The Land of Smiles: 13 Days in Thailand
(for the non-backpacker)
Thailand has been at the top of my list for a while so when $500 roundtrip airfare popped up in my inbox (thanks Scott's Cheap Flights!), I pulled the trigger immediately. The 20-hour travel time has always intimidated me (which is why I procrastinated planning an Asian adventure) but fact of the matter is, I'll never be able to see the whole world if I can't get over it. So, after confirming with my doctor that my vaccines were up to date (they weren't) and testing several sleep medicines to get me through this super long flight (in the end good ol' Benadryl won out), I packed up my pills, my noise-cancelling headphones (Bose QC25), $100 worth of travel-sleep accessories, threw some clothes in my carry-on and headed to the "stunning" Newark International Liberty Airport.
Thailand is a huge country so I knew there was no way for me to be able to see all of it in such a short time. Most people I spoke to chose to be thorough and prioritize one or two cities but I need to see the whole world. I chose movement. Five cities, 13 days. Let's go.
Cities: I wanted to experience culture and eat my way through the major cities in the North and then spend the South part of the trip relaxing in the islands. I decided on Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the North, Krabi, Koh Samui and Phuket in the South.
Hotels: You can plan this same exact trip and spend as little as $9 per night for accommodations (backpacker's paradise) or you can spend $250+ per night and stay at baller hotel rooms that include your very own infinity pool. Yes, my trip became quite spendy but I ended up experiencing super-luxe hotels at a fraction of what they charge in other parts of the world. If you don't want to splurge all the way, the high-end hotels in Thailand have some of the most amazing communal pools I've ever seen and affordable rooms that will give you the same 5-star experience.
Travel: Uber is insanely cheap in Thailand but was only available in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It definitely made it easy to navigate the language barrier and get where I needed to go worry (and scam) free. That said, I definitely suggest a tuk-tuk ride whenever possible. You can negotiate the price and it's a quick little thrill ride you won't find anywhere else. In the islands, we arranged all land-travel through the hotels.
As far as traveling from island to island, I chose to fly instead of taking the ferries (to save time rather than money). For example, Krabi to Koh Samui is a ~4 hour ferry while the flight is only 45 minutes. The tiny airports are only 15 minutes from my hotel choices and I only had to show up about an hour before the flight. By the way, no matter how short the flight is, they'l serve a meal! I sure do miss that in America.
Day 1: Long flight - Hong Kong layover.
Day 2: Bangkok: ancient temples, eat a marathon meal at Gaggan (a top 50 restaurant in the world), boat noodles. For more on Bangkok, click here.
Day 3: Bangkok/Night flight to Chiang Mai
Day 4: Chiang Mai: more Temples, tigers and baby lions, amazing street food.
Day 5: Chiang Mai: elephant owner for a day at Patara Elephant Farm, Muay Thai fight.
Day 6: Chiang Mai: hire a car for a 3 hour drive to Chiang Rai, visit the White Temple, explore the night markets, eat more street food. Read more about my time in Chiang Mai here.
Day 7: Fly to Krabi
Day 8: Krabi: Railey Beach, Phra Nang Cave Beach
Day 9: Fly to Koh Samui
Day 10: Koh Samui: tour Angthong National Marine Park
Day 11: Fly to Phuket
Day 12: Speedboat tour to Phang Nga Bay
Day 13: Longest day of my life. Literally, the time change is 12 hours so it was a 36 hour case of the Mondays for me.
If I had some more time I would've liked to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai, visited some more islands like Koh Tao, Koh Lanta and the Phi Phi Islands (I hear they're very crowded and I don't love to party) but otherwise I wouldn't have changed a thing about my trip.