Tropical beach paradise, majestic monasteries, mountains, jungle, and some of the craziest nightlight on the planet. This is the reason Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. All of this tourism hasn’t been for the good. The sex industry has dramatically increased, overpopulation of tourists have deteriorated and damaged some of Thailand’s most sacred spots, and the beach with no people on it is almost a dream. This being said, the good and the bad, Thailand is still the place to be.
Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis with nightlight and markets everywhere. There is a lot of rich cultural history in the city and is a great way to dive into Thai culture. In the South you have some of the best beaches and island living in the world (Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket to name a few). Then travel to the North and you are in the forest and mountains really diving into the heart of Thailand with Chang Mai and Pai.
Thailand is a place I constantly find myself revisiting. I am not sure if it is just a central hub to explore Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, or any other Southeast Asian country, or if I am drawn to the beauty of the country.
Top 8 Things to Do
1. Scuba Dive in Koh Tao – This is one of PADI’s top destination to get certified in scuba diving (Utila is a close second if not first). The island itself is made up of bars, scuba shops, or bars that are scuba shops. It is a really laid back island revolving around the tourism industry. There is a legendary bar crawl that takes place on the island. This is an opportunity you should not miss. I recommend Big Blue or Sairee Cottage Diving.
2. Trek through Chang Mai – There are many companies that offer 2 – 3 day treks. This is one of the best ways to get out and see the countryside. I try to do one of these everywhere I go in the world. You are able to get out of the cities and see the real natural beauty the country has to offer. Also I heard Pai has a lot of good outfitters as well.
3. Full Moon Party – You will find full moon parties everywhere in Thailand, but everybody needs to go to the original party on Koh Phangan on Thailand’s East coast. Fire dancers, bucket drinks, and a crazy good time. These parties last all night. You can even stay at other islands to save some money and take a boat to the party and back. Be careful though, I almost got stuck on the island when I missed my 7am boat back. (Note: People have been said to have been drugged at this party. Always make sure to watch your drink and use the buddy system).
4. Koh Chang – Want to escape the craziness of the Southwest and Southeast Islands. Escape to this beach bum destination where you can truly relax and soak up the rays. Starting to turn into a big tourist hub so get there while you can!
5. Take a Cooking Class – I strongly believe we travel to experience the culture. There is not better way to experience Thai culture than to cook your own Thai food. There are many amazing outfitters that will help you cook. I went with Basil’s cooking school in Chang Mai and I loved it. Highly recommend it. Not only do you learn how to cook it, but it actually taste good as well!
6. Songkran Festival – This is Thailand’s tradition new years that turns into he worlds largest water fight in April. Everybody runs around with water guns and buckets full of water. This is a great way to interact with locals as everybody will be out in the streets with their families having an amazing time. Bring an extra change of clothing 🙂
7. Bangkok Cultural tour of Temples and Buddhas – I have never seen more temples and extremely large Buddhas in my life. Take one day to really immerse yourself in the culture and pay respect to the religions of the area. There is a lot of amazing architecture and a great way to learn more about the religion. Also, it serves as a great way to explore Bangkok to get your bearings. I recommend doing this on your first full day to get a lay of the land.
8. Relax – There is a lot to do in Thailand, so take some time to soak up the rays and enjoy the natural beauty. No matter what island you are at, what beach you are on, enjoy what Thailand has to offer. Close your eyes and imagine what it was like 40 years ago when tourist did not dominate every vantage of your eyes.
WOW… Where do I begin. Curries so hot your mouth is about to catch on fire, fruit so good you wonder where they came from, and noodle dishes that I swear put Italy to shame. Thailand can be affordable for food and drinks, but at the same time has many high end restaurants that can cost a pretty penny by anyones standard. This being said, over the years Thailand has seen an increase in tourism, thus, causing food in the area to go up in price. Walk out of the tourist parts and find a local place with locals. Always eat where the locals eat, this will not only be an amazing meal, but will be authentic.
Eat street food! I eat street food everywhere I go, but first see how they store their meat and if everything is put over heat. If they have sauces, they may be made with their water, which could get you sick. Ask if they used filter water before putting any “cold” sauces on your food that are not from a store purchased bottle. Some oft he best food I had in Thailand was from the street. Also, you can find Pad Thai on the street for $1 to $2 USD if you look hard enough. Best deal in town!
One Week Itinerary – Fly into Bangkok and spend two days in the city exploring the temples and everything the city has to offer. Take a train or bus down to the Eastern Islands (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui). Spend two days snorkeling or scuba diving and relaxing on the islands. Plan your trip to hit a full moon party on Koh Phangan. Finally, this is the part of the journey where it takes some travel, but either go to the Islands on the West Coast or Fly to Chang Mai. When I was there I flew from the West coast of Thailand to Chang Mai. So if you want, head straight to Phuket from Thailand and then fly from there to the North. Either side, you will have an awesome beach vacation!
One Month Itinerary – Here is the outline of days I would spend. Expect long travel days by bus, boat, and or train.
- 3-4 days in Bangkok exploring the city
- 5 days Eastern Islands taking a scuba diving course and enjoying the party.
- 5 days Western Islands putting your feet up and you’re only tough decision is pad thai or curry.
- 8 days Northern Thailand with Chang Mai and Pai getting to see the northern culture.
- 3 days in Pataya partying or head to Ko Chang to end the vacation with some R &R.
- 2 days back in Bangkok to get ready to fly home.
NOTE: Be careful renting scooters, it is a great way to see the country, but if you spend months in Southeast Asia, you will see countless tourists with broken bones or road rash all up and down their bodies. You want this to be a trip you wont forget, but not one you regret.)