I'm going to leave for BKK end of July and stay in Thailand for 20 days with my boyfriend.
We're "backpackers" on a budget, and we like to combine culture and "adventure".
Having said this, this is our first time in Thailand and I am looking for suggestions for a good itinerary. Our idea is to spend 2 days in Bangkok, then move by train and /or bus to: Ayutthaya - Sukhothai - Umphang (for a trekking near to the Myanmar border) - Chiang Mai . There we could take a flight to Koh Samui and stay in an island nearby before flying back home from BKK.
This is just a rough idea: we bought the flight to and from BKK but everything else is left to improvisation, also depending on the weather.
Considering that we are about 30 and we like a mix of nature, culture and relax, where would you suggest us to go? Is Chiang Mai a "must see", considering that we are most probably already trekking in the jungle near Myanmar? We'd like to avoid places too filled up with mass tourism (sorry for my bad English, I'm not a mothertongue :)
And as for the last days on an island, what would you suggest : Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Tao? Is there still some real nature and sea, or just resorts? :(
I know these are just too many questions...so, thanks to all of you in advance!
It depends on how much culture and adventure you want. There's a reason that tourists go to certain places, and a reason they don't go to others. If you want to experience the "real Thailand", then go to provinces that no one goes to (Yasothon or Roi Et come to mind). But there isn't much to see or do there that will give you a great happy snap or you'll be talking about with everyone back home and some sort of remarkable experience. As for beaches, well, if it's a nice beach, it likely will have a fair number of tourists, because tourists like nice beaches and some 14 to 15 million of them come here annually.
Based on what you've written so far, I would say Chiang Mai is an excellent choice. Same with Ayudayha and Sukothai. I'm not sure why you would want to go hiking near the Burmese border vice some other locations around Chiang Mai... So hard to comment on that.
As for beaches, there are plenty of guys here who can help you out there - but I'm not really one of them as I don't like the ocean.
Thanks for your reply.
I agree on your comments, and I know that in 2011 it's hard to find a beautiful spot which is not already filled up with other tourists.
I just mean that while some people are mainly interested in beautiful resorts, shopping, spa and night life, we prefer less comfortable accommodations if this could mean more nature and local people around.
However, it's not rural life we are looking for, but khmer temples and some jungle, that's why we thought about north/central thailand instead of other places which as you say may be more "real" but where we may not have so many things to see and to do (that would make sense to me if we could stay longer than just 20 days).
Re. trekkings, the main reason why we "chose" to go hiking near the Burmese is the Thi Lor Su Waterfall. We just fell in love with some pictures we saw though I still have to make sure we can reach that place during the monsoon season.
Re. the beaches, I look forward to hearing from someone who can tell me which between pha ngan and tao has the best beaches... I am afraid that koh tao is interesting only for the ones who go diving? do you think it would be difficult to find accommodation there (mid august) without booking in advance?
This place may be of interest to you:
But it is in Issan, which is the opposite direction of your waterfall near Burma.
You would have to lop off 4-5 days to get there, check it out, and get back if you didn't want to rush it.
Your itinerary looks pretty good to me too. Chiang Mai is a lot of fun, but from what you say you want to see and do, I think Kanchanaburi and/or Sangklaburi might be better choices for you. You might also consider a stopover in Kamphaeng Phet on your way to Umphang from Sukhothai. There are modest Sukhothai-era ruins there, and the man who runs Three J Guesthouse in Kamphaeng Phet does an overnight nature tour to a rural resort he also runs that gets good reviews. Plus, Beer Chang has a brewery in Kamphaeng Phet and the beer is super cheap there!
Koh Tao would be my first choice if I wanted to dive, but it sounds like Koh Pha Ngan will be the better choice for you rather than Koh Samui. Hope that helps. Cheers.