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Thailand etc travel ideas and tips

Hi, wife and I are looking at 2019 travel plans. Thailand is on the wife's bucket list.

We are looking for ideas on what time of the year is best to go, where to stay what to do Etc

Generally we are probably looking at 14 days total. I tend to go a little bit overboard when making travel plans because I usually start out at like 10 days and end up extending to other surrounding areas and pretty soon we're up to 18 or 19 days. I'd like to stay to 14 or 15 days possible.

Budget-wise, we don't have extravagant requirements. We are fine staying in Airbnb and don't need four or five star hotels either. On the flip side though Comfort is important to us.

We are both late forties and in excellent health. We are both used to walking a lot and can hike and do other strenuous activities perfectly fine.

We both love to see magnificent scenery and views and things that take your breath away.

We don't require a lot of downtime on beaches and what not, well, i dont. She likes that some times. But I do love to see beautiful beaches I just don't need to lay on the beach. I burn easy and don't like to waste the time.

Food and local experiences are important to us

I'm not sure what other information I could provide. We are obviously a long ways off so we can be very flexible.

Usually like to open jaw if we can so we don't have to backtrack. I don't like to stay in the same place generally. I like to see a region and everything it has to offer if possible

TiA for help

Posted by
5648 posts

As Rick Steves doesn't offer a Thailand guidebook (yet), you may want to investigate Lonely Planet or other books. My only experience with Thailand (so far) was an overnight in Bangkok each way, coming and going on a climbing/trekking trip in Nepal 20 years ago. Boy, was Bangkok humid in September!

The Thai Airways flight was supremely luxurious then, even in coach, and after flying from Denver to LAX on United, the Thai Air flight from LAX to Bangkok flew up to Alaska, then down to Seoul, Korea for refueling, then finally to Bangkok . . . a really long (albeit luxurious) flight. Coming home, the jet-lag was horrendous. Flying home from LAX at 2:30 in the afternoon, the flight attendant couldn't appreciate why I'd be in a stupor, with everyone else just hopping on a short flight in the middle of the day from Los Angeles to Denver.

A few days ago, I caught snippets of a BBC TV program of a train journey through Thailand and Burma, ending in Mandalay, but taking in the actual bridge on the River Kwai, which wasn't built over a river named Kwai, but after the book and movie became famous, Thailand renamed the river to match the story. Sounds like most visitors go to Bangkok and then maybe head south, but you my find some adventures to the north and west as well. Happy planning!

Posted by
1305 posts

We went to Cambodia (Siem Reap) and Thailand for 20 days in January of this year. Our schedule was 4 nights each in Cambodia: Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat; Thailand: Ao Nang, for the beach; Chiang Mai for the temples, Sukhothai for the ruins, Bangkok. We had read that the best weather is between November and February. It was in the 90s most of the time we were there with few showers so we were fairly comfortable. We did not visit elephant sanctuaries or take cooking classes and are not into shopping. The ancient temples of Siem Reap were spectacular! The scenery in Ao Nang was great but it was overcast each day we were there so it wasn't as beautiful as we expected. We enjoyed Chiang Mai. We were able to walk to most of the temples and the markets but needed a tuk-tuk and songthaew ride to Doi Suthep. In Sukhothai we rented bikes for from our B&B for 3 days to visit the different sectors of Sukhothai National Park. It was very calm and with the beautiful scenery and ancient ruins it was a great experience. In Bangkok we stayed fairly close to the Grand Palace and the temples we wanted to visit but did need taxis a couple of times. We used planes or buses to get from one town to another. In each town the food was a bit different but all were delicious. We ate street food or in markets but also in small restaurants.

To get ideas for what would interest us we used this forum, Lonely Planet Thailand Guide Book, and Tripadvisor Thailand forum, though on TA you have to sift through a lot of posts discussing resorts, which was not what we were looking for. We are in our early 70s so our itinerary might be too tame for you but hopefully it will give you some ideas to think about. Have fun researching and planning!

Posted by
153 posts

Check out for some information and photos on a recent Thailand trip blogger and Rick Steves' guide extraordinaire/packing guru/travel shoes wonk Sarah Murdoch has taken. And, she begins leading Thailand off-season tours January 2018.

Posted by
15037 posts

The best time to go to Thailand is between December and February, because it's the dry season. The temps are about the same all year round. Bangkok is humid, but not terrible. I loved the markets, the temples, the palaces, everything . .. except the street food, which I didn't try because I'm vegetarian. Ate lots of fresh fruit from the markets, yummy. The taxis were cheap and it was a pleasure to take them since the drivers all had the AC at full blast and a traffic jam was a blessing :-)

I flew to Chiang Rai for 3 nights and hired a private driver with a car. Together we worked out an itinerary and he took me to several remote villages that tour buses can't get to. It was fascinating. On the third day, we stopped at several places on the way to Chiang Mai where he dropped me at my hotel at dinner time. I was in Chiang Mai over the weekend of the annual flower festival (usually 2nd or 3rd weekend in February) so I didn't get to see as many sights as I'd planned since I spent a lot of time enjoying the parade and the festive atmosphere. Then I flew back to Bangkok. The north is mountainous, much less humid than Bangkok, and the mornings were crisply cool.

I also flew round-trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap for 3 nights, where again I hired a private guide with a car to visit the temples.

You could just about fit that itinerary into 14 days. If you can stretch it to 19-21 days, consider adding Hong Kong. Maybe open-jaw into HKK and out of BKK, with Siem Reap in-between.

Posted by
3336 posts

We spent 5 weeks in Thailand a few summers week in Bangkok and a month on Phuket, taking overnight trips all throughout the surrounding areas.
Rules for Thailand...
1) If a taxi doesn't have a meter, don't get in. You're about to be ripped off.
2) If someone is overly friendly they are most likely trying to get you to go to their uncle's tailor shop.
3) If someone tells you that an attraction is closed, they are most likely trying to get you to their uncle's tailor shop.
4) Don't ride public trains after dark - beggars come on and you will be harassed mercilessly. We learned this the hard way.
5) When getting in a tuk-tuk negotiate price first - things can get ugly fast at the end of the ride if you haven't agreed beforehand. are some of the places we LOVED besides what has already been mentioned.
Wat Suwan Kuha - a temple on Phuket that is in a series of caves. Lots of monkeys and large buddhas. It's an active monastery but tourists do visit. Get there early in the morning before the other tourists arrive.
Phang Nga Bay - popular with tourists but for a good reason. The tall limestone islands are very dramatic. You can take a boat out to a Muslim fishing village on stilts out in the bay. Pretty touristy now but still really interesting.
Ayutthuya - We took a train there from Bangkok. The ancient Khmer capital that has been abandoned to the can visit many different parts of it via tuk-tuk from the train station. It's pretty amazing.
Koh Phi Phi - super touristy but there are other areas besides the main town that you can go. Take a longtail boat down to Long Beach - there are some great places to stay along the beach. From there you can take a longtail out to some offshore reefs and islands further out in the bay for snorkeling. Bamboo Island was my favorite...just a few fishing huts and large monitor lizards eyeing the fishermen's chickens. One of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been one there. You can also take boats to some of the other islands to this early in the morning before they are overrun by other tourists
Wat Chalong - Really nice temple on Phuket. Large complex with quite a bit to see.
Tiger Temple - Krabi. Most people hike up to the top of the mountain but if you take the detour near the top of the ridge to the left, before you turn to go to the very top, and head down the stairs into the valley behind the ridge, you walk into another world. At the bottom of that valley is an interesting Buddha shrine under a cliff overhang. Behind that are a series of caves that contain many stupas and you crawl and walk through you turn the lights on and off as you go. You can also walk out through the jungle - biggest tropical trees I've ever seen. Along the rock walls of the valley are small caves where many monks will see their robes hanging outside of the caves along with cooking tools and other things belonging to them.
There is so much more but these were some of the highlights for us!

Posted by
228 posts

Thanks for posting the question. We are thinking of spending Jan and Feb. in Thailand.

To the responders: Thank you for the great ideas.

Posted by
681 posts

ok We are planning a similar trip for 2018 and will be going over Thanksgiving. My main point is Ankor Wat. It is on my bucket list and must get there before it gets crowded out. Our niece just came back and said it was her favorite port of call of many that they did. Good luck. Let us know what you decide.

Posted by
338 posts

Starting the planning shortly in between other vacations.... this can be a fulltime job in itself!

Thanks for all of the great info so far. Basically bumping just in case any others have something to add.

Posted by
1116 posts

Based on 5 trips to Thailand I wouldn't worry about Airbnb. There are hotels in all price ranges. We have often stayed in 1200 THB (appx 50 USD) rooms and they were fine for us (mid 50s at that time). One time a 600 THB cabin on Koh Jum - and we will be back there. Try Agoda.

In Krabi we winged it a few times. Just went into a tourist office which are everywhere and told them how much we would pay. Probably easier outside Dec-Jan period.

Posted by
1 posts

Be particularly careful of traffic when walking in SE Asia. Not sure what it’s like in Thailand but I was hit by a car as I was trying to walk across the road in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I politely suggested I wanted police assistance but the driver got in her car and drove off leaving me at the side of the road, bruised, concussed and with blood dripping down my face from a head wound. I went to a police station nearby and an attendant took me back purportedly to confirm to him the location of the incident. When I got off the back of his motorcycle he peculiarly abruptly broke off talking with me and drove off leaving me there. Take care when walking around in Thailand.

Posted by
338 posts

Wanted to bump this again for further discussion. We are starting to do some planning but are really looking at this December possibly November. Probably going to try and stick with December because it seems like that might be smarter weather wise. January 2019 is out for us as we're already going on a cruise in the Caribbean with some family.

One thing I've been considering is doing a cruise or Thailand etcetera. There are several that go out of I believe Hong Kong or Japan and end up in Singapore after hitting Cambodia Vietnam and even several places in Thailand.

There are so many cool things to see that it is kind of overwhelming and that's one of the reasons why I'm actually looking at a cruise because then I can find out where I want to go back to and plan a separate vacation for that.

From Reading TripAdvisor, which is kind of a pain in the butt to Wade through sometimes, it appears that Koh Samui has different weather patterns than Phuket and Bangkok. Looks like it's a lot more rainy there in December?

At this point I'm pretty overwhelmed with trying to decide where to go. Anybody want to share a specific itinerary they utilized? Or one that they would recommend? I'm also curious about what actual flights and transportation between islands and locations typically run price wise

Posted by
15037 posts

I was on a cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore 7 years ago. We stopped in Danang, Saigon, Bangkok, Ko Samui and Singapore. After the cruise I flew back to Bangkok (2N), flew to Siem Reap for 3 nights with a private guide, then flew Chiang Rai (3N), Chiang Mai (3N), flew home via BKK. I liked my short time in Vietnam, loved Hong Kong (5N pre-cruise), had been to Bangkok before, spent my 3 days in Chiang Rai with a private guide who drove me to Chiang Mai, was underwhelmed by Singapore though the prices are overwhelming. I was with a group of friends for the cruise; without that, I would have been bored stiff, not much to see from the ship and 4 full days at sea. I wouldn't recommend it.

Next week I leave for Southeast Asia for 30 days: Hong Kong (6N including 1N in Macau), Hanoi (7N incl 2N Halong Bay), Saigon (5N), Chiang Mai (5N), Bangkok (5N). I'm not a beach person, so I'm skipping them in southern Vietnam and southern Thailand - though they look gorgeous and I wouldn't mind a couple lazy days with a good book and a few cocktails, I got the feeling that the ones that are easy to get to will be very touristy and probably crowded.

The north of Thailand is mountainous, so the humidity is lower and the mornings are pleasantly cool at this time of year. Thailand is easy to visit on your own. Vietnam seems more challenging, but I'll let you know after I've tried it.

I like the DK Eyewitness guides. I'm also using the Lonely Planet Vietnam guide and finding it very useful.

Posted by
1677 posts

I only spent time in Bangkok so can't help with the other parts of Thailand. No matter what you choose to do in Thailand, my advice would be that you make sure to get to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. It's a inexpensive one hour flight to see one of the most amazing spots on earth. Since you're investing an enormous amount of time flying to Asia, it would be a shame to miss it. Hire a guide to drive you (also inexpensive) and go early in the day to catch the sunrise on the temples. Magical. It's easy to get a visa on arrival at the airport (pay in US dollars, cash only).

Speaking of visas, if you decide go to Vietnam you'll need to get a visa. I believe there are online options for this now, but ensure that the dates on the visa match your travel dates exactly. They're unforgiving about this detail - one of my tourmates had the wrong dates and had to spend more than double again to remedy the situation.

Posted by
379 posts

... it appears that Koh Samui has different weather patterns than Phuket and Bangkok. Looks like it's a lot more rainy there in December?

Yes, you are correct. Just returned from my Nov/Dec ~3 week Thailand trip. Not a beach person, picked Koh Samui to camp on Ang Thong Marine Park. But the Park was closed during that time. Shortened my stay on Koh Samui to three nights. Arrived first week of Dec after a small storm and the whole Chaweng Beach was littered with disgusting trash. Took the hotel staffs a day to pick up the trash and clean it up. Bone breaking job.

Posted by
293 posts

I was in Bangkok just about a month ago, spending three days there before a tour of Laos and Myanmar. A couple of suggestions:

I took a food tour that was fun and (mostly) delicious. This was a good way to combine a walking tour of a section of Bangkok with a meal. I think we stopped at 12-13 places - I lost track! The other people on the tour were interesting and the guide was entertaining. I used a company called Taste of Thailand Food Tours, but there are other similar companies.

I found Bangkok pretty easy to navigate on my own, but in the interests of not having to deal with all the logistics myself, I hired a private guide for one day. It was well-worth the price as some of the main sights were crowded and confusing. We covered more than I could have figured out on my own, including a boat ride on some canals and walking in Chinatown. He also knew exactly where to go for a delicious Pad Thai lunch. I used a company called Your Thai Guide that specializes in private, customized tours.

By the way, the weather (end of November) was hot and humid, but no rain.

I hope to see more of Thailand in the future. Have a great time.

Posted by
338 posts

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
01/06/18 08:14 AM
1143 posts
I only spent time in Bangkok so can't help with the other parts of Thailand. No matter what you choose to do in Thailand, my advice would be that you make sure to get to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. It's a inexpensive one hour flight to see one of the most amazing spots on earth. Since you're investing an enormous amount of time flying to Asia, it would be a shame to miss it.

Thanks for the tip. I was not aware of this place. I've watched several YouTube videos on it now and I don't know why but this kind of thing just isn't my cup of tea. I think I could see me wanting to make sure I hit it if I was going to be in the neighborhood but I just don't see me going out of my way to get there. But I do appreciate the heads-up

At this point I think we might be dedicated to going to Bangkok for 4 nights and then hanging out in Phuket and phi phi Island and some of the other islands for the remainder of our trip.

At this point I'm still undecided whether I want to do a cruise just to get the lay of the land and then do Bangkok and the islands or just do Bangkok and the islands and stay longer. There is just so much to do it's overwhelming.