I am 22 years old and planning a 2 week backpacking trip to Thailand early this June. Chances are I will be doing this solo as many of my friends are still on the fence (money, jobs, etc.). I feel I have done a lot of research as far as places to go, things to see, what to bring, etc. My current plan is to spend a few days in Bangkok, travel up north to Chang Mai, then head south to Phuket or maybe the islands. I'm not really looking for anything specific, just advice from people who have gone around the same time for this duration. I'd love to visit places where I can meet other backpackers along the way as well. Advice much appreciated!
In the usual bekpek ghettos you'll find them from all over this world-do not be surprised that many may even hardly speekee the eengrees. Exchange that Phuket for someplace else-its mainly now an expensive honeymooner/packagetourist destination.
Your plan is the tipical 13 in the dozen for any fresh newbee-age does not matter at all, so its just a very well-trodden path.
#2 captainbkk has been a member since 16/2/2012. Posts: 472
In his usual tactful manner, the Captain is correct. There are two ways to slice this onion:
1. Hit the Bannana Pancake trail. The usual suspects, Bangkok (KSR), Krabi, Koh Samui. You only got two weeks, so it's north or south. If you want North, then it's Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Pai... that direction.
2. Forget it all, no beach, no backpackers, and head to places nobody goes to and experience (as oppose to see) Thailand away from westerners (not away from western influence - that is globally pervasive). I recommend Khon Kaen, Sakhon Nakhon and NKP then just fly back to Bangkok from NKP. This creates language challenges, but it's also perhaps a touch more interesting.
Have a great time whatever you do.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Personally I'd go North or South but not both. Not in two weeks. Bangkok is going to eat four or five days anyway. That gives you time for a couple of more destinations. More than that and you're rushed - which defeats the purpose.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I respectively disagree with you. I did north and south on my first trip and it was fine. So fine I've been back many times since. Simply flying makes this possible.
This is what I did on my first trip.
Bangkok 3 nights
Kanchanaburi 1 night
Bkk 1 n
Samui 4 nights
Chiang Mai 3 nights plus 2 nights trekking.
I'm glad I got to have a look north and south on the first trip as it gave me a totally different look at the country
#6 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Wouldn't be the way I'd do it, but hey, if it worked for you, who am I to judge? I don't like a lot of movement when I travel around. I also don't like radical environment change. I like to kick it slow. But different strokes for different folks.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks all. It sounds like I will have to choose between the North and South as I would like to stay away from air travel while there and definitely do not want to be rushed. As tempting as it it to go places nobody goes, I think as a first timer I should stick to the usual suspects. However, it would be great if I could sneak one or two of MADMAC's option 2 destinations if possible. What if I was to extend my trip by a week? Would that have enough impact to allow me to see the North and South without being rushed? Thanks.
3 weeks would be decent enough to see both, you could do it in 2 but it would be rushed. Either way air travel from Phuket to Chiang Mai or vice versa is your best option, it will only cost $100-110 which is only a little bit more then bus/train and saves on 2 days of travel.
I personally would not spend more then 3 days in Bangkok although depending on where you are travelling from an extra day there to help with time difference might be ok.
The recent trip I was on I spent 3 weeks doing the same and it was pretty good, here is an idea of what I did. I would book a round trip flight to Bangkok. Spend 3 days there and maybe 2-3 days checking out Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya if you want to see them(I didn't actually see them but they are high on many peoples lists). Then my next stop would be a personal preference of an island, do you like quiet relaxful away from the main tourist area type island or do you want to go to the typical party type island? I chose the first option and went to Koh Phayam near Ranong and it was pretty nice there, little Koh Chang nearby is supposed to be decent as well. If you want the main party type then stick to the east coast and head to Koh Samui etc. For either option I would take a night bus or train(only bus available to Ranong, take the 24 seater VIP it is worth the extra $).
Spend 4-6 days checking out islands in that area and then hop on a bus to Khao Sok National Park(if coming from Ranong take bus to Takua Pa and then hop on a Surat Thani bound bus and get off at the park, if coming from Surat Thani then hop on a Phuket bus heading by the park), I recommend the 2 day lake tour as it is stunning scenery. At this point you are 10-14 days into your trip, if you are only ~ 10 days in you have time to stop by Krabi for a couple days before heading to Phuket before flying up to Chiang Mai. I wouldn't worry about seeing Phuket that much but if you want to can. Chiang Mai is a great city with lots of things to do, 4 maybe 5 days there is good. Then hop on a bus over to Chiang Rai(try to get there for the weekend and see the walking streets) for 2 days before hoping on a night bus(again VIP 24) back to Bangkok(or fly if you don't mind the extra cost/short on time).
Like I said this is pretty much what I did and I enjoyed it. I think it gives you a nice mix and it is great because you get enough of a taste but there are still more things to see and do making a return trip worthwhile if you enjoy this one.
on that last question of how to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi or Ayutthaya , i'd say third-class train is a good option too. there used to be at least two trains a day departing the Bangkok Noi Train Station in Thonburi, just across the river from the greater Khao San Road/Sanam Luang area heading to Kanchanaburi. the advantage of the train is it's cheap, it gives better scenery than the bus trip (although not every second is scenic to be sure), it travels along a portion of the famous Death Railway, and it arrives in a more central and convenient location in Kanchanaburi than the bus.
kind of the same is true for taking the train up to Ayutthaya, but maybe not to the same degree. anyway, those are two of the very few third-class train rides i would recommend in Thailand, because they are short and somewhat scenic (particularly when compared to the bus) and arrive in an interesting location.
by the way, once you are in Kanachanaburi, you can take the bus through Suphanburi and over to Ayutthaya to avoid back-tracking to Bangkok, if you are heading that way.
no matter what you decide, let us know what you did and how it worked out for you. have a great trip. cheers.
Kanchanaburi can be done via a tour from Bangkok. Saves a lot of messing around. Most of the attractions out that way are spread out so it's hard to do independently unless you hire a car. Kanchanaburi town itself is touristy but outside town the river spots are good. Erawan waterfalls is excellent. Tiger temple is rubbish, don't bother with that. War stuff is pretty good and there's hot springs further out past Sai Yok.
#12 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
3 weeks is plenty of time. A lot of Thai towns you can see plenty in 2-3 days. Travelling only becomes rushed if you are hopping on and off buses/trains all the time. You lose a day moving.
That's why it's better to fly.
Normal Thai buses are very slow. A 3 hr car trip takes 5 hours by bus plus waiting time and often the scenary out the window isn't that good.
Night buses are dangerous in Thailand as drunks and truck drivers take drugs and drive at ridiculous speeds on iffy roads.
#13 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Yeah I wouldn't bother going to the tiger temple. If you want to see tigers go to tiger kingdom in Chiang Mai, I met a bunch of people that really liked their experience there.
I don't think the night buses are any more dangerous in Thailand then other places, the VIP 24 seater bus is more comfortable then any of the others I took in SEA though. Note that they pump the air conditioning so it is like a freezer though... Funny watching Thai people walk onto a bus wearing winter jackets, mitts and beanies lol.
Have a great trip and let us know how it goes. Always nice to get feedback.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I did a three week trip a few years back that encompassed Chiang Mai and environs for about a week, a little island hoping around Ko Chang for just under 2 weeks and a few days in BKK. I didn't feel overly rushed at all - though I would like to go back to the North to get further afield sometime and also get down to Trat for a couple nights . . . the beauty of SE Asia is that you are always missing something.
Used night buses for travel to-and-from Chiang Mai (but had a long haul from CM to Ko Chang with only a few hour stop over in BKK that I wouldn't choose to do again).
You guys are awesome. The more advice I get the better. I'm thoroughly researching each of your ideas/destinations and will keep them in a notepad for myself when I visit. Just bought my backpack and couldn't be more excited.
Hey Casey, when are you going to come to Mukdahan? It's growing so fast it will make your head spin.
#18 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I'm considering a trip through Vientiane and central Laos that may curve through Muk on the way back to BKK - but that won't be until next February. It all depends on what I'm going to do with my girlfriend getting her MBA back in the States starting this fall.
Would love to see you again so let me know.
#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I say get off the beaten path. Fly from Bangkok down to Nakhon Si Thammarat and chill for a couple of days in Ban Khiriwong doing some treks in and around Khao Luang National Park and eating some really incredible food in town (you'll taste the Malaysian influence down there). After that, hop on a bus down to Trang and chill out on some of the islands and look for dugongs, and also enjoy some kopi in town. After that, bus it down to Satun province and hit Ko Taratao and Thale Ban National Park. Then fly back to Bangkok from Trang or wherever you can get a flight. Forget about Phuket, Samui, maybe even Chiang Mail.
Yes I did the 2 day tour and stayed in the raft houses. Note that they are not all created equal though, the shared ones closer to the cave looked quite poor and had shared washrooms. I did the tour through Smiley Bungalows and they had their own nice raft houses that were pretty good(basic but all you need), they also had decent food and good guides. Their brick bungalows at the park entrance are very nice too and I would recommend staying with Smiley although there probably are some other good places as well.
Everyone that was on our tour that day said it was their favourite tour in Thailand, imo it was the best scenery I saw in my 4 month trip in SEA.
The following link has my Khao Sok pictures if you want to look at them. Pictures 15 and 55 show Smiley's bungalows(first couple are their brick bungalows as well).
Would you guys recommend I start my trip heading South towards Phuket/Khao Sok after Bangkok or heading North towards Chiang Mai? I plan on visiting both areas, but I was wondering if traveling from one end to the other would be easier/quicker than the other. Thanks.
Either way works equally well based on when you are travelling(going to unfortunately be rainy season all over Thailand). I personally would head south first to have some relaxing time and then fly north to end the trip with the cultural aspect. It comes down to your preference on what order you would like to do activities in.
I've loved reading through all these posts, theres some great info here. Casey, I'm in the same boat as you, I'm currently planning a trip out the SEA for early June as well, might see you on our travels.
Geer you mentioned about it being rainy season, this is something that I'm slightly concerned about but want to know if I should be? I've read it generally rains late morning, early evening practically everyday during rainy season. Is this something that could ruin my trip? Or should I really consider holding off?
#27 PlanOneWay has been a member since 10/4/2013. Posts: 6
I could be wrong but I was of the belief that it rains in the early morning or evening most days during the rainy season and this agreed with the few showers I saw on my trip(although mainly dry season). You could also have days in which it rains constantly or have no rain at all.
Travelling in the rainy season will come down to luck imo. If your weather is good for your main trip highlights then it won't bother you. If it pours all week when you try to go to a place like Khao Sok or are sitting on an island beach then obviously it is going to put a bit of a damper on things.
From what I have seen on here most people more experienced then myself usually recommend travelling in the dry season. If you travel during the rainy season it is best to have extra rain days incorporated in your trip or you will likely end up missing something along the way. The benefits of travelling during the rainy season are cheaper widely available accommodation(although depending on location some places shut down) and fewer tourists. One nice thing about rain in Thailand is that it is fairly warm(for a Canadian anyways lol) so if you don't mind getting a little wet and/or have good rain gear then I doubt it would bother you much. Just remember that with the humidity it will be very difficult to dry your clothes etc so take extra and keep them dry, I nearly wrecked a pair of shoes in Vietnam as it took almost a week for them to dry out...