Exotic beaches, rolling rain forest mountains, shinning pagodas, engraving culture, thundering food and theocratic policy of selling everything fresh pushed us to visit Thailand. The country is divided into 3 basic tourist regions – Beaches in the south; Metropolis of Bangkok and; rain forest, pagodas and food in the north.
The initial plan was to travel across Thailand by road, renting a car and visiting small villages on the way hidden among the rice hills and teak forests; and looking for age old authentic gong, but the low price of internal flights and a life time opportunity to visit neighboring countries by saving time ruptured the very idea of driving across Thailand…may be some other day…a road trip from north Myanmar to Hanoi, Vietnam via Thailand and Laos.
Thailand’s deep south, the peninsula, is famous for it’s beaches, and is divided by type of tourists according to me; and we decided to visit Krabi (more for family) instead of Phuket (more for bag-packers and singles); all the well known attractions like Phi Phi islands, Railay Beach, etc. can be visited from Krabi as well as Phuket by chartered boats, so select the location carefully, either ways, both are equally beautiful.
THE ROUTE AND PLACES
No matter where you fly within Thailand, you will always change planes in Bangkok with long layovers, we hit Bangkok airport 5 times in this trip, so its a good idea to keep Bangkok as the base to store extra luggage if you do not want to carry everything everywhere. We used Bangkok airport’s luggage locker room to store extra luggage and reshuffled every change we got.
In Thailand we spent sufficient amount of time in Chiang Mai and Bangkok…although we wished we had kept an extra day in Krabi due to relaxing resort of Rayavadee and island hopping schedule changes due to weather obstructions. The views of the beaches in southern Thailand are best experienced in bright sunlight and clear water. Squalls and rain stir up the crystal clear water that has iconic clear blue bottom. Luckily we got one full day to do island hopping with impeccably perfect weather in Krabi.
Stop 1 – Chiang Mai
The culture of Thailand will be prominently visible here, the food has a big influence from Burma and the mountainous regions around. Even their soup has grilled meat – Khao Soi. We spent 3 days in Chiang Mai and it was sufficient. Top Things To Do in Chiang Mai – Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (a must! although a steep climb), Street market and a drive to Chiang Rai with stops at various tribal villages on the way (its a great experience). Do not rent a car here, instead hire a guide and a vehicle separately (because, unlike African Safari, drivers aren’t good guides and guides aren’t good drivers). If you are into birds, then the road to Chiang Rai has amazing rain forest and birding opportunities.
Stop 2 Krabi
Pick your resort before you pick your destination; and this perfectly applies for this region of Thailand; we looked for a perfect resort rather than town, as long as we were in the peninsular Thailand. Luckily we hit the right spot in terms of relaxation, experience and excursions – Rayavadee, although there are many such resorts in this area and I am sure equally good. Unlike Tahiti, where each resort is on it’s own private island or atoll, these resorts in Thailand are disconnected from the land by road access and you have to fetch their ferry to access. Top Things To Do in Krabi – Beaches; island hopping – Phi Phi, Railay Beach and Maya Bay, weather permitting so keep an extra day in Krabi (or Phuket); Phanom Bencha National Park – if luckly then you will see langurs, gibbbons and macaque species of monkeys; Ao Nang market or Klong Haeng market in the early mornings with lots of street food and vendors.
Stop 3 Bangkok
Unrelenting city with everything happening at the same time, all the time – We stayed in the heart of the city on Sukhumvit Road – walked every where – over ate lots of street food – visited the Grand Palace on tuk-tuk. There are many things to do in Bangkok time permitting, but the most unique is the sleeping Buddha in the Grand Palace and the street food in Bangkok. We spent 2 full days in Bangkok and they were sufficient.
The next morning we got ready for our next destination, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and then to Mekong Delta in Vietnam.