One of the places I’m most hopeful of being able to travel to in 2021 is Thailand. Hopefully, it will happen by the end of the year! Thailand is an iconic destination for all kinds of travellers, but what’s it like to actually visit? You’ll soon find out!
Who is Thailand for?
I’d recommend a trip to Thailand for pretty much anyone, as it’s one of those destinations that has a huge variety of things to see and do. The more active among us will want to do some rock climbing or diving, while others might sit by a pool for a week straight. Others will spend their nights in dodgy bars, some will focus on wellness and yoga, and a handful will venture where tourists fear to tread in order to get to know the “real” Thailand. There are dozens of other examples too – whatever kind of holiday you’re after you’ll probably find it in Thailand.
Arriving in Thailand
Most tourists will arrive in Bangkok, by far the biggest city in Thailand, but you can also cross several land borders or fly into Chiang Mai, Phuket, or a number of other smaller cities (which mostly serve local Southeast Asian destinations). If arriving in Bangkok, it’s a good idea to spend a day or two in the city before heading further afield. Khao San Road is an area completely catered to tourists – you can organise pretty much everything there, meet other travellers and have a fun night on the town. Or, if you hate crowds, especially tourist crowds, there are plenty of other areas to stay in.
Where to Go Next
From Bangkok, which is central Thailand, you have countless options on where to go next. I’ll list a few of the options and who I’d recommend them for.
The southern islands: This is the Thailand that you’ll see on social media – perfect white sand beaches, inviting water, delicious food eaten metres from the ocean, island hopping, sunburn, beach bars, pet monkeys. The islands “are Thailand” for a lot of people, and if you’re into lazy beach days and hazy nights, you’ll want to head straight to one. Which island though? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for – check out my post to help guide your decision!
Central Thailand: The central chunk of the country offers up more of a cultural / historical experience. Towns like Lopburi (Monkey Town!!), Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya are fun places to spend a day or two – each has plenty of history to explore, from the ancient temples of Ayutthaya and Lopburi to the WW2 history of Kanchanaburi (Bridge on the River Kwai). Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya are popular, so have little “tourist areas” where you’ll find heaps of places to eat, drink and sleep.
Northern Thailand: Northern Thailand is home to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, as well as nice mountain towns and plenty of wilderness. You’ll find plenty of people to party with in Chiang Mai and Pai, but the other towns and cities are pretty quiet and attract a different (maybe older?) kind of crowd. In northern Thailand you’ll see old temples, jungles, waterfalls, mountains, as well as Sukhothai, an ancient Thai capital.
Somewhere Else: You could also head east, where there are a few islands that attract a quieter kind of traveller than the southern islands (Koh Kood is a highlight). You could also go to Isaan (north-east) or to some other place within Thailand’s vast train / local flight system.
A Little Bit of Everything
Your typical traveller doesn’t really fit into a box, meaning they might like aspects of each of the three places above. I created a two-week Thailand itinerary that takes in a lot of the highlights, giving you a good taste of what this country has to offer. Of course, you won’t see everything in two weeks – that’s why a lot of people keep returning!
How Expensive is Thailand?
Thailand is one of the best value travel destinations in the world. You can get excellent food for a couple of dollars, bus and train travel is cheap and you can get some cheap accommodation if you know where to look (and avoid the islands). You should be able to do it for $30 USD, or less if you were strict with funds, but a lot of people may want to splash out a bit more than that. The big thing to consider when it comes to prices is where you are – Bangkok and the islands tend to be more expensive for accommodation, and things like transport tend to add up on some of the islands as well.
But What Will My Trip Be Like?
I have no idea, but I’ll try and help. Below I created a few “sample” travellers and what they tend to get up to in Thailand – hopefully you’ll see yourself in one of them!
- Gloria – 28 – Teacher: Gloria has had a tough year or two and wants to escape the city and reconnect with her inner self. She heads to northern Thailand where she looks after elephants, does yoga by rice fields, learns to cook green curry, becomes a vegan and then never uses her green curry cooking skills.
- Gary – 44 – Office Worker: Gary hates his job, but he saves enough from it to take a trip to Thailand every year. People think he’s a sex tourist, but its more about the conversations for him. I’m not sure if anyone believes that though, and he feels judged by the younger tourists around him. Sex tourism is a strange aspect of travel in Thailand. You’ll definitely see it, but then you shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush. Is a 44-year-old man with a 22-year-old Thai woman always sex tourism? They could be married and in love for all we know!
- Olga and Karl – 21 – on a big trip: Olga and Karl are young travellers from Sweden doing a big trip around Southeast Asia. They love to hit the beaches, meet other travellers, and drink the nights away, but they also love history, especially visiting ruined cities. They love Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, but they also raved about Koh Lanta (so relaxing!). Olga and Karl travel overland and spend a month in Thailand – they keep to a strict budget but still stay in decent places and eat good food.
- Kara and Karen – 38 – Friends: Kara and Karen have been best friends for a decade and love to take trips together. They usually go somewhere close to their California homes, but this time they are flying all the way to Thailand. They love to dive, so spend a week on the islands around Koh Tao, and they also want to get to know Bangkok, so spend a week there too. They spend their days eating and exploring (there are heaps of day trips from Bangkok) and their nights at tourist bars on Koh San Road. While there, Kara meets a man from Israel and they hit it off, but once she is back home the texts dry up, as does the love she once held for him.
- Dave – 23 – bartender: Dave travelled to Thailand with one thing in mind – freedom. He partied on the islands for two weeks straight and loved it so much that he stayed and got a job in a bar on Koh Phi Phi. He’s loving it so far, but the constant sunburn has aged him terribly and his mum wants him to return to England and get a real job.
Did any of that help? If not, leave a comment of send me an email if you’re still wondering what a trip to Thailand will be like for you!
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