Friday, May 9, 2014

How To Visit Thailand in 2 Weeks

So Thailand.
In a word: go.
Asia is just the coolest.
We live in a beautiful world.

Here are some of my thoughts about traveling to Thailand (and south-east Asia). While I am not an expert, I hope it helps you plan your adventures.

Two-week itinerary is at the bottom of this post.

Pack light and pack well.

With some crafty mixing and matching, you can make it two weeks with the clothing above (minus underwear and my swim cover up). Getting your laundry washed is super cheap in Thailand, so there is no excuse to over pack.

It is hot and humid in Thailand, so pack breathable clothing. Don't forgot modest clothing for temples (knees and shoulders covered) and easy to slip on shoes. You will constantly be taking shoes off.

More deets on my packing in another post.

Getting around is easy and cheap.

Every city has a different form of transportation. It is up to you to decide what works best for you. We had some of the best drivers, but we also encountered some scammers.
  • We stayed so close to the beach we just walked everywhere in Krabi. But we had to take a taxi from the airport. It cost about $25.
  • Chiang Mai has the best songthaew (pictured above). Flag one down and tell the driver where you want to go. If he is going that way, hop in the back. Trips usually cost between $1-3, (15-45 baht).
  • Bangkok: use the Sky Train whenever possible. Bangkok taxi drivers have a notorious reputation, and we saw it first hand immediately when we got into town. Never get in a taxi if the driver refuses to turn on the meter. It is law, but many will try and quote you a price instead. Get out and find a different one. Almost always, the quoted price was 3-4 times more than what we paid. Tuk-tuks will almost always overcharge, so bargain hard if you must. Get off if the driver tries to take you to a gem market. You will not be the lucky tourist to find undiscovered gems.
  • Trains and overnight buses: we changed our plans from overnight train to an overnight bus. Tickets were cheap and purchased at the bus station in Chiang Mai.

Don't get scammed.

Wherever there are tourists, there will be people trying to scam. I felt very safe in Thailand, so I was never worried about my safety. But just exercise caution, especially in big crowds.

Also, act like you belong. If anyone asks if this is your first time in Bangkok, the answer is "no, I've been here x times." Most people are generally nice, but there are always creeps looking to prey on the unsuspecting newbie. (Sound advice for any tourist locale.)

As mentioned above, the biggest scam we saw was sneaky taxi drivers. However, there are many signs out to warn about friendly Thais. It is typically against Thai nature to come up to a stranger and try to talk to them. If someone approaches you, or tries to tell you that a attraction/temple is closed, ignore them.

More info here.

Be respectful.

I love learning about other religions.
The Buddhist religion is beautiful and deserves respect. Know what is OK and what isn't.
With the internet, ignorance really isn't a good excuse.
  • Modest clothing required for both men and women in temples.
  • Women: do not touch a monk directly, or hand him something.
  • Talking is OK, just be hushed. 
  • Do not point your feet at Buddha. Kneel so your feet are behind you.
  • Pictures are OK, but posing with Buddha is frowned upon.

Thais have deep respect for their king. His face is on everything, even the money. If your money blows away, never put your foot on it to stop it.

Can anyone tell me what this is?! I must know.

Eat beyond Pad Thai.

Thai food is amazing! But our favorite meals were always those that we ordered out of our comfort zone.

Embrace street food. If you are concerned about safety, here is what I do: go to the busiest vendor with local clientele. As long as the food is moving quickly, it won't have time to sit around in the heat. I also try to avoid any vendors on street corners that get a lot of exhaust.

Anytime I think some place is sketch, I drink a Coke.
I figure Coke is volatile enough to kill anything that could make me sick.
This is not sound medical advice as Coke will surely kill you, but it works for me if I can't resist eating somewhere questionable. (Note: I am not a doctor! take this with a boulder-sized grain of salt.)

Our hotel in Krabi.


Hotels are so cheap in Thailand. Deals, people, deals are to be had! You could easily hostel it for around $10 a night, but I reeeeeally like my privacy. So I'm willing to pay a little more. is still my favorite place to find accommodations. Use this referral link to get a $25 credit toward your first stay.

Krabi            heaven. 
Chiang Mai   eh. You can do better.
Bangkok       only good if you have an early-morning flight
Bangkok       BEST place to stay. Bee was a brilliant host.  
Tourists? Who us?

Bits and Bobs:

  • Break down your big bills ASAP. Taxi drivers, small shop owners, etc will often not be able to break big bills. Use them where you can like 7-11.
  • Speaking of 7-11, wow, those places are on every street corner! The Sev is back. Our favorite taxi driver recommended we shop there because it is "cheap, cheap, cheap." He wasn't kidding. Giant bottles of water are 9-18 Baht, and you can find delicious treats like salmon-flavored chips and mystery gummies. 
  • Make friends. The fellow travelers and locals we met were so cool. 
  • Bargain with a smile and a lot of patience. 
  • Bring a hat. Or some Frizz-ease. My hair could not handle the humidity (see all the pics of me in a hat).
  • Helpful sites:

Trip Itinerary

The biggest mistake travelers make is only visiting Bangkok. We enjoyed it, but loved Chiang Mai and Krabi more. With limited time (2-week vacations for us Americans!), 3-4 days per city worked out pretty well.
Below is our itinerary without most of the shopping and eating. 

Day 1-3: Cambodia. 

Day 4: Travel from Cambodia to Thailand.
Via bus. Guesthouse arranged ticket. Cost $25 each and took about 7 hours.
Stay overnight in Bangkok near hotel.

Day 5: Krabi
Fly from Bangkok to Krabi via Air Asia
Relaxed poolside.
Explore Ao Nang Beach.

Day 6: Krabi
4 Island Boat Tour

Day 7: Krabi
Phi Phi Island boat tour

Day 8: Krabi
Railey Beach
Sea kayaking

Day 9: Chiang Mai
Fly to Chiang Mai from Phuket on Air Asia
Sunday Walking Market
Loy Krathong in the evening

Day 10: Chiang Mai
Elephant experience at Baan Chang Elephant Park

Day 11: Chiang Mai
Cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School
Shopping at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Day 12: Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Walking Tour (Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Pahn Tao, Wat Chiang Man)
Doi Suthep
Tiger Kingdom

Overnight bus to Bangkok

Day 13: Bangkok 
Jim Thompson House.
Shop our hearts out at MBK Center and Siam Discovery Center.

Day 14: Bangkok
Bangkok Walking Tour (Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun)
Massages. Oh yeah.

Day 15: Bangkok
Chatuchak Weekend Market (beyond!)
Massages again.

Day 16: Bangkok and then home.
Last minute souvenir shopping and noodle soup eating
Fly home mid afternoon

I love questions! Comment below and shoot me an email at stephaniefbenson {at} gmail {dot} com.

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