Thailand should be on every traveller’s bucket list! With white sandy beaches, historic temples, rich culture, mouthwatering food, and the infamous full moon party, why wouldn’t it be? There is simply too much on offer in this tropical paradise for travellers. The great thing about this country is that it appeals to both backpackers on a budget and travellers with luxurious taste.  

BANGKOK | CHIANG MAI | PHUKET | KOH SAMUI

BANGKOK

Eastin Grand hotel – Bangkok

We arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok around 11.30pm, collected our luggage and jumped straight into a Taxi. Getting a Taxi is convenient from this airport since it is a regulated number system which means fair prices, so expect to pay ~400 THB. Bangkok does offers loads of options to get around the city. Grab, Gojek motorbikes, Metro, BTS (Skytrain), Taxis, Tuk-Tuks, and local buses. I would suggest you download the Grab app and try to avoid Taxis and Tuk-Tuks as you don’t want to get stuck in a bargaining game.

We arrived at our beautiful hotel, Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn. We checked in, dropped our bags off and then went straight to the rooftop to check out the views. Wow, the view was amazing! We sat by the infinity pool and had the best pad thai ever!

Day 1 – Temples of Bangkok

DRESS CODE

  • Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks
  • Women must be similarly modestly dressed. Legs covered, no see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc.

1. Grand Palace

Wake up early to try avoid tour groups as it does get very crowded. The moment you arrive outside the palace walls and enter the gates you are quickly struck by the sheer size and popularity of what is Thailand’s most sacred site.

2. Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho)

From the Grand Palace, you can walk to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. It is a must see!

3. Wat Arun

From the ferry point, take the ferry, which costs 4 THB, to the other side of the river. It is a 3-minute walk from the entrance. This temple was my favourite, the climb to the top gives a panoramic view of the river and city – It was simply beautiful.

Chinatown & Khao San Road

Bangkok Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the world. If you love seafood then this is the place to be. We ended up getting a Tuk Tuk to Khao San Road….. what a journey! You have to experience a Tuk Tuk ride at least once. They take you from A to B within minutes, zigzagging through traffic. All i’m going to say is hold on tight!

Tuk Tuk ride in Bangkok

Khao San Road, the street that is a haven for every budget backpacker. It’s the main street that comes to life at night, with so many bars, food stalls, cheap buckets with alcohol and fried scorpions sellers. Walk through this street and be amazed by what is going on here. Absolute must see and thing to do in Bangkok.

Day 2 – Shopping

If you love shopping as much as me, then you have to take a day out to just go to the malls and explore. The great thing about shopping in Bangkok is that one minute you can shop cheap local designs at one of the many markets and the next minute luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel in a shopping mall nearby. We started off in Siam Center, it consists of many small shops, some international brands but many small more unknown Asian brands. We then checked out Siam Discovery which has 5 floors, and consists of many hip international brands. Next was MBK, this was popular amongst tourists. The center is packed with small shops and stalls, mostly Thai brands. You also have the Central World, which has eight floors from Designer goods to electronics and so on. After walking around for hours, we thought to stop and find a spot for afternoon tea. We ended up walking about 20 minutes and ended up in Central Embassy, another large shopping mall.

We found the perfect spot for afternoon tea. Sretsis Parlour is the prettiest medieval floral-themed cafe in Bangkok … Stretsis Parlour is definitely a must-visit cafe the next time you’re in Bangkok! The cafe is very fancy from the entrance and even more beautiful from the inside. Sretsis gives off the European vibe with their curtains, furniture and interiors. Everything is very intricately done. The coffee was average but I didn’t mind paying that extra just for the atmosphere and the latte art. Felt like I was having high tea in some western fancy restaurant. 

Cute cafe in Bangkok

Day 3 – Rooftop bar

I spent the most of my last day relaxing by the pool. If you have a great view like this from your hotel then why wouldn’t you. It was just so peaceful in the early hours – a morning swim and day just to chill poolside.

Best rooftop bar in Bangkok – Skybar

A great way to close off your time in Bangkok is by watching the sunset from a rooftop. Visit the infamous Skybar and have a 360 degrees view over the whole city at 48 stories up in the sky.

CHIANG MAI

We got a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai but there are easier and cheaper ways to get there via train, bus etc. Chiang Mai is the largest city in North Thailand and is a land of misty mountains and adventurers – It was for sure my favourite city.

Compared with Bangkok, where there are excellent and modern public transport systems in place, Chiang Mai’s transportation is rather poor. To get around I used The red songthaew, also known as the red car, red taxi or red truck. The fare usually starts from 20 Baht for a very short distance, and should never exceed 100 Baht because that’s the price range of a private tuk-tuk or taxi already.

Day 1 – Temples of Chiang Mai & Thai Cooking Class

Monke’s Trail to the Jungle Temple & Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. 

You have to hike to the temple Wat Pha Lat. Given its almost hidden location in the jungle, Wat Pha Lat sees far less tourism than other temples in the city. We hiked to the temple from Suthep Road but you can also take a songthaew (the red car shared “taxi”) to the end of the road. It’s a moderate 45-minute hike from the starting point.

You haven’t truly arrived in Chiang Mai until you’ve been to Doi Suthep Temple. As you can see above, you are first greeted with a daunting 306 steps which were built in 1557. Check out the amazing view from the temple.

Once we got back from the visiting the temples, we had a few hours to relax and freshen up before our cooking class. We had booked the class the night before after reading all the great reviews. We booked onto Pra Nang Chiangmai Thai Cookery School. The hosts were so lovely. The driver will pick you up and drop you back off to your hotel (they will give you a time beforehand). Once the driver arrived, we got onto the bus and had a few other pick ups before we arrived at the food market. Firstly, the host welcomes you and then goes through each ingredient you will need for the class. You also get a chance to look around and shop.

Once we had all of our ingredients, we went back to the house to start learning how to cook authentic Thai food. You get a few options on what you would like to cook, I chose the soup, Thai green curry and sticky rice and mango for dessert – It was delicious! You also get to take away a recipe book.

DAY 2 – Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

This was at the top of my bucket list. I just love elephants and after this experience i fell in love with them even more. Elephants are the icon of Thailand but unfortunately these beautiful animals have been abused for tourism and taken out of their natural habitat. I would suggest you do some research before and become aware of the activities that involve animals’ sacrifice. Please do not ride them!

Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is run by the people who have a genuine concern for the animals’ welfare. They do not promote any elephant ride or show. Instead, they do their best to give them love and care in a safe and sustainable environment.

They offer a few programmes but we opted for the full day visit which lasted 9 hours. You are provided with Karen clothes (tribe) as elephants feel familiar with the clothing.

One of the first activities you will be doing at the sanctuary is to feed the adorable elephants. You can spend about an hour to feed the elephants. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary will supply sugar canes and bananas for you to feed the elephants.

After about an hour of feeding and interacting with elephants, you get to bathe with the elephants. The bath starts in the mud bath where you can rub the elephants down with mud. The mud helps protect elephants from the strong sun and bugs and they love rolling around in it.

After the mud bath, you will go over to the river where you can rinse off the elephants and yourself. The elephants enjoy this even more. Once bathing is all done, elephants will walk out of the water and move along on their way. This is one of those experiences that you can actually see and feel that the elephants are living a happy life.

Visiting an elephant sanctuary is a truly unique experience. This is not only a rewarding but also exciting as you can actually interact with the lovely elephants. Once you get to know them, you will totally fall in love with these nature’s cutest & friendliest giants, I sure did.

After a long amazing day, we got dropped back off to our hotel. We were so tired and in need of a massage, so we found a spa which was walking distance from our hotel – Zira Spa. The place was beautiful. It was a luxurious spa so we did pay quite a lot for the treatment. However, there are plenty of spa’s around, cheaper too, but it definitely has to be on your list of things to do.

DAY 3 – Yoga & Explore Chiang Mai

I love yoga so I thought it would be great to try out yoga massage in the park. I got the red truck to Buak Hat Public Park, which cost no more than 20 THB. The instructor was amazing and made you feel so welcome. It was a great experience as I learnt some new stretching techniques and met some really nice people.

Tha Phae Gate

We then headed over to Tha Phae Gate which is a great insight into history of Chiang Mai as an old city, it’s a must see for history lovers and people watching,

Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the main neighbourhood for shopping and nightlife. It’s a must-see while in the city. They set up usually about 18:00 and the festive energy continues unabated until about 22:30.

Night Bazaar is also home to a wide range of accommodation, from budget guesthouses to luxury five-star. If you want to be in the middle of Chiang Mai’s busiest commercial section, staying in Night Bazaar won’t disappoint. The best goods on offer here are usually clothes, from hand-tailored Thai silk to the latest ‘designer’ fashions to the “Same Same But Different” t-shirts.

The weekend walking markets are not to be missed. These markets are hugely popular with locals and visitors alike and an entire evening can be spend to wandering the 1km long market and the surrounding streets while picking traditional Thai snacks along the way.

The Night Bazaar and walking streets may be the most popular spots among visitors to sample traditional Thai favorites and international street food, but there are plenty of other markets to explore with authentic tasty treats.

Nightlife in Chiang Mai

If you just want to end your day with a drink, Chiang Mai has a wide variety of different venues to offer, however clubs are a very rare thing to find as there are strict alcohol laws and enforced closing times at midnight.

You can visit Loi Kroh Road, in the red light district of Chiang Mai, for places that are a little more raunchy. It was close to our hotel so we went to check it out. They have a few bars and a boxing stadium. We decided to check out a Muay Thai fight which was pretty entertaining, they do try to rip you off with the entrance fee so be careful.

The go-to place is Zoe in Yellow. The area hosts a variety of bars that cater to everyone. Fans of rock music will enjoy head banging at Pentatonic Rock Bar, while Reggae lovers get their fix at Roots Rock Reggae Bar.

Address: 40/12 Ratvithi Road, Chiang Mai

PHUKET

We left Chiang Mai and got a flight to Phuket, which was around 2 hours. Phuket is home to beautiful white sand beaches along its southern and western coast and a spattering of smaller islands just off the mainland.

The transport in Phuket is very expensive. Taxis and Tuk-Tuks control transportation on the island and have been known to charge extortionist fares. There are metered taxis and limousine taxis (fixed fare) you can catch from the airport. It took us just over an hour to get to our hotel. There are many beautiful hotels in Phuket but after some research I fell in love with Avista Hideaway Phuket Patong – MGallery and it definitely did not disappoint. The hotel has 3 swimming pools, a buggy service to help you get around and offers a free shuttle bus service.

Day 1 – Shopping and Temples

We got the shuttle bus from our hotel and stopped off at the Jungceylon shopping centre which is downtown Phuket and opposite Bangla Road. It is a huge complex with 200-plus other stores – it has everything you need. Its definitely worth checking out. We also found an amazing restaurant – D Wine Italian Bistro & Wine Bar. I ordered the salmon pasta which had vodka sauce, surprisingly it was probably the best pasta i’ve ever had.

We then managed to find a taxi driver who agreed to take us around for a few hours for a reasonable price. Our first stop was the Big Buddha.

Go Visit The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha is one of the most well-known attractions in Phuket. At 45 meters tall (148 ft), it’s the third-tallest statue in Thailand and can be seen as far away as the Old Town. The views from the Big Buddha are spectacular as well, as you can see from the pictures above. It was stunning – I would definitely recommend you go see it. If you have time, I’d also recommend to go see Wat Chalong and Karon Viewpoint as they are so close to each other, you could visit all three places on the same day.

Check Out a Night Market

We then headed to Phuket night market – drivers recommendation. It’s a weekend market open from 16:00 hours to 22:00 hours.. You could easily spend a couple of hours here. It t is a must-visit as it is a one-stop shop for pretty much everything you need, from delicious street food to souvenirs and handicraft goods for a very reasonable price.

Party On Bangla Road

As you may have heard, Bangla Road in Patong is party central in Phuket. It’s loud and sleazy in parts so it isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to party it up in Phuket, then this is the place to do it. It’s la better and bigger version of Khao San Road in Bangkok.

There are some cool bars so go check them out. If you’re looking to party then I would recommend Illusion – it is the most popular Nightclub on Bangla road in Patong Beach. It’s free entrance and the music is a mixture of dance and RnB – definitely a good vibe.

Get a Massage

Getting a massage on a tropical island should be on everyone’s must-do list. The best time to get a massage is when you’re partying away and your feet begin to hurt especially if you’re in heels. There are plenty of massage parlours on Bangla Road where you can walk into without an appointment – I got a 20 minute foot massage, it was amazing. However there are many parlours around so make sure you check it out as there’s no better way to relax on an island than by getting a massage.

Day 2 – Island Hopping

Phuket is surrounded by beautiful islands and coastlines, but they can take some time to reach. Using larger ferry boats to reach Phi Phi, Phang Nga, Krabi or the Similian Islands can cost you several hours, meaning less time to enjoy everything that these destinations have to offer. With a speedboat, you can zip across the waves in a fraction of the time.

When it comes to Thailand Island hopping, there are so many options and possible itineraries. There are so many tours from Phuket to Phi Phi islands, not even mentioning the tours offered by hotels (which tend to be about 50% more expensive) so I would suggest you book online. All the tours in Phuket offer complimentary hotel pick-ups. All the tours to Phi Phi offer pretty much the same itinerary.

A short stop at Maya Bay made famous by the 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio just for a quick photo as it is now closed off by authorities. Next is the Viking cave and Monkey beach. Then you will have the opportunity to go for a swim and snorkel in the National Park. You then stop off in Phi Phi for some lunch and relax at the beach before heading back. The islands really are as beautiful as people say.

Day 3 – Lay on a Beach

Laying on a beach and doing absolutely nothing is one of the best things you can do in Phuket. It’s home to long stretches of white sand beach that are among the best in Southeast Asia. There are many to go visit but I would suggest Paradise Beach – It’s 8 minutes away from Patong Beach. Paradise beach is a privately owned beach that is run by a popular beach club. They host Phuket’s Full moon, half moon and new moon beach party’s as well as a wide range of sports and recreational activities. You can also visit Karon Beach, Kata Beach and Freedom Beach – they are just as beautiful.

KOH SAMUI

The final stop was Koh Samui. It’s known for its palm-fringed beaches, mountainous rainforest, plus luxury resorts and posh spas.  I had the chance to stay in one of the most luxurious hotels ever – Vana Belle, which is nestled in a secluded cove on the pristine white sands of Chaweng Noi beach. Vana Belle translates to ‘beautiful forest’ and as you arrive you immediately notice it’ll live up to its name. It’s the is the kind of place where you’re driven around in golf carts. Vana Belle is a Luxury Collection resort so I knew the hotel was going to be nice, but what I experienced exceeded every expectation I had about the resort.

As it was our last stop we opted for a luxurious suites with our own private pool.  In this particular suite only the shower and toilet are hidden behind glass doors. Bath and double sink washbasin are in the same open space as where the bed is. I found the Pool Suite very nicely designed!

Day 1 – Temples

Of course, the Big Buddha is not an insider tip, as it is one of the most important and main sights in Koh Samui. Once you have made it past the 70+ steps, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Bo Phut beach.

Be sure to check out the nearby Wat Plai Laem after the Big Buddha – a worthwhile visit.

Ark Bar Koh Samui

If you’re looking for a good night out, I would suggest you check out Ark Bar. Ark Bar Beach Resort is almost an institution in Samui. Located right on the beach, in the central area of Chaweng, a restaurant, bar and nightclub describes itself as the one-stop party destination in the prime holiday destination in Samui Island – and this description could not be more accurate.

Day 2 – Gulf of Thailand Tour

Our day trip to the Ang Thong Marine National Park was one of the highlights during our time in Koh Samui. We got to spend a day in the Emerald Green Lagoon of the Gulf of Thailand on a speed boat for about 45-minutes whilst island-hopping. First, we arrived at Koh Wao for snorkeling through the beautiful nature and clear blue waters. Koh Mae Ko, you can hike up to the top with a spectacular view over the emerald saltwater lake called “Talay Nai” which is connected with the sea through underwater caves. Later we visited the park’s principle islands, and explored their natural caves and stunning rocks formation by kayaking around the wonderful nature of Angthong National Marine Park and climbing up to the mountain’s top to take a look at the fantastic panorama view – definitely add it to your list of things to do.

Fisherman’s Village

Fisherman’s village is located in the North of Koh Samui in the Bophut area. You will find many trendy restaurants on the beach and a small selection of hotels lining Bophut beach. The night market is open from 5pm-11pm every Monday and Friday. It attracts huge numbers of shoppers from across the island for the amazing variety of all sorts of goods and of course amazing food! I bought some cool souvenirs (remember to haggle), then got some food at a restaurant on the beach. It’s a great night out with a very lively atmosphere.

Coco Tams

Coco Tams is exactly something you would think you would find on a tropical paradise island. It is not just a beach bar with coconut and palm tree decorations. You can swing while waiting for your drink at the bar – how amazing. It’s a very chilled vibe. When the sun starts slowly going down you can get comfy on the Lazy boys while sipping your Mai Tai and listening to groovy lounge or house music.

Partying in Koh Samui

Koh Samui is the island where you can party in style. I mentioned Ark Bar, Coco Tams previously- they are definitely worth checking out. There are so many cool clubs in Chaweng but if you’re like me and love RnB and Hip Hop then I would suggest you check out Hush Bar. It’s famous for its cheap buckets from 9pm til midnight. There’s a different DJ every night, spinning a mix of Hip Hop, RnB, UK Garage.

Day 3 – Beach Day

As our hotel was located on Chaweng Beach, we thought we would have a day to relax before we hit Full Moon party. We got a buggy down to the beach bar, I ordered a chicken caeser salad with a strawberry daq – the view was unreal.

Don’t forget to have a fresh coconut or pineapple cocktail – they taste so good.

Full Moon Party

Years before I came to Thailand friends of mine told me about the Full Moon Parties they celebrated on an island. I heard some crazy stories, like jumping the fire rope and many other things… I knew that I had to include the Full Moon Party in my Thailand trip even if it was the night before we were flying out. The Full Moon Party is on Haad Rin Beach at Koh Phagnan.

We were thinking of getting a hotel but then found out that boats run ever hour from the island so we ended up booking a boat from Koh Samui to Ko Phangan. The driver will also pick you up from your hotel and take you to the boat. There is a Full Moon Party timetable with dates but if you can’t make it there is a half moon party you can look into, it is also supposed to be very good.

This night is all about alcohol, party, dancing, and drugs. Better be careful doing drugs as there are very strict anti drugs law and police enforcement. A lot of people will try to sell you drugs so just watch out. Another thing to watch out for is the buckets with alcohol – they are very strong. It was an awesome night though, met some really cool people, the vibe is just crazy so just let your hair down and have fun!