Thailand was one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited, and I already cannot wait to go back! I spent 10 days here in November and covered three areas – Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok. I’m so glad I got to cover such a diverse set of experiences in this wonderful place! It’s tight, but it is possible to do it all on your trip!
We started our trip in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, then flew up to Chiang Mai, then ended in Bangkok. My first piece of advice, end your trip in the islands. It’s the most relaxing and beautiful, and a blissful way to end your trip. That being said, here was my itinerary and best recommendations!
The Islands – Phuket and Koh Phi Phi
After a very long day of travel, we arrived at our first destination – Phuket! This involved LA -> China -> Bangkok -> Phuket + about an hour taxi from the airport in Phuket to our hotel – the Mandarava Beach Resort. We arrived around 9 pm, so quickly found our room, grabbed a snack, and went to sleep. We woke up to the most beautiful dawn overlooking the pool and forests and out to sea, and it made the 25+ hours of travel worth every minute.
We spent our day in Phuket just exploring the hotel. The hotel was gorgeous with tons of pools, great breakfast, and cute scenery. Our stay in Phuket was very short, and we got picked up around noon to head out to the ferries and head over to Koh Phi Phi! The ferry was super easy to book online, and we opted for private transportation from the hotel because there were 5 of us so splitting was super cheap.
We chose Koh Phi Phi for our time on the islands despite reservations that it would be too touristy, or too much of a party (we were going for relaxing vacation!) We decided to give it a try after a lot of research though because of the absolute beauty in every picture – we figured it was voted everyone’s favorite for a reason! Although it is touristy and you can spend most of your time partying there if you want, there is a huge variety and still has a large community of Thai people, so rest assured Koh Phi Phi is still an amazing choice!
The ferry to Koh Phi Phi was a quick 45 minute jaunt and was beautiful. Definitely try and get a spot in the shade as it does get hot, but also enjoy the scenery and the waves! Upon arrival in Koh Phi Phi, we were met by a longboat to take us to our hotel by water. We found the Viking Nature Resort through AirBNB. This resort had beautiful, nature inspired treehouses with enough room for up to 6, so it was perfect for our party! I 100% recommend this place for your next adventure as it was unique, had a private beach, and amazing food in the kitchen. Just be warned – it is remote to get to from town and quite a walk through jungle (but a paved path.)
As soon as we got settled in our treehouse, we changed and headed to the Phi Phi Viewpoint. This hike seems wrong the entire way, as you walk through small villages and towns, however keep following the signs and the other tourists and you will get there! The view is astonishing, and I would recommend getting there a little before sunset so you can appreciate it and also get back down before dark! We ended up spending less time here than we wanted to avoid being stranded.
On our walk back, we learned how unpredictable the weather in Thailand can be, and got stuck in a torrential downpour and thunder storm. We ducked into a convenience store and bought a ton of great snacks, including Thai Basil lays! There were a few other local people in the shop who found our picnic on the ground quite amusing.
We had incredible passion fruit smoothies at the hotel for breakfast, and then spent some time hanging out on our private beach! It was so serene, the water was the perfect temperature, and it was great having our own spot. We had lunch at the hotel as well because the food was delicious.
After lunch, we took an afternoon boat expedition to Maya Beach! We boarded a longboat about 10 minutes walk from our hotel (there are many companies, we booked from the hotel) and headed first to monkey beach. I couldn’t believe how many people were trying to play with the monkeys! I kept a safe distance, especially after seeing several people get their belongings stolen and have to try and retrieve them. My rule of thumb is stay farther away from wild animals than you think. After Monkey Beach, we journeyed over to Maya Bay. Unfortunately, the tide was wrong to enter the bay, so we parked the boat on the opposite side of the island and crawled through the caves to get across. Definitely more of an adventure than we anticipated, but worth the incredible views on the other side.
On our last day in Koh Phi Phi, we headed into town and did some shopping, as well as got our first Thai Massages! These are between $5-10 USD for about an hour. If you haven’t had a Thai massage, it is incredible. It is a massage that also includes stretching, walking on your back, and getting everything back into place. This was definitely not our last! That afternoon we took the ferry back to Phuket and headed to the airport for our next adventure.
Elephants and Temples – Chiang Mai
After the relaxing beauty of the islands, we flew up North to Chiang Mai. This area of Thailand is known to be more spiritual, and also full of forests and farming. We arrived late at night to the Lanna Tree Boutique Hotel- located near the heart of town, and rested up for a big day!
We woke up at dawn to head up to the most famous temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Phra That Doi Suthrep (Wat means temple in Thai). It was easy to get a car through the hotel, and we arrived just as the space was opening, which meant there were fewer tourists around. We had a wonderful time exploring the area, and taking in the beauty of this sanctuary. We also opted to receive a blessing from the monks there! It was great that they were available to teach small things about their culture.
We headed back to the hotel to get picked up for the afternoon elephant expedition! We opted to go with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary after doing a lot of research about which companies treat the elephants most humanely. They were great at educating us about the different ways elephants are treated and why they are treated that way throughout the country. Our afternoon consisted first of carrying A TON of bananas through the jungle out to the sanctuary. Apparently elephants LOVE bananas, and this is the food we ended up feeding to them for the first part of the day (and the best photo ops!) We had three elephants to play with and take care of! Post bananas, we headed down to the mud bath where you can scrub them and wash them with the mud, and then all headed down the river to bathe! I’m not going to lie the river portion was a little scary as the elephants were definitely in play time rolling around unexepectedly! It was an incredible day learning about and playing with these lovely creatures.
That night, we made reservations at David’s Kitchen. It was voted the best restaurant in Thailand several years in a row, and after dining there we got it! David had an incredibly interesting life, and he decided to move with his wife to Thailand (he said she was the one with the cooking talent) and open this restaurant! The food is classic but Thai inspired, and delicious. A highlight is that David comes to each group to greet you and give you any advice or recommendations for the rest of your trip!
On our second full day in Chiang Mai, we were there over Thanksgiving, and we decided to spend it in an all day cooking class with Thai Farm Cooking! I was skeptical about doing this all day, but it was one of the highlights of my trip and now I seek out cooking classes when I travel. We started the day at the Thai market, learning how to choose ingredients and what some of the ingredients we would be using look like. Then we headed out to a farm where we got to see what some of the plants looked like and where we cooked the whole day! We ended up having 6 courses and delicious lemongrass tea, and we made it all ourselves! They made it very easy and prepared the ingredients, and then taught us how to make everything and also how to change spice levels. I’ve since made some of the basics at home! It was an amazing way to spend the day and feel connected to Thai food and culture.
We spent the evening just roaming the markets, and got you guessed it – another Thai massage! We left Chiang Mai early the next morning for our final destination of the trip.
The Big City – Bangkok
After such serene destinations like Koh Phi Phi and Chiang Mai, Bangkok was a little overwhelming. We stayed at the Aloft Hotel which was great and central and we could walk to many of the activities we wanted which was great, because traffic was a nightmare (and this is coming from someone who lives in LA! Although not as bad as Mumbai).
We started the day with some shopping! We took a taxi out to the floating markets, a series of shops connected by waterways! This was a really incredible thing to see, however this was also our most expensive activity of the trip, and the goods they were selling were also at a huge premium. Would probably say if you’re short on time this is something you can skip!
That night we ventured out to the rooftop bars of Bangkok! We were staying near Above Eleven so we started there! It was awesome to have such an expansive view of the city, and the drinks were delicious. We ended up hanging out here for a while before heading to Havana Social, a Cuban themed speakeasy! Both locations were super fun, and after being out for a few hours we were ready for bed.
We were nearing the end of our trip, but that did not mean we were slowing down! We spent today exploring the temples of Bangkok. I think these are really overlooked by other people as still being some of the most beautiful temples I’ve ever seen! We started out at Wat Arun and explored all the rainbow mosaics and surrounding locations, then headed over the Wat Pho to see the giant reclining Buddha! It was way more massive than I expected!
We then walked over to get noodles from Jay Fai! We made it there before she received her Michelin Star for having incredible noodles, and it is very well deserved. Her little street stand is instantly recognizable as she’s out there over a huge wok stirring up noodles or omelets with goggles on! Definitely worth the trek here while you are in Thailand.
And sadly after that it was time to go (instead of going home I got on a flight to Poland for work – talk about an extreme temperature change). Our trip was a whirlwind and I loved every minute of it- the food, the people, the culture, and the beauty of the country. I knew it wasn’t a goodbye when I left Thailand, and I’m looking forward to being back one day.
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