All of the countries in SE Asia have their own charm, but if you asked me which has been the most beautiful one, I’d have to say Thailand. Before going to Thailand, I thought it was going to be overrated— but I was completely wrong. Thailand has one of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve ever seen (and I grew up in PR, I’ve seen some amazing ones!) and some of the most surreal sunsets I’ve ever witnessed!
The north and south of Thailand are completely different; the north offering a calmer and more culturally enriching vibe, and the south offering a more touristy and party vibe. I wouldn’t say the south is better than the north, or vice versa, they are just different.
Thailand is a big country and it takes a long time to travel to different provinces/cities (Be prepared to take 10 hour bus rides, 5 hour ferry rides, and sometimes even take buses and ferries on the same day—making it an unbearably long day of traveling). Keeping this in mind, it is necessary to spend a good amount of time in Thailand if you want to be able to explore the best of Thailand (I recommend spending 3 weeks minimum). I spent a month in Thailand and I think it was a perfect amount of time to see most of it!
Here’s little break through of the places we visited and things we did.
- Chiang Mai– I spent two days here but I think I could’ve done a couple more. My favorite thing to do here was spending the day at Into The Wild Elephant Camp— a sanctuary where rescued elephants roam free in the wild! (there are no chains, no hooks, and no riding in this sanctuary). I am not lying or exaggerating when I say this has been one of the best days of my life! I got to bathe & feed the elephants and get covered in mud with them, which was so much fun! There were 5 elephants and it was just me, my boyfriend, and another couple who were visiting that day, which meant we pretty much had the elephants to ourselves. This sanctuary really allowed us to have a more personal experience with the elephants since we were not part of a big visitor crowd. (if you go on a week day, you’ll have a higher chance of being part of a small crowd, which is much better).
- Bangkok– Spent 4 days here and it was definitely enough. Bangkok is not the most beautiful place in Thailand (it’s dirty and grimy), but you have to do it! If you go to Bangkok, you definitely have to go to Khao San Road and have a crazy but fun time! There’s partying every night and loads of opportunities to meet other backpackers. There’s also loads of shops and really cheap massages! Oh and if you are trying to treat yourself and go to a nice restaurant, go to Rock Restaurant and Bar (we had amazing food here)
- The islands: Koh Tao (4 days): It’s a small island but it was one of my favorite ones! It’s great for Scuba Diving (I did scuba there for the first time ever and it was amazing). I did scuba diving with Big Blue, if you look them online, they are known for being one of the best diving schools, if not the best one, in Koh Tao. I was very apprehensive to do Scuba at first but the instructors there were really helpful and professional and made sure everything was safe. Ko Pha Ngan (4 days) : You HAVE to do Koh Phangnan when it’s full moon party! Thousands of people go here specifically for that party and it is an experience! Everyone is super hyped, covered in face paint, and partying on the beach until sunrise (I started drinking a bit too early which meant I did not make it until sunrise & regretted it SO much the next morning, so make sure to take it slow with the drinks because the night is long!). When the party is over, Koh Phangnan becomes vacant (at least in comparison to how crowded it gets when full moon party time) So I recommend planning your visit here around full moon party! Koh Samui: (3 days) My favorite thing here was renting scooters and exploring around! Here I visited Namuang Waterfall and Grandmother and Grandfather rock! Phuket (3 days)- To be honest with you, Phuket did not impress me as much as the rest of the islands. The beaches are not as pretty (in comparison to other thai islands) and they are over crowded (really hard to even find a spot in the beach without being three feet away from someone). If you do go here, don’t make the mistake most backpackers do of staying in Patong for the “lively atmosphere” (I did this). Stay instead in Karon or Rawai. If you are in a tight schedule, I would just skip Phuket! Koh Phi Phi (1 week)- this island was BY FAR my favorite! When you get there, definitely book a boat tour to visit the beaches and lagoons! I did two tours—a booze cruise and a private boat trip. If you asked me which one’s better, I’ll say the private boat trip. It takes you to the best sights in the island and you actually get to enjoy them, unlike in the booze cruise where they’ll just take you to Maya Bay for just fifteen minutes. All the beaches in this island are incredible but my favorite one was Pileh Lagoon. I am not kidding when I say it is the most beautiful lagoon I’ve seen in my life— it was the most transparent and relaxing body of water I’ve ever been submerged in (words don’t really do justice to the actual experience of being here). It was also less busy than Maya Bay (which is filled with boat tours coming in and out).
- Krabi (3 days)- The best part of Krabi is Railey Beach. However, it is quite expensive to stay in an accommodation there, especially when you are in a backpacker budget. Most backpackers (myself included) end up staying in Ao Nang and take a boat trip to Railey Beach (the boat trip is a 10 minute ride and really cheap). Besides Railey Beach, there isn’t much going on in Krabi so I wouldn’t recommend staying an extensive period of time here.
I hope you found this post helpful if you ever find yourself exploring Thailand! Feel free to e-mail me for any questions!