This 2.5 week Thailand itinerary tries to pack as much as possible into a full-on two weeks: City, Sights, Nature,Culture, Beach and Rest.
Thailand’s crazy capital Bangkok
Bangkok is bonkers – it hits all your senses as soon as you climb out of the taxi. The noise of endless traffic and blaring speakers, the strange concoction of smells, the sheer number of people out and about, the awe-inspiring wonders of architecture and history interspersed throughout the city and the fascinating play of colours and lights – it’s mind-blowingly wonderful and exhausting, a place like no other.
Bangkok’s main sights at Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace are everything you would expect – over-the-top, mesmerising and simply stunning. And hot. I strongly suggest you bring your own shawl to cover up with and sweat into, I wouldn’t recommend using the ones provided.
Bangkok has a very effective public transport system, the air-conditioned skyline provides not only a quick way to get around but also a brief break from the heat and humidity. Nonetheless, I encourage everyone to at least once hop on the canal ‘bus’, just for the experience.
Don’t be fooled by tourist scammers
Thailand is a relatively safe place but scams are common. Despite having read about it we fell for a classic trick. A young man starting up a conversation, posing as a student, and before we knew it we were in a Tuk-Tuk heading towards a destination we had no desire to go to. Still new to Thailand and unsure as to how to best get out of this, we played ball and made our way back to where we were originally going on foot.
We were also approached by several people determined to discourage us from visiting the main sites, obviously with the aim to then take us to a different place of their choosing. To be fair, they weren’t particularly good at it. They claimed things like the palace was closed (while pointing at the entrance with masses of people entering and leaving), open to locals only (plenty of tourists around) or needed pre-booking. None of this was true and we bought our ticket at the entrance as planned.
Nightlife around Sukhumvit Road
Our hotel Galleria 10 was located along Sukhumvit road and in close walking distance to plenty of bars and restaurants. The neighbourhood completely transforms at night time with mobile cocktail bars and street food stalls popping up all over the place, in the midst of the bustling night market.
One of our favourite places for a few refreshing beers was Cheap Charlies, a quirky outside bar so cluttered with strange memorabilia and artifacts you can barely see the bar tender. The poolside rooftop bar at Galleria 10 offers great views of night time Bangkok and is a wonderful place for a nightcap cocktail or two.
Heading north to the old city of Chiang Mai
After a short flight to Chiang Mai, we settled into our little hotel inside the walled Old City. The Boutique House was conveniently located, had a lovely and much needed pool, traditional décor and air conditioning. All in all, fantastic value for money. Breakfast was very basic, so we mostly skipped it in favour of a visit of Olly’s across the road, who serves up a delicious Dutch breakfast and refreshing smoothies.
The Old City is cluttered with religions monuments and Wats – the vast site of Wat Phra Singhal is certainly worth a visit. However, we found ourselves a little ‘temple-tired’ after a while. Nonetheless, we hired a Songthaew for the trip to Wat Phra That on the top of Doi Suthep – definitely my favourite temple in Chiang Mai. Even as someone who is not particularly spiritual, the atmosphere inside the temple has got something very special. Although very high up, Doi Suthep doesn’t offer much of a view of Chiang Mai, you can only just about make out the city in the haze.
Thai Massage Experience
Massages are inherently linked with the Thai experience and Chiang Mai offers plenty of Spas and Massage parlours. We visited Lila Thai Massage – run by the former director of Chiang Mai Womens’ prison it provides an opportunity for ex-prisoners to re-integrate into society and start new lives. I had never had a massage before so had nothing to compare it to, but we both felt thoroughly relaxed after so would certainly recommend it.
One of our favourite evening hang outs was Barli – a quirky, quiet little bar run by the owner Dong. Wonderfully weird. We had some fantastic food at Khao Tom 1 Baht Restaurant – simple, cheap and delicious Khao Soi.
Excursions from Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai offers plenty of opportunities for excursions and day trips. Be vigilant when booking though and don’t be fooled by the official looking ‘tourist information’ signs you find all over the city. These belong mostly to private companies who all offer their own range of private tours at varying prices and quality.
We opted for a full day combined tour – starting with a visit to the orchid farm, a jungle trek, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, elephant ride and a visit to the village of long-neck women. It was a full-on day and although we weren’t sure about some of the elements, we had a brilliant time.
White water rafting
The white water rafting turned out to be fantastic fun – once we had given up pathetically trying to avoid the murky brown river water at all cost. The enthusiasm and obvious love for the river of our cheeky young ‘captains’ was contagious and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in a water fight with the families picnicking along the riverbanks and diving off the rocks. The bamboo rafting was a much more peaceful and quiet affair, although equally wet, allowing us to relax after the high energy race down the river.
The elephant ride at Baan Chang Elephant Park was another highlight for us – we were keen to visit a reputable park and from what we could see the elephants were treated very well in this sanctuary. We took a ride through the swampland and jungle and our guide was happy to let the animals choose their way. Our elephant decided to take a little detour to fish a pumpkin out of the river and then catch up with the herd via a steep shortcut through the forest. What can I say, it was just really nice…
Village of the long-neck women
The only stop we didn’t enjoy on this tour was the visit of the long-neck women, which was extremely uncomfortable, we felt intrusive and disrespectful and couldn’t wait to leave. But all in all, a brilliant day with fantastic guides throughout that I can only recommend.
Travelling by overnight train
From Chiang Mai, we caught the overnight train to Ayutthaya. Travelling by overnight train in Thailand is an experience. Trains in Thailand are not exactly fast but inexpensive and fun. There are several classes to choose from; the first class air-conditioned cabins for two are basic but safe. Staff are very attentive and happy to sort you out with juice, fruit, dinner and beer. The dinner (provided by Bogie Gourmet) is surprisingly tasty! Trains are incredibly noisy so unless you’re a sound sleeper don’t expect to get a good night’s rest. Staff are happy to wake you in time for your stop – which is helpful as delays of several hours are common.
Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya
Baan Thai House is located east of the train station in walking distance to the city centre of Ayutthaya. Pedestrians can use a local boat service a hundred meters from the train station to cross the river which takes you right to the heart of the city. Guests can hire bicycles at the hotel which is a brilliant way of exploring the ancient temple sites all around Ayutthaya.
Most of the temple sites are ruins but enough is left to get a sense of what the temples might have looked like. In places nature has claimed what is left resulting in beautiful sights such as the Buddha statue overgrown by tree roots at Wat Mahatat. The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum offers some insights into the ancient capital’s history as well as a break from the heat.
There’s a fantastic little restaurant overlooking the river called Bann Kun Pra. The setting on the terrace just by the river is gorgeous and the food delicious.
Soaking up the sun on the beach on Ko Samui
From Ayutthaya we took the train back to Bangkok before boarding another overnight train to Surat Thani. The combined ticket to Ko Samui includes the coach transfer to the harbour as well as the ferry to the island.
After nearly two weeks of travelling and sightseeing all around Thailand, Ko Samui was all about rest. The island offers some minor sights and activities, but the beaches are its main attraction.
Bo Put and Fisherman’s Village
Our hotel was located in Bo Put, a 10 minute Tuk-Tuk ride from the Fisherman’s Village. The area itself is relatively quiet with some ok-ish bars and restaurants as well as a market, whereas the Fisherman’s Village is buzzing and packed with restaurants and bars, some of them located directly on the sandy beach. While it is much more touristy these days than it used to be (so I am told) it’s still maintained its character and feels much more genuine than some of the busier areas such as Chaweng.
The wonderful Saboey Resort
The beaches in Bo Put aren’t quite as stunning as in Chaweng, but nice nonetheless. The Saboey Resort was beautiful; our room was spacious, clean and came with a large terrace overlooking the garden. The infinity pool overlooks the beach and the bar serves all day cocktails, perfect. My top tip: Nip over to Padsi Thai for some gorgeous Satay Chicken and Chilli Cucumber salad for lunch (across the road from Massimos) and refresh with a mango lassi from Bangrak market in the afternoon.From Ko Samui we returned to Bangkok via plane from Surathani airport. To break up our return journey we stayed in a hotel close to Bangkok airport before boarding our flight the next morning.From Ko Samui we returned to Bangkok via plane from Surathani airport. To break up our return journey we stayed in a hotel close to Bangkok airport before boarding our flight the next morning.
From Ko Samui we returned to Bangkok via plane from Surathani airport. To break up our return journey we stayed in a hotel close to Bangkok airport before boarding our flight the next morning.