To many, one month seems like an incredibly long time to travel in one place. Hell, most people don’t even get a month of holiday time in one calendar year. While the idea of traveling in a foreign country for an entire 30 days may be strange to some, those who choose to do it end up finding that time really does fly when you’re having fun – especially in Thailand. The Kingdom of Smiles already grants 30-day stays to a plethora of countries, so why not use them all? After all, there’s a whole lot that you can do with one month in Thailand…
Adventures in the North (10 days)
Thrill-seekers and lovers of the great outdoors will find paradise in northern Thailand. Embark on multi-day treks through the jungle, sleeping in ethnic minority villages, diving into waterfalls, and learning how local people live way off the grid. Trekking is a big industry these days, making it easy to join in a group from just about anywhere. On our many trips to Thailand, the 3-day jungle trek we did outside of Chiang Mai still ranks up there as one of the best experiences.
If you’d rather explore northern Thailand on two wheels than two feet, you’ve got plenty of options for cycling or motorbike trips. Consider tackling the famed Mae Hong Son loop with its 1,864 curves. On the long and winding road, there are tons of scenic overlooks, waterfalls, temples, and more to stop at and break up the ride. Stay in places like Soppong – where you can visit some epic caves, and Pai – the hippie Mecca of Thailand.
That’s just the beginning – there are still elephant training camps, zipline courses, Muay Thai schools, and so much more. With just 10 days, you’ll obviously have to make a few choices and save some adventures for your next visit.
Explore Ancient Capitals (3 days)
While other SE Asian temples – such as Angkor and Bagan – tend to attract more attention and visitors, Thailand is home to a few notable ancient capitals that are now historical parks. On your way to Bangkok from the north, it’s worth it to dedicate at least a few days to explore the ruins of Thailand’s golden era. It’s possible to visit Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai, and Ayutthaya in three days on a straight shot down to Bangkok. If that’s too much temple hopping for you, cut one out and take a day in between to relax.
Bright Lights, Big City (4 days)
OK I’ll admit it – the first time I went to Bangkok I wasn’t exactly a huge fan. From scamming taxi drivers, to gridlocked traffic, to sweating through my shirt every time I stepped outside, it was hard to see the charm of Bangkok. A few trips later, and it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. There’s just so much going on, whether you’re into history, culture, art, music, food, shopping, or just having a wild night out on the town.
Spend your days visiting places like Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), cruising the Chao Phraya River, and hunting for bargains at one of the city’s countless markets. Enjoy a nice dinner and Happy Hour at one of the many fine dining establishments, or just pull up a stool, order up some Pad Thai, and crack a bottle of Chang on the side of the street. At night, the world is your oyster in Bangkok. From the debauchery of Khao Son Road, to upscale cocktail lounges, to futuristic night clubs, there’s no shortage of nighttime fun here.
Connect with Nature (3 days)
While Thailand is famous for its idyllic islands and rowdy nightlife, there are also many national parks where you can escape the crowds of bucket-schwilling backpackers and selfie-snapping tourists for some peace and quiet. In total, there are 127 national parks across the country, 22 of them being marine parks. Some of the most popular include Khao Yai (about 3 hours from Bangkok), Doi Inthanon (along the aforementioned MHS loop), and Khao Sok (in between the two coasts). Take your pick and spend a few days hiking, bird watching, or just lounging in a hammock with the sounds of the jungle all around you. It might be hard to believe that you’re still in Thailand after just coming from Bangkok, but it’s true.
Sun, Sand, and Scuba (10 days)
After trekking, motorbike riding, caving, temple hopping, and partying in the city, it’s time for that vacation you were planning. With 10 days, it’s best to pick one or two islands to truly give yourself some time for R&R. Do your research and think about exactly what you want out of your Thai beach holiday. Based on my experiences, here are a few examples of the islands and what scene you’ll find:
- Koh Tao: This is predominantly a diving island, with more new certificates issued each year than any other place on Earth. It’s a great place to do your first course and then a few fun dives. In addition to diving, there are also some nice hiking trails here, a mini-golf course, and a tri-weekly pub crawl that gets a bit out of control.
- Koh Pha Ngan: While this island is best known for the infamous Full Moon Party, there’s much more to Pha Ngan than day-glo paint and buckets. It’s a huge island with a lot to discover, including some awesome hikes, waterfalls, and secluded beaches.
- Koh Phi Phi: This beautiful little island really blew up with tourists in recent years, meaning you’ll definitely be sharing the sandy beach with hundreds of people. That being said, Phi Phi is popular for a reason. Without any motorized traffic, it’s still a nice break from the constant honking and exhaust on the mainland.
- Tonsai/Railay: Although these places aren’t technically islands, they sure feel like it. Blocked off from the mainland by towering peaks, both are only accessible by boat. On Tonsai you’ll find rustic accommodation, chilled out bars, and a big rock climbing scene. Nearby Railay features a nicer beach, more upscale hotels, and the crowds that both of those things bring.
- Koh Tarutao: If you really want to escape the crowds, consider making a stop here. This island is a national park, meaning there are no hotels, knick-knack shops, or girlie bars. Just a few simple shacks, one restaurant, and electricity for only four hours a day. Take a bike ride to visit the old prison site, hike up to the viewpoint, take a boat through the mangroves, or just find yourself an empty beach in Thailand – a very rare sight.
Before you know it you’ll be on a flight back home: scrolling through your thousands of photos, recalling all the amazing experiences, and most certainly plotting schemes for how to get back and do it all over again.