“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
While preparing for my travels to Thailand, and by preparing I mean, the five days leading up to it, staying up until the wee mornings reading blogs with different routes, I really struggled to understand how to make the most of three weeks in Thailand. This next post is going to be the route that I took, and a route that a fellow traveler I met took.
I must emphasize the importance of not having a plan. I am a planner, to the core. The shift that I made while abroad was a part of me that I grew to really love in Thailand, but could have done better with. I had a plan when I arrived, I knew I wanted to see the Elephants, Pai, and then go to the South and see as many islands as I could. I learned to really listen to my gut with where I wanted to go next, and to be open to talking to fellow travelers about the places they had visited and loved! So this is me encouraging you to go with an open mind and a patient heart for whatever comes your way, people or places.
Let’s get to it!
While abroad for the three weeks, I took three internal flights, multiple long bus/ferry rides, did a handful of extraordinary activities, ate three meals a day, and slept under a roof every night. I also did mild shopping. I however, did not spend much of alcohol, $20.00 max. With all that being said, I spent $1,200 while in Thailand on the route below. That averaged $57.00 a day.
Bangkok(less than a day)-Chiang Mai: was to take the sleeper train (13 hours) but disliked Bangkok so much I booked a flight and left 12 hours after arriving in Bangkok.
Chiang Mai (2 days)- Pai (a day and a half)- four hour bus ride to Pai from Chiang Mai and four hour bus right back, I did not allow myself enough time in Pai at all, but I had already booked a flight in advance. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE HERE. DON’T BOOK FLIGHTS TOO FAR IN ADVANCE.
Chiang Mai-Krabi- I took a flight to Krabi, and then bussed to my hostel. If you stay in Krabi, stay near the pier so you can easily leave for islands.
Krabi(1 day) -Railey(2 days)- 45 minute long tail ride to Railey. YOU MUST GO TO RAILEY.
Railey- Phi Phi(2 days)- Took a ferry to Phi Phi, about two hours. I went to Phi Phi because there was so much hype around it. If I could redo, I’d skip Phi Phi. I found it too crowded, rude locals, and very difficult to enjoy. I stayed 2 days, because I became very ill and couldn’t travel.
Phi Phi- Koh Lanta(2 days)- Took a ferry to Koh Lanta from Phi Phi about two hours. I had heard great things about Koh Lanta, and they were all true. Great place to visit! Skip Phi Phi and spend more time here.
Koh Lanta- Railey(6 days)- Yep, you got it. Railey stole my heart and I threw out the rest of my plans and enjoyed the hell out of my last 6 days! 4 hour van/ferry to Railey from Koh Lanta. I had no intentions on going back, and had planned to go to Koh Sok, but my gut was screaming to follow it. So I did, and it was the best choice I should have made.
Railey- Phuket(tranfer to airport)- Again, learn from my mistake. I booked my flight from Phuket to Bangkok way in advance and ended up having to travel four hours to the airport from Railey when I was an hour from the Krabi airport. DON’T PLAN TOO MUCH IN ADVANCE.
(disclaimer: I did not travel this route, and it will significantly cut your time at each location and may cause your body to be worn down because of the nonstop travel. However, if you want to get a feel for the highlights of Thailand, and see as much as you can in three weeks, this is the route for you)
Bangkok- Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai- Pai- Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai- Bangkok
Bangkok- Koh Chang
Koh Chang- Koh Tao
Koh Tao-Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan- Koh Samui
Koh Samui- Railey (an overnight sleeper ferry)
You don’t need to worry too much in advance on how to get from location to location. Every place on this list is a popular destination to travel to and every location you stop at will give you very detailed explanation on how to get to the next location. I encourage internal flights, because they are so cheap in Thailand, but if you are budgeting tightly there was an abundance of ferries, buses, and trains. But again, do not make my mistake and book too much internal travel before you arrive.
I will cover the hostels/hotels that I rested my head in at each destination in following posts. The good, the bad, and the moldy.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
(end note: want to give a HUGE shout out to Scott Lehr on creating the above map, within 24 hours of me giving him the most chaotic rough draft ever. You are a rock star, and I hope many of you will get use out of this incredibly well done map.)