If you have never been to the land of rising suns, make sure you start planning your unforgettable Trip to Thailand right away without even burning a hole in your wallet. I visited Thailand in July 2017, with my family for just 5 days. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for anyone of us, and especially me. We only visited Bangkok and Pattaya due to a shortage of time (Say hello to a family of 2 doctors, an engineer, and an architect).
In this post, I am going to give as many tips as I could gather at the time I had in Thailand.
Here's a couple of things to take note of before you reach Thailand. You have both options available at your expense, a visa before arrival, or a visa on arrival. For more information about the requirements for both, please visit this link.
If you already have a visa, it is relatively more convenient once you reach Thailand. But in the event that you plan to opt for Visa on Arrival, make sure you are well aware of the requirements and procedures before your trip.
There is a mandatory fee of 1000 Baht (Thai currency) for your visa at the airport, and if you want to avoid a long queue, opt for the VIP queue, where they charge something around 1200 Baht (as of June 2017).
Another thing you should probably know is that it will take you more than an hour or two (if there’s a long queue) to get the visa at the airport, so make sure you call your pick up vehicle accordingly.
After exiting the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok or any other airport in Thailand for that matter, you can directly move to your hotel, hostel, dormitory by calling a taxi. (For hotel, hostel, BnB bookings in Thailand, visit AirBnB, Booking.com, HostelWorld )
Transport in Thailand
If you plan to stay for a longer duration in Bangkok, you have this excellent option to choose the sky train for your intracity travels (there are hundreds of stations across Bangkok that are at close proximity from possibly every location you'd want to visit). It will help you go easy on your pockets to visit the temples and markets and travel to and fro from your place of stay. It should cost you around 30 Baht to 60 Baht on an average. (As of June 2017)
Another great travel option is Tuk or Tuk-Tuk which is almost like a sister concept to an autorickshaw, that runs within the cities (Bangkok and Pattaya). Bangkok Tuk-Tuks are smaller (3 seaters, max. 4 pax) as compared to the ones in Pattaya (10 seaters).
Tuk-tuks are named so because of their 2 rows of seats. The drivers of tuk-tuks will rob you blind with their fares if you are not a local and have no idea about the system. So make sure you ask your hotel staff or some trustworthy local about the price you should be charged. On average they should charge 30-50 Baht per person for a very short ride, but then again it depends on the traffic, time of the day, etc.
The next option for traveling in Bangkok and Pattaya would be taxis. There are yellow-green, pink, blue taxis all around. Maximum seating for only 4 people and they charge you either by the meter (better option), or fixed price, but make sure you negotiate the price BEFORE starting the ride.
Also, there are subways that run across the Bangkok city, but sky-trains are the more preferred choice for travel, but if you get a chance, do try traveling by subway.
If you are bad at remembering names (let's not joke around, most of us are), please ask your hotel reception to give you a card with the hotel address written, it will cause you less trouble explaining your destination to the taxi or tuk drivers.
Alright, so straight to the good part, if you love to experiment and try new cuisines, you are going to absolutely LOVE Thailand. If you are a fan of seafood, you are going to L-O-V-E Thailand even more.
Within Thai food, make sure you try Thai soups, rice bowls, Shrimp, and seaweed dishes. If you want to try something Chinese, there is Chinatown, where you can go and tame that Chinese stomach of yours.
If you don’t want to experiment much and stick with eating Indian cuisine (come on, come out of that comfort zone, will you?), you can easily spot a lot of Indian restaurants everywhere, literally almost every street.
Alcohol - Thailand is pretty famous for its Thai beer (Most popular brands-Singha,Chang,Leo around 60-80 baht per bottle that's about ₹170-200)
For Vegan travelers - you absolutely won't regret the vegan options that Thailand has to offer. You can check this link for the best vegan options in any part of Thailand.
A note for Muslim travelers - it might be a little difficult for you wrt good food in Thailand as a lot of restaurants serve pork and there’s even the question of Halal food. Make sure you search for good authentic Halal restaurants and don’t trust the seller if they simply say it’s halal. Or a better choice would be to ask any local resident you meet at the Mosque or any Muslim local, basically. We had a meal at the Usman Muslim Thai Restaurant in Bangkok, which was one of the top-rated halal restaurants by TripAdvisor, and to be honest, they were right to do so because everything we tried was pretty darn good and it was all authentic Thai cuisine, plus it's halal, so yay!
Pretty sure if Thailand is on your places-to-visit list, one of the reasons HAS to be shopping. Thailand, especially Bangkok is undoubtedly a shoppers' paradise.
Some of the well-known markets for pocket-friendly options are Yaowarat or Sampeng Market (Chinatown), Pratunam Market, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Floating markets, etc. The floating markets are a must-visit not only for the shopping aspect but also as a whole new experience.
MBK shopping center is another great place to visit to get almost everything you want under one roof. It has dedicated floors for each category (clothes, electronics, etc.) which makes it easy to look for what you want. Having said that, the humongous size of this center will definitely make you stay longer than you anticipated. Also, don't forget to haggle! 😉
For all the bargain lovers and street shopping experts out there (cheers to you for your confidence and skills btw🙌), street markets like the Pratunam market would be the best place to visit. Some sections of the street stay open till late at night, so you don't need to worry about rushing anywhere. Travel all day, shop all night!
Places of Interest
This is a tricky part to discuss because as individuals, we will always have different opinions about which places seem worth visiting. Some of us love visiting the offbeat places, places without tourists (I do realize the irony), traveling like locals, where we get to experience the true essence of a place. And there are also folks who would want to tick all the places on the "Famous Tourist Destinations" list. Neither of which is right or wrong, it is all about your personal taste and interest.
Since I also happened to visit Thailand with ma famille, and while being a student myself at the time, the decision-making team was pretty clear from the very beginning. Parents said "must-visit locations" and must-visit locations it was. Lucky for me, adventure sports and beaches usually always make the list!
Beaches of Thailand
There are countless astounding beaches all over Thailand. If you're looking to travel with beaches as your center of interest, then I'd highly recommend looking at places like Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Samet, etc.
As of Pattaya and Bangkok, there are a few good ones like the Koh Larn beach, Naklua, Bang Saray, Tien(cleanest), Cha-am, and Hua Hin. The mainland beaches near Bangkok are nice enough, but islands - especially small ones are totally worth it. If you are going to Thailand anyway, why would you want to miss the best bits of it, right?
Relax under the umbrellas across the beach and grab something from the food and drinks shacks to spend a chill day on the beach. Or if you are an adventure junkie like me, then you're in for a treat with all the different watersports and fun activities around the beaches.
Temples of Bangkok
If you were to ask me the 3 best things about Bangkok, I'd definitely say food, shopping and the TEMPLES.
Technically, a temple in Thailand is more commonly known as Wat, which is a type of Buddhist and Hindu temple. These religious sites are more than just attractions. Thai locals have these temples woven into their everyday life. You will see a lot of activities and cultural influence in and around these beautiful Wats.
The best time to visit most of the temples is early in the morning, when the crowd is less and you will get to see some beautiful rituals by the monks going on.
Do keep in mind that temples are sacred places, so you must dress appropriately (no shorts or revealing clothing).
The 5 must-see temples of Bangkok
Wat Phra Kaew
If you do have the time, do visit the other temples in Bangkok. Make sure you check the timings of the temples before visiting.
Photographs from Wat Trai Mit and Wat Benchamabophit
Nong Nooch Village, Pattaya
One of the most beautiful man-made garden villages to ever exist. Must visit for another wordly experience, and believe me because not many man-made 'faux natural' places amuse me.
Alcazar Cabaret Show, Pattaya
What are you even doing in this beautiful land of smiles, if not attending the most famous cabaret show in the city? Highly recommend it if you truly want to see the other fascinating side of the country with ladyboys or "kathoeys" entertaining the audience with their glamorous get-ups and musical dance performances. A few other cabaret shows you can check out are Tiffany's and Siam Niramit Show.
Walking street, Pattaya
Oh, what hell of an experience this one was. If you're traveling as a family, I do not recommend this place, eh or maybe I do, high time people opened up their minds to new cultures and lifestyles. If you were to ask me, I could call it the Las Vegas of Pattaya, only with more ladyboys. But if you're on your honeymoon, or traveling as bachelors or with friends, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE. You will certainly remember this as one of the most exciting nights of your trip! 😂😜
Other than all of these personal experiences, trust me there's a lot more to Thailand than just Bangkok and Pattaya.
You can read other interesting travel and photography related articles on my blog here.
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All images © Ruhma Ukaye
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