Time and time again, Thailand appears as one of the top destinations in the world. “Why?” I raised the question and had my answers after my recent trip to the only country in South East Asia that has never been colonized by western powers.
1. Plenty of airline options at great prices
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital and largest city is served by over 100 airlines. Comparatively, Tokyo is served by just over 70 and Singapore by 80 airlines. Bangkok is well connected, making it one of the cheapest cities in Asia to fly into.
In my recent trip, I had plenty of flight options. The cheapest ticket was from Air China via Beijing for $580. I chose to fly Qatar Airways via Doha. I had an open jaw ticket flying from New York JFK to Kuala Lumpur and returning from Bangkok to New York JFK. The ticket was only $805 on economy class. My ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok (one way) on Malaysia Airlines was $75. It would have been only $38 if I had chosen Air Asia.
Trippy user Shant Kiraz from California asked:
Cheapest and safest airport to fly into Thailand from LA?
For Shant flying from LA, Air China, China Airlines and Eva Airways are among the cheapest airlines for flights to Bangkok.
2. Thai food
Every day was a feast when I was in Thailand. I could easily write an entire article dedicated to the glorious Thai food.
In Chiang Mai, the guesthouse host brought us to try Cowgirl’s khao kha mu (pork knuckle) with a hard-boiled egg over rice. Cost 55 baht ($1.57).
Trippy user Nancie M from Halifax recommended the following street food places in Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai: great food at the Sunday Chiang Mai Walking Street in the old city. My favorite area is just off the main street. I think it’s the right after the little shopping mall. I’ve had some great noodles there, and someone sells local wine. Walk up the main street, and on your right in front of a temple (that has an awesome Sunday food court) you’ll find the best mango and sticky rice that I have ever eaten. The area around Warorot Market in Chinatown also has some great street food. Walking Street is good on Saturday night, too. There’s a large outdoor eatery at Chiang Mai Gate. I recommend the smoothies. I think the lady’s name is Mrs. Pa (that’s a guess!)
Trippy user Frieso Klaasen from Belgium asked:
Any food, activity and accommodation tips for Bangkok or Phuket ?
Izzy Pulido from Boston replied:
The best part about Thailand in general is their outdoor markets and you won’t be disappointed especially in Bangkok if you go to Chatuchak Weekend Market. Its the world largest weekend market and has a lot to offer in terms of food, shopping, and cultural experiences. I mean half the fun is not getting lost! It only happens on the weekends so be prepared for that and make sure you have cash on you. Don’t be afraid to bargain, try Roti Saimai which is sugar-floss wrapped in a crepe-like bread.
Crystal Leturno recommended:
If you are still around in the evening, I think one of the best places to find good Thai food is at the night markets such as Train Night Market@Ratchada or Huai Khwang. Look for the busiest stalls to see what’s popular.
Mango sticky rice is one of my favorite things ever, closely followed by coconut ice cream… Just so you know.
I thought food in Bolivia was cheap until I arrived in Thailand. At Terminal 21 Food Court located at the top floor of an air-conditioned mall (88 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Bangkok), a bowl of soup noodles, a plate of fried oysters with eggs and a platter filled with rice, meat, and vegetables cost less than $2 each.
Eating in western-style restaurants is more expensive than in local Thai establishments, like food courts and street stalls. A bowl of khao soi (northern Thai coconut and curry noodle soup) at Deck 1 Riverside Restaurant in Chiang Mai was 280 baht ($8). Not too bad for a filling meal in a cool air-conditioned place, topped with Thai-friendly service and peaceful river views.
3. The beaches
Thailand is known for its beaches and islands. Here are some of the top beaches and islands recommended by Trippy users:
- Railay Beach, Krabi
- Koh Yao Noi
- Koh Jum Island
- Koh Phi Phi
- Koh Phangan
- Koh Chang
- Koh Tao
- Koh Samui
- Phang Nga Bay
- Koh Mak
- Koh Lipe
4. Jungle adventures
Rob Wise recommended:
I think if you really want to get away from the tourist trail and are looking for hiking, jungles adventure the North of Thailand is great, Start in Chiang Mai then you can organise to do jungle treks and go to the below places for culture, away from people:
Sukhothai Chiang Rai Mae Sot Mae Sariang Lampang
For a jungle experience in a rainforest go to Khao Sok National Park near Surat Thani. Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand ideal for admiring the rainforest, limestone mountains, valleys, caves, lakes, wild animals and a variety of birds.
5. Warm weather
Thailand is a great destination to escape to during winter months. The best time to visit Thailand is from November to February when it is dry and cooler. March to June are the hotter months, April being the hottest. Rainy season is from July to October.
6. Fascinating cities
Trippy user Julie Sykes from York said:
Thailand has a few really fascinating cities, and plenty of not-too-exciting towns, but which are a good base for visiting attractions and sites.
A winner all round is Chiang Mai, which has plenty to explore – temples, a fab night market for souvenirs, spas and massage, top cuisine. It’s also within about three hours of the small hangout town of Pai, if you want to get a nature fix.
If you’re into history, I’d recommend Kanchanaburi and its WWII sites and museums. Nearby is the Bridge Over The River Kwai and Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum, all accessible via public transport. They are very moving, but worth visiting.
If ancient temples are more your thing, then Sukhothai is a good bet. I preferred it to Ayutthaya Historical Park if you had to choose between the two. You can rent a bike to cycle around the temples. Neither city itself is particularly exciting in my view, but the ruins are what you go for.
Olivia C from Los Angeles recommended: Head to Pai and rent a motorbike. Go riding up the mountains and to waterfalls. If you can squeeze in the elephant refuge camps do it.
I spent three nights in Chiang Mai and loved it there. Chiang Mai is livable, peaceful and affordable. In fact, I met up with a few digital nomads there. Some have lived in the city for over eight years. Did you know there are over 30,000 digital nomads in Chiang Mai?
7. Elephants sanctuaries
Elephants are an important part of the Thai culture and history. Visit one of the many elephant sanctuaries and rescue parks. Jason Ball from Canada said:
I’m not sure if it’s the best one in the world but I found it to be one that does support and rehabilitate elephants. We enjoyed a few days of taking care of the elephants and know people that stayed for a month. If you’re in Northern Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai, Check out Elephant Nature Park.
Julie Skye recommended:
Keeping with Jason’s point about elephant conservation and rehabilitation, I spent a day at another elephant camp in Thailand, near Lampang (a couple of hours south of Chiang Mai). www.thailandelephant.org/en/
Lampang itself has some examples of old teak architecture, and it’s possible to get a public bus from there to the Elephant Conservation Centre.
I visited the Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang on my way back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai.
8. Extreme crazy adventures
If you like activities out of the norm, Thailand fits the bill. Alexander Dziri from Belgium asked:
Anyone have any recommendations for some adventure in Thailand? I’m looking for something more than the usual tourist attractions. Any extreme or crazy suggestions you did or heard of in Thailand?
These were the answers posted by Trippy users:
- Flight of the Gibbons – zip-lining through the rain forest canopy in Chonburi
- Visit Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave in Pak Chong district
- White water rafting in Khek River, Phitsanulok Province
- Rock climbing along the Andaman Sea coastal towns like in Krabi
- Motorcycle trip in Mae Hong Son Loop in northern Thailand (close to Myanmar border)
Trippy user Lindsay Barranco from Houston wrote:
The Grand Palace (Wat Pra Kaew) tops the lists of “must-do’s” in Bangkok, and another temple, Wat Pho is close by.
Crystal Leturno from Alaska echoed:
You could pick a mix of Buddhist temples, (Reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew, and Temple of Dawn are popular choices)
Wat Pho, also known as Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok. Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn, Wat Saket, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Ratchanatdaram are some of the grand temples to visit in Bangkok.
Two other temples outside Bangkok I recommend: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai and Wat Rong Kun (The White Temple) in Chiang Rai.
Trippy user Nam Onrit from Bangkok wrote:
Ayutthaya – Old capital of the kingdom, so expect more than 10 temples to visit both inside and outside the town!
10. Easy to get around
In Bangkok, you can take the BTS Skytrain, tuk-tuks, taxis, motorbike taxis and buses. Long distance buses are available between larger cities.
11. Thai culture
The Thai culture is interwoven with Buddhism. From my experience, the Thai people are accommodating, soft-spoken, friendly and have lots of self-control. Unlike in New York City, none of the taxi drivers or other drivers sounded their car horns even when there were opportunities to do so in crowded streets.
Visitors can experience Thai culture through food, dances, and festivals. Each region in Thailand has its own unique culture. While in Chiang Mai I attended a khantoke dinner and dance at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center.
Muay Thai, ancient sword fights, and traditional dances can also be seen at Asiatique Center in Bangkok.
12. Floating markets
Not going to a floating market in Bangkok is like not visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris or not visiting the Sydney Opera House in Sydney. No doubt, some of these floating markets are touristy, but I wouldn’t miss one if it were my first time visiting Bangkok.
Most floating markets are only open during the weekends so my only opportunity to visit the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Tonya Russ Price, a Trippy member said:
If your schedule allows a day trip, you can hire a driver to take you, I haven’t been to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market but I’ve been to Amphawa Floating Market and it is an amazing sight. It’s packed like a bar, wall to wall people, you can barely walk, but I loved every minute of it.
I love venturing out of the city on holidays. It gives you a different view. Your driver might try to take you to a boat dock to take a boat in, I would check into this first, because they charge a lot for the boat when you are tourist… so get someone from the hotel to book it and confirm your drop off point, when you get in your taxi/driver. There may be a temple with stop that goes back and forth, so ask someone, instead of going way out of your way because the driver gets a kick back.
When Rembrandt Hotel’s concierge recommended a last minute tour to the floating market, I hastened to it. At $100 per tour for two, the driver happily drove my husband and I to the only floating market opened on a Monday. The trip from Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak took one hour by car. I highly recommend a trip to a floating market when visiting Bangkok.
Note: I had booked a Damnoen Saduak floating market and Bridge on River Kwai tour through Viator. Unfortunately, the local tour company representing Viator did not have my reservation. So I ended up going with a taxi driver who spoke little English to the floating market. It is possible to take a quick tour from Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak without pre-arrival reservation. Just get the hotel concierge to look for a reputable and trusted taxi driver.
Trippy user Rob Wise said:
Bangkok is one of the world capitals for bars/clubs & markets, you just have to decide on the kind of night you are after.
Quiet drink at classy interesting bar:
Ashley Sutton bars are really unique and interesting for a drink before a big night out, there are lot of Ashley Sutton designed bars, here is information about Maggie Choo’s which is one example.
Dance clubs for a big night out:
After watching the sunset, having a quiet drink and watching some live music if you feel like a big night out and going to a dance club, most of the really great young expat and wealthy local clubs are located around Sukhumvit District on Soi 11 (Street 11).
There is also a huge club district called Royal City Avenue (RCA) which is whole district full of clubs by itself, just say RCA to any taxi driver and they’ll know. The below clubs are expensive for Bangkok standards but you’ll still find them cheap, they attract a younger crowd and are much more upscale.
Read more on Rob’s comment on Trippy’s Bangkok nightlife Q&A page.
Shopping is insane in Bangkok. Here are some places and recommendations for no-holds-barred shopping sprees:
1. Platinum Fashion Mall for clothes, shoes, and accessories.
2. “The Chatuchak Weekend Market is THE shopping event in Bangkok. I’m pretty sure its the largest outdoor market in the world and last time I went I had a whole empty suitcase just for souvenirs from there. The market is broken up into different sections by wares and the expectation is that you haggle something fierce” said Jennifer Byerly from Houston.
3. “I also enjoyed shopping at the Pratunam Market wholesale market, mainly clothes, and some gorgeous embellishments, sequins, flowers, etc if you sew,” added Aroha Rakanui from New Zealand.
4. “Go to Siam Square – there’s a lot of malls, ranging from top brands to literally market like stores where you can bargain the price e.g. MBK Center or Lido Shopping Center. Else if you’re there during the weekend go to the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is massive + you can find everything you like. Have a good trip.” Dennis Johansen from Copenhagen.
15. Easy and affordable flights to other parts of Asia
Bangkok is one of the few cities where you can fly directly to the Kingdom of Bhutan. It takes only two hours to fly to Kuala Lumpur, 57 minutes to Siem Reap Cambodia, one hour 13 minutes to Yangon Burma, one hour and 43 minutes to Hanoi, and four hours 25 minutes to Male Maldives.
It is easy and affordable to combine your visit to Thailand with other Asian countries like Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bhutan.
See you there!
Article and photos by Claudia Looi