With so much contrast at every turn, Thailand is rich with history and teeming with culture. The country simply has something for everyone!
Most visitors arrive in Bangkok, the capital city, right in the thick of things. The Bangkok of today is busy, somewhat efficient, diverse and artsy - in all, a city you won’t quickly forget. Stay at the backpacker-ridden Khao San Road and, from there, start prepping yourself for a few days of temple-hopping and market-trawling. Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Grand Palace are where you can learn more about history and Thai culture.
Then start getting used to the great (and spicy) Thai food. At night, be sure to head to Patpong for a great party atmosphere - and if you’re into it, check out Soi Twilight for the gay shows.
You’ve at least three options for leaving Bangkok: going Eastwards takes you to Pattaya, Bangkok’s beach playground where you can quench your thirst for adventure by renting a jetski or trying some parasailing. Sex tourism is rampant here, and the nightlife in Th Hat Pattaya and Walking Street is booming.
If tradition is more your thing, a bus from Bangkok takes you north to Ayutthaya - site of the former Siamese capital with copious amounts of temples ranging from traditional Wat Phra Si Sanphet to a more modern Wat Phanang Cheong. You can also check out the old Royal Palace or do a cycling tour through the historical park here.
From Ayuthaya, take a train ride to the city of Chiang Mai, known for its laid-back atmosphere and handicraft markets. White-water rafting on the Mae Taeng River is an option, or, for a more relaxing but fulfilling adventure, go on a walking tour or ride an elephant. You can even learn how to cook traditional Thai cuisines through various courses here!
The Golden Triangle region caps the country; close to the border of Laos, you can stay in Chaing Saen which was the site of a Thai kingdom in the 7th century. Border crossing to Luang Prabang in Laos is easy enough here as well.
But if you’re in Thailand for the beaches and tanning, then the southern regions might bode better for you. Ko Samui is a bus- and ferry-ride away from Bangkok, where diving and snorkeling are the main activities. Make sure you time your trip so you arrive in time for the full-moon party in Ko Pha-Ngan - you wouldn’t want to miss this fascinating event!
Phuket is also a famed choice for travellers in search of a perfect beach holiday. Set base in Patong beach and enjoy. The great seafood along Th Rat Uthit will keep your tummies satisfied, while the nightlife along Th Bangla is teeming with gogo-girl bars.
Yet another option for a great beach destination is Ko Phi Phi, just a short ferry riode awau from Phuket. Laze, snorkel and dive your days away, and enjoy the spectacular views made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach. Note that peak-season accommodation would be tricky to land if you don’t book one in advance, so be sure you do just that! A day trip to Koh Phi-Phi Leh should also be in your itinerary.
From Koh Phi-Phi, you can take a bus back up to Bangkok, or a boat to Malaysia.
Thailand is one of the most popular tourism countries for a reason. More than the beautiful beach islands and famed sex tourism, the country is a cultured cavern of gems and travellers continue flocking to it in search of adventure - and an adventure you will get!
(This itinerary is based on our Thailand Backpacker CheatSheet, a visual guide available for free download. We offer Backpacker CheatSheets for many more countries.)