The last country in our 3 week adventure from Ho Chi Minh City, across Cambodia, to Bangkok, Thailand was vibrant and wild and delicious. Jump around the post by clicking anything in the list below, or just scroll on for a full account of our week in Thailand!
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Getting Around Thailand
- Things to Eat and Drink in Thailand
- Know Before You Go
Khao San Road: You’ve got to make at least one trip to this crazy street. Touristy? Yes. Wild? Double yes.
Explore the Palaces and Temples: Between the Grand Palace and innumerable temples, there’s a lot to see in Bangkok. Spend a day exploring the sites!
Note the tuk-tuk scam: Drivers may offer you an ultra good deal on a tuk-tuk drive, then tell you they just need to make one stop. The one stop will be a company (store, tour, you name it) that has paid them to bring in tourists. You won’t end up getting where you actually need to go and you’ll waste your time.
Monkey around at Lop Buri: A 2 hour drive or 3 hour train ride away, Lop Buri is a town like any other, except that it’s overrun by monkeys. Visit the monkey temple in the center of town to see hundreds of wild monkeys, but be careful not to wear bright colors or bring food anywhere near them (see picture below of thief monkey drinking our iced coffee).
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant Retirement Park: Between the tourist and the labor industries, elephants don’t usually have it so well in Thailand. The Elephant Retirement Park changes that. Rather than forcing elephants to carry tourists around the jungle, at the ERP you get to really interact with the elephants, and the elephants get to live fat and happy lives. The half day tour is perfect for getting the chance to feed the elephants, jump in the mud bath with them, and just hang out. And at about a third the price of most elephant tours, I’d highly recommend this one!
Asian Scenic Thai Cooking School: Spend the day learning to cook 7 different Thai dishes! Pick what you’d like to learn from a menu, then learn, cook, and eat delicious homemade Thai food. This was one of the best things I did on the trip!
Night Market: There are a few different night markets in Chiang Mai. There are the infamous Saturday and Sunday Night Markets, then the everyday night bazaar. Whichever you attend, just be sure to barter hard. If the vendor ain’t angry, you haven’t bartered hard enough!
Shop at Warorot Market: Daytime shop at this massive food/clothing/everything market.
Grand Canyon: About 30 min out of town, this manmade (I think) canyon is gorgeous, and nice for cooling off for a few hours.
Have a spa day: Massages and mani-pedis are so affordable here, and they’ll give you the energy you need to keep on traveling!
Tourist Information Travel Services (TITS): This is a government sponsored tourist agency. I’m not usually the type to book tours, but in Chiang Mai, so many of the things you’ll want to do will be through tours, and you can book them easily and cheaply here. The staff is really personable, having done many of the tours themselves to share their experiences with you.
Getting Around Thailand
Trains: If you’re traveling far, trains are a good bet. You’ll spend about $30 for a 13 hour overnight train to Chiang Mai. With comfortable beds and air conditioning, you’ll save on hotel costs and time otherwise spent flying or driving during the day. Two birds with one stone!
Motorbikes: Regardless of how cheap, if you’ve never driven a motorcycle or scooter before, don’t do it for the first time on the crazy, left-sided roads of Thailand.
Taxis by the meter, tuk-tuks are negotiated: In some countries you can negotiate the cost of a taxi before you take off, but not here! In Thailand, always make sure the meter is running. In contrast, you’ll want to negotiate the price of a tuk-tuk before you take off.
Yellow license plates: If you’re looking for a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, go for the ones with yellow license plates! These are government sponsored, so they’re a bit cheaper and vouched for.
BTS Skytrain: If you need to cover some ground in Bangkok, take the skytrain. It’s affordable, ultra clean, and has a pretty great view.
Things to Eat and Drink in Thailand
Red and Green Thai Curry: If you like these curries in America or from home, you’ll love them here. The pastes to make these are nearly identical, but for the difference in color of chilies.
Sweet Sticky Rice with Mangoes (Khaw Neaw Ma Maung): Sticky rice mixed with coconut cream and palm sugar, topped with juicy mango. So much yes.
Papaya Salad (Som Tum): A simple combo of shredded papaya, tomato,chili, and beans, this refreshing salad is a nice contrast to many of the hot soups you’ll be eating here.
Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Kha Kai): I didn’t expect to love this one as much as I did. It’s a coconut milk-based soup with lemongrass, galangal, chilies, mushrooms, kaffir lime, and your protein of choice.
Stir Fried Hot Basil (Pad Kra Proaw): One of the most popular stir fries amongst the Thai, this is a tasty stir fry involving a special kind of basil…hot basil!
Allergies? Thai food, though I love it, does not love me. With fish and peanut allergies, it can be hard for me to navigate Thai menus. If you also have allergies, be sure to ask if your meal includes any of these devious additions:
- Chili Sauce: Usually served as a dipping sauce for rolls, this is a spicy jam-like sauce that’s laced with peanuts.
- Oyster Sauce: Common in many stir fries and curries. If possible, ask them to substitute it with mushroom sauce.
- Fish Sauce: Also common in many stir fries and curries. Ask if they can substitute it with soy sauce.
- Pad Thai: Did you know the only peanut-laden part of Pad Thai is the peanuts they throw on at the end? Get it without the sprinkling of ground peanuts and you’ll be good to go.
- Panang Curry: This is simply red curry paste mixed with ground peanuts, no go!
7-Eleven: There may be more 7-Elevens in Thailand than in America. Great and cheap for picking up snacks!
Woo Cafe in Chiang Mai: Great Thai and western food, affordable, and super cute interior design.
Don’t let food poisoning ruin your trip! While ice is usually produced in factories and is clean in Thailand, tap water and anything that may have been washed in tap water should be avoided (lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, etc.) Read up on this post to keep your belly happy and healthy.
Know Before You Go
- Most temples will require you to have knees and shoulders covered to get in. Try to always carry a sarong along with you for impromptu temple trips!
- Bring toilet paper. Most toilets are equipped with a handheld bidet of sorts (which I would highly recommend trying out), but if you’re not ready to dive into the deep end, be sure to bring your own tp.
- Electrical outlets are, for the most part, a hybrid of U.S. and European plugs. Either type will work!
- Bedbugs are real and you should check for them at every place you lay your head. And even if it means repacking everything and wandering around town in your pajamas until you find another hotel (*cough*), do not stay if you suspect bedbugs. Here’s a quick guide to looking for ’em.