Thailand is amazing, just like the country promotional tourism campaign say – the slogan is Amazing Thailand. That’s because despite not having a massive territory, the country is rich. Culturally rich, with an exuberant nature with forests, a coastline covered by miles and miles of white sandy beaches and islands so beautiful that seem to have come out of a Holywood film. Add to that some beautiful Thai homes and world-class hotels and resorts to suit every taste and budget.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand and long-term travel around the country is not a possibility, I will be sharing some places that are essential to visit if you have around 10 days to spend travelling around the country, covering destinations from north to south.
Places To Visit On Your First Trip To Thailand
Without a doubt, Bangkok is a crazy city. It’s big, busy, traffic is chaotic. Despite it all, Bangkok is a fantastic city. This huge metropolis, despite the crazy traffic, has good public transport options, with trains, metro and even river and canal boats that can take you to many places around the city at a very affordable price.
But what makes Bangkok such a great place to visit is the fact that it has so many cultural attractions and an enviable street food scene. A trip to Bangkok should most definitely start at the Grand Palace, with its several temples, gardens and the iconic Emerald Buddha. In the same area, you shouldn’t miss Wat Po, another temple complex with a golden statue of the reclined Buddha – the largest in the country.
Another place that is totally worth visiting is Khao San Road, backpackers’ favourite street with many restaurants, cheap street food and many bars banging loud music and selling cheap beer. The atmosphere is quite contagious and, if you ever wanted to eat scorpions in Thailand, this is the best place to do it.
But Bangkok is also about shopping, and like most big cities around Asia, it has dozens of shopping malls. If I have to recommend any, I will definitely say you should visit CentralWorld, near Rathaprarop and Siam stations, and Platinum Fashion Mall.
Located in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the most popular island in Thailand, and for all the good reasons. Whether you enjoy cultural sites, sunbathing on a beautiful beach or an all-inclusive resort, Phuket has it all. Plus the fact it is surrounded by several smaller islands that you can explore on day tours or stay overnight, if you prefer.
If you’re looking for history and culture, I recommend a visit to Phuket Town, home to some gorgeous historical buildings. Many of them have been recently renovated and the Sino-Portuguese houses are among the most beautiful ones. Just allow yourself to get lost in the streets of Phuket Town, stop at some of the cute cafes and look for some colorful street art, something that really reminded me of parts of Penang in Malaysia.
In Phuket Town you will also find the 46-meter tall Big Buddha, who quietly sits on a hilltop, enjoying incredible views of the island below.
But more than anything, most people visit Phuket in search of sea and sand – and it has a something for everyone. If you’re looking for a quieter beach good for with families, you can try Karon beach in the south of the island. The beach here is very long, with golden sand. There are a number of nice resorts in the area some of which have very reasonable prices and high standards.
Party animals who find themselves in Phuket will most likely go to Patong, about 4km away from Karon, but it feels more like another planet. Patong is where you will find a lot of discos with loud music banging all night long, go-go bars and “ladies of a certain kind” lined up on the streets looking for business. But despite it all, Patong is a fun place that sleeps during the day and wide awake at night.
The most popular day trip from Phuket is to Koh Phi Phi, the island made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach. The small group of islands is still popular among backpackers, even though the film is already 18 years old. Boat trips to Phi Phi take around 2.5 hours each way and the highlight of the tour is visiting the Maya Bay, where the film was shot.
3- Koh Samui
The small island of Koh Samui, located in the Gulf of Thailand, is a popular destination, despite being overshadowed by other Thai islands in the last years. Once a destination for more upmarket tourists, Koh Samui has now seen a number of hotels opening up, making it more attractive to those who preferred to spend their vacations in Phuket or Pattaya, for example.
Samui is actually home to Chaweng Beach, one of the most attractive in the Gulf of Thailand. Once a quiet village, this attractive white sandy beach has an array of shops, restaurant and massage parlors spread along its shores. But let that not put you off since, despite the overdevelopment, Chaweng is still the place that makes Koh Samui this tourist hotspot.
To have a taste of Chaweng once was, you can head to Lipa Noi, a much quieter beach that resembles old-time Chaweng. This dreamy stretch of beach is perfect for couples and those looking to swim and sunbathe in a less developed part of Samui that makes us remember that simplicity is a luxury, and that’s why the much-used expression “barefoot luxury” was invented.