Thailand is at the top of bucket lists around the world, and with good reason. From white sand beaches to lush rain forests, there is something for every traveler. We’ve fallen in love with so many places around this beautiful country, but we’ve also really disliked some areas. Depending on what you want out of the experience can drastically change your view on a certain destination. Looking to party and fall head first in the sand – Koh Samui is for you. Temples on every corner? Chiang Mai is right up your alley. Good mix of adventure and tranquility – head over to Khao Sok.
We’ve listed our favorite (and not so favorite) destinations throughout Thailand from travelling the country for four months. We think we have a good idea of what we’re talking about!
Best of Thailand
1.) Chiang Mai
To anyone that has visited CM, it may come as no surprise why this was my favourite place in Thailand. From quirky cafes to lush green mountains, there is something for everyone here in this city in Northern Thailand. There’s temples on every corner, tons of cheap and delicious food and heaps of activities to sign up for. It’s also where I go to experience riding an elephant (Read about how I did this ethically!) We reached the highest summit in Thailand, went to a beautiful temple on Doi Suthep Mountain and roamed the weekend markets. It’s an incredible place, and still affordable to do.
I had no idea this place existed but I’m so happy I found it. Khao Sok is the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, dating back 60 million years. You can kayak the river, take a longtail boat through the beautiful Ratchadamri Dam, explore caves and much more. It’s definitely not a 5 star destination, and you need to be up for some dirt and mud, but it’s well worth the stop! If you’re up for the adventure, rent motorbikes from Surat Thani town and drive up to the National Park. It’s hands down one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
3. ) Koh Tao
Out of all of the Thai Islands, Koh Tao was our favourite. Its small size adds to its charm. The island is inhabited by freelance divers from around the world and island Thais. It’s known for its world-class diving and relaxing beach vibe. If you’re looking to dive, go with La Bombona! We got our Advanced Cert with them, and it was amazing! Despite its size, there’s tons to do on land as well, like hiking through to different coves, motorbiking to beaches and going on the world famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl!
You probably haven’t heard of this tiny little beach town in the South, but if you’re down that way in Surat Thani, I think it’s well worth the visit. If you want to experience a true, authentic unspoilt Thai beach town, head to Khanom. It’s a weekend getaway for ESL teachers from Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat, so the weekends always get wild. Head to Jam Bay Beach Bar and say hi to Joe for me!
Railay is a small beach town in Krabi province known for its rock climbing. While I don’t climb, I was truly blown away by the stunning white sand beaches, cute beach bars and huge limestone formations. Definitely better than Ao Nang or Krabi Town in my opinion.
6.) Koh Phangan
Known for the famous Original Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan is a party haven for backpackers around the world. I have to agree the FMP is truly an experience you have to try once, and then never do it again. Asides from the parties in Haad Rin, there is so much more to the island. The northern bit has excellent beaches with massages right on the sand and a much more laidback vibe. We loved checking out Koh Ma and snorkeling in the area. If you’re up for it, rent a motorbike and drive around the island to really get a sense of what it’s all about – but PLEASE wear a helmet. Koh Phangan’s roads are some of the most dangerous in Thailand.
Phuket has been given a bad rap over the last few year as a trashy backpackers destination, and Patong (see below) certainly is. There are many other areas though that are still beautiful and in tact, like Kata Beach. Even though its obscenely expensive compared to the rest of Thailand, most areas in Phuket are around the same price. Kata Beach is a long stretch of sand with longtail boats on each end, and is a perfect spot to grab a few beers from the 7/11 and watch the sunset.
Worst Of Thailand
1.) Phuket – Patong
As mentioned above, Patong is an area of Phuket that is truly a world of its own. With littered streets, neon lights, prostitutes roaming around, overpriced drinks and all around madness, it’s definitely not the “Thailand” I’ve come to know and love. It may be great for one night (or a few if you’re daring), but it is by no means an accurate represenation of Thailand.
It’s not so much that I didn’t like Bangkok; it’s just not really my scene. After living in Surat Thani and the islands for three months, I just wasn’t expecting the modernization of city-life. Don’t get me wrong, Bangkok has a great nightlife, lots of attractions and amazing shopping. There’s definitely loads to offer to every type of person, but for me, it’s just not my fave!
3.) Ao Nang
Ao Nang is a city in Krabi Province. We stayed here for a few nights at a great hotel that had a rooftop patio, but the town itself did nothing for me. It was a lot like Patong and Koh Samui. There wasn’t much true authentic Thai food around. Everything was extremely overpriced for Thailand, and the beach was nothing to write home about. My favourite part of the trip was when we took a longtail boat away from the town to Railay and Tonsai.
4.) Koh Samui
Samui was our absolute least favourite destination in Thailand. With an international airport making access to the island even easier, troves and troves of tourists are flocking, which can only mean one thing – trash, in every sense of the word. It smelled of sewage and garbage the entire time to the point where I had to plug my noise when I went outside. I had to actually SEARCH for a Thai restaurant. Everything was Western and International food. The food/drinks were even more expensive than Patong. And it wasn’t even that beautiful to be honest. Granted, we stayed in Chaweng, which is the main beach in Samui, and I’d be willing to give it a go maybe up in a more secluded area. As for now, Koh Samui remains the worst of the worst in our book!
Now it’s your turn! Do you agree? What are your favorite spots around Thailand?