I sometimes get asked by friends and family visiting Thailand to suggest an itinerary for their stay. Individual taste will vary and some may want to relax at a beach resort for 2 weeks whilst others may want a more active vacation. The itinerary I’ve listed below provides a little bit of everything; a few days in the capital city, time in the mountains of the north and a week on the beach.
Arriving in Bangkok
Spend 2 or 3 days in Bangkok and have a bit of a chance to get over the flight. Bangkok can be overwhelming from the very first time you enter the arrivals hall and are greeted by cries of ‘Taxi! Taxi! Where you want to go?’ Some people love Bangkok, some people hate it. Few people are indifferent. The Grand Palace and Wat Po are recommended as is a trip to the Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak. If you do an organised tour to the Floating Market, it will probably include a stop on the way back at the Rose Country Garden Resort. There is a display of cultural dancing and it’s all geared at tourists, but hey, we’re all tourists whatever we might think, and it’s enjoyable enough. Not what many people would call the ‘real’ Thailand, but a pleasant introduction for the first time visitor. The Grand Palace can be done as an organised tour or if you’re a bit more adventurous it is easy enough to get to by taking a boat along the river (a pleasant trip by itself). As you may have read, there are various scams operated by tuk-tuk drivers and their friends who will tell you ‘Grand Palace closed today’. Ignore them and carry on.
Travel to Chiang Mai
From Bangkok, head north to Chiang Mai for 3 or 4 days. Many people find the easy-going atmosphere a relief after Bangkok. Even on rainy days there is plenty to do and it is easy to get around by public transport. You’re bound to meet lots of friendly locals who can help you out getting your bearings. Chiang Mai has plenty of temples, great food and cheap prices. If shopping is your thing there is the famous Night Bazaar, but the weekend Walking Street market is much better. There are 2 excellent modern malls and the trendy Nimmanhaemin Road in the west of the city is home to a number of funky boutiques and has a relaxed cafe culture. There are many half-day trips and day trips (I recommend the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the National Park at Doi Inthanon). The city is full of travel agents who can book any trip for you and most hotels and guest houses can also arrange this too. After a day sightseeing, relax with a traditional Thai massage and book yourself into one of the many spas dotted around the city or chill out in a restaurant and chat with fellow diners. Just enjoy yourself!
Relax on a Thai beach
From Chiang Mai head south for a week on a beach. Bangkok Airways run direct flights to Ko Samui from Chiang Mai. Alternatively, Ko Chang, Phuket or Krabi could be a good choice. Ao Nang is a good base if you are going to Krabi. It gets criticised for being too commercial, but it has a lot going for it and as I say, is a good base without being stuck in one place. You could visit a different beach or island everyday and there is plenty to do if you fancy a day away from the beaches or the weather is bad.
The above is just a suggestion and there a plenty of alternatives, but 2 weeks isn’t that long a time and I’ve suggested an itinerary where all of the places are easy to travel between (particularly by air).