Thailand is a wonderful destination that offers something for everyone, whether you are a backpacker on a $20 a day budget, someone looking for an exotic family holiday, a business traveler or someone who wants to enjoy a 5-star luxury island retreat, the country has it all.
Thailand has been a popular holiday destination for more than 30 years now, and in that time it has developed a thriving tourist industry, with popular tourist hotspots such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai offering everything a traveler could possibly need. From the stunning skyscrapers in Bangkok to the beautiful white-sand beaches of Phuket and the intricate temples in Chiang Mai, there is so much to see and do in Thailand that it would take you years to see it all. But in the real world, most people only have two weeks a year to travel, so here we have compiled four 2 week Thailand itineraries with recommendations on the best places to stay, the best things to see and do, the best places to eat as well as how to get around, transport options and booking information.
Arriving in Bangkok
The vast majority of international tourists arrive at Bangkok’s modern and impressive Suvarnabhumi airport. Opened in 2006, the airport took over as Bangkok’s main airport, with the older Don Mueang airport becoming more of a domestic hub for low-cost carriers. Even as soon as you arrive, you can start saving money and getting a better deal. Firstly, don’t change your foreign currency in the arrivals hall, go down to the basement and use one of the booths there. They all display the exchange rate, making it easy to find the best one, SuperRich traditionally is a good one that always offers great rates. You’ll get about 10% more money exchanging in the basement than in the arrivals area. Don’t even think about buying Thai baht in your home country; changing your money in Thailand can get you as much as 25% more baht for your money, but be warned, they do not accept worn, creased or defaced bills. Currencies such as British Pounds, Euros, Dollars and Yen can be changed very easily around the country.
On the ground floor, you’ll find the taxi rank, where you press a button on a machine to get a numbered ticket and then wait for your number to be shown on a screen. The fare to central Bangkok is around 600 baht ($20), but some drivers might ask for more. You will have to pay tolls on the way, and an airport surcharge, this is quite normal and not a scam. A much cheaper way to get into the city is to head for the airport rail link, which you will find in the basement past the money exchange booths. A single ticket to Phaya Thai is only 45 baht ($1.50), and from there you can travel onwards to your destination. From Phaya Thai BTS station, you can then get a taxi to either Khao San Road or Sukhumvit for less than 100 baht ($3.30). For more information checkout our travelers guide to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
For younger travelers, Khao San Road is the place to go, with many budget guesthouses, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and markets, it’s a great place to meet like-minded travelers and plan the rest of your journey. You can find dorm rooms from as little as 200 baht ($6.35) a night, however, if you can spend a little more you can easily find somewhere comfortable. To get the best rates, look for a guesthouse on one of the adjoining roads and side streets rather than on the main strip itself. There are many travel agencies in the area, offering discounted travel tickets to the rest of the country. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the room first as there are still many guesthouses offering fairly dingy and depressing rooms, although things have improved a lot in recent years.
If you’re not interested in the hedonistic partying of Khao San Road, Sukhumvit Road would be a better place to stay. It’s a vast area with a mind-boggling array of hotels, restaurants, modern mega-malls and a huge choice of nightlife options, you can’t fail to have a good time there. Clean, comfortable hotel rooms with air-conditioning, a TV with English-language channels and fast Wi-Fi start at around 1200 baht ($38) per night. Whether you want to spend 30 baht on a bowl of noodles or 10,000 baht on an imported Argentinian tomahawk steak, you’ll find it in Sukhumvit. Your first port of call for public transport should be the clean, efficient and cheap BTS network, most of the time the road itself is gridlocked with horrendous traffic, which gets even worse during rush hour. For more information about the city of Bangkok, checkout our Bangkok travel guide.
Then once you’ve had some rest and recovered from your flight, all you need to do is pick one of our 2 week Thailand itineraries and get ready for the time of your life.
Recommended Hotels in Bangkok
Suneta Hostel Khaosan
Awesome place! great for meeting like minded travelers. Just 5 minutes from Khaosan Road
Great location near Khaosan Road, modern rooms, nice pool and fantastic food! Green Curry is amazing.
Baan Chart Hotel
Great location, just around the corner from Khaosan Road, kind staff, super clean rooms & roof top pool.
Two Week Thailand Itinerary 1 – Island-Hopping in The Gulf of Thailand
Traditionally a rite of passage amongst young backpackers and gap-year students, this is a well-trodden route with straightforward transport options and takes in 3 beautiful islands; Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. From Bangkok, all you need to do is buy a bus ticket which will take you down to Chumphon which takes around 10 hours, depending on how many stops the driver wants to make. The cost of the ticket is around 400 baht ($13) but will vary depending on where you buy it. The cost should include pick-up from your hotel. Alternatively, you can buy a flight with VietJet Air for around 500 baht ($16) from Bangkok to Surat Thani, which takes only an hour and a quarter. Once you’ve arrived at Chumphon (or Surat Thani), then you’ll need to catch the Lompraya Express, a catamaran that departs from the mainland and stops at all three islands in turn. If you spend two nights in Bangkok, this then leaves 4 nights on each of the islands, although you can play it by ear and see which island you prefer.
1. Koh Tao ( 4 Nights )
From Chumphon, the first island will be the beautiful Koh Tao, a relatively small island but an amazing destination with beautiful beaches, great restaurants offering super-fresh seafood and bustling nightlife. In reality, Koh Tao is more sedate than either Phangan or Samui but it’s a genuine tropical paradise with lots of untouched jungle, coconut trees on the beaches and a thriving tourist economy. It is a world away from the chaos and traffic jams of Bangkok. Whether you want to read a book on a quiet beach, enjoy some of the world’s best scuba diving or party the night away, you can do it on Koh Tao.
For accommodation, you’re spoilt for choice, with options such as Woodlawn Villas coming in at only 250 baht ($9) a night offering basic but very comfortable bungalows. If you can stretch to 1500 baht ($48) per night, you can stay at the fabulous View Point Resort, built at the top of a steep hill with an infinity pool, a great restaurant and amazing views out across the sea. Koh Tao has many decent restaurants offering western staples such as pizzas and burgers, as well as many small, family-run places offering great Thai food. You’ll also find street vendors offering “roti” which are a kind of pancake that can be topped with your choice of fresh fruits and sauces, and even made the “banana pancake trail” famous with budget travelers. For amazing pizza, head to Gambero Rosso Andrea, and if you’re a fan of roast duck, head to 995 Duck at Sairee beach.
Koh Tao is the smallest of the three main islands in the Gulf of Thailand, so you won’t find shopping malls, a cinema, or fast food restaurants here, but you find a quaint, idyllic island, with fantastic beaches, friendly locals, and plenty to see and do for several days. Once you’re ready to move on, then it’s back to the pier for the catamaran to go to the next island.
2. Koh Phangan ( 4 Nights )
Next up is the island of Koh Phangan, famous for the notoriously raucous full moon parties which take place each month on the beach of Haad Rin. Several times larger than Koh Tao, the island features great swathes of untouched tropical jungle, beautiful temples, waterfalls and quaint little villages. With some incredibly steep and winding roads, driving can be dangerous on the island, especially after dark, so only drive if you are confident on a motorbike, otherwise there are many taxis and songtaews on the island which are good value. For food, head to Thong Sala, the biggest town on the island, where you can try all of the local dishes at incredibly low prices, and in the evening, you’ll find many restaurants which back on to the beaches offering freshly grilled seafood and barbequed delights. There are a plethora of accommodation options on the island with comfortable, air-conditioned rooms available from around 1000 baht ($33) per night, although if you’re willing to slum it, you could find a room in a more run-down guesthouse for half that.
The famous Full Moon Party is certainly not for everyone. It is always packed with thousands of twenty-somethings from around the world getting plastered on cheap alcohol, with different venues often only a few metres apart blasting out different music and unfortunately, many young people find themselves in trouble with the Thai police. If you’re an all-out party animal and you’re under 30, you might have the time of your life, but you should be aware that many scams and shady behaviour takes place during the party, and NEVER get involved with any kind of drug use in Thailand or you may regret it for the rest of your life. Once you’ve explored the island and partied the night away on Haad Rin beach, then it’s time to get back to the pier again and wait for the Lomprayah Express.
3. Koh Samui ( 4 Nights )
Koh Samui is the last island that the catamaran stops at before heading back to the mainland. The biggest of the three, Samui has a very mature and well-developed tourist industry and even has its own international airport. You’ll find everything in Samui, with modern shopping malls, bowling alleys, cinemas and a dizzying array of restaurants, bars and nightlife options, you could easily spend the entire two weeks here without getting bored. It is the only island of the three where you’ll find international restaurant chains such as the usual fast food and pizza joints that you’re familiar with. Despite rampant development in the last few years, the island is huge, so much of it is still covered in untouched natural rainforest teeming with all kinds of wildlife.
Of course, Samui also has some stunning beaches perfect for sunbathing but there’s so much more to do including golf, quad bike tours, fishing trips, yoga retreats, rock climbing, cooking classes, scuba diving, bowling tournaments, snooker clubs and much more besides. Chaweng, the largest town on the island is packed with restaurants of all description, bars, nightclubs, travel agents and pharmacies, but is a little grubby and noisy in the evening. Lamai, the next largest town, is smaller and quieter and therefore arguably a better place to stay, especially if you’re looking for a more relaxing experience. One thing to note is that Koh Samui is not a cheap holiday destination, and particularly during peak times, you will struggle to find decent accommodation in Chaweng for under 1000 baht ($33) per night, although there are a handful of budget options in more remote locations for a few hundred baht per night. A good budget for decent accommodation, 2 restaurant meals, a few drinks and a taxi or two would be 3000 baht ($99) per day, thrifty backpackers could probably survive on half of that, and real party animals might even spend double. To find out more about the amazing island of Koh Samui, checkout our Koh Samui travel guide.
And then, once your two weeks comes to an end, you’ll need to get the boat back to Surat Thani on the mainland, from where you can catch either a train or a flight back to Bangkok, although be warned that the train is painfully slow, and with the introduction of VietJet Air offering super-cheap flights, you can fly back for not much more than 500 baht ($16), just make sure you book in advance or you’ll end up paying more at the airport.
Recommended Transport To Chumphon, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui
Bangkok to Chumphon
There are many ways to travel from Bangkok to Chumphon from bus, train, minivan and taxi.
Chumphon To Koh Tao
Catch the Lomprayah Express from Chumphon to Koh Tao, takes about 1h 30m on the Lomprayah Express speedboat or you can take the slower ferry.
Koh Tao to Koh Phangan
Go from Mae Haad Koh Tao to Thong Sala Koh Phangan on the Lomprayah Express speedboat takes about 1h.
Koh Phangan To Koh Samui
Go from Thong Sala in Koh Phangan to Maenam in Koh Samui on the Lomprayah Express speedboat takes about 30m.
Koh Samui to Surat Thani
Take the Phantip ferry and bus service to Surat Thani Town or Surat Thani Airpot, takes 3hrs to 3hrs 40hm respectively.
Surat Thani to Bangkok
You have a few options to get to Bangkok, most convenient and cost effective way to to fly from Surat Thani Airport.
Recommended Hotels in Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui
Sairee Cottage Resort
Perfect location right next to sairee beach, nice clean rooms and pool, lots of bars and entertainment nearby.
Great place, nice clean rooms, short walk from the beach and just far enough to escape the buzzing nightlife to get some rest.
Palm Coco Mantra Resort
Excellent place to stay, located on a private beach, just north of Lamai beach, nice clean rooms and outside pool.
Two Week Thailand Itinerary 2 – An Andaman Adventure
If you’ve done the gulf islands already, then the next place to explore would be the islands on the other side of the Isthmus of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea. Phuket, probably Thailand’s most famous holiday destination, is the is the country’s largest island and has its own international airport with many flights to destinations all around the world. Just over an hour by plane from Bangkok, Phuket is popular with both Thais and international tourists alike, and for very good reason. Like Samui, Phuket is a very well-developed tourist destination offering a vast range of accommodation, restaurants and activities for travelers. However, it is probably Thailand’s priciest destination with everything from taxis to restaurant meals being notably more expensive than in the capital. Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers in Phuket are notorious for charging as much as they think that they can get away with, and are referred to locally as the “taxi mafia”, therefore you should avoid using them as much as possible. Motorbike hire is good value on the island, with many shops and hotels charging around 300 baht ($10) per day for a 125cc scooter, although do not hand over your passport as a deposit under any circumstances.
1. Phuket ( 4 Nights )
Phuket is the complete package with huge shopping malls, night markets, top-quality restaurants and great nightlife, you could spend a long time here and never get bored, indeed Phuket is home to many ex-pats from the west who fell in love with the island. Accommodation can be expensive in Phuket, but with a bit of research online you can find a few budget options. A particularly popular option is the excellent Burasari Hotel, which, at the time of writing can be booked for under 1000 baht ($33) per night. If you just arrive in Phuket without any booking, you can expect the walk-up price to be higher than online, therefore it would be very wise to book your stay in advance using one of the aggregator websites which usually have the best deals.
Phuket is a wonderful holiday destination, with year-round great weather, an incredible choice of places to eat, things to do and amazing beaches, but as it is a very well-developed tourist destination it also suffers from the trappings of heavy tourism, namely over-development in many areas and an economy dependent on tourists. So prices are often artificially high, and the island has more than its fair share of people looking to price-gouge you or outright scam you. This is why it’s such a good idea to visit some of the other quieter islands in the area. When you’re ready to leave Phuket, then you’ll need to get to the Rassada pier, which offers a speedboat to Koh Lanta twice a day, at 08:30 am and at 12:30 pm (if you book via 12go.com, the ticket will include pick up from your hotel in Phuket). For more information, travel tips and advice about Phuket checkout out our Phuket travel guide.
2. Koh Lanta ( 4 Nights )
Koh Lanta is a wonderful destination, quieter and less-developed than Phuket, it is more laid back, better value and being in the far south of the country, you’ll get a chance to taste some of the amazing Muslim-inspired dishes such as beef massaman curry, which has been voted the tastiest dish in the world by CNN. It’s a world away from Phuket, and you’ll find things happen at a much slower pace and you will be able to get by on a smaller budget. That’s not to say that it’s boring, far from it, Koh Lanta still has stunningly beautiful white sand beaches, many friendly and cheap restaurants, and a smattering of watering holes to relax with a beer or two. With the majority of the island’s population being Thai Muslims, you won’t have the overt red-light activities that you’ll find in Phuket and there aren’t any nightclubs or late-opening bars. It is very much a more relaxing, quieter destination, without the huge throngs of tourists that you’d find in Bangla Road in Phuket, and is ideal as a romantic getaway or a relaxing family holiday.
3. Phi Phi ( 4 Nights )
Once you’ve spent a few days exploring Koh Lanta and trying the local cuisine, then it’s time to head back to the pier to catch the boat back to towards Phuket, but this time, you’ll be stopping at the famous Phi Phi islands which were ravaged by a huge tsunami in 2004, which devastated the islands.
Now fully recovered from the tsunami, the Phi Phi islands are a beautiful destination and an idyllic tropical paradise, offering fantastic photo opportunities to make your friends back home very jealous. Consisting of both Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lei as well as a few other much smaller uninhabited islands, they are one of the unmissable Thai destinations that you simply can’t miss. With no proper roads on the island (and no motor vehicles), it does have a different feel to the bigger islands, and on Phi Phi Don you’ll find a wide range of accommodation options as well as restaurants and many late-opening bars where you can party the night away.
Primarily drawing a younger crowd, many people seem to enjoy the beaches during the day, then retire to a bar or restaurant in the evening, although there is a great deal to see and do besides. With everything from boat tours of the minor islands (including the “monkey beach”), fishing trips, yoga workshops, rock-climbing lessons, spa days, boat parties, snorkelling or just pottering around the islands on foot picking up the odd souvenir, you can easily spend several days on the Phi Phi islands.
Accommodation in Phi Phi is relatively expensive, with the most comfortable, air-conditioned rooms with a bathroom starting at around 1500 baht ($49). However, you can find some cheaper options if you don’t mind a fan room and a slightly more of a secluded location, and there are some dorm rooms available from around 250-300 baht ($8-10) a night. 2 hotels that are particularly good value are the PP Insula Guesthouse, and the P2 Wood Loft, both in Tonsai Bay and both around 600-800 baht ($10-13) per night. The good value places get booked up quickly, so you’d need to plan ahead and book online to ensure that you get a good deal, if you just turn up without a booking you might end up having to spend more than you had budgeted.
Make sure that you allow an extra day to get back to Phuket and to go to the airport, possibly even spending one night there, because bad weather can result in cancelled ferry services.
Recommended Transport To Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi
Bangkok to Phuket
There are many ways to get from Bangkok to Phuket, take the bus, minivan, train and bus or most conveniently take a flight.
Phuket To Koh Lanta
You can get from Phuket to Koh Lanta by ferry from Nam Chier or Rassada piers 4hrs 30m or by taxi and short ferry which takes 5hrs.
Koh Lanta To Phi Phi
You can get from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi from the van and ferry speedboat service, takes 2hrs 30m
Koh Phi Phi To Phuket
Minivan and high speed ferry service from Ton Sai Pier Koh Phi Phi to Phuket (any hotel) takes about 3 hrs
Phuket To Bangkok
The are many ways to get to Bangkok from Phuket, from bus, minivan, train and bus but most convenient and cost effective is to fly.
Recommended Hotels in Phuket, Koh Lanta & Koh Phi Phi
Excellent location and close to the beach. Clean rooms, helpful staff and far enough away from the hectic noise of bangla road.
Long Beach Chalet
Great place to stay on Koh Lanta, well designed chalets, nice pool and only 5 minutes from the beach.
Great central location, just far enough from the madness to get a quiet nights sleep. Big clean rooms with balcony, nice helpful staff.
Two Week Thailand Itinerary 3 – Northern Explorer
When most people think of Northern Thailand, they usually think of Chiang Mai, which is the largest city in the region and the second-largest in Thailand, with a population of 130,000. However, there is much more than just Chiang Mai, with other fascinating destinations such as Chiang Rai, Pai and Mae Hong Son, there’s easily enough to keep you busy during a two-week trip. No beaches might be a put-off for some, however, if you’ve seen enough beaches then the north offers something a little different. With a notably cooler and more comfortable climate, it’s a great place to find out about the ancient culture of the Lanna people, who were eventually absorbed into the Kingdom of Siam which then became modern-day Thailand. All this culture combined with stunning scenery, lush tropical jungle teeming with wildlife, breath taking mountain-top temples and Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon, it’s a great alternative to the typical island-hopping trips.
There are many ancient ruins, museums, galleries and attractions to visit in the region, with Chiang Mai having the most. However, you’ll also find a plethora of tourist attractions, activities, good-value accommodation, restaurants serving all kinds of international cuisine, and enough nightlife options for most (however, nightlife in the north is considerably more subdued than in say Bangkok or Phuket). You can arrive in Chiang Mai either directly at its international airport, or via the capital, for more information checkout our dedicated post on how to get to Chiang Mai.
1. Chiang Mai ( 4 Nights )
In Chiang Mai, to get an understanding of how the city is laid out, just take a look at a map and you’ll see a square section of the city, surrounded by a moat, this area is known as the old city. There are even remnants of the defensive wall which used to protect the city, most notably Tha Phae Gate on the eastern part of the old city, which was built in the 13th century during a turbulent period in the country’s history. In general, you’ll find that you get more for your money in Chiang Mai and the rest of the north of the country, with accommodation, restaurants and transport often being notably better value, especially compared to a tourist hotspot like Phuket. A great place to stay in Chiang Mai if you’re on a budget is the Nimman 13 Boutique Hotel, located in Nimmanhaemin. Rooms can be booked online for as little as 1200 baht ($38), and they get rave reviews online.
Once you’ve arrived and got settled in Chiang Mai, there are several things that you must not miss. First, you have to try some of the local cuisine, especially Khao Soi Gai, which is chicken cooked in a spicy broth with crispy fried noodles on top, it is very delicious, cheap and filling. Other things that you can’t afford to miss are the elephant rescue park, Wat Doi Suthep, the Chiang Mai 3D art museum, and you must spend an evening or two wandering around the chaotic but highly entertaining night bazaar. In particular, Wat Doi Suthep perched on a steep hill a few kilometres outside the city is simply stunning and one the best temples in Thailand, absolutely not to be missed for anyone visiting the city. If, after all that, you need a drink, then you’ll find many bars and nightlife options on the Loy Kroh Road, which is on the eastern side of the city, near the Tha Phae Gate. The city has many interesting temples, some romantic restaurants along the riverside and even several malls and cinemas, which is why the city is popular with ex-pats and digital nomads from the West. For more information, tips and advice about the amazing city of Chiang Mai checkout our Chiang Mai travel guide.
2. Chiang Rai ( 3 Nights )
From Chiang Mai, you have the option of two different routes, you can head east to Chiang Rai or West to Pai and then on to Mae Hong Son. The journey to Chiang Rai takes 4-5 hours and takes in some stunning scenery, with dense tropical jungle and dramatic mountain peaks. Chiang Rai is not really a frequently visited tourist destination, but if you’re looking for somewhere a bit quieter and an authentically Thai experience, it would be an excellent choice for you. Famous for its stunning white temple, it’s a fairly sleepy little town, with cheap accommodation, many little family-run restaurants and a few interesting bars, in particular, the Reggae Bar is always popular. Chiang Rai has grown a little over the last decade and now even has its own McDonalds, but in general, it has avoided the trappings of mass tourism and is a very pleasant place to spend a couple of nights. For more information about the city of Chiang Rai, take a look at our Chiang Rai travel guide.
3. Pai ( 3 Nights )
Three hours north-west of Chiang Mai is the little town of Pai, which is a unique place and a lot of fun. Sat on the banks of the Pai River, the town is a sleepy but beautiful little town with colonial-style wooden shophouses, a relatively large number of restaurants, bars and a night market. In recent years it has become popular with backpackers because the climate is great, the prices are low and the whole town has a very relaxing feel. It’s quite possible to get by on $20 a day in Pai, however, the town is very popular with tourists, backpackers, in particular, so you’ll find many shops selling the same clothes and trinkets that you’d find in Khao San Road, for example. Pai has a very unique feel compared to other destinations in the country, the combination of the beautiful buildings and the fact that nothing ever seems to happen quickly in the town means that it is somewhere that you’ll always remember.
4. Mae Hong Son ( 2 Nights )
Only 2 hours away, through some steep and winding roads, again with spectacular views is the smaller and quieter provincial town of Mae Hong Son. With a population of only 7000, it is notably smaller than both Pai, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, but is an excellent base to explore the beautiful temples and waterfalls and even enjoy a day of jungle trekking. In Mae Hong Son, you’ll find some cheap accommodation, although it’s going to be fairly basic compared to what you’d find in Chiang Mai, for example. There are some interesting temples and caves in the vicinity and even a mud spa which is well worth a visit. The main reason to visit Mae Hong Son is to go on a tour of the local jungle and hill-tribe villages, budget around 2500 baht ($80) for a guided tour with an English-speaking guide where you will have the chance to see all manner of fascinating wildlife and buy some souvenirs from the hill-tribe ladies. Then once you’ve done everything, it’s about 4-5 hours in a taxi back to Chiang Mai, or you can take a flight from Mae Hong Son’s own (very tiny) airport either to Chiang Mai or back to the capital, budget flights are offered by Nok Air but, unsurprisingly, the flights are not very frequent so you’d have to plan your itinerary around the flight to avoid getting caught out.
Recommended Transport To Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son
Bangkok to Chiang Mai
There are a few ways to get to Chiang Mai, from taking the train, overnight buses, minivans, taxi and plane. Flying is by far the best and most convenient way to get there.
Chiang Mai To Chiang Rai
Get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by Bus (3hrs 55m), minivan or taxi ride (3hrs 30m).
Chiang Mai To Pai
You can get from Chiang Mai to Pai by minivan or taxi, takes roughly 4hrs.
Pai To Mae Hong Son
Travel from Pai to Mae Hong Son by minivan or taxi, takes approximatley 4hrs.
Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai
Travel back to Chiang Mai by minivan or taxi, takes approximately 8hrs 50m by minivan and 6hrs 50m by taxi.
Chiang Mai to Bangkok
There are a few ways to get back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, by bus, minivan or flight. Taking a flight is by far the best option.
Recommended Hotels in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son
The Nimman 13 Guesthouse
Great little Guesthouse located in the heart of Nimmanhemin road, nice basic clean rooms.
Baan Norn Plearn
Feels like home from home this place, great location, very clean rooms and very friendly, helpful staff..
Baan Tawan Guesthouse
Very beautiful area of Pai, near to all activities, bars and restaurants, excellent bungalows and very relaxing place to stay.
Very beautiful, tranquil place to stay in Mae Hong Son. Nice clean rooms and good service. Nature walks are just behind the resort.
Two Week Thailand Itinerary 4 – Off the Beaten Track in Isaan
Thailand’s vast north-easterly region is called “Isaan”, and is known as the “Rice Bowl of Thailand”. It occupies around a third of the country’s land mass and is primarily agricultural and rural, but not really visited by foreigners and is generally not on tourists’ radar. However, what this means is that you’ll find a more authentic and genuine “Thai” experience, with friendly people, interesting cuisine, a different dialect and very low prices on most things. On almost all main roads around Isaan, much like the rest of Thailand, you’ll find little family-run “resorts”, which aren’t really what you’d call a resort in the West but are usually just a collection of huts with air-con and TV that you can rent for around 400 baht ($13) per night. In general, though, Isaan is much quieter than the usual tourist hotspots with much more subdued nightlife, very few tourists and oppressing weather during the hot season, but is a relaxing destination would be great for a cycling holiday.
If you’re a confident driver, you could rent a car in Bangkok and take 2 weeks to drive around the region, although there is also plenty of public transport, with buses, trains, taxis and budget flights to get you around. Being so infrequently visited by tourists, you’ll find that most people can’t speak much English, if at all, but if you’ve got Google Translate and signal on your cell phone, you’ll be fine.
1. Nakhon Ratchasima ( 4 Nights )
The first stop from Bangkok will be Nakhon Ratchasima, also referred to as “Korat”. You can get there by bus, taxi, or train and is about 3 hours drive from the capital. It has great transport links to the rest of the Isaan region, therefore is a good place to start. It is a fairly large provincial city, the second-largest in Isaan, although as soon as you arrive from Bangkok you’ll immediately notice the change in pace, things are not as hectic although the traffic is still occasionally bad. You won’t find the dazzling skyscrapers that you’d see in Bangkok, but you will find an enjoyable and friendly place to spend a few days.
In Nakon Ratchasima you’ll find a great zoo, plenty of good quality golf courses, various parks, shopping malls and some beautiful temples. Even if you’ve seen enough temples for one lifetime, it’s still work taking a look at Wat Phra Narai Maharat, which features a lake with an island temple and huge water monitors walking around the site. Another temple to visit is the magical Wat Luang Pho Toh, a very beautifully designed temple with impressive gardens, lake, water features and surroundings.
The city also has many places to eat, mostly little family-run restaurants, which you’ll find to be very good value alongside the usual western fast-food staples such as McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King if you’re craving something familiar. There are several (Thai-style) nightlife options and the odd ex-pat bar, which can be found at the northern end of Changpuak Road if you fancy a drink and a game of pool.
Then, once you’ve seen enough, you’ll need to take a train, or a rather expensive taxi to the next destination which will be Ubon Ratchathani, which takes around 6 hours and costs 200 baht ($6.40) by train. Once you arrive in Ubon, you should take a taxi from the train station and head to the excellent Outside Inn, which offers huge air-conditioned rooms for not much more than 300 baht ($10) a night, as well as fantastic home-made Mexican food and imported beers. And from there, you’ll be able to explore the city itself, although Ubon is quite a sprawling city so you won’t be able to cover it comfortably on foot, hiring a bicycle or motorbike would be a good idea.
2. Ubon Ratchathani ( 4 Nights )
Ubon, although not quite as exciting as Bangkok or Pattaya, has several malls, hundreds of places to eat and drink, and sits at the confluence of both the river Moon and Mekong and as you look down from the bridge over the river Mun you can clearly see the two differently coloured rivers mixing together. There is one temple in Ubon that you mustn’t miss and it’s called Wat Phra That Nong Bua, which has a towering white and gold chedi, and inside for a few baht you can have your fortune told.
Ubon is a path less-trodden, although you can easily while away a few days here just relaxing and taking in a “proper” Thai city that hasn’t succumbed to the over-reliance on tourism that you’ll see in the popular tourist destinations, all whilst enjoying some authentic Isaan cuisine. If you’re willing to push the boat out and head out in the evening, you’ll find that the locals are extremely friendly, and you’ll need to have some pre planned answers to the question “why are you in Ubon?”. In reality, most Ubon residents will be delighted that you chose to include their city in your itinerary, and although Ubon might not have that much to offer to the average tourist, it will be the people that you remember. Ubon is a great place to buy clothes, in particular, “U-Park” is large clothes market that has a vast range of clothes at amazingly low prices, you’ll find it on Chayangkun Road, about 400m north of the McDonalds.
3. Udon Thani ( 4 Nights )
And from Ubon, the next place to go is confusingly called “Udon”, or “Udon Thani” as it’s known to the locals. It’s still a moderately-sized Isaan-style provincial city so not primarily a tourist destination, but, in reality, it’s a fantastic place to stay for a few days and unwind. Udon is very close to the border with Laos, and only 80km south of the Laos capital, Vientiane. Udon is the 4th largest city in the country and has a variety of things to see and do, with plenty of decent restaurants and bars and it’s fairly easy to pop over the border to Laos if you want to get another stamp in your passport. If you’ve ever wanted to get a tattoo, Udon has some very talented tattoo artists who will charge you a fraction of what you’d pay back home, and the quality is excellent.
Udon has some impressive temples, modern shopping malls and several interesting museums, and you’ll find great value accommodation and restaurants, Udon also has a sizeable ex-pat community so you’ll find a few Western-style pubs offering up decent quality western staples such as fish and chips, pizzas and English breakfasts. If you’re travelling with children, then don’t miss Udon’s huge waterpark, known as Playport Udon Thani, and the region also has several places where you can go camping, fishing, and even swimming at the nearby Than Ngam waterfalls. Another top thing to do in Udon Thani is to visit the natural attraction of the ‘Sea of red lotus’ a freshwater lake filled with a carpets of pink lotus flowers, located in the town of Kumphawapi, Udon Thani Province. Once your holiday begins to draw to a close, you’ll need to consider how to get back to Bangkok for your flight home. The train journey from Udon to Bangkok takes around 9 hours and costs more than a budget flight. Therefore, the best choice would be a flight with VietJet Air, which will set you back around 400 baht ($13) as long as you book it in advance.
Recommended Transport To Nakon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani
Bangkok To Nakon Ratchasima
Get from Bangkok to Nakon Ratchasima by bus (4hrs), minivan (3hrs), taxi (3 hrs) or train (5hrs 55m).
Nakon Ratchasima To Ubon Ratchathani
To get from Nakon Ratchasima to Ubon Ratchathani you’ll need to get the train which takes 8hrs with a distance (384 km), costs around $17. You can also take a taxi which takes roughly 5hrs (around $130)
Ubon Ratchathani to Udon Thani
There is no direct bus Ubon Ratchathani to Udon Thani, but you can take the bus to Udon Thani via Khon Kaen. Alternatively you can take a flight.
Udon Thani to Bangkok
To get back to Bangkok from Updon Thani, you can take the bus (6hrs 45m), train (9hrs 40m) or take a taxi which is very pricey!
Recommended Hotels in Nakon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani & Udon Thani
Nice little hotel in the city, nice clean room, great breakfast and helpful staff.
Yuu Hotel Ubon Ratchatani
Charming boutique hotel, located close to Thung Sri Muang park, night market and a short walk to the Ubon Ratchathani National Museum. Nice clean rooms and helpful staff.
Prajaktra City Hostel
Great location and value for money, helpful staff, clean room and there are some nice restaurants close to the hotel.