It’s been a while since I wrote about Thailand, but it’s one of the countries from our travels I’m always thinking about and wistfully yearning to return to.
I realised recently that although I wrote a highlights post for South East Asia in general, I never wrote one specifically for Thailand, despite it being one of our favourite countries from the whole trip. From the cities to the temples to the beaches, it’s a fantastic mash-up of relaxation and culture. As popular as Thailand is on the tourist trail, it’s just as easy to find places off the beaten path.
So here are 5 of my favourite places in Thailand, plus 5 places I want to visit next time!
Despite the notoriety surrounding this tiny island (the media are dubbing it “Death Island”!), Koh Tao placed itself firmly at the top of our Thailand list. We hired a scooter to explore the 6-mile length of the island, took a snorkelling tour to some incredible places including the famous Nang Yuan island, and fell in love with the main town of Mae Haad. Ignore the press – this place is beautiful and well worth a visit!
Read more: Koh Tao: Our Favourite Thai Island
Our other favourite Thai island isn’t one of the usual ones, but it’s popular on the backpacking route. However, we visited in May and you would have been forgiven for thinking it’s totally off the beaten path. Beaches were deserted, roads were quiet, and our hostel sometimes only had about five people staying! We had some of our favourite wildlife experiences (lots of monitor lizards and monkeys!) and it was a great base for exploring Koh Phi Phi without being crowded with tourists.
Read more: And Then We Fell In Love With Koh Lanta
Even though you hear all about Chiang Mai all the time on all the blogs (it’s a blogger and digital nomad hub, after all), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and with so many mixed opinions on the city I didn’t know if I’d even enjoy our time there. So I arrived with indifference, and immediately got pretty wet because it was the middle of Songkran. We ended up having such a good time in Chiang Mai! I loved all the temples on every corner, the old city, the Sunday night market, the strip of bars with all sorts of different music in each one, the coffee shops and the people. It’s such a laid back place that it doesn’t really feel like a city, and it’s a fantastic base to explore northern Thailand… which we didn’t really do.
I loved Railay Beach – it was exactly what I expected a Thai beach to be like, which we didn’t really get on Koh Tao or Koh Phangan. But it wasn’t my favourite beach in the area – we took a ten minute walk to Phranang Beach, which was by the far one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to! The cave is unbelievable and I loved all the limestone stacks.
As a day trip from Bangkok, Ayutthaya offers a fantastic day trip to see ancient temples from its hey day as the capital of Thailand. I absolutely loved it; the whole city is photogenic, and the destroyed temples with headless buddhas are eerie as hell. We declined the hordes of tuk tuks at the bus station, and instead walked to all the temples. However, I’d recommend hiring a bicycle and exploring the old city that way.
5 Places I Want To Visit Next Time
Whenever we talk about going back to Asia, the two countries that always come up are Vietnam and Thailand. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll spend more time in Thailand purely because there are so many places I still want to see. Here are 5 of them.
We need to complete the trio of Gulf islands, and we couldn’t quite fit Samui into our schedule. However, it looks beautiful. It’s definitely more of a “honeymoon” destination than Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, but it would be great to do on a budget, too.
I was desperate to see more of northern Thailand, but our time in the country was scheduled entirely by Songkran, the Full Moon Party, and a week at Elephant Nature Park in between. So we stuck to Chiang Mai and never made it up to Pai, Chiang Rai, or any of the other popular northern destinations. DEFINITELY next time! Not only do the northern landscapes look absolutely stunning, but the chilled out town of Pai looks charming and the temples in Chiang Rai unreal.
I can’t decide if Koh Chang is underrated, overrated, touristy, off the beaten path or what. All I know is Lonely Beach looks amazing and it’s supposed to be one of Thailand’s cheapest destinations (I’d put Koh Lanta on that list, but then I don’t know if that was anything to do with us being there in low season).
For a bit of culture, I’d love to head to central Thailand between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Pretty much bang in the centre is Sukhothai, famous for its ruined temples. To be honest, although it was kind-of-but-kind-of-not on my list for our trip, I don’t think we would have appreciated as much as we would a second trip around, because we were getting “templed out”. I didn’t think that would happen, but it’s true. However, the more I read about this place, the more I want to visit!
Koh Phi Phi
I’m kind of cheating on this one, because I’ve already been to Koh Phi Phi. But we only spent a day there (or half a day, really) which included a climb up to the view point (above), lunch, and a couple of hours lounging on the beach, so I’d love to go back for at least a couple of days. We loved Phi Phi a lot more than we thought we would! I’d like to do more of the excursions and spend a bit longer relaxing.
Which destinations are your favourite in Thailand? Do you prefer beaches or culture?