Thailand is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. From dazzling temples and night markets, to hill tribe treks and idyllic islands, this country has it all.
What initially drew Gary and me to Thailand was its culture and history. We were keen to explore the shining temples and crumbling ancient ruins, we were excited to see the colourfully-cloaked monks and smouldering incense. But what we found was so much more…
Although Thailand isn’t actually that big in size ( about double that of the UK ), there are so many things to see and discover that planning your two-week trip is difficult, and will most likely require a couple of sacrifices. Most professionals have a holiday allowance of about two weeks and you most certainly would be forgiven for assuming that this isn’t enough time to explore Thailand thoroughly. If your main goal is to relax, you might indeed want to spend the majority of your time on the islands.
However if like us, you want to take in as much of the country as possible in those two weeks, have as many experiences as you possibly could in said time-frame, then you have come to the right place.
The itinerary outlined below for a luxurious two-week vacation in Thailand takes in the classic sights as well as some more off the beaten track experiences and destinations.
THREE DAYS IN BANGKOK
I would suggest you start your Thailand trip in Bangkok. You’ll need a lot of energy. This is an extremely busy, polluted city and you might experience a bit of a culture shock. Depending on what you’ve heard you might be tempted to skip it. But you definitely shouldn’t. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen before and essential to a complete Thailand experience.
WHY SHOULD YOU GO TO BANGKOK?
Bangkok is a sprawling city of modern skyscrapers, ancient temples, crisscrossing highways, and swanky shopping malls. “Chaotic” does not even begin to describe it. Street food, incredibly ornate temples, tuk-tuks, river boats, insane drivers, city skylines, and backpacker bars, are all intermingled here. A confusing mix of smells – incense, Thai food, exhaust smoke, and garbage – constantly lingers in the air. It’s all part of the Bangkok experience. This is the heartbeat of Thailand.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU PLAN TO STAY IN BANGKOK?
In total Gary and I spent five days in Bangkok. Three days at the start of our trip and two days before flying back to London. You could easily spend more time then this in Bangkok. There is simply so much to see. In fact, with hindsight, I would probably have added another day, in order to visit Ayutthaya. However three to five days is a good starting point. It allows you to get an overview of the city, whilst still leaving room for other experiences in your two week trip.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IN BANGKOK?
I have written a very detailed and lengthy post on spending five days in Bangkok. So to keep this post clear and oversee-able here is a quick overview for your threedays in Bangkok.
DAY 1: FLIGHT TO BANGKOK
Board your flight from London to Bangkok
DAY 2: BANGKOK MARKETS
Morning: Arrival and Check-in at the hotel Afternoon: Explore Chatchukka Weekend Market or alternatively head to one of the Floating markets
DAY 3: BANGKOK TEMPLES & CULTURE
Morning: Follow the old town walking tour and visit among others Watts Arundel and the Grand Palace Afternoon: Explore the canals of Bangkok and visit the Royal Barges Museum Evening: Have a cocktail on a Rooftop Bar
DAY 4: SIAM CENTER AND JIM THOMPSON’S HOUSE
Morning: Start the morning in Bangkok modern shopping district and explore at least one of its humongous shopping malls Afternoon: If there is one thing I would suggest you do in Bangkok, then it’s visiting Jim’s Thompson House. Evening: Catch your flight to North Thailand and check-in to your hotel in Chiang Rai
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY IN BANGKOK?
In total Gary and I checked into three different hotels whilst in Bangkok. Although, I would strongly advise against following our example in this case (your time could be spent much more wisely), I would nonetheless suggest you book at least two hotels. Bangkok, the City of Angels, is gigantic and incredibly diverse. Each district has its own character, advantages and disadvantage and I would argue that it’s fun to have at least two different experiences. That being said, here is a list of hotels we stayed. For a more detailed description, please follow the link to the individual reviews of each hotel.
MILLENNIUM HILTON HOTEL
Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Millennium Hilton Bangkok is a contemporary five-star hotel with all the amenities you could wish for. Gary and I spent our first three nights in Bangkok here. All rooms, but especially the River View Suites, have an incredible panoramic view of the city.
Oriental Residence Bangkok is a hotel with luxurious self-serviced apartments located adjacent to Lumphini Park. This is the perfect place to stay for an extended trip or for a Bangkok shopping spree. Each self-contained apartment is furnished with a kitchen, dining and lounge area and a walk-in wardrobe, which connects the bathroom and bedroom.
Located a short walk away from Khao San Road the Casa Nithra is one of the best mid-range alternatives in this part of town. You are far enough from Khao San to get a good night’s sleep but close enough to partake in the festivities. The rooftop swimming pool is lovely, the rooms comfortable and the breakfast has plenty of options. This was also the most affordable hotel we stayed at, during our entire trip.
FIVE DAYS IN NORTHERN THAILAND
Now that you have had your fill of Bangkok, head to Northern Thailand for plenty of culture, temples and scenic nature. Here in Northern Thailand, the climate is far more temperate (downright cold at night between December and February), nurturing the fertile land that gave the old Lanna Kingdom h its name -“the land of a million rice fields”. Until the beginning of the last century, Lanna was a largely independent region. On the back of its agricultural prosperity, it developed its own styles of art and architecture, which can still be seen in its flourishing temples and distinctive handicraft traditions. The north is also set apart from the rest of the country by its exuberant festivals, a cuisine which has been heavily influenced by Burma and a dialect quite distinct from central Thai. Northerners proudly call themselves khon muang, “people of the principalities”, and their gentle sophistication is admired by the people of Bangkok, whose wealthier citizens build their holiday homes in the clean air of the north’s forested mountains.
TWO DAYS IN CHIANG RAI
Gary and I started our Northern Thai adventure in Chiang Rai, and I believe this is a good way to go about it. Chiang Rai is far less known and still lives in the shadow of its cousin Chiang Mai, the capital of the North. Yet it has its very own set of charms. Sprawled untidily over the south bank of the Kok River, over the last few years it has acquired several genuine sights of interest.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU PLAN TO STAY IN CHIANG RAI?
I would suggest you definitely do not need more than a day and a half to explore everything there is to see in Chiang Rai. Gary and I arrived in the evening of our third day in Thailand, after almost missing our flight. We spent the entire following day in the city, then packed our bags and travelled down to Chiang Mai, stopping at the White Temple on our way.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IN CHIANG RAI?
Again, I have written a far more detailed post about our trip to Chiang Rai, but here is a rough summary and some suggestions on how to spend your time there.
DAY 5: BAAN DAM
Morning: Explore the Town Centre, the Old and New Town Clock Lunch: Have a snack at a Cat Café Afternoon: Spend the afternoon at Baan Dam
DAY 6: THE WHITE TEMPLE
Morning: Pack your luggage, order a taxi and head to Chiang Mai Lunch: Stop at the White Temple and the Hot Spring on the way Afternoon: Check-in to your hotel in the Mae Rim Valley, an hour from Chiang Mai
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY IN CHIANG RAI?
There is not a lot of choices when it comes to hotels in Chiang Rai, especially four or five-star ones. Gary and I ended up staying at the Le Meridien Resort for two nights and were really glad we did. If you want to find out more about the hotel of our choice, you can head to the review of Le Meridien Chiang Rai, that I wrote especially for that purpose.
THREE DAYS IN CHIANG MAI
No Thailand itinerary would be complete without at least a few days spent in Chiang Mai, the Northern capital of Thailand. Indeed it was my favourite destination of the whole country. Although Chiang Mai has over 300 Temples and has somehow managed to preserve some of the atmosphere of an ancient Thai village, Chiang Mai is also incredibly modern and probably the most westernised city in Thailand. No wonder then that it is home to a very large expat community. Chiang Mai’s community is very young with over 60,000 of its 400,000 people being students. The people here are famously easy-going and even speak more slowly than their cousins in the capital, a lilting dialect known as kham muang.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU PLAN TO STAY IN CHIANG MAI?
Chiang Mai is definitely a tourist hub and has so many activities on offer, so much culture and so many temples, that you could easily spend over a week here. However, I would argue that three to four days, are a good starting point and will give you enough time to visit all the main attractions. Gary and I decided to split our time between the Old Town of Chiang Mai and the surrounding mountainous countryside – Mae Rim Valley to be exact. This gave us the best of both worlds and I would highly suggest you do the same. In total, we spent three and a half days in Chiang Mai. With hindsight, I would probably have extended that to four whole days, in order to visit What Pra That Doi Suthep. Something we planned to do but sadly didn’t have enough time for.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IN CHIANG MAI?
For a more detailed and lengthy description on how to spend three days in Chiang Mai, please head to the post I have specifically written for that purpose. In the meantime, however, find a brief summary below:
DAY 7: THAI COOKING SCHOOL
Morning: Get picked up at your hotel or in town by the Thai Cooking School Afternoon: Explore one of Chiang Mai’s food markets and spend the afternoon learning how to cook a four course Thai meal.
DAY 8: OLD TEMPLES OF CHIANG MAI
Morning: Pack your bags, leave the Mae Rim Valley and check-in to your hotel in Chiang Mai Afternoon: Follow the Chiang Mai Old City Tour and visit among others Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man Evening: Have dinner at Chiang Mai’s famous Night Market.
DAY 9: ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
Morning: Get picked up at your hotel Afternoon: Spend the entire day at Elephant Nature Park, feeding rescued elephants and bonding with former stray dogs
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY IN CHIANG MAI?
Just like in Bangkok, there are so many hotels that you could possibly stay in in Chiang Mai. You are certainly spoilt for choice. If you are planning to stay in Chiang Mai for several days, you might want to consider staying in two different locations, like we did. Spend half of your allocated time outside Chiang Mai in the mountainous regions that surround the town and the other half as close as possible to the old city centre. Here are two hotels, I would wholeheartedly recommend:
Located high up in the hills and surrounded by tropical greenery, Panviman Chiang Mai Spa Resort is heaven come to earth. In fact, that’s what Panviman translates too. It was one of the most relaxing hotels we stayed at during our two week trip to Thailand. We felt incredibly spoilt and lucky to be able to spend two nights in one of Panviman’s Jacuzzi Suites. Read my review of Panviman Chiang Mai Spa Resort by clicking the link.
If you are looking for a hotel with an incredible past, in a historic setting and near the city center of Chiang Mai, then you really cannot go wrong by booking a couple of nights at 137 Pillars House Hotel. This place is a favourite among many travel bloggers. And for a good reason, every single detail has been thought through. The service you will receive at this hotel is simply impeccable.
FOUR DAYS ISLAND HOPING IN SOUTHERN THAILAND
By now, you are probably a little travelled-out, and deserve a couple of days of relaxation on the beach. A lot of people only visit Thailand for its beach scene, and I would argue they are seriously missing out. Nonetheless, a little Thai island hopping certainly is a must. Thailand Islands are world-famous for their wonderful beaches, laid back vibe and excellent activities, such as scuba diving. Each Island is unique and beautiful, in its very own way. The only problem is choosing which one you want to visit. Some are more touristy, than others. And each one has a bit of a different vibe. It is really up to you to choose what suits you best. Some of the top Thai Island destinations include Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Samui, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. This list sums up over 30 of the most popular islands better than I ever could–it helped me a lot, so I recommend checking it out if you’re stuck. For our first time in Thailand, Gary and I decided to spend four days split between two of the most famous islands: Phuket and Ko Phi Phi.
TWO DAYS ON PHUKET
Often referred to as the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It’s a popular spot for visitors to Thailand – and for good reason too. With an impressive coastline featuring long stretches of sandy beach strung together by dramatic rock formations, it’s been attracting people to its shores for decades. While this means that some parts of this large island can be busy, there is still a traditional and authentic side of Phuket. If you do choose Phuket and want to avoid the crowds, I would suggest you choose a hotel or resort in the North of the island, near the national parks. This will guarantee a relaxing stay, whilst still being as good a departure point for excursions, as any other.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ON PHUKET?
I have written a far more in depth review of our James Bond Island Tour with Andaman Leisure Phuket , so do check that out. The rest of our time on Phuket was mainly spent relaxing. But there are actually several temples and markets on Phuket, you could visit instead, should you feel so inclined.
DAY 10: RELAX ON THE BEACH
Morning: Pack your bags and catch a flight form Chiang Mai to Phuket. Then a taxi to the hotel. Afternoon: Check-in to your hotel and spend the afternoon relaxing at the pool or on the beach. You deserve a little rest.
DAY 11: JAMES BOND ISLAND
Morning: You will be picked up in a morning from your hotel by the tour company. Afternoon: Depending on your tour company, your itinerary might be slightly different. Ours included James Bond Island, Kayaking and the Floating Gypsy Village
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY ON PHUKET?
Again you won’t find it difficult to book a hotel in Phuket. The problem is just picking one. Whilst a lot of the attractions can be found in the south of the islands, this is also where the partying student crowd hangs out. So I would recommend you stick to the North of the Island, if like us you value your privacy and want to relax. If you are feeling flush and are looking for a real treat then you might want to book one of The Pavilions private villas. They come with their very own pool and spa room. Gary and I had a fabulous and decidedly adult stay here in Phuket.
TWO DAYS ON KO PHI PHI
WHY KO PHI PHI?
Ko Phi Phi used to be a remote, rather untouched island with emerald colored waters, sandy beaches, jungle, palm trees, colorful longtail boats, island huts, beach-front bars and tropical drinks. Over the last five years, it has immensely grown in popularity and some parts of the island have been ruined by the consequent pollution. Indeed some people strongly advise against it as an Island destination, stating that the island is “ruined” or “smells bad” or “is littered with garbage.” Nonetheless if you stray from the town centre and head to the northern tip of this small island, I promise you will have a great experience. This part of the island might be a little more remote and difficult to get to, but it is worth it for the peace and tranquillity you will find here.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ON KO PHI PHI?
Unfortunately, having booked our trip to Thailand in the shoulder and thus rainy season, we were hit by a tropical storm whilst on Ko Phi Phi and thus more or less stuck on the island. So check the weather forecast for that month before you book a hotel, and in most circumstances you should be able to visit Maya Bay.
DAY 12: RELAX ON THE BEACH
Morning: Pack your bags and catch the ferry Ko Phi Phi. Be warned that depending on weather conditions this might take several hours Afternoon: Check-in to your hotel and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach. You deserve a little rest.
DAY 13: MAYA BAY
On this day we had planned to hire a long tail boat from Ao Tonsai Pier, in order to do a tour of the following islands: Bamboo Island, Monkey Island and Ko Phi Phi Ley. Unfortunately due to an unforeseen storm, we were pretty much grounded at our resort. Although, fortunately, we did get a chance to go snorkelling for a little while instead.
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY ON KO PHI PHI?
If you are indeed planning to visit Ko Phi phi Island, there is only one hotel I would recommend- Zeovola Resort. For one it is located on the Northern tip and thus as remote as you can possibly get on this very popular island. And for another, this resort pays special attention to the environmental impact it has on the island, which I believe is incredibly commendable. Nestled among gardens, Zeavola’s wooden suites are designed like island houses. Each suite has a satellite TV, a minibar and coffee/tea making facilities. The private bathrooms includes an outdoor rain showers.
RETURN TO BANGKOK FOR TWO DAYS
If you started your Thailand itinerary in Bangkok, then chances are you will be returning home from here. Personally, on a trip that involves this many locations and various forms of public transport, I would return at least two days before my planned departure. Just in case… And there are plenty of things left to do in Bangkok anyway.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IN BANGKOK FOR YOUR LAST TWO DAYS?
DAY 14: BANGKOK NIGHT MARKET
Morning: Most of today will be spent travelling. The ferry from Ko Phi Phi back to Phuket in itself, can take five hours, depending on weather circumstances. So you will want to leave plenty of room before your flight back to Bangkok. Afternoon: Check-in to your hotel Evening: Have dinner at one of Bangkok numerous night markets
DAY 15: LUMPHINI PARK, CHINA TOWN AND LADY BOY SHOW
Morning: Head to Lumphini Park for a morning stroll and look out for the Lizzards. Afternoon: Explore Bangkok’s China Town Evening: Spend the evening at Asiatique’s funfair and watch Calypso’s famous Lady Boy Cabaret Show
And that just about sums up my guide to visiting Thailand for two weeks, as well as everything you might need to know to make the best of your trip! If you’ve got any thoughts on feedback on this post, or ideas for where you’d recommend, do pop them in the comments below! Assuming you have 2 full weeks in the country, you will easily be able to fit all of this in. If you in Thailand for longer, there are plenty of additional activities you can add to this itinerary. I would probably spend a couple more days in Bangkok (check out my Bangkok itinerary for ideas) and then extend the time you spend on Thailand’s beautiful tropical islands.