With a bit more than two weeks to go to my first Thai trip, I began gathering information on where to go and what to do.
I would greatly appreciate if you gave me your opinion on an itinerary that starts building up in my mind.
It goes like this:
- 2 nights in Bangkok (that includes a trip to Ayutthaya)
- bus/train to Kanchanaburi, and spend 2 nights there (include a trip to Erawan)
- back to Bangkok, take a flight to Chiang Mai
- Spend 5 nights in the North: Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai
- Fly back to Bangkok, and go south to see Kao Sok and try 1-2 islands (total : 9 nights)
- Back to Bangkok for 1 day.
Could you tell me whether this plan is realisitic? Should I leave something out, or it looks ok?
Do you have any suggestions for what beaches/islands to see in late October - early November (climate-wise)?
What's the best way to get from Bangkok to Kao Sok? Would it be better to go directly there, or stop on the way and leave it for the end? Is it really worth it, or it'd be better to relax on some islands instead?
I know it's a lot of questions, but bear with me please, I'm a newbie in Asia backpacking.
Thank you all in advance!
#1 tututudor has been a member since 29/9/2011. Posts: 5
It looks doable if a little rushed.
The first few days involve train/bus journeys when you might still be feeling a bit jetlagged so I think I'd head straight to CM (see if you can't get a connecting flight on arrival) and save Ayuthaya and Kanchanaburi for the end of the trip.You don't need to book flights in advance for these places so it would give you a little more flexibility to use whatever time you have left.
The weather is rather unpredictable at that time of year but usually the Andaman coast is a better bet because it's heading into dry season then (whereas the Gulf coast is heading into wet season).
There are flights to Phuket on Air Asia from Chiang Mai that could save you a day's traveling and/or an overnight stay in Bangkok. Even if Phuket itself isn't your preferred destination it will get you down south quickly. If you get an early flight to Phuket you may be able to get to a less touristy island that same day....eg Ko Yao.
If you fly back to Bangkok as you originally planned then you could also get an overnight train or a (maybe connecting) flight to Trang and go hang out on the Trang islands. Ko Kraden, Ko Muk and Ko Ngai aren't too time consuming to get to from Trang and they are also close to one another which makes for very time efficient island hopping .... and you could do a side trip to Ko Rok National Park if you wanted to as well.
Anyway, there are lots of different options, it really depends on what kind of island you're looking for, what kind of hotel facilities you need and what your interests are.
There are some island descriptions here which may help:
Whether or not it's better to go to Khao Sok or relax on islands depends entirely on you! Different folk will say different things and it depends on the weather too. If it's still raining quite a lot maybe skip it, lots of mud and leeches, but otherwise it's worth seeing. It might be best to leave that decision until after the islands though so you can see if you feel like getting out of your hammock!
Don't worry too much about the logistics of getting to Khao Sok from whichever island you chose. You'll be able to sort that out once you're there. Thailand is a dead easy country to travel about in and any travel agent will be able to help you arrange transport (and Thailand has zillions of travel agents). If you want to do it without the help of a travel agent then look at a map, work out the route and google for bus and train links between the various towns. Of course, the further away the island, the longer it will take to get there...eg Big Ko Chang near Cambodia wouldn't be a great choice for you as it's very far away from Khao Sok.
SBE, thanks a lot for your reply!
I think I will follow your advice and leave Ayuthaya and Kanchanaburi for the end. I will head North by plane first, and then go south directly from there. Although Phuket (and the likes) is not really my thing, flying in from Chiang Mai would save me time and energy. Once I'm down South I could enjoy Thai land transport to a larger extent.
Bad weather on the Gulf coast? Hmm, that's not good news, as I was planning to spend time there rather than on the Andaman side. But I guess Thailand has more to offer in the SE as well.
I'll check the islands you recommended and the related section on travelfish.
#3 tututudor has been a member since 29/9/2011. Posts: 5
Hi there. It's completely doable as I did pretty much the same trip last month.
I arrived in Bangkok and was meant to stay 2 nights but my bag was lost at the airport so I had to stay an extra night to sort that out. Then I booked a 2 day 1 night trip to Kanchanaburi which included everything I needed to see there, war cemetry, jeath museum, bridge over the river kwai, train ride, elephant riding, bamboo rafting, overnight stay, all food and drink and a day at Erawan national park, all for 900baht (with a few extras to pay). It meant we didn't need to stay 2 nights and it so was cheap considering how much we saw and did, and the food was the best we had in the whole trip. Its also only 2 hours on a minibus so even if you're jetlagged its not as much as a problem.
I then went back to BKK and got the overnight train the following night to Chiang Mai and I had 4 days there because we researched exactly what we wanted to do and after 4 days we had done everything and didn't have time to spare to just sit around.
We then got an overnight train back to BKK then went to Cambodia and Vietnam for a while before returning back. We flew back from HCMC, got the sky train and the subway to the train station then got an overnight train to Chumpon to go to Koh Tao for 4 days, then a ferry to Koh Phangan for 3 days, then an overnight train home from Surathani.
Although it was a lot of travelling we did the majority of it overnight so 1) you save on paying for a hotel, and 2) you sleep the whole way so you're not missing out on a day. I spent about 3 weeks in Thailand and I feel that it was enough time, as long as you know what you want to do in each place. But its so easy to book trips and accommodation in each area you go to so you might change your mind when you get there.
#4 Nixxypie has been a member since 27/4/2011. Posts: 55
I am glad it worked out for you, but just your description caught my eye for a few of reasons:
1. In Chiang Mai you didn't have any time to just sit around. In my view that's a major negative when coming to SEA to try and get a feel for the place (which might well not have been your intent). Just sitting around is, in my view, a plus.
2. The schedule was so planned, there didn't appear to be any time left over for spontaneity. When on vacation a lot of people want to chill and it didn't look like there was any chill time in that plan (again I could be wrong here - you know better than I how it was).
3. I despise overnight traveling because I don't sleep. I toss, I turn, I'm unfomfortable, and I have to spend half the next day actually sleeping to make up for what I lost not sleeping the night before. Also, I arrive prior to check in and get slapped with a surgarge for checking in prior to 12.
That's not to say your approach is no good. It obviously worked for you. Just a caution to some that a lot of rapid moving around can leave you beat and take the pleasure out of what is suppose to be a good time.
Madmac, it was all spontanious. We had nothing planned in advance and we looked up every destination before going and said if we go to so and so, we would like to do so and so, if we go here we would like to do that, but we looked at a lot of other places we didn't end up going, and even places we did go we didn't always end up doing what we had planned.
For me personally I didn't want to go all the way to SEA just to sit around and do nothing. Although I would like to have got to know the people and the culture the career I am in meant that this would be my only chance to get 5 weeks off ever, until I quit my job (I'd just finished my degree as a nurse and had the summer off before starting my job, now that I am working I can only ever get 1 week off at a time, and SEA is too far to go for 1 week, so unfortunately it was my only option).
We also left the chill time to the last 8 nights we had on the islands. That's why we took our route because we knew we would be tired by the end of it, so we had 4 weeks of business then the last 8 days we just sat on the beach, relaxed and did nothing... But after doing something every day we found it so hard to just sit doing nothing!
And I agree with you on the train situation, I never slept well, the either because we had a fan train and it was far too hot, or we had an aircon train and it was far too cold! And I kept waking up to check on my valuables cause I'm the skitiest person ever... But on the other hand, the girl I was travelling with was on a tighter budget than I was, and normally when I go on holiday I stay in 5* hotels... So when I was staying in guest houses in a fan room or dorm room I wasn't sleeping anyway because I never felt comfortable (although nothing ever went wrong and most of the places we stayed were a good standard), so I was equally tired every day whether I slept in a guesthouse or train. But it was nice just to be able to lie down in a little cocoon and relax, whether you're sleeping or reading a book or contemplating life I think it's nicer to do in on your little train bed under your blanket.
But yeah I do agree that some people would find the travelling difficult. Personally I thought it would be a lot more awful than it actually was but even when we travelled during the day I loved just looking out of the window and talking to the other people on the bus or train. This also meant I met so many people from other countries and got to learn a bit about their culture as well. Although travelling so much isn't an ideal plan, if you only have 3 weeks and you understand it will involve so many trains and moving about, and if its your only option to go then there's no reason why you can't do it.
#6 Nixxypie has been a member since 27/4/2011. Posts: 55
Yeah, like I said, I am glad it worked for you and I understand your motivations. For me personally, I just wouldn't do it. I guess part of the reason for that is I don't care about seeing "things" anymore. Unless it's connected to military history, I just don't care much. The other thing is I like to take time to get to know people, and that means spending time in one place. The killer for me though is the overnight bus travel. I loathe is deeply. Also I love the laid back, slow pace here (the reason I live here). It's what I think makes the place special. By and large, the architecture here is crap. The place is dirty and trash ridden. The food is monotonous. BUT, the chilled environment is great! Of course I recognize I am not everyone. We all have different tastes and interests. I was just giving a word of warning that there's a flip side to what's "doable". Because someone can do it doesn't mean they should. Maybe they should - it obviously was the way for you to go. As long as you go in eyes wide open it's all good. Like I said, glad it worked out for you.
"For me personally I didn't want to go all the way to SEA just to sit around and do nothing."
Sounds great. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to go all the way to SEA just to spend all my time rushing from place to place either.
I love the overnight trains in Thailand, and estimate I've spent about 45 nights on them over the years. But as others have said, the quality of sleep isn't always the greatest - it is more of a logistics and adventure thing. I'm always up for a night or two per trip on the trains, but wouldn't want to overdo it if I could avoid it, because the next day after an overnight train trip, particularly after the long-haul flight from North America, can be a bit groggy.
Chiang Mai is one of my favorite places. There is so much to do there, but the reason I like the place so much is because it is great to just wander around and explore. I love to discover the newest restaurant or wander into a temple or try a new massage place or just walk along the river past the flower market. It is great to do research ahead of time, but the problem with too much of that is you are relying entirely on others' suggestions and it leaves no time to discover a place on your own.
No zip lines in Mukdahan either I guess?
Nope, no zip lines. I might build one at my house in Yaso though. Got a big piece of land there. As everyone here knows, I much prefer to ride my chopper or a motorcycle to get from A to B, but for tourists coming here, that's a more difficult option to exercise.