Thailand is a backpacking hub and many travellers first taste of South East Asia – but where should you visit on your travels there? Here are some of my favourite stops…
I love travelling and backpacking around Thailand – it’s a place I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years as there are so many amazing things to see and do.
So if you’re planning your travels there here are my favourite stops in Thailand…and I’m sure I’ll be adding new ones to the list in the near future!
“Holla…city of squallor” – as quoted from the Hangover 2! Bangkok will be most people’s introduction to Thailand and indeed Asia.
This bustling city is full of things to see and places to visit. From the floating markets (it’s an early start but well worth it!) to the over the top ladyboy shows – it really does cater for every taste! Party hard on the infamous Khao San Road and then recover by visiting some amazing attractions like The Grand Palace or The Reclining Buddah and tucking into some local street food.
If you feel like a few evening drinks head to the Vertigo Bar (situated on the roof of Banyan Tree Hotel) and if you really want to head into another fun filled night the obligatory Ping Pong Shows are certainly an alternative way to pass the evening!
If you want to pamper yourself during your stay head to the Shanghai Mansion or for those on a more backpacker budget places like Lub D Silom or HQ Hostel offers great value for money – especially with the promo codes they gave me to share with you!
An overnight sleeper train journey away from Bangkok lies Chiang Mai – the capital of Northern Thailand. A complete contrast from the South it plays host to all manner of wildlife. Head out on a Hilltribe Elephant Trek to really explore the jungle and experience traditional Thai life.
Chiang Mai also has some brilliant night bizzares where you can barter for some trinkets and hosts many Thai Boxing Fights – a must see for any trip to Thailand.
If you have the energy challenge yourself to climb the 304 Steps of the Naga Staircase to Doi Suthep Temple – the perfect spot to soak up a sunset over the city.
Nightlife wise check out the Northgate Jazz Co-Op for some excellent live jazz and then head on over to Reggae Rock Bar for some buckets and amazing inhouse band playing all manner of reggae and ska covers.
There’s heaps of cheap foodstalls all over the city – but the Reggae Rooftop Bar sells some excellent veggie cuisine.
If you’re looking for somewhere to crash Little Bird Guesthouse is a steal at £2 including free wifi!
If you love the laid back vibe of Chang Mai then Pai will be your mecca! nestled in the sleepy rice paddies about 3hours away from CM (via the winding mountain roads – choose either mini bus or motorbike wisely!) it’s a hippie paradise. There’s a good selection of accommodation – from Spicy Pai Hostel with it’s treehouse style bunk beds through to private riverside bungalows – all frequented by dreadlocked reggae loving backpackers.
The days here are spent renting mopeds and exploring the pristine landscape and cooling off in the abundance of waterfalls that surround the town (or for the more lazy/hungover at the local swimming pool!) and the nights are spent tucking into amazing local food and partying the night away (despite the lack of clubs) at places like Bamboo Bar.
If you want to kick back Pai is definitely worth a few nights of your time!
Until recently Koh Tao was relatively untouched by the backpacker trail – but with the popularity of its pristine SCUBA diving rising it’s become a must for Thailand travel.
In fact it’s one of the cheapest places to get you PADI Open Water Qualification, diving in the warm crystal clear water is a beautiful experience – and if you’re really lucky you might even get to cruise alongside a 30 foot Whale Shark – the biggest fish in the ocean!
Out of all my stops in Thailand Koh Tao is easily my favourite – there’s nothing better than spending your days underwater and watching the sunset into the ocean with a cold beer on the beach!
Koh Phangan is the epi centre of Thai Island nightlife – famed for it’s Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach which was popularised by the film The Beach. Now over 30,000 people descend on the island to drink ‘Buckets’, enjoy the fire shows and general let their hair down. Just make sure you book your accommodation way in advance as hostel book up quickly!
But it’s not just about the parties, KP – like it’s island sisters – offer miles of unspoilt beaches, spas and tranquil water to swim in and explore by kayak or diving. You can even detox yourself with a bit of beach yoga.
I stayed at Phangan Beach Resort and they hooked you guys up with some more accommodation discounts!
The biggest of the Thai Islands Koh Samui is where most people start their island hopping – you can even fly directly into the airport here which means you can cut out some travel time by catching an internal flight to or from Bangkok. Home of The Big Buddah and numerous waterfalls (Namuang is the pick of these) and sandy beaches it’s a great place to begin before catching an onward ferry towards the other islands. If you’re after something a bit more amusing and unusual check out Hin Tai and Hin Yai – rock formations in the shape of rather rude body parts!
Hostel like iBed Samui offer backpacker luxury by the beach on a minimal budget.
The main reason I spent time in Phuket is due to the fact it has an airport! International and internal flights land here so it’s a pretty good bouncing point if you want to avoid the nightbuses or need to cover some ground quickly.
The town itself is good for a night – two at tops – as it’s got all the sleaze and glamour of a tourist hotspot. Sunburnt Aussies and drunk sex tourists are the man order of the day with the nightlife being one of gogo bars and ladyboys!
Still it’s good for people watching and during the day you can relax on the pretty average beach!
You’ll need to pass through to get to the islands so if you have time check it out!
The Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phi was one of my highlights in Thailand – infact I lived and worked their as a diver for a bit.
It’s a bit two sided though. One part is the island paradise where images of “The Beach” spring to mind (in actual fact it was filmed there!) where palm trees line the gorgeous beaches and clear blue waters.
However the main centre of Tonsai Bay is more of a backpacking hotspot due to it’s numerous hostels and guesthouses, beach bars and restaurants.
During the day it’s a sleepy place where walks along the beach, swims and look out points are on the cards, but at night the beach turns into a bucket fuelled backpacker free for all!
The diving here is far superior to other parts of Thailand and the warm waters are filled with gorgeous leopard sharks, sea turtles, schools of colourful fish and other amazing marine life.
My other top tip for Phi Phi is to book a day tour around all the surrounding islands, your camera will come back crammed full of travel brochure style perfection!
I’ve only visited Railay once but I was instantly hooked and cant wait to get back there. It’s an adventure getting there as this cove like town is part of the mainland but only accessible by boat!
In fact to get there we had to wade through the waist deep water with our rucksack above our heads after getting off the ferry from Phi Phi!
It’s a pretty mellow place so get ready to kick back and relax – although if you’re into rock climbing it’s one of Thailands top climbing stops/
Also to help you out a bit here’s some Thai phrases that may come in handy!
- Hello Sawatdi
- How much is this? Tourai
- Can you help me? Chuay dai mai?
- Thank you Khop khun
- Do you have? Mee …. Mai No,
- (we) do not have Mai mee
- Yes, we do have Mee
- Can I have a discount? Lot dai mai?
- That is expensive Peng!
- That is very expensive Peng mahk!
- Cheap, inexpensive Thuuk
- Keep a cool heart Jye yen yen
- Never mind, it does not matter Mai pen rai
- What time does the shop open/close? Rhan beurt/pbid meurai
- Bank Thanaakhan
- Where is the … shop Rhaan … tee nai?
Have you backpacked around Thailand? Any other stops/tips you’d add in?