A Week in Thailand

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

A Week in Thailand

  • Khao San Road: You’ve got to make at least one trip to this crazy street. Touristy? Yes. Wild? Double yes.

A Week in Thailand

  • 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!

A Week in Thailand

  • 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).

A Week in ThailandA Week in ThailandA Week in Thailand

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!

A Week in ThailandA Week in Thailand

  • 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!

A Week in Thailand

  • 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.

A Week in Thailand

  • Grand Canyon: About 30 min out of town, this manmade (I think) canyon is gorgeous, and nice for cooling off for a few hours.

A Week in ThailandA Week in Thailand

  • 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

A Week in 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!

A Week in Thailand

  • 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.

A Week in 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.

A Week in Thailand

  • 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.

A Week in Thailand

  • 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.

A Week in Thailand

  • 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.

A Week in Thailand

Comments (8)

  1. Amanda says:

    I want to be you when I grow up. 🙂 traveling is something I’ve always wanted to do and you have done so much already! I need to hurry up before I get too old! 😉

    1. Sarah says:

      Hey Amanda! I vote you take a few months and just go! You’d get so much culinary inspiration, so really, you should do it for the business 😉

  2. Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing your trip! I was just in Bangkok and Singburi, and I hear really good things about Chang Mai. This post makes me want to go back 🙂

    1. Sarah says:

      Hey Chad! Chiang Mai is just so different from Bangkok, really laid back. I loved it! You should definitely go back 🙂

  3. Amanda Kleiman says:

    Hi Sarah!

    I’m about to head to Thailand. I have 9 days. I think I’ll do 2 1/2 days in Bangkok followed by a flight to Phuket for 4 days and then flight up to Chiang Mai/Rai for 3 days.

    Couple questions:
    Woud you recommend choosing between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai or do you think 3 days is enough to visit both?

    About the elephant park – I’ve heard that even the “good” ones aren’t really good, that they more or less “rent” the elephants for the day from companies that own them to let them roam in larger spaces but that they are still kept in small quarters at night with the company that actually owns them. Do you know anything about this? Can you provide any additional insight on the company you recommended and how they operate?

    Thank you! This post is so, so helpful in planning!

    1. Sarah says:

      SO EXCITING! I’ll just live vicariously through you for the next 9 days 🙂 Unfortunately I can’t be a ton of help as far as choosing between Chiang Mai and Rai. I only went to Chiang Mai, but I can say that 3 days there was definitely enough. If you haven’t already checked them out, Travel Fish is a really great Southeast Asian-specific travel site that may be able to guide you on that one.

      As far as elephants go, it was tricky to navigate the companies and their values. As far as I know, the Elephant Retirement Park really is a good one. The elephants really seemed to know and love the caretakers (not that I’m an elephant expert or anything, haha). We booked through Tourist Info Travel Services for the half day (I don’t usually buy “tours” but we couldn’t figure out how to buy directly from them”. They picked us up from our hostel in the morning and we spent the first half of the trip feeding and getting to know the elephants, then we had an hour or so to jump in the mud pits and ponds with them. I think the half day was the perfect amount of time!

      I hope you have SO much fun and eat tons of good food!! You can also email me ([email protected]) if you have any other question 🙂

  4. Samantha says:

    I just wanted to say your close up shot of that elephant is amazing! Also I hope those monkeys didn’t cause you too much trouble. You can tell they’re quite ornery!

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks so much, Samantha! Phone cameras sure have come a long way! Those monkeys were sneaky little guys. Stole my ice coffee! But they were cute as heck so I forgive them 😛

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