My wife and I will be traveling to Thailand in mid-November for 13 days, and are considering 4 additional days in Vietnam. With respect to Thailand, we're thinking of an itinerary as follows:
Bangkok - 3 days
Chiang Mai - ??? days
Phuket - ??? days
Our questions are as follows:
- Are there any other places that are "must see" destinations in Thailand that we'll be missing?
- How many days would you recommend in each place?
- What is the best form of transportation to get to Chiang Mai?
In addition to this, is it worth it to spend 4 additional days in Vietnam? We're thinking Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but are open to suggestions.
I look forward to hearing from you.
#1 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
No such thing as a must see. There are many nice places to visit in Thailand however but it depends on your interests.
For beach areas I like Krabi, Trang and Koh Chang. Don't like Phuket - too touristy and expensive for mine.
Chiang Mai - I don't like it but many do. It's full of tourists.
Bangkok - top city IMO. Kanchanaburi is a good side trip.
#2 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
If you were doing 13 days, how would you break it up? (Note: It could be 17 days, depending on whether we decide to spend a few days in Vietnam). We fly in and out of Bangkok. We're interested in experiencing the Thai culture and history, but we definitely want 4-5 days of relaxation (e.g., beaches).
Is there something you'd recommend as an alternative to Chiang Mai (e.g., for Buddhist temples and some of the history)?
When you say that Kanchanaburi is a good side trip, are you saying it's a day trip, or a good 2-3 day sort of trip?
#3 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
I would skip Vietnam if you only have four days; cost/hassle with flights/visas. I would give Chiang Mai about five days so you can explore the old city, visit a few temples, check out the dining and nightlife scene, and see the surrounding area. The Sunday night market is a must-do. Take a couple of day trips out of town (Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep, elephant safari, Mae Sa valley, etc.) November is still relatively quiet but usually good weather and wildflowers starting to bloom up in the hills. There are direct flights from CM to Phuket (Air Asia, Thai Smile) then maybe transfer up to Khao Lak for a few days, with a two-day side trip inland to Khao Sok National Park. Gorgeous place.
I would spend all your time in Thailand. 4 days in Vietnam is not worth the cost of extra flights and visas. Save that for a future trip imo so you can actually make it worthwhile.
I would recommend at least 4 days in Chiang Mai, lots of things to see and do there.
I second the Khao Sok recommendation, was one of my favourite places in SEA.
Phuket is a tourist trap, I wouldn't bother spending much time there. Many better beaches/islands to go check out.
Note the islands on east coast(Samui, Tao etc) will be rainy season at that time so I would stick to Andaman coast or Krabi region which should both have good weather.
Kanchanaburi town can be seen in a day but most of what people go to see is best done over at least 2 days.
Yeah the cost of flights and visa for 4 days isn't worth it.
#6 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
The only place I can think of that would be worth a 4 day side trip is Siem Reap to see the temples. I still think you are better off spending all your time in Thailand but if you really want to see something else as well that is where I would go, Bangkok to Siem Reap finally has some reasonable flights as well now.
Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. We'll consider just doing Thailand (so, 17 days in total). The only reason we were thinking of doing Vietnam is because we're unlikely to be in southeast Asia again, so we thought checking out Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi would be a nice 4 day side trip.
One question related to Bangkok - Chiang Mai travel: What is the best mode of transportation? I see that there's an overnight train, which seems reasonably priced. Is it pretty comfortable/clean? We'd likely book one of the 'First Class' areas on the train. Alternatively, are there any places along the way that are worth seeing, meaning that we'd do the trip to Chiang Mai over a couple of days?
#9 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
Problem with Vietnam in 4 days is that it is pretty much impossible to see something making the travel worthwhile. Vietnam like most of Southeast Asia is a region that you kind of just have to soak up. It isn't about seeing major attractions like the pyramids, great wall, eifel tower etc. It is about the different way of life, the food, the people and some nice sights along the way. For me Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city wer efar from the highlights of Vietnam, mine in fact was Paradise Cave near Dong Hoi. It is a world class cave.
If you never plan on going back to Southeast Asia I would definitely consider spending those 4 days to go see the Angkor temples in Cambodia, they are easily one of the best sights in Southeast Asia. Angkor Temples, Paradise Cave and Khao Sok Lake Tour were my trip highlights.
To answer your other questions. Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are the common stops some people make between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
If you are concerned about comfortable/clean your best bet is to fly. Flights between the two are crazy cheap as well(both Nok Air and Air Asia have flights for roughly $40) making train or bus travel pretty much a waste of time unless you want to experience it. From what I have seen online the train is dirty and first class means that you get a private coach, not first class quality as a person usually thinks of it. The train is almost always multiple hours late too and is the slowest form of transport. VIP sleeper buses in Thailand are fairly comfortable as long as you aren't real tall(over 6 ft) and can sleep in a somewhat sitting position(they lay back fairly flat) but you are likely looking at $20-25 which isn't that much cheaper then flying.
Thanks for all of your feedback, I think we've got a good handle on our trip through central and northern Thailand, but are still trying to finalize details when we go to the Andaman Coast. I think we'll have about 6 days (excluding 2 days at Khao Sok National Park) down there. Is it better to travel to multiple places, or just stop in one or two places?
Which would you recommend out of:
- Ko Phi-Phi
- Khao Lak
Alternatively, is there a good way to incorporate all of those places, along with Khao Sok (which we're planning for two additional days)? Furthermore, when we visit Khao Sok, is it best to stay outside of the park, and travel in each day, or can/should we stay right inside?
#11 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
Most of the Khao Sok accommodation is just outside the park entrance, which saves you paying the entrance fee until you're ready. Try to stay somewhere along the small river/cliffs where monkeys come down every evening to drink/play. Also try to do at least a day trip to the giant lake, or better still spend a night at one of the raft stations with floating bungalows. Waking up at sunrise with gibbons hoot-hooting and having a morning swim or paddling a kayak surrounded by huge limestone peaks, a unique experience. I've done all of the above numerous times and would gladly sacrifice a day or two on the beaches in favor of Khao Sok.
It would be easy to incorporate Khao Lak or Krabi with Khao Sok or even both of them. Koh Phi Phi is easily reached from Krabi as well. You just have to decide which you would prefer to see. With only 6 days I would pick only 2 of those.
In Chiang Mai, what is a reasonable price to pay for a hotel? Is the Old City the best place to stay? I'm seeing a very drastic range in prices ($15/night - $500/night), and am not sure what will get me a comfortable and clean hotel. I don't mind paying a bit, but in reality, I like a hotel that is good value and within walking distance of restaurants, attractions, etc.
#14 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
900 baht or $30
That's if you want aircon and a good quality room.
If you want a pool etc then more like $50.
Any hotel near the old city usually has restaurants nearby. CM is a very busy city.
#15 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
The east side of old town or just east of it are probably the best places to stay as that are where most of the restaurants are and the night market etc. The central part of town isn't that big so it is easy to walk around even if you end up a little ways away(I stayed SW corner of old town for example).
In most of SEA $20 or more should get you air conditioning, hot water, en suite, decent bed and cleanliness etc. Paying a little bit more might get you better location or newer/cleaner hotel. Leonard's $30 is probably about right.
$500 a night in CM must be all inclusive with tours, a couple women and a pet tiger or something. That is ridiculous lol.
Have to agree with Leonard about Phuket, Chiang Mai, add also Chiang Rai, Hua Hin, Pai, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Pattaya, and a few dozen others. It just gets to a point where it looks no different than anywhere else. McDonalds, KFC, Burger KIng Pizza Hut, and all the other garbage mass tourism brings with it. Just over run with tourists. But for a first time trip you might enjoy it. I gave up on those places years ago they totally lost their charm. And with that many of those areas tend to attract the worst of both Thai's and foreigners. Many love those locations and many hate those locations depends what side of the wall your on.
#17 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
McDonald's, KFC aren't there because of the tourists. They are as much part of Thailand now as they are in the United States and other countries. You will find them in many places you likely would not find a tourist. You shouldn't be choosing against a city etc just because it has a restaurant you recognize...
The nice thing about Chiang Mai is that it is easy enough to find somewhat authentic experiences as well as having a good tourist infrastructure for tours, cooking courses and other fun things to do like go see a movie, go to the zoo etc. If you get out of the main tourist areas you can still find smaller more local restaurants and the walking streets are in large part full with locals as well(night bazaar is 100% for tourists though).
i disagree most Thai cities do not have these chains.
#19 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
I can't think of a Thai provincial capital that doesn't have a KFC - probably also a Pizza Hut. Maccas not so much - no great loss there!
theloner, most Thai cities do have a KFC, McDonalds or some other western chain. You can disagree all you want but it is because you obviously haven't been to most of these cities major shopping malls etc.
Yes there are a lot of undeveloped small cities and towns that don't have these things but the larger cities all have them and it isn't because of tourists. They have them because Thailand is a quickly developing nation and because these companies know they can make money there and know how to get their foot in the door of these developing nations, also some of these chains seem to have deals with major shopping mall companies like Big C and can be found in nearly every on of their malls.
"i disagree most Thai cities do not have these chains."
LOL Thai shopping centres are full of chain stores. KFC, Pizza Hut and Maccas are popular in Thailand.
Maccas even delivers:
"If you've been on vacation in Thailand for a few weeks and don't feel like leaving your hotel for dinner or eating Thai food yet again, did you know McDonald's delivers? With over 160 McDonald's restaurants in Thailand, there will almost always be one near your hotel no matter what Thai town you're staying in. They can bring you a late supper or early breakfast, and they promise delivery within 30 minutes."
#22 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
KFC has been in Thailand since 1984.
The first KFC was opened in Thailand at Central Lat Phrao in 1984. Since then, KFC in Thailand has expanded business across the country. Nowadays, the brand has more than 500 branches in 74 provinces across the country.
#23 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
If you go to a shopping centre in suburban Bangkok you will see loads of chain stores and expensive coffee shops. 120-150 baht for a coffee is expensive by average Thai standards but Thais are paying these prices. There shopping centres are lucky to have more than 3 farangs at any one time.
#24 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Yep it is funny some of the things some people blame on tourism when it is actually due to said country developing. Lots of people seem to really like the undeveloped Thailand and I don't blame them but that is going to quick become a thing of the past unfortunately.
Agree in a few more years much of Thailand will lose its charm. Guess i should buy stock in McDonald's make a killing fattening up and killing off all the Thai's and Euros with crap food. Perhaps rename it Little Europe. With the new PM she will do a lovely job. Also i recommend purchasing a lot of Thai baht in a few years after she bankrupts the country.
#26 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
You are about 20 years too late buying into Maccas.
#27 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Why will Yingluck bankrupt the country?
#28 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Lets see where can i start. Fast trains no one can afford to use, bridges to Koh Samui, flood control, rice scams etc, etc, Can,t believe you can,t see the writing on the wall. even many Thais can see Thailand will be bankrupt in a short period of time.
#29 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
Question on Ko Phi Phi : If you were going to spend time in Ko Phi Phi (3 nights), what area is ideal for a couple who wants to be able to reach local amenities (e.g., restaurants, shopping, etc.) but doesn't necessarily want to be in an area full of bars? We'd like to be close to a beach, ideally. We're willing to spend ~$100/night (CAD), though cheaper is always welcomed.
#30 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
Phi Phi - best avoided but long beach would be it. It's very touristy nowadays. There's very little to do there. It's better visited on a day trip to snorkel.
#31 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
"Fast trains no one can afford to use, bridges to Koh Samui, flood control, rice scams etc, etc,"
Where are these fast trains? That's off into the future
When is this bridge being built? probably never
Thailand has an awful train system and needs a major overhaul.
They need to link up the new train with the skytrain to allow a smoother transition.
#32 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Titima ????????????? Listening to Captainbob too much ? Back on subject. #1 The chances of the fast train ever getting anywhere is about zero. The money likely will go to you know who and company. Agree the skytrain is the way to go. #2 the train boss needs to go he is a joke! Really, how hard is it to keep a train on time and fix the entire system. Mrs. PM is the biggest BS artist in the history of Thailand. Lots of wacky ideas that will go nowhere, sadly many Thais listen to her. Having said that i see Thailand following America and will bankrupt itself. Everyone is in debt to the banks. Maybe the Koch brothers are hiding behind the curtain. A fast train in Thailand ,Laos and China? Ever see the endless mountain ranges in Laos? Overall i am not worried any of this will ever happen. There will likely be another repeat of 1997 within a few years, which in the long run would be the best thing for Thailand. Knock it backwards by a decade and slow down the mass environmental ruin and mass tourism.
#33 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
@dngl0 to your question re Phi Phi if you can forgo the proximity to the bars etc, Phi Phi Relax Beach is excellent, but it is not a walk to the bars etc -- rather a longish boat ride. This story is a little dated, but probably useful. Closer to the bars Phi Phi The Beach Resort is pretty flash but either a longish walk or a quick boat ride to the scene. If you want to be a closer walk to the party noise becomes a real issue.
It's true the island is trashed, but there are beautiful bits of it -- especially if you're away from the hordes.
Somtam2000 Just want to thank you for speaking the truth about Phi Phi it is trashed and there have been more than a few very negative articles about the island and others in Thailand. I was just mentioning the same on a popular travel site just the other day. Within minutes was attacked by at least six of the sites most popular cyber bullies with the help from a certain poster on this site. A young man was asking for help trying for find a peaceful place away from a certain group of what he called "gap party babies" aka drunks his words not mine. And like myself was brutally attacked by this group and later banned.
#35 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
There's serious Chinese money behind this fast rail plan. It will happen. It's a matter of when not if. The sooner the better really. Trains and buses in Thailand are terrible.
#36 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Well, based on the feedback I'm hearing on Phi Phi, maybe we should consider another option: We are already planning to visit Krabi and then Khao Sok National Park. We have a flight coming in to Phuket from Chiang Mai, so we thought Phi Phi would be a nice option (we aren't planning to spend any time in Phuket), since we can grab a ferry from Phuket - Phi Phi and then another ferry from Phi Phi - Krabi, before heading to Khao Sok for a couple of days.
We have 9 days to spend in that area, before heading back to Bangkok for our flight. Keeping in mind that we definitely want to do Khao Sok, is there a better way to split up the 9 days rather than doing Phi Phi, Krabi and Khao Sok? Krabi seems like a nice place, so I think we want to keep that. Are there any other islands worth visiting?
#37 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
It depends what you want to do. You might want to go to Khao Sok from the start and then head over to Krabi . You can fly from Krabi to Bkk at the end.
You could do
You can do day tours to Phi Phi and Ko Hong from Krabi.
#38 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
You can even take a mini bus straight from the airport to Khao Sok if you wanted to skip Khao Lak.
#39 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Very good idea your skipping Phuket and Phi Phi unless you enjoy a vacation from hell. Could not pay me enough to visit there for a numerous list of reasons. Krabi on the other hand you might enjoy. Myself been there once and that was enough. Many of the big tourist areas in my opinion were ruined long ago. The first thing i notice right away are the bad attitudes and numerous scams from the Thais. Can not say i blame them after i watch the interactions with the foreigners that is alarming. The beautiful or lets say lesser damaged areas are disappearing rapidly. Are there any other islands worth seeing ? Maybe a few but sorry i don,t wish to start stampede to any remaining quiet areas. But they exist. As they say tread lightly , be kind and respectful to the Thais and enjoy your trip.
#40 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116
@dngl0 - Didn't mean to say all of Ko Phi Phi is a write-off - parts of it -- especially the far coast, is lovely -- but the trade off is you're largely restricted to your resort as the "scene" is a long and pricey boat ride away. If you're looking for 3-4 quite days on the beach, I certainly wouldn't write it off.
Krabi and its surrounds are certainly worth a look - we ran a story recently on ways to spend a few more days there -- you can see it here.
Logistics-wise your Phuket - Ko Phi Phi - Krabi - Khao Sok route makes sense, the Khao Lak one suggested above also works, though I'd say PP has the nicer beaches. Difficult call really.
Just booking our details for Krabi area. Any preferences for Ao Nang, Railay or Krabi Town? This is the end of our trip, so we wouldn't mind something that's a bit quieter (e.g., not quite as many tourists), but near a beach would be nice.
Thanks again for all of your help: It's helped immensely.
#42 dngl0 has been a member since 24/9/2013. Posts: 10
Krabi town has the best food
Ao Nang has the most nightlife and action
Railay has walking access to the best beaches
If you want to lay around on the beach go for Railay
(Ko Jum is quiet with average beaches)
November isn't that busy in Krabi.
#44 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148