I’ve decided to put together this short guide to traversing Thailand and getting the most out of your experience in as little 11 days. I’m not going to go into detail about what to see, exactly, because this is all personal preference and the options are subsequently limitless. This guide is more so about how you can shape a comprehensive tour from North to South and allocating time adequately in only 11 days.
My soon-to-be fiance and I had arrived in Bangkok shortly after midnight (flying from Ontario to Chicago to Japan to Bangkok) with not much else to do but find our hotel and try to sleep off the discomfort of the plane rides (we wished to get a good start on the next day). The jet lag, however, prevented any real sleep from happening. If you have the energy for it, and if I were to do it all over again knowing the inevitable lack of sleep, it’d be best to hit the ground running and enjoy the night life as soon as you roll into Bangkok.
It was a joy to wake up and see Bangkok in all it’s hustle and bustle under the sun, the liveliness and energy flowing through the streets. Touring around the crowded city, we picked up our train tickets (for day #3), spent the day exploring, enjoyed the hot and muggy night life before finally getting a better nights sleep.
This was train travel day. We had all morning and part of early afternoon to spend some more time exploring the city. I won’t go into detail of what we did — it really depends on where your landing and taking off points are as well as your interests. The focus here is on time and, by the time we boarded the train to Chiang Mai at 5PM, we had already had a full day and a half, and two full nights in Bangkok which doesn’t seem like much but the city wouldn’t be the main event for us anyway.
Rolled into a gorgeous rising red sun over the mountains near Chiang Mai around 6am. If you can get past any discomforts associated with the train, it’s a great option to combined travel and sleep time, as well as get you well-situated in Northern Thailand bright and early in the morning. The downside is that you’d have to possibly wait a solid half day before checking into your hotel— the train ride leaves you feeling rather grimey. Unless you’re good with a sink shower as we had to resort to, you may try to ask your hotel to go the extra mile for you and get you into a room sooner. Your time would be better spent, however, exploring the amazing ruins and temples of this city.
Another full day in Chiang Mai before boarding the overnight train back to Bangkok. Arguably, this is more than enough time to experience Chiang Mai. While there’s something magical about the city that draws you to leave behind your life and move there permanently, you can experience most of what the area has to offer in two or three days. Another option from Chiang Mai is to fly, which is what many do, however I was looking to save some baht on hotel expenses (why not sleep and travel at the same time! My soon-to-be fiance disagreed).
Arriving back into Bangkok, dark and early in the AM — nearly a full day to spend here before heading to the airport to catch a plane down South to Krabi. Despite all the travel, it’s plenty of time to see some more of the city and even enjoy a fantastic evening down south once you land.
Waking up in the southern part of Thailand, to the smell of the ocean and the feel of a slow paced way of life, is a total 180 degree change from the metropolis. From here, we have some time to further explore Krabi, choosing to head for a land-locked resort nestled under a massive cliff wall in Ao Nang, which offers plenty to do as it’s on the Southwestern coast of Krabi — beaches, an amazing night life, a variety of excursions and a good launching pad to get to hot spots like Phuket.
We set forth to one of Thailand’s more relaxed islands — Koh Lanta. A quick minivan drive to the ferry — which carried us to Koh Lanta where we would spend the final 3 of our four days scootering around the island, visiting National Parks, getting our fill of monkeys and ocean sunsets.
On the last actual day, we caught a minivan to Krabi (upon learning that a ferry wasn’t the only mode of transport between some islands, we opted for the minivan which then had to board a ferry to get across some rivers anyway), hopped on a flight from Krabi to Bangkok to spend one last night in the city before returning home.
All in all we stayed in about 6 different hotels (having had spent two nights on the train ride to Chang Mai from Bangkok — approx 12 hours each way). We got to experience roughly three days and three nights in the metropolis that is Bangkok, two days in the Northern town of Chiang Mai and the rest in Southern Thailand.
Of course, I don’t recommend you take an 11 day trip to Thailand; the preferable amount of time would involve a solid chunk of your life to really take everything in, if not moving there permanently. However, circumstances may not allow for nothing more than a two week trip and it certainly is possible to experience an amazing and memorable time even with only two handfuls of days.
Some point and observations:
- A lot of the ‘must-see’s’ of Thailand are overcrowded, over-expensive, and most unfortunately, over-devastated (Koh Phi Phi being the perfect example) so it’s worth investing some time to explore the less-explored and checking the dates on the resources you’re reading before you go
- If you’re heading South, distinguish between party beach vs. family beach. There are different regions which cater to both styles of vacation
- Note that alcohol is not sold during various times of the day
- Look up some taxi experiences from tourists, before you leave, to get a feel for common pricing and negotiating
- Be weary of the elephant treks and tiger temples as they are known for exploiting or abusing animals; keep up to date with current online reviews
- If you’re facing rush hour, it’s certainly worth paying the extra for a tuk-tuk if you’re in a hurry, or a cab with A/C if you’re in no rush
- Be respectful — what truly made our trip had been the genuine kindness and respect of the locals everywhere we had gone