1st time in Thailand for three weeks in Feburary What activities / Towns /Islands / Tours are best budget?
Well, I have to say that if you are Australian, the islands of the South like Krabi, Kho Phi Phi or Koh Samui are over-rated. If you went there 30 years ago they might have still held some mystique but in these days of cheap flights they are full of large, pink Europeans unused to sun, sand and sea. Not pretty.
There is quite a lot to do in and around Bangkok, including this market to the south (http://journals.worldnomads.com/simon_monk/post/35426.aspx) which I haven't ever been to but will on my next visit for sure.
Chiang Mai is very pleasant although well visited: they have a large night market on a Wednesday night which is great fun and you can go either north west or north east from there.
Personally, I'd recommend the North East corner of the country (if you are game for a little adventure off-the-beaten-track so to speak. There is some excellent hill trekking on the edge of Laos from the town of Nan where you get to stay with various hill tribes and eat rice and cabbage for a week! Great experience, honestly.
There is a most unusual temple in the north east, but I can't remember the name, it was years ago: it's built around a sandstone outcrop, has 7 levels which are just wooden boards stuck into the stone and you really take your life in your hands to explore it! Make sure you have travel insurance if you go here!
Another recommendation is simply to make sure you eat at a genuine Thai night market most nights: these can be found everywhere at night where they set up in dusty car parks and the like and the food is simply awesome. The best one I ever found in many months in the country was in a tiny town called Loei in the north east - I've never had a Green Papaya Salad like it since!
The food is some of the best in the world and I've never been sick in Thailand.
simon about 10 years ago
I have to agree, Koh Phi Phi is over-rated, but I still went there twice in 2009 and had a ball!!! It's touristy, but you can still find pockets of serenity (so long as you don't go right during the Xmas-New Year break).
We visited Trang Province which is definitely less touristy (ideal for camping etc), usually cheaper and practically empty (even during peak season). Koh Rok and Koh Ngai are worth checking out if you like snorkeling.
If you like Thai food, it's worth doing a cooking course - especially one that takes you to the markets. Very insightful & delicious! But... beware any jungle tours that include elephant treks (unless you're travelling with kids).
I think with Thailand it's about finding the right balance. Do a little adventure, a little pampering, a little budget and you can't go wrong!
Ps. I've never been sick either but most of my friends have! Luckily, drugs are available over the counter, so if you do get sick, just head for the nearest Pharmacy! about 10 years ago
If you have 3 weeks I would only spend a few days in Bangkok (big, load tourist city). Then I would head north to Chiang Mai - there are some great Thai cooking courses, Muay Thai boxing gyms, and markets - depending on your interests. From there you can continue on the Chiang Rai to take a trek, visit the hill tribes, and check out the Golden Triangle. To get a bit back on the beaten track, I would recommend Koh Phi Phi for an island stay. about 10 years ago
Also don't miss the massive chatachuk weekend market in bangkok - think you can get there on the sky train relatively easily these days. Make sure you take loads of water it seems to be about 10 degrees hotter than anywhere else in bangkok! about 10 years ago
I would suggest starting and ending your Thailand adventure in Bangkok. Its a wonderful city with lots to do, but it can be very exhausting. I tend to take a mixture of the fantastic skytrain and walking and can usually manage a couple of days of the blur that is Bangkok before I need something quieter!!
Things to do in BKK - ride the skytrain; visit the night markets; visit the Golden Palace; shop at MBK where they have everything; try local food from a street stall where they cook it infront of you.
I love the islands of Koh Samui as there are still places there that are quiet and wonderful and I adore the island of Koh Phangnang which requires either the overnight train or a flight to Koh Samui and then a ferry to KP and then a jeepnie over the centre of the island. I have stayed in Star Huts a couple of times and found them good although the prices have crept up a little.
I recently went to Koh Samet which is only a couple of hours drive (and a small ferry ride) from Bangkok. You have to pick your beach place with some care as i found that the ones closest to the main ferry landing were not what I wanted, but a little further away, they were great.
If you have the time, then I can highly recommend catching a flight to Cambodia and going to Siem Reap for a couple of days. The flight is around an hour and a half and you can pick up some cheap tickets sometimes with an airpass from Bangkok Airways. SR is truely stunning and the temples are amazing.
My advice for a newbie to Thailand is to take your time and try not to rush and do everything you can. Travelling hard for three weeks can be exhausting and you need to factor in some down time such as a few days on a beach, or a couple of days in a spa of which Thailand is very famous.
Bangkok is fast and furious, Chiang Mai (and the golden triangle) are wonderful, the outlying islands can be great but pick with care.
I find the Thai people very helpful, the food is great and the country is stunning. about 10 years ago