We spent two months in this beautiful country, and although it’s a huge place with so much to be seen, we couldn’t have been happier with our route and the incredible things we were lucky enough to see and do. We wanted to share that with you guys, so here’s our guide to Thailand, written in the hopes of helping you guys have as incredible a time as we did.
Our first stop was of course Bangkok, and if you haven’t been before, yes, this city can be as crazy as you’d expect. We stayed in one of the many hostels around Khao San road, which is where you’ll find all the Thai street food you can dream of (from delicious Pad Thai, to Scorpions on a stick), as well as tonnes of market stalls and hundreds of places to drink, ranging from chairs and tables set up in the street where you can grab a beer or a ‘bucket’, to huge clubs with people pouring out of them turning the entire place into a street party.
Our favourite thing we did in Bangkok was visit Above Eleven, a rooftop bar with unbelievable views over the city, where we ate some of the best sushi we’ve ever tried and drank incredible cocktails while watching the sun set, and the city light up.
Our next stop was Koh Tao. We bought tickets on the day from a tourist info/ticket sales shop on Khao San road (you can get a ticket to pretty much anywhere in Thailand from these shops). There are so many to choose from but after comparing prices at a few shops and figuring out which company we trusted the most, we ended up taking the overnight coach and Catamaran with Lomprayah, which was slightly more expensive than going with their competition (Songserm), but a quick google is enough to confirm that it’s worth the extra. The journey wasn’t too bad, the sleeper coach left at about 9pm, arriving at the port around 5am with roughly a 2 hour wait before another 2 hours on a catamaran to the island. It’s not the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have, but it’s a great way to cover ground at a low cost (extra savings as you don’t pay for accommodation that night!).
Koh Tao itself was an absolute dream. Easily one of the most picturesque islands we’ve ever been to, lined with beautiful rocky coastline like we’d never seen before and crystal blue waters, where we did some of the best snorkelling we’ve ever experienced.
We did the one day snorkelling trip with a company called Oxygen which was perfect, and unbelievably cheap for what you get (only 600 baht each). They picked us up from the hotel, we did a full day of snorkelling, stopping at about 5 different equally incredible coves and bays, with a final stop for a few hours at the tiny neighboring island Koh Nang Yuan, where we chilled out on the sandbar and climbed to the stunning viewpoint. Lunch, snacks, tea and coffee were all included too.
We spent a lot of our time on Koh Tao just riding around exploring on a scooter, as we always love to do wherever we can. For our favourite spots and more check out our Guide to Koh Tao
Another highlight for us was the time we spent chilling out in luxury, overlooking the island from the hills, at The Place Koh Tao. For all the details of our time there check out this blog post.
Koh Tao is part of a group of 3 small islands – our next stop was the next island down, Koh Phangan. This is where the full moon parties that I’m sure you’ve heard of take place, so it can get a little crazy at times, but there’s so much more to the island.
We spent our first few days at an amazing hotel called The Coast where we relaxed by the infinity pool, overlooking the ocean, and hung out with lovely people.
We then moved on to Panviman Koh Phangan, one of the most amazing resorts we’ve ever stayed at – we’ll let the photos do the talking for this one:
Finally, after our stint of luxury, we went to one of our favourite hostels; Goodtime Koh Phangan where we met up with friends, stayed in an amazing treehouse, and played a lot of beer pong.
The scenery while riding around the island is beautiful, with a huge choice of beaches to visit (although I have to be honest, the water can’t compare to the clarity of Koh Tao). Our favourite beach was Mae Haad, which has an incredible sand bar where you can relax with ocean on either side.
Our next stop was the third and final island of the group, Koh Samui, again just a very short ferry ride away.
We weren’t on Koh Samui for long but we were fortunate enough to stay at two seriously incredible hotels. First of all was Mantra (one of our favorites of all time) where we were shown around by some of the sweetest people we’ve ever met, and spent our days hanging out at their incredible pool, overlooking the island. You can read more about it in our blog post here!
Then we spent a night at Zazen, which was an absolutely stunning little luxury resort, with their own little patch of beach, and one of the best restaurants we’ve been to. What stood out above all else for us though was the breakfast – we’ve had a lot of amazing hotel breakfasts, but this one is easily the best.
From Koh Samui we bought a ticket to our next stop, Khao Sok National Park. This is somewhere we had been excited about visiting for a long time, and it lived up to all of our expectations. After a ferry ride and two mini busses (all booked on Koh Samui with one easy ticket) we arrived at the lovely little Khao Sok Riverfront Resort, nestled in a tiny little town in the National Park. We were only planning to stay for a few days, but as there was constant rain we ended up staying for 4 days before we finally did the Khao Sok Lake tour. The days spent rained in were still fun though, because there was so much to explore in close proximity whenever the rain stopped, the food at Riverfront Resort was some of the best we had in Thailand, and the beer was super cheap.
We decided to do the lake tour with the overnight stay, which was an incredible experience. We were picked up from the hotel in the morning, and taken to the entrance to the lake, where a group of around 15 of us got onto a little boat to explore the unbelievable lake surrounded by surreal limestone cliffs. The entire tour felt like we were on another planet altogether. Then we arrived at what would be our home for the night, a set of very simple floating huts with a communal area for lunch and dinner in the middle. After a delicious lunch, we went for a guided trek to a waterfall and cave hidden deep in the jungle, crossing rapid streams and avoiding snakes. The whole thing was amazing. That evening we went on a ‘boat safari’ where we saw some incredible birds and monkeys, but weren’t fortunate enough to spot any elephants, sun bears or leopards, and then rounded off the evening with back at the huts for dinner and drinks. In the morning we packed up, and got back on the boat to see more of the lake and its incredible surroundings, stopping to see the local fishermen and explore an amazing cave, before heading back.
Our next stop was the incredible Railay. This place has a real island vibe, and it may as well be one as it’s completely cut off from the mainland by mountains, meaning you can only reach it by boat. As soon as you step off the boat you get a sense for how chilled out it is (the bars openly advertising weed give off that vibe too). The natural beauty of Railay is on par with Khao Sok – amazing limestone cliffs towering all around you, except this time surrounding breathtaking beaches.
One of our favourite things about Railay had to be watching the wildlife. Spectacled Langurs (which we had no idea existed before this) spent their days hanging out in the trees surrounding our lovely little hillside cabin at Railay Garden View Resort, and huge groups of monkeys would swing through the trees and scale the rocks all over the place.
KOH PHI PHI
After a few days in Railay we took a boat to The Phi Phi Islands. These Islands have some of the most incredible natural beauty we’ve ever seen, but as you might already know, they’re famous for being the home of Maya Bay, where Leonardo Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ was filmed, which which has resulted in a lot of tourism. As a result, the main island is for the most part very built up, catering to the demand. We had read a lot about this before our trip but decided to check it out for ourselves anyway, and we’re glad we did! Yes, you might not get the authentic Thai experience that you do in other places, and yes, it is busy, but if you have the time to visit many parts of Thailand and this is just a quick stop on the itinerary, it’s worth it just to take in the natural beauty during the Island Tours. The one we did stopped at a bunch of beautiful islands, snorkel spots, and finally Maya Bay, before a sunset journey back to the main island.
KOH YAO NOI
From the crowds of Koh Phi Phi we went to the quiet, non-touristy, island bliss of Koh Yao Noi. We were fortunate enough to stay at the incredible Island Hideout while we were there, which was one of the highlights of our travels so far. Hidden away in the jungle, with views out to sea, this place was complete luxury while still giving an authentic thai experience, and being completely eco friendly. There was no electricity, and the rooms were open air – we fell asleep and woke up to the sounds of nature which was such an amazing experience. The restaurant also uses locally sourced ingredients, and it was here we had some of the most amazing thai food ever. We could speak forever about The Island Hideout, but the photos probably do better justice.
While we were there we explored the beautiful island by moped, and explored the surrounding tiny islands on the most incredible boat tour we’ve ever done, organised through The Island Hideout.
You can read more about our time there in this blog post!
Koh Yao Noi was our last stop in the south, so from there we took a boat to Phuket, where we caught a flight up to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. We stayed in the old city of Chiang Mai and really loved it there. Compared to Bangkok it felt small, unbuilt-up, with a very authentic feel to it, and we found everything super affordable.
The highlights of our time in the city itself were the incredible night markets that seemed to go on forever, the amazing food and coffee, and the rooftop bar (with a pool!) at Rise. But standing out above the rest was our trip to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, where we were able to feed and interact with the most incredible rescue and orphan elephants. There are a lot of these kinds of places around Thailand, but always remember to do your own research before booking any to make sure they’re ethical and have the Elephants best interests at heart, before supporting them.
After a few days exploring the city itself we were fortunate enough to stay at Panviman Chiang Mai. This place was absolute magic, the whole feel was like living in a fairytale. Stunning Thai Architecture set in the mountains, with the most picturesque pool we’ve ever seen, amazing food and drink, and some of the best hospitality in the world thanks to the Manager, Charles who was great company and took the time to make sure our stay was perfect.
Our next stop was Pai, a beautiful little town just a few hours north of Chiang Mai, surrounded by the most beautiful rice terraces, mountains and waterfalls. We opted to take the shuttle bus to get there through the windy mountain roads, but the views along the way are so stunning that next time we will definitely ride there ourselves by moped or motorbike. We had heard that lot of people get motion sickness on the journey due to how windy the roads are, but we picked up some cheap tablets from a pharmacy before we left and had no issues.
As with the rest of Northern Thailand, there’s something really magical about Pai, the place is so laid back, surrounded by breathtaking nature and has everything you need to enjoy yourself, from unbelievably good cafes, restaurants, coffee shops and bars, to night markets, giant Buddhist temples, waterfalls and canyons. Read more about Pai here, in our guide!
Pai was our final real stop for this trip, and honestly we could have just stayed forever. We often talk about living between Pai and Chiang Mai for a while at some point in the future, because there’s just such an amazing positive energy, there’s everything you could need, and everything is so affordable.
From Pai we took the shuttle bus back down to Chaing Mai and then a sleeper bus down to Bangkok (a great option to save some cash and it really wasn’t bad at all) to catch our flight.
That’s the end of an incredible two months in Thailand, if we had to do it again the only thing we’d do differently is staying longer.
Hopefully this guide has been helpful for you! Please feel free to shoot us any questions or let us know what you thought.