Chiang Mai/Koi Phi Phi/Phuket/Bangkok/Kanchanaburi/Phang Nga
Thailand is known as a one stop destination offering a variety of landscapes, activities and food options. Taking the time to venture to both the Northern and Southern parts of this amazing country will pay off without leaving a heavy tab on your visa bill.
Bangkok is a city that seems to never sleep and although it is often marked down as a 'love-hate' city by tourists, backpackers make the effort to make it a pit-stop in their journey. We would recommend spending three solid days in the heart of the city away from the crazy party scene of Khao San Road. During the weekend this busy clubbing street is jam packed with gringos and although it is worth checking out, we would recommend you paying the extra couple dollars to get a good night sleep. At night be sure to walk around the city and try street vendors instead of restaurants. Not only will it save you money, you will be eating along side locals. Additionally, you can take your chances and witness the infamous 'Ping-Pong Shows' but beware of common scams within this district.
Be sure to not miss out on visiting the variety of beautiful temples Bangkok has to offer. The tile work is spectacular.
When you are feeling the need to soak in some sunshine while lying in the sand it is time for you to head towards Southern Thailand. Domestic flights within Thailand are fairly priced and a great way to save time within your vacation. Several flights fly into Phuket daily. From Phuket it is easy to catch a cheap ride to any port. Although there are dozens of beach options within Thailand, we made our way to Koh Phi Phi Island.
It is definitely easy to lose track of time while lounging on a Thai beach drinking those dangerously tasty and cheap Thai 'buckets'. But be sure to take out some time to go on a boat tour. There are two options: big boat tour or small boat tour. Big boat tours offer a variety of options which include visiting Maya Beach, Shark Cove and perfect snorkel sites. If you have never been snorkeling this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that crystal clear water. Most day tours cost an average $45CAN. Check out our island hopping experience in our travel memoir: The Beach.
Please be aware that the Thai government have enforced nature protection fees to some islands (including Maya Beach). This will cost you approx. $10CAN to step onto these islands.
We recommend venturing off-path to smaller towns including Phang-Nga. From town it is easy to take small boat tours to the infamous island: James Bond Island. Phang-Nga tourism is based off visiting this island and unfortunately, we were not too impressed.
But Phang-Nga has so much more to offer including Monkey's, Caves, Beautiful Mountain views and lets not forget taking a visit to a Buddhist Hell Temple. If you haven't had the chance to take a peak at what Buddhist Hell looks like...be sure to visit.
Chiang Mai is the perfect destination for any foodie. With weekends boasting the walking markets, you will not be disappointed; leaving on an empty stomach is impossible. Street vendors flood the streets and the options range from the typical Pad Thai to BBQ squid. Ensure to spend a couple days in this enchanting city built around a historic fort. During the day, make your way to visit one of the hundreds of Wats the city has to offer. Ensure to make your way up the mountain side to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. When visiting any religious/spiritual site be sure to dress respectfully.
Another experience that is worth checking out in Chiang Mai is the local boxing stadium. Muy Thai Boxing is an authentic dose of Thai sport. Be sure to check out one of the several rounds that showcase amazing sportsmanship and commitment all in one night.
Approximately 30 minutes North of Chiang Mai close to the border of Myanmar (previously Burma) is a small refugee village, consisting of the Karen Long Neck Tribe. This controversial tourist attraction brings thousands of tourists to the North each year. It is important to research the history and culture of this hill-tribe (originally from Burma). If you want to learn more about our personal experience, be sure to check out our travel memoir: Behind the Gold.
In most recent years, visiting elephant sanctuaries has boosted Thai tourism. Be sure to research into any sanctuary you plan to visit. We recommend heading to the city of Kanchanaburi which is just a two hour commute by local buses from Bangkok. From there you can visit Elephants World. We spent two spectacular days with these giants and could not of asked for a better experience. Elephants World is a conservation for rescued elephants (no riding policy) and is a non-profit organization. If you are interested in learning more about Elephants World please check out our travel memoir: Once Upon A Elephants World. If you are concerned about the $150CAN price tag for the two night stay, be reassured that every dollar goes back into running the facility as well as the memories and experience is well worth the cost.