Backpacking guide through Thailand

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Thailand is easy to backpack. You can go from Bangkok all the way up to Chang Rai in the North with the train and busses. Take the night train if you do long distances because it takes some time. From Chang Rai you can easily take a cheap flight back to Bangkok or go to the South of Thailand.

There is much to visit in Thailand. You can easily backpack through this country or rent a car. More information about Thailand you’ll find in the blog What to know about Thailand.

Thailand is a big country and there is much to see. I will explain all the places you can visit during a backpacking trip. You should start your trip from Bangkok and end it there.  

The following places will be discussed:

Tip: buy a sarong. It’s a skirt like a scarf that you can bind around your waist. You can buy this at a market. Never buy it near the temples because those are more expensive and less beautiful.

When you backpack around Thailand most of the time you will start the journey in Bangkok. That’s why I first discuss the center of Thailand. I suggest you start visiting the center. You can easily get around by bus. After the center you should go to the North with busses and a night train. I would finish the backpacking trip in the South. The best way to go from the North to the South is with a domestic flight which aren’t expensive and way faster.

The Center of Thailand

The Center of Thailand is crowded with the capital Bangkok. There is much to do in and around Bangkok that you must visit while you are in Thailand.

The places you should visit in the center of Thailand are:

The crowded capital Bangkok

  • Days needed: 2 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Here Hostel Bangkok
  • Hotel: Navalai River Resort or The Warehouse Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and this city is insane. When we arrived here, we couldn’t believe it, but it’s crowded and big and there is a lot to do in this city. There are many things you must visit in this enormous city. You can read about Bangkok in the blog 7 Things to do in the capital Bangkok.

The dark history of Kanchanaburi

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Latima Boutique Hostel or HOME@HOSTELKANCHANABURI
  • Hotel: River Kwai Jungle Rafts

Kanchanaburi is around 2 hours from Bangkok, and it has a dark history. You can go here for one day and discover the most well-known places or you can stay longer and enjoy some beautiful nature.

If you only stay for one day, then you can visit the following things in one day:

  • Burma railway also called death railway. This railway was built by 1000 of Allied Prisoners of the War and forced laboring during WWII. This railway connects Thailand and Myanmar which used to be called Burma, which is why it’s named the Burma railway.
  • The War Cemetery of Kanchanaburi. This is to remember the victims who passed away during the construction of the Railway. Most people that are buried here were British, then Dutch and Australian.
  • JEATH war museum with all the information of the WWII.
  • Bridge over the Kwai River.

It depends on how fast you visit all those places. If you are deciding to stay more days, then you can go into nature and go on an adventure. Some places you can visit nearby are the following:

  • Erawan Waterfall in Erawan National Park
  • Ancient temples at Mueang Sing Historical Park
  • Hin Dad Hot Spring
  • Golden mountain
  • Live the Thai lifestyle in Mallika Village and visit the Tham Sua Temple on a hilltop

The North of Thailand

The North of Thailand is less touristic and perfect for adventurous people that would love to go in the jungle. There are many places to visit in the North.

Some places you must visit in the North are:

History in Ayutthaya

  • Days needed: 1 day
  • B&B: Baan Tebpitak Elegant
  • Hotel: Baan Thai House (typical Thai bungalow and free bicycles)

Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand until 1767, now nature took over. It’s perfect to visit this city for one day. You must rent a bike or scooter and go around to visit everything.

It’s easy to visit Ayutthaya North from Bangkok. The best thing you can do is take the bus from Bangkok to Ayutthaya which takes around 1 to 2 hours. Things you must pass by on your bike or scooter are:

  • Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol (early in the morning)
  • Wat Phanan Choeng Ratchaworawihan
  • Wat Chai Watthanaram
  • Wat Phra Mahathat
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet
  • Wat Ratchaburana
  • Wat Na Phra Men
  • Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
  • Wat Lokkaya Sutharam
  • Floating Market

Tip: visit Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol early in the morning to beat the crowd!

The jungle in Chiang Mai

  • Days needed: 2 to 4 days
  • Hostel: Hostel by Bed
  • Hotel: My Chiangmai Boutique Lodge

Chiang Mai is perfect for people who love adventures. You can easily take the night train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai which takes around 14 hours. Buy bus tickets and train tickets on this website, on one of the many other websites or at the train station.

Tip: buy your train ticket in front because it could be sold out during high season.

When you visit Chiang Mai, you can rent a scooter for one day and drive to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It’s a nice way up in the mountains. Some places you must visit in and around Chiang Mai:

  • Rent a bike and ride around the city. Two temples you must visit are the Wat Chedi Luang and the Wat Phra Singh.
  • Visit the Warorotmarket
  • Visit the night market or the night Bazaar of Chiang Mai
  • Do a zipline in the jungle, it’s a Rainforest Adventure
  • You must do a jungle trekking, we did Pooh-Eco-Trekking. You can do a trekking for one or more days depending on what you prefer.
  • There are many good restaurants but a place I loved was The Hideout in Chiang Mai.

Another place you should visit nearby Chiang Mai is Bo Sang which is also called the umbrella village. It’s 1 hour biking to this village but remember that you also need to bike back. If you want, you can also rent a scooter to be faster.

The highest mountain in Thailand is in the Province Chiang Mai and is the Dai Inthanon which is 2.565 meters high. This mountain is in the Doi Inthanon National Park and it’s an amazing area to go hiking but beware that the temperature is cool all year round so prepare yourself with the right clothing. There are many trails where you walk through rainforest, pine forest and mixed forest. You can discover some waterfalls and rice terraces in the national park. It’s a place worth going.

Mountain village Pai

  • Days needed: 1/5 to 1 day
  • Budget hotel: Pai Country Hut
  • Hotel: Pai Vieng Fah Resort

Pai is a little village in the mountains where there are many rice fields. The best thing you can do is rent a scooter and find the waterfalls, hot springs, and viewpoints.

If you want it’s possible to go from Chiang Mai to Pai by scooter, taking around 4-6 hours through the mountains. Rent with Aya Scooter Service, you have one in Chiang Mai and in Pai. If you go by bus, it takes around 3 hours.

Unbelievable temples in Chiang Rai

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Happynest Inspiring Hostel or Pan Kled Villa Eco Hill Resort
  • Hotel: Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort

From Chiang Mai you can get to Chiang Rai by bus. It will take around 3 to 4 hours to get to Chiang Rai. The best way to discover Chiang Ria is guess what? Yes, to rent a scooter.

There are some places that you must visit while you visit Chiang Ria.

  • Go with a scooter to the point where the border of the three countries Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand come together. It’s called the Golden Triangle.
  • Visit the city center of Chiang Rai. Make sure you pass by the temples: Wat Klang Wieng, Wat Ming Meuang, and Wat Phra Singh.
  • Wander around the night market.
  • A highlight of Chiang Rai is the temple Wat Rong Khun. It’s the most beautiful white temple I have ever seen! Make sure you go early in the morning because it gets crowded.
  • Wat Rong Seua Ten is a beautiful blue temple near Chiang Rai.
  • Baan Dam also called the Black House. It’s a unique creation of an artist.
  • Wat Tham Pla which is a monkey temple or fish cave temple. Watch out for the monkeys!
  • From Chiang Mai you can easily visit one of the hill tribe villages.
  • You must do a trekking in Lum Nam Kok National Park if you’re adventurous. Check out Lanna Trek.

If you like nature and you have time left, then you can visit the Khun Korn Waterfalls and some hot springs like the Huay Mak Lium hot springs, Pong Phra Bat Hot Spring, and Fang Hot Spring.

Tip: visit the temple Wat Rong Khun early in the morning before the crowd gets there. I suggest you go right before opening hours which is at 8 am, thank me later.

The South of Thailand

In the South of Thailand, you can do many activities from diving, partying to relaxing. There is something for everybody but it’s also more touristic than the North of Thailand. The South is also known for the full moon parties. The wildest and biggest party is on the beach of Koh Phangan and it attracts people from all over the world.

There are many places you can visit in the South. Below I will discuss some places where you can go.

The famous Phuket

  • Days needed: 1 to 2 days
  • Hostel: Bandai Poshtel
  • Hotel: The Malika Hotel

Phuket is an amazing place to relax, rent a scooter and drive around. With your scooter you can drive to the Big Buddha and enjoy the views. You should also visit Wat Suwan Khirikhet and of course Phuket Town. Many people go to Phuket to party and relax.

Adventures on Koh Phangan island

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Echo Beach Backpackers
  • Hotel: Angkana Hotel Bungalows

This island is easily accessible through Surat Thani and there are many adventurous things to do here. From here you can go from island to island with a tour and discover a lot of uninhabited islands. Some things you should do while you’re here:

  • Walk through the sea to Koh Mae and bring you snorkel
  • Kayaking during the sunset. Rent your kayak here.
  • Rent a scooter and drive around. Take route to Haad Than Sadet to have a nice route.
  • Go to the Full Moon party every month or the Half Moon party or Black Moon party.
  • Visit beautiful beaches like Haad Mae, Leela Beach, Haad Son.
  • Eat something at Pantip Night Food Market

The must visit Khao Sok National Park

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Khao Sok Royal Cliff
  • Hotel: Khaosok Riverside Cottages

This National Park is also easily accessible through Surat Thani. The most amazing thing you can do here is sleeping in the middle of the jungle. Besides that, you can do a kayak tour on the river, follow a jungle cooking class and spot elephants in the national park. 

Hiking near Krabi

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Glur Hostel
  • Hotel: Aonang Hill or Ban Sainai Resort or Whalecome Aonang

Some beautiful beaches you should visit are Ao Phra Nang and Railay beach. Railay beach is only accessible by boat. You can also go from island to island with a tour like to the Hong islands.

You must climb the Tiger Cave which is 1237 stairs and 600 m high but watch out for monkeys. Another hike you can do is a hike to Khao Ngon Nak Viewpoint. It’s a 2 hour walk to the top, but only 30 minutes back. For some nice views go to the Railay viewpoint and Blue lagoon.

Diving near Koh Tao

  • Days needed: 1 to 3 days
  • Hostel: Indie Hostel
  • Hotel: The Dearly Koh Tao

It’s the best place to go diving here, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not a diver, you can go snorkeling at Haad Thien also called shark bay to snorkel with blacktip reef sharks. You should also visit Sairee beach and Freedom beach.

Some nice viewpoints are Mango Viewpoint, John Suwan Viewpoint, and Koh Nang Yuan Viewpoint.

Many more adventurous places to discover

There are many islands in Thailand, too much to discuss it all. Some other islands that are well-known are the following:

  • Koh Samui is most developed island and busiest. There are also a lot of luxurious resorts.
  • Koh Lipe is a small island and known for beautiful beaches, snorkeling, diving, kayaking.
  • Langkawi is an island near Malaysia.
  • Koh Lanta has a beautiful national park to discover.

There is much more to discover in Thailand. This blog only gives you an idea of what you can visit while backpacking through Thailand. It’s a perfect country to backpack around and take public transport. If you have a car, it’s easier and faster to discover Thailand and maybe you will find some more hidden gems. If you found some places we should visit, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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