Although I visited Thailand in my back-packing days, spending all day looking at holidays to Thailand, I found it hard to avoid the draw of going back. I wanted the combination of city, beach and wildlife so decided on Bangkok, Krabi and Phuket, with a visit to Elephant Hills.
Kicking Off with A Bang in Bangkok
If you’re in Thailand, you have to experience Bangkok. The city’s that’s a little bit crazy has the kind of energy that’s hard to describe. Basically, it’s infectious chaos. Dazzling temples, futuristic skylines, people everywhere, and the best street food, floating markets, and buzzing nightlife ever.
We flew there from Manchester. The minute we arrived, I remembered why I wanted to return. Wandering the bright lights and tightly-packed alleys had our stomachs rumbling almost immediately. Street vendors selling fresh-fried noodles and papaya salads will make you want to skip that hotel breakfast! Bangkok might top street food cities, but it’s got a lot more to offer. The 18th-century Grand Palace is just stunning. The historic Rattanakosin district also has the sacred Emerald Buddha, and it’s a quick walk to Wat Pho Temple’s Reclining Buddha. This sprawling setup is basically the most ornate, mesmerising thing you’ve ever seen. Glowing golds, giant Buddhas, and enough tradition to feel like you’ve stepped back in time. For Wat Pho, I’d recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
The thing about Bangkok is that it’s as historic as it is modern. One minute, you’re at Wat Saket’s Golden Mount. The next, you’re hopping on the Skytrain to 7-floor malls. The one we went to even had a replica Golden Gate Bridge in the middle. It was literally that huge.
We went on our Triple Gems tour, to explore the city’s main highlights, to ensure we didn’t get side-tracked and miss anything. We still had enough time though to enjoy wandering around the city, taking in the smells and sights and losing ourselves in all the craziness.
After a long day out though, I’ll admit a hotel with a rooftop pool and a cocktail bar doesn’t hurt. We stayed at the Icon Bangkok. This one ticks a lot of boxes for being bang in the Sukhumvit area and a 7-minute walk from the Skytrain. The beds are the comfiest I’ve ever stayed in, so no worries on that front. You’re also quite near Chinatown and Terminal 21 mall. An absolute standout was sipping drinks under the rooftop canopy- a pretty fantastic way to watch those thunderstorms.
Krabi: Offshore Islands, Paradise Beaches, And Bobbing Longtail Boats
We flew from Bangkok to Krabi. This south-coastal region is completely different from the capital. The first thing that hits you here is the scenery. If you saw Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, you’re halfway there. The movie was actually filmed on Maya Beach, although it’s now mega-crowded and under a “no boat” ban. You can still view the green-blue bay, dazzling sands, and craggy limestone rocks from a distance, though. We stayed in the Aonang Beach area.
Personally, I don’t feel that Aonang is Krabi’s most stunning shoreline, but it’s brilliantly placed for getting a longtail boat out to picture-perfect bays. Railay Beach is also accessible from here. This one’s a winner. Rainforest-wrapped with a peninsula setting, Railay is all about turquoise-clear waters, dramatic horizons, and some pretty amazing cave formations. Aonang itself feels small, but the food is fantastic, the nightlife is brilliant, and the waterfront Seafood Street is definitely worth stopping at.
We stayed at the Deevana Plaza Krabi. You’re a 10-minute walk from the main hub here, so it’s brilliant on the location front. It’s also really relaxing. You walk in past the aroma spa, breakfast is outdoors, and the woods and trees feel really tropical. Swim-up rooms are available, but I personally wouldn’t recommend them- unless you want strangers floating past your window!
Elephant Hills: Floating Lake Tents, Wildlife, And A Full Jungle Experience
After a megacity and a beach, I was definitely up for some greenery. We reached Elephant Hills via road transfer. This stretch of rainforest is in Southern Thailand’s Khao Sok. The great thing about Elephant Hills is that you can get picked up from virtually anywhere including Phuket and Koh Samui. We did two nights here- one with a jungle focus and one on the lake.
This place is something else. Lush rainforests and thick greenery mean you feel completely at peace, although prepare to bring some stamina for the jungle treks. Elephant Hills offers guided nature tours with a bit of a safari feel, but the accommodation is pretty luxurious. Think tents, but high-end. They’ve got their own bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and lovely woven terrace chairs under thatched roofs. The only thing that surprised me here was how many people hadn’t realised you can actually stay on the floating lake. Looking at their disappointed faces, I’m glad I knew in advance!
Wildlife-wise, we spotted elephants, monkeys, beautiful birds, and all sorts popping their heads out the water. Elephant Hills also organises self-paddle canoe trips and family activities. They even do traditional Thai cooking demonstrations. From the chicken in coconut milk to the Kaeng Kai Subparod curries, the food was nothing short of amazing.
Phuket: City-Come-Beach, Colonial Gems, And A Buzzing Night Scene
Phuket is the only destination I hadn’t been to before. We stayed for 7 nights and I absolutely loved it. It’s a tropical island with quiet beach resorts, but also has some lively places too, with plenty in-between. Phang Nga Bay has dazzling cliffs, there’s glowing temples everywhere, and you won’t be short of everything from street eats to amazing restaurants.
We chose to stay in Karon. The beach here has warm golden sands, clear waters, and a chilled bar and restaurant scene that’s quite family-friendly. Then again, you’re not a million miles off party central (a.k.a. Patong Beach). Karon itself had us well-placed for trips to Ko Phi Phi, James Bond Island, and being either way for Patong’s nightlife or calmer Kata. For me, Phuket was a mishmash of cultural Buddhas, brilliant markets, street food galore, and always being 5 minutes from the beach. There’s also Old Phuket if you’re interested in Thailand’s Portuguese colonial heritage.
We stayed at the Centara Karon which is a reasonable 4-star, and is quite a large resort. The rooms overlook a really peaceful lagoon, and it’s got both adult-only and kid’s pools. I’d also recommend the upgraded rooms.
Thailand is such an amazing country, so much buzz, culture, unbelievable food and stunning beaches… what more could you want from a holiday. If you are considering Thailand, it’s worth looking at our Thai Multi Centre Page as it features our most popular itineraries.. some great ideas on there. Otherwise give me a call, as I’ll be happy to provide any advice you need.
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