Everything you need to know to plan a Thailand trip
Travel. Is it a luxury or a necessity? If you ask me, travel is really a luxury. Lets be honest, not everyone can travel – be it because of time, commitments or money. You need to be privileged to travel – you need to be earning well enough to afford it, have no one depending on you, have enough time on your hands and be healthy enough to be able to globe-trot. If you can’t travel because of any of those reasons and are tired of seeing all those posts on social media, don’t beat yourself up – there will come a time when you can. But when the time comes, remember, travel is a commitment. To travel often, you need to constantly plan, push people around you to plan with you, save money and leaves, and go on that journey that you have been dreaming of forever. Personally, I tend to get super busy in my life as I am constantly juggling a full time job with a successful blog and I find that if I don’t plan, nobody else around me will plan for me and travel doesn’t happen.
I recently took a trip to Thailand and I fell in love with the country. As Indians, we can often be narrow-minded and tend to associate Thailand with the stereotypes its known for. But Thailand is a beautiful country with great shopping escapades(high street, designer and street), food, night life and breath-taking landscapes. This was my second time travelling to Thailand. I had been there a year ago in collaboration with Tourism of Thailand and both of those times I had such varied experiences that I decided to make a comprehensive list of things you need to see/do and tell you what you need to know to plan an off-beat trip there. If you are anything like me, you know how boring main-stream can get!
Thailand Visa and Currency:
For Indians, Thailand has a visa on arrival option. But you can also apply for visa from here. If you are opting for visa-on-arrival, you should know that it will take you upto 2 hours to get your passport stamped with visa at the Thailand airport. The documents you need for visa on arrival are: your valid passport, 10,000 Baths in cash(visa costs 2000 Bhats), your flight ticket details, hotel reservation details, an immigration card(you will be given that in your flight) and a filled visa-on-arrival form. I would strongly suggest exchanging currency in India before you travel to Thailand. Use plastic money(credit/debit cards) only in renowned places that looks legitimate.
Places to visit in Thailand:
Divide your time between cities and beach towns. Make it a point to visit Bangkok – the city is alive and buzzing with shopping malls, restaurants and street markets(I will get to a comprehensive list in a minute). When it comes to beaches, choose either southern Thailand which has Krabi, Phuket and Phi Phi islands or Eastern Thailand which has Koh Samui. Both the coasts are beautiful with crystal blue waters and ocean air to get you addicted to nature for days.
Things to do in Bangkok:
- Shop, shop and shop: Bangkok is a shopping heaven – be it luxury or street. You can find your luxury brands like Louis Vuitton in Siam Paragon, high-street like Zara and Mango in Siam center and Terminal 21 where each floor resembles a different town of the world and do your street shopping in Little Siam by walking around its many alleys. MBK doesn’t disappoint either when it comes to street shopping. I usually always stop by Siam Centre when I am in Thailand. It is where highstreet and street shops exist right next to each other in harmony. You also need to experience the weekend markets when in Thailand.
- Khao San street: The place defines Bangkok’s night life for me. Its a party street packed with bars where the party always spills out on to the street itself. You will find people dancing and making merry into the wee hours of morning.
- Food: If you like experimenting with food, Bangkok has plenty to offer. The street food there is exceptionally experimental – I am talking scorpions here. You will notice fresh juice carts almost at every street corner. Make it a point to try tender coconut water(and ice-cream if you will) when in Thailand. It tastes very different from Indian coconuts and you wont be disappointed.
- Floating Markets and Temples: An hours drive from Bangkok. You can book these tours via your hotel and they each will take at least a day to experience.
Finding a place to stay in Bangkok is no pain at all, as being a tourist destination, it is packed with hotels everywhere. I have stayed at Admiral Premier and Aloft, both of which are located in Sukhumvit which happens to be Bangkok’s tourist centre with quite a lot of hotel options. Both the hotels were decent in terms of ambience, service and cost.
Things to do in Krabi:
Krabi is more secluded than Phi Phi islands and Phuket but yet quite organised and has all the activities on offer. You are getting the best of both worlds here with the modern amenities amidst a serene beach town that is surrounded by tall, majestic mountains. I stayed at Krabi resort on Ao Nang beach and it was the best decision ever. It has a private beach of its own – the only resort in Krabi that has a private beach and the cottages were exquisite with an old world tropical charm to it. If you are ever going to Krabi, stay at Ao Nang street as its the center of all activities and you can travel to many places from there. It also has tourists shops where you can book your adventures.
- Take a 7 island trip: This is a noon to dusk island tour that will take you to the major islands around the area. This tours includes snorkelling and diving into the middle of the ocean at night to experience bio-luminescent plankton! The tour also includes dinner and if you are a vegetarian be sure to specify at the place where you are booking the tour.
- Kayaking in the Mangrove forest: The drive to the place where you can Kayak is beautiful and scenic. You get a stunning view of the sudden mountain formations of Krabi. The kayaking itself is done in shallow waters of Ao Luk that takes you to three main areas around Ao Luk in the north of the province: Ao Thalane (mangrove and canyons) at the southern tip of Phang Nga Bay; Bor Thor (ancient limestone caves); and Koh Hong (an island with a ‘hidden’ lagoon at its centre).
- Rock climbing: As I mentioned, Krabi is surrounded by scene mountains that are unlike anything you see in India. Let me try to explain – the mountains are these steep HUGE boulders that grow out of the earth suddenly without a gradual incline. Krabi is rated as one of the best spots in the world for rock climbing. Again, you can try anything from a few hours to several days.
- Emerald Pools and Hot Springs: The pool reflects a stunning emerald hue and is a natural hot spring that you can spend hours soaking in.
- Spending every evening exploring restaurants in Ao Nang street: Its a beautiful place that has extensive restaurants and bars on offer. My evenings there were dedicated to exploring all the restaurants that I could.
- Scuba Diving: Krabi offers Scuba diving classes. But you should not fly for upto 48 hours after taking one of these classes.
There are several other activities you can plan in Krabi. Check out this site to know everything you can do at Krabi https://www.yourkrabi.com/suggested-itinerary/. You can book all of the tours I mentioned from any of tourist information centers that are scattered across the Ao Nang street or from your hotel desk.
Things to do in Phuket:
Phuket is a very popular tourist destination in Thailand and as a result it can be quite crowded and expensive but none-the-less breathtaking with its crystal blue water, adventure sports and party destinations. Stay at Patong beach if you are travelling to Phuket as its in the central area and you can access/travel to all the places from there. I personally prefer Krabi over Phuket as its quieter.
- Take a walk on Patong Beach: Bar hop, shop and take a dip. This is the most popular beach in Phuket and you will generally love its vibes.
- Zip-Line in Flying Hanuman: Flying Hanuman is one of the largest zip-lining places in the world and it will leave you feeling exhilarated and triumphant after flying through its forests on a zip-line.
- Take the 4 island tour: This is a morning to noon island tour that will take you to 4 main islands thats close to Phuket. This will include snorkelling, kayaking and other activities that you can explore. The tour also includes lunch and if you are a vegetarian be sure to specify at the place where you are booking the tour.
- Go to Trick Eye museum: The paintings and tricks that is executed on the floor and walls will leave you feeling quite tricked.
I went to Phuket with Tourism of Thailand last year and stayed at the JW Marriott that has its own private beach! You can book any of the activities mentioned via many tour agent shops thats spread along the Patong beach or ask your hotel desk for help.
Thailand, being a tourist country that it is, has its own set of notorious pick-pocketers. Just make sure you are careful to keep your belongings safe and you should do just fine!
Let me know if you want to know anything more about how to plan a trip to Thailand.