Temples, ruins, jungles, street food, Tuk Tuk’s (in various shapes and forms), trains, bicycles, jungles, hiking, sweating (like, insane amounts), naps in strange places, fruit smoothies, Phad Thai, scooters, island hopping, breathtaking views, ferries, longtail boats, snorkeling, exploring, buckets on the beach, flame throwers, fireworks, shopping, Sky Trains and interactions with the most amazing people. These are just a few of the highlights of a month travelling around Thailand (watch our video for more highlights of Thailand).
Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand really is just that. Everywhere you go around Thailand you are likely to come across smiling locals – from the bus drivers to the street food fenders, they are some of the loveliest and most helpful people you’ll meet.
We spent a month (29 days to be exact) travelling around Thailand, both North and South, and made sure to see and do as much as we could. If you’re only looking at travelling around Thailand, I would say a month is enough to explore a decent amount of the country (you will still be far away from experiencing the whole country though). We met many travelers who were traveling for longer but then were also including other South East Asia countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia or Malaysia.
One month in Thailand itinerary
First stop: Bangkok
We landed in Bangkok at around 6pm local time after about 17 hours of travel so were in no mood to then carry on travelling to another spot, we therefore decided to spend one night in Bangkok despite all of the advice about ‘spending as little in Bangkok as you can’.
Having Bangkok as your first introduction into Thailand is kind of like diving straight into the deep end. The minute you walk out onto the streets you will be overwhelmed by the smells, sounds, bright lights, humid heat and crazy rush happening around you. It really is an assault on your senses.
We stayed at a hostel within walking distance to the famously tourist spot Khao San Street so took went off to check it out after dropping off our bags and freshening up. We had the next morning to explore a bit more of Bangkok checking out the Grand Palace and really just wandering around before catching our late afternoon train.
How did we get there: Flight from South Africa to Thailand
How long were we there for: 1 night
Second stop: Ayutthaya
We were making our way up to Chiang Mai from Bangkok but wanted to take our time and check out some places on the way, so decided to add Ayutthaya to the list.
Ayutthaya is most famous for its ruins of the old city, now known as Ayutthaya Historical Park, as well as the Buddha in the tree. We spent a full day there exploring the ruins and wondering around the city. We hopped onto a boat tour that took us along the river stopping at all of the sights including the big temples and ruins. I’d recommend doing one of these tours, as well as renting a bicycle for the day to explore the rest of the city.
How did we get there: By train from Bangkok
How long were we there for: 2 nights (plenty of time)
Third Stop: Phitsanulok
Our second stop on route to Chiang Mai was Phitsanulok, we didn’t really explore this city as we only used it as a base camp to go for a day trip to Sukhothai Historical Park (about an hour away by bus). The trains only go past Phitsanulok and not Sukhothai which is why we stayed there, however if you’re only interested in going to Sukhothai, you can rather take a bus straight to Sukhothai from where ever you are and stay there rather than Phitsanulok.
How did we get there: Train from Ayutthaya
How long were we there for: 1 night (followed by night train)
Fourth Stop: Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a very popular spot among backpackers, I think one of the main reasons is because of the vast amount of activities to do in the area as well as it being much cheaper than the islands in the South.
A few things we did in Chiang Mai include visiting the Sunday Night Market (a MUST do if you’re there on a Sunday), a two day trek through the jungle, going for a cooking class, getting a traditional Thai massage and walking the streets (something you can’t really do in a lot of Thai cities due to the roads not being very pedestrian friendly).
How did we get there: the night train from Phitsanulok. You can also go straight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, by plane, bus, train or taxi.
How long were we there for: 5 nights
Fifth Stop: Phuket
Island time! We used Phuket as our entrance into Southern Thailand and the amazing islands. Our research failed and we ended up staying in Phuket Town, which is really far away from the beach so not that ideal. But we rented a scooter for the full day that we were there and were able to go along the coast stopping at a few beaches.
We didn’t spend too much time in Phuket to properly check it out, but I wasn’t much of a fan from what we did manage to see. While the beaches are amazing, the city wasn’t great, the people weren’t as friendly, it was really expensive and it just felt super touristy. I know there are hidden gems there, but we just didn’t have the time to explore them.
How did we get there: A flight from Chiang Mai on Air Asia (make sure to book your flights way in advance, we left it until a few days before and the price was more than double then when we looked a month earlier!)
How long were we there for: 2 nights
Sixth Stop: Koh Phi Phi
The party island. Highlights include a longtail boat trip to nearby islands and breath taking snorkeling spots and partying until the early hours with buckets on the beach.
How did we get there: Ferry from Phuket (there are no tuks tuks, scooters or cars on the island so be prepared to walk to your hotel from the pier)
How long were we there for: 2 nights (perfect amount of time)
Seventh Stop: Krabi
Back on the mainland, we used Krabi as a bit of rest stop after our crazy two nights on Phi Phi (that island really takes you in). We stayed in Krabi Town, much like Phuket this was also quite far from the beaches but with a much more laid back town vibe (a lot cheaper as well).
Here we explored the town (including the night markets for delicious seafood), took a longtail boat taxi to Railey Bay for the day and joined a tour that went to the Hot Springs, Emerald Pool and Tiger Temple.
How did we get there: Ferry from Koh Phi Phi
How long were we there for: 3 nights
Eighth Stop: Koh Samui
Back to the Islands, we headed to Koh Samui for a few nights and fell in love once again. Koh Samui is much bigger than Phi Phi and is much more developed. This means that it is much cheaper and you can still get the Thai city feel as well as the isolated island feel depending on where you go.
Highlights from Koh Samui include renting a scooter for two days and exploring the various beaches around the island, visiting the most magical Secret Buddha Garden and taking a day trip out to Ang Thong National Marine Park (made up of 42 islands – flipping wow).
How did we get there: A bus from Krabi to Don Sak (pier in Surat Thani) then a ferry to Koh Samui
How long were we there for: 4 nights
Ninth Stop: Koh Tao
We may have left the best for last, I’m not sure, I really can’t choose which island I loved the most. But Koh Tao definitely was something else. We arrived the night of the Full Moon Party on Koh Phanghan (we decided to avoid the crazy commercial madness that is Full Moon) so the island was rather peaceful. It is so laid back and chilled that it makes it the perfect island to go relax after a busy travelling schedule.
Koh Tao is also known as the best spot to scuba dive so you’ll find loads of diving schools on the island. We aren’t divers, so rather just joined a snorkeling trip that took us out to Nang Yuan island and some other snorkeling spots for the most amazing snorkeling that I’ve ever done . We even snorkeled with sharks! Small ones, but still, sharks! (Read all about snorkeling on Koh Tao).
How did we get there: Ferry from Koh Samui
How long were we there for: 3 nights
Tenth Stop: Chumphon
Time to make our way back to Bangkok. We decided to make a stop for the night at Chumphon to break up the journey between Koh Samui and Bangkok. We were quite exhausted and prepping for the busy travelling days coming up so didn’t really get up to much.
Highlights include finding a few bargains (our ‘end of trip’ shopping spree started earlier than Bangkok), relaxing in the pool in our hotel and having a Thai BBQ buffet for dinner (you get a hot plate and cook your own food – all you can eat seafood, meat, vegetables and all of the other strange things).
How did we get there: Ferry from Koh Tao, bus from pier to Chumphon Train Station (included in your ferry ticket)
How long were we there for: 1 night
Back to Bangkok
We made sure to be in Bangkok for the Chatuchak Weekend Market just before our flight home so that we can do some last minute bargain buys. This market is massive and has absolutely everything you can think of. We shopped up a storm then went back to our hotel for a nap. Later that evening we emerged, dressed up in our new fancy clothes and headed for the city to check out some rooftop bars (definitely a must do in Bangkok).
The next day we brought a day pass for the Sky Train and missioned around the city before our late night flight home.
How did we get there: Night train from Chumphon
How long were we there for: 1 night (two full days)