Exploring Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, and Koh Lanta
AsiaThailand12 days / November 2019
Highs & Lows
There are so many affordable hotel options, and virtually every hotel has a pool.
It gets very hot!
This was mine and my boyfriend’s first big trip together and it did not disappoint! We left Toronto on a cold November evening and embarked on what would be almost 24 hours of travel, with a short layover in Shanghai before landing in Bangkok.
After spending a couple of nights in Bangkok, our itinerary was 5 nights in the North of Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, and 5 nights in the South of Thailand, specifically Ao Nang (Krabi) and Koh Lanta. We decided to pick a couple of bases and do day trips from each location. The North and the South of Thailand are quite a bit different and both very much worth seeing, so I would recommend it if time allows.
We had one full day to explore and started by taking a river boat from Oriental Pier down the Chao Phraya river. There are several points which you can get off at and explore. We purchased round trip tickets, which means you can hop on and off wherever you want. This allowed for us to see as much of the city as possible in a short period of time.
We spent most of our time wandering the streets and ended up discovering Khao San Road, which was a fun street to explore with lots of shops, and is known to be the backpackers area of the city. We ended up having lunch at a lovely Thai restaurant called Baan Tha Tien.
We reserved a special dinner on our last night at Sirocco restaurant and Sky Bar which was located on the rooftop of our 68 story hotel. The Sky Bar is famous, as The Hangover: Part 2 movie was filmed here! The views of the city from the rooftop were so incredible and the food was delicious.
The morning that we were leaving, we had breakfast at a nearby bakery called Panlee bakery, which seemed to be very popular with the locals as well as tourists. It was super cute and authentic, and had a little area upstairs for you to sit and eat. Before we left, we got brown sugar milk bubble teas for our ride to the airport.
Chiang Mai was by far our favourite city! It was lively but not as hectic as Bangkok. There were temples every few blocks, plus lots of cute shops and restaurants to try out. A couple temples not to miss out on are the Wat Phra Singh and the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - truly amazing.
The Sunday Night Market at Tha Pae is definitely worth a visit as the whole street gets shut down and filled with vendors. It is vibrant, loud, and crowded, but an experience none the less!
We got Thai massages one day, which you've got to do at least once if you're visiting Thailand. It's a lot different than your typical Swedish massage, but you need to see for yourself!
The most popular day trip in Chiang Mai is of course the elephant sanctuaries. We visited one called the Karen Hilltribe Elephant Sanctuary which was a smaller, family owned place. The family lived on the property and they had only 2 elephants. This was actually great for us, because it meant that our group was a lot smaller - there were only five of us. The elephants were free to roam the property and we were able to feed them, take some pictures, and then bathe them in the river. We had a great lunch of pad Thai before heading back to our hotel. Important: please do your research if you are looking to visit elephants while in Thailand. Make sure you are going to a sanctuary which is ethical and does not mistreat the elephants.
For our second day trip, we did a bus tour that took us through Doi Inthanon National Park. First, we stopped to see two waterfalls: Wachirathan Falls and Sirithan Waterfall. Swimming was not permitted at either of them, but they were so beautiful to see. Next, we took a small hike to Doi Inthanon, which is the highest point in Thailand. The views from here were so incredible! Our next stop was the King and Queen Pagoda, where we were given some free time to explore the grounds. Lastly, we visited a Hill Tribe village where we got to see inside one of their bamboo houses and learn about their traditions, including the stunning rugs that they weave by hand. This was a full day and we were exhausted by the end of it, but it was definitely worth it!
We experienced a fair bit of rain in Krabi, but it was actually a nice break from the hot temperatures as it cooled us off and didn’t really get in the way of our plans.
Ao Nang is the mainland of Krabi, and we decided it would be a great base since there was lots to do in terms of shops and restaurants, and it was also a hub for exploring the neighbouring islands.
Ao Nang beach was a short walk from our hotel, and it was a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. We swam here, but the water was a bit more cloudy due to the boat traffic as it was the pick-up point for long-tail boats to take passengers to various islands.
One thing that surprised us, was that Ao Nang had amazing Indian food! Our favourite was Bombay Palace located on Ao Nang Beach Road.
Railay Beach is such a gorgeous spot to spend the day and there's so much to explore there! Although it’s technically attached to the mainland of Ao Nang, it's only accessible by boat as jungle separates the two. It has everything you would need for a good day trip: beaches with crystal clear water, huge limestone cliffs, viewpoints, caves, and jungle. Railay is not very developed and it has no roads or cars, only walking paths.. and lots of monkeys! There are four beaches in Railay: Tonsai, Railay West, Railay East, and Phra Nang and you can reach all of these by foot. We spent a lot of our day at Railay West (where we got dropped off) but did venture out to see Railay East as well as Phra Nang Beach which is where the unique Phra Nang Princess Cave is (I'll let you see for yourself). Railay is one of those places we would have loved to spend more time at!
Koh Lanta is the epitome of "chill" and was overall a great way to end our two week vacation. The island as a whole is very underdeveloped, but has beautiful beaches and clear waters. The two main beaches on the island are Klong Dao Beach and Pra-Ae Beach (Long Beach). We spent most of our time at Klong Dao Beach, which was hardly ever busy and had some cute restaurants and bars right on the beach.
Funny enough, our two favourite restaurants in Koh Lanta were a Greek restaurant and an Italian restaurant! The Greek restaurant was called Greek Taverna, and was located in an airy outdoors setting. The souvlaki pitas and greek salad were to die for, and as a result my boyfriend insisted we eat here every day, which I had no complaints about. The Italian restaurant was called Sole Mare, and made amazing wood oven pizza.
I would really recommend renting a motorbike for this island. We ended up renting one directly from our hotel. The streets aren’t too crazy so we felt safe, and it was the best way explore the island.
Q & A
What would you have changed?I definitely would have spent more time in the North of Thailand to explore places like Chiang Rai which I didn't have time to see. I found the North to be more culturally rich and not as touristy as the South.
Tips you would give a friend?Make sure you do your research into how much things should cost. Sometimes places will take advantage of tourists by giving you an inflated price.
Packing tips?You will need long pants and shirts that cover your shoulders to visit the temples. Make sure you bring clothes that are light and breathable as it gets very hot.
Transportation Tips?We flew with AirAsia from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai to Ao Nang (Krabi). We did experience a couple of delays with AirAsia, but it can be expected as it is a budget airline. Once you're in the South, you can get everywhere by boat which is nice. We took a long-tail boat from Ao Nang to Railay and a ferry from Ao Nang to Koh Lanta.
Booking details?Hotels often provide deals if you book directly with them, for example free breakfast. Always check their website before booking on sites like Expedia or booking.com.