Where to Go on Your Trip to Thailand: Bangkok and Beyond
In a recent vacation survey, Thailand was the exotic destination most Americans would like to travel to, and there is good reason. Popular Thailand travel destinations offer some of the world’s best beaches, scuba diving, rock climbing, and delicious cuisine.
Here’s an overview of some of the top Thailand destinations to help you plan your trip:
Bangkok is likely where you will fly into Thailand, and it is a city that never sleeps. A whirlwind of scooters, street food, and vendors—it is an assault on the senses. Start with a tour of Bangkok’s most famous temples, such as Loha Prasat, Wat Arun, Phra Pathom Chedi, Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Then, visit the Chatuchak weekend market, which is the largest market in Thailand with more than 200,000 visitors per weekend and 8,000 stalls. If you enjoy markets, then don’t pass up the Damnoen Saduak floating market, either.
Take a cruise on the Chao Phraya River to see the remaining stilt houses, a reminder of Bangkok’s reputation as the Venice of the East. Famous as a backpacker party destination, you also shouldn’t visit Bangkok without a trip to Khao San Road to see the nightlife.
Koh Lanta & Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi Don, made famous in the film The Beach, offers beautiful views, but also shows the wear and tear of an island exposed to too much tourism without check. It is one of the most popular Thailand vacation destinations with a riotous party scene. The views of Koh Phi Phi shouldn’t be missed on your trip to Thailand, but you may find you only want to spend one to two days there. Also note that the government has shut the island to tourism from June 2018 - September 2018 in an effort to halt the environmental damage of over tourism.
A good alternative is Koh Lanta, which is a 30 minute boat ride from Koh Phi Phi. Less of a party scene, Lanta also has beautiful beaches and jungle covered hills. Stay on Long Beach, where you can enjoy the white sand beach, have a beer at a reggae bar, or rent a stand up paddle board and take it to the next beach. Lanta is fairly large, so you also might want to consider renting a scooter to tour the island. Tuk-tuks are also an option for getting around, although more expensive. Once you’ve explored the island, take a day tour to the Trang Islands to kayak and snorkel around impressive islands of limestone.
Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand and is found in the Gulf of Thailand. It has come a long way from hippy backpacker destination to an island that now offers five-star resorts, fine dining, and luxury shopping. Go to the high-end Air Bar to watch a beautiful sunset. Then, if you enjoy nightlife, head to the Green Mango Club and dance into the wee hours. If a wellness retreat is more your style, check out the Samahita resort, where you can enjoy yoga and meditation. The busiest beach is Chaweng Beach which has white sand, clear water, and a lively nightlife. Lamai Beach is another good option that isn’t quite as crowded.
Koh Phangan is perhaps most known as a backpacker destination and home to the infamous full moon party, but it offers much more than that. Located right off the Gulf of Thailand’s premier dive spot, Sail Rock, it is a dream for divers and snorkelers looking to experience colorful ocean life. In addition, with more than 30 beaches, it is a great destination for relaxing on the beach. That said, if you are curious, the full moon party is a giant beach rave with fire dancers, people wearing glow-in-the-dark face paint, and bass-heavy music.
When vacationing in Thailand, you cannot miss Chiang Mai. Famous for its Elephant Nature Park that rescues elephants from around the country, you can visit the park on a day trip or spend a week in the park volunteering. Chiang Mai is also the center of Thai handicrafts and the night bazaar is the largest in Thailand. You can find some of the best deals here as long as you are willing to haggle.
Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai and claims to contain relics of the actual Buddha. Every evening at 6 p.m. you can watch the monks chant.
If you love Thai food, you should take a cooking class in Chiang Mai. You will start with a tour of the market, followed by a lesson in traditional Thai cuisine. Foodies should also go to a Khantoke dinner, where you will eat traditional Northern Thai dishes and enjoy a show of traditional music and dance.
Railay Beach is a beautiful spot on the tip of Thailand’s Railay Peninsula. The entire peninsula is often called Railay Beach, although each strip of beach has its own name. Railay West has mid-price accommodations, while Tonsai is more budget-friendly. At the South end, Phra Nang Beach is arguably the most beautiful, but the only hotel option is a high-end resort. While the beaches are beautiful, Railay’s biggest claim to fame is its premier rock climbing with more than 600 routes.
Insuring Your Trip
While Thailand is very affordable once you arrive, traveling to Thailand can be expensive, since it is usually at least a 24 hour trip from the U.S. In addition, once you get to Thailand, you are likely visiting beautiful islands with less than ideal medical facilities. This is why insuring your trip to Thailand with a plan that includes Trip Cancellation and Medical coverages is key to a safe, responsible journey. Travel insurance plans from Generali Global Assistance include these coverages and more—perfect for your trip abroad.