Thailand needs no introduction. It is one of the most visited places in Asia because it offers a well-preserved culture, some of the most delicious food on earth and stunningly beautiful beaches to boot. Being a tourist mecca it offers well-established, comfortable and affordable transportation. The downside of being a tourist mecca, is that affordable areas are loud and crowded. While it is true that you can find better beaches, trekking and culture elsewhere in Asia, nowhere is it more accessible, affordable or tasty as Thailand. Thailand should be the first stop on anyone’s Southeast Asian itinerary.
DON’T MISS: Bangkok, it is one of Asia’s great cities with some of the world’s best food and has many historic sights within the city limits.
MUST SEE: Andaman (such as Koh Phi Phi) and Gulf of Thailand Islands (such as Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan), Muay Thai boxing, Chattachuk Market, play with tigers at the Tiger Temple (Kanchanaburi), world’s most interesting temple (Chiang Rai), and the ancient temples of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya
MUST TASTE: Everything sold by street vendors, especially the freshly made fruit juices.
TRIP PLANNING: The beaches/islands can be enjoyed in as little as a week, but plan on two weeks if you want to island hop. The north (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai) can take 1-2 weeks depending on the trekking, cooking classes and muay thai you want to see. Bangkok is worth 3-4 days itself, including the Chattachuk Market and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall…then again, you may want to stay a week to enjoy some of the world’s best cheap food! GETTING AROUND: Buses and mini-vans. Get used to traveling at uncomfortable speeds in a full mini-van.
OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $55.95
COST OF A BEER: $1 at 7-11, the place to buy beer. Beer at bars can be ridiculously overpriced.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Buy everything you can at 7-11, it is the cheapest option for essentially everything, everywhere in Thailand.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: While many dishonest touts, tour guides and tuk-tuk drivers will try their best to get a little extra off tourists, price shopping and negotiating will make all of Thailand much more affordable.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have spent more time in Laos trekking and exploring than around Chiang Mai, Asia’s most overrated city. Instead of trekking we would have done the motorcycle trip from Chiang Mai to Pai.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Top things to do in Bangkok, Best things to do in Chiang Mai, Travelfish, Wikitravel. Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!
WE WERE THERE FOR: 7 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Learning photography from a professional we met while in Bangkok
WHERE WE WENT: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Railay Beach, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Koh Samui
WE REGRET MISSING: Koh Tao, people say it is an amazing place to relax without the crowds.
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Bangkok is the capital and largest city of Thailand with well over 11 million people. It was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayuttaya Kingdom, however it's urban expansion was swift with several multinational corporations basing their regional headquarters in Bangkok in the late 80's and 1990's. As one of Asia's most touristed capitals it has much to offer from the grandeur of the Grand Palace to the skin trade of Patpong.
Ayutthaya is the capital of Ayutthaya province and was a former capital of Thailand. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong, who went there to escape a smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri and proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom, often referred to as the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam. It is estimated that Ayutthaya by the year 1600 CE had a population of about 300,000, with the population perhaps reaching 1,000,000 around 1700 CE, making it one of the world's largest cities at that time. In 1767 the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya historical park, which is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
King Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai (meaning "new city") in 1296, and it succeeded Chiang Rai as capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city was surrounded by a moat and a defensive wall, since nearby Burma was a constant threat. Now the wall stands as a reminder of how small this city used to be as it has grown to be the second largest city in Thailand behind Bangkok and the second most visited. Those that make the trip North are rewarded with green splendor and much cooler temperatures.
The city was founded by King Mangrai in 1262 and became the capital of the Mengrai dynasty. However, it soon lost it's status as capital to Chaing Mai and has seemingly played second fiddle ever since. You won't find hoards of tourists here, but instead you get an authentic view of Thai life and views of the incredible white temple all to yourself.
In 1238 the Thais established the new capital of teh Lanna Kingdom near the Yom River, and drove the Khmer to the East. Named Sukhothai, or "Dawn of Happiness" the city marked the birth of the first Thai Nation. Sukhothai's short-lived glory is preserved in it's spectacular ruins. Nearby Si Satchanalai, Old Sukhothai's twin city remains untrafficked.