The land of smiles offers an array of diverse experiences to backpackers, catering for all their needs and expectations, while offering many the trip of a lifetime.. Thailand’s ability to provide low price experiences, its abundance of colourful places to visit and its very friendly locals makes it the perfect place for an easy going backpacker looking for fun and a cultural trip to trek around.
There are more places in Thailand we could recommend seeing than we could rub a wooden frog at (all will be revealed when you arrive in Bangkok). However the capital itself is one place that must be seen, even if only for a couple of days.
Bangkok could best be defined as gritty. Most backpackers end up here at one stage or another when visiting Thailand and most will end up on the backpacker’s version of the Silk Road – Kao San Road. This area is the central one for visitors looking for a cheap place to stay and a long, Thai Red Bull fuelled night out.
However Bangkok is more than drunken first nights and pushy tuk tuk drivers (the motorised rickshaw vehicles seen everywhere that make a tuk tuk noise from their engine). It also has a number of exciting activities.
In Bangkok you will often be welcomed with “Gin khao ru yang?” (Have you eaten?). This is merely a welcome and not a literal phrase; however it is a fine example of the importance on food in Thai life.
Visitors should organise a Thai cookery class. These are excellent and usually involve a trip to the market to get ingredients, the lesson and also the eating of your own lunch, learn a skill and fill your belly and are usually low in price and high in taste.
Even though you will be so sick of being pestered by Tuk Tuk drivers to visit the Big Buddha, after a while you’ll consider sticking rice in your ears to drown them out – a trip to Wat Pho is worth it to see the giant golden reclining Buddha.
The walled Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is about 12 hours by bus and something similar by train, though sleepers are an option. The city is famous for two things – it’s fantastic night market and the jungle trekking that takes place in the mountains just outside the city – both are a backpackers dream.
Chang Mai’s night market offers locally made crafts and cheap, quirky souvenirs as well as Thai delicacies in the form of snake, frog and other meats. It is also a stopover for high quality Nike runners, not made by Nike and Rolex’s not made by Rolex, if you get the drift. It is worth a visit and will put a smile on your face.
Most come to Chang Mai for the jungle trekking and not the Thai Market. Trekking is one of those quintessential backpacking activities. Trekkers are taken into the jungle and are led by a local guide for around three days and two nights. These trips involve long walks and beautiful vistas, as well as the chance to stay with the local villagers in the mountains. The beautiful sight of a paddy field in a mountainous Thai valley would make even the most avidly nationalist Welsh man jealous. Trekking is an experience worth having and often includes the chance to ride an elephant.
The Full Moon Party is a rite for the backpacker on a trip to Thailand and is one of the world’s largest parties with all nationalities attending Koh Phangnan for the days before. So, get out the face paint, hope your heart doesn’t explode with the intake of Red Bull and Thai rum and put on the dancing shoes.
The island could be considered a little bit of a commercial trap, so booking in advance is advised – no one wants to be a Mary and Joseph character in Koh Phangnan.
The island of Koh Samui is not far from the full moon party, but turns the party mode down a notch, but not off completely. This island is famed for its scuba diving courses and the reefs and colourful undersea life that habitat just off it.
Backpackers can use one of the PADI licensed companies to get their PADI licence – making them qualified scuba divers the world over. Scuba diving is an awe inspiring experience.
If you find the thought of scuba a little claustrophobic – as many do, then snorkeling can offer you a different but just as worthwhile experience and is also less expensive. Don your goggles and snorkel and head out to the seas to see the rainbow of creatures underneath the ocean – Finding Nemo, it sort of is.