Thailand is a travel hub, and the home to most of the backpacker’s activity in the entire Southeast Asia. From lush jungles, to white beaches, to crazy city markets – you can find it all here. In fact, the country has so much to offer, that it is literally impossible to summarize its diversity. Its capital, Bangkok, is a perfect metropolis with gilded temples and night market. The north offers you hill tribes ruling the mountainous jungles, and the south, on the contrary, is all about postcard perfect beaches and crazy moonlight parties. Wherever you’re in Thailand, there’s the cheap street food – something so awesome in its standard that no other country in the world can beat it. Your most lasting impression, however, will be the friendliness of the locals – who can always be found sharing smiles, and giving directions to the tourists, with all the little English they understand.
When it comes to backpacking through Thailand, it is super easy. In fact so easy that you actually feel that everything here has been planned, and moreover designed to function, keeping a traveller’s ease in mind. Here you can find super cheap hostels, for less than $2 a night, and then seemingly right next door you can find a luxurious property charging you a whopping $10,000 each night. Such range of options are nonetheless more than important, after all the country gets millions of tourists every month – all of different taste – to cater.
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY
Explore Bangkok: Bangkok is designed to suit backpackers and solo budget travellers. Cheap, fascinating and colourful, this city offers many experiences. You can spend a month here living different experience, seeing new places, every day. Explore temples, night markets, one of the craziest nightlife scenes, and of course, the mazing Thai food. What makes Bangkok more convenient to explore is its amazing city bus service and BTS line which pretty much takes you to every corner around the city in almost no price.
Night scene on Pattaya Walking Street: The Walking Street in Pattaya is one of the biggest, and the most intense party hotspot in the entire Thailand. Spread over a stretch of one kilometre, every building along the length there is a nightclub, a go-go bar, or a beer bar, with free Thai Kick boxing live shows. What’s remarkable about Pattaya Walking Street is that you could spend many consecutive nights, walking down here, and other than from having a common mother of all hangovers, you won’t be finding same places every evening.
Visit The Golden Triangle: Not for the opium, but to see Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos, all in one sight, bordering the same river. Google Images of The Golden Triangle, and you’d know what I’m talking about.
Visit a floating market: One of the most amazing and not-to-be-missed cultural experiences in Thailand is visiting a floating market. Here you will find rickety boats selling different variety of food and goods. An ideal place for photographers, some of the popular floating markets are Amphawa floating market, Damnoen Saduak floating market, and Taling Chan floating market – all under a 100 km distance from Bangkok.
Experience the amazing Maeklong railway market: Ever heard of a daily food market running on a railway track? Perhaps not. The food market on Maeklong railway track is the only such market in the world, and is definitely a no miss if you’re in Thailand, or particularly around Bangkok, for a few days. It’s located at only a 2 hours drive from Bangkok’s Victory Monument and has a frequent minivan service.
Live on street food: Thailand is all about street food. Forget McDonals, forget KFC, as street food in Thailand is much better, contrasting, fairly hygienic, and far cheaper. Night markets are always an ideal place to explore the best of street foods in the country.
Driving a motorbike in Northern Thailand: With lush green mountains surrounding a smooth hilly road, riding a motorbike in Northern Thailand is a great experience. One of the most popular trail is from Chiang Mai to Pai.
Relax in Pai: Pai is a small, secluded town, located on a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai. If you’re looking to escape the craziness of cities and want to lose yourself in the peaceful mountains, this town can just be your thing. The night food market in Pie is moreover by far my best in the entire Thailand.
Check out a hill tribe: There are several colourful ethnic minorities, known as the tribes, living in the northern hills of Thailand. There are a total of 7 broad hill tribe grouping among which the popular ones are Akha, Lisu and Karen tribes. Though you might need to trek a little to get through a small village and meet the locals.
A day trip to Ayutthaya: Around two hour drive from Bangkok lies the cultural and historical city of Aytthaya. Destroyed by Burmese in 18th century, Ayutthaya is all about ruins and ancient temples. One of the major tourist attraction around here is Buddha head in tree roots – the only thing that’s remained of Buddha’s real existence.
Watch Thai Kick Boxing: Known as Muay Thai, Thai Kick boxing, is, by far, the most Thai sport you can experience. To have a real Muay Thai experience book a ticket in the Bangkok’s Rajadamnern Stadium.
Adventure activities around Chiang Mai: Make Chiang Mai your basecamp to explore many adventure activities, jungle treks, and day tours outside the town. Some of the most popualar activities include, Chiang Mai night safari, Mae Sa Elephant camp, climbing the highest peak in Doi Thanon natonal park, and visiting the long-neck tribes.
Relax on the tropical islands in South: The southern part of Thailand is all about tropical islands. And they are among the most travelled places in Thailand. The white sand beaches, the parties, the bungalow retreats – you will find it all here. Ko Lipe, Ko Samet, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Samui are some of the most popular beaches, among others. But please note that staying in an island can be comparatively a little more expensive than the other parts of Thailand.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
Visit this country anytime of the year and you’d find it flooded with tourists, particularly Europeans. But if you’re too particular about the weather and hate sweating at any cost, it is advised to come here between October and March. August and September also make a fairly good time to travel, but frequent rains, predominantly in the north of Thailand might make things tough at times.
COST OF TRAVELLING
Food: Thailand is one of those countries where street food dominates the market. And that’s where you should be eating when you’re here. You can have the regular (but of a good taste) meat+rice or meat+noodles at any roadside stall, throughout the country, for as little as 30 to 50 Baht. Sit down restaurants start at 50 Baht, while a western meal can cost you around 100 Baht. Roadside snacks, which include things like Pork sausages and pieces of BBQ chicken can be availed at 10 Baht.
Accommodation: I was literally amazed to see how cheap the accommodation can be in this country. Expect to get a really nice (often king size), clean bed in an air-con dormitory for somewhere between 100 to 200 Baht – price fluctuates depending upon whether you’re in a city or the countryside. Private rooms start from 200 Baht per person, which are generally shared by two. This means if you’re the only person renting the entire room, you might have to pay for two people – meaning 400 Baht.
On the islands expect to pay around 500 Baht per night – for private rooms and basic bungalows alike. Hotels start at 1,200 Baht per night and can go sky high. 18 Coins Hotel (Pattaya), The Overstay (Bangkok), Mapping Hostel (Chiang Mai) and Kanravee Guesthouse (Pai), Phuket Backpacker (Phuket) are some of the nice, and tried and tested properties around the country.
- For a meter taxi: Nearly 6 Baht per kilometre, with a minimum of 35 Baht as base fare.
- Tuktuk: Somewhere between 60 to 200 Baht depending upon the distance.
- Bike taxi: Around 8 to 10 Baht a kilometer. Bike taxi is an ideal option for solo travellers and for short and quick trips inside a city.
- Public buses (only applicable in Bangkok): 7 Baht for Non/AC buses and 12 Baht for AC buses, per ride.
- BTS and Skytrain (only applicable in Bangkok): Between 20 to 50 Baht per trip.
- Scooter rentals: Start from 100-150 Baht for a 100 cc scooter.
- Minivans: Charge just a little over 1 Baht per kilometre.
- For overnight and day journeys you have among the three options – trains, buses and minivans – to choose from. Buses are the most convenient option, and charge around 400 to 800 Baht for a 700 km journey. A minivan would cost around 700 Baht. And a train between 500 to 1200 Baht.
FEW OTHER TIPS
- Do not forget to bargain with tuktuk and bike taxi drivers before you take a ride. the first price you’re quoted should come down by at least a third – same thing applies while shopping at local and open markets.
- Sex industry is uncontrolled and ubiquitous in Thailand, despite being illegal. Potential trouble from the police, as well as numerous ethical issues are often involved, not to mention various issues of health and safety. So keep your wits about you.
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