Adventure through Phuket, Koh Phi Phi & Bangkok

Nate & Kristen’s guide to things to do in Thailand – kayaking, biking, and snorkeling through this beautiful country with elephants, tigers, and monkeys!

5 Days: Phuket

Things to Do In Phuket

Phang Nga Bay

We LOVED this tour!  They took us out by boat to explore the caves of Phang Nga Bay – by kayak,  by foot, and by swimming. We saw gorgeous cliffs and rock formations, and beautiful clearings with Mangrove trees. We also saw the famous James Bond Island (featured in 2 James Bond movies), and had a great lunch in a fishing village on Koh Yao Noi. This was one of our favorite things to do in Thailand.  I didn’t feel overcrowded because there were only about 12 people on our tour.  It rained that day, but I appreciated that they just pulled out rain jackets for us and didn’t let the rain stop us.  This is not anything you would have access to without going on a tour boat. Hotels transfers included.

TIP: This company, Sea Simba, also does a day trip to Koh Phi Phi, leaving from Phuket, which we also heard was highly recommended.  We did not do it since we were spending 2 nights on Koh Phi Phi at the end of our trip.

Kayaking through caves | Phang Nga Bay | Sea Simba tours | Phuket | Thailand

Kayaking through caves

Elephant Safari

This was a fun experience through Siam Safari!  Riding an elephant is one of the most iconic things to do in Thailand!  We took a 30 minute elephant ride and had time to pet and feed the elephants.  They also showed us demonstrations about cooking, coconut oil, coffee, rubber, and  other traditional aspects of Thai culture.  Lunch was included, which was nice, but honestly not the best Thai food I had.  Obviously the Elephant ride was the highlight, and there is an option for just the ride, without the extra experiences if you don’t have time for the entire 3 hour safari.  Hotel transfer is also included.

I was a little concerned by people who had told me that these types of organizations mistreat the elephants.  However from what I saw, the elephants were treated fine and I didn’t see any signs of elephants in chains, or any of the horrors I read about in reviews to other Elephant ride places.

TIP: If you suffer from motion sickness, believe it or not, you may want to take Dramamine before the ride! It’s a very slow, rocky ride with the motion of swaying back and forth, so I felt a little nauseous when we were done.

Elephant ride | Elephant Safari | Siam Safari | Phuket | Thailand

Chalong Bay Rum Distillery

Chalong Bay is a hidden gem and one of the more unique things to do in Thailand!  It’s a small rum distillery that produces sugar cane rum (sugar cane is only about 1% of rum in the world) to distribute in parts of Asia and Europe.  We took the 30 minute tour, mojito included, which was followed by a rum and syrup tasting.  Afterwards we stayed and hung out on the cute covered patio, bought more mojitos, and played Jenga.

We learned about the Cocktail Workshop, which sounds awesome.  It’s a 2 hour class where they teach you how to make 3 different cocktails.  Sadly the timing didn’t work out to do it with our schedule, since it’s only offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Chalong Bay Rum Distillery | tour and rum tasting | free mojitos | Phuket | Thailand

Thai Cooking Class

We love to do cooking classes when we visit new countries and it’s one of the big things to do in Thailand. We did the 4 hour Pum’s Little Wok class, through Pum’s Thai Cooking School, where we visited a local market and then cooked 4 dishes.  Each person had their own cooking station and could cook different dishes, as opposed to classes where everyone is cooking the same thing.  Our instructor was awesome, and ran around helping everyone, while also making the class very fun and informative.  The dishes we made tasted amazing!

Thai cooking class | Pum's Thai Cooking School | Phuket | Thailand

Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom provided a once in a lifetime experience to get into the tiger cages with the tigers.  Definitely one of the more unique things to do in Thailand!  I was very apprehensive about the safety, but the trainers are in the cage with you, and to be honest, the tigers could have cared less if we were in there or not.  It was a very surreal and awesome experience to be up close and pet such huge wild animals.

Tiger Kingdom claims they do not sedate the tigers; they’re just naturally sleepy creatures.  Many people argue the tigers have to be sedated to be that calm with people entering their cages and petting them.  Decide for yourself, but if you’re someone who is bothered by seeing animals in cages in zoos, this probably isn’t the place for you.

In the cage with tigers | Tiger Kingdom | Phuket | Thailand

Hotel

Hilton Arcadia Resort & Spa in Karon Beach

We definitely recommend the Hilton Arcadia Resort & Spa!  It was very nice and had multiple pools.  The location was easy for us to walk both across the street to the beach, and into the town of Karon Beach.  There were several restaurants on-site, which were convenient, but very overpriced compared to what you could get walking into town.  We got a deal through Hotels.com where breakfast was included.  It was a hot breakfast with a lot of both American and International choices.

View of the Andaman Sea from our hotel room | Hilton Arcadia Resort & Spa | Karon Beach | Phuket | Thailand

There are several different areas of Phuket to stay.  We enjoyed Karon Beach.  We were walking distance into the little town, which was all local restaurants, shops, and bars.  Many people stay in Patong Beach, which is a bigger city with more things to do (including the famous Bangala Road), but it’s more crowded and more touristy.  Kata Beach is farther south and more quiet than Karon Beach.  It all depends on the type of vacation you want, but cabs are plentiful and it’s easy to get from one to another.

Transportation

We flew here from Bangkok on Thai Smile Airways.  It was an easy 1 hour flight. Once we were here, we took taxis everywhere, or walked if it was close enough.  Some tours provided hotel pick-up/drop-off.

 

2 Days: Koh Phi Phi

Things to do in Koh Phi Phi

Bob’s Booze Cruise

Bob’s Booze Cruise was one of our favorite days of the trip, but be warned, it’s much more “booze” than “cruise”!  The boat, of about 20 people, took us out Phileh Bay to swim and snorkel.  The cove where we snorkeled was beautiful, and the colorful fish were unreal (see header photo).  Definitely snorkel – it’s one of the best things to do in Thailand!  They served us lunch on board. Then the highlight for us was visiting Maya Bay.  It’s only accessible by a rope ladder, but it was worth the climb, because it’s a gorgeous cove with warm water for swimming.  The entire time they served us unlimited beers and cocktails on the boat.  Definitely recommend the trip, but be ready to party!

Maya Bay | Bob's Booze Cruise | snorkel and boat tour | Koh Phi Phi | Thailand

Climbing the rope ladder to Maya Bay | Bob's Booze Cruise | Koh Phi Phi | Thailand

Rope ladder to Maya Bay

Fire show at Carlito’s Bar

We were planning to go to the Fire Show at Carlito’s Bar (it was highly recommended and looked awesome), but unfortunately it was canceled that night due to the rain.

Hotel

Phi Phi Cliffs Beach Resort

We were very happy with the Phi Phi Cliffs Beach Resort – can’t beat the view or the location!  There were also monkeys hanging out around the hotel every day.  Amazing!  Hot breakfast was included.

Phi Phi Cliffs Beach Resort | Koh Phi Phi | Thailand

Phi Phi has hotels/hostels right in the center of the town, which is very loud (a party city) at night.  I thought this location, about a 10 minute walk down the beach, was perfect to be close to the town, but not quite in the middle of the action.  Phi Phi also has hotels on the north side of the island that are only accessible by boat.  From what I heard, those are beautiful quiet/romantic type spots, but the only downside is the water taxis to those hotels stop running around 9-10pm.  So if you want to experience the nightlife of the town, those hotels are not the ones for you.

Transportation

We took a 2 hour ferry from Phuket to get here through Phuket Ferry.  There are also ferries offered from Krabi. There are no cars on the island, so it was an easy 10-20 minute walk to get from one side of the town to the other.

1 Day: Bangkok

Things to Do In Bangkok

The Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha

The Grand Palace, the former home of the royal family, is one of the #1 tourist attractions in Bangkok. In any Google search, it’s one of the top things to do in Thailand.  I had high hopes for this place, imagining it similar to Paris’s Versailles, but was honestly disappointed. The buildings were beautiful and architecture was impressive, but we were unable to go inside any of the buildings (except Wat Phra Kaew – home of the Emerald Buddha).  It was also PACKED with tourists, so that may have detracted from the experience.

TIP: There is a dress code to enter – long pants and shoulders covered. We wore jeans all day, in anticipation of this.  There was a tourist shop across the street selling (for cheap!) loose one-size-fits all skirts and pants for tourists to throw over their clothes – and almost everyone inside the Palace was wearing these! Had we known that, we wouldn’t have worn jeans all day in the 90* weather!

The Grand Palace & Emerald Buddah | Bangkok | Thailand

Follow Me Bike Tour of Bangkok 

Follow Me Bike Tour was a 6 hour bicycle tour around the city stopping at Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown, the flower market, and dinner at local street food vendors. It was the perfect way to see the highlights of the city, since we were only there 1 day!  We rode on a unique route through neighborhoods and little city streets to really see the locals’ side of the city. The street food dinner was our favorite part!  Our guide took us to these hidden away local spots that we never would have found on our own, where we had the opportunity to try several different Thai dishes, insects, and Thai pancakes.  Don’t be afraid to try the street food in Bangkok – it’s another of the iconic things to do in Thailand!

The only downside to this particular tour is how far it’s located outside of the main tourist center of the city.  It was about a 20-30 minute bike ride back, in the dark, on the side of a busy road.

Bangkok street food | Follow Me Bike Tours | Bangkok | Thailand

Trying Thai Pancakes from a street vendor

Hotel

BEST WESTERN PREMIER Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport

We were happy with the Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi – we stayed 2 nights when we first arrived, and then another night at the end before we flew home.  It’s about 15 minutes from the airport and they offer a free airport shuttle.  There is an overpriced restaurant onsite.  We bought breakfast there one morning, out of convenience, and it was nice, hot, with lots of selections.

It’s a 20-30 minute taxi ride into the main part of Bangkok from here, so I would recommend staying somewhere closer to the city if you’re going to be in Bangkok for several days. It worked out great for us, because we only did 1 day in Bangkok and wanted to be close for airport transfers.

Transportation

We look taxis everywhere for relatively cheap – $3-$10 USD.  There is a public bus system, but we didn’t try it, and honestly it didn’t look enticing – old, air condition-less school bus style buses.

 

Things to do in Thailand Travel tips:

Best time to visit/weather – Thailand’s summer (peak season) is November-April, with April being the hottest month.  May-June is the start of the rainy season, and July-October is monsoon season.  Peak season is the most expensive, and most crowded time to travel there, but you’ll get the best weather.  We traveled in May to take advantage of cheaper travel deals.  However it was a bit of a risk being there during the edge of rainy season.  Though it rained at least a little bit every day, it did not ruin anything we wanted to do. Thailand is a tropical climate, so it often rains hard for an hour, and then stops with blue skies the rest of the day. And fortunately, many of the things to do in Thailand can also be done in the rain.

TIP: We brought cheap $1 rain ponchos from Target with us and we were so glad we did! We used them almost every day, and then just threw them away before we left.

Taxis– The taxi drivers are tricky! Get in a taxi with a meter. About half of the drivers say their meters are “broken” and they try to charge you more than what the ride is worth. Negotiate the price with those up front. Once you’ve been there a day or 2 you’ll get an idea of how much you should and shouldn’t pay. They definitely try to rip the tourists off.

Vaccines/health – Our doctor recommended we get Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccines before we went. We also got prescriptions for travelers diarrhea to bring with us (which luckily we never needed!). Don’t drink the tap water. Fortunately bottled water is cheap to buy; we even stocked up with a 12 pack from a 7/11 for our hotel in Phuket.

Culture – The Thai people consider their feet to be the lowest part of their body, so many buildings/restaurants require you take your shoes off before entering.  Be prepared for that and don’t wear your most valuable shoes because you’ll just have to leave them stacked outside with everyone else’s shoes.

Voltage – The electrical outlets are 230V/50hz and the same 2-round-prong plugs as you find in Europe.  Bring a wall adapter for your phones and a voltage converter and adapter for your hair appliances.  (The little white box on your iPhone plug converts the electricity for you.)


Other Travel Guides you Might Like:

Bangkok & Koh Samet, Thailand – Solo Traveler’s Guide to Backpacking Thailand

Hanoi & Hue, Vietnam – Female Travelers’ Guide to Backpacking Vietnam

North & South Islands, New Zealand – The Ultimate New Zealand Itinerary


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Travel guide to visit Phuket, Koh Phi Phi & Bangkok, Thailand: Recommended things to do in Thailand, hotels & transportation tips. | wornpassports.com


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