We travelled around Thailand for a month and made it up as we went along, not being tied down to any plans. Thailand is great for this!
We flew into Bangkok and stayed in an Airbnb called J. No14 Amazing Antique B&B which was really fun and quirky. Bangkok is really quite congested and noisy and this place was great because it was a little out from the madness.
The best way to get around Bangkok is via the Skytrain. This was my favourite thing, I love it! It’s really easy to understand and is like a super clean tube with nicer views. It’s so so cheap as well and travels all over Bangkok.
If you fancy something a little fancy then go for a drink in the Lebua State Tower – (it’s the Sky bar that features in the movie The Hangover 2) You have to be dressed smart with nice shoes (no flip flops). Make sure you get up to the top for the sunset. The views are great and the cocktails go down a treat! Be prepared to spend a little more here than you would in most places in Bangkok. As i’m sure you know, everything in Thailand is very cheap, but coming her on your first night wouldn’t imply that. It’s definitely worth it though!
Sadly I’ve heard that the building opposite is no longer open but it was called The Ghost Tower. A tower block that was built the same time as the Lebua tower some thirty years ago. Before it was finished, the owners ran out of money and therefore left it in it’s current state with no windows, doors or…..anything! – it’s nothing other than a shell of a building! It has been derelict ever since and over the years became a tourist attraction where you could pay a little Thai man £10 and walk up 43 flights of stairs (tough going!) to the top! You needed to be careful however, as at one point I walked across what I thought was flooring, only to find that it was a thin wooden board covering a 43 floor-drop back to the bottom (yikes!). This place truly was incredible and has gone down as one of our favourite experiences throughout our travels. Like I said, it’s currently not-open to the public for various safety reasons that one could imagine. But who knows, it could pop back up one day soon as I’ve heard that it’s been re-opened (secretly) a number of times – after all – it attracts a mass of tourists and at £10 each for entry, there’s quite a lot of money to be made!
There are lots of Buddhas in Bangkok. It’s good to get some Thai culture and have look at some of the temples on offer. We went and saw the Reclining Buddha which is a walk from Koah San Road (this is a famous tourist area with lots of bars and markets so you may want to experience it). Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered up when you go to Buddhas though or they’ll make you pay a fortune for crazy elephant trousers.
There’s a brilliant Jungle Trek with – Chiang Mai Trekking – which I highly recommend to anyone . Bring comfy walking boots or trainers, ones that you don’t mind getting VERY muddy and wet. Also bring fold up rain macs if you have some – the monsoons are pretty mad! We recommended this trip to some of our friends who recently went to Chiang Mai and they absolutely loved it! It’s a great opportunity to trek up to the top of a mountain and stay with local people who live the simple life.
Chiang Mai trekking offer different packages and we opted for the two nights and one day excursion. Throughout this tour you will trek through the jungle, ride elephants, visit waterfalls, go white water rafting, eat lots of local food and stay in a wooden shack in a Thai village up in the mountains. This is all for £30! During the stay there’s no electricity or showers …and just a hole in the floor for a toilet. But it’s an amazing stripped-back, basic experience, meeting lots of like-minded people and absorbing the jungle culture. We sat around playing games, drinking Chang Beers and had a great laugh.
It might be worth staying in a nice hotel after the trek as you’ll want a nice bed and shower (I can assure you). The tour guide will to wherever you want to go after the trip. We just said “take us to a nice hotel, please” and they had loads of recommendations. We stayed in 4* hotel that evening for the cost of £30 for night.
In Chaing Mai there are some really nice restaurants down by the river. You can hail down a tuk tuk from almost anywhere in Thailand and in most cases, including this one, it will cost you next to nothing.
There’s a Bus to Pai (north of Chaing Mai) we didn’t go there but it’s meant to be an amazing chilled area with jungles, and really traditional.
We used Nok Air a lot for internal flights around the country. They were around £20-30 each flight and usually took around one hour, depending on where we were going. For maybe £10 less, you could take a bus which could last anything up to 15 hours for the same journey, again, depending on where you are going. So for us, flying seemed like the best option.
We then got a bus to Koh Chang which is down in the south-east of Thailand. This place was amazing for snorkelling but it’s quite difficult to get to or continue from, so we had to get a bus back to Bangkok after the few days we spent there (apparently the waters are too rough to cross by boat near Koh Chang. I would suggest if you don’t have that much time then you may need to miss it out. Having said that, we always talk about how great it was and it just added a few more days of travel, so if you’ve got the time, then I highly recommend it! We went on a great boat trip to these amazing islands and there’s a place to eat called the Magic Tree which is full of beanbags and hammocks – one of our faves. The island is tiny so rent a moped whilst you’re there (£3 a day!) and just scoot around the island which is so fun.
We got a night boat to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party. It’s a great experience drinking out of buckets with thousands of others for a massive beach party. However, mind the little bottles of Red Bull – they’re lethal (or maybe I just had too many of them – oops!) You’ll only need a few though and you’ll be on your way! I wouldn’t recommend staying any more than two nights in Koh Phangan (we stayed the night before the party then left in the morning after the party finished – I think this is what most people do). The parties leading up to the Full Moon are fun but there’s not that much else to do on the island and it’s become very touristy and tacky.
We took a day ferry to Koh Tao, my favourite place in Thailand. Most people stay on Sairee Beach – that’s the main ‘happening’ area! The beach BBQ’s for dinner are amazing. You pick your fish …and they give you the whole thing! The tuna and the snapper are the best! I think the best BBQ place was called something like ‘Big Blue Dive’ but there’s lots. Also, walk to the end of the beach and there’s a really cute fairy-light-covered restaurant which is so worth going to. It’s more of a ‘posh’ restaurant/hotel. Although, we had three courses each, cocktails and wine for £25 in total! It’s the same end as Blue Wind beach huts where we stayed for most of our week. The accommodation here is pretty basic but its nice to be right on the beach and just down a bit further from the BBQ place. We stayed there for five nights in a beach hut. I’d 100% recommend that you get a moped to drive round the island as there’s some great places to go and explore including Mango Bay. This is a really good place to go snorkelling and where most of the dive companies take their divers during the afternoons.
You must try the coconut shakes in Koh Tao – they are incredible! On most days, we would wake up, open the door to our beach hut and have a coconut shake sorted in the first few minutes. Very refreshing!
There are many great places to eat in Koh Tao, of all types of cuisine. We visited a restaurant near the pier called Whitening which is great. The food was delicious and the setting perfect, with a candlelit table on the beach. Also, there is an Italian restaurant (I know you’re probably thinking ‘why would I want to go to an Italian restaurant whilst i’m in Thailand?’ Well, trust me – there’s a queue outside this place every night of the week for a reason. Also, after eating (amazing) curries all the time, you find that its quite nice to mix it up on occasion. The restaurant is called Porto Bello and takes bookings all week.
In terms of bars on Sairee Beach, they come in abundance! This place is very lively with a great atmosphere day and night. We loved a place called Fizz Beach Lounge where the cocktails are great and the beanbags they have out on the sea front make for a perfect evening. I’d do anything to be sitting there right now!
We also we went scuba diving with Simple Life which was great. The people were very friendly but I recommend doing the three-day PADI course if time allows, as we only did the one-day dive and we didn’t get to spend much time in the water as we had to practice so much above water. Also, if you have your PADI you can take the qualification all over the world which is obviously really worth it! (This is something that we will be doing very soon).
Phi Phi is a very popular destination in Thailand, particularly for those looking for parties until the a.m. I visited it about six years ago and the beaches are beautiful. But i’ve since heard that there has been a serge of tourists dominating the island, I guess taking away some of the paradise-feel that it once had. Mcdonalds has made an appearance here and I guess that says it all. The night life in Phi Phi is mad! Full of flame throwers and DJ’s, with a fairly young crowd, full of English groups finishing their exams but if it’s a party you’re looking for then this is the place to be! You can also do a day boat trip to Maya Bay and see the island the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed at, which is quite impressive.
We got a night boat and a coach to Railay from Koh Tao – it’s a bit of a trek but so worth it. Stay on the west beach. This is where most of the action takes place. The island is so small so walk to Phra Nang Cave Beach in the day. It’s nicer than the West Beach (which people don’t tend to spend any time on) and about five min walk through an open cave with monkeys who love to hop on to you!
Do the Lagoon walk if you’re brave and have trainers (the very last bit a impossible if it’s wet, sheer drop – we gave it a miss) so many people were doing it, but it’s so steep it really didn’t look safe and so we decided the lagoon wasn’t worth the risk in wet weather! Do rock climbing there – it’s amazing – we went with Krabi Rock Climbing company (book when you get there).
We came across a cave on Phra Nang beach that you can climb as there were ladders inside. Be careful though, wear suitable shoes (unlike us who did it in flip flops) and bring a torch as it’s very dark on the way up. At the top of this, there is a cool viewpoint, looking down onto the beach (shame it was cloudy on our day at the top).
The island is very small and quiet with a really nice atmosphere (you could walk round the whole island in about ten mins – okay, probably not ten, but you get me 😉 There are a number of small bars running down the West side. These are mostly bamboo huts and are very chilled. I think Railay is considered the ‘stoner’ island of Thailand with lots of reggae music and, if you want, lots of weed on offer haha. There’s a cool bar at the end of the west side. I forget what it’s called but i’m sure you’ll find it. It tends to stay open later than most places and seems to be the go-to place toward the end of the nights.
The toilets on this island are terrible (haha) so try and use your hotel toilet when you can! We went to an amazing pizza place where you sit on bean bags and as there was a power cut on the whole island (this tends to happen quite a lot) whilst we were there, the owners gave us all candles which made for a really nice vibe.
DO NOT go to Mama’s Kitchen – it’s always busy so it looks somewhat inviting. We fell into the trap of thinking this must mean its a gooden. Well oh no it wasn’t! Quite soon after arriving we spotted a RAT running around the kitchen! Then a cat was spontaneously sick on the table next to us (no joke) and our food came out as grey mush, so obviously I got up and shouted ‘Goodbye!’ We stayed in Diamond Cave Resort , had our own pool over-looking massive rock faces which we thought were nice. Again, this place was fairly basic but a lot of places are unless you want to spend big bucks!
There is an airport in Krabi which is a boat ride from Railay, so we flew from there back to Bangkok.
There’s so many places to stay in Thailand. We didn’t book anything before we went (apart from the jungle trek). It was nice not to have been tied down to time-frames, so it’s easy enough to turn up to a hostel or an Airbnb as you go along! Even places in the middle of nowhere, turning up at 3am, you will find somewhere! So I would recommend being as spontaneous with your trip as you can!