Are you planning to visit Thailand and you are looking for ideas for places to go to? In this post I'm writing about places I believe are worth visiting and places which I visited myself that I can definitely recommend.
Once you've seen Bangkok, there's the rest of Thailand to be seen...
Visiting Thailand cannot happen without visiting Bangkok (I have a separate post on intense itinerary for Bangkok in 2 days) which I strongly recommend to do. But once you have seen Bangkok, there's the rest of Thailand, so you may ask yourself a question where should I go?
When I was chatting to a taxi driver and told him which places I visited so far and what was still on the agenda, he smiled happily and said I have covered most important parts of Thailand. It made me very proud that my own itinerary covered main points in the eyes of a Thai person.
After spending time in Bangkok, I flew to Chiang Mai (you can go by coach if your budget cannot cover internal flights; however I did not want to waste my time and booked internal flights for all movements with #ThaiAirways and #AirAisia).
We arrived to Chring Mai in the afternoon, and I had planned a relaxing evening with Khantoke dinner and show which was great opportunity to sample traditional Thai fare in a truly traditional way. The Khantoke Dinner is customary of northern Thai style (e.g. not much coconut milk which is very popular in south parts of the country), and food is served family-style on large platters at low tables while you relax on floor mats. Entertainment show included performances that highlight the culture and traditions of this rich and diverse country, including dance and music from members of various hill tribes. Each dance or performance was introduced with a small background history which I really appreciated.
Photo: Khantoke Dinner - traditional northen Thai cuisine
The next day we had a day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle - a day trip to see where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos converge. We were driving through scenic countryside, we stopped at the Mae Ka Chan hot springs. These hot springs are deep underground and are not natural geysers, however they attract tourists so there are man made pipes with air exploding every few seconds to make it look like natural geysers and they add drama to the show. The water is boiling hot and you can buy quail eggs to cook in the boiling waters.
We continued our journey to stop at Chiang Rai and marvel at the What Rong Khun, better know for tourists as White Temple, it is a contemporary complex made of shimmering glass and painted white plaster built by a local artist who began the construction in 1997. Although it is called temple, it is a secular building and art, you would not see a monk praying there. It is absolutely stunning architecture and I have never seen anything like this before. Definitely worth visiting.
Finally, I arrived at the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos meet. From a viewpoint set high on a hillside, I enjoyed a panoramic vista over the three countries. My guide pointed out the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers in this former opium-producing capital. From there we continued on to Mae Sai, the northernmost trading post located near the Thailand-Myanmar border, where we had a regional lunch. I enjoyed views over the Mekong River as I learnt about the region, notorious for its opium trade. Nearby the Golden Triangle viewpoint, there is Opium Museum which tells a story of opium trade in this part of the country.
Photo: Golden Triangle - the hillside view of the triangle.
On the way back to Chiang Mai, we visited the Black House museum with a very intricate art! See the pictures below but the main theme in the artwork are horns of water buffalo (which no one can explain where the artist got so many from), as well as numerous figurines and statues of penises. Intriguing art! That's what I have to say :-)
Photo: 1) Intricate art at the Black House Museum nearby Chiang Rai
2) Water buffalo horns were used to create furniture and many other decoration pieces. Here one of the rooms in the museum
To summarise this day trip, it is a lot of driving and you spend a lot of the time in the car. Is it worth it? Chiang Rai with its White Temple is a place you don't want to miss, as for the Golden Triangle - yeah it's great but if I was just coming there to see Golden Triangle I would be a bit disappointed (just because of the long way). The view is as on my photo above, so do not expect anything spectacular. I do not regret.
After returning to the hotel, we set off to Sunday Market, which only takes place on Saturdays and Sundays in the main street of Chiang Mai which is closed to host it. Although we were tired after all day travelling we decided to go. And we did not regret it at all. We had eaten very delicious street food, bought souvenirs, and drunk some amazing mango smoothies. You can find a lot of local crafts and art that are worth buying as a gift or a souvenir from a trip. This market, in my opinion, is way better than the Night Market which is mentioned in many guides and online recommendation, but this might be a very subjective opinion.
Photo: Temple visiting in Chinag Mai - one of the 40,000 temples in Thailand.
Elephant Sanctuary - the one I visited is called Happy Elephants - This was one of the experiences I really wanted to do. While preparing for the trip I was reading a lot about elephant sanctuaries and elephant enclaves. The place you want to choose is the one that treats animals in a good way, with no chains, free walks and does not allow you to ride them. It was the most amazing half a day I spent with these gentle giants learning about them as animals, and how they behave. We could feed them and bath with them and afterwards walk them back to the main camp. At the end of the experience, we were cooking traditional Thai broth which was very delicious & spicy. There will be some YouTube video coming soon from that experience (watch this space).
Photo: (Almost) A walk in the park with these gentle animals
While there was still half a day left, this was devoted to more Thai massage (could not have enough), Chiang Mai temple hopping, walking around the old city and night market at dawn. Thailand culturally has so much to offer, temple visits would provide not only a insight into religious aspect of life but also the architecture and style. As on the photo above, some of the temples require appropriate clothing, thankfully in Chiang Mai you can rent it.
Photo: Temple hopping continues - Chiang Mai
The following day we took a flight to Krabi.
South of Thailand is commonly associated with beautiful sandy beaches, characteristic of the region rock islands and stunning sunset views. When you think of postcards and pictures from Thailand, this is exactly what you get! My choice was Krabi as I wanted to avoid Phuket. I've heard that Phuket is very developed and westernised. I was looking for as much authentic experience as possible and this was the reason why I opted for Krabi (and I already had some recommendations from friends who have been to Krabi). The beaches are stunning with gold sand beaches, most beautiful sunsets, incredibly warm (even hot) sea and great views.
Photo: Maya Bay - hurray!!
I was lucky enough to be able to visit Maya Bay as it announced it will be closing for 4 months due to the effect of tourism on the coral reef (closed from June to Sept 2018). Maya Bay receives up to 5 thousand tourist a day, due to its popularity after it was a set to the movie "The Beach" in late 90s. Worth visiting even with the crowds! While you are on a boat, other islands worth visiting are: Monkey island, Phi Phi island (incl. Maya Bay), Chicken Island. If you like snorkeling you may find a great spot to snorkel and admire some fish that you (at least I) have not seen before!
After having quite an intense itinerary with sightseeing and travelling it was great to just relax on the paradise beaches of Krabi and enjoy the sea and most beautiful sunsets!
Tags: #thailand #thailandbeyondbangkok #krabi #chiangmai #chiangrai