Everything you need to know to plan a trip to Thailand

Everything you need to know to plan a trip to Thailand

If I have to choose one experience in Thailand to highlight, it’s definitely the food. It is truly my favorite. From the fresh fruit to the coconut curries, Thai cuisine has been one of my favorites since visiting for the first time. I also appreciate the diversity of this destination as it’s truly an option for just about anyone - from backpackers to those who travel in style - from honeymooners to groups of friends to solo adventurers. Thailand is one of the bigger countries in SE Asia and offers a diverse experience from North to South. It’s large enough and diverse enough that it often merits more than one trip! We’ve visited Thailand twice and we aren’t opposed to returning again!

Who Should Travel to Thailand? 

No matter your typical standard of travel (from backpacker to ultra luxury), Thailand offers everything along the spectrum, no matter where you visit. If you’ve never traveled to Asia before, Thailand is the perfect destination to visit first. The Thai people are very welcoming to travelers and many speak English. Thailand is one of the best places to break into the Asian continent. 

Also, if you’re looking for an itinerary that has it all - history, culture, urban adventures, countryside adventures, beautiful beaches - this is one destination that offers a very well-balanced experience.

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

What time of year should I visit? 

The temperatures in SE Asia don’t fluctuate as much as the rain and humidity comes and goes. While you can visit year round, November - April is generally cooler and drier. 

Everything you need to know to plan your vacation to Thailand

How long should I plan to travel in Thailand? 

I recommend visiting Thailand for a minimum of 7 days which will offer time to visit two areas at the most. To visit all major areas of Thailand (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and the southern islands), I recommend 3-4 weeks total. 


What other countries should I considering visiting while in this region? 

Many other countries connect easily from Bangkok, including Myanmar (7 days minimum), Bhutan (10 days minimum), Vietnam (7 days minimum), Cambodia (7 days minimum), Laos (7 days minimum), and Singapore (2 days minimum). 

Thailand is so large and so diverse that a full month on the ground wouldn’t get boring. If wanting to connect with a nearby destination, I recommend only if you’re traveling for a minimum of 2 weeks to give you enough time in both destinations. 




What will I see or visit while I’m there? 

Image Credit: Unsplash

Image Credit: Unsplash

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is the northernmost province in Thailand. Smaller in comparison to Chiang Mai, the province is a good base to explore the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos converge. While the town itself is rather nondescript, the surrounding areas are spectacular with scenic mountains and remote villages inhabited by various ethnic minority peoples. Cultural exploration of temples and museums combined with adventurous jungle treks and river rafting are the highlights of this provincial town.

Not to miss experiences: 

  • Wat Rong Khun 

  • Go trekking to explore the culture of the ethnic hill tribe villages

  • Interact with rescued elephants

Recommended Stay: 2-4 nights

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

Chiang Mai

The former capital of the Lanna Kingdom in the 13th century, Chiang Mai today continues to serve as a cultural and administrative centre of Northern Thailand. Though the metropolitan area of Chiang Mai has a population of more than a million, the historic centre has a laid-back atmosphere more akin to a provincial town than a capital city. Beyond the Old City there is vast green countryside and rainforests ideal for trekking and exploring the ethnic minority villages.

Not to miss experiences:

  • Cooking class to learn the secrets of authentic Thai cuisine

  • Wat Doi Suthep

  • Explore the villages of ethnic minority groups in the nearby countryside

Recommended Stay: 2-4 nights

Image credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash

Image credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash

Sukhothai

Situated in north-central Thailand, Sukhothai was founded in the 13th century and became the first Thai Kingdom. The city flourished during the 13th to 14th century, establishing Sukhothai as a powerful kingdom rivalling that of Angkor.

The remains of the old kingdom, featuring close to 193 historical sites, are enclosed within a 70 square kilometre UNESCO World Heritage Historical Park. The historical park is divided into several different zones, interspersed with trees and ponds, and can be leisurely explored by foot or bicycle.

Not to miss experiences:

  • Bicycle through the UNESCO World Heritage Sukhothai Historical Park

  • Visit in November during the full moon to enjoy Loy Krathong Festival

Recommended Stay: 1-2 nights (can also visit from Chiang Mai as a long day trip or along the way driving to or from Chiang Mai to your next destination)

Image credit: Paulina Martinez via Unsplash

Image credit: Paulina Martinez via Unsplash

Ayutthaya

Situated at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi, and Prasak rivers, the heritage city of Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam from the 14th to 18th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once Asia’s finest city with towering chedis and gilded palaces, protected by a 12km-long and 6m-high wall. The city spiralled into decline after it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. Though in a damaged state, the ancient temple and palace ruins within the archeological park provide a glimpse into the grandeur and history of what was once the most powerful city in Asia.

Not to miss experiences:

  • Ayutthaya Historical Park

  • Chao Sam Phraya National Museum

  • Take a boat to Ayutthaya from Bangkok - a much more interesting + relaxing way to arrive!

Recommended Stay: 1-2 nights (can also visit as a day trip from Bangkok or on your way from Bangkok to your next destination)

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

Bangkok

Most visitors will arrive in the capital city of Bangkok, a pulsating megacity with modern skyscrapers towering over glittering temples below. One of Asia’s most popular megalopolises, Bangkok offers a diverse range of sights and experiences, with something for everyone. Culture fiends will delight in the dazzling Royal Palace and the city’s countless pagodas, while shoppers could spend weeks sifting through Bangkok’s modern malls and traditional open-air markets. Entertainment in Bangkok ranges from thrilling Muay Thai bouts to highbrow classical Thai music concerts and everything in between. Dining options are equally varied. Whether you’re eating fine French cuisine in a plush hotel restaurant or sampling fried crickets on the side of the road, prepare to have all of your senses engaged.

Not to miss experiences: 

  • Wat Phra Kaew & The Grand Palace

  • Wat Po (followed by a traditional Thai foot massage)

  • Wat Arun

  • Chatuchak Weekend Market or River City Bangkok for authentic souvenirs

  • Boat cruise on the Chao Phraya River

  • Street food tour

Recommended Stay: 3-4 nights

Image credit: Frankie Spontelli via Unsplash

Image credit: Frankie Spontelli via Unsplash

Southern Thai Islands (Phuket, Krabi, Ko Yao Noi, etc)

Located on the west coast of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. With magnificent coastal scenery, Phuket is characterised by tropical rainforests, steep limestone cliffs, and picturesque beaches of soft golden sand. With a wide range of activities from beach lounging and watersports to culture and history and holistic healing, it is no surprise why Phuket is one of the most popular beach destinations in Thailand.

Phuket is the most popular destination in Southern Thailand. If you’re looking for a more secluded experience, consider Krabi or Ko Yao Noi. 

Not to miss experiences:

  • Cruise through the mangroves and karst formations of Ao Phang-nga National Park

  • Scuba diving and snorkeling in some of the world’s top dive sites

Recommended Stay: 4-7 nights

Image credit: Supriya S via Unsplash

Image credit: Supriya S via Unsplash

14 Days in Thailand: City, Culture, Elephants, and Pristine Beaches

Day 1: Arrive to Bangkok

Day 2: Start your morning with a cruise along the Chao Phraya River followed by a visit to the magnificent temples of Bangkok: Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Po. Enjoy a traditional Thai foot massage before retreating back to your hotel for the evening. 

Day 3: Enjoy a relaxing boat ride north to explore the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Day 4: Spend the morning driving through the Thai countryside from one historical capital to the next: Ayutthaya to Sukhothai. Upon arrival, bicycle your way through the UNESCO World Heritage Historical Park. 

Day 5: Continue your drive north to Chiang May where you can relax for a few days. On your way into the city, stop to explore the villages of ethnic minority groups living just outside Chiang Mai.

Day 6: Learn your way around Thai ingredients at a private cooking class. After lunch, explore Wat Doi Suthep.

Day 7: As you continue north toward the Four Seasons Tented Camp where you can engage with rescued elephants and hike the mountain trails of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos), stop at Wat Rong Khun along the way. 

Day 8: Spend the full day as a mahout with the rescued elephants, including bathing them in the morning.

Day 9: Hike to the Golden Triangle in the morning to enjoy the view over Thailand, Laos, & Myanmar ; enjoy a relaxing spa treatment in an open-air spa located in a bamboo forest. 

Day 10: Fly Chiang Rai to Phuket to begin your relaxing stay on one of Southern Thailand’s stunning beaches. 

Day 11 - 13: There are no plans on the agenda. Enjoy a full day on the beach, go out for a dive or two, or we can arrange for a private catamaran to take you sailing for the day. 

Day 14: Depart Phuket for your return flight home.  

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

Image credit: Undiscovered Sunsets

Click HERE for the full photo album from our travels in Thailand.

Unexpected insights from my travels in Thailand

  • Both the railway market and the Damnoen floating market are extremely touristy and very little authenticity remains. While these markets are famous and you may feel like it’s a shame to miss, if you generally try to avoid the trapped tourist vibe, this day trip can be skipped. 

  • A bike ride through Bangkok Noi neighborhood took us far from the most common areas visited and offered a authentic look into life in Bangkok. 

  • A quiet cruise down the canal’s of Bangkok was unexpected, relaxing, and far more authentic than the floating markets. This experience was one of our favorite’s! 

  • The temples in Bangkok blew me away. They’re stunning, packed with history, and all very unique from one another. As conservative attire is required to visit each, I recommend packing in as many as you can in one day. 

  • A 7-day experience onboard a clipper ship was absolutely incredible and offered an experience far beyond what a day trip into the Phang Nga Bay could offer. 

  • Scuba diving in Southern Thailand is some of the best in the world and cannot be missed if you’re an avid diver!

Unique experiences to consider in Thailand

  • Star Clippers is a small ship sailing experience that offers access to islands far from the mainland. To visit these islands otherwise, it requires hours on a speedboat for very little time to enjoy these beautiful beaches while some of these destinations aren’t accessible at all via daytrip. If the sun and water is your idea of paradise, this is a wonderful experience to consider. 

If you’re ready to check off some of your top bucket list experiences but don’t have hours to spend researching, I’d be happy to work together and to guide you through the steps of designing an itinerary. I’m here to help find the perfect match between traveler + destination + experience. Contact me to get started.

Thank you to Trails of Indochina, our preferred partners in SE Asia, for the detailed descriptions of each region.

Everything you need to know to plan your trip to Thailand
Everything you need to know to plan your trip to Thailand
Everything you need to know to plan your trip to Thailand

Whitney’s love of experiential travel began when she studied abroad in New Zealand. Upon returning home, this seemingly small decision led her on an unpredictable path to do everything in her power to continue exploring the world. Within one year, she headed to Africa for one month to visit a friend who was volunteering with animals in need of rehabilitation support, and upon graduating only 6 months later, she moved to France for no other reason than the study the language and experience the culture firsthand. Fast forward 8 years, 2 languages, and 20 countries later, Whitney has successfully combined her passion for foreign languages and experiential travel with her professional experiences and launched Undiscovered Sunsets, a bespoke, experiential travel agency.