In September I packed for my first backpack adventure in Thailand, as people say it’s one of the best countries for your first round trip. And so it is! Thailand is a very safe country and has an easy and cheap public transport system. We went from Bangkok to north, to south and to a few islands in 22 days by public transport and booked our hotels every day via booking.
Brussels – Qatar – Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya – Chiang Mai – Phuket – Koh Samui – Koh Phangan – Koh Tao – Bangkok – Qatar – Brussels
Day 1: Brussels – Qatar – Bangkok
Day 2: Bangkok
At the airport we took the train to the center of Bangkok, very easy and cheap. I’ll never forget that moment and smell when I walked in the streets of Bangkok for the first time. It was the first culture shock I had in my entire life and it felt awesome. Crowded streets with the smell of street food and tuk-tuks everywhere.
A tuk-tuk brought us to our hotel, Poste 43 Residence, for 200 baht. It seemed cheap to us but after one day we found out it was way too expensive.
Tip: Never agree with the first price they give you, most of the time it is minimum 2 times as expensive as the normal price.
In the evening we walked through my favorite street in Bangkok, Khaosan Road. A street full of backpackers, restaurants, bars and street food.
After wandering through the streets of Bangkok we visited the Sirocco skybar. Yes indeed, the bar you see in the movie ‘The hangover 2’! The entrance is for free but of course the drinks are quite expensive. But it is a great experience and the skyline of Bangkok by night is stunning.
Tip: Keep in mind there is a dress code, casual is not allowed.
Day 3: Bangkok
We took a taxi boat to Wat Pho to see the 26-meter-long Lying Buddha. The women get a dress to cover the shoulders and legs
Tip: Take the taxi boat with the locals, tourist companies ask 950 baht instead of 28!!!!
From Wat Pho it’s easy to reach The Grand palace. It’s only 2 minutes walking and it’s definitely a must see in Thailand.
Tip: Don’t believe guys on the street who say the palace is closed, they’re scammers who want to lure you to all kind of shops.
After all the walking we went for a foot massage in Khaosan Road. Only 150 baht for 30 minutes and it’s really delightful. In the evening we went to Cabaret Calypso (1200 baht), a great show with transgender dancers and singers in Broadway-style.
Tip: You can take a pic with the dancers but you have to pay for it.
Day 4: Ayutthaya – Kanchanaburi
A minivan we booked in an office in Bangkok dropped us at Ayutthaya station for 400 baht. We were looking for a way to go from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi (150km) when a guy at the station offered us a private taxi with different stops along the way for about 800 baht. And I can highly recommend doing it this way, at least in Thailand. For Thai people it’s a lot of money and you have a private guide who gives you advice and stops everywhere you want to. You definitely ask yourself ‘did you trust this guy?’. Yes I did, I always trust my guts and I’m pretty good at it. First he drove us to the famous River Kwai Bridge.
While driving to the next stop I didn’t realize I was about to do one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my entire life: swimming with elephants. You have lots of places in Thailand where you can sit on an elephant but I highly recommend River Kwai elephant village. The elephants have lots of space and freedom here. It was not expensive at all (800 baht), there were no other tourists and it was an awesome, impressive experience.
After a long drive and boat trip we reached our hotel River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Not just a hotel but a hotel floating on the River Kwai, with no wifi, no electricity and only reachable by boat. A nice place to become one with nature. Call it paradise.
Tip: Book in advance, it’s often fully booked.
Day 5: Kanchanaburi
I Woke up at 7 am and chilled out in my hammock. At about 9 am we fed the elephants together with the locals. Next to the river is a small village in the jungle. You can walk through it and discover how the locals really live there. It’s awesome, so different from our lifestyle.
Day 6: Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya
We stayed in the hotel for two nights but to be honest one day would have been enough as we were in the middle of nowhere and a bit bored after two days. Normally we never book a hotel in advance but this one was an exception because it’s quite popular. Going back to basics was awesome but now I longed for bustle. After this adventure our driver, the same guy who brought us here, brought us back to Ayutthaya with a stop at the wonderful Erawan Waterfalls.
Tip: Wear good shoes, we did it on slippers, not recommended!
7 floors, 7 different waterfalls. After one hour and a lot of climbing we reached waterfall number 7. Wonderful! We swam in the clear blue water with the fish biting in our legs and feet.
After a 4-hour drive in the back of a pick-up we reached the station of Ayatthaya. A great adventure but definitely not for pussies.
In Ayutthaya we took the night train to Chiang mai, a twelve-hour ride. Traveling at night is very efficient and saves a hotel accommodation and lots of time. The biggest downside were the toilets, they were quite dirty. We wanted to have a nice evening with some drinks but alcohol is prohibited on the night train. We decided to take the risk, with success. The night train is also a great place to meet people, we even met people there from the city we live in. It’s a small world…
Day 7: Chiang Mai
At 9 am we arrived in Chiang Mai, took a taxi to Old Town and booked a room at Guesthouse SK HouseII, a basic hostel with a very nice atmosphere. A room costed 600 bath for 2 persons. We discovered Chiang Mai on a rental scooter for only 200 bath a day.
In the evening we went to the ‘night bazaar’ market. A nice place to hang out for a few hours. The market is located on the east side of the old walled city, is approximately 1km long and is open every day of the year till around midnight.
At 11.30 pm we went to a club called ‘spicy’. Unfortunately it closed at 1 am like all the clubs in Chiang Mai do. Too bad, as Belgian people know how to party. So we ended up on a private party with some locals, which is prohibited in Chiang Mai. When the police arrived the party was over.
Day 8: Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang is my favorite temple in Thailand. The reason I love this one so much is because it’s different from others, it’s towering.
On our way back, we hit into the police with our scooter. We were not wearing helmets because the locals wear them either. But as we were tourists they gave us a fine. I’m a bluffer so with lots of confident I told them that I was not going to pay that because the fine was in Thai and that is legally incorrect. And voila, fine annulled, problem solved. In the evening we went to see a Thai boxing contest. A must do in Thailand!
Day 9: Chiang Mai
A really cool place in Chiang Mai is the 3D Art Museum. You can take really nice pics with all kind of optical illusions.
The Saturday night market extends for roughly 1km all the way down the length of Wui Lai Road. Besides street food and silverware you will also find handicrafts, bags, clothing, perfume, shoes, belts, lanterns, street performers, food stalls, wood carvings and woodwork, sketch artists, ornaments, candles, housewares etc. I ate the best Pad Thai there.
We had planned to stay in Chiang Mai but I got bored so we rebooked our plane ticket and left 2 days earlier to Phuket. I prefer the south of Thailand over the north.
Day 10: Chiang Mai – Phuket
We flew to Phuket (+-2h) and took a taxi to Patong. We stayed at Aspery Hotel. The best hotel we had during our trip.
Day 11: Phuket – James Bond Island
I love to plan my own trips but it is impossible to go to the James bond island by yourself so we booked a trip at a ticket agency on the street. First we stopped at a place full of little monkeys. Then a longtailboat took us to the James Bond Island. It’s amazing to see in real life.
In the evening went to the wonderful show Siam Niramit, as the famous FantaSea show was fully booked. It was a true spectacle with wonderful costumes and actors.
If you want to have a great party you’ll remember for the rest of your life, go to the Bangla road. My favorite club is Tai Pan. One disadvantage, or should I say advantage, is that every time you order a beer you get a free tequila. So don’t go there when you have big plans the day after because I guarantee you it will be one hell of a night.
Day 12: Phuket
It was a rainy day so we decided to go for a Thai massage. NEVER again, it’s painful and not relaxing at all. We also met some locals and chilled out with them in the afternoon. They even made us eat grasshoppers. It tastes like salty nuts. The rainy weather made me crave for Belgian food so we went to the Graceland restaurant. A restaurant with Belgian beer and food.
Day 13: Phuket
Today we wandered through the streets of Phuket and went for some shopping. And then I did something you only see on television, watching a ping pong show in a strip club. You don’t have to search for a place because all over the streets people are begging to come inside. But be careful, the entrance is free but the drinks are extremely expensive. So I refused to go inside till they gave me a ticket with discount for drinks. It’s not exciting to see the girls doing all kind of weird tricks, not at all, but it definitely is funny. Something to remember.
Day 14: Phuket
At night I woke up thinking I was going to die. I’ve never felt that sick in my entire life. Normally we should leave to Koh Phi Phi that morning but instead of that I ended up in a private hospital with food poisoning. Luckily I had a good insurance. I still regret not seeing Koh Phi Phi.
Day 15: Phuket – Koh Samui
Early in the morning we took the plane to Koh Samui, a one-hour flight, where we took the boat to Koh Phangan. We stayed at Phangan island view hotel, a small cozy hotel with a nice swimming pool. In the evening we went for a walk and visited the local market.
Tip: Every Saturday afternoon from 4pm, the old high street in Thongsala becomes a bustling market for locals and visiting tourists, with many bargains and unique items for sale.
Day 16: Phuket – Koh samui – Koh Phangan
The only reason we visited this island was because of the famous Half Moon Festival. Koh Phangan itself is not that special but the festival is awesome.
Tip: Buy your own neon make-up and clothes, at the fest it’s extremely expensive
Day 17: Koh Phangan
During the day we wandered over to the beach area and spent a few hours at the nice beach bars. And then it was finally time to dress up for the Half Moon Festival: NEON clothes (you can buy them in almost every shop for a few baht).
The festival takes place in the forest. With 3 dance-floors to choose from and different performances you won’t be bored! It was really nice going from one floor to the next and meeting people along the way. A tropical party wonderland!
Day 18: Koh Phangan – Koh Tao
At 11 am we left the Island by boat to Koh Tao. This is definitely my favorite island in Thailand.
Tip: Book your hotel in advance, it’s a very small island. We searched for a place to sleep for over 2 hours.
We stayed at Asia Resort, the worst hotel during my entire trip.
Day 19 & 20: Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a great island to go scuba diving. So we spent our last two days diving and relaxing on the beach.
The last day I also got a bamboo tattoo, a very nice experience.
Day 21: Koh Tao – Bangkok
From Koh Tao we went back to Bangkok by boat and bus. In the evening we went back to my favorite street, Khaosan Road and celebrated our last evening.