Thailand, for years, has remained the crown jewel in southeast Asia for tourists. It earned this title for good reason: affordable food, friendly folk, and plenty to do. We spent two weeks in Siam (old name for Thailand) and it’s been a positive experience to remember.
This is kind of an itinerary but more of a list of excellent things we did and how we felt about them. So read on and get an idea of what two weeks in Thailand has to offer you.
Bangkok – 4 Days
Bangkok is the biggest city in mainland southeast Asia, and as far as cities go, it’s has everything you’d expect from a big city. With a population of 20 million, Bangkok doesn’t ever seem to sleep, and during its peek hours can feel like an overcapacity elevator – slow and uncomfortable.
But still, Bangkok should be on your list as it has plenty to offer. This is what was on our list.
Explore the Grand Palace
If you’re going to do this, do it early in the morning. The later it gets, not only the hotter it gets, but the more crowded it becomes. If you’re exploring it in the early afternoon you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists – and that’s annoying. Plus, bring cash (500 baht per person) because they do not accept cards.
Visit the Reclining Buddha
This is a gigantic, reclining Buddha. That’s pretty much it, but it’s worth it. More info.
Do a Street Food Tour
This was something I had to do. The city has so much food and such a variety that doing a food tour was non-negotiable for me. We chose this one through Expique and it was fantastic.
We ate in 5 different locations and we were so packed with food I thought I was going to be sick. Highly recommended! Plus you travel by tuk-tuk.
Ride in a Tuk-Tuk
Sooner or later you’ll want to hop in one and see the city. We recommend doing it at night. The lights are vibrant, the smells are wonderful, and the cool air in your face is refreshing. To use a tuk-tuk, hail one down and communicate where you want to go. Then negotiate a price. Shoot for 125-150 baht. They’ll start off, usually, around 200 and it’s up to you to negotiate them down. Good luck!
Interact with Buddhist Monks
Thailand is 99% Buddhist, which means you’ll see monks in their saffron colored robes sooner or later. While we were there, we had two significant interactions with different groups of monks.
The first one was during our night food tour. We passed by a temple and saw the lights were on, so our guide pulled the tuk-tuk over and we went into the compound and watched the monks perform evening chants. It was a spiritual moment for sure. It looked and felt like what a Mumford and Sons music video really should be – authentic. The lighting and mood was sublime and then rhythmic chanting was beautiful.
The second time we ran into monks was on an alms gathering tour I partook in. Woke up at 4:45 to walk with monks as they went along their routes and collected alms from the locals. In daily life, monks eat only the food given to them. So in the mornings they’ll walk through neighborhoods and receive food. Upon receiving the food, the monks will say a prayer for the people and continue on their way.
It was a highlight of our travels, and while I didn’t take any video or pictures, I won’t soon forget it. This video below isn’t me but is exactly the type of thing I partook in.
Explore the Zillions of Temples
You’ll be sick of temples by the time you leave Bangkok. Besides the temples in the Grand Palace there are temples just about everywhere. Once you’ve visited the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha, you’re best off picking a couple more temples near other things you’re already planning on doing. Bangkok has so many to pick from that otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed. Here’s a list to choose from.
Muay Thai (Thai boxing match)
Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this but Bangkok has a few nice places to watch authentic fights. Two of them have specifically higher rates for foreigners, but the one at Channel 7 has free fights on Wednesdays. Get there early and check that one out.
We’ve been to the Chinatown in San Francisco and had a lot of fun, but the nightlife in the Bangkok Chinatown (especially during Chinese New Year) is a sensory delight!
This place has tons of delicious food and is one of your more authentic places to try mango and sticky rice. So yummy!
Also a great place to eat a scorpion if you’re into that sort of thing…
If you’re looking for more a Western feel to your shopping, visit Asiatique and explore the markets and restaurants. You can ride a free ferry from the other side of the river. This place is specifically designed for tourists, so if you’re not into that you can safely avoid it.
Chiang Mai – 5 Days
So with two weeks in Thailand, Chiang Mai is your best bet for seeing wildlife. It’s Thailand’s second largest city and home to one of the largest pockets of expats in the world. It offers high speed internet, a safe environment, and affordable prices. With a population of about 170k, its so much easier and pleasant to explore than Bangkok.
Hang Out with Elephants
This was one of Audacious Goals and a life changing experience. Read about it here.
Sunday Night Market
This market is super cool but it gets PACKED with people. It’s a great place to find unique gear and souvenirs for back home. Plus it’s a handy place to test your haggling skills – I got denied big time! Food and smoothies are also delicious. Plus, look at this meat!
Go to a spa and let the fish nibble away the dead skin on your feet. I loved it – Hayley not so much. We went to Darlin’s Massage. It was roughly $1 for ten minutes. Each of us stayed in for half an hour so it was about $6. Not bad!
Krabi – 5 Days
If you’re spending two weeks in Thailand, the Thai islands are not to be missed. You’ve no doubt seen them in movies like James Bond, read about them in countless magazines, and seen them on television. We’re here to tell you, “Yes, the Thai islands are amazing and worth visiting.”
Our plan for five days in the Krabi region revolved around relaxation. We still had plenty of work to do, but when it came to exploring and adventuring around, we knew that mostly we wanted to drink cocktails on the beach and lounge by the pool.
And honestly, that’s pretty much the reason you come to the Thai islands – either to party or relax. And both of those options work best on the beach. If you’re still looking for something to “do” you can find plenty of outfits who’ll take you snorkeling and scuba diving.
If you’re looking for something less active, plenty of boats run island tours – many of which include the famous James Bond 007 island.
But other than that, get a massage and a Chiang beer and relax. For reference sake, we stayed here:
…and we’ve spent our time at the beach or in the pool. It’s been so relaxing.
Our two weeks in Thailand have been fantastic! Thailand has been probably the most exciting country we’ve visited so far. Between seeing monks collect alms and chant, bathing with elephants, and riding in a tuk-tuk in downtown Bangkok, the experience is not lost on us in the slightest. Having said that, it’s not for everyone.
I love the food here but Hayley not so much. It’s a different standard of living than in Western countries and the folks don’t speak much English – so if those things bother you, be aware that acclimating in Thailand might be challenging.
But overall it’s a fantastic place. It’s no wonder it remains high on the tourist destinations in southeast Asia.