Thailand. The country where my first backpack adventure started. The country I would come back to twice during that same journey. And the country I couldn’t forget about anymore, because there are so many things to see and to do. I share with you my itinerary for Thailand, through the north part of the country. The part of Thailand where you can spend days wandering around the jungle, while taking a step back in time and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere at the same moment. An itinerary for Thailand in four weeks
My itinerary for Thailand
Exploring Thailand in just a couple of weeks? Don’t you dare trying. If there is one country around the world that simply has it all, it’s Thailand. The culture? Fascinating. The food. Simply delicious. The nature? Fantastic! From bounty islands to historical villages around the jungle, Thailand got it. And that’s why you need time to explore everything. Writing down an itinerary for Thailand is therefore not a simple task. A lot of people decide to divide the country in two parts and travel one part each time: the north and the south. I did the same thing and went only to the north the first time. In about four weeks I traveled from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, but my bucket list for Thailand is still way too long. This was my itinerary for Thailand:
Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya – Sukhothai – Mae Sot/Umphang – Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai
Day 1 till 4: Bangkok
For many backpackers Bangkok will be the start of their adventure around Southeast Asia. So it was for me. Somewhere in the afternoon I arrived in the chaotic, busy and lively city of Bangkok. I had no idea where to look. When you have never been outside Europe before, Bangkok is quite an experience (nowadays I really love the city!). Therefore I just rushed to my guesthouse and I spent the rest of my days relaxing around there.
The next days I visited tempels like Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew, walked around a floating market, was amazed by all the things going on around Khao San Road and found out that the Thai kitchen contains the best food you can possibly get around the world. Are you planning a trip to Bangkok and still looking for an affordable, nice accommodation were you can relax a bit? I really enjoyed my stay at NapPark Hostel. It’s really luxurious and clean for a hostel, besides that I slept quietly and well and you can already meet a bunch of people to travel with. Not a bad place for the first days! Be sure you also read my five tips for Bangkok before you go.
Day 5 and 6: Ayutthaya
After spending four days in Bangkok I decided to catch the train to Ayutthaya with some other backpackers. Ayutthaya was once the main capital of the old Thailand (Siam) and you can find lots of historical temples and ruins around here. We rented a a bike and drove around Ayutthaya to visit some of them. That was really a good way to explore the village. In between we had some amazing Thai food at one of the many food stalls you can find around and we relaxed a bit at the swimming pool next to our guesthouse as well. The next day we decided to continue our journey to Kanchanaburi.
That was the moment we made our first mistake, because it wasn’t easy at all to travel from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi and we needed to go back to Bangkok first. Luckily they changed it nowadays and it is possible now, but it will not hurt to check some details first before you go somewhere. It took us quite some travel time so make sure you base your itinerary for Thailand on logical transportation.
Day 7 till 9: Kanchanaburi
For the first time in my life I took a bus in Asia. It doesn’t matter how many time you take a bus in Asia, it’s always a little adventure. We ended up in some school bus and the driver drove insanely fast on the roads while the bus didn’t had any doors. But whatever, it’s Thailand, so things like that happen all the time. Late in the evening we arrived in Kanchanburi and we found a lovely guesthouse next to the river. Beautiful! The next morning we explored the area and one of the things we visited was the bridge over the River Kwai and the museum next to it. I am pretty sure you know the story.
In the evening we had some amazing Thai food again in the main street of Kanchanaburi and the next morning we took a songthaew to the Erawan Falls. Wow, such an amazing place! For the first time in my life I saw wild monkeys in the trees, bright turquoise water and lots of waterfalls in one place. It had something magical. Everywhere you could find small pools to swim in, some with little fish in it that softly nibble on your toe. This place was really lovely so make sure you don’t miss it!
Day 10 till 12: Traveling and Sukhothai
After spending two days in Kanchanaburi, we went with a group of people to Sukhothai. It was the first time we had to travel a long way and partially we did that by night bus. So one day we did nothing but traveling. You can compare Sukhothai easily with Ayutthaya, because the most common places you can go to here as a traveler are the ruins and temples as well. Again we decided to rent a bike to see everything. If you really like to visit temples and ruins, both places are definitely worth a visit. Otherwise you can easily decide to visit one of them. Personally I liked Sukhothai better than Ayutthaya.
Sukhothai also has a fantastic night market. The food here is simply amazing and we had a really cultural night. We spoke with Thai people, joined some dance event and had a blast. Sukhothai is for sure a great place to have a stop over if you don’t want to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai straight away.
Day 13 till 16: Jungle trekking Mae Sot
A lot of people go directly from Sukhothai to Chiang Mai, but we decided to go to the west of Thailand first. That was mostly because we wanted to do a jungle trekking around Mae Sot. Most people do a jungle trekking around Chiang Mai, but we wanted to go to a place with less tourists. Good decision, because we were the only ones.
So from Sukhothai we traveled to Mae Sot, where we were picked up the next morning for a four-hour long journey through the hills. We arrived in a small village were we had some lunch and after that we went to the jungle. The coming four days we would go hiking and canoeing through the jungle. Some nights we slept in the middle of the jungle while everything turned pitch-dark and you literally couldn’t see anything anymore and other nights we slept on wooden floors of small huts from tribes. An eagle flew above us with a giant snake in his beak. Everywhere we saw kingfishers, who disappeared incredibly fast at the moment we approached them. And we saw amazing waterfalls. It was an exhausting but incredible journey!
Day 17 till 19: Chiang Mai
After spending four days in the jungle, we found ourselved back in Mae Sot, where we took the bus to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. We arrived in the evening, but luckily we were still able to find a good place for the night.
If there is one place in Thailand I can easily stay for weeks, it will be Chiang Mai. Again we visited some temples, but we also went to a Muay Thai match and a cooking class. I really liked the cooking workshop and I still love to make Thai food when I am at home. It’s so good! Even just walking around in Chiang Mai is already a fun thing to do. There are so many lovely streets with fantastic restaurants and markets and there is so much to do in the area around Chiang Mai. And I did not even speak yet about the relaxed atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit!
Don’t make the same mistake as I did and go to Pai after Chiang Mai! I decided to skip it (but now I still have something on my bucket list), but I’ve heard so many good stories about it. It’s has a bit of a hippie vibe and it’s just a couple of hours away from Chiang Mai. The road you have to take is terrible with a lot of curves, but the nature is stunning and the village itself has a good vibe. Put it on your list I would say.
Day 20 till 21: Elephant Nature Park
There was just one thing I already putted in my itinerary for Thailand for sure before I left the Netherlands and that was a spot to visit the Elephant Nature Park close to Chiang Mai. If you want to go there and stay the night as well, you should definitely make a reservation weeks before you go. In the Elephant Nature Park they take care of abused and wounded elephants and keep them there so they can have a better life. During your visit you will take care of the elephants, feed them, clean them and learn a lot about them.
I stayed there for one night and for about one and a half day I walked between the mighty elephants. What an incredible experience and it’s so amazing to wake up in the morning, walk out of your hut and to see elephants walking around. You can also decide to go for one day or to stay even longer. But like I said, make sure you make a reservation on time!
Day 22 till 23: Chiang Rai
The last stop for me in Northern Thailand. From the Elephant Nature Park I went back to Chiang Mai to sleep there for the night. The next morning I met my old travel mates again, who went to Pai in the meantime. Together we decided to take the bus to Chiang Rai. Honestly there is not that much to do in Chiang Rai, but the Wat Rond Khun temple is definitely worth a visit. At this point you might have seen enough temples around already, but this one is really unique.
Chiang Rai is also the perfect getaway to go to Laos. Here you can take the bus to the border and from there a bus or boat to Luang Prabang. A lot of backpackers take the slow boat. It takes two days, but it’s definitely worth it.
Tips for your itinerary for Thailand
→ Don’t make too many plans. Traffic in Thailand is really unpredictable and a journey can take so much more time than expected, so don’t make a schedule from day to day. Just write down a couple of places you want to see and decide while you’re there how long you want to stay there.
→ Ask other travelers for tips. The best spots I found simply by asking my fellow backpackers on the road.
→ Don’t make any reservation (except of the Elephant Nature Park) on forehand. There is always a place to sleep and it makes your journey more exciting.
Planning on backpacking through Southeast Asia? Next to this itinerary for Thailand I also wrote an itinerary for Vietnam. You can find it here!
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