Thailand is a beautiful country in South East Asia on the radar of most travellers. Nestled between Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, it is a large country with a lot on offer to discover. Some travellers choose to tackle Thailand head on, taking the time to tour around the country and see everything it has to offer. But if you, like me, can only afford a week or so of annual leave, where should you start?
After doing a lot of research on Thailand, I had decided on a two stop trip to get my taste of Thailand.
No first time to trip to Thailand is complete without a stop in bustling Bangkok! I was a little apprehensive about paying homage to this notoriously busy city but I had little to worry about. Bangkok is a populous Asian city. With ancient opulent temples juxtaposed with towering modern skyscrapers, it is the perfect mix of old and new.
But with a city that sprawls out as far as the eye can see, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. So here’s where we started.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok was home to the King and his family for 150 years. At the turn of the 20th century the royals stopped living at the grounds full time. The site is still significant to the royal family and the Thai people. Many Thais came here to pay their respects after the late King Bhumibol. The funeral also took place here. Inside it the grounds it houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). Tickets cost 400BHT. Expect long queues of tourists.
Wat Pho (temple of reclining Buddha)
Not far from the Grand Palace you can find Wat Pho. Filled with golden stupas covering the grounds, Wat Pho is a feast for the eyes. It is also home to the Reclining Buddha. You will need to remove your shoes before entry and cover up with a sarong. The temple does provide sarongs for visitors. Once you’ve made your way full circle around the temple you can play the ‘where’s waldo’ game of finding your shoes!
Wat Arun is located just across the river from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. When you arrive you will instantly feel the peace of the area. Although the stupes were being restored at the time, the intricate and ornate details did not go missed. Getting a photo on the stupes or even of the temple is a bit tricky given the steep stairs and the sheer height. But it’s beautiful there so a must see!
You can’t go to Thailand or SouthEast Asia for that matter without experiencing a tuk tuk. Fast, convenient and open air, tuk tuks are everywhere in Bangkok. Perosnally I think they are better for a short distance than a longer one but they are fun. A short ride shouldn’t be more than 40bht but beware as a lot of tuk tuk drivers like to charge tourists 100bht.
Where to stay:
We wanted to stay by the Chao Praya River, for those stunning views of the city by the river. So we chose to stay at the Chatrium Riverside in Bangkok which provided a handy boat shuttle to the main central pier where you can catch a boat bus up and down the Chao Praya River. You can read my review on tripadvisor here.
Thailand has over a thousand stunning islands to call their own. And a trip to Thailand isn’t complete without experiencing what Thai island life has to offer. Koh Samui is the perfect little island to start you off on your explorations. With an airport on the island, it is easily accessible from Bangkok and other cities in Asia.
Given it’s size, it is also quite easy to explore on your own by scooter.
We visited a few of the beaches Samui had to offer. The two main ones we went to were Lamai and Chaweng Beach. Chaweng beach is bigger than Lamai and where most of the action is so we spent more time there, however Lamai is definitely the quieter little sister.
Hopping on a scooter for the day we were able to explore more beaches across the island. Most little tourist huts around Chaweng Beach have a map of the island that shows you where all the beaches were. My favourite by far was Lipa Noi. Known for it’s shallow waters, it was quiet and had the softest sand ever.
Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks
A cheeky little tourist attraction on the island. These rock formations have naturally formed to represent the male and female genital parts. The good-humoured locals have viewed the rocks as the Grandfather and Grandmother of the island.
The legend behind the rocks says there was an old couple Ta and Yai who lived with their son in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. He was of age to be married and so they asked the hand of the daughter of Ta Monglai. When they sailed across the sea to the nearby island they were hit by a storm. The old couple unfortunately could not swim and died at sea. They turned themselves into rock formations to demonstrate their true intentions to the bride-to-be’s parents.
Rocks Hin Ta (Grandpa) and Hin Yai (Grandma) can be found a short distance away from Lamai beach. You’ll need to look carefully at road signs so as not to miss it.
The Big Buddha
The Big Buddha stands tall overseeing the island. Situated near the island’s airport it is also a great spot to watch flights going in and out of Samui. You can also see neighbouring party island Koh Pha ngan. It is a small area with not much to see around it. However it is a nice spot for some tranquility and to experience Thai religious sites.
Na Muang waterfalls
So when we were on our scooter we went chasing waterfalls. There are a few on the island but the most popular are Na Muang I and Na Muang II. Na Muang I is a small cascade. Further along you will find Na Muang II which is big enough to have a little swim at its pools. There is a bit of a hike to get to the waterfall, or you could hire a little tuk tuk or wagon to take you to the base of the waterfall. We walked. If you do choose to walk, you can get some pretty nice views of the island out to see.
Both are located in the same area with an elephant safari and other activities available. There is an admission charge to go to the waterfalls. A small restaurant and changing facilities are available if you choose to go swimming. Just beware of the mozzies!
Where to stay:
We stayed at The Kala Samui and loved it. Each room was guaranteed a sea view which was just epic. It is great for couples and I suppose even friends. But it is quiet. I wouldn’t recommend it to families mainly for the all the stairs on the property but also as there really anything to entertain kids on site. Again for my tripadvisor review, click here.
So there you have it. A little itinerary for your first trip to Thailand that will tick all the boxes!
Have you been to Thailand? If so, what was your first trip there like?
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