Depending on what you want to see/do, your budget, and the length of your trip, your itinerary for Thailand can vary greatly! When I was travelling in Thailand, I was partnered with my boyfriend who was only joining me for 2 weeks and really wanted to have a beach vacation so our itinerary was geared towards that. Our budget was a bit more relaxed than my typical backpacking budget as we splurged on nice hotels, restaurants and activities with our main goals being beautiful beaches, good food, and some Thai culture!
Chiang Mai x 2 nights
Bangkok x 2 nights
Railay x 3 nights
Koh Lanta x 3 nights
Phuket x 1 night
Chiang Mai 2 Nights
Where to stay: @25 Hostel
We flew directly from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai and this was definitely the easiest way to start making our way through Thailand as we really wanted to visit the North. You could definitely spend more time in Northern Thailand than 2 nights but as we were prioritizing beach time we skipped out of here quite quickly. This didn’t stop us from making the most of our time here!
When we first arrived we walked around familiarizing ourselves with our surroundings. We went out to eat and that’s when we knew we were in heaven. $2 for the best pad Thai of our lives!!! YES PLEASE! Around the corner from the cheap $2 pad Thai restaurant we found a cute Thai massage parlour and decided to get our first Thai massages together. It was such a great first day and set the tone for an awesome time in Chiang Mai.
Our second day in Thailand we booked an elephant sanctuary tour. I was very hesitant about doing one of these. It seems to me like we should just let animals be – and even when we take them out of worse conditions they still don’t want to play with us so why are we forcing this on them? We did some research and found one that at least didn’t do any riding and had decent reviews. It was fun getting so close and personal with these beautiful animals but I still felt weird about it. It felt like the elephants just wanted to eat our food and then do their own things… which like I don’t blame them!
After the elephants in the morning we went and explored the centre of Chiang Mai. We ended up eating lunch at a women’s correctional centre which was delicious and very strange haha. We then went and ate a second lunch because the food is that good and cheap here and also why not? In the evening we went to the night market and did some shopping. You can get so much at the market for extremely cheap here. I even got a knock off Kanken backpack (which are everywhere in Southeast Asia) and it looked identical to my real one but for a fraction of the price.
Chiang Mai surprised me, as did Thailand in general. I felt a bit cheated from the pictures I had seen there. Thailand was chaotic, loud, and busy – not the quiet haven I pictured in my head. Still, this place is full of culture and has many delicious restaurants and coffee shops. Chiang Mai might be a big busy city but there’s also tons of places you can go to escape the busy streets. You could easily spend a week here and still find places and things to do.
BANGKOK 2 NIGHTS
Where to stay: Airbnb in Khet Bang Sue
It felt a bit like we HAD to see Bangkok if we were going to Thailand. Hindsight I would say if it works that you don’t need to stop in Bangkok.. don’t go out of your way to get there. Our time in Bangkok wasn’t crazy exciting and we would have enjoyed spending more time in Chiang Mai or somewhere else. That being said, there is plenty to do in Bangkok and you can still have a great stopover here. We stayed at an airbnb about an hour outside of the city. We chose it (well okay, I chose it) because it was A) cheap !! And B) had this beautiful infinity pool overlooking the city. This was probably our highlight of Bangkok honestly. We bought some cheap drinks and just sat up here at night with the pool to ourselves.
Just being in Bangkok is a cultural experience. We ended up taking the local bus and ferry to get downtown and were the only tourists doing it from where we were staying. It was fun navigating their local system (and insanely cheap too). We walked around the Grand Palace but didn’t go inside. We walked over to koh sang road and spent a lot of time exploring and shopping this vibrant little neighbourhood.
There are plenty of cheap restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and massage parlours here. We filled a whole afternoon here eating, shopping and I got a $5 foot massage. Despite Bangkok not being our favourite city there is still tons to do and see.
RAILAY 3 NIGHTS
Where to stay: Railay Phutawan Resort
Oh, Railay. You were railay beautiful but you railay hurt our bellies. We had heard that Railay was much quieter than most beachy places in Krabi so we decided to spend 3 nights here. The reason it’s a bit quieter here is because people mostly come for day trips as you need to take a boat to access this area. While it was flooded with people during the day, the mornings and evenings were spectacular. In the morning you could practically have the beach completely to yourself and the evening sunsets were quiet and peaceful.
Our resort was in an area that you would only go to if you were staying at it which made it incredibly quiet and had a stunning view from the infinity pool.
There is plenty you can do here, even if you’re on a budget. Everything from island hopping tours and cooking classes to hiking or renting a kayak and venturing out on your own. Our first day we went to Ao Phra Nang beach and before the day tours showed up we almost had the entire place to ourselves. We enjoyed a lot of down time here and at our resort pool. The food here was VERY hit or miss and it was hard to tell what was good food and what was going to make us sick. The problem is that all the food has to come in from boats and the sanitation on this peninsula is not good at all so a lot of people who were staying here were getting really sick from the food. By day 2 it had hit us, and unfortunately my boyfriend even more than me.
The rain had started a bit in the afternoons so it felt okay to just lay in bed a bit sick and avoid the rain. We managed to still do a quick hike to see the sunset and also rented some kayaks one morning and explored before it got too hot and busy.
KOH LANTA 3 NIGHTS
Where to stay: Lanta Sand Resort and Spa
Oh my Lanta – this place is beautiful. We went during the very start of down season and it was insanely quiet. A lot of stores were closed and there was barely anyone at our resort. It thankfully didn’t rain much while we were there and when it did rain it was mostly overnight so we were able to enjoy some beautiful days.
Sadly, again, our Railay bellies hadn’t left us and I was really sick one of the days here. The place we were staying was amazing though so laying in bed all day there with the comfy pillows, good wifi and nice AC was not too shabby. We mostly just hung out at our resort and explored the few restaurants still open on the seemingly one road in town. Our third day here though we did an island hopping tour. Despite it being incredibly quiet at our resort it seemed like anyone who was on this island was at this island hopping tour because the place was packed. We had fun laughing at the chaotic tourists but had I been alone or with just about anyone else this tour would have been incredibly frustrating. For instance, our last stop on the “4 island tour” wasn’t an island at all but a rock that had bats on it that we just drove by on the boat.
We did enjoy the quiet back at our resort and the beaches here were absolutely stunning.
PHUKEY 1 NIGHT
Where to stay:
I’m sure you’ve heard of Phuket before as this beautiful oasis Thai island but let it be known that this place does not have thailand’s most beautiful beaches and is actually incredible busy. We decided to stay right by the airport since we were only here for 1 night and were flying out the next day. We weren’t expecting much but were happily surprised by the life that existed just a minutes walk from the airport. Our hostel was great and there were so many restaurants and bars right outside our door.
There was even a beach within a 5 minute walk where you could watch planes take off and land! My boyfriend’s flight was later in the day so he even took the bus and went to explore more of what Phuket had to offer and loved his time seeing the Big Buddha.
I hope you have the best time exploring what Thailand has to offer and that this beachy itinerary was helpful!