrounding islands. The tour will cover the following:
- Visit Phanang Cave Beach
- Relax at Chicken Island where you can enjoy snorkeling and swimming
- See Marvel Tup Island
- Discover Poda Island and its lovely white sandy beach, ideal for sunbathing
Access it here: http://getyourguide.com
The tour is cool- definitely recommend for at least one of your days in Krabi! But honestly- boating over to Railay and chillin there all day is where it’s at 🙂
5. Erawan Waterfall
Erawan National Park is a great day trip to plan from Bangkok. Its about a 2 hour bus ride per person (about $4usd). The entry fee is about $10 USD.
The waterfall itself has 7 levels you can navigate through the jungle. Some are great for swimming as well! Super beautiful and about one hour to reach the top.
Day tours from Bangkok are easy to access, though for this I don’t really recommend a tour. Its possible to just ride the bus here and explore on your own!
6. Ayutthaya: The Ancient City
Ayutthaya is 1-1.5 hours away from bangkok and easy to reach by bus, train or minivan. I recommend taking the bus at about 2 hours (direct) and costing around $3 USD (90 BHT)
Ayutthaya Historical Park is one the main historical attractions near Bangkok and comes highly recommended. If you love temples and history this is your place! Plus you can check out the cool Buddha head tree!
7. Thai Cooking Class
You’ll learn about the culture, local markets, and luck out on some really delicious food. Not only that but you might learn some cooking tips you’ll be able to take back home with you and use for good!
8. Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay could easily be tacked on to the Krabi information above.. however I feel this is worth mentioning separately. Kayaking Phang Nga Bay is a really cool way to experience the mellow water and get up close to the beautiful limestone cliffs and rocks. Something to consider for those fun seekers!
9. Visit Koh Lanta
- explore caves on a kayaking tour (for the adventurous type! $40 tour available through talageng kayaking)
- Visit a jungle tea house (smoothies, tea, or coffee) and support some eco-friendly businesses
- beach hop
- BIOLUMINESCENT PLANKTON…. sooo freakin cool. But really… bucket-lister here. Free to walk the beach once its dark of course and check them out.. but there’s also tours you can arrange from Krabi if you’re not staying on Koh Lanta. (Long Beach and any ones further south should be able to see them!)
10. GO to the markets!
I know I did mention a few of these above but I think that to really get the full cultural experience of Thailand, the markets are a must! You will experience the PEOPLE, the FOOD, and the CULTURE here more than anywhere! It’s beautiful.
Floating markets are a really cool experience, and definitely unique! However, my favorite was the Chiang Mai thursday night market.
Do both if you can.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of these suggestions! Have you been to Thailand? Are you going there soon and planning now? Let me know!