Thailand was the last stop on my Southeast Asia backpacking trip and my two weeks there started in Bangkok. I day tripped to Ayutthaya, went north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train then caught a bus to Chiang Rai. I flew south to Krabi and island hopped my way via Koh Phi Phi to Phuket where I flew home. Sounds like a lot for two weeks right? But it is completely manageable and I didn’t ever feel rushed. In fact I’m glad I squeezed so much in to the trip as there is so much to see! So without further ado, here are my recommendations/tips for 2 weeks in Thailand.
1. BANGKOK 3 DAYS
My main piece of advice for Bangkok is stay somewhere central otherwise you’ll be spending all of your time travelling between your hostel and the old town which is where the beautiful Temples, Wats and Khao San Road are. Also if you are planning on getting the overnight train to Chiang Mai (which is what I did, second class was fine!) you have to book a couple of days in advance because it sells out very quickly, especially in peak season.
2. AYUTTHAYA DAY TRIP FROM BANGKOK OR 1 DAY
The temples here are 100% worth seeing. However they are very spread out, 5-10min drive between each one so you’ll either have to hire bikes or join a tour. From my experience the only advantage of doing a tour is the air conditioned mini bus. I did this as a day trip from Bangkok as it made getting the overnight train to Chiang Mai simple. Definitely something to consider.
3. CHIANG MAI AND THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES 4 DAYS
This was my favourite city in Thailand. It is so relaxed, the nightlife is great and it’s a vegetarian/vegans dream! Go to Free Bird Cafe, Reform Kafe or Goodsouls Kitchen for delicious vegan food and The North Gate Jazz Co-Op for amazing music/a great place to start a night out. If you’re looking for a hostel I would recommend Monkey Toe Guesthouse. If you’re looking for somewhere more up market I would recommend Green Tiger. Both places are in great locations.
When choosing your elephant sanctuary be very careful to research what you’ll be doing there. If there are rides or chains I would avoid for ethical reasons. The mistreatment of elephants is something you will probably witness in Thailand so try not to support the industry by paying to go to a sanctuary that isn’t really a sanctuary, it is easy to be scammed! I would wholeheartedly recommend Elephant Nature Park. As for Tiger Kingdom… I boycotted. Petting sedated animals was not on my to-do list in Thailand.
4. CHIANG RAI & PAI
2 weeks in Thailand unfortunately did mean compromising on some parts. I didn’t get to go to Pai but I did do one night in Chiang Rai. My recommendation would be to skip Chiang Rai as there really wasn’t a lot to do/see there and either spend another day in Chiang Mai or go to Pai which I heard was really fun and a great base for trekking in the national park.
I flew rather than catch a bus/train from Chiang Mai to Krabi to save time. There wasn’t a lot going on in Krabi Town although I would recomend a restaurant called Gecko Cabane. Delicious curries and flambe banana dessert plus they were happy to make all meals vegetarian/vegan. I’d also recomend doing a snorkeling tour from Krabi. All the long boat tours were pretty similar and quite basic but it was a really good day. The view from Tiger Temple was amazing but the 1,300 steps up were not/almost killed me!
5. THE ISLANDS 5 DAYS
Koh Phi Phi Don is 100% a party island unless you’re staying in a resort to the north or south of the island, nowhere near the port. Go to Efe Mediterranean Restaurant and Aroy Kaffeine for amazing food. I don’t have a hostel recommendation because the two I stayed at were on the beach so very loud and party focused! However if that’s what you’re after, Blanco was the best of the two. I had an amazing gel manicure and coconut oil massage at a place called Anitas. It was along one of the main streets in the town centre and I would definitely recommend. Long boat tours from here are very nice too even though they all stop at Maya Bay (aka the beach from The Beach) which is awful. However the snorkelling in this area was by far the best I experienced in Thailand. It was really beautiful as were all the other bays on the tour.
Phuket was alright. I only spent one night there before flying home. The hotel I stayed in was stunning but there wasn’t a lot going on in the area (Kamala Beach) at that time of year.
And that’s about it! I spent exactly 14 days/ 2 weeks in Thailand and despite it being a little polluted, touristy and extremely hot I had an amazing time there. Once you look past the commercialised parts the culture/history is exciting and the scenery is stunningly beautiful, a must for any Southeast Asia backpacking trip. I would love to go back one day and spend more time on one of the quieter islands or in Chiang Mai. Have any of you been to a Thai island that you think I would enjoy?
If you’d like to read about my thoughts on how tourism has impacted the social and environmental landscape in Southeast Asia click: What People Don’t Tell You About Backpacking in Southeast Asia