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2 Weeks in Thailand – Culture Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Culture, History, Travel

With so much to see and do, planning a trip to Thailand can be a daunting task. From glittering temples, to white sandy beaches, to ruins of ancient kingdoms, to epic adventures in the mountains, the options for a Thai vacation are endless. In a new series here, we’re going to be sharing some itinerary ideas for two week trips to Thailand. First up is a cultural journey that’s full of temples, museums, art, music, and of course plenty of mouth-watering Thai cuisine.

Bangkok (4 days)

An amazing food court.

An amazing food court.

As with any big adventure, the first day is used up traveling. Hopefully you’re not too jet-lagged from your trip, because you’re going to need lots of energy for this one. No matter how tired you are, you’re going to need dinner. Head to what just might be the best food court ever at Eathai in the basement of the Central Embassy mall. After filling up on Thai food from all over the country, you should have no problem getting to sleep early.

Wat Phra Kaew - Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

The Thai capital makes the perfect start for your cultural getaway, as it’s home to some of the country’s most stunning and sacred temples. Spend your first full day in the country temple hopping, where you’ll see the Temple of Dawn, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The latter is the most sacred in all of Thailand, so be sure to save it for last.

Check out five of Bangkok’s best temples in this video.

Tons of culture at the National Museum.

Tons of culture at the National Museum.

After getting your fill of temples, it’s time to hit some museums. On your second day, pay a visit to the National Museum and the Jim Thompson House. The former features a wide array of artifacts and exhibits on Thai art and history. It also happens to be the largest museum in all of Southeast Asia. The latter was the home of an American businessman who had a deep fascination with Thai culture, especially traditional teak-style houses. He collected many of them from different parts of the country and set them up in Bangkok to house his vast art collection. Mr. Thompson disappeared on Easter Sunday in 1967 while traveling in Malaysia, and this remains a great mystery to this very day.

Get a big dose of culture at this great show.

Get a big dose of culture at this great show.

With two action-packed days in the books, it’s time to take it relatively easy. Beat the intense Thai heat and spend the day indoors. Spend some time exploring the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (or BACC for short), which houses a variety of galleries, bookstores, cafes, and exhibits. It may not seem cultural, but Bangkok’s mega-malls are a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. In the evening, catch the Siam Niramit show for a dose of Thai music, history, and dancing.

Ayutthaya (2 days)

Explore the ruins of a former Thai kingdom.

Explore the ruins of a former Thai kingdom.

From the big city, head to the former capital of Ayutthaya. Ransacked and burned to the ground by the invading Burmese in 1767, the ruins of this once great kingdom now comprise an historical park. Hire a tuk-tuk and explore them for a day – a great dose of history and culture when traveling in Thailand. Get here and back to Bangkok on the train, and then catch another one to your next destination.

Sukhothai (2 days)

Sukhothai - first capital of Thailand.

Sukhothai – first capital of Thailand.

Keep the historical journey going by heading to Sukhothai, 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. Rent a bicycle and spend a full day taking it all in.

A video tour of Sukhothai.

Chiang Mai (4 days)

Maybe the most important temple of Chiang Mai city.

Maybe the most important temple of Chiang Mai city.

An overnight train journey brings you north to Thailand’s 2nd largest city, Chiang Mai. With three full days here, you’ll be able to take your time and properly explore the northern capital. Hopefully you’re not templed out yet, because there are over 300 here. Make sure you head up to Doi Sutthep high on a hill outside the city and Wat Chedi Luang right in the middle of it.

The Lanna Folklife Museum

The Lanna Folklife Museum

If you’re into museums, then you should definitely spend a day visiting a few of them in Chiang Mai. For just 180 Baht, you can get a pass for three – the Arts & Cultural Center, Lanna Folklife Museum, and Historical Center.

The very colorful night market.

The very colorful night market.

Your final day in Chiang Mai can be spent wandering through the city’s many street markets. Shop for clothing, handicrafts, paintings, jewelry, antiques, and of course a bunch of knick-knacks and silly stuff. There’s also tons of delicious, cheap street food available on every corner, so dig in and try as much of it as you can. The next day, catch an early bus to your last stop.

Chiang Rai (2 days)

White and Black in Chiang Rai.

White and Black in Chiang Rai.

A highlight of any visit to Chiang Rai is definitely experiencing the contrasting visions of two national Thai artists at the White Temple and Black House – dubbed the “heaven and hell of architecture.” One seems like something out of a dream, while the other more closely resembles your nightmares. One is white and shiny, while the other is black and grim. Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, these two ongoing projects make for a fascinating day-trip in Chiang Rai.

Tour the heaven and hell of architecture. 

Scenes from the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

Scenes from the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

On your last day, chill out and just wander around town. There are a few noteworthy temples here, such as Wat Phra Kaew. This once housed the Emerald Buddha image which is now in the temple of the same name in Bangkok. Wind down with a visit to the night bazaar, where you’ll find plenty of Thai delicacies and maybe even a dance performance.

 

From Chiang Rai, you’re in a great position to continue a longer Southeast Asia trip. A bus ride will bring you into Laos, where a whole new adventure awaits. Alternatively, you can catch the slow boat and lazily cruise up the Mekong River for two days. If your vacation time is up and you need to get home, you’ll most likely have to fly back to Bangkok and connect. At least you’ll have thousands of pictures to flip through to help pass the time. Chances are you’ll already be planning your next trip to Thailand, which we’re happy to help with. Check back for itineraries for adventure, partying, island hopping, and a nice mix of everything.

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.