Thailand: The Pocket Guide

I backpacked around Thailand, twice, experienced the North and the Islands in the South. Here is a review and tips of the country’s hotspots that will give you a full experience of some of what Thailand has best to offer…

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Population: 68,8 Million
Language: Thai
Thai people speak a good level of English
Currency: 
Baht (THB) // 100 THB = 2,50€.
Getting around: The best way to get around is by taxi/tuk-tuk in Bangkok and renting a scooter on the islands (make sure to carry an international driving licence).
Internet: Wifi is pretty good and available almost everywhere (hostels/hotels, bars, restaurants…).
Best time to go: Thailand has a tropical, warm and humid climate all year long. Seasons are divided in 3, rainy (monsoon) from May until October, cool from November until February and dry from March until May.
Safety: Thailand is a very safe place, just casual awareness for pickpockets and some common sense.



Places visited:

Bangkok – Koh Tao – Koh Phangan – Krabi – Koh Phi Phi – Chiang Mai – Pai 

 

Bangkok
Chatuchak Market, Bangkok
Chatuchak Market, Bangkok

Stay:
I recommend spending 2 to 3 days in Bangkok.
Every time I went to Bangkok, I stayed at the same hostel: NapPark Hostel.
It is the best hostel I’ve ever been to, it’s clean, comfortable, super social and the staff is fantastic. They are located close to the legendary Khao San Road, perfect area to walk through most of the main centre of interests. Check them out!

My favourites:
The Grand Palace & the Laying Buddha (Wat Phra) are very nice to visit, definitely a must-do in Bangkok. Price: 500 THB (10€) for the Grand Palace and 200 THB (5€) for the Wat Phra.

Khao San Road for shopping during the day and awesome parties at night.

– Watch a Muay Thai fight in the famous Rajadamnern Stadium. Price: from 1000 THB (25€).
Be careful of all the scams around the ticket retailing. The best way is getting your tickets directly at the stadium, from the official counter. They will try to sell you the “foreigners” area, the most expensive but you are actually entitled to buy the tickets of your choice, including the Thai area. People with “official jackets” will try to sell you tickets in front of the Stadium pretending that’s the only way for you to get them, don’t get fooled and go to the counter.

Chatuchak weekend market (ตลาดนัดจตุจักร). Free
That place is amazing! You can find everything, literally. Food, teeshirts, jewellery, animals, massages, you name it, they sell it. Fantastic experience guaranteed.

Jim Thompson’s House. Price 150 THB (4€)
A lovely complex multi Thai-styled left by the man who revived the Thai silk industry.

Explore the canals on a long tale. You can find them by the river and they’ll take you on an incredible tour through the authentic canal-side houses. Try to get a few people with and negotiate the price down to 500-600 THB (13-15€) per person maximum.

The Secret Rooftop Pool on Khao San Road. Price: 200 THB (5€)
Bangkok can get really sunny and be burning hot so if you’d love to enjoy some fresh time, here is the tip: there is a swimming pool on top of the “Buddy Lodge Hotel”, entrance via the shopping centre at 265 Khaosan Rd. Enjoy!


Tips:
– Airport transfer
 to go to Khao San Road, take the airport rail link at level B1 from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phyathai Station, available from 06.00 AM. – 24.00 AM. the fare ticket is 45 THB (1,30€) it takes around 25 – 30 minutes to Phyathai Station. From there, you can grab a cab and it’ll cost you 100 THB (2,50€) max to Khao San Road.

Taxi & Tuk-Tuk: Always for the meter in Taxis. For Tuk-Tuks, which are a bit more expensive, you usually negotiate the fair.
You can get a nice and cheap city Tuk-Tuk tour, including some drop off to temples. Be aware that they’ll also stop you at suits retailers to get a commission, pretend to take a look so they get their stamp and go on with your tour.

Party: Khao San road hosts the craziest parties. The vibe is incredible at night, just go get yourself a Mojito Bucket and dance on the latest hits.

Shopping: The Chatuchak weekend market and Khao San Road are the best places for some shopping.

– Food and drinks: Streetfood is king in Bangkok. The best Thai food you can get comes from the thousands of street stands that you can find on Khao San and Ram Buttri area.
Get yourself a nice Pad Thai and enjoy a cold Chang in this exciting and chaotic district.

– Where to stay: Khao San Road area is the most vibrant part of the city, I highly recommend staying around.

 

Koh Tao
Diving Team. Koh Tao
Diving Team. Koh Tao


Stay:

I recommend spending around 4-5 days on the island.
The vibrant part of the island is located in the middle Ouest part of the islands, so the hostels a bit farther will be more quiet.

Getting there:
The best and cheapest way to get there is with a night bus. You can ask your hostel for booking a ticket, it costs around 800-1000 THB (20-25€) from Bangkok including boat transfer to the island and takes around 12 hours in total.
It will be a bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, from there you will take a ferry to Koh Tao.

My favourites:
– Diving!
Koh Tao is an awesome diving spot. Crystal clear water, warm and sunny, the sea life is fantastic.
I did my open water with Big Blue Diving, the staff is amazing and they have very nice facilities. I highly recommend them.

– Beach Party:
The island is full of exotic beach bars, fire shows, loud music and cocktails to make you dance all night.
Check out the Sunset bar & Leo beach bar!

– Viewpoints:
Check out the multiple viewpoints for some nice Instagram picture.

– Exploring the off roads on a scooter:
Half beach half jungle, the island has a lot of off-roads to be explored. Drive around for some adventures.


Tips:
Renting a scooter.
Taxis on Koh Tao are really expensive. I recommend getting a scooter for around 100 THB (2,50€) a day to get around.

– Book in advance.
The island is very busy, so I recommend you booking your stay in advance.

– Have fun and party.
It’s exotic, it’s warm, music is good, all the ingredients to have a good time.

 

Koh Phangan
Amsterdam Bar, Koh Phangan
Amsterdam Bar, Koh Phangan

Stay:
I recommend spending 2/3 days.
Check out the Goodtime Beach Backpackers, awesome vibe, fantastic staff and great location.
Koh Phangan is hosting the legendary Full-Moon party, the Half Moon, Jungle Party, anything is a good reason to make a festival out of it.
The island gets very busy on the festival dates and empties the next day. Good reason to enjoy one or two extra days and explore around.


Getting there: 

There is a ferry from Koh Tao, it costs around 300 THB (7,50€).
Check out online or from a tour agency the timetable. Travel time varies from 1 hour to 2 hours depending if the boat makes a stop at Koh Samui).
From Bangkok, you can take a night bus to Surat Thani and then a ferry to Koh Phangan. You can book the trip from your hostel, should cost around 800-1000 THB.


My favourites:

The half moon party! Costs around 1000 THB (25€).
That’s the festival that was up on my dates. Big party in the forest, multiple stages, body painting, meet up with one of the most tropical night you will experience.

– Amsterdam bar.
On top of a hill, overseeing the ocean, this amazing bar is a must-do. I think the name speaks for itself on what is to be expected. Enjoy!

– Exploring the island.

Rent a scooter and explore the island and its beautiful beaches.

The Crave restaurant for fantastic burgers.

Tips:
– Renting a scooter: same than for Koh Tao, the best way to get around and to explore the island is by bike.

– Koh Phangan gets very busy on the festival dates so make sure to book in advance.

 

Krabi

Stay: 
I recommend spending 1 day / 1 night.
Krabi is perfect if you want to chill out before heading to Koh Phi Phi.
The city centre is really nice, animated with nice bars and restaurants, much quieter than the islands.
I had a one-night layover on my way to Koh Phi Phi and got the ferry the next morning.

Getting there:
– By Bus from Koh Pha Ngan / Koh Samui / Koh Tao. Costs around 600 THB (15€).
The journey takes around 5 hours, you will take a ferry to Surat Thani, then a bus to Krabi.
– By Bus from Bangkok. Costs around 900 THB and takes 12 hours.

My favourites:
– The seafront 
and the area around. There are a lot of nice restaurants, chilled bars and stores.

 

Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

 

Stay:
I recommend spending 4/5 days.
Backpackers paradise, the temple of beach parties, this car-free island is like a small village for travellers.
Underdeveloped, chaotic and vibrant, you love it or you hate it.

==> Check out Blanco beach bar & Stones Bar. Perfect location on the beach, social, party killers!

Getting there:
– Take the ferry from Krabi Town, it takes around 2 hours and costs around 350 THB (9€).
– From Bangkok, the journey takes around 12 hours and costs around 800-1000 THB (20-25€).

My favourites:
– Maya Bay
The Leonardo DiCaprio legendary secret beach from the movie “The Beach” is located in Koh Phi Phi area. Accessible by boat only, that little piece of paradise is absolutely magic.

Like every famous treasure, it is insanely crowded with tourist but it is definitely worth checking out. You got to get that Instagram shot!
The cheapest is to get on a Long Tail boat, the price should be around 500 THB (13€) for the tour (half a day), plus a 200 THB (5€) tax for Maya Bay (on site/ non-negotiable), make sure you ask whether the tax is included or not when booking.
The tour usually includes a stop at Bamboo & Mosquito island, Viking caves, Monkey Island and Maya Bay.

– Beach Parties
“Phi Phi never sleeps”
The island is full of backpackers from all around the world, animated by crazy pool parties during the day and beach parties at night.
Avoid it if you are seeking some chill out time and go strong if you there to get bananas!

– Village vibe
The island has no car at all, walking only. The vibe of a holiday village is predominant, after a couple of days you’ll know everyone on the island.
It’s pretty small so when you get there, no need to get a taxi boat to reach out to your accommodation. Walk your way around and discover the place.

Tips:
Get a hostel on the beach if you want to party or find yourself someplace farther if you want some quieter.

– Phi Phi is pretty small so when you get there, no need to get a taxi boat to reach out to your accommodation. Walk your way around and discover the place.

– Bars:
==> Stockholm Syndrom for the best beer pong contests on the island.
==> Phi Phi Reggae Bar if you want to see some Muay Thai fight.
==> Sunflower & Carlito’s Beach bars for some beach parties.

 

Chang Mai
Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai

Stay:
I recommend spending 2/3 days.
The North of Thailand is much more quite from parties and massive tourist invasion.
More chilled and hippie vibe, you’ll experience the other face of the Kingdom of Siam.

==> Check out the Hug Hostel for your stay. Awesome place, clean, very social and great location.

Getting there:
The best and cheapest way to get to Chiang Mai is by bus. A lot of different companies, with different fairs (go for VIP bus with air con), and usually leaving from Koah San Road area.
The trip takes around 10-12 hours so I highly recommend getting a night bus and the price should vary between 500-800 THB (12-20€).

My favourites:
Elephant sanctuary (check out Elephant Jungle Sanctuary on Facebook, they are amazing people). Price: 1300 THB (34€) for half a day.

Please do not do Elephant riding, it is a disaster for these animals and for Thai people. 
Elephant kept for riding are taken away from their family when they are just babies, get completely broken, tortured and forced to do something they are not physically built for.

Sanctuaries are rescuing elephants from riding, they treat them and let them free in a natural environment.
You can interact with them, feed them, get a mud bath with them, and by doing so you help these organisation finance the camps.
Ask your hostel for booking, the car will pick you up from there and bring you back.
Definitely the highlight of Chiang Mai.

– The Grand Canyon. Price: 50 THB (1,50€)
Sunbath, cliff jumping and fresh beers, definitely worth checking out.

Tips:
Shared Tuk-Tuk.
Tuk-Tuks in Chiang Mai are working as a hop on / hop off and are shared with people along the way. Negotiate the ride depending on how far you go. Be aware that it is way cheaper than Bangkok.

Rent a scooter to get around.
If you want to go to the Grand Canyon and some other.

Bars are closing very early in the North (midnight usually), so set yourself on local time.

The vibrant part of Chiang Mai is within the “square”, check the map below.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 22.00.12

 

Pai
Pai, North Thailand
Pai, North Thailand

Stay:
I recommend staying 3/4 days.
Enjoy a chilled retreat in the Backpackers jungle paradise. Pai is a small city in the North of Thailand, surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, hiking trails and jungle.
It’s the cheapest place I’ve been to in Thailand, the food is great and it has a lot to offer.
A real back to basics where you trade comfort for a unique hippie atmosphere.

==> Check out Pai Circus HostelSpicypai Backpacker for the real Pai experience, awesome places, great location, fantastic people.

Getting there:
From Chiang Mai
– Best and cheapest way is by Minibus. You can book anywhere at a travel agency or at your hostel/hotel.
The trip takes around 4 hours and costs 150 – 200 THB (3€ – 5€).

– You can also get there by bike, rent one in Chiang Mai and you’ll return it on your way back. Make sure to ask for the road conditions, double check and rely on that information.
When I was there, I was not convinced of them telling me the roads had been flooded and partially destroyed. They actually were completely damaged and even with the minibus, it was close to a no go.
My favourites:

Muay Thai training. Price: from 300 THB for half a day (7,50€).
Attend a Muay Thai training for half a day, full day or even a week.
Check out the CharnChai Camp, these guys are awesome, professional trainers and it’ll definitely highlight your Pai experience.

Sunset at the Pai Grand Canyon (Kong Lan). Free
The Grand Canyon is located 8km outside of Pai so I recommend renting a bike to get there.
The scenery is exceptional, these narrow walkways on the cliffs, in the forest, offering an infinite view over forest and mountains. The sunset is a must!

Pai’s walking street. 
An authentic mix of food vendors and local artisans. There is a very unique vibe at night with local watching Muay Thai, smells of fresh food and sounds of local music.

– Pombok and Mo Paeng waterfall.
Check out these amazing waterfalls and their natural pool.

– The Hot Springs.
There are multiple hot springs around Pai. Check out the Tha Pai Hot Springs
Tips:

Renting a scooter to get around. It’s cheap and very convenient.

– Enjoy a Thai massage. If you haven’t done it already, treat yourself your some relaxation time.

– Pai is probably the cheapest place in Thailand, so if you want to do some shopping that’s your opportunity.


 

Like & Subscribe, share your Backpacking experience and tips for Thailand in the comments 🙂
Check out the “Thailand under 30€ a day” & “6 reasons to go Backpacking in Thailand” articles.

Follow my adventures on Instagram!
Check out my videos on Youtube!

4 comments on “Thailand: The Pocket Guide”

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