Thailand was my first experience in Asia and it was unforgettable to say the least! My husband (still sounds weird saying that) and I decided to go to Thailand and the Maldives for our honeymoon; Thailand for adventure and the Maldives for relaxation. This was the trip of a lifetime and if you ever have the opportunity to visit Thailand…go!
Quick tips for Thailand:
When to visit:
- Avoid the months of March – May at all cost; we went to Thailand in September (end of rainy season) and were lucky to have mostly nice weather for the entire trip. It was very, very hot and humid…which is basically the weather year-round. November to February is apparently the best time to visit, during the “cool” months, but it’s still hot!
What to bring:
- Speaking of hot…prepare yourself for the heat and humidity that awaits you! Bring sunscreen and hats; I ended up using an umbrella while I was there to shield myself from the sun.
- There is a dress code in temples; men and women must have their shoulders and knees covered (I brought a scarf to wrap around my waist the days I wore shorts). Also you have to take your shoes off before going into temples…you might want to bring socks, yuck!
- Put your haggling hat on; in the markets locals will try to upcharge you on everything. Just like with the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, I’d recommend countering at half of what they ask for (or even less) and find a place in the middle. Keep in mind everything is very cheap in Thailand (especially in the north), I almost felt bad paying just €2 for a pair of pants!
- Did you know Thailand exports a huge amount of precious stones and jewelry to the rest of the world? There are shops all over the city, but be sure not to buy jewelry from the market stands because it will most likely be fake. We went to the Gems Gallery in Bangkok and had a great experience – also got some quality items for a good price!
Should you travel in Thailand with a tour group?
Javi and I traveled through Thailand with a tour guide; I’m all about planning your own trip but after spending all that time planning our wedding I just wanted to relax and enjoy the experience. Our honeymoon was organized by Viajes Doñana (in Sanlúcar) and Catai Tours; our package included transportation, meals, tours and lodging. I know people who have planned their own trips to Thailand and loved it. However, it would have been hard for us to see all the things we saw without a tour guide and driver to take us around the country…not to mention the serious language barrier. If you’re on the fence about going with a tour or traveling on your own, I’d recommend a tour company; if you’re traveling all the way to Thailand you might as well see as much as you possibly can! 🙂
15 Things you should do and see in Thailand
We saw A LOT of places in Thailand, but these sites and activities were the ones that stood out to me the most!
1. The Grand Palace – Bangkok
“Amazing” is really the only word I can use to describe the Grand Palace. It was one of my favorite places we saw in Thailand. The palace consists of a collection of different buildings; the temples were the most impressive. The photos I have really don’t do it justice, you’ve got to see the palace while you’re there!
2. Vertigo Restaurant and Moon Bar – Bangkok
You will find a lot of cheap and delicious places to eat while you’re in Bangkok, but seeing as this was our honeymoon we decided to splurge one night on an upscale dining experience. We went to Vertigo, the rooftop restaurant at the Banyan Tree Hotel in the center of Bangkok. Dinner was pricey, about €200 for the two of us, but it was definitely worth the experience. You shouldn’t need a reservation for the bar, but you might need one for the restaurant. Keep in mind there is an enforced dress code and the bar and restaurant may be closed if it’s raining.
3. Wat Traimit Temple (Golden Buddha)– Bangkok
This temple houses the Golden Buddha; a giant gold statue most likely made around the 14th century and weighing 5.5 tons! At some point after being built, the statue was moved between cities and covered in plaster so that it wouldn’t be stolen. Over time people forget about the gold underneath and assumed it was just an old plaster statue. 200 years later workers dropped the statue while trying to move it, the plaster broke and they discovered it was actually made of gold! Now the Golden Buddha resides in his permanent home in Bangkok at the Wat Traimit Temple.
4. Wat Pho Temple (Reclining Buddha)– Bangkok
This royal temple complex is home to the giant Reclining Buddha and houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. It’s also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
5. & 6. Khao San Road and Patpong Night Market – Bangkok
Khao San Road was actually my favorite shopping area as far as Thai markets go. The street is wide and there’s plenty of room to walk around (something you’ll notice doesn’t exist in other markets). It’s also a good spot to find bugs if you want to eat a fried scorpion or spider, and at night there is a variety of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Patpong Night Market might be the most famous, or infamous of the night markets in the city. You’ll be able to find lots of interesting souvenirs here and you’ll receive tons of offers to see ping pong shows…if you don’t know what a ping pong show is, look it up! I’ll just say that we DID NOT see any ping pong shows while in Thailand 😉
7. Traditional Thai Massage – Bangkok
Based on my experience Bangkok is the best place to get a massage. It should cost about 700 or 800 Baht (including a 100 Baht tip for the masseuse) for a 2 hour traditional Thai massage…that’s about €17! If you don’t like a hard massage you should tell the masseuse before she gets started; it was a bit painful for me at times but I did feel amazing afterwards! They really know how to work the knots in your muscles and there will be some crazy back-cracking action going on!
8. Floating Market – Bangkok
We went to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, which is 100km outside of Bangkok. We loved how beautiful the market was, and the photos turned out great, but given a second chance I might have tried to visit a “less touristy” market as this one was extremely crowded the day we went. My favorite part about the experience was when we got to take a longtail boat through the canals (“aka klongs”) and see where the local people lived. There are several floating markets in and around Bangkok so do your research and see which one is best for you! If you’re traveling without a tour company you should be able to find a local longtail boat driver to take you through the market and canals once you arrive.
9. & 10. Ayutthaya Historical Park & Temples– Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of Thailand and featured many impressive temples and structures. The capital however, was captured by the Burmese in the 1500’s and eventually destroyed in 1767 (which is the reason why Bangkok is the capital present day). The park covers many of the ruins of the old city and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Perhaps one of the most iconic images associated with this site is of the Wat Mahathat ruins where Buddha’s head has been lifted and set right-side up by Banyan tree roots (very cool considering how important Banyan trees are in Buddhism). Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is another area featuring temple ruins and is located in the city of Ayutthaya – it’s also worth visiting!
11. Golden Triangle – Thailand, Laos and Myanmar
I can now say that I have been to the Golden Triangle and I like the fact that I got to check off another country from my list (Laos)…but if you’re short on time and have to choose between the Golden Triangle and something else you want to see, I’d skip the Golden Triangle. If you do visit this site, take a boat across the river to Laos, buy some extremely cheap souvenirs, enjoy the tiger-penis aphrodisiac shot of sake and be on your way! On the Thailand side of the river you can climb the hill to the temple and go all the way to the lookout point where you can see the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
12. The White Temple – Chang Rai
The White Temple is the coolest thing we saw in Thailand. The amount of detail in and around this temple is mind-boggling and did I mention there is a golden bathroom for you to use? Apparently the temple is there because a famous artist in Thailand decided to build it in his hometown. He started building in 1997 and he’s still working on it now! I really can’t explain all of the different elements present in this place, but you’ll notice Predator’s head hanging from a tree, George Bush and Darth Vader painted into the giant mural inside the temple, and all sorts of beautiful, funny and curious things! Check out this blog post with more pictures! If you’re going to Thailand you’ve got to see this place.
13. Maetaman Elephant Camp – Chang Mai
I was a bit hesitant about riding elephants in Thailand because I’d heard that the animals were treated poorly and often abused. I was relieved to see the AEACP was present at the Maetaman Elephant Camp and also provided information about how they’re working to preserve and protect wild elephants’ habitat as well as improve the welfare of domesticated elephants. We enjoyed riding elephants through the forest, feeding them bananas and sugarcane and watching them take a bath in the river.
14. Kayan Long-neck Women – Chang Mai
There is a village of long-neck women next to the elephant camp in Chang Mai. It’s a very touristy set-up; these women essentially make their living off of selling souvenirs and having their photos taken by tourists. I would recommend you read this blog post before going to one of the villages. You will need to pay an entrance fee and you should tip the women if you want to take a photo with them. To see “real” Kayan villages you will need to travel farther north in Thailand or go to Myanmar, so this touristy option might be your best bet if you want to see the famous “long-neck women”.
15. Thapae Boxing Stadium – Chang Mai
The one thing Javi really wanted to see was Muay Thai (kick-boxing). We were told that in Bangkok the tickets were very expensive, about €50 (2000 Baht) each, but in Chang Mai we could get tickets for just €15 (600 Baht). We waited until we got to Chang Mai and got “front-row” tickets for that price. The Thapae Boxing Stadium in itself was an experience; the boxing ring in the center is surrounded by chairs and all along the walls are bars mixed with locals, tourists and ladyboys. There were 5 fights the night we went; fights start off with younger, light-weight fighters and as the night goes on they get bigger and older. The last fight of the night ended with an impressive K.O. and Javi was thrilled to say the least. Kickboxing isn’t really my thing but I’m glad we went, it was definitely something to see!
Hotels in Thailand
We stayed at some great places while in Thailand, I’ll leave the list here for anyone looking for some recommendations!
- Bangkok – We stayed in the “Silom” district. It’s a central spot and we were able to get to all the sights easily by tuktuk or walking. I’d recommend the Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom Hotel or Le Meridien Bangkok Hotel. Massages were good at Novotel and they have a “happy hour” with discounted prices!
- Lampang (Golden Triangle) – We stayed at the Lampang River Lodge for one night on our way to the Golden Triangle (between Ayutthaya and Chang Rai). The little villas/huts were a bit worn, but overall it was a nice experience being surrounded by the beautiful forest and river.
- Chang Rai – Le Meridien in Chang Rai as absolutely gorgeous. You can also get a massage in your room!
- Chang Mai – We also stayed at Le Meridien in Chang Mai; it was located right in the middle of the night market and a short distance from the boxing stadium.