Prepare to embark on a mystical journey through the heart of Southeast Asia, as we delve into the captivating realm of Thailand. With a rich history and a delicate balance of tradition and modernity, this enchanting land known as the Kingdom of Siam has become a favored destination for travelers seeking a unique and magical experience.
Unlike its neighboring countries, Thailand managed to escape the clutches of colonialism, thanks to its diplomatic monarchy and progressive reforms.
Today, the country warmly welcomes tourists from all corners of the globe, offering them a glimpse into its vibrant culture and the essence of “Thainess,” the art of living the Thai way.
Chapter 1: Unveiling Bangkok, the City of Angels
As we embark on our perfect journey, which spans two weeks, we commence in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. Located a mere hour away from Suvarnabhumi Airport by taxi, this bustling metropolis, known as Krung Thep or the “City of Angels” in Thai, offers a captivating tapestry of contrasts and surprises that will leave you in awe.
Temples: Immersing in Thai Culture
To truly absorb the essence of Thai culture, one must explore the city’s prominent temples, which are conveniently situated in close proximity to each other. When visiting these sacred sites, it is essential to dress modestly, with covered shoulders and knees.
Men should avoid wearing tank tops. Notably, the Grand Palace, the former royal residence, strictly enforces a dress code requiring pants for entry. If you find yourself unprepared, fear not, as numerous clothing stands near the entrance offer affordable options for purchase or rental. The entrance fee for the entire site is 14 euros.
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha): Located within the Grand Palace, this temple houses the iconic Emerald Buddha, a revered statue that stands only 66 centimeters tall, yet holds great significance as Thailand’s most sacred icon.
Wat Pho: One of Thailand’s largest and oldest Buddhist temples, Wat Pho is renowned for its colossal reclining Buddha statue, measuring an impressive 46 meters in length, entirely covered in gold. It is recommended to visit in the late afternoon to witness the monks’ chanting and prayers in the ordination hall. Additionally, you can indulge in a delightful Thai massage at Wat Pho’s renowned massage school, recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage in 2019. The entrance fee is 6 euros.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, Wat Arun is a magnificent Buddhist temple. To fully appreciate its beauty and avoid the crowds, it is advisable to visit in the early morning. You can easily reach Wat Arun from Wat Pho by taking a ferry across the river for only 10 cents. The temple entrance fee is 3 euros.
The Chao Phraya River: Navigating the Waterways
Often referred to as the Venice of Asia, Bangkok boasts an extensive network of canals, known as “khlongs,” which once served as vital transport in Bangkok and trade routes. Today, these canals offer a scenic and practical means of travel, especially for avoiding the city’s notorious traffic. Exploring Bangkok’s waterways provides a serene perspective of the city and the opportunity to visit its floating markets. Note that these markets are open only on weekends and public holidays, providing an exquisite setting to savor Thai cuisine. One highly recommended market is Khlong Lat Mayom, frequented by locals.
Culinary Delights: Tasting Bangkok’s Flavors
With its legendary street food and exceptional restaurants, Bangkok has rightfully earned its reputation as the culinary capital of Asia. Venture beyond the traditional dining establishments and immerse yourself in the vibrant street food scene. Be prepared to wait in line for popular street vendors, as it is often a testament to their delicious offerings. Don’t miss the famous pad Thai, garlic rice, or mango sticky rice. Notably, Jay Fai, a small eatery on Maha Chai Road, was awarded a Michelin star in 2018 and continues to attract food enthusiasts from around the world with its signature crab omelet.
Evening Delights: Bangkok After Dark
Much like New York City, Bangkok is known for its vibrant nightlife that never seems to sleep. To kickstart your evening, enjoy a mesmerizing sunset view from one of the city’s rooftop bars, followed by a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River, with prices ranging from 25 to 34 euros per person for a touch of elegance and romance.
For the adventurous wanderers, exploring the city’s numerous night markets is a must. Talad Rot Fai Srinakarin, located to the east of the city, is renowned for its antiques, retro souvenirs, and an array of bars and restaurants. This market, nestled in an abandoned train station, is often referred to as the “flea market” by the French. While it may be slightly inconvenient to reach due to the distant metro station, taxis are readily available.
For food enthusiasts, Yaowarat, the main street in Bangkok’s Chinatown, is a haven of street food. It offers a labyrinth of food stalls, enticing aromas, joyful chaos, and the option to dine in adjacent restaurants. If you seek a memorable dining experience with panoramic views, don’t miss the famous revolving restaurant, Sky View 360, located on the 25th floor of the China Hotel. The nearest subway station, “Wat Mangkhon,” is a five-minute walk from the entrance, situated on the MRT’s blue line.
Chapter 2: Exploring Ayutthaya and Sukhothai: Historical Cities
Accessible as day trips from Bangkok, these cities offer a glimpse into Thailand’s rich historical heritage.
Ayutthaya: The Former Capital
Our first choice brings us to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam (1351-1767), where the glorious past of Thailand is revealed. Located just 80 kilometers or a 1.5-hour drive or train ride from Bangkok, Ayutthaya boasts remarkable ruins and magnificent temples. Notably, it houses the well-preserved Bang Pa-in Royal Palace, surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Sukhothai: The Cradle of Traditions
Situated halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, approximately 420 kilometers north of Bangkok, Sukhothai is the first capital of Thailand (1238-1438). Although it is not easily accessible by train (with the closest station being Phitsanulok, 70 kilometers away), there is an airport nearby that offers a 1 hour and 20-minute flight from Bangkok, followed by a shuttle service (50 minutes, 18 THB). The city’s historical park, located outside the city limits, is exquisitely designed and houses numerous remnants of that era. Exploring the park by bicycle is a delightful experience. In November, visitors can witness Loy Krathong, the Festival of Lights, celebrated during the full moon, making it a significant event in Sukhothai.
Chapter 3: Chiang Mai: The Blossoming Jewel of the North
Nestled amidst mountains and adorned with a majestic temple, Chiang Mai is the crown jewel of Northern Thailand, located 700 kilometers north of Bangkok. It is a destination teeming with rich culture, temples, traditional festivals, mountains adorned with lush jungles and cascading waterfalls, ethnic tribes, and elephant sanctuaries.
The must-visit temples include Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which can be complemented by visits to Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and the Silver Temple. The latter offers Buddhist ceremonies open to tourists during the Saturday Walking Street, a vibrant night market.
Chiang Mai Province also offers exciting opportunities for trekking, immersing in mountain village life, and venturing to the magnificent terraced rice fields of Doi Inthanon National Park.
Getting There: Chiang Mai is easily accessible by a 1 hour and 10-minute flight from Bangkok. Several airlines, including low-cost carriers, operate this route. Alternatively, the national train company provides regular services from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station, with six daily departures for a journey of approximately 12 to 14 hours. By road, the 696-kilometer journey takes 7 hours by car or 10 hours by bus from Bangkok.
Chapter 4: The Islands of Thailand
To conclude our journey with picturesque vistas and idyllic beach getaways, we steer clear of the overcrowded and somewhat dreary destinations of Phuket and Pattaya.
Our top pick is Koh Samui, located 25 kilometers off the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Samui is accessible by a 50-minute flight from Bangkok, as well as by bus and ferry (a 10-hour journey). Bangkok Airways operates approximately 20 flights per day, with prices averaging around 100 euros. Whether you prefer peaceful sites or more lively areas like Chaweng Beach, renowned for establishments like Green Mango for dancing or the Reggae Bar for live music, Koh Samui offers a diverse range of experiences. To the north, the fishing village of Fisherman’s Village, with its market and restaurants, will delight seafood lovers. Activities abound, including excursions to the breathtaking Ang Thong Marine Park, diving, snorkeling, cooking classes, visits to the Samui Elephant Sanctuary (in collaboration with the Elephant Nature Park), and indulging in seaside massages. It’s a true vacation paradise.
For a serene and tranquil experience, Ko Mak and Ko Kood, located in the northeast of the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border, offer a blissful retreat. These satellite islands of the popular Koh Chang boast excellent resorts and paradisiacal beaches. To reach them, depart from the province of Trat, with a journey time of approximately 10 hours by bus and ferry or half the time by air.
Chapter 5: Itineraries and Practical Information
In this final chapter, we provide sample itineraries and essential practical information to assist you in planning your journey through Thailand.
Whether you have two weeks or less to explore this remarkable country, we have tailored suggestions to ensure a seamless and unforgettable travel experience. Additionally, we offer practical tips on transportation, accommodations, and cultural considerations to enhance your trip and make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Thailand’s allure lies in its enchanting blend of tradition and modernity, offering travelers a myriad of experiences that range from exploring bustling metropolises to immersing in rich historical sites and basking in the serenity of idyllic islands.
With its vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality, Thailand continues to captivate the hearts of visitors from around the world, making it a truly magical destination. So pack your bags, embark on this extraordinary adventure, and let the wonders of Thailand unfold before your eyes.
- Q: How do I dress when visiting temples in Thailand? A: It is important to dress modestly, with covered shoulders and knees. Men should avoid wearing tank tops.
- Q: What are some must-visit temples in Chiang Mai? A: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and the Silver Temple are highly recommended.
- Q: Which are the recommended islands to visit in Thailand? A: Koh Samui, Ko Mak, and Ko Kood offer stunning beaches and diverse experiences.
- Q: How do I reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok? A: You can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or take a train journey of approximately 12 to 14 hours.
- Q: Are there any floating markets in Bangkok? A: Yes, Bangkok has floating markets, such as Khlong Lat Mayom, which offer a unique setting to savor Thai cuisine.