There was so much about two weeks in Thailand I was excited about. I’d planned as much as I could without overthinking every detail. Besides, expecting the unexpected is part of the fun, right? However, looking back after the trip, there are some practical things I just wish I knew before we went. For those heading to Thailand soon, here are five lessons I learned (the hard way!) so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
Lessons I learned from 2 weeks in Thailand:
1. Go to Phuket first
We visited three main cities on our trip: Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Phuket was shockingly expensive compared to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Of course, one of the reasons the cost there was so surprising to us was because of how incredibly affordable and inexpensive Bangkok and Chiang Mai are in comparison.
Phuket is an island popular amongst honeymooners and other assorted tourists, thus prices are inflated there. Phuket even has an extra VAT tax that Bangkok and Chiang Mai don’t incur! Phuket’s prices are closer to what I would expect in America or superpower countries in Europe, like Germany, France or the UK. If we went there first, prices would have been less shocking. But since we went there last and were joyfully accustomed to low Thai prices at that point, the cost of Phuket felt almost paralyzing upon arrival. Visit Phuket first and you’ll find the rest of your trip to mainland Thailand is so much cheaper!
2. Spend more time in Chiang Mai
I wish we planned more days in Chiang Mai. If we had time, I would have loved to spend one entire day visiting Chiang Rai, northeast of Chiang Mai. Because we only had minimal time, however (a day for enjoying the hotel and night market, a second day for enjoying the Old City, a third for zip lining and a fourth day with elephants), we were not able to go there. One day I’ll get to Chiang Rai to see their famous White Temple! Luckily, Chiang Mai’s golden temple made up for it (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep).
3. Get more massages
A friend had told me how affordable massages in Thailand are before we visited (about $10-$20 USD per hour). I kept saying ‘We’ll get a massage at least every other day!’ Turns out we only had three in two weeks… If I did it again I’d make massages more of a priority. Truthfully, they helped heal some pain I was having prior to the trip and as a traveler often carrying a heavy daypack with a DSLR, a full bottle of water and then some inside, a massage was a nice and much-needed relief from the weight. It was also a joyful perk of being on vacation. Also a note to the wise: traditional ‘Thai’ massages are PAINFUL and not in a ‘pleasure is pain’ kind of way. Just an ‘ow, that really hurt’ way. Next time I’d personally skip the Thai massage and go for a foot or head/shoulder massage option!
4. Stay on Railay Beach
We mostly stayed at Starwood hotels to take advantage of their SPG program, which I am loyal to and adore. That is the main reason why we didn’t end up opting for a night at Railay Beach, a beautiful remote island known for rock climbing and stunning beaches. I immediately wished we had plans to stay for the evening when we went exploring there during the day. We’ll make sure to stay there overnight the next time we visit the country.
5. Hunt down the bizarre food
Have you ever heard people say you can eat the craziest things in Thailand? I have! Yet we didn’t see anything that was even close to a contender for the ‘World’s Most Bizarre Food’ award. We really ate quite normal Thai cuisine like grilled squid, noodle and rice dishes, and soups with fish. Next time I want to seek out where the bugs and worms are served! Bugs weren’t on the menu of any place we visited yet I know this delicacy exists there; they just weren’t lurking in well known, tourist-filled food markets. Hey, I’m not saying I’d eat bugs. But I would, perhaps, enjoying watching the bravery of others!
Heading to Asia soon? These posts will help inspire your trip!
- A Beginner’s Guide to Tokyo: 20 Things to Know Before You Go
- 5 Things Not to Miss in Kathmandu, Nepal
- Best Romantic Restaurant in Phuket
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Have you been to Thailand? What lessons did you learn for next time?