My husband Mike and I recently went on a trip to Thailand for two weeks. Mike made this awesome highlight reel (above! ^) of our trip. The video makes it seem like I was there by myself because he filmed most of it and decided to edit himself out completely, ugh. Below is a short compilation of where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate. When I was planning this trip, I wished there was a blog out there with exactly two weeks in Thailand planned out with everything I wanted to do, needless to say I didn't find it, but hopefully this helps one of you out there who is planning a visit one day.
My vision for the trip:
Hop around from place to place for the first week and see as much of Thailand as possible.
Spend the second week at a fancy resort and just chill/beach, sleep, eat, repeat.
And of course, check out the yoga + wellness scene!
Travel Books + Blogs I followed:
Lonely Planet's Thailand Travel Guide, I buy a Lonely Planet book for all my travels. It's my most trusted guide! I keep them as a little memento of the places I've been.
NY Times 36 Hours in Bangkok, a yoga client told me to Google "New York Times 36 Hours in Bangkok" for travel recommendations. I'm totally going to do that for every city I visit now.
Design Sponge Chiang Mai City Guide , Design Sponge is an awesome design blog so I knew they'd have some fun hipster-y stuff to do in there.
The Travallure, I met the beautiful babe behind this blog, Amanda, while studying abroad in London in 2011. She recently lived in Thailand for a couple years.
Nomadic Matt, stumbled upon this blog. I like that it has a lot of practical advice and includes price points.
We bought rounds trip flights from Chicago to Bangkok. My go-to search engines for flights are Google Flights, Hipmunk and the app, Hopper. Our tickets cost about $800 each. There were some for around $600 each but there were more than 1 stop involved and the layovers were really long. I decided the extra $200 was worth it to get to there and back in the shortest amount of time. We flew Korean Air from Chicago (ORD) to Seoul (ICN) to Bangkok (BKK) and took the reverse back, obvi. Highly recommend Korean Air, they served soo much food + red wine and gave out plane slippers. Who doesn't love plane slippers??
In the interest of time, we flew to all our other destinations: Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket. We booked all our flights the day before we wanted to leave. They varied in cost, anywhere from $36-$200. To me, this was worth it because if I liked a city a lot, we had the option of staying in it a little longer, on the other hand, if we got through everything we wanted to do quickly, we could book an earlier flight.
Day 1 - 3: Bangkok
WHERE WE STAYED:
The beautiful, AriyasomVilla.
Everyone I know who’s visited Bangkok told me that it’s an amazing place, but like all major cities, it’s busy, loud and always on. So when I read that this hotel was in the heart of Bangkok, but quiet, zen and had an authentic Thai feeling, I knew this was the place the be. Upon arrival, the staff gave us a free room upgrade and a bottle of champagne! Breakfast was included and the food was extremely fresh and flavorful. Staying there was an absolute joy, I highly recommend this hotel!
WHAT WE DID:
Chatuchak Market aka “JJ Market” - The largest market in Thailand.
This was one of my favorite experiences, I’ve never seen so much stuff in one place! You could easily spend all day here and buy all the things.
We loved this place so much we went twice. I had the best Thai massage of my entire trip here. Mike preferred the foot massages, which if you ask me is totally underrated when people talk about Thailand. They go on and on about Thai massages -- but the foot massages are phenomenal! Especially if you don't like people touching you all over. Thai massages are intense and can definitely be hit or miss.
Khao San Road
The "Wrigleyville of Bangkok," in my opinion. You can go out anywhere on Khao San Road, there’s so much going on and it's the wildest bar street I've ever seen. We sat down at some tables, technically not even a bar, right outside of Brick Bar. People were drinking mystery alcohol out of sand buckets. We stuck to Chang.
The Red Light District/Go-go bars etc. This is not something I would necessarily recommend, but after a few drinks my curiosity got the best of me and next thing I know I'm in bars called "The Pink Panther" and "Super Pussy." Most people probably know this already, but it’s actually more depressing than fun to be here, but some of it is really circusy and crazy to see. This article sums up the experience pretty well.
Very chic rooftop bar. We got one drink, enjoyed the view and took selfies. It was an expensive cocktail, but you're paying for the Instagrams.
We took a boat ride from Sathon Central Pier to the Old City to see these famous temples:
Wat Phra Kaew + Grand Palace
Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)
Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha)
WHERE WE ATE:
If you go anywhere to eat in Bangkok, this is the place. It’s not in any blog or travel guide I’ve read. It was recommended to us by my cousin’s friend from Bangkok, Um (yes, Um is his name!). It was the best pad thai I’ve had in my entire life, and I eat A LOT of pad thai. Here's the restaurant name in Thai in case you need it! ผัดไทประตูผี
Street Food, always.
We ate food off street stalls everyday. We were told it's best to eat street food in areas that are busy because food gets turned over a lot faster so we stuck to that rule and neither of us got sick so that's good! A lot of people I know said they got stomachaches from street food, but we were fine.
Or Kor Tor Market
Right by JJ Market. This is a fresh food market with lots of options. In the back area by the parking lot, there's a really good and cheap Thai restaurant we ate at, it doesn't have a sign, but maybe you'll see it!
This is the fanciest dining experience we had, unfortunately the food was underwhelming. We found it to be overly salted and the flavors didn't really come through. But if you're in the mood for a sit down dinner this place is poppin and lots of people were there. We wanted to go to Gaggan, but it was fully booked for months.
Not the prettiest spot but very, very good Indian food in Chinatown.
Um took us to this restaurant (at 2 o'clock in the morning!) which felt very cool, local and authentic. I recommend getting any of the fish ball soups! And Thai Iced tea!
DAY 3 - 5: Chiang Mai
WHERE WE STAYED:
This boutique guesthouse was super cute! It's one of those places that looks really great in photographs, but in real life you notice the little oddities and inconveniences. However, none of the little things (like a slow AC unit + weird bathtubs) are bad at all. The staff was so friendly and the cocktails were really good too! The location is also convenient. Above is a photo of the actual room we stayed in.
WHAT WE DID:
One thing I will say about Chiang Mai is that everything was further away than any guidebook or blog led on. We took a cab pretty much everywhere and most major sights like temples and national parks were at least an hour away by car. There were some attractions within the city walls by our hotel, but most required a drive.
This place was very popular and had high ratings, but I didn't like the group massage setting. Everyone is getting a thai massage in a big open room and the ladies who work there are chatting with one another. It wasn't the most relaxing atmosphere.
Mike and I both got herbal balm foot massages here, so great!
Doi Suthep National Park
San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
Random Waterfalls along the road leading up to Doi Suthep
This was by far one of my favorite experiences in Thailand. It was such a great way to meet people from all over the world. Mike and I were the only Americans in our class and everyone else was from a different country, not one of them being the same. Our instructor was also really fun and engaging. She did an amazing job teaching us how to cook a variety of dishes.
It was fun to explore this market at night, it definitely has a different vibe when it's dark. Mike and I bought most of our souvenirs here.
Another great market to check out. This one had a lot of produce and meat for sale. We went here during our cooking class to shop for ingredients.
HQ Paper Maker
For some reason I wanted to go to this paper store I read about in my Lonely Planet book. It was cute, small and nothing special, but I liked it! I bought a bookmark and some blank stationary and envelopes.
Save the Elephants:
There's some shady businesses out there who claim to be saving elephants like Elephant Nature Park does, but it's rumored that some of them are only pretending to in order to attract tourists. So do your research! Or just go to this one.
WHERE WE ATE:
This is more like "what we ate." Kow Soy is a curry soup dish that is really popular in Northern Thailand. I'm not a fan of curry, but Mike enjoyed it a lot and wished he had more.
I wanted to check out this vegetarian restaurant because it's called AUM and that's the proper way to spell "Om." That's really the only reason I wanted to go, luckily the food was proper as well!
A nightly food market. Mike and I were overwhelmed by all the food choices here. Everything looked so good!
We went here for breakfast on our last day in Chiang Mai. This was a very westernized restaurant. It felt like I was in a hipster cafe in Logan Square. After 6 days of eating Thai food, we welcomed their good ol' American style brunch.
DAY 5 - 7: Koh Samui
WHERE WE STAYED:
My birthday happened to be during our trip and Mike said we could do whatever I wanted so I obviously decided to fit in a mini yoga retreat in the middle of our trip. We bought tickets to Koh Samui because I heard it's the ultimate wellness destination and we booked 2 nights at Absolute Sanctuary. We didn't end up booking our hotel until we landed at Koh Samui's airport because I couldn't decide where to stay until last minute! Thankfully, this place was a gem. One thing we didn't find out until we got there was that Absolute didn't serve alcohol because it's a detox center. (Boooo!) But we had green juices and healthy smoothies galore!
WHAT WE DID:
Pilates Reformer Class
I made Mike do a Pilates Reformer class with me. They had old school machines which was fun! The instructor also had great cues and amazing form.
Absolute is up in the mountains, about a 20 minute walk from any major beach. If you walk along the roads near Absolute, there are a few secret passageways that lead to smaller, unnamed beaches. These beaches are rocky and good for photographs and morning runs vs. swimming and lounging around. It was really fun to explore these seemingly uncharted lands :)
Their pool has an amazing view. Mike and I spent most of our time swimming in the rain drinking mocktails.
Absolute had a shuttle service to the Sala Hotel which has more of a standard "beach front hotel." We spent some beach time there and had some real cocktails.
This was my favorite market of the entire trip. It had all the same cheap and interesting stuff, but a really fun, chill beach vibe. There was also a lot of space which made it more enjoyable.
WHERE WE ATE:
We ate most of our food at our hotel because it was pretty secluded. The food was very tasty and it was all fresh and organic.
There was plenty of street food at Fisherman's Village. I had some of the best spring rolls there.
Mike and I happened to walk by a Korean Restaurant called Dawn. It looked crowded and we were hungry so we tried it. It ended up being amazing! One of our best meals.
DAY 7 - 14: phuket
WHERE WE STAYED:
Our time in Phuket was essentially our second honeymoon. For our wedding present, our Aunt and Uncle let us use their international timeshare at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. Mike and I felt like Queens as this resort. (I'm assuming Mike felt like a queen too.) This place was magical. It was everything I wanted my last week in Thailand to be and more. It was secluded, private and had one of the most stunning beaches I have ever seen.
WHAT WE DID:
Beach. Pool. Read. Nap.
We spent our days lounging by the beach and the pool drinking cocktails and reading. I finished the book A Man Called Ov and loved it. If I was reading alone in my room I would have cried. It's an easy read and a moving story.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
This yearly October festival happened to be going on while we were there. After Googling images and freaking out a bit, we realized we HAD to go. We witnessed some of the most insane looking things I've ever seen. Definitely check it out if you're there this time of the year.
WHERE WE ATE:
The downside at staying at a fancy chic resort is fancy chic prices. The food was expensive and average at best. But since we had spent a week being adventurous and trying new foods, settling for westernized Thai food and straight up American food like burgers and pizza was an ok trade-off for the beautiful atmosphere. The JW had an array of different restaurants with all different types of food. Nearby was a shopping mall called "Turtle Mart" with other restaurant options, like an Irish pub and a fast food chain called Thai Express. There was also a little grocery store where we bought snacks and breakfast food like eggs and oatmeal to save a little money and not pay hotel prices for every meal. This is a life hack I learned from my parents while traveling. Thank you, Filipino parents!
I realize this isn't a typical travel review or blog post. I wanted to list out everything I did and explain the reasoning behind the choices I made. When it comes to travel, there is a lot of decision making involved that can be overwhelming. I hope it helps make planning a trip to Thailand a little bit easier for you! Please message me or email me with any questions. I love hearing from you!