How to plan your trip to Thailand
Can you put it on a map? – A Geography lesson
A place of wonder, Thailand has become the sweetheart of backpackers all around the world. Temples, elephants, long neck woman, insects on a stick, waterfalls, jungle, monks, tuk tuks, massages, national parks, mountains or delicious spicy food! You name it, Thailand as it all!
Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand or ‘the land of free man”, is surrounded by Myanmar, Malesia, Cambodia and Laos.
Thailand has always been a dream for me and it was time to make it come true! I had the time, I had the money and I had the nerves! This was my longest backpacer trip.
At first my plan was to do it solo but a friend ask me if she could join, and it turns out to be the best thing, not because Thailand isn't a good place to solo travel but because I couldn't have ask for a better company than Maite.
We agree that this would be a jungle hiking trip with low budget, no frills and carrying everything we would need for the next 40 days in a 40L backpack!
But, where to start?!
Where to go and how long to stayThe hardest part of planning a trip to Thailand was to figure out how long to stay and where to go. We only had 32 days and it is a reaallly huge country with a lot of beauties. So first of all I did my research and listed all the MUST GO places (in my opinion). With that in mind we decided to let the rest go with the flow.
The second thing to consider is the purpose of your trip is it: backpacking; getting involved with the culture; hiking; or are you looking for something more comfortable and luxury for a honeymoon or family vacation? (After all, you can get all of it for good affordable prices in Thailand).
For me, the thing I wanted the most for this trip was to get involve with nature and the jungle as much as I could, hiking to Thailand was a dream coming true.
So once we knew which cities we were going to go that was it. Not having it all plan was the best thing we did because there were places we wanted to stay longer than we thought. There is a reason why Thailand have become one of the most wanted places for travelers, it is not just an exotic land but also one of the most beautiful places with the kindest people I even been to. Furthermore, Thailand is the easiest country for backpackers, they are extremely ready for tourism and is a perfect place to start traveling solo (ladies this count for you too!).
Thailand is not an expensive country; you can find accommodations and food for a really good price. The south is more touristic mostly because it has all the paradisiac beaches (including the famous Maya Bay, from “The Beach”, with young and pretty Leonardo DiCaprio), therefore is a bit more expensive then Bangkok. On the other hand, in the North everything is even cheaper (nice place to get THE massage!)
So now I am sharing the result of it with you guys, and later I will tell you what would I have done different:
What to do and how to get
|27/ago||Bangkok||1 day||Train bus + ferry to Ko Pha Ngan (18 hours trip)|
|28/ago||Ko Pha Ngan||3 days||Khao Ra hiking + Full Moon Party|
|29/ago||Ko Pha Ngan||Beach day + Night ferry to Khao Sok (over night)|
|30/ago||Khao Sok||6 days||National Park|
|31/ago||Khao Sok||National Park – Lake Tour|
|01/set||Khao Sok||National Park – Lake Tour|
|02/set||Khao Sok||National Park – Surviver Tour|
|03/set||Khao Sok||National Park – Surviver Tour|
|04/set||Ko Lanta||4 days||Bus to Ko Lanta + Ferry|
|05/set||Ko Lanta||Beach day|
|06/set||Ko Lanta||Around the island with the motorbike|
|07/set||Ko Lanta||Beach Day + Thai Pub|
|08/set||Krabi – Ko Phi Phi||1 day||Touristic pack to Ko Phi Phi + Plain to Chiang Mai|
|09/set||Chiang Mai||6 days||Cooking class|
|10/set||Chiang Mai||Jungle trekking Tour|
|11/set||Chiang Mai||Jungle trekking Tour|
|12/set||Chiang Mai||Jungle trekking Tour|
|13/set||Chiang Mai||Night Market + Temple|
|14/set||Chiang Mai||Tatoo + Roof Top Bar|
|16/set||Pai||Mister Chart Trekk|
|17/set||Pai||Mister Chart Trekk|
|18/set||Pai||Mister Chart Trekk|
|22/set||Pai||Street Market + Motorbike tour|
|23/set||Pai||Bus to Chaing Mai|
|24/set||Chiang Mai||1 day||Train to Bangkok|
|25/set||Bangkok||2 days||Turistic points|
|26/set||Bangkok – Bali||Market + Flight to Bali – Indonesia|
We end up spending a lot of time in Pai but it was mostly because of all the amazing people we met there then from the city itself. I also would spend less time in Chaing Mai, but since we were too tired for all the movement we decided that we could spend a few more days there, also because I was with a really good friend from Denmark. Two big regrets were not taking time to go to Chaing Rai to do the hiking to Laos’s border and the climbing to Railway Beach, in Krabi.
Over all, I see this as a great chronogram. Just keep in mind that there are some places we didn’t had time to go and are also incredible, so make sure to do your research well so you won’t miss out on anything you might consider more interesting than I did, have your own PRIORITY LIST! Most important, there is no wrong way, you will enjoy it all, everything in Thailand is surprising and beautiful!
When to go
Thailand has a tropical humid weather with monsoon season. The year can be divided in two seasons, the rainy summer (may-oct) and the dry winter (nov-apr).
From May to October is monsoon season which means the probability of a loooot of rain, sometimes during the whole day. The advantage is that this is low season so everything is cheaper! (Also, there is less tourists, which I see has a plus).
If you have the opportunity to choose, then the best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the wheatear is not super hot, it does not rain that much and the humidity is lower. However, that is the high season so is a bit more pricy.
Ok, so I was finishing my abroad program and I had 2 months to travel before coming back to Brazil. The thingis, that was on September, the so feared monsoon time in Thailand. I heard from a lot of people that I should choose someplace else, or that I would be wasting my money because it was going to be raining the whole day everything, inundations, tsunamis, I heard it all, people were telling me it would be m y biggest regret. Well, I said fuck it, I am going. And I did, and it was AMAZING.
I don’t know if I was just lucky enough but the whole time I was there it rained 2 days in Bangkok and 3 days in Pai, and even so it was sunny and pleasant. So, the fact is, the best time to visit is whenever the time you can!
The money used in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). It is a pretty cheap country so you carry a lot of bath (that is when you feel riiiiiich).
Just so you can situate yourself better, the quotation now is around:
1 dollar = 34 Baht
1 pound = 44 Baht
1 Real = 10 Baht (that is easy to quote! )
Be careful not to spend too much is you are in a budget because everything is so cheap you may lose control! Hehe.
Depending on which region you are in you can get a whole meal for less than a dollar. For instance, in Chiang Mai I had a favorite restaurant where I had Pad Thai pretty much every day for (believe it or not) only 25 Baht!! (And my mouth waters whenever I think about it, like now).
Getting there – London to Bangkok:
I flight with Turkish Airlines from London to Bangkok with a stopover in Istanbul and I can honest recommend this company to anyone.
It was better than I expected, right on the begging of the flight they gave us warm towels for cleaning your hands and a Turkish sweet called Lokum, so you start to feel a bit of the Turkey experience before even landing.
The food was excellent (also, they had a good vegetarian option), even in economic class they provide us an overnight kit with some items to make you flight as comfortable as possible, the crew was great and helpful and there was private entertainment on each seat.
Since me and Maite had never been to Turkey we decide to embrace that opportunity and get the longest stop over as possible, so we ended up spending 22 hours in Istanbul.
We got to Istanbul airport late at night and tried to get a courtesy hotel room with the flight company (as they told us it would be possible when we ask in about it London), but since we had the option to flight on the same day and it was our choice to get the longest flight they could give us the room. No problem though, if you are not very pick, the airport itself can be a great overnight sometimes. So we just put two pairs of chairs together and sleep like a baby.
Tip: Sleeping in Airports provides excellent information’s about airports all around the world, you can find all kind of things like where to get Wi-Fi, best place to sleep, where to charge you phone and other useful information).
For our delight, in Istanbul airport, there was some massage chair around it where we could get 3 min massages from 1 Lira (25 pence). Of course we spend several minutes relaxing before bed time haha. As it turns out, the company (once again, superb company) offer us a free tour with lunch and transportation included for the next day (our flight to Bangkok was late in the afternoon).
Arriving in Bangkok – From Suvarnabhumi (BKK)
As you guys know I was living in England, but I am from Brazil, so I am gonna write about the rules of entrance for Brazilians mostly.
Good news! There is no need for Visa, we can cross this border carrying just the passport, as long as your stay doesn’t exceed 3 months (for European people the limit is 30 days). Furthermore, for those who are planning a longer trip there is always the possibility to hit the road to one of the neighbor’s country and go back to Thailand, renewing the 90 days rule.
Keep in mind that you should be up to date on routine vaccinations while travelling to any destination, especially when you are coming from/going to a tropical country, and sometimes a specific vaccine is required.
In Thailand, if you are coming from south America you need to prove you have been vaccinate for yellow fever at least 10 days before travelling, so do not forget your international vaccination certificate!
Tip: If you are Brazilian here is the Anvisa link explaining how to get you international certificate.
Once you landed in Bangkok international airport, Suvarnabhumi (BKK), you will need to look for the HEALTH CONTROL department before going to the immigration line (every one forgets about that, including me), otherwise you will wait in line for nothing. You will need to fulfill a form and show your passport and international vaccination certificate and they will give you the free pass for immigration control. The rest was easy peasy, no questions no nothing.
WELCOME TO THAILAND!
Now you are officially in Bangkok! The airport is well signposted with signs in Thai and English (lucky for us). My recommendation is to get a free map from the city, which has the information about bus and transportations at the Touristic Information desk.
Also, if you are spending more than a week in the country a sim card can be useful. I bought a pre-paid TRUE phone company card so I could get internet and maps during my stay, it was the best thing we did and it wasn’t that expensive.
You can’t use dollar or euro there so change at least some money before leaving the airport. Normally airports don’t give the best exchange rate, so I would recommend to get enough baht for emergency till you can get another exchange house at the city.
Language – a piece of information to get around like a good traveler
When travelling to a new country in order to really dive in the culture, the first think you will get in touch is the local language.
Of course that actually learn Thai is a hard task, but with a small vocabulary you can form day-to-day sentences that will make your life easier and more fun (it is a cute language) and more than anything, knowing those basics greetings will make you a real traveler that shows respect and effort to know about local culture.
Tip: Thai people do not hold back on smiles, Learn from them!
For me it, Thai sounded completely different from everything I know, the sound is more nasal and funny to pronounce. So, one of the first things you will notice is that most the sentences ends with ‘krup’ or ‘ka’. When a man is speaking he uses ‘krup’, if it is a woman ends with the ‘ka’. So below are a few words that can be useful on your stay in Thailand.
Hello: Saw wad dee ka/krup
How are you?: Sa bye dee mai?
I am fine: Sa bye dee ka/krup
Thank you: Kob coon ka/krup
Good bye: La gone
And my favourite sentence of all, the on that represented my stay in Thailand more than anything:
Happy/ everything's chilled: Sabai Sabai (Or, as it was better defined from a Thai guy ‘Hatuna Matata’, perfect to describe the Thai lifestyle).
Check this website for more intereseting translations!
If you are in a touristic place you will find someone who speaks English, but be prepare to practice your mimic’s game. Furthermore people there are so helpful and friendly that they will try their best to help you with whatever you need. One thing I notice is that the kids speak better English then their parents (sometimes the parents didn’t knew a word actually), probably due to the fact that Thailand is attracting more and more tourists every day.
See you later alligator!
On the next posts I will tell you guys more about that experience and talk about all the citys I have been to in details, feel free to ask me anything! I hope you enjoy the tips!