Thailand is an ideal stopover between Australia and Europe and the perfect place to get acclimatised in Asia. The country is easy to travel, thanks to its developed transport network and numerous tourist destinations. But be careful, you can easily fall in love with the place and never want to leave! Here is our 4-week itinerary for your backpacking adventure in Thailand.
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Bangkok: Between History and Modernity
Duration: 3 days minimum
We recommend you give yourself at least a few days to discover this vibrant metropolis, its street food, its majestic temples and more. Don’t miss the Grand Palace and its emerald Buddha, the emblematic Wat Arun, located by the river. Or Wat Pho and its 46m long golden Buddha. These temples close around 3pm, so plan to visit them in the morning. Remember that you will need to cover your shoulders and legs to enter.
Do not miss the huge covered market in Chatuchak. Every weekend, take advantage of the 15,000 stalls to hunt for souvenirs, pick out an outfit for your adventures on the islands, and taste the delicious Thai cuisine. Then jump into a tuk tuk to admire the lights of Bangkok by night in a rooftop bar. You need proper attire for these bars (no swimwear etc.).
For more entertainment, head to Khao San Road. Here you can taste grilled scorpions and spiders, shop for clothes and souvenirs, visit local tattoo artists and dozens of bars. A paradise for street parties, this district is to be avoided if you are looking for some peace and quiet or hate touristy spots. If you’re not sure, check it out in the early evening to get a feeling for the vibe.
The North: Temples and Jungle
Duration: 1 week
After your few days in frenetic Bangkok, jump on a train to Ayutthaya for an authentic experience on a smaller budget. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, you can travel by air conditioned minibus.
You will need a day to explore the ruins of the ancient royal city, with its temples dating from the 15th century and the famous head of Buddha in the middle of the roots of a tree.
Afterwards, continue your journey to the beautiful old town of Sukhothai. For less than €3, you can rent a bike and set off to conquer dozens of temples and ruins in the ancestral park. Depending on the cities and eras, the temples all have different atmospheres and styles. Our favorites here are Wat Mahathat and the Elephant Temple.
Then spend a few days further north in beautiful Chiang Mai. Visit Doi Suthep National Park, with stunning waterfalls lost in the forest. Take in the breathtaking views of the rice paddies from the top of the Doi Inthanon temples or go on a jungle trek. You can also spend some time in the city with its lively streets, its atmosphere and its friendly inhabitants who are always ready to chat with you.
From Friday to Sunday, the night market is a show in its own right in Chiang Mai. You can stroll between stalls of all kinds and admire street performances. To party, go to Zoey in Yellow Garden, located in a lively area with restaurants, bars and clubs. Don’t miss a ladyboy cabaret.
The South: Turquoise waters, snorkelling and adventures
Duration: 2 to 3 weeks
Travel to the south of Thailand by plane, from Chang Mai to Phuket or Sura Thani (with a stopover in Bangkok).
Patong & Koh Phi Phi
In Patong, the main town, expect to find a dirty beach, crowded streets and inflated prices. Jump quickly in a boat to explore the wild Koh Lanta. Far away from the crowds, kayak on the emerald water and don’t forget to explore the mangroves.
Then it’s on to the touristy but beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi. The island is pedestrianised and shopping enthusiasts will enjoy the small streets with their colourful stalls. In the evening, go to the North Bay Beach. It lights up like a Full Moon party with fire-eaters, music and a neon atmosphere.
For nature lovers, at sunset, climb up to the view point which offers you a magnificent panorama of the island.
To discover the surrounding bays, we advise you to charter a long boat (less than €30). Your guide will provide you with snorkelling equipment so you can explore the corals and see the multicoloured fish. If you want to follow the hordes of tourists, head to Maya Bay, known for the movie The Beach.
Railay is waiting for you. Accessible by boat, you can stay on site or in the neighbouring towns of Ao Nang or Krabi. Life is sweet in Railay, where hippies and backpackers meet in bars to the rhythm of reggae music.
Adventurers, take on the cliffs surrounding the bay for a climbing session. If you still have strength, take up the challenge of the hike that leads to the viewpoint. You will have to go through mud and jungle, but the adventure is unforgettable. Finally, enjoy a swim in the emerald waters on Railay‘s magnificent western beach, lined with coconut palms and cliffs that stand out against the turquoise sky. Rent a kayak for a few euro and explore the caves, or admire the sunset at sea.
Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, these three islands have a lot to offer. Spend a few days on Koh Pha Ngan, an island so dear to the hearts of backpackers. Known for its famous Full Moon parties, the island has more to offer than endless partying. Book a yoga retreat in the north of the island: you will be welcomed in a guest house and take advantage of on-site classes to learn yoga or improve your skills. Rent a scooter to travel around this vast island. Don’t forget you need an international license to avoid a fine, and of course a helmet in case of accident.
You are now ready to discover Than Sadet National Park and its dozens of waterfalls. You will also enjoy a dip after climbing for a few hours! Book a day trip to snorkel in the magical waters of Koh Tao and then hike to the small islands of Koh Nang Yuan.
If you are there during the Full Moon or the Half Moon festival and like to party, do not miss these evenings. The Full Moon is free to access on Haad Rin beach but the Half Moon is ticketed (about €30).
Even outside these dates, there are plenty of places to party in the area. Our favourite, Eden Garden, is a bar accessed by boat. In this large wooden cabin perched above the turquoise water, sip a cocktail, look around you and enjoy your last moments in the Land of Smiles after an unforgettable trip.
It is also advisable to get vaccinated against rabies and undergo malaria treatment.
If you want to go to rural areas, especially during the monsoon season (June to October), you should be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis.