I will always remember my 3 weeks trip to Thailand as one of the most special trips of my life. That was the first time I traveled solo. It wasn’t planned. It happened during the first year of my life abroad. As I was working as a teacher in Xiamen, China, I had almost one month’s holiday during the Spring Festival, between January and March, the best time of the year to visit Thailand.
I want to share with you my 3 weeks Thailand itinerary through some of the pictures I took on the trip that completely changed the way I looked at traveling… Traveling solo is addictive, once you’ve tried, you don’t want to go back and start traveling with other people again! Furthermore, there are so many good reasons to travel to Thailand!
3 WEEKS THAILAND ITINERARY NORTH TO SOUTH
Day 1-3: Bangkok
This is the gate of Bangkok’s Train Station, right opposite the hostel I booked for 3 nights… That’s not the cutest neighborhood to stay in Bangkok, I booked there because as it was my first solo trip, I was worried about timing and commuting, I didn’t want to miss my night train to Surat Thani! I was also in for experiencing Bangkok on a budget. The hostel near the train station was good enough for me. A bed in that hostel’s dorm is actually one of the many things you can get in Bangkok under $10.
Wat Pho, the temple with the giant statue of a reclining Buddha, and the Royal Palace are the two main historic landmarks in Bangkok. I couldn’t get inside the palace because I didn’t match the dress code, but I was prepared to get inside the temple the day after. The experience I liked the most, was looking at the locals paying devotion to some of the hundreds of statues kept in the temple.
Bangkok’s Floating Market
Maybe the hostel I stayed at arranged a low-quality tour… or maybe it just wasn’t my type of tour, if I could go back, I would skip the visit to the floating market near Bangkok. Wake-up at dawn to be packed in a mini-van with 10 more foreign travelers and arrive at the place past 9 AM, when the locals had already got their groceries and all was left to see was other tourists taking pictures of the tiny boats. And let’s not talk about the snake-show at the end.
Explore some of the food markets in Bangkok, instead, you will find all the street food you can think of.
The visit to the Buddhist temples and the remains of the ancient Ayutthaya was totally worth the trip instead. I went on my own, rented a motorcycle, and explored the area at my own pace. I should have brought with me a hat and way more water.
Day 4: night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani
The second leg of my 3 weeks Thailand itinerary was the island of Koh Phangan. Many travelers prefer to fly to Koh Samui and then take a ferry to Phangan. I needed to save money and preferred to have an alternative trip… I also enjoy very much a night ride on a train, it helps me sleep tremendously. And so it was! Getting a ticket from the website of Thailand Railways is simple. On the train, you’ll see the single armchairs transform into a comfy bed, and sleep well…
When I got up, it was 7 and we were crossing a jungle, I was super excited, it was the first time in my life I saw that kind of environment. I couldn’t be in a better mood!
A constant feature of traveling to the islands of Thailand is getting on and off a motorboat with a hoard of other excited travelers. Make sure to bring a book to read, distances are longer than what they look on a map.
DAY 5-8: KOH PHANGAN, THE PLACE I LOVED THE MOST ON THIS ITINERARY
all I had heard of Koh Phangan had to do with the Full Moon Party. The days I visited the island were just after the party had taken place. Koh Phangan looked like an off-the-beaten-track destination in Thailand. So quiet and relaxing. I spent a couple of days on the Southern part of the island, then somebody suggested to rent a motorbike and go explore the northern part.
My rides through Koh Phangan were a true joy. In the early morning, I spotted elephants walking free in the jungle just on the side of the road, and the locals tending to their activities like picking and opening coconuts. I got lost a couple of times, and run out of gasoline, which can happen.
Thai Tattoos are famous, but some travelers only get the ones from touching a hot muffler with their calves, and that’s exactly what happened to me. I kind of ruined the rest of the trip, because I couldn’t swim until the wound was ok. I still wanted to swim in the sea though, so it took me one month and a half to heal that wound! Be careful with Thai motorcycles… even when you ride with locals to the waterfalls in the jungle.
Koh Mah is a tiny island just off Koh Phangan that you can reach on foot when it’s low tide. Facing Koh Mah are some of the best beaches of Koh Phangan, my favorite part of the island. I wish I knew about that from the beginning! There are a few secluded, basic resorts where you’ll have some of the most delicious Southeast Asian food!
Day 9-12: Phuket
I don’t know why I added Phuket to my Thailand bucket list. I don’t even care about nightlife! However, I didn’t only choose the wrong destination, I even booked the wrong hotel for 3 nights. My hotel room was right on the roof of a very popular bar, so I couldn’t sleep for the whole time, earplugs were useless. The endless sunsets, the amazing beaches, and all the things to do in Phuket didn’t wipe away my low mood. On the second day of this disappointing leg of the journey, I saw a post on the wall of a travel agency for a boat trip to the Similan Island Marine Reserve. I signed for that, and that revealed one of the highlights of my 3 weeks’trip to Thailand.
Similan Islands Marine Reserve
This is a protected area with pristine water that you can only visit with a tour. It’s completely worth your time and money. You can do some snorkeling on a basic day trip from Phuket. Consider also camping on the main island (with a more expensive tour) and exploring the depths of the marine reserve with a dive trip to the Similan Islands. If you’re not a party person and prefer to be in the untouched nature to getting drunk in a bar, try some of the Phuket island hopping tours available at the local travel agencies.
Day 13-15: Phi Phi Islands
The main island of the Phi Phi archipelago is one of the most touristic spots in Thailand. I regretted that I visited it! The trip to the stunning Maya Bay, where the movie “The Beach” was filmed, was good, but it was very sad to see all those boats full of travelers invading the bay. Eventually, the beach has shut to allow the sea life to go back to what it was before the touristic boom.
Because I have a thing for desserts and street food, I couldn’t refrain from having a roti pancake at least once a day…
Day 15-20: Koh Lipe
I spent the last week of the journey in Koh Lipe. There are 3 main beaches in Koh Lipe, Sunrise Beach is the most beautiful. I was tired of island hopping and really liked the atmosphere there, it gave me a sense of community.
thinking again of this 3 weeks Thailand itinerary, I would keep Ayutthaya, Koh Phangan, the Similan Islands, and Koh Lipe for my next trip to Thailand, while I would skip the other places. I’ve heard amazing things about the region of Chiang Mai as well, so I will add that to my travel plans as well!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments 🙂