Thailand is one of our favorite countries. Primarily Buddhist, the people are friendly and welcoming and just lovely. The food is delicious and cheap, but you can find all kinds of other foods as well. The gorgeous scenery varies – from cityscapes to mountains, to coastlines and islands… each place has a different vibe but they are all pleasant and interesting.
We first visited Thailand in 2012 on a tour we had organized with Kensington Tours. They are not the cheapest tour company, but since it was our first trip to Asia and we were traveling with a young child, it made sense for us. They put together a nice itinerary and did a great job introducing us to three amazing regions: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Krabi. We returned to Thailand in 2023-2024 to visit the southern island of Phuket, plus Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
In 2012, we started in Bangkok, the vibrant capital city. We visited Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, Wat Traimit and its solid gold buddha, as well as many other sights in Bangkok. The night markets were a new phenomenon for us, and the flower and food markets dazzled us with a vast array of exotic offerings and so many fruits we had never seen before.
We returned to Bangkok in 2018 for an ocean cruise and spent a few days in the Sukhumvit district, which has tons of hotels, restaurants, large malls as well as energetic nightlife. When we spent a week in Bangkok in 2024, we went right back to this area.
DON’T MISS: The Midnight Tuk Tuk Food Tour! You’ll be whisked around Bangkok in an open-air tuk tuk, which is an amazing way to see the city, especially on a balmy night. Six stops of awesome food plus magnificent night views of the Grand Palace as well as Wat Arun on the river.
A day trip to Kanchanaburi introduced us to the Thai-Burmese “Death Railway,” so named because of the number of deaths during its construction.
Similarly, the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, described in a book as well as a movie, was erected through the forced labor of British, Dutch, and American prisoners of war during WWII. Both were grim reminders of a painful and unpleasant part of history.
After a week, we shifted to Chiang Mai, which we really loved. We did a bike tour through the countryside, including a leper colony (!), then we stopped at a traditional candy factory where our daughter got to make (and eat) some. We visited Doi Suthep National Park, climbing the 306 steps to the temple atop the mountain.
In 2024 we returned as digital nomads, spending two weeks in Chiang Mai relaxing and resetting from our travels. This time we stayed in the trendy Nimman area, which we really liked, and enjoyed all the local restaurants and cool coffee shops.
The last part of our first trip was spent on the beach in Krabi, perhaps less popular than Phuket or Koh Samui, but infinitely calmer. We took a kayak tour along the coastline, but mostly we lounged in hammocks on the beautiful beach.
At the end of 2023 we met some nomad friends in Phuket for the week of Christmas. We found the island crowded and hard to get around for all the traffic, but we had a great time. Highlights included a food tour, an evening market, and a cooking class we took on Christmas Day. We stayed in Kata Beach, but visited other parts of the island, including Patong Beach, Phuket Old City, and the Big Buddha perched on the hilltop, but the best excursions were to the islands around Phuket – Phi Phi Island, James Bond Island and a few others.
Chiang Rai is a small town in the mountainous northern part of Thailand that is known for its incredibly picturesque Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), built recently (1997) but too beautiful to ignore. I chose this day trip from Chiang Mai that took three hours each way but in my opinion was worth it. In addition to visiting the White Temple, we also stopped at the Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet; took a short boat ride on the iconic Mekong River; visited a hot spring, another Buddhist temple, and a museum on the opium trade, and the day was enhanced with a leisurely lunch of Thai dishes served family-style.