A Thailand Travel Guide
If you’re thinking of visiting Asia, I can’t recommend starting off in Thailand. I never knew I wanted to visit this country until I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. A friend was heading to China and really wanted to visit Thailand after her work trip. My 30th birthday was around the corner, so I said, why not! Let’s ring in a new decade in Thailand!
The trip originally was just going to be Bangkok then Phuket since we only had about 8 days. After finding out about an unseasonable monsoon hitting Phuket, we decided to add Chiang Mai to the mix in the middle. I’m so glad we did because my most favorite day of the trip was in Chiang Mai. We ended up spending 2.5 days in Bangkok, just enough time, 3 days in Chiang Mai and only 3 days in Phuket. I would’ve for sure liked to have added 1-2 more days in Phuket but other than that it was the perfect way to break up the trip.
The great thing about Thailand is everything is SO freaking cheap. Sure the flight over there is expensive and long, but once you get there you barely spend any money. Plus, luxury things like massages and fancy hotels are super affordable. So keep that in mind if you’re deciding on this trip and budget is a concern. PS you can see my long travel day tips right here if you’ve got an upcoming trip that’s going to be a doozy.
Best Hotels In Thailand
Le Meridien – This hotel was amazing and located just 1 block from the popular night market. The breakfast buffet was INCREDIBLE and I could’ve just eaten there for every meal, every day, for the rest of my life. Yes, it was that good. The rooms were spacious and it was pretty inexpensive, under $100 a night. I would stay there again in a heartbeat! If we stayed a day longer, we would’ve laid out at their gorgeous pool for a more relaxing low key day.
Chiang Mai Hotels
Na Nirand – This was a brand new hotel and it was so beautiful. The hotel sat on the river with a gorgeous pool in the middle of the resort. I loved this place and could’ve stayed at their pool for days on end. It was pretty centrally located, but we usually took an Uber to get to the city center to walk around. The restaurant was also phenomenal and the resort included complimentary breakfast. It was not as epic as Le Meridien, but for complimentary, I’ll take it. The hotel staff was very helpful in scheduling a car service for our excursion day and handling all our questions.
Naka Island – This was our one big splurge because honestly, I am not good with too many options. There’s a zillion places to stay in Phuket. I don’t regret it but it was definitely expensive compared to the others. The hotel is on a private island only accessible by boat. Which is common for the area. The rooms were these incredible huts where you walked outside to get to the second part of your room to access the bathroom.
We had our own plunge pool that overlooked the rain forest and we sadly never stepped foot in it. Again, we needed 2 more days here. We ate at the restaurant for breakfast and dinner every day. Getting on and off the island was a bit of a pain which is why we didn’t do too much exploring in terms of restaurants, but I was totally fine with it. The pool was gorgeous and very relaxing. The chairs were in the water and it overlooked the sea. They also served homemade coconut ice cream every afternoon by the pool.
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The Best Things To Do In Thailand
Things To Do In Bangkok
There are a plethora of palaces to visit and we did the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Ratchabopit, Reclining Buddha and Wat Arun. I think we saw more, but they were all right next to one another that I have no idea really. They’re all pretty close to one another so dedicate one or two full days to doing these.
TIP: There are STRICT dress codes for the temples. Be sure to dress appropriately. Covered shoulders and knees. We brought along chambray shirts to wear over our maxi dresses which was great. We were SWEATY though. I recommend doing this as early in your day as possible.
Patpong Night Market
This was highly recommended and on every to visit list I found. I don’t know why, it’s just full of crap to purchase that’s not really authentic at all. I would skip it for sure.
Things To Do In Chiang Mai
We had our hotel book us a taxi service for the whole day so we could explore. It’s the preferred way to get around to all these places. It was super affordable and worth it as we were able to keep some of our things in the car while we explored and the air conditioning was a serious perk. We spent one full day doing the Long Neck Village, Orchid Farm and then a hike through 10 waterfalls.
- Baan Tong Luang Village – The Long Neck Village
- Sai Nam Phung Orchid Farm – A quick visit to see all the pretty orchids growing in every color imaginable. The space was small so don’t expect some massive botanical garden.
- Mae Sa Waterfalls – There’s about 10 waterfalls total if I remember correctly that you hike to see each one. They weren’t massive incredible waterfalls, but the hike was nice and took about an hour or so to complete. It was a good workout and something fun to round the day off with.
- Cooking Class – My favorite part of the whole trip. We did this one and the site was a little outdated so I had to email to schedule. I truly had no idea what the itinerary looked like or what we were going to do so we were pleasantly surprised when we took a 45 minute bike ride after cooking through the farm land. It was the best thing ever you guys. I’ll never forget that day, hands down my favorite.
- Warorot Market – I loved this market since it had what felt like a lot more authentic and local treasures. My friend and I ended up buying several thing here for our home.
Things To Do In Phuket
A Boat Tour Of Phi Phi Islands
We did one whole day on a boat that toured several islands from Phi Phi Islands, Monkey Beach and more. It provided snacks, lunch and beverages. We also snorkeled which was so cool seeing all the tropical fish. It was a full day of sun and water and I loved it. I will say, I wish the food was better. It was our one bad meal in Thailand. Also, it was really sad to see how trashed Monkey Beach was. All these cute monkey’s just hanging out and they’re surrounded by trash/pollution. Made me really sad.
Phang Nga Elephant Park – The one thing I wanted to do on my 30th birthday was to hang out with elephants. Now I’m a big animal lover, and I didn’t want to go to just any elephant thing. I wanted to make sure I found one that was ethical and worked with rescued elephants. I think I found a good one. They seemed like happy elephants and well cared for and they gave us a whole schpeal before we started about how they rescued them from lodging, the circus etc. It was a super emotional day. I was also turning 30 so that may have had something to do with it. I had tears in my eyes for most of the day we were there. It was incredible to see these creatures who are so sweet and gentle. Makes my heart just break that humans treat them so poorly.
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Where To Eat In Thailand
- Thip Samai – This was listed on Travel & Leisure as the best pad thai in Bangkok. It was SO delicious. The experience was also super fun, the line was down the block to get in!
- Mandarin Oriental For High Tea – I don’t know what made us want to do this, but we did it. It was oriental style high tea with local treats. I’ve done lots of high teas so it was actually kind of neat to see it with a different take on the food. The hotel was gorgeous and it was a nice relaxing afternoon.
- Vertigo – For an incredible view of the city at sunset, grab drinks here. This was recommended by a friend and it was such a great view. It was super expensive though so I recommend just drinks and skip the food. No need to spend a fortune on food when you can get incredible dishes for just a few dollars.
Chiang Mai Restaurants
- Na Nirand – We ate at the hotel a lot so I have to put it on here. The food was really good but a little expensive.
- Ginger & Kafe – We ate here twice which isn’t something I care to really do on vacation. But the food was great and we were in the same part of town again and were too lazy to research new spots. We tried just about every item on the menu and loved everything. The spring rolls and curry were personal favorites.
- Nake Island – So embarrassed to admit we only ate at the hotel. Again, our hotel was incredible, but it was hard to get on/off the island to explore and our days were booked up. We ate at the boat tour for lunch, and then at the elephant sanctuary as well. Leaving us with just breakfast and dinner both always enjoyed at the hotel.
Tips For Visiting Thailand
What To Pack For A Trip To Thailand
With the intense heat pretty much year round in Thailand (they are right on the equator after all) packing didn’t need to be too difficult. Here’s what I recommend.
- Shorts & Tanks
- Sports Bras – I think I wore a real bra one day on this trip
- Comfortable Sneakers
- Swim Suits & Coverups
- Something for the palaces like maxi skirts and a button down
- Mosquito Repellent
- Gatorade Packets – Didn’t need these, but I now travel with them always for emergencies to hydrate or if you fall ill.
- Travel Day Outfits
- Small Purse/Backpack
- I was eaten ALIVE. My friend, who ate the same things I did and put on the same repellent as me, and who was next to me the entire trip, didn’t get one bite. By the end of the trip I was covered in bites all over my legs. Easily I would say I had at least 40 total. Towards the end of the trip, I got bit by some Thai mosquito that took two days to fully swell up. It was pretty severe swelling and didn’t look like any bite but it’s apparently normal for that bug. So new tip, bring antihistamine cream on tropical vacations. I thankfully found some at the airport before boarding our first flight home and boy was I happy I did.
- Uber! So cheap and easy. The tuk-tuks are fun but they’re kind of a rip off. I recommend doing them once and maybe at night when it’s not so hot out.
- For Bangkok, be sure to use the water taxis and the train system. It’s super easy and cheap. Taking cabs was just a mess because the traffic in that city is insanity. So walk or water taxi it up whenever possible. Chiang Mai and Phuket were just fine with Uber’s only and walking.
- Bring a business card with you from your hotel – It can be difficult to communicate with the locals while getting around, so always stay safe and prepared and bring a business card with your hotels address on it.
- Cheap Flights! Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and to Phuket, were all super inexpensive short flights. I always like to use Google Flights to search for best options.
Currency – Baht – The exchange rate is like 33 baht to the dollar. One hour massages were $7, meals were under $1, it’s CRAZY.
Electricity – Asia plug – I like this converter.
Tipping – Didn’t tip, but now feeling like an asshole for not considering how inexpensive everything was.