This post was written by Michelle Vogel, from Atlanta, GA
If you go to Thailand on holiday you’ll have a wonderful time, but I think you’ll have an even more wonderful time if you check out some of my *favorite places*
Do take note: I love the beach to pieces, so whatever magic exists in the mountainous wilderness of the north and northeast regions of Thailand was lost on me, unfortunately. My top five list will undoubtedly reflect this bias.
With that in mind, I present to you My Top 5 Favorite Places in Thailand:
My Top 5 Favorite Places in Thailand
5. Koh Chang
Koh Chang is a great alternative to Hua Hin or Pattaya if you’re looking for a short beach trip out of Bangkok. The island, one of the biggest of all of the Thai islands, offers a less-than-picturesque-but-still-relaxing beach scene plus a dense jungly interior to be explored.
We stayed at Stonefree on Lonely Beach: a music venue-gone-restaurant-gone-hostel run by six aging alcoholic Thai rockstar “grandpas”. They played live blues nightly and served up some of the best coconut smoothies I’ve ever tasted. Just watch out that they don’t playfully spike your smoothie with whiskey (or maybe you would prefer it that way) 🙂
I say skip the north and do Kanchanaburi instead. You can do the nature/river/waterfall thing minus the ten-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai or vomit-inducing switch-back-laden ride into Pai. Kanchanburi is small, charming, and very Thai, but there is still a healthy population of expats and English teachers (like me!) who visit on the weekends to keep the ten-baht bars in business.
It’s an easy 2 or 3 hour, 150 baht bus ride from Bangkok, but it feels like worlds away. The pace is slower, there’s a stillness in the air, and everything is cheaper than in the city. The town offers a nice balance of history with the local Bridge on the River Khwai, and nature, if you make the hour-long journey to Erawan Falls (worth it!).
Here are your limestone cliffs, sparkling sunsets, and crystal-clear turquoise waters. No need to go to tourist-saturated Phuket when you can go to Railay. It’s not an island but sure feels like one: there are no roads on the peninsula, only footpaths through the jungle by which you can access both East and West Railay. The area is great for families or backpackers looking for a bit of reprieve from the constant beach party/Sangsom whiskey-bucket scene. And if you’re feeling like connecting with your inner hippie or working up a sweat, you can always make your way to Hat Ton Sai next door for some amazing rock-climbing.
2. Khao San Road
I would never recommend staying in Bangkok for more than two or three days on a short trip to Thailand, but I would always recommend stopping through Khao San Road.
I don’t care what anyone says: Khao San Road is a wonderful, unique, wild place. People hate on Bangkok for a lot of reasons (guilty!) but there’s something redeeming about the madness of Khao San Road. True – it’s not easy to get in touch with the “real” Thai culture, especially here, but I find Southeast Asian backpacker culture to be interesting in its own right, if only for the novelty of it.
Khao San Road is the result of a unique amalgamation of cultures – both Western and Eastern. While there are certainly English, Australian, Israeli, American, Thai et al cultures that exist elsewhere in isolation, you won’t see them come together in one single place like this anywhere else. Go sip a Chang, get a henna tattoo (or a real tattoo!), buy some silly travel bracelets and observe the madness.
1. Koh Tao
Oh, Koh Tao, how you charm me!
Koh Tao is the smallest of the three famous islands of Thailand’s Gulf Coast. There’s the whole diving scene during the day and lively (but still not insane) beach party scene at night, equipped with very talented flame-throwers. The main beach isn’t the widest or whitest in Thailand, but there’s enough of it to lay out on during the day and if you get bored you can always rent a motorcycle and see some of the more uninhabited beaches on the other side of the island.
I loved Koh Tao because it felt like a community to me – like a strange, warped version of college, with people studying for their SCUBA certification courses during the day and socializing at night. I appreciated the warm atmosphere and careful balance between adventuring and relaxing.
Read more travel adventures on Michelle’s Blog