A trip to Thailand isn't complete without at least a little down time on the islands, and this trip has plenty. You'll touch on many of the favourite traveller scenes in Thailand, with opportunity for a bit of jungle, culture and history before heading south for the islands.
This isn't an "off the beaten path adventure", but remember the beaten path is so beaten for a good reason!
One advantage of using a trip like this as a base, is that there's lots of potential for sidetrips, and that two to three week-long stay can easily stretch out over a month.
A good way to minimise your time in transit is to make good use of Thailand's network of domestic budget airlines.
Pay attention to the weather! There's few things as miserable as a weeklong long sojourn on a sodden island. More climate information can be found here: Travelfish interactive weather map.
The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is three week, though four to five weeks is far more comfortable.
1) Bangkok -> Kanchanaburi (lush scenery, river trips, national parks, trekking, historical interest)
2) Kanchanaburi -> Sangkhlaburi (Stunning scenery, trekking, boat trips, underwater town)
3) Sangkhlaburi -> Chumphon -> Ko Tao (island, diving, beach life, backpacker scene)
4) Ko Tao -> Ko Pha Ngan (island, full moon party diving, beach life, backpacker scene)
5) Ko Pha Ngan -> Ko Samui (island, beach life, tourist scene, clubs and nightlife)
6) Ko Samui -> Bangkok
7) Bangkok -> Ko Samet (island, beach life, backpacker scene)
8) Ko Samet -> Ko Chang (island, beach life, backpacker scene)
Two days: fly from Bangkok to Ko Samui return
Three days: Visit Kanchanaburi as a long day-trip (not recommended)
One day: Strike north from Bangkok to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. While it can be visited as a long day-trip, an overnight stay is recommended.
One day: Break-up the trip south with an overnight stay at Phetburi and visit the amazing Kaeng Krachan National Park
Two days: Fit another island in at stunning Ko Mun Nork -- not cheap, but it is lovely.
Three days: Strike out from Ko Chang for some more island-downtime on the very popular neighbouring islands of Ko Maak or Ko Kut.
To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.
|THAILAND: Jungle and islands - Islands and more islands|
|Ko Samui||Surat Thani||-||-||-||1:20|
|Ko Pha Ngan||Surat Thani||-||-||-||5:00|
|Ko Tao||Surat Thani||-||-||-||6:30|
|Bangkok||Ban Phe (for Ko Samet)||-||3:00||-||-|
|Ban Phe||Ko Samet||-||-||-||1:00|
|Ban Phe||Klaeng (for Ko Mun Nork)||-||1:30||-||-|
|Kleang||Ko Mun Nork||-||-||-||1:00|
|Ban Phe||Trat (for Ko Chang)||-||3:00||-||-|
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.