Beautiful and amazing Thailand. Friendly people, breathtaking landscapes, delicious food, insane beaches, good diving, great prices, etc., there are many reasons why people pick Thailand as one of their favorite destinations in Southeast Asia and I can agree with them. Visit this country and you will not regret it.
I spent two months traveling around Thailand on my first visit and did not get to see it all. Most of the time I was in the north so next time I will be visiting more parts of the south.
Please consider the following things before you visit Thailand:
- Please do not support the Tiger and Elephant “sanctuaries”. These animals are being subject to unfair treatment and tortures just to entertain foreign tourists. Tigers are usually sedated and hurt so you can take a picture with them
- Please do not promote sexual tourism in Thailand. There are many stories of abusive sexual tourism in Thailand and most of them are true. Respect the men, women and children and don’t encourage them to be a part of this “business”.
- Respect the culture and the religion. Remember that you are in a Buddhist country and there are some rules to follow. Just because Thailand has become a tourist centre it does not mean that you can do as you please.
With that in mind (sorry for being the annoying traveler), here is the information regarding the places that I visited, my daily budget, costs and other relevant information. Hope that you find it useful!
My first stop in Thailand was Chiang Rai. Its a good place to start since its cheap and has a relaxed vibe. Even though there are a few temples to visit in town, the best things are outside Chiang Rai. I recommend renting a scooter and exploring the town. The price should not be higher than Baht 200 per day.
The White Temple is a restored and modern palace that mixes Buddhist and contemporary images such as Spiderman, Superman, Michael Jackson, the Minions, etc.
Its crazy to find a mix like this inside a Buddhist temple. Behind the White Temple there is a museum with more art from Chalermchai Kositpipat, the one who designed the White Temple. I enjoyed this museum and the White Temple, despite the amount of tourists.
There is a public bus that takes you to the White Temple from Chiang Rai old bus station. It should cost Baht 20 per ride.
The Black House is also located outside Chiang Rai. This complex was built by Thawan Duchanee, to resemble the darkness of humanity. I did not enjoy the walk so much so I would not recommend it.
Just two hours away from Chiang Rai there is a beautiful mountain on the border with Laos which has a perfect spot for sunrises called Phu Chi Fa (for more on Phu Chi Fa, click here). The views are incredible since there is a midst of clouds covering Laos right before the Sun comes out.
During my time in Chiang Rai, I stayed in a dorm room with mattresses on the floor in a hostel called Chok Dee. The place has a reggae bar on the first floor and the prices are very good. The staff is very friendly and keen to help you move around Chiang Rai.
After Chiang Rai, I headed towards a town called Chiang Dao. Its not a very touristy town, which is why there are not many budget accommodation options. Its worth visiting the Chiang Dao Cave and the hotsprings while you are there.
Just 30 minutes outside Chiang Dao there is a beautiful mountain called San Phakia which also suits perfect for great sunrises and beautiful nights full of stars and calmness. The road is not the best one, so I do not recommend going by scooter. It would definitely be better by car. I hitchhiked with two other travelers towards there and a very friendly Thai girl named Poi gave us a lift. She ended up staying the night with us.
There are not many options for cheap places to stay in Chiang Dao but Black Cats had a really nice vibe. You will sleep on matresses on the floor but they are actually comfortable.
After Chiang Dao, I hitchhiked towards the popular town of Chiang Mai. This place is becoming busier and busier but it is still great to visit.
Chiang Mai is full of temples, specially inside the Old City. Every day I would find a new temple more impressive than the others. Just walk around and you will be happily surprised.
There is a canyon (Chiang Mai Canyon) located 30 minutes away from the Old City by scooter. You can jump from a 14 meter peak into the lake below it, totally worth it. When I went there was just the canyon but apparently now they have turned it into an amusement park. So don’t blame me if its not so nice now.
Outside Chiang Mai is a great national park called Doi Inthanon. This place has waterfalls, nature and a beautiful pagoda on top of the mountain. The view from the top is amazing. This is worth an entire day trip.
If this is not enough, visit Doi Suthep. This temple is located on top of a mountain and its full of amazing gold pagodas and shrines. It can get very cold and sometimes rainy so bring some layers. I think that this is one of the prettiest temples around Chiang Mai.
I had a shared dorm at At Ban Kun 2. This hostel is located outside the Old City but close enough to go walking (just 3-5 minutes walking). Its a really cool place to hang out and meet other travelers. They offer free bananas and coffee all day. WiFi is usually good.
If you want a place to relax, visit Pai. I hesitated on going because its very touristy but once I got there, I realized was worth it. There are many bungalows with decks and hammocks for good prices.
I rented a scooter with a group of friends and visited the Pai Canyon, the hotsprings (the cheap ones) and the strawberry farms. Pai is good place to “chill” and enjoy the vibe. It can get busy but usually people are very friendly and do not bother each other.
The night market is worth visiting and exploring. There are many food stalls where you can try different Thai dishes and desserts, including the famous Mango Sticky Rice.
I shared a bungalow at Cozy House. If you get there early, try to get the ones with a view towards the small pond.
I hitchhiked from Chiang Mai to Ayuthaya. I got a lift by an amazing woman named Oyo. She was on her way to Bangkok when she gave me a lift. Her kindness was overwhelming.
Ayuthaya is famous for its ancient temples. Most of them have a strong Kehmer influence reflected on their design and structure. I believe that many of these temples are worth visiting, specially Wat Chaiwatthanaram located in front of the river bank.
You can visit most of the temples in one day, they are very close to each other. Remember to bring sunblock and water, Ayuthaya is very warm.
I stayed at Baan Lotus in a private room with fan. The hostel is well located and the staff very friendly. There are many mosquitoes so make sure to buy some mosquito repellent even if there is a net over the bed.
The chaotic but amazing Bangkok. I love this city. Many backpackers stay at Khao San Road because its usually cheap and close to the action.
However, I recommend staying in Silom. Its cheaper than Khao San but not as busy nor touristy. There are plenty of things going on at Silom that will keep you entertained. I would go out to the streets for lunch and end up coming back to the hostel the next morning. You never know what will happen in Silom.
Even if you stay at another neighborhood, visit Khao San to experience the “madness” of this place. There are many street stalls, restaurants and bars.
If you want to buy something for yourself or someone special, go to the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok. It is by far one of the best markets that I have seen in Asia. You will be able to find any type of clothes, accessories, food and souvenirs. Good quality and good prices.
When I was in Bangkok I decided to get a Thai bamboo tattoo by a Buddhist monk. These tattoos represent a great tradition in Thai culture. Many of them have different meanings and purpose.
I hitchhiked towards a monastery called Wat Bang Phra located outside Bangkok. Once I got there I had to give a 75 Baht donation (USD 2) a basket with cigarettes, candles and flowers. This basket is later handed by you to the Monk before he picks the design and placement of the tattoo. You do not decide, the monk does it for you.
I had done three tattoos before but this one hurt more than the others. Nonetheless, I loved it. The meaning of my Thai Tattoo is protection from evil spirits. There is a picture below.
I stayed at Urban Age Hostel located at Silom Soi 8. The hostel has free coffee all day, the dorms have AC and good WiFi. The staff is very friendly and helpful.
After Bangkok, I went diving to Koh Tao. I hitchhiked from Bangkok to Chumphon and then took the night boat with bunk beds where you can sleep. The beds were comfortable to be honest.
Located in the south of Thailand next to Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places to get your diving certificate. I recommend Pura Vida Diving School, where I got my SSI Advanced Diving Certificate. The visibility was not the best but it was still good enough to enjoy the diving.
If you like snorkeling, I recommend doing it in Shark Bay where you can see black-tip reef sharks.
There is a great viewpoint called John-Suwan at the top of Freedom Beach. Its a really short by scenic hike where you walk through palm trees until you reach a group of big rocks to climb. There is a hammock at the top, don’t miss it. There is a small entrance fee of 50 Baht.
Accommodation: I stayed at a friend’s house but for two days I stayed at a hostel called Harbor Hostel. The hostel has no common area, just dorms as soon as you step in and toilets in the back. They have AC and lockers. Unfortunately I had a lot of drunk backpackers and some bad smells in the room. This was not good, specially having to dive every morning at 6:00 am.
There is a great place for relaxing in the southern Thailand called Prachuap Khirikan. Located between Chumphon and Bangkok, this place hosts elder travelers normally but has great activities for outdoor junkies too.
I rented a scooter and went on a daytrip to Sam Roi Yot National Park. The park is located approximately 1 hour ride to the north of town. In here, you will be able to visit amazing caves such as Phraya Nakhon and Sai Cave and beaches in Laem Sala and Sam Phraya Beach. Sam Roi Yot is worth the visit. The entrance fee of the park is 200 Baht.
If you want to enjoy the best view of Prachuap Khirikhan, I recommend climbing the Historic Park in Ao Manao. Beware that the park is closed except for festivals so you might have to sneak in. Its worth it. The hike turns steep at the end but there is a rope that you can grab on the way up. After the hike I went to relax down by the Ao Manao Beach.
I had a private room at Maggies Homestay. The house is old but still very cozy. The staff is amazing and friendly, there is a shared kitchen where you can cook and WiFi is good.
After Prachuap Khirikan, I traveled to Kanchanaburi. Even if there are bars open until late, this is a very calm place. You can visit the Death Railway (free) which has a lot of importance in the Asian culture since it was bombed during WWII when it was being constructed by Japan using war prisoners, Burmese and Thai people.
I missed the Erawan Waterfalls due to my visa expiration but they look amazing and I have heard great things about them so you should try visiting this place too, even camping over there.
I had a private room at Jolly Frog hostel. The rooms are really good and spacious with private toilets and AC. The price of the room and the food is really good. I recommend it.
Hitchhiking: I believe that the north of Thailand is one of the easiest places to hitchhike in Asia. I can almost guarantee that it will not take more than 20 minutes for you to get the first ride. However, the south can be a bit more tricky and you will need more patience. That being said, wave your arm up and down instead of using the thumb up once you get to the highway.
Daily Budget: Average of USD 15-20 per day which include accommodation, transportation and food. I spent a total of 8 weeks in Thailand, traveling from north to south. During this time, I found the north cheaper than the south (especially compared to the islands, which are more expensive).
Visa: Many countries can get visas on arrival. However, if you belong to one of the nationalities that require a visa prior to arrival, I recommend applying for it in Vientiane, Laos. You can get it for 2 months for a price of USD 30 price and its really easy.
I got my second Thai visa in Singapore. I applied online, had to send tickets in and out, copy of passport, picture with white background, copy of yellow fever certificate, etc. After that, I had to submit the form and passport in person in the embassy. I got the visa on the day after. This process involved more things which is why I recommend the Vientiane application.
I hope that you found this post useful. Feel free to leave comments and questions below!!!
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