Thailand Travel Guide | The Islands & Culture
Thailand Travel Guide | The Islands & Culture
We started planning our trip knowing 2 things: We wanted to relax but also see the culture of Thailand. When we travel we are definitely not the type of people who want to stay in the overly crowded tourist areas, surrounded by western cultures like McDdonalds, Starbucks and people the same as us everywhere. That just never feels like another country to us! We like to stay in more laid back areas, a little off the beaten path, while still having the comforts of home when we come back to our hotel at night.
Also, when I say we like to relax, I’m lying. We don’t ever relax on a vacation no matter where we are. Haha, we’ve accepted this conclusion and as much as we say lets just relax by the beach our pool today, 1-2 hours after doing that and we’re up, out and exploring this world around us. But honestly, why not? You’re across the world or in a new city! Go see it!
In this post I’m go share how we got around Thailand to the different islands, where we stayed, what we did, and what we ate!
Thailand was by FAR my favorite country I have ever been to. I shed a couple tears as we boarded our flight home today, and I can’t say that happens often. It was just the most incredible experience and I can’t even begin the explain the happiness I gained from my travels here.
I will also be adding some packing essentials and beauty tips at the end of this post that really came in handy for me!
Bangkok: 2 full days
How to get to Bangkok:
We flew United from Austin to Houston leaving on a Thursday Morning at 6am.
All Nippon Airways from Houston to Tokyo which was a 14 hour flight.
All Nippon Airways from Tokyo to Bangkok which was 7 hours. Our Flight Arrived Friday at Midnight
Overall I’m not going to lie, it was a rough flight. We traveled for almost 30 hours with layovers and travel. All Nippon Airways was a good airline to fly though for sure, I would definitely recommend them and fly with them again! I would bring snacks, as I wasn’t a fan of the food choices they provided for dinner & breakfast on the flight.
We weren’t too tired once we arrived and actually woke up between 7-8am every single day of our trip (8pm our time back home) I think we were a little thrown off with the timing but waking up early allowed us to have the whole day to explore so we didn’t mind it!
Currency Tip: We exchanged our money at the Bangkok airport so we didn’t pay transaction fees on our cards.
Transportation Tip: We mainly took taxis and Tuk Tuks. Taxis were easy to find and SO cheap. A 30 minute ride sometimes cost us only 200 Baht. (6 USD) For a Tuk Tuk NEVER pay more than 400 baht (12 USD). We took several tuk tuks across town for only 300 baht (9usd) and had people trying to charge us 400-600 baht for a 5 minute tuck tuck ride. Always ask the price before hand & negotiate. Overall everyone in Thailand was so nice & I never got a sense that people were trying to rip us off other than with this scenario.
Where we stayed: Hotel Marriot Sukuhmvit
We LOVED this hotel! It was a great location in the Sukuhmvit area of Bangkok which was a little more upscale of an area. Great for couples, the hotel was amazing and affordable! 5 star service for sure, and it had a beautiful rooftop bar at the top with 360 views of the city as well. We actually ate at the hotel quite a bit in Bangkok because they had great Thai food and it was soo good!
Day One in Bangkok
Visit the Temples & Leaning Buddha
Since we got in pretty late on Friday to Bangkok we started our adventures Saturday morning. We decided to Visit the Grand Palace, and the Leaning Buddha! It was HOT and crowded! Make sure you read the dress code before going or you’ll have to buy elephant pants like Eric! Which wasn’t such a bad thing haha
Visit the Taling Chang Floating Market
The #1 thing I wanted to do in Bangkok was go to a floating market! There we a few different floating markets in Bangkok and the main one was about 2 hours away, which would have made an all day trip out of it. With us only having 2 days there we decided to go to a closer market that was only about 30 minutes from our hotel & it was just as fun and such a cool experience! We took a private long tail boat around the market and through the river that the market lays on. Walked around and tried some of the market food they set up. Overall we only spent a couple hours there which was better for us with our shorter amount of time in Bangkok!
After all this we went back to the hotel to freshen up & relax a little. It was about 3am our time at this point & we were tired but that didn’t stop us! Haha We took a quick break and changed to go see what Ko San Road was all about.
Take a Trip to Ko San Road
If you’re from Austin or have been to New Orleans this is pretty much like the Thai Version of 6th Street or Bourbon Street. There were tourists EVERYWHERE and tons of backpackers staying in Hostels. There were scorpions for sale to eat and people trying to sell you all sorts of random bugs and foods to try. It was worth checking out the famous nightlife road, but we quickly left after seeing what it was all about
Take a Tuk Tuk and End the Night at a Rooftop Bar like Octave or Sky Bar
Our kind of way to have a drink is at a nice relaxing rooftop bar with beautiful views of the city. You can’t beat that!
Day Two in Bangkok
Visit the Chatuchak Market!!!!
Omg what an experience. This place was overwhelming to say the least, we couldn’t even find the entrance! Haha! BUT it was SO COOL! There are over 15,000 local vendors set up here, selling anything from homemade purses, shoes, swim suits, to artwork, 2nd hand clothing, and bath towels. This specific market brings in over 200,000 visitors EVERY WEEKEND! This place was crazy!! But such a cool and fun experience. I would recommend finding a map of the market when you arrive. We just asked someone working there and he gave us one which was very helpful. It is also only open on weekends!
We were at the Market pretty much all day, so after we left we went back to our hotel to our rooftop bar, had some drinks and dinner and relaxed before heading to our next destination!
Krabi: 1.5 days
How to got to Krabi:
We flew from Bangkoks Domestic Airport to the Krabi Airport which was about a 1 hour flight. The only way to get to Koh Lanta was the fly into Krabi or Phuket, so we chose Krabi since we were ending our trip in Phuket!
Overall, Krabi was honestly not my favorite at all. I wouldn’t go back, and the only reason we went was to connect to Koh Lanta. It’s tricky because you almost have to stay in Krabi at some point in order to get to Koh Lanta since that’s were the ferry and airport is. There is only 1 ferry to Koh Lanta and it leaves at 10:30am only. Looking back we would have just flew in, checked into our hotel and then left the next morning to Koh Lanta. I’ll share why below!
Oh Also, Instead of Krabi we maybe would have just went to Chaing Mai, this is one place that we didn’t visit that we heard great things about! So maybe adding 2 days in Chaing Mai, Krabi for one night and then head to Koh Lanta at 10:30 the next morning would be the best scenario! I’ve heard really good things about Railay Beach in Krabi, but it was a little further for us to stay in order to catch the 10:30 ferry to Koh Lanta.
Where we stayed: Centara Grand Beach Resort Krabi
Ok so this wasn’t our favorite hotel, or place that we visited. But we always like to find the positive in something here! It was in the Ao Nang beach area of Krabi and it just wasn’t our style.
So the Pros and Cons:
It was a nice hotel with a private beach which was really great compared to the rest of the island area that wasn’t private
It was easy to get to the pier from the hotel boat to leave on the ferry
They Brought me a flower for my hair every night :)
We saw a lot of fire shows!
The Private Beach!!!! After waling over to the main public beach of Ao Nang, we definitely liked the private beach at our hotel lot more.
The Monkey Trail connected to the hotel was cool, you could hike up for about 10 minutes and see some aggressive monkeys haha :)
There were SO MANY KIDS. And when I say so many…I mean we literally felt like we were on a Disney cruise ship! There were even people dressed up for dinner like themed characters. I don’t mind a few kids here and there but we couldn’t go to the pool at all without hearing kids screaming and running around everywhere. It might have just been a weird timing but it just wasn’t for us.
It was far to get anywhere and you had to take a boat since it was a private island, which we knew this when we booked, but I think after getting there we really wanted to explore since we felt a little secluded at the hotel
Overall the hotel was nice & there are monkeys surrounding it which is so cool! It was good for a stop, but like I said, I would have rather taken a flight from Bangkok to Krabi early morning, then check out to head to Koh Lanta the next morning instead of spending another day!
We didn’t really do much in Krabi, other than move some bean bag chairs, far far away from all the noise, see a fire show, and go look at the monkeys! The Thai Restaurant at the hotel was really good too. But looking back we probably wouldn’t have done Krabi again, or recommend it. It just didn’t seem authentic at all.
Koh Lanta: 4 full days ( I would have stayed longer)
How to got to Koh Lanta:
There was one 2 hour ferry to Koh Lanta from Krabi leaving at 10:30am everyday. I think you can also get there by car, and there might be a speed boat. But the ferry was the best option for us. We were able to get into our hotel in Koh Lanta by 1pm so we still had a full day! From the pier in Koh Lanta, AVOID everyone trying to get you to pay, get you a taxi, or a tuk tuk ride. It’s chaotic. Walk your luggage down the street and just get a ride from someone else. It was cheaper and way easier. There are no enclosed taxis in this area. In fact, the only way I really saw to get around this island was by a tuk tuk or a moped. Our hotel was about 20 minutes from the main pier.
Where we stayed: Rawi Warin Resort and Spa
HANDS DOWN MY FAVORITE HOTEL 100% I would come back here again and again for the rest of my life. It was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in!
Koh Lanta was my FAVORITE place we went. It was the perfect mix of laid back, culture, and we still had the comforts of home to come home to at night. It was incredible. Absolute favorite place I have ever been in my life.
Transportation tip: We love renting scooters when we travel. And renting a scooter for the whole trip was like $15 USD and was the BEST way to explore and get lost around the island. Usually you can just ask your hotel where to rent one and luckily there was a scooter rental place right across from Rawi Warin.
Day One in Koh Lanta
Check in and have a bite on the Ocean!
We got in around 1pm so we pretty much had the whole day to explore! All of the food at this hotel was also so good & I loved the pineapple rice bowls
Rent a Motorbike
Do yourself a favor and immediately rent a bike so you can explore and get around easily! (If you feel comfortable riding one of course)
After we rented our bike we just went around to explore our area and surroundings and relaxed at our resort
We went to Long Beach which is where a lot of the beach bars and restaurants in the area are. This whole island is super laid back, so pretty much everywhere we went was super quiet and not a ton of people! There are a TON of bars and restaurants to go to and they’re all really laid back with bean bags and lounging on the beach. This Island isn’t like your typical uppity beach clubs, we’re saving that for Phuket. Koh Lanta was definitely really laid back and PERFECT for a honeymoon or couples in our opinion!
Day Two in Koh Lanta
Visit Old Town, Markets & the Sea Gypsies
Since we had our scooter we woke up relaxed at the pool for a bit, had breakfast then went into the other side of the island to see the Old Town and do a little shopping! It was about 25 minutes from our hotel so we stopped along the way at different viewpoints, and restaurants. The drive was beautiful! And we even had a group of monkeys jump out right in front of us to cross the street. It was so cool!
Old town was made up of a bunch of markets and a good place for shopping. There is also an old village that is home to the sea gypsies of Koh Lanta, They made their homes there back 500 years ago, so it was really eye opening to see how they live. The sea gypsies village isn’t really advertised anywhere and was kind of hard to find, it was important to be respectful of the locals living here by not taking take a ton of pictures of their lifestyle.
Dinner at Kindee & Bar Hopping
After a day of exploring by Moped we went back to our hotel to freshen up and went to dinner at Kindee! It was very good upscale, local Thai Food.
Since there are so many cool bars in the area it can be overwhelming to find the perfect one. The best thing to do is talk to the locals and ask where to go for either live music, fire dances, good cocktails, parties, etc…
Day Three in Koh Lanta
For our 3rd day we took a boat out to see Koh Rok which is the one of the most famous snorkeling islands in Thailand! It was absolutely beautiful! They took us to 2 island, and then had lunch at a private island before heading home. The water was beautiful and it was such a fun experience
Private Dinner on the Beach!
The Snorkeling pretty much took up the whole day, we got back around 5pm and had a PRIVATE PICNIC on the beach! It was one of my favorite moments of the trip! Our hotel set it up for us and was a memory I will never ever forget.
Day Four in Krabi: April 13th SONGKRAN
Let me start by saying, if you are planning a trip to Thailand go during Songkran. Its was an unforgettable experience and both of our favorite days in Thailand. If you know me, this doesn’t seem like something I would actually enjoy, along with getting completely muddy with elephants (we’ll get to that later) But when I’m in another country I adapt. I live in the moment and become way more carefree, I emerge myself In my surroundings and adapt to the local culture. Because when else will you be able to drive around Thailand getting completely soaked with water by locals? When else will an elephant soak you with a mud bath? These are the moments out of your comfort zone that really do change your perspective & open your eyes to how big this world we live in in
So for Songkran here are my tips:
It is largley celebrated in Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Phuket. I’ve heard Chaing Mai is a great place to celebrate. Phuket and Bangkok seem like they would be CRAZY but hey if that’s your thing go for it, I’m sure it would be a BLAST!
Koh Lanta was the perfect place for us to celebrate. There were very few tourists, and we literally felt like we were the only Americans celebrating the new year with all of the locals in Koh Lanta which we absolutely loved. Everyone was so happy and we were invited into private parties thrown by locals to enjoy a homemade meal and beers. I knew what we were getting into, but the extent of immediate DOWNPOUR of water on me the minute we entered the main part of the town was unreal haha. We were absolutely soaked within seconds, like we just stepped out of a pool! People were pouring water down our shirts, down our backs, right in our faces using hoses, buckets, and squirt guns. Some water was ice cold, some was warm… weird. Some people came up with white and red paste to rub on your face. Still didn’t know what that was.. haha. Here are some tips if you go during this time!
Bring a waterproof Phone Case to put your phone and money in!
Wear Clothes you don’t care about getting wet or dirty
I Bought Clothes along they way for $3 at a local market
Don’t get the water in your mouth…lol
Buy a BIG water gun
Drive around on the moped, carefully, but also find a local spot to post up and place people with buckets!
Dinner at Anya Garden and Restaurant
After the festival we were hungrrryyy! So we went to Anya Garden and Restaurant! It was so good!
Same Same but Different was also another really cool bar/restuarant a little bit far from our hotel but we really liked this place!
Half Day in Phi Phi and then on to Phuket
How to get to Phi Phi and Phuket:
We took a 30 minute speed boat to Phi Phi Islands and from there took a 1 hour speed boat to Phuket!
We went to Phi Ph just for the day to hike up to the view point! We honestly didn’t really like Phi Phi too much and we were glad we didn’t say here. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful and I’ve heard great things about it! But after leaving our secluded island of Koh Lanta, Phi Phi was overcrowded with tourists, and just didn’t feel as authentic Koh Lanta did. I know the resorts are nice away from the pier but for us we would have felt a little too secluded staying on another secluded area after Krabi and Koh Lanta, which is why we chose Phuket for our next stop! Overall, Phi Phi just seemed really overcrowded, but it was beautiful!
If you’re passing through Koh Lanta to Phuket, you might as well stop in Phi Phi because its such a short ride! For our personal taste we just didn’t want to stay here for several days
Phuket 3 full days
Where we stayed in Phuket: Twin Palms Resort
Ok let me start by saying we did a TON of research about Phuket because sooo many people online said they hated it because it was overrun by tourists, etc. We were a little nervous about going here because as you can see from our other choices of destinations, we love the more authentic places.
But we LOVED this hotel and location too! We stayed on the border or Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach, which was the perfect location for us. It was more private, more cultural, filled with beach clubs, and a little more upscale compared to the main part of Phuket (Patong Beach)
If you stay in Phuket, Bang Tao Beach is definitely the place to stay & we LOVED Twin Palms!
Day One in Phuket
This is where we did the day trip from Phi Phi so after we got in it was around 6 and rented yet an other scooter and went to get dinner at Catch Beach Club! Which was one of our favorite hang outs of the whole trip. The beach clubs in Phuket were definitely a little more upscale and popular which was a perfect change from the rest of our trip!
Day Two in Phuket
Relax at the Hotel Pool, & Get a Thai Massage
Our hotel pool was soo cozy & relaxing! We finally felt like we relaxed here! We went over to Catch Beach Club to get a Thai Massage. Can I find this in America?!?!? The best hour long massage ever for only $20
Go shopping around the markets in the Bang Tao Area & Take a drive to Patong Beach/Bangla Road just to check it out
We turned back around immediately when we got to Patong. It was INSANE and just didn’t feel like Thailand at all. I can see why people don’t like Phuket if they’re staying in this area. It was lacking culture and overrun by tourists! Bang Tao was for sure the place to be!
After this we had Dinner at Palms Sea Side! It was SOO Good & a beautiful atmosphere!
Day Three in Phuket
GO TO THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARY!
I posted a little about this on my insta but I’ll share on this too. This was on of the most ethical sanctuaries we could find in Phuket. If going to Chaing Mai this specific company has one there too, so I was glad to find one in Phuket not far from our Hotel.
The elephants there are rescued from years of abuse and tourture for tourism purposes. It was such an incredible experience to be able to bathe, swim, and feed the elephants. They were so beautiful, sweet and loving animals. And was on of my favorite parts of the trip for sure.
After this we had an upscale Thai dinner at Silk Restaurant then checked out some local bars along Bang Tao and Kamala Beach
Day Four in Phuket!
We ACTUALLY RELAXED THIS DAY! HAHA! We just hung out by our pool all day and got ready to leave.
Our flight left at 6pm to head from Phuket to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Tokyo, and from Tokyo to Houston and then Austin. Another 30 hour travel day. But leaving at Night helped because we slept a lot!
Bring Tissues: I brought these…a lot of the bathrooms in Thailand don’t have toilet paper and these really came in handy to carry around with me in my purse.
Bring your Hydro Flask- while most of the hotels provide water, the Hydro Flask was a great way to keep it cool throughout the day and night
Don’t pack a curling iron. It is SO hot and I didn’t curl my hair once. I put it in braids and a messy bun every day because it was too hot to wear it down
Don’t pack a lot of make up either. Again, since its so hot and you’re on the beach you don’t need a ton of makeup. TAKE IT FROM ME, I bring makeup and hair stuff everywhere I go…you don’t need a lot here
Bring Bug Spray
Lots of Sunscreen & Elta MD Face sunscreen! The Elta SAVED my face! Seriously we got pretty burnt using regular sunscreen but my face didn’t really get any sun at all because I was using the Elta everyday on my face. We went through over 3 cans of sunscreen…bring a lot because the sun is SO much stronger here and we had to apply it all day!
No need to bring heels. I wore mine once
These portable chargers always come in handy for us when traveling
Overall Thailand was an INCREDIBLE experience and I am so glad we made the journey across the world to experience it. I will forever remember this trip, the people and the memories that have changed my life for the better.