My boyfriend and I (aged 22) are planning on going to Thailand in November for 3 weeks. We've never travelled or back packed before therefore don't really have a clue on how to plan, prepare etc etc. So we thought the best idea was to start here where we can gather information on what to do, where to go. We don't want to go there and waste time in places that aren't as good as others, considering our short period of time spent there.
First of all we did consider going to Vietnam and Cambodia but perhaps this is wishful thinking. Although we are still debating whether Ha Long Bay is still worth a visit, depending on whether there are similar or better locations in Thailand like this, therefore we would not be wasting time making the trip over to Vietnam.
The kind of things we are looking for are beautiful beaches (scenery), animals (tigers, elephants etc etc), boat trips, diving (any kind of physical activity surrounding this kind of category), and maybe some form of historical/religious ruins/artefacts (to be fair we aren't really into this kind of thing but can be if it is considerably breathtaking) and obviously food??? ha
We are basing our trip around the 17th of November which is when the full moon party is. We were thinking of starting North in Bangkok and Chain Mai etc for 5-6 days and then unsure on where to head straight from here. Our plan is to visit Ko Tao/Koh Samui/Koh Pagn (6days)for the full moon party, then head to krabi/phuket/phi phi (6days). However we are unsure on which part to head to straight from the north.
So any advice, help etc in regards to the above would be much appreciated :)
#1 willnhannah has been a member since 10/1/2013. Posts: 2
If you want my opinion, you really don't have enough time to do all you say you want to do without rushing around like chickens with your heads cut off :) Stick to Thailand. You arrive in BK, 2 days, A day trip to Ayutthaya and a Night train to Chiang Mai 3-4 days, maybe a jungle trek return to BK - Head south, pick one coast or the other I'd avoid the full moon party crap, phi phi & and Phuket. This is just mass tourism gone bad. Pick one coast or another and just relax... remember you still have to get back to BK. As for seeing drugged tigers, not recommended. You still have lots of time to plan. You should also consider weather conditions in Nov. as to which coast would be the best.
Thailand's equivalent to Ha Long Bay is Phang Nga Bay. Lotsa places in Phang Nga town and Phuket can organise day-trips around the bay. I did a daytrip with Mr Kean out of his shop at the Phang Nga town bus station - but he also organised for me to stay on Ko Panyi, the Sea Gypsy fishing island on stilts in the bay overnight. A good experience and very inexpensive.
btw you can also do southern Phang Nga Bay trips out of the Krabi area - won't go near Ko Panyi but people tell me the trips are good.
Your itinerary sound okay to me - personally I'd limit time on Phuket because it has less to offer first time backpackers than your other destinations. I think you can fly direct from the north to Phuket, so the Andaman side would maybe be the first stop of in the south.
Good suggestions so far by altmtl and tezza...
If I were you I'd do this:
Bangkok (sightseeing, etc.) >
Chiang Mai (temples, maybe a jungle trek and/or a day trip to the elephant centers in Lampang) >
Back to Bangkok (could make a stop at Sukhothai or Ayutthaya along the way if interested in history, ruins) >
Ko Pha Ngan for the full moon party, that is if you don't mind putting up with monsoon season as November is the height of it on the Gulf side (it's also pointless to also go to Ko Samui and Ko Tao - unless you want the diving on Ko Tao >
Ferry to Surat Thani then bus to Khao Sok national park (trekking, boat trip on Chiew Lan Lake, which has similar but arguably more breathtaking scenery as Ha Long Bay -- otherwise skip Khao Sok and go straight to Phang Nga for the boat trip at Ao Phang Nga as mentioned by tezza) >
Andaman islands to end your trip -- take your pick, personally I'd skip Phuket / Phi Phi and hit some further south like Ko Lanta, Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, Ko Tarutao, Ko Lipe, Ko Bulon etc. These are just suggestions, half the fun is choosing. The following might help you:
Andaman Sea Island Hopper
Thai islands for nature lovers
Thai islands to lose yourself on
In terms of the logistics, don't stress it -- it's really not too difficult to get to any of these places as they all have plenty of travel offices and are generally used to pointing foreign travelers in the right direction.
I have to agree with the above posters for their ideas. Mine is quite similar but with a few differences:
If you want touristy, you can do some of the following:
Bangkok - Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Khao San Road, Khlong ride, Night bike tour
Kanchanaburi - A few museums, The bridge over the river Kwai, The Tiger Temple, The night market
Chiang Mai - Cooking Class, Hill tribe treks, Sunday night market, Doi Suthep, Wat Umong
Koh Samui/Koh Pha Ngan/Koh Tao - Monsoon Season - Full Moon Party (I had a lot of fun several times - but please be careful), Diving, Beaches
Ferry/Mini Bus to Phuket /Krabi or Ao Nang
Ao Nang/Krabi - Railay Beach (Rock Climbing)
Phuket - Diving, Phuket Town, Monkey Hill, Old Phuket town walking tour, Bangala Road (partying), Muay Thai Boxing, Big Buddha
You have many choices and just as many options to make it all work. Let us know how you make out.
Thanks for your replies :) They have all been extremely helpful.
After looking at the weather reviews we have decided to go for 3 weeks starting the beginning of December (30th-21st december). Therefore the weather should not be as much of an issue. Also it is probably for the best that we just travel Thailand.
As the full moon party is on the 17th december and we are wanting to be back home before xmas, we are planning on heading to phuket/krabi/phi phi first from the north and then onto the koh samui/koh pha ngan/koh tao islands for the full moon party. This then gives us enough time to explore the islands and return to bangkok to fly home.
To move from north (chiang mai) to south (phuket/krabi) we are thinking of flying to save time. Is this recommended? Although we thought it would be an experience to go on the night train...
From your experiences of Thailand, what were the highlights for you? most memorable? in terms of scenery, activities...
Also is it bad for bug bites? as would need to take this into consideration while packing for the trip.
#6 willnhannah has been a member since 10/1/2013. Posts: 2
We've done the night train and, if I had the time and wanted to save money, would do it again but prefer the convenience of a plane when pressed for time. We found that because we were traveling at night and sleeping, we did not see much anyways. If you choose the train you can use Seat 61 to help you give you an idea of what to expect.
I do recommend flying just because you will have more time to spend on the beach, visiting Wats, buying trinkets, or whatever it is you plan to do.
We've flown from Chiang Mai to Phuket for around 160.00USD (approx. 4500THB) and seen it as high as 350.00USD/person. We've also flown into Krabi for about 180.00USD from Chiang Mai (was a seat sale so prices are closer to 300.00USD). Flights out of Samui have run us around 100.00-180.00USD (seat sales are our friends) but expect to be closer to 180.00USD.
I would suggest you watch Air Asia, Thai Air, Nok Air, Bangkok Airways for prices and order them in advance. It does lock you in but its not like you have 6 months of time to idle away on taking your time to travel around the country.
We always seem to arrive in BKK at around 23:00, stay close to the airport and fly out the next morning. If you arrived on the 30th, this would put you in Chiang Mai on Sunday afternoon December 1and after a nap (good ole jet lag), you could hit the night bazaar/Sunday walking street which is a neat first experience for Thailand and Chiang Mai. The next few days can be leisurely with a trip to Doi Suthep, cooking classes, Chiang Mai Zoo & Aquarium, etc.
Then if you fly down to Phuket or Krabi, spend your time there enjoying whatever it is you want to do there (don't forget Phuket Fantasea - if you want a great vegas style show - done in a Thai way - well worth the money in my opinion) you can easily catch the bus across to Surat Thani, take the ferry to Koh Samui/Koh Pha Nang/Koh Tao.
From Koh Samui, you can jet back to BKK and enjoy the sights there and then fly on home.
Flying saves a lot of time and can be very cheap if you book in advance, though the overnight sleeper train to Chang Mai from Bangkok or from Bangkok to Surat Thani (for ferry to Ko Phangan or Samui) is pretty painless (though i'd say its not really an "experience" like say Indian trains). However its a long way from Chang Mai down to Surat Thani by train. I seem to recall many years ago getting the over night train from Chang Mai to Bangkok, then the day train to Chumphon to get the mid night boat to Ko Tao, then being shattered for a few days (and having massive arguments with the girl i was with!). If budget airlines were around then we may have had a less stressful trip... Also remember the train route goes down the east coast, so you'd have to transfer over by bus to the west coast.
Bugs.. well the mozzies come out at dusk - covering up with light long sleeves/trousers helps as does mozzie spray, citronella or tiger balm.. if you're in some of the really budget places you may well get a few unwelcome bites.
Hotels - depends on your budget - but there's loads of reviews on this very site - have a look around
I'd try and limited the amount of places you try and get to - 3 weeks isnt that long and you want to have a few days in each place.
Fave experience? for me probably just chilling on a quiet-ish moonlit beach with a beer chatting and looking at the stars & fishing boats out at sea. I've always enjoyed the bladerunner aspects of Bangkok too (little noodle stall next to big skyscrapers etc etc)
enjoy the planning - its half the fun
#8 JohnnyM has been a member since 2/9/2012. Posts: 23
Guest Houses - What do you need in a room? Hot water or only Cold? Fan or AC? Private or shared Bathroom? Concierge? On the beach? You have many choices regardless of your answers and with a bit of searching, you'll be able to find several places that match your needs. I don't believe in booking ahead with the exception of my first and last night in BKK whenever I have been to Thailand. We have found a place that we find is comfortable, reasonable, and close to the airport with a shuttle ride built into the price and find it comforting that we know we're set up to come and go.
There are several sights to look on and cross reference the multitude of places to stay. If you opt for the wallet friendly places, some are not listed on the internet and only accept walk ups. We always seem to pick an area, get 3 or 4 names and use that as a starting point when we arrive. If we see something that looks better while we're in the area, we stop in and check it out. For example, in Chiang Mai, we typically have stayed in the Southeast corner of the old city or the central portion. But last year while exploring, we found several guesthouses on the north side that were quite nice and extremely cheap. When we go this year, we are going to check them out. If you are rich and looking to stay at 5 star resort, I would suggest you book ahead. :)
Bugs - As JohnnyM said, Skeeters do show up. So bring or buy some spray if you are normally eaten alive by them. We've only really encountered a few times where they have really been a bother. Each time, the bar/restaurant that we were at, had coils burning or had bug spray on hand.
Best part of the trip is always hanging out with locals and enjoying a good laugh. Next to that is the diving...