I'm near to start a 6 month trip through SEA (yeeah!) and my landing port is Bangkok, I'm arriving the 19th of July and I pretend to stay in Thailand for 30 days (because of the visa limit) and I pretty much don't have any set plans... so I'm just going to go where I feel is cool once I'm there, I think.
I will investigate in guides (travelfish for starters) of cool places, and I'm doing my research altogether..
The thing is that I think I will be arriving in high season, and lots of places will be probably crowded... I don't like that. So would you advice that I go to the north first to let the crowds start dispersing in the south (where I think are the main touristy areas) and then hit it by the 10th of Aug or so? Do you think I will have problems finding guesthouses/hostels around those dates (I prefer not doing reservations)? what recommendations can you make?
I'm interested in seeing nice land and sea landscapes most of all, but also getting inside the forests, visiting national parks with elephants and other wildlife... I wouldn't mind doing some snorkeling but doing some kayaking in the bays would be a priority if possible... and also sea cruises or rides around the limestone islands. I have the impression that the south has more of the things that are appealing to me.
So what do you think?
Well clearly if the ocean is a big part of what interests you, then the south it is. There isn't any ocean in the North or Northeast anyway.
Since I have spent zero time in those regions - I don't like the ocean very much (with a few exceptions like Tiwi beach in Kenya) - I'm not the right guy to ask about that area. But there are guys here who can, and I am sure will, help you out.
If planning to spend a fair amount of time in Thailand (more than 30 days wih multiple visits) you should look at getting a proper Thailand tourist visa (allowing 2 or more 60-day entries in some cases) at your nearest Thai consulate before your trip. Or just enter on a free 30-day visa exemption, then get a real visa in Vientiane or Phnom Penh etc. as you tour around SE Asia. Remember, if you re-enter Thailand by land border without a visa you just get 15 days.
July is not peak season down south, compared with busier January/February, but it is a secondary busy time, mainly due to European summer holidays. Here in Chiang Mai mid-June to mid-August is perhaps busier. My small guesthouse, travel agency, cafe is usually doing brisk trade in July. That said, you can show up in most tourist destinantions and find decent rooms on arrival, especially arriving mornings 10-noon timeframe. Anyway most budget guesthouses and bungalows down south don't take advance bookings. Good to do research on your next destinantion so you have an idea, but then wing it.
July is low season in most of Thailand except the southern Gulf (Samui, Phangan and Tao) which has a different wet season.
So unless you lob there, things are going to be very uncrowded. And I reckon the impact of the political stuff may seem them more quiet than usual too.