What Can You Do with One Month in Thailand?

Posted on 30. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, History, Travel, Videos

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)

Home for the night in a Thai jungle village.

Home for the night in a Thai jungle village.

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.

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I like my roads curvy.

I like my roads curvy.

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.

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Zip through the jungle in north Thailand.

Zip through the jungle in north 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)

Explore the ruins at Ayutthaya.

Explore the ruins at Ayutthaya.

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.

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Bright Lights, Big City (4 days)

Hello, Bangkok!

Hello, Bangkok!

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.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

 

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.

One of the city's many nightlife districts.

One of the city’s many nightlife districts.

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Connect with Nature (3 days)

Khao Sok NP

Khao Sok NP

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.

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Sun, Sand, and Scuba (10 days)

A great place for diving.

A great place for diving.

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:

More than just diving on Koh Tao.

More than just diving on Koh Tao.

  • 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.
Far from the Full Moon madness...

Far from the Full Moon madness…

  • 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.
Scenic Phi Phi Island.

Scenic Phi Phi Island.

  • 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.
Cliche Lonely Planet cover photo on Railay.

Cliche Lonely Planet cover photo on Railay.

  • 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.
An empty beach... in Thailand?!

An empty beach… in Thailand?!

  • 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.

 

Sukhothai Historical Park Video Tour

Posted on 25. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, History, Travel

Some restored Buddha images at Sukhothai.

Some restored Buddha images at Sukhothai.

Take a video tour of Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the first capital of Siam. Explore the ruins of great temples such as Wat Mahathat and Wat Sa Si by bike and learn about Thai history and culture.

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อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์สุโขทัย

Sukhothai Historical Park

วัดตระพังเงิน

Wat Traphang Ngoen

ดศรีสวาย

Wat Si Sawai

วัดมหาธาตุ

Wat Mahathat

วัดชนะสงคราม

Wat Chana Songkhram

วัดสระศรี

Wat Sa Si

วัดเชตุพล

Wat Chetuphon

The Ancient City of Sukhothai

Posted on 19. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, History, Travel

While most tourists come to Thailand for sun and sand on the islands or outdoor adventure in the north, there are also quite a few historical sights that are worth a visit throughout the country. One such place is Sukhothai (สุโขทัย), the first capital of Siam established during the 13th century. With a name meaning “Dawn of Happiness,” this ancient capital represents a golden age of Thai civilization – the architecture and art, introduction of a Thai alphabet and Theravada Buddhism, and flourishing trade. Much of this is credited with Ramkhamhaeng (พ่อขุนรามคำแหง), the third of nine kings in the Sukhothai era. After nearly two centuries, this great empire declined and eventually became part of the new kingdom of Ayutthaya. The ruins of this once glorious Thai capital are now part of a historical park with UNESCO World Heritage status.

The ruins of Sukhothai in Thailand.

The ruins of Sukhothai in Thailand.

Sukhothai is much smaller than other famous ruins in SE Asia such as Myanmar’s Bagan and Cambodia’s Angkor, meaning you can explore a majority of it in just one day. Bicycles are for rent all over the town, and you can also hire a driver if you’re not feeling up for peddling around in the hot sun. With far less tourists and touts than the above-mentioned places, a trip to Sukhothai is much more relaxing and peaceful.

Some restored Buddha images at Sukhothai.

Some restored Buddha images at Sukhothai.

The park is divided into a few different zones; some more restored than others. A 100 Baht fee is charged for each the central, north, and west zones. In the central zone you’ll find the most impressive sights such as the heavily restored Wat Mahatat, while at the others you can find ruins left much in their original state.

Less restored temples.

Less restored temples.

One interesting thing about exploring Sukhothai are the signs that show you what the temple originally looked like. Compare the past and the present, and imagine yourself standing here at the peak of this once great Thai kingdom.

Past and Present

Past and Present

Respect and admiration for this renowned ancient city still abounds in Thai culture, and you’ll see many colorful shrines around the park where people pray and leave offerings. Keep that in mind when you visit and be sure to dress respectfully at this important historical sight.

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One of the many shrines in the park.

You’ll also find a statue to the above-mentioned king credited with inventing the Thai alphabet and bringing Buddhism to the kingdom. Take a closer look at the offerings being made – on our visit we saw a pig head accompanied by a bottle of Thai whiskey.

Ramkamhaeng statue, with offerings.

Ramkamhaeng statue, with offerings.

Near one of the temples is an incredibly beautiful tree where people have set up little Buddha images along the base. Seeing things like this makes you realize how truly important religion is in Thailand, where 95% of people are Buddhists.

Little Buddhas in the tree.

Little Buddhas in the tree.

There’s a lot to see in the central zone, so you could easily spend half of your day here walking and peddling around to check out the various temples and shrines.

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More highlights from the central zone.

When planning your trip to Sukhothai, keep in mind that the historical park is in the old city – 12 km or so away from the new city where you’ll most likely arrive. There are options for accommodation and dining in both, with more choices on the new side of town. We opted for being near the ruins and booked a room at the Mountain View Guesthouse. The owner was incredibly friendly in welcoming us in late and cooking up a tasty dinner for us. We were the only guests on that night, but she even got the pool cleaned up for us.

Mountain View GH in Sukhothai.

Mountain View GH in Sukhothai.

Just a few minutes away from the park, we were able to easily cycle around and spent the entire day exploring the ruins. Near the entrance to the central zone, there are plenty of shops and restaurants where you can enjoy a nice meal after hitting the park.

A tasty lunch near the park.

A tasty lunch near the park.

Although Sukhothai is often overlooked by travelers to Thailand in favor of the islands or the big cities, including this ancient capital on your itinerary is easily doable and well worth it. In between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, you can stop for a day to explore the ruins and get a little culture. With far less tourists, it’s a nice break from the big crowds associated with all of the more popular places. We thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Sukhothai, and would definitely recommend a stop there if you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of Thailand.

Enjoy a peaceful sunset in the park.

Enjoy a peaceful sunset in the park.