Thailand is an amazing and beautiful place, and like any country, it’s hard to define it in any one way. There is so much to see and one blog post won’t do it justice. However so many people have asked about it, I feel compelled to give it a justified introduction. I’ve been 5 times now, and to date, it is my very favorite country to visit. The food, the environment, the smiling people, and the insanely cheap prices make this Southeast Asian country an absolute paradise for any traveler, tourist, or long-time vacationer.
In this post, we’ll briefly explore the differences between the 4 most popular tourist spots in Thailand: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
Reasons to visit: Nightlife, Shopping
If you are traveling from far away, this is probably the first place you will visit, or at least transfer from. Bangkok is a HUGE city with roughly 10 million people. If you are looking for a relaxing beach town or jungle holiday, this is NOT the place for you. Personally, this is my LEAST favorite place in Thailand. Most of it is just basically a super crowded city with the worst traffic I’ve ever seen on Earth (and I’ve lived in Los Angeles). However, if you are looking for nightlife you wouldn’t tell your mother about or cheap knockoffs of expensive brands, you will not be disappointed.
Reason to visit: Relaxation
Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand right next to the infamous Full Moon Party’s Koh Phangan. This is a major destination for meditation, yoga, and other relaxing disciplines. I personally participated in a full health detox in which I fasted, and consumed nothing but juices and vitamins. And yes, I felt amazing afterwards for weeks. Since it is such a small island, the resources are limited, so nightlife and shopping are minimal (which is fine with me).
Reason to visit: Jungle adventure
Chiang Mai is often touted as the “travel blogger’s capital” and I can see the appeal. The prices are dirt cheap, and it is easy to eat a clean, healthy diet for very cheap. Also, cars are not necessary, as most people prefer motorbikes or scooters, which saves a lot of coin. Did I mention it was cheap? Chiang Mai is not near the ocean at all, in fact it is near the borders of Myanmar and Laos. What makes this destination fun is the many jungle based adventures available nearby. You can play with baby tigers, feed elephants, zipline, ride ATVs, visit the hill tribes, and go mountain biking through old smuggler trails. The possibilities go on-and-on.
This is my favorite place in Thailand; I’ve been twice. Now this place has a lot of haters because of stories about… um… ping pong related shows. But never fear: there’s absolutely no way you are going to “accidentally wander in” to one of these things. If someone told you this, they are a flat out liar. Much like Vegas, there will be peddlers who will hand out flyers/cards to try to sell tickets to these shows. If you don’t buy tickets or don’t follow these people, you will not see anything like this. Ignore the naysayers and believe me when I say Phuket is actually a wonderful magical place. I’ve even taken my mother here.
I’ve had the best seafood of my life here several times over, and not to mention there’s a laidback, casual, fun beach party-like vibe that truly lends itself to a proper vacation atmosphere. Indulge in an amazing, cheap Thai massage, explore the many islands (including Phi Phi), drink out of a coconut, go parasailing, ride a jet ski, or go swimming in the ocean late at night. You can go crazy by day, yet still relax in a quiet beach or jungle hideaway by night. Phuket is the best.
Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself!