Day 1 – Hustle and bustle in Bangkok
It is good to note the different seasons in Thailand – the hottest months are between March and May. The wet (monsoon) season runs from June to October and the best time to travel is between November and February when it is dry but not too hot.
The get-up-and-go of Bangkok hits you the minute you land and walk out on to the street – be prepared for the number of taxi drivers like vultures looking to bring you into the city centre. When you get there make sure and get the best possible deal and haggle like crazy! The backpacker hub of the city centre is the Khao San Road. All along this street are people traipsing the streets with their backpacks waiting for the next connecting bus to one of the islands. Tuk-tuks (three wheeled public transport vehicles), food stalls and travel agents can also be found dotted along this renowned street.
The other main centre for accommodation, is Th Sukhumvit which is west of the Khao San. This street is similar to the afore mentioned in that there are many shops, travel agents along with numerous bars to keep you occupied well into the early hours of the morning.
After settling into your accommodation and you go for a walk around the streets, one of the first things to hit you about Bangkok is how good the shopping is! Both the Khao San and Th Sukhumvit have endless stalls and shops selling everything from counterfeit goods to tailor-made suits of the highest quality. If you are there at weekend you will have to make it to the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is paid visit by over 200,000 people every weekend. Selling everything from live snakes to male sarongs, whether you buy anything or not you won’t forget a visit here.
Otherwise, the city’s well known floating markets have become slightly commercialised in recent years, but are still worth a visit.
After spending the day either shopping or browsing, it is good to relax with a few beers. Bangkok doesn’t exactly have one particular area which is renowned for its nightlife, rather than many other areas with bars scattered everywhere. Gulliver’s Travellers found at the top of the Khao San Road is a good place to meet other backpackers.
Day 2 – Buddhas and their temples
Bangkok has an assortment of temples, locally known as wáts. The biggest of all of these is Wat Pho. Dating back to long before Bangkok was founded, it is the oldest temple in Thailand. It is also where you will find Thailand’s largest ‘reclining Buddha’.
Close to Wat Pho is the Grand Palace Wat Phra Kaew. Built in 1782, there are various buildings to admire from both outside and in and you wouldn’t find a couple of hours going astray here. The architecture in and around both the wát and the palace is very colourful and unique with the brightly coloured tiled roofs and the freaky statues which guard many of the buildings.
Bangkok has for years being known as Asia’s ‘city of sin’, although it is only in certain parts of the city where you will find its famed ‘go-go bars’ and sex shows’. The most renowned area to visit these bars and shows is in an area of the city called Patpong. There is no doubting that this is one of the seediest parts of Bangkok, but it is also one of the best known. If the minute you reach it to this part of the city you begin to feel ill, hopefully the night markets around the area will keep you happy.
Day 3 – Some relaxing before a long journey
As famed as it is, there isn’t that much to do in Bangkok. By the end of two days you could want to do nothing more than hop on a bus and get south to those idyllic islands as soon as possible. To save money, your best option is to get an overnight bus or train down south and save on a night’s accommodation.
As most buses and trains leave sometime around 7pm-8pm, if you are looking to kill a few hours go to the National Museum. Dating back to 1874, the building itself is a spectacle to be seen. Housing three separate collections, it might not be the most adventurous way to spend an afternoon, it is certainly one full of culture.
That evening get ready for a long, long journey down to Surat Thani, gateway to the Gulf of Thailand and its many islands.
Day 4 – Some deserved chilling
After an 11-hour journey you will arrive in Surat Thani. From here there will be a ferry waiting for you to bring you to Koh Samui, Thailand’s third largest island. The main resort on this town isChaweng. After travelling for so long, there is nothing better to do here than choose your spot on the beach and do some well deserved chilling on the beach (once the season is right!).
A variety of bars and restaurants dot the main strip in Chaweng. And not too far outside of Chaweng is the Reggae Bar which is good for a few beers once the sun goes down.
Day 5 – On yer bike!
Koh Samui is the perfect island to rent out a motorbike on. It isn’t very hilly, there is basically only one road which circles the island, and there isn’t too much traffic either. What more do you need? That’s right, your driving licence. Don’t forget your driving licence.
North of Chaweng is the Temple of the Big Buddha, one of the island’s most popular destinations those taking pictures and those wishing to do some worshipping. Situated on an island which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, it stands 15 metres and is a particularly nice place to see a sunset. Make sure and wear ‘suitable attire’ here, just like at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Other wáts on Koh Samui which you should visit if you have the time are Wat Hin Lat on the south western part of the island and Wat Laem Saw, also on the southern end of the island.
Along the way around the island between the various temples, you are bound to pass one or two of the island’s waterfalls. If you do visit one or two of them make sure you do it good and early as some of them take a bit of time to get to and the last thing you want is to be stuck in the jungle when dusk is falling.
After an eventful day spinning around Koh Samui on a motorbike, you should go out that night and give yourself an eventful night to remember. The Green Mango is sure to provide you with one. The venue is so legendary that they have named a whole area after in the resort!
Day 6 – More chilling on the beach
When in Thailand, particularly south of Bangkok, the key word of your holiday should be relaxing. Koh Samui is the perfect place to do this, although it can be a tad commercialised. Vendors selling everything from fruit to furniture saunter up and down the beach in the hope you will become their next sale. Try not to let these distract you and you should have a pleasant day sunbathing.
All around the island are a good selection of restaurants. Three days is enough on Koh Samui so a good idea would be to make this your final night before making your way to the next island in the archipelago, Koh Tau.
Day 7 – A spot of snorkelling
Literally translated as ‘Turtle Island’, Koh Tau is synonymous with diving. At some stages throughout the year it is difficult if you are not partaking in one of the dive courses operating around the island. Most accommodation on the island is owned by dive operators who will no doubt try and coax you into signing up for one their 4-day PADI courses.
If you do it will keep you on this small scenic island for anything up to one week. If not then make sure and take advantage of the warm waters, bright fish and coral and rent out some snorkels and flippers and go snorkelling.
The main resort (if you want to call it that) on the island is Hat Sai Ri (Sairee Beach). ‘New Way Diving’s bar epitomises the meaning of the word ‘chill’, while beside this bar is another bar with a pool table.
Day 8 – Ko Nang Yuan
While there is only one resort on this idyllic island (well it’s actually three islands right beside each other connected by beaches), during your stay on Koh Tau you must visit Ko Nang Yuan. You may choose to stay there for the night, and if not you will be able to organise a day trip from ‘Turtle Island’.
There is no argument to the statement that Thailand is one of the most picturesque countries in South-East Asia (and also the world), but this island(s) really will take your breath away. Once you disembark your boat and you reach the beach you can do nothing else but lie down and take a minute to remind yourself whereabouts you are.
Day 9 – Kick back
When you wake up every day to the soothing sounds of the waves breaking on the beach which is only 100 yards from your bungalow, you won’t be long discovering it is hard to leave here. So take another day to unwind in one of the most tranquil islands in the world, before heading back to one of the most in your face islands in the world!
Day 10 – Hmmm…where to next??
After a good 7 days lazing around on Koh Tau’s beaches, you can now decide whether or not you want spin back up to Bangkok or go further in your exploration of Thailand’s islands.