I did A LOT of research before we went to Thailand to try to make sure we got to do everything we wanted to do. The following is basically an itinerary of what we did and includes things we didn’t do that you might also want to add to our list. We definitely did not go the cheap route for this trip and stayed at nicer places, but paying just a little bit more gets you a lot more, so we figured it was worth it.
We started in Bangkok. We stayed in a private room at Lub D Hostel in Silom. It was very nice, kind of pricey for a hostel, but I would highly recommend it. It was a bit south from the main tourist day time attractions, but allowed us to walk to a lot of things at night. If you are wanting the true backpacker experience get a hostel on Khao San – a famous backpacker street in Thailand. We only stayed in Bangkok for 1 day – enough to explore the city and go out one night. This was enough and since Bangkok is probably the least exciting place you’ll visit in Thailand there’s no need to stay long. During the day there are lots of temples that you can go to. We only went to one – Wat Pho, which was pretty cool. Wat Arun is nice, but across the river, and you can get some beautiful pictures of it just across the street from Wat Pho. We didn’t check it out but the Grand Palace is also supposed to be pretty cool.
The coolest thing we did in Bangkok was Chatuchak Market. It it a HUGE market, so big you will most likely get lost at least once, but definitely worth checking out. They have everything here, but I believe it is only on the weekends – we got lucky cause we were there on a Saturday. One thing we messed up on in Bangkok was dinner. Bangkok is one of the few places in Thailand were you can actually get good food – so if you want to go to a nice dinner do it in Bangkok and spend a bit of time googling a good place. Bangkok has a lot of good night life – especially on the weekends. If you are looking for the ping pong shows in Bangkok you are going to want to head to Soi Cowboy or Pantong Street (Pantong is walking distance from Lub D if you stay there). At a ping pong show you will see girls perform a variety of different vagina tricks – shooting ping pong balls, shooting darts, writing things, ect. We found the shows to be a bit underwhelming (especially if you have been to Amsterdam sex shows before) and extremely depressing (the girls all looked like they wanted to kill themselves) but are there if you want to check them out. These places are notorious for ripping you off you make sure you agree on a price BEFORE you sit down, because once you are in they will say you need to pay extra, even though you DON’T. If you agree on a price and then they ask for more later, you are not required to pay it – you can just leave.
The next morning, we took a flight from Bangkok to Krabi on AirAsia. AirAsia seems to be the best discount airline over there. When we arrived in Krabi we took a cab that dropped us off at a beach and then we took a long tail boat to Railay. Railay is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the peninsula.
We stayed at Railay Princess Resort, which I highly highly recommend. It is a VERY nice resort and a really good deal, i think only $80/night. Don’t let there shitty website detour you – this place is incredible!
Railay beach is AMAZING, and was my favorite beach that we went to when in Thailand. There are a few resorts that you can eat at right on the beach and when we were there it was very uncrowded. There are two sides of the peninsula – Railay east and west. West is the amazing beautiful beach I mentioned, the east is not so pretty with more of a swampy nasty sand. You can also walk like 15 minutes to Phang Nang beach which is also beautiful. We went there early in the morning and had it complete to ourselves. Great place for a morning swim. There are some awesome rocks and caves that you can climb around in. I believe there is a restaurant in a cave somewhere too – we forgot to check this out. One day is all you need in Railay – it is VERY small.
The next day we took a ferry from Railay west beach to Koh Lanta. We prebought tickets from PhuketFerry.com, but you can easily get them on the beach. There is only 1 ferry from Railay to Koh Lanta a day and it is at 11am. (as far as I know). The ferry is about 2 hours and drops you at the North end of Koh Lanta (Saladan Pier). You can grab a cab or tuk tuk from the pier to your hotel. We stayed at Rawi Warwin – a very nice resort, but I would not recommend – it was too segregated from the main beach areas and not worth the money. The west side of Koh Lanta is where you will want to stay and there are tons of resorts up and down it. The further north that you stay the more crowded it will be. My two favorite beaches were Klong Nin and Klong Khong. Koh Lanta is the ultimate chill relax spot, and you will spend you day just walking up and down the beaches going to cute perfect little beach bars.
You definitely want to get a motorbike here so you can explore different beaches. If you go further south you will get to beaches without resorts if you are looking for more private beaches and if you go to the south tip I there is a waterfall you can go see (assuming there is enough water to run through a waterfall when you go) – we didn’t make it down there though. The island is not that big and you can easily motorbike to any part of the island fairly quickly. Staying in the middle obviously gives you the most flexibility for exploring. It is also a really good place to learn motorbiking cause it is just 1 single road (if you are a horrible motorbike driver like me). If you want to dive Koh Lanta is a great place to do it from – with some world class diving. If you are an advanced diver there is a 40m dive at Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are supposed to be amazing. If you have just your open water certification there are still tons of other great places around here. Night life in Koh Lanta is very laid back. Rasta Baby is a bar at Khlong Nin that often has live music. Oh and Diamond Cliff is a great place to get dinner – built on a high cliff overlooking the ocean and you can go down to a private beach. We stayed in Koh Lanta for about 2.5 days.
We then took a ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi. There are more time options for this ferry throughout the day. Phi Phi is a weird place. It’s like Cancun for Europeans – a huge party island. There are no cars on the Island – it’s very small you can walk everywhere. The center of the city is really condensed and has lots of bars and tattoo parlors and tons and tons of fratty college kids. Heads up – this island smells bad, and there is a lot of trash all over. We were not a fan of the island in general. BUT if you want to go to a typical fire spinning Thailand party this is the place to do it. We had a BLAST here at night. Reggae Bar is an awesome bar that allows people to volunteer to fight in a boxing ring for a free bucket of alcohol. Very entertaining. I would highly recommend going here. At night you can just head to the beach and there will be crazy parties with fire jump ropes, fire spinners, buckets of alcohol, and lots of dancey music. If you stay here and don’t go out – be warned – this island gets very loud at night. The main reason you want to go to Phi Phi is really to go to it’s sister island Phi Phi Lay. Phi Phi Lay is unbelievable beautiful and a must do when you are in Thailand. The most popular beach is Maya Bay. You can hire a private long boat to take you here and the driver will take you around to the different locations on a private 6 hour tour all for very cheap – ours was $30 total and we found out we over paid. Maya Bay is awesome but because it is is so awesome make sure you get there really early. We went at 8am which beat a lot of the crowd – if you can get there even earlier then it’ll be ever better. Most of the drivers will have snorkeling gear for you too – make sure to ask for this before you leave. Ours brought us to an awesome snorkeling area in Maya Bay. Next he took us to Pi Leh lagoon which was actually my favorite place. Incredible bright turquoise water with beautiful green rocks surrounding. Make sure you check this out! Hidden gem for sure. Then he took us to monkey island – where there’s literally tons of monkeys on the beach that just wait for tourists come because they can steal food. Warning – they are aggressive and if you have food they will find it and take it. Do not expect to “politely feed” them. They want your food and they are going to TAKE it. Another cool thing to check out at Phi Phi is the lookout point on the island. We stayed at Aboreal Resort which happened to be on the top of a big hill and had a great view – I wouldn’t recommend it though – you have to walk up a LOT of stairs to get there and it definitely wasn’t worth the price – not very nice, but does come with a great view. 1 day is all out need at Phi Phi – do one night out there and then a morning doing the private long boat tour.
After we got back to from the long boat tour we took a ferry to Phuket – tons of times and options here. Phuket is the island that I know the least about – it’s the biggest and I don’t know the different areas very well. We stayed at Kalima Resort which was amazing – probably the nicest resort I’ll ever stay at. We had an ocean view room of one of the beautiful bays. The infinity pool is beyond cool too. We were obsessed with this resort and spent a lot of time just relaxing here. If you can afford it on your budget – this would be the place to splurge a bit. We didn’t do too much exploring in Phuket. Patong beach was the closest beach/main area so we really only explored this area. Phuket is very westernized so everything’s a built more built up. There is a huge street in Patong that is basically one giant party that you can check out at night – it closes down so no cars drive on it and there are rows and rows of bars connected with a platform above them for dancing. We went to Tiger Kingdom when we were in Phuket – which was just ok, they definitely don’t treat the tigers very well, so it kind of ruined it for us. But if you want to get a picture laying with a tiger you can do it here. If you stay at Kalima there is a really nice expensive restaurant across the street if you wanna do a “fancy” night. We were originally planning on doing a day trip to Phang Nga – which is supposed to be really cool, but we ended up not going and chose to just relax and drink instead, but Captain Mark is a highly recommended company. This will take you to James Bond island, a very popular tourist stop. We rented a motorbike here, but driving is much more intense than in Koh Lanta with heavy traffic and lots of intersections. If you don’t want to do that you can just cab everywhere. We stayed in Phuket for 2 days.
We then flew from Phuket to Chiang Mai in the north. Chiang Mai is a very small city and much more relaxed than the islands. If you stay in the main square you can pretty much walk everywhere. We stayed at Hi Guest House which was the cutest little guest house ever and only $20/night. Everything is cheaper in the north! And the food is better! Do some shopping here, check out the temples, ect. Chiang Mai is definitely more cultural than the islands with Thai people who actually live and work there beyond just tourist activities. We loved Chiang Mai and it was definitely a good chance of pace after the islands. Different days will have markets in different places, we went to an awesome Sunday market where we did lots of gift shopping for family and friends. If you can try to do Elephants at Patara – this is the best place to do elephants in Thailand, but it’s also had to get a reservation – I contacted them a month before and they were already booked for all November. (This is the only thing you will need to reserve in advance).
We then rented a car to drive to Pai. Driving to Pai is an experience and takes about 4 hours. Driving is the most expensive way to get to Pai (besides flying) but we thought it was the best option. Other options are a) Motor bike – but don’t do this unless you have a death wish, b) take a public bus – which i’ve heard mixed reviews on to “worst experience of my life” to “really not that bad”, but that is your cheapest options, c) minivan – have a driver drive you there, but these people drive like mad men, so prepared to be really scared for a few hours on the road of death to Pai, d) Fly, don’t know much about this but I don’t think flights run that often and it’s not like a main airport so I don’t know how much I’d trust it. The road there is actually insane and super dangerous – hundreds of really steep, tight curves, with crazy minivan drivers, on the edge of a cliff, with thin lanes, and oh did i mention it’s all under construction and not paved?! But don’t let the trip detour you from going to Pai because it was BY FAR our favorite place. We fell in love it it right away – it is the cutest place in the world and so beautiful. It is a relaxed little hippy mountain town. We stayed in Pai Village Boutique Resort which was amazing – expensive, but we stayed in a really nice private bungalow. You probably don’t need to stay in a place this expensive cause every guest house we saw looked super cute. Also, Pai is the cheapest place you’ll go. If you want to slum it stay at Pai Circus School – this is an awesome hostel that we really enjoyed hanging out at, but there is no air conditioning, so didn’t want to stay there. There’s tons to do in Pai – lots of waterfalls, hot springs. Pai Canyon is really cool. We did elephants and Thom’s Elephant Camp which was awesome – they treat the elephants really well here – don’t go to the other ones in Pai, they do not treat the elephants well. The Container is a cool place to check out with a really nice view. The views here are just beautiful in general. You definitely need a motorbike to get around here, and you can rent from the main downtown area. Pai is very small and nothing is too far of a bike ride.
Our flight back to Bangkok was in Chiang Mai, so we went back and stayed another night here. We decided to try something new and stayed at a nudest resort called Oriental Village. It is about an hour north east of the main city, we were able to just drive, but they can arrange transportation for you to/from the city. Worth checking out if your interested.