This was based on advice I gave to some American friends who were going to Thailand for 2 weeks for their honeymoon. They had never been to South-East Asia let alone Thailand before, they were also looking for a relaxing trip with a bit of culture and lots of food. I’ve done crazy amounts of sightseeing in 2/3 week trips before and can definitely advise on that, but this is a more laid-back itinerary and flexible set of suggestions for independent travellers who just need a starting point.
Instead of trying to pack everything in, it splits time between three locations: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and a beachy area near Krabi called Si Kao.
This was ideal as they were flying from the US to Bangkok, so could get a bit of the urban experience there, the cultural experience in the North and then some romantic beach time in the South. It also sticks relatively close to the airports where you can get domestic flights, as it is a short trip you don’t want to lose time travelling around too much.
I’ve lived in Thailand working in urban rural areas and travelled there a few times, so I often do things the cheap and rough way, staying in budget guesthouses and using local transport options like Songtheaws which are converted pick-up trucks that run as a cross between a taxi and a bus service.
You can really splurge in Thailand and get excellent value for money, so this trip is based off enjoying yourselves and having a honeymoon experience without blowing the bank.
When booking accommodation, it is best to check honest reviews online. The good news is, you can get somewhere very fancy for around 100 dollars, so if you really do end up booking somewhere terrible and can’t negotiate a discount it isn’t a huge loss. That said, when we were disappointed with our accommodation in Koh Samui we managed to get our money back for the nights we didn’t stay. We used this to book into a much nicer resort in another area of the island and had a much better time. I’ve given some hotel suggestions below. If you are a member of Hilton or Marriott etc you may prefer to stay in those brands, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality you can get for a low price. The Conrad Hilton and the Meridian are two well-priced brand name hotels in Bangkok. Shangri-la and Peninsula are two other chains with truly remarkable accommodation in Asia.
General advice about Thailand and getting around
Thailand has three temperatures: hot, very hot and very VERY hot. Despite this, it can still get a little bit cool at night up North.
For urban flights, I suggest flying Bangkok Airways, which is a cross between flying a full-service airline and business class, as you get lounge access and things included on a regular ticket. If you fly a budget airline internally like Nok or AirAsia, make sure you check what airport your flight is from in Bangkok as there are two.
Travelfish is the best travel website for South East Asia (SE Asia). If you want a guidebook, I would suggest rough guides, or just get all your information from the travelfish website. The only problem with travelfish is that it has so much information on SE Asia you might get information overload, also it gears towards the very independent traveller, so might put you off visiting some more developed areas which can actually be a lot of fun.
Thai people greet with a little bow of the head while your hands are pressed together like a prayer, you can use this gesture for hello, goodbye and thank you. Hello is Sa-wah-dee-kaa (If you are female) Sa-wah-dee-krap (If you are male). Thank You is Korp-khun-kaa (Female) or Korp-khun-krap (Male).
When visiting temples, you can’t have your feet point towards the Buddha (so sit with feet tucked under yourself).
DO NOT use Tuktuks – unless your hotel has a dedicated tuktuk for a novelty ride. Tuktuk drivers are generally just scammers and they work for “gem stores”, they will tell you wherever you want to go is closed and will try take you to the gem store instead. Remember: NO TUKTUK NO GEM STORE. However, you may wish to use a tuktuk in Chiang Mai.
Instead use the Skytrain(BTS)/ferry in Bangkok or taxis/hotel shuttle buses in other areas. When you enter the taxi say “meter” in a Thai accent (it’s the same word in Thai) to ensure they turn the meter on and don’t charge you any set rates.
If you go to the Cinema, they will play the national anthem before the movie and you MUST stand. If you don’t you can actually go to prison. Other than that Thailand is pretty chill and relaxed with laws – wait til you see the driving!
Hospitals/Dentists etc are very good, particularly in the tourist areas. Don’t drink tap water, get bottled water and use it even to wash your teeth.\
- You are flying in and out of Bangkok, to make things less tiring I would suggest staying in Bangkok after you arrive for a few days.
- You can stay in a nice hotel at a good price, see some temples etc before heading up north or south to some islands.
- Bangkok actually has a lot of incredible places to visit and is a big, busy vibrant city. It has a lot of layers and the people who don’t like it probably didn’t get to discover the best layers and stuck to the nasty tourist areas like Khao San Rd and Patpong/Silom.
What to see:
- Grand Palace
- Really incredible
- Go in the morning, buy your tickets in the foreigner queue
- You need to dress “modest” for the temple/palace, this means long skirts for ladies, pants for guys and both need shoulders covered. Because it is very hot, you probably don’t want to wear this all day, so you can hire the clothes at the temple for about 200baht.
- Wat Pho
- I like this temple because it has a giant reclining Buddha and is the place where traditional thai massage was invented
- Wat Arun
- Slightly less visited temple, cool because it is a smaller complex and you can climb the temple. The decorations are made from small pieces of different coloured porcelain etc.
- Take the ferry over
- Jim Thompson House
- An incredible lush garden surrounding a traditional style house and museum, set alongside a Klong (like a canal) in Bangkok. The man himself was just as interesting as the house.
- Chatuchak Market
- Known colloquially at JJ, this is a labyrinthine complex of endless market stalls, we have had lots of fun spending a day or half day there and don’t forget to bargain. It’s open on weekends and Friday nights.
- Hipster areas
- These are constantly changing but its worth checking out what night markets and other hipster places are being suggested around the time of your visit, I found incredible night markets in old railway yards like Talad Rot Fai (Train Market) as well as cool hip areas (Ari, Sukhumvit, Ekkamai, Thonglor) to wander around and shop. Staying far away from the tacky and tourist areas of Khao San Rd and Patpong.
- Siam Square
- Siam Paragon and surrounds malls. If you need an airconditioned, western-style shopping centre and break – this is the place for you. It has all sorts of stores, a good bookshop, food court and cinema on the top floor, we have seen a few good movies in these cinemas, in English with early release dates and some pretty fancy seating options. You can also check out MBK. It is fun to just wander around enjoy and get lost!
Beautiful, verdant and vibrant. Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to experience the best of Northern Thai food and culture. We would recommend walking around and enjoying the town, eating delicious food including a cooking lesson and visiting a spa.
Cooking class – do an evening class, as its fun and counts as your dinner. This also means you don’t lose a day of sightseeing. We did ours with Siam Rice.
Your hotel may have spa, which you should indulge in if you cant. If not we went to this spa and loved it: Cheeva Spa.
Wat Doi Suthep, a stunning temple on a hill 15km outside of Chiang Mai. You can organise transport with your accommodation.
Travelfish give the best updates on the current situation and development in the islands and beach areas around Thailand. My personal favourites are Koh Chang and Prachuap Khiri Khan and least favourites are Pattaya, Phuket Ko Samui.
However, people want for different things and every location can offer something. If you don’t mind a lack of culture, you could visit a more touristy area like Phuket but stay in a high-end resort and not leave that resort. My picks for friends visiting for the first time is to fly to Krabi and stay along the coast there, this area is developed enough without being overly touristy and the flights are easy and frequent. You fly to Krabi and stay at a nice hotel along the coast, organise a transfer with your hotel to make it easier. If you had more time I would suggest Koh Lanta, this however requires a ferry transfer.
From Krabi, if it is open you can visit Koh Phi Phi – but this has been shut for tourists for a bit. You can also go kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, rock climbing as well as cooking classes and other activities.
Itinerary for two weeks in Thailand
Here is the rough itinerary:
|2||Arrive Bangkok||Check into hotel, freshen up, do some sightseeing.|
|3||Bangkok||Royal Palace and other temples.|
|4||Bangkok||Jim Thompson house and shopping.|
|5||Travel to Chiang Mai||(Fly to Chiang Mai)||Check into hotel, cooking class in evening.|
|6||Chiang Mai||Visit Wat Doi Suthep and get massages in evening.|
|7||Chiang Mai||Go sightseeing or relax in hotel.|
|8||Fly to Krabi in afternoon||Get transfer to hotel relax.|
|9||Si Kao||Kayaking or other tour.|
|10||Si Kao||Cooking class or other experience.|
|11||Si Kao||Relax at the resort.|
|12||Fly back to Bangkok in afternoon||Drinks at rooftop bar, final dinner.|
|13||Flight home||Make sure you get to Bangkok Airport early as there can be long queues at customs.|
Prices in approx USD equivalent as this was for American friends.
- Plaza Athenee (approx 180 USD per night when prepaid)
- Shangri-la (approx 200 USD per night)
- Peninsula (approx 200 USD per night)
- Aloft Sukhumvit (approx 100 USD per night)
- Lemonseed rooms (approx 40 usd per night)
- Siripanna (approx 150 US per night) book direct (see packages)
- Oasis Baan Saen (approx 187 US per night) book via booking.com
- The Craft Nimmam (86 USD per night) book direct or via booking.com
- Funky Monkey (approx 28 USD per night)
- Centara Grand Beach Resort (approx. 200 USD per night) book direct or on booking.com
- Anantara Si Kao (approx. 220 per night) book direct
- Our friends stayed here and absolutely loved it [UPDATE Jan 2020, this hotel was forced to close in mid-2019, as the location was too good to be true and was deemed to encroach on a national forest]