by | May 23, 2016

If you’re looking for delicious food, unique cultural experiences, beautiful scenery and incredible temples, you should definitely think about backpacking Thailand. All of my travel blogger friends seem to agree – no matter how far we travel, Thailand always seems to hold a special place in our hearts. From the $1 Pad Thai to the $6 massages, every broke backpacker can live like a king in this land of gold trinkets and beautiful beaches. While there are many different ways to live it up in Thailand, I have chosen (with the help of my friends) to highlight some unique experiences that focus more on daytime activities than nightlife. While there’s certainly plenty of partying in Thailand, it’s not the best way to really get to know the country – nightclubs look the same all over the world.

Know Before You Go: 

Population: 67 Million Currency: Baht (THB), credit cards accepted in large stores and hotels but cash is king. Visa: From MOST COUNTRIES no visa, just a passport with at least six months validity. You will receive 30-days upon arrival with proof of onward travel. Vaccinations: Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis A and Malaria Pills for some areas. Health Insurance: Medical care is very good in Thailand but it is expensive, make sure you have health insurance before you go! I use World Nomads, which is great for long trips, but there are definitely cheaper options for short trips! thailandpostscott

Photo by Scott from Travelstache.

Language and Cultural Differences:

Language: Thai

  • In most places, especially cities, you will find at least one person who speaks English. In general they are used to tourists and they do not expect you to speak fluent Thai. Even if you cannot communicate with words, they use photo menus and lots of pointing.
  • Useful Thai Phrases:
    • First of all, in Thai you use Ka or Krup at the end of many phrases based on your own sex, not the sex of the person you are talking to. This messed me up for my first few greetings but if you’re a woman you always say Ka if you’re a man you say Krup. Simple as that.
    • Sawatdee Ka/Krup = General Greeting
    • Kahb Koon Ka/Krup = Thank you.

Cultural Notes:

  • Be very respectful of the King and the royal family. Do not disrespect him for any reason. If you hear the King’s anthem come on, rise and take your hat off.
  • Do not point the bottom of your feet at anyone.
  • Take your shoes off when entering someone’s home and do not step on the threshold.
  • Never touch a monk, sit next to him or higher than him.

NORTHERN THAILAND

Northern Thailand borders Laos to the east and Myanmar (Burma) to the west. This area is known for its densely forested mountains inhabited by different hill tribes, each with a unique culture and language. When I visited Thailand I spent more than six weeks in the North, enchanted with beautiful temples, lovely people and incredible food. While there are many big tourist attractions, here are some highlights you may not have heard of.

Visit an Elephant Nature Reserve: Don’t Forget to Move

backpacking thailand elephants Although Thailand has some gorgeous beaches and the food is killer, our favorite part was visiting Elephant Nature Park and their projects. After doing extensive research on the abuse elephants endure from riding camps and shows, we knew we would skip those forms of elephant tourism. But instead of just opting out of the activity, we wanted to go somewhere we could support humane alternatives. It didn’t take long for other travelers to recommend Elephant Nature Park. Just outside of Chang Mai, ENP is a huge piece of land where rescued elephants can roam free. They run day and overnight tours where you can experience these incredible animals up close. The tour includes feeding and bathing the elephants and hearing about their journeys from abuse to freedom. We had the opportunity to sit down with Lek, the founder, and hear her inspiring story. She has fought so hard to give a better future to the elephants and all of the other animals at ENP. We could not recommend it more. It’s the best money you’ll spend in all of Thailand! By Jules and Christine of Don’t Forget to Move  Find them on Facebook and Pinterest.

Get a Sak Yank Tattoo: Teacake Travels

backpacking thailand

There are so many wonderful, magical, authentic and blissful experiences in Thailand. I thought I’d done them all until one night in Bangkok, I met a man, who knew a man, who knew a monk in the middle of nowhere who is one of the most renowned Sak Yant Tattoo artists in Chiang Mai. 

With fate landing a genuine spiritual tattoo into my hands, I had to say yes, so I made my way up there and experienced an unforgettable personal experience. The monk took his time with me and the translator I was with to fully understand what protection and strength I was looking for in my life. He produced the design he felt was perfect for my needs and I immediately fell in love with it. Since being inked, I can truly say that I feel the power within me and have had luck in all the areas I was seeking. You can find out more about my Sak Yant Tattoo on Teacake Travels.  

By Alice from Teacake Travels

Find more Teacake on Facebook and Instagram.

Try a Raw Vegan Detox Retreat in Thailand: Fit Living Lifestyle

fitliving

For lunch, which was my last meal of solid food, we had a cold zucchini spaghetti with fresh homemade tomato sauce, garden veggies and a cashew Parmesan style topping. Very delicious! Where am I?

I’m in the mountains of northern Thailand at a sanctuary of nutritional bliss. Chivasuka is a raw vegan detox retreat I had the pleasure experiencing for 1 week. It provides spectacular views and 5 star service as you engulf yourself into this unique and sometimes challenging diet.

The week consisted of learning the ins and outs of raw veganism and detoxing with 3 days of juicing. By juice I mean just liquid, no fibers, no pulp, nothing but liquids. I have to admit, it was tough for me. I had to keep telling myself that it was a detox, that it would end and I would be eating solid food again soon. Mix in some workouts, yoga and hiking and you have yourself quite the experience.

Are you wondering if I made it through the 3 days? Did I stay the entire week? My journey into this world had its ups and downs and I invite you to peer through my eyes as I share with you this unique exploration of nutritional fortitude. Read more here

By Nathan from Fit Living Lifestyle

Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit the remote tribes near Chiang Mai: Nomad is Beautiful

Backpacking Thailand When it comes to alternative attractions in northern Thailand, a visit to the hill tribes near Chiang Mai is a popular option. Sadly, what is promoted as a “trip to a remote hill tribe village” turns out to be an organized group tour where you are brought to souvenir stalls so you can take snaps of posing locals in costumes with no real interaction. Fortunately, if you pick the right tour operator and a responsible guide, your experience in the hill tribes can be one of the most memorable one in Thailand. We were lucky to visit White Karen People who live further north from all touristy hill tribes and who strictly keep their daily routines and privacy. That said, to arrive there you’ll need to do at least one day trekking up to the mountains with a specialized guide. This is the only possible option to visit the White Karens. The tribes provide very basic accommodation and depending on the season, you’ll be able to watch them working on the rice fields and farms that is actually their main stream of income. To learn more, read our full article about the indigenous White Karen hill tribes in Thailand. Text: Ivana Greslikova Photo: Gianni Bianchini both of Nomad is Beautiful Find more on Facebook and Youtube.

Explore Doi Inthanon National Park: Foodie Flashpacker

doi ithanon thailand Some of the best trekking and waterfalls in Thailand are found in Doi Inthanon National Park, located just two hours outside of Chiang Mai. The park is home to the highest mountain in Thailand. Organized trips from Chiang Mai are available but if you’re comfortable on a motorbike the best option is to rent one and explore the park on your own. Near the top of the mountain sits two temples with stunning views of the park. There are both hotels and guesthouses found in the park but the more adventurous option is camping. The tents are already set up so it saves you the work. The cost for renting a tent and two sleeping bags, two mats and a pillow was less than $8! Anyone visiting Chiang Mai that wants to experience nature should plan on visiting Doi Inthanon. More details can be found in this post. By Nathan of Foodie Flashpacker Find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Take a Cooking Class in Chiang Mai: Coffee + Cleveland

cooking class backpacking thailand When my sister and I were in Chiang Mai, we decided it would be fun to take a cooking class. I would recommend taking class wherever you travel because it’s something explicitly local, and it’s fun! Our hostel booked us a class at Da’s Organic Farm Hut Thai Cooking School. I would recommend taking a morning cooking class because you eat right around lunchtime, and the group is usually smaller because most people sign up for the evening classes. My sister and I felt like we had our own private class. Like most cooking classes, we were picked up from our hostel and taken to the local market where Da showed us what kind of ingredients to buy. Then we drove to his farm. He had his own farm where he grew some of the fruits and herbs for the dishes we were going to make. You get to cook outside under a roof while getting to see the mountains in the background. He even has a dog that likes to greet you when you arrive. One thing I loved about the cooking class with Da was that he was SO friendly. He likes to joke around and have fun while he’s teaching you to cook. We made five courses and were allowed to eat it all at the end! Not only could we eat the food but we were given cookbooks so we could remake the dishes when we returned home. You can read more about my travels here! By Jasylin of Coffee and Cleveland Find her on Bloglovin.

Visit the “Sticky” Waterfalls: Square Hippie

Backpacking Thailand One of my favourite things to do around Chiang Mai is visiting the sticky waterfalls. Sounds gross? It isn’t! The sticky waterfalls, or Bua Thong waterfalls, are just an hours Song Thaew ride away. If you share the truck with friends it’ll cost you around 100-200 baht each for the return trip, depending on how many of you go and how good you are at haggling. The waterfalls are so special due to a mineral deposit in the rocks that prevent algae and lichen from growing on its surface. So instead of a slimy and slippery texture they are extremely grippy, even rough, but also a little squidgy, very hard to explain. Therefore you can climb up all the way to the top of the waterfalls barefoot, without risking slipping. It’s a really unusual feeling and great fun if you take some friends. The entry to the waterfalls is free and it’s one of my favourite ways too cool off in Chiang Mai. By Jenny from Square Hippie Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Buy A Smoothie From Mrs. Pa: Legal Nomads

mrspa It is 4pm and Mrs. Pa is setting up her smoothie cart at Chiang Mai gate. The light is beginning to change and the starlings are in the trees, waiting to swoop in wide circles around the moat at dusk. Mrs. Pa sets up here daily after a morning visit to the markets to buy from her preferred fruit vendors. Muang Noi Market for most of the fresh produce, Samoeng for strawberries. She makes her own sugar water, claiming that the stuff you can buy is just not good enough for the loving care she requires. There are many reasons that Mrs. Pa is the best smoothie cart in Chiang Mai, but care and attention are certainly two of them. Learn all about Mrs. Pa and where to find her in Jodi’s article here. By Jodi from Legal Nomads Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is inhabited by more than 11 million people. This sprawling metropolis is peppered with beautiful statues and ornate shrines, but don’t be surprised if this city is a bit of a sensation overload when you first arrive. It won’t take long for you to encounter some amazing people and beautiful sights in this land of smiles. Here are some activities that you won’t find in most guidebooks for Bangkok.

Visit the Airplane Graveyard: The Life of Jord

backpacking thailand airplane graveyard

If you’ve been to one too many temples and the chaos of Khao San road just isn’t cutting it any more, perhaps you’ll be interested one of Bangkok’s lesser known spots. A 45 minute journey into the suburbs of Bangkok (head to Ramkhamhaeng Road Soi 101) will take you to the ‘Airplane Graveyard’. 

It’s essentially a field housing 2 old Boeing 747’s which has now been opened up for tourists to explore. Once inside, you can climb around the broken down planes and take edgy Instagram photo’s to your hearts content. You can climb on the wings, get into the cockpit and there are even still some leftover oxygen masks (though trying one on might be a step too far..).

It’s important to note that this is private property and some people do actually live and sleep within this site, in fact I even saw some bedding in one of the planes. For that reason there is a charge for entry. Some websites have claimed you have to pay 500baht each, however I paid just 200 and they seemed happy enough with that. 

By Jord from The Life of Jord

Find him on Youtube and Facebook.

Check out the Green Lung of Bangkok: Where Sidewalks End

Backpacking Thailand One of the benefits of living in a big crazy city like Bangkok for a few years was getting to know the cool, off the beaten path spots that most people (including many locals) don’t even get to know about. Of course, living in a big city can take it’s toll on a nature-lover’s heart, so when I learned about a full on jungle just on the other side of the river from the bustle the mega-city, you can imagine my excitement! Not only is there a jungle only a short boat ride away, but it’s full of elevated sidewalks taking you through marshes and swamps full of stilted houses. There’s even a bicycle rental outlet right at the pier!

 

For just a few dollars, you can rent a take a ferry to this tropical wonderland, and rent a bike for the day to go exploring. While circumnavigating the jungle of Bang Krachao by bicycle you will also encounter a fighting fish museum, buddhist temples, a massive park with an enormous pond (perfect for a water-side picnic), and an eco-resort with a great restaurant (and some pretty cool rooms too, if you plan on staying overnight). If you go on the weekend, you’ll even pass through a traditional floating market… you might even be the only tourist there! The discovery of what many locals call ‘the green lung of Bangkok’ was a lifeline to nature without having to commute hours from the city – read more here.

By Ian of Where Sidewalks End Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Take a Ride on the Canal: Scarlet Jones Travel

bkkriverboat You can’t miss the river boats charging aggressively along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok but do also try one of the water buses on the small canals. These boats require a certain level of nimbleness just to get onboard.  There’s invariably a gap between the jetty and the boat and the captain has one speed – superfast. He roars along the narrow canals every so often performing the boaty equivalent of a handbrake stop as he meets another boat – and there’s no namby-pamby gentleness to avoid the wash crashing over the banks or splashing the passengers either! Apart from the sheer fun of a journey which costs just pennies, a canal bus is worth taking just to peep into another life. Wooden houses with laundry drying on verandas hang over the river. Women prepare dinner, men laze in hammocks and children play. Tiny alleyways festooned with hanging orchids offer tantalizing glimpses into another way of life where many homes have just one room and people sit, eat and sleep on the floor. Do take to the water while you’re in Bangkok – and especially try the hugely fun canal taxis. By Jane of Scarlett Jones Travels Find her on Facebook and Twitter.  

SOUTHERN THAILAND

If you’re looking for a tropical getaway, look no further. Southern Thailand stretches from just south of Bangkok all the way to the border with Malaysia. In no time, you will find yourself diving, swimming and laying in hammocks just about everywhere you look. While Southern Thailand is slightly more expensive than the other regions, you cannot beat the views. Here are some recommendations from top bloggers!

Visit the Famous Railay Beach: Travelstache

railay thailand

Railay is a small peninsula between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang in southwestern Thailand. There are no roads; only footpaths. Railay is cutoff from the mainland by massive limestone cliffs, making accessible only by longtail boat.

Here you’ll find rasta-vibe hostels as well as 5 star infinity pool resorts. While Railay is relatively small and tranquil there are endless activities, including; rock climbing, sea kayaking, diving, snorkeling, jungle trekking, cooking, white water rafting and quad biking. Not interested in organized tours? Simply take a stroll up to one of the gorgeous viewpoints, explore the caves and a try to find the lagoon hidden inside the cliffs. If all these activities sound overwhelming, just sit back and relax on the white sand beaches, perhaps hire a local Thai masseuse for $8 per hour. 

Miss Happy Feet shares: “Although most visitors to Krabi will head straight to Ao Nang beach upon arrival, Krabi town is actually a small town worth exploring! The most interesting site is the Khao Kanab Nam, which is the symbol of Krabi. You can hire a longtail boat to get to the rocks (normally comes with a stop at a fishing village). Also, if you don’t mind the hike, you can visit the most famous temple in southern Thailand — the Tiger Cave Temple. Hike up to the top for a rewarding panoramic view of the region. If you found yourself in Krabi town on a weekend, stay longer to visit the food market and try out all of Southern Thailand’s delicacies!”

How to get there… There are cheap flights, overnight trains and buses running daily from Bangkok (or Phuket) to Krabi. From Krabi airport you’ll want to catch the airport shuttle bus to Krabi town ($3) or Ao Nang ($5) and make your way to one of the piers with longtail boats to Railay. From Ao Nang or Krabi town it’s a 20 minute boat ride to Railway, which is about $3 per person. 

By Scott of Travelstache

Find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Find Miss Happy Feet on Facebook and Google+.

Visit Koh Phangan: Travel Dave

backpacking thailand Koh Phangan is Thailand’s hidden secret. Many backpackers will flock to the island for full moon party but outside of that time the island is practically empty and you can have it all to yourself. Rent a scooter and explore all four corners of the island. Head to the stunning beach of Mae Haad for the best snorkeling the island has to offer as well as my favourite beach front Thai massage that will never break the bank as you enjoy the sound of the sea. Trek up to the top of Wat Pho, my favourite spot on the island to enjoy a sunset (Be sure to respect the local monks by being quiet at this silent temple retreat). If you have time, boat over to the secret beach from Haad Rin by private boat taxi to the beach of Haad Yuan, explore this remote fishing village community and break a fruit shake at the Sanctuary (If they have fresh mango, even better!). Check out my favourite place to eat is “My Friends” in Haad Rin for some local Thai Curry dishes with a refreshing coconut all freshly prepared for you. If you happen to be in town on a Saturday you can enjoy the Weekly night street market in Tong Sala. By Dave from Travel Dave Find him on Facebook and Youtube.

Visit the Island of Koh Tao: Wisdom Trails

backpacking thailand koh tao Our week in Koh Tao, Thailand, was jam-packed full of adventure but without question, it was our day trip to Nang Yuan that became the highlight. Just a short boat ride off the coast of Koh Tao we found one of the most beautiful island’s we have ever set foot on. No matter where you stand in Nang Yuan the view is breathtaking. For that postcard photograph of the tiny island trio, hike up the steep staircase to the birds eye boulders above. It some takes work to trudge up the hill in the midday heat but what a small price to pay to experience pure paradise. Back on the main island of Koh Tao, we found the perfect balance of relaxation time and exploration. While Koh Tao is known world-wide for its amazing coral reef, the ultimate scuba divers’ playground, there are plenty of other activities that kept us on the edge of our seats. Learn all the secrets we uncovered about this gorgeous location, check out our article on Things to do in Koh Tao, Thailand. By April and Karina of Wisdom Trails Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit Krabi: Miss Happy Feet

From Bangkok, hop on a night bus to Krabi for less than 700 baht (Price in August 2015)! Busses can be found in the Southern Bus terminal on Boromratch Chonnani Road. Journey time is around 10 hours. You can also get to Krabi from Phuket (155 Baht), Trang (129 Baht) and many more popular destination around Thailand. If you are taking flight, AirAsia offers the lowest price. Although most visitors to Krabi will head straight to Ao Nang beach upon arrival, Krabi town is actually a small town worth exploring! The most interesting site is the Khao Kanab Nam, which is the symbol of Krabi. You can hire a longtail boat to get to the rocks (normally comes with a stop at a fishing village). Also, if you don’t mind the hike, you can visit the most famous temple in southern Thailand — the Tiger Cave Temple. Hike up to the top for a rewarding panoramic view of the region. If you found yourself in Krabi town on a weekend, stay longer to visit the food market and try out all Southern Thailand’s delicacies! Other than that, you should definitely catch a Songthaew to Ao Nang and set out to visit the scenic Railey Beach! Better yet, join an Island hopping tour for as low as 600 baht (off season)!

 

Check out Koh Chang: Venturists

koh.chang

Koh Chang may just be the perfect island paradise that you have been craving. Looking for secluded white sandy beaches with warm water and gentle waves? How about world class snorkeling or diving? Or watching the sunset from your private beach bungalow with your toes in the sand? All at bargain prices.

Koh Chang is becoming a more popular destination, but that popularity also gives you lots of options, from budget beach shacks to 5 star hotels with dining options to match. One of our favorite activities in Koh Chang is to rent a scooter or jump in a songthaew – the Thai locals’ version of a taxi service, and travel to the Bang Boa floating fishing village. You can wander through the pier’s narrow walkways and shop for souvenirs, join a boat tour or dine on the local catch of the day. Hint: try the curried crab! And our best advice – plan your trip before this beautiful destination becomes too popular and overcrowded. Here’s a link to the full post we did about the island. 

By Sean and Jennifer of Venturists

Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Between the beautiful mountains, breathtaking beaches, intricate temples and mouthwatering food you are sure to find something perfect for your taste and style. This country is not only easy for first time travelers, it is also exotic enough to thrill the most seasoned explorers. Want to know more about my first experience in Thailand? Check out this post: Visiting Thailand: First Impressions.

Planning your trip to Thailand: Pin this post for later!

>>>>>>>

Photo by Travelstache, adapted by me. 🙂

Do you have any recommendations or unique experiences in Thailand that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Have you ever wanted to visit Thailand? Add these recommendations from top Travel Bloggers to your list!
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