Last updated January 2017
I’ve been to Thailand three times since I originally wrote this post, so I thought it might be helpful to add some updates to the amazing things I’ve done in Thailand since I sat in my dorm dreaming about my trip two years ago!
Winter is coming… and I’ll be in Southeast Asian paradise!
I have two school breaks coming up soon: two weeks in January and another three weeks in February. This January I’ll be off to Cambodia and Laos, while I’ll be spending February in Thailand! I’ll be traveling solo on both of these trips, which is a little bit scary but also exciting! All of my friends here think I’m crazy, but it’s fine, I’m used to it.
So why am I talking about Thailand when Cambodia and Laos come first? Well for one, I just bought my tickets(!!!), secondly I also just bought tickets for the TBEX Travel Blogging conference in Bangkok next year, and thirdly, a few of my favorite bloggers are traveling through Thailand at the moment and their posts are filling me with wanderlust. Basically, I’m a little obsessed and I’ve started going crazy on Pinterest.
What’s the plan?
I’ll admit I’m a huge planner. I love having every place I’m staying planned and booked before I leave. I’m trying to be more adventurous and just go, but with only three weeks to see all of Thailand, I feel like I need to actually plan this one; especially since I’ll be booking volunteer trips and scuba diving lessons. A part of me really wants to take off for a few months and motorbike through SE Asia with no plan, but unfortunately I have to be responsible and finish grad school.
A part of me really wants to take off for a few months and motorbike through SE Asia with no plan, but unfortunately I have to be responsible and finish grad school.
1. A few days in Bangkok
My fight is roundtrip in and out of Bangkok, so I’ll definitely be spending a few days in this vibrant city! I plan on eating ALL the street food I can get my hands on. I will also visit the historical districts of Thonburi and Rattanakosin and the famous Grand Palace. I’m in love with markets so I’ll be sure to make a trip the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest market in the world! I also want to check out a floating market and the Maeklong train market.
I definitely plan on making a day trip to Ayuthhaya, the ancient capital of Thailand. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and there are plenty of temples and ancient ruins to explore. I’ll also be sure to catch a Ladyboy show before I leave. From what I’ve heard, these performers are extremely talented and the shows are very entertaining!
UPDATE: I also did a homestay in a rural home outside of Bangkok where we cooked dinner together and ate an incredible breakfast the next morning!
2. Chiang Mai and the Elephant Nature Park
I can’t wait to explore the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. The city is covered in stunning temples, and the slow pace of life will be a nice change from hectic Bangkok. There is also a massive night bazaar almost every night, in addition to a huge Sunday night market. I also plan on taking a cooking class (we all know how much I love food), and maybe watching a Muy Thai boxing match!
Chiang Mai is also home to the Elephant Nature Park, the only place in Thailand that 100% cruelty-free towards elephants. While you can’t ride the elephants at this reserve (it’s really bad for their backs!), you can play with, feed and bathe them. If you want to see elephants in Thailand, Elephant Nature Park is definitely the way to go. All of the elephants are rescues and the babies are reared with the intent on releasing them into the wild. I’m so excited to visit this wonderful sanctuary and I will definitely write a full post on my experience when I visit!
3. Volunteer at the Safari Park
Tiger temples are another example of unfair animal treatment in Thailand. In short, they’re fed inappropriate food, drugged, lack exercise and the temple practices unsustainable breeding. I’ve always wanted to pet a tiger, but after reading this article, I don’t feel comfortable supporting Thai tiger temples.
So what is an animal lover to do? Volunteer at a humane Safari Park. The Safari Park is an organization run by an Australian-British couple that uses volunteers to care for rescued animals. They have big cats, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, exotic birds and more! You can volunteer for three days up to a few months! I think volunteering at this park would be an amazing opportunity, and volunteers get playtime with the cubs!
4. Relax in Paradise
Phuket, a beautiful paradise in Southern Thailand, is the perfect starting point for visiting all of the islands in the south. I plan on spending a few days here exploring the beautiful beaches and relaxing in the sun. I may also hike the Bang Pae waterfall or check out the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. I love monkeys… when they’re not trying to attack you. I also want to head out to Phang Nga Bay, where you can see breathtaking views of limestone cliffs. The bay is also home to floating Muslim villages with mosques on stilts!
While Phuket has gotten a bad reputation in the past for taxi scams and extremely touristy beaches, the government has recently cracked down on all of this activity. All of the beaches have been cleared of the makeshift souvenir stalls and touts, and the ringleaders of the taxi scams have been arrested. Many of the hotels and resorts also have incredible deals. I’m excited to see the new and improved Phuket and relax on one of the beautiful beaches.
UPDATE: I absolutely loved my time in Koh Lanta! It’s my favorite Thai island yet!
5. Learn to Scuba Dive and visit the other islands
Learning to scuba dive is definitely at the top of my bucket list! I’ve found a few different companies I’m considering, but I haven’t quite made up my mind yet. All I know is that I definitely want to try to get my scuba certification while I’m here. Have any recommendations for good scuba companies? Let me know in the comments!
I also want to hike up to Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi. 1,237 steps lead to an amazing view of surrounding mountains and large golden Buddhas. I also may spend a night on the party island of Koh Phi Phi or attend a Full Moon Party on Koh Phagan. You’re only 23 once! Finally, I may take a day trip to Koh Lanta, or one of the other less-inhabited picturesque islands.
UPDATE: I learned to scuba dive in Koh Tao and it was such an incredible experience. Diving is now one of my favorite hobbies, and I even got my advanced scuba certification in the Philippines!
Overall I absolutely can’t wait for my trip to Thailand. Writing this post has made me way too excited. I don’t know how I’m even going to sleep tonight! I can’t wait to escape China’s pollution and my freezing apartment to scuba dive in a tropical paradise, play with elephants and cubs and eat literally all of the Thai food I can get my hands on.
If any of you have any suggestions for my trip to Thailand (or Cambodia and Laos), please let me know in the comments!
26 comments on “Planning My Trip: Three Weeks in Thailand”
Try John Gray’s Sea Canoe in Phuket, it’s a fantastic way to see Phang Nga Bay. I loved the trip I did with them! I did the Hong by Starlight one and it was a fantastic day canoeing around and through the limestone karsts. No affiliation, just a happy customer :)
Thanks so much Erin, that sounds awesome! I will definitely look into it.
Soooo excited for you! And I’ll see you at TBEX in BK next year!
You’re going too? I’m so excited to finally meet so many other bloggers :D
That’s so exciting! I’ll be in Thailand in April so I’ll have to stalk your adventures there for tips. I’m SO excited and I heard its easier to travel there then in China so I’m very interested to compare. I might still steal your itinerary :)
Yeah everyone says Bangkok is so dirty and hectic, but I feel like it will be nothing compared to China and Vietnam. I’m just excited for some clear sunny skies and amazing adventures! You have time off in April?
I’m so happy that you’re doing some volunteering while you’re there – that’s amazing and can’t wait to hear about your experiences!
I hope I can get in! They only take so many volunteers and I’m going in high season. I think it would be such an amazing experience
You’re going to have so much fun! What are you plans for Cambodia and Laos? We are hoping to go in March! Your Thailand bucket list is so similar to ours, but I hadn’t heard of the Safari Park. Sounds amazing! Eric learned to dive in Krabi with Aqua Vision and we both loved them! (http://www.poplartravels.com/diving-krabi-aqua-vision-dive-center/ ). Everywhere you go will have great street food, but we especially love it in Chiang Mai! But we are a little biased since we will be living there until March. We should meet up!
I’d love to meet up in Chiang Mai! Thanks so much for recommending Aqua Vision. There’s so many great dive companies it’s hard to choose.
I haven’t quite planned everything for Cambodia and Laos yet… especially Laos. But once it’s planned I’ll let you know! Maybe I’ll do an itinerary post for that trip too
I spent some time volunteering at an orphanage in Chiang Mai years ago, and I was in Hat Yai for the Songkran Festival, but that’s all I’ve experienced of the country. I might actually visit there with my family for a few days in February, too!
Wow really? Volunteering at an orphanage sounds like such a great experience. I hope you have the opportunity to go down again and see the rest of the country :)
The temple shot you have here was “my temple” last winter in Chiang Mai. I walked by it everyday, and almost always went in and set for at least a few minutes, or took some photos. Don’t worry about traveling solo. Use your commonsense and you’ll be fine. :)
Really? It’s such a beautiful temple I can’t wait to see it. I’m not too nervous about traveling solo because I know a lot of people do it so I’m bound to make a few friends :D
WOW! Sounds like a trip! Take lots of pictures!! So excited to see your new posts on this trip :)
Thanks Isabel! I always take waaaay too many photos, so I’m sure Thailand will be the same
So exciting, Thailand is still a dream for me!! ave fun!
Thanks Hannah. I feel that way about a lot of places in Europe :)
Beautiful images. damned shame to hear about the tiger temple.
I know, I was so disappointed! But hopefully I can get a spot volunteering at that safari park
Instead of Phuket, I’d recommend visiting Railay beach instead, which is less touristy but so incredibly beautiful. And Koh Phi Phi is a must! Make sure you go to the viewpoint, its definitely one of my top memories! And when you’re up in Chiang Mai, you just have to rent a motorbike and ride to Pai. I had been terrified of motorbiking before that trip, but after meeting a group of travellers who forced us into doing it I quickly became obsessed! Have so much fun and eat lots of Khanom Krok for me, my favourite Thai dessert =)
Thanks so much for all the advice, especially when it comes to the islands. It’s hard to decide which ones to visit because there are so many options!
OMG, you got to pet real leopards? That’s so cool. And I thought I was cool because I got to pet penguins at the zoo once… ?
hahaha this was just my dream itinerary at the time. Never ended up doing that part, but I did go to Elephant Nature Park and pet elephants which was incredible!
Wearing sandals most of the time is very convenient. You will be taking them off constantly as you visit the temples or sacred places, and as you hop on and off of the long tail boats.
Definitely! In SE Asia all my shoes are sandals and ballet flats!