Thailand is beautiful, friendly, and welcoming country filled with amazing food, a fascinating culture, rich history, and a tropical climate. Thailand is a magnet for visitors from all around the world, and many expats have chosen Thailand as their new home due to its rich offerings and low cost of living. Thailand has been a bucket list of ours for awhile so we was stoked when we was able to take enough time off over Christmas break to head to this long-awaited destination.
If this is your first trip to Thailand, check out our Thailand Travel Guide: What to Expect. We’ve included a bunch of information to help prepare you for a hassle-free, stress-free trip to the beautiful country of Thailand. We’ve learned a lot on this trip that we didn’t learn from online research, so we thought we’d share with you, our lovely readers, our experiences, tips, and learnings.
This itinerary is good for:
- Nature & Hiking
- Land & Water Activities
- Historic Sites & Culture
Here is a summary of the two weeks that we spent in Thailand. You can read through the entire itinerary (which we highly suggest you do!), or skip to more details about a specific day.
|Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore City Centre|
|Day 2: Explore Outskirts of City Centre|
|Day 3: Fly into Krabi and Explore the Area|
|Day 4: Rock Climbing and Exploring Railay Beach|
|Day 5: Khao Sok National Park Tour|
|Day 6: Phi Phi Island Tour|
|Day 7: Fly into Koh Samui, Explore Lamai & Chaweng*|
|Day 8: Big Buddha & Bophut*|
|Day 9: Ang Thong Marine Park*|
|Day 10: Skip a 4th day in Koh Samui*|
|Day 11: Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore City Centre|
|Day 12: Doi Inthanon National Park|
|Day 13: Elephant Nature Park & More|
|Day 14: Fly back to Bangkok Airport (BKK) and back home!|
*Note: If you are unable to take 2 full weeks off to travel to Thailand, you can reduce this itinerary by 4 days by removing Koh Samui altogether. To be completely honest, we did not like Koh Samui. If you skip out on this island, you won’t be missing much. However, we still included it in this itinerary since there are some small gems on this island. And if you’re already booked your tickets to visit and want to know what to do, we have them listed for you.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), also known unofficially as the Bangkok Airport, is Bangkok’s newest and largest international airports in the country. This is the airport you will most likely be landing in if you’re flying from abroad.
Depending on when you arrive in Bangkok, you may not have time to see everything on this day. However, if you arrive in the morning and eager to immerse yourself in the city as we did, then you’ll have all day to take on Bangkok! And squeeze in a quick nap like we did 😉
|1. Walk down Khao San Road|
|2. Visit the Grand Palace|
|3. See the reclining buddha at Wat Phra Kaew|
|4. Stop and smell the roses at Pak Khlong Talat|
|5. Visit the Wat Arun|
1. WALK DOWN KHAO SAN ROAD
Khao San Road is the backpacking capital of the world. You will see an abundant amount of entertainment, activities, restaurants, street food, and – of course – hostels.
4. VISIT WAT ARUN
Wat Arun, also known as ‘The Temple of Dawn’, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting on the Chao Phraya River, the famous landmark is one of the most striking in Bangkok. Many photographers come here to take a photo either at sunrise or sunset. Either time of day is beautiful, so take photos of both if you have the opportunity!
|1. Spend half a day eating your way through a floating market|
|2. Shop and eat at Terminal 21|
|3. Take a stroll through Lumphini Park|
|4. Browse and eat at the Chatuchak Weekend Market|
|5. Have a cocktail at sunset on a rooftop bar|
- Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market (14.8km)
- Taling Chan Floating Market (9.4km)
- Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market – Reported closed
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (100km)
- Amphawa Floating Market (88km)
2. SHOP AND EAT AT TERMINAL 21
Opened in 2011, Terminal 21 is a shopping complex that has everything that you could possibly ask for in a mall – from lower-end clothes to higher-end brands and a food court with variety of cuisines. Each floor is themed after a city: Caribbean, Rome, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, San Francisco, and Pier 21 Bangkok. Each floor offerings a little something different, so get in those steps and visit each floor!
5. HAVE A COCKTAIL AT SUNSET ON A ROOFTOP BAR
Take a morning flight from Bangkok to Krabi. You will most likely fly out from Don Mueang Airport (DMK). This is an older airport in northern Bangkok. We booked our flights with Air Asia a few weeks prior to our arrival in Thailand for only $42 per person. Since we were traveling with a larger piece of luggage we paid for extra weight of our baggage but it wasn’t too much more.
TIP #1: Traffic in Bangkok is terrible, even at 5:30am! Leave ample amount of time in the morning to arrive to your gate on time. We left our Airbnb at 5:30am and didn’t get to our gate until a little past 7am. Our departure time was 7:35am.
TIP #2: Take the first morning flight out, if possible. Early morning flights are normally cheaper AND traffic in Bangkok will just get worse later in the day so it would be best to avoid that mess.
Once we arrived at the Krabi Airport, we took a shared shuttle to Ao Nang. You can book this upon arrival to Krabi Airport. A shared shuttle will take about 40 minutes after dropping everyone else off along the way from Krabi Airport to Ao Nang.
Note: You have the option of taking a taxi directly to your hotel but this will cost more.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at the Vogue Resort & Spa in Ao Nang. It’s a quaint little resort that could be in need of some remodeling but the room was spacious and satisfied our needs. It’s a great location because it’s on the main strip and a close walk to Ao Nang Beach. We weren’t allowed to check in early but we were allowed to leave our luggage with reception while we explored the area.
|1. Eat Lunch at Massaman Restaurant & Bar|
|2. Walk around Ao Nang Town|
|3. Relax at Ao Nang Beach|
|4. Head to Krabi Town|
1. EAT LUNCH AT MASSAMAN RESTAURANT & BAR
Massaman Restaurant & Bar is a casual venue serving delicious and cheap Thai food. It was only a 2 minute walk from our hotel. Because of its proximity to our hotel, price, and quality of food, we ate here 3 times during our stay! They serve both Thai and Westernized food but I highly suggest ordering Thai food because, well, you’re in Thailand! And it was tasty and not overly sweet like most other Thai food we’ve had in the country.
2. WALK AROUND AO NANG TOWN
The town itself is small and you can walk the entire thing in ~30 minutes. In this town, you will see many shops selling clothing, souvenirs, nick-nacks, food, drinks, and dessert.
3. RELAX AT AO NANG BEACH
After you finish the first strip of Ao Nang Town, you will end at Ao Nang Beach. This is less than a 10-minute walk from Vogue Resort. Here, you will find an abundant amount of long-tail boats and open space to lay out and relax. Buy some coconuts or sticky mango rice and eat some while lounging at the beach! There are also people walking around selling beer and non-alcoholic drinks on the beach. Just flag them down if you’re interested. Beer was only 50 baht!
- Climb the stairs to Tiger Cave (Wat Tham Sua)
- See the Khao Khanab Nam Mountains
- Hike the trail on Dragon Crest Mountain (Khao Ngon Nak)
- Visit the Emerald Pool and Hot Springs
Spend the morning taking an adventurous 1/2 day outdoor rock climb up limestone rocks at Railay Beach with Real Rocks Climbing School.
After the 1/2 of rock climbing is over, you will get the opportunity to explore Railay Beach and its surrounding area while the full-day rock climbers continue their climbs.
|1. Go outdoor rock climbing|
|2. Walk around Railay Beach|
|3. Relax and sunbathe on Phra Nang Cave Beach|
|4. Explore Diamond Cave|
1. GO OUTDOOR ROCK CIMBING
We signed up for a 1/2 days beginner’s rock climbing course with Real Rocks Climbing School Outdoor Tours. I am absolutely TERRIFIED of heights so why I signed us up for this is beyond me but it’s a popular activity to do in Railay Beach so I figured why not give it a shot? Besides I’m strapped in and belayed by a professional guide so it still can’t be THAT scary, right? I was in for a surprise…
Our guides picked up us from our hotel and others along the way. We headed straight to their headquarters where we got geared up and fitted for our shoes. Then we drove out to the pier where we would take a long-tail boat to Railay Beach. We were given brief instructions and off we climbed!
I patted my sweaty palms with chalk for better grip on the rock. I closed my eyes and took two deep breaths. I lifted my hand on the nearest jutting rock and hoisted myself up. After several feet into the climb, my fear of heights consumed my head. It got progressively harder as I climbed higher. After much shouting from my instructor, I made it to the top!
I bounced my way down the rock as my instructor belayed me down. I couldn’t have been more happy for my feet to be on ground again! I tried a smaller, much easier climb and made it to the top with a breeze. I felt like a champion! All in all, I did two successful climbs and it was more than enough adrenaline for me for the day!
Many other travelers in our group were doing the full day. We had the option of spending the afternoon exploring the area while the others rock climbed, and we took them up on this offer! We just had to meet back in the same area by 3pm in order to get a ride back to Ao Nang, so be sure to set an alarm on your phone so you don’t get left behind!
2. WALK AROUND RAILAY BEACH
You can walk around Railay Beach from the rock climbing area. Stop and intake the beauty of the towering limestone rocks and calm waters.
Afterwards, head up to see the Railay Beach Viewpoint, a climb that includes the help of a rope. Don’t worry. It’s not too bad. Many people have hiked this one in flip-flops!
3. RELAX AND SUNBATHE ON PHRA NANG CAVE BEACH
A popular beach known for its fine-grained sand, towering limestone rocks, and amazing blue-green waters, Phra Nang Cave Beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and kayaking.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we finished rock climbing and ate lunch, so the beach was packed! Luckily, we were able to find a place nestled under the shade. Later, we ended up in the waters to enjoy some cooler temperatures.
Right next to Phra Nang Cave Beach, you will see Princess Cave, a cave dedicated to the princess goddess named Phra Nang. The many legends and wooden penises is what makes this cave famous. Locals flock here to ask the goddess for help in safe sea travels or fidelity.
4. EXPLORE DIAMOND CAVE
Accessible from Railay East or Railay West, Diamond Cave features bats, stalactites, stalagmites, high ceilings, and cool shelter from the outside heat.
After exploring Diamond Cave, it was time to head back to meet the rest of our rock climbing crew before they departed without us! It was about 5pm by the time they had dropped us back off at our hotel. We strolled over to Ao Nang Boat Noodle for dinner which is a short walk from Vogue Resort. Definitely not as good as Massaman Restaurant & Bar but passable.
We booked the Phi Phi Island Tour at one of the local agencies at Ao Nang and this was our least favorite tour during our time in Thailand. It was a cramped schedule where we had only 30 minutes or less at each location and some attractions were only a drive by. Here is a list of places we visited:
- Bamboo Island
- Viking Cave
- Lohsamah Bay
- Pileh Bay
- Maya Bay
- Money Beach
- Phi Phi Don
The biggest bummer is that we didn’t have time to explore Phi Phi Island itself! We only had enough time to eat lunch and walk along the shoreline. We’re unsure if this is standard of a Phi Phi Island Tour but if you wish for a more in-depth exploration of the island itself, we recommend venturing out on your own to the island and staying overnight. Yes, it’s super touristy but it’s still a beautiful island.
- Flight Duration: 50 minutes
- Cost: $111 USD per person
PRO TIP: Bangkok Airways offers a complimentary lounge for their guests in the Krabi Airport. However, this may depend on what gate you fly out of. We were lucky and there was a complimentary lounge that includes pastries, popcorn, coffee, juice, and water. Keep an eye out for this if you arrive early or your flight gets delayed!
- Ferry Duration: 3-5 hours depending on your selected departure time
- Cost: $12-20 per person depending on your selected departure time
- Motorbike: You have the option of renting a motorbike if you’re comfortable driving one. Traffic in Koh Samui isn’t as hectic and chaotic as in Bangkok, so it’s much more driveable. However, please keep in mind that accidents still can happen if you’re not familiar driving a motorbike, regardless of level of traffic and congestion. Now is not the time to practice riding one. In order to rent a motorbike, you will need to an international driver’s license and motorbike insurance.
- Taxi: Ubers do not exist on the island, so taxis are your next best bet. However, it is not cheap to take a taxi from one part of the island to the next, so strategically plan out your POIs carefully. Taxis can cost 600-700 baht one-way. There is a little wiggle room to negotiate but many have declined as well.
- Car: You can rent a car but this will be expensive. This is a great guide on how to rent a car in Koh Samui.
After landing in Koh Samui, we took a 30-minute taxi ride to our Airbnb in Lamai Beach that turned out to be a hotel called Holiday Park. We don’t recommend Holiday Park due to its close proximity to an area of about 20 bars, all of whom play loud music until 5am. No good for early sleepers like us!
|1. See Hin Ta Hin Yai|
|2. Eat your way through the Lamai Sunday Night Market|
|3. Shop around Central Festival in Chaweng|
Central Festival is a large, outdoor lifestyle and shopping complex located in Chaweng. It touts over 200 shops, bars, restaurants, and recreational activities. There isn’t much to see here but it is a good spot to walk around after dinner and soak in the warm summer night.
|1. Visit Wat Plai Laem|
|2. Visit Wat Phra Yai|
|3. Enjoy a seaside massage at Cyan Spa|
|4. Dine at Happy Elephant for the views|
|5. Walk through Fisherman's Village|
|6. Enjoy the rest of the day at Bophut Beach|
PRO TIP: Haggle! We did and got 150 baht off the listed price AND a complimentary upgrade to the seaview private room.
6. ENJOY THE REST OF THE DAY AT BOPHUT BEACH
We were bored of Koh Samui after two days there. There’s honestly not much to do so we would highly suggest cutting down your time here to two days maximum. Or, skip it all together. We’re not a huge nightlife person – heck I don’t even drink! So there wasn’t much to do here other than party and drink at night but hey, if that’s your thing so for it!
|1. Eat lunch at Tikky Cafe|
|2. Go temple hopping|
|3. Take an evening cooking class|
|4. Slowly make your way down the Chiang Mai Saturday Night Market|
- Wat Chedi Luang
- Wat Phra Singh
- Wat Chiang Man
- Wat Phan Tao
3. TAKE AN EVENING COOKING CLASS
Cooking classes are a very popular activity in Chiang Mai. We didn’t get to to do this ourselves due to last minute changes but we do recommend a few based on friends’ good experiences and overall good online ratings.
The list below are cooking schools with evening classes:
- Max: ??
- 5pm – 9pm (Pickup between 4-4:50pm)
- 5 dishes + 1 curry paste
- 800 baht/person
- Max: 6 persons
- 3:30pm – 7:30pm (Pickup between 3-3:30pm)
- 4 dishes + 1 curry paste
- 1000 baht/person
- Max: 10 persons
- 4:30pm – 9pm (pickup between 3:40-4:10pm)
- 5 dishes + 1 Curry paste
- 1000 baht/person
- Max: 8 persons
- 6 dishes + 1 curry paste
- 4pm – 8:30pm
- 1000 baht/person
- Max: 9 persons
- 4:30pm – 8:30pm (pickup between 3:30pm – 4:20pm)
- 5 dishes
- 800 baht/person
- Max: 9 persons
- 4:30pm – 8:30pm (pickup between 8:30-9am)
- 4 dishes + 1 curry paste
- 800 baht/person
4. SLOWLY MAKE YOUR WAY DOWN THE CHIANG MAI SATURDAY NIGHT MARKET
The Chiang Mai Saturday Night Market, also known locally as the Wualai Marketing, is a 1km long night market that sells everything: street foods, drinks, soaps, t-shirts and dresses, paper lanterns, jewelry, and souvenirs. This market is apparently smaller than the night market at occurs on Sunday on Ratchadamnoen Road. So if you can’t make this one, you can always head to the Sunday one.
|1. Visit an ethical and humane elephant park with Elephant Nature Park|
|2. Eat Khao Soi at Lemongrass Thai Restaurant|
|3. End the day (and the trip!) with a 2-hour massage at Chai Massage 2|
1. VISIT AN ETHICAL & HUMANE ELEPHANT PARK WITH ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
Spend the day caring for and bathing humanely raised elephants at Elephant Nature Park. The Elephant Nature Park is a rescue and rehabilitation centre for elephants in Mae Taeng District of Northern Thailand, approximately 37 miles from the city of Chiang Mai. At this nature park, you can visit and help care for the elephants or do a long-term volunteer project with the park. There is a variety of different visits that you can choose from. To see all the available options, click here.
PRO TIP: Book your tour at least 2 months in advance! This is a very popular elephant park due to its care for elephants. They do NOT treat elephants cruelly here nor can you ride them here. Many elephants have been severely mistreated in Thailand and have been cruelly trained for human ridership. This park was created to help rehabilitate some of these abused elephants. Do NOT visit any elephant park that have mistreated elephants and allows you to ride the elephants. I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO YOU RESEARCH BEFOREHAND.
2. EAT KHAO SOI AT LEMONGRASS THAI RESTAURANT
Khao soi is a Northern Thai curry dish primarily made and served in Northern Thailand, so this is a must-try if you’re in Chiang Mai! What is khao soi anyway? Well, it is a rich and spicy coconut milk based noodle curry soup made with shallots, garlic, turmeric, spices, and herbs. It is served with chicken or beef and sprinkled with crispy noodles on top. We tried this dish at Lemongrass Thai Restaurant, and it was absolutely one of the favorite things I’ve eaten in Thailand. Lemongrass Thai Restaurant totally caters to tourists, so prices are slightly higher. Do I really care? Not really because the khao soi was really good!
But at least you’d be coming home to your warm and comfy bed. At least that’s what we look forward to!
TIP: Be extra careful when booking your flight back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai. If you originally arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), make sure to book your flight from Chiang Mai (CNX) to Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), and NOT Don Mueang Airport (DMK). You will most likely need to pay a little more to land into BKK but it beats trying to go from DMK to BKK in traffic.
Hope you enjoyed this itinerary! Let us know if you liked this itinerary in the comments below. Was there anything else that you’ve done that wasn’t on here? There’s definitely some spots we wished we hit but weren’t able to:
- Explore Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
- Cliff jumping at Chiang Mai Grand Canyon
- Climb the Bua Thong Waterfall “Sticky Waterfall”
- Participate in the awe-inspiring lantern festival (only in November)
Have you done any of these? How was it?