Travel Tips to Thailand (formerly known as Siam) and officially as the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia, spanning 513,120 square kilometers (198,120 sq mi), with a population of almost 70 million people. Thailand is the most travelled country in Asia (hotspot) by westerners (especially backpackers), or rather by worldwide because of it’s cheap food, accommodation, transport and a heaven for men. It’s known for opulent royal palaces, ancient ruins, ornate temples displaying figures of Buddha and beautiful islands with tropical beaches. The capital, Bangkok is an ultramodern city rises beside the quiet canal side communities and the iconic temples like Wat Arun, Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. Nearby beach resorts include bustling Pattaya and fashionable Hua Hin. Thailand have a lot to offer, shall we begin from Bangkok
Bangkok also serves as a hub to whole Thailand. From here, you can hop a short flight to their exotic islands like Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and other popular destinations. You can also board a bus or hop on a train for a small fraction of money, and visit national treasures such as Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and many other places all over the country. Looking for flight or transport here, check out here or here for flights, transport and hotels
The Grand Palace which was built in 1782 was also the home of Wat Phra Kaeo, which houses the Jade (or Emerald) Buddha and the royal residence for generations and still used for important ceremonies for heads of states.
Beside that Bangkok have several Wat, the more well known includes
Wat Arun – (Temple of the Dawn) was built by General Taksin, date back to the time of ancient battles between the former Siam and Burma.
Wat Pho – also known as Temple of Reclining Buddha with statue of 45 meters long and 15 meters high in gold color is the oldest Wat in Bangkok.
Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha as the name imply is a 3.5-meter Buddha cast from 5.5 tons of solid gold. All attempts to trace the origin of this priceless was futile but it was believe it was assumed to date from the Sukhothai period.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Buddhist temples. Three kings had involved in its construction, starting from the coronation of Rama I (founder of the Chakri dynasty) in 1782, continued by Rama II, and completed 10 years later by Rama III.
Apart from Wat, there are many other attractions like Damnoen Saduak Floating Market which is located at Ratchaburi (about 100km /1.5 hour from Bangkok) where you can experience shopping by boat that have items ranging from food, fruits, veggies etc. You can join the Floating Markets tour which include pickup from your hotel.
Maeklong Train Market
Maeklong Train Market is about 80km from Bangkok in the province of Samut Songkhram has been around since 1905 where the rail track runs through the market. Fishing has been one of the main livelihoods of the people who live here, and the market is a way for them to sell their goods. The train would sound loudly from far before passing at an average speed on the track is 30kmph (19mph) and the vendors collectively move their belongings and umbrellas away from the tracks as the train moves forward, honking on its horn every now and then to warn people of its approach. This is why the market is also known as the “umbrella pulldown market”.
For those history freak, about 120km (2 hours journey) west of Bangkok is the Kanchanaburi Bridge, also known to many as “The Bridge over the River Kwai,” ( a movie acted in 1957) where during WWII, Japanese army using prisoners of war to build this Thai railway link to Burma. More than 12,000 Allied prisoners (mostly British, Dutch, and Australian citizens) sacrifice their life died during the one year when the bridge was under construction – and reconstruction, as the bridge was bombed and damaged more than once – thus the name being known as the “Death Railway.” About 130 kilometers of the original 415-kilometer railway route are still in use today, a grave remembrance of the horrific events that took place here. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery located near the bridge was the final resting place for the Allied prisoner and there are also 2 museum namely the Hellfire Pass Museum and the JEATH War Museum both offer stories on the sad history of the railway and the effect of the war in Thailand.
An hour journey north (80km) of Bangkok is the ancient kingdom of Ayutthaya where you can explore vision of Buddhist temples, monasteries and ancient statues of monumental dimensions. Dating back to 1350, the city has experienced a turbulent history, rich in episodes of glory and strife. Several Wat you can pay a visit here are Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phu Khao Thong, Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet just to name a few. Ayutthaya’s floating market is a smaller, more concentrated version of the real thing. You can board a boat for a tour of the diminutive lake, with stops to shop for souvenirs and take photography of Thai vendors in straw hats selling their wares from canoes and long-tail boats. At Khao Yai National Park which is about 100km from Ayutthaya you get a chance to see elephants in their natural environment as well as other animals, exotic birds, plus many waterfalls like the 150 meter tall Haew Narok and Haew Suwat. Looking for flight or transport here, check out here or here for flights, transport and hotels
Street Food and Shopping
You have to try Bangkok Street Food Stalls on Khao San Road with varieties ranging from grilled meats, spicy noodles, fresh fruit, mango sticky rice, curries include exotic insects like fried scorpions, grasshopper, crickets, water bugs, bamboo worms, silk worms etc. No wonder Khao San Road is a backpacker district, jam-packed with guesthouses, clothing stalls where you would meet travelers from all over the world.
For those who like shopping, mall like Terminal 21 is a unique one as every floor has themed to a different city like Tokyo on 1 level, another level Paris, then next London with the red phone booth, Istanbul, San Francisco and more include the high-end Siam Discovery, which have the high and adjacent Siam Paragon, which has more moderately priced chains, fun cafés, and the super luxurious Virgin Active Siam Discovery.
If you tired of walking or lazy to walk, you can always take a Chao Phraya River cruise to discover some of city’s most stunning temples and monuments from the river by day or an evening dinner cruise to see the beautiful light up city along the river. At day time head to Sathorn Pier where many ferries and express boat that you can jump in to sail along major tourist attractions
Chiang Mai Attractions
Chiang Mai is 700 km north of Bangkok, about 10 hours car journey, so its better to fly here instead, just an hour flight or book a night bus. Thailand’s second biggest city, the smaller, more relaxed answer to the madness. It was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, but now is a major draw for backpackers and travelers of all kinds, including retiring expats Chiang Mai have some beautiful temples, museums, unique sites and many more like the tallest mountain (Doi Inthanon 2,565 m /8,415 ft)) is also nearby and a few tribal village including the Long Neck Tribe
Check out the best attractions in Chiang Mai below to make sure that you don’t miss the most important sites and experiences in this northern part of Thailand.
Doi Suthep – a mountain which Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located with commanding views from the summit where one of the most historical and spiritual place in Thailand dating back 700 years. A large numbers of visitors, both Thais and foreigner come here to experience the special magic of this holy temple. You can also take a stroll at the Chiang Mai Old City where some old Wat are located like Wat Chedi Luang ( built sometime between 1385 and 1402), Wat Phra Singh and Wat Phan Tao ( a beautiful wooden temple ).
Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon is an old limestone quarry located about 40 minutes south of the city, now a popular swimming and diving spot. The canyon is no longer Chiang Mai’s best kept secret and there is now a 50 Baht entrance fee. You can rent a motorbike to go as there aren’t any public transport to that area.
Muay Thai boxing fight at the stadium here is another entertainment you can see live instead of always on TV screen. Muay Thai fights are a big part of local culture, and can add an excitement to your stay in Chiang Mai. Entrance to the fights is usually between 200 and 400 THB.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the biggest attraction here with trading caravans that would stop here and people come to this area primarily to shop and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Other entertainment includes a varieties selection of bars featuring live performances of cabaret, boxing, and singing. Of course there are few temples scattered around the area, including Wat Sri Dornchai, Wat Ubokut and Wat Chang Kong. Another place you should missed is the Art in Paradise Museum, one of the most fun places in the city to take photographs of you and friends, with more than 130 different images of illusions – paintings drawn to create a 3D image which depict people to seem as if they are really in the picture. It is one of the biggest 3D museums in the world spread out over floors.
Wat Rong Khun – (White Temple) situated 180km north of Chiang Mai, at Chiang Rai province, is this privately owned majestic temple that was built and opened to visitor in 1997, is one of the most recognizable temples in Thailand. The uniqueness of this temple is its stands out totally white color and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster, sparkling in the sun. The white color signifies the purity of the Buddha, while the glass represents the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings. This temple can be reach by taxi (300 Baht) or bus (20 Baht) from Chiang Rai town.
Visit the Tribes around Chiang Mai
There are about 6 tribes living here near Chiang Mai between 20 to over 200 km distance with Hmong, the nearest, then Karen Long Neck, Lahu, Lisu and Akha being the furthest. Hmong is probably originated from Tibet, arrived in Thailand around the end of the 1800s, this tribe is most visited by tourist because its nearest to Chiang Mai,
The Karen Long Neck are the most famous of the hill tribes, because of their elongated long neck as a result of wearing heavy brass rings. They originated in Tibet, migrated to Myanmar for centuries, and then move into Thailand in the 18th century. The tribeswomen are master for being expert weavers and wood-carvers while the men are good at farming practices.
The Lahu hill tribe are excellent hunters originated from the Tibetan and settle at here, probably in the late-1800s. There are now around 60,000 of them around Chiangrai and Chiangmai provinces.
The Lisu hill tribe originated in southwest China, are now reside at Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Lampang and Chiang Rai. Lisu villages can generally be found close to water as the Lisu believe that water has a special power (beyond simple hydration and cleaning).
The Palong hill tribe emigrate from the Shan State and Southern Kachin State of Myanmar in 1980’s. The Palong tribe are divided into three groups with differing cultures and languages. There are around 2,000 in Thailand. The Akha hill tribes spread from Yunnan, China, establishing villages in Mae Salong (now Santikhiri) area of Chiangrai province.
Akha society is heavily gender-segregated, with men and women living in separate huts on opposite sides of the village. The Akha are expert farmers and skilled hunters, known to sometimes hunt endangered animals.
Island and Beaches Getaway
There are many beautiful islands and beaches in Thailand, some are rated top ten in the world
Koh Phi Phi islands are top of the list among most popular resort because of the crystal clear blue waters, breathtaking beach views with the soft sands. You tend to encounter plenty of macaques at the Monkey Beach, be careful as they would come and grab your food. Alternatively you can rent a kayak and paddle to the largest island Phi Phi Don or hire a small boat to send you there. For the best sunset view here, head to Long Beach where you can walk to main island when its low tide period.
Ko Khao Phing Kan is an island in Phang Nga Bay northeast of Phuket. About 40 metres from the shores of Khao Phing Kan lies a 20-metre tall islet called Ko Ta Pu or Ko Tapu. The islands are limestone karst towers and are a part of Ao Phang Nga National Park. 1974 James Bond movie Man with Golden Gun was shoot here, thus got its name as James Bond island.
Koh Samui – this 2nd largest island offers something for everyone, whether you like to parties or water sport activities or quiet peaceful beach with some of the most beautiful coastline, is all here. You get plenty of attractions, best shopping and dining at their busiest beach Chaweng. Needless to say the blue turquoise waters, palm trees and ocean breeze draws the crowds and the best resort here. Budget backpackers can find affordable accommodation at Maenam Beach. For those searching for traditional Thai touches be sure to check out Bophut Beach. Another beach need mentioning is Silver Beach that is hidden behind forested hills that is excellent for snorkeling.
Koh Phangan, Haad Rin – situated just after Koh Samui, here is another picturesque beach with white sand and blue water island surrounded by coconut trees. Many activities you can enjoy here like kayaking, jet skiing, swimming, beach volleyball and more. If you enjoy full moon parties be here on the day, otherwise avoid the crowded season
Railay Beach, Krabi – a paradise island with one of the most stunning beach, top on the list with white sand and turquoise-blue water. The island is reachable from Krabi town by boat. Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and ocean rafting are the main activities here. Rock climbing is another hot activities here because of the karsts peak here that draws adventurers climber to take on the towering cliffs.
Nai Harn Beach, Phuket – another island known for crystal clear water, white sands, usually crowded with visitors from worldwide all year round. Local food vendors and restaurants flourish at the beach makes it convenient to stay full day at the beach.
Ko Samet – located some 200 km south of Bangkok, this island is in a protected area where this underdeveloped beaches with tight control on pollution makes it a haven. Of the 16 beaches here, 15 are accessible for public except 1 private. Water sports are abundant here while relaxing on the beach and sunbathing are favorite pastime. Haad Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach) which stretch 1 km is the happening spot on the island where you find jet skis, live music and plenty of boats
Koh Chang – with stunning rain forests and waterfalls, it is the nearest to Koh Kood island that service by high speed ferries between both the island. White Sand Beach is the happening place here where you get lots of food, rent a boat or get on a motor taxi to go around several beaches.
Koh Kood – is 380 km south of Bangkok near Cambodia border, a least known island to international tourist with little development, best for those who want to escape crowded beaches. Bang Bao Beach and Klong Hin Beach offer cheaper accommodations but equally impressive sweeps of sand, and stunning views over the azure waters of the bay.
Koh Larn – just off 7 km from Pattaya is this tiny island of just 4 km long by 2 km wide surrounded by blue water and soft white sands with 2 beaches offering accommodations
Pattaya Beach– located just an hour south of Bangkok, it is easily recognize by the hillside temple that sits above the sands, once a sleepy fishing village, now have turn into bustling shopping and resorts where you can do water sports like parasailing and jet skis. March to May are the best time here due to fewer tourist and fine weather.
Hua Hin – a 4 km long beach at 180km south of Bangkok, a sleepy town before, have transformed to become a major tourist attraction with European tourist flocking in to escape cold winter which directly flourish the economy here with plenty activities and great cuisine.
UPDATE: All travelers, Thai, and foreigners, will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine regardless of nationality or vaccination status, except for those arriving under the Phuket and Samui Sandbox programs.
All travelers both Thai nationals and foreign nationals arriving in Bangkok are required to undergo a mandatory quarantine of 14 days at any of the accredited Alternative State Quarantine or ASQ Hotels accredited by the Ministry of Health.
Thailand COVID Insurance for Foreigners
Aside from the mandatory state quarantine, all foreigners traveling to Thailand must provide a travel insurance policy before departing to Thailand. The COVID travel insurance certificate must be submitted to the Thai embassy when applying for the visa and COE Certificate of Entry and needs to state explicitly that the health insurance is for 100,000 USD or more and COVID-19 is covered. The insurance policy must cover the duration of your stay in Thailand. If your insurance does not meet these requirements, you will not be allowed to travel to Thailand.
Foreigners can get a Thailand travel insurance policy covering COVID-19 easily and conveniently. Visitors can buy the travel insurance online with a credit card and the insurance policy and COVID-19 certificate will be sent to you instantly.
Purchase your COVID Travel Insurance for foreigners HERE.