Thailand is both a playground for adventure-seekers and a natural sanctuary for rejuvenation. Tourism is very well established in the country, which is a very affordable destination once you’re there. Milesopedia was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on a media trip to discover some of the highlights of this magnificent country.
The list of places to visit in Thailand is very long; it’s impossible to do it all in one trip. This is a complete itinerary that can be completed in two weeks, combining cultural and immersive experiences with a touch of adventure.
Thailand - Bangkok
Most trips to Thailand begin or end in Bangkok, the country’s capital and the hub of Southeast Asia. Big-city fans won’t be disappointed in Bangkok, a vibrant metropolis with ongoing action. Here are a few must-sees for a first visit.
Canal boat trip
Bangkok’s traffic is intense, so it’s often better to use other means of transport such as the metro, tuk-tuks or the most pleasant way to get around: by boat through the canals and on the Chao Praya River.
This activity gives you the chance to admire the family homes that line each canal, preserved from one generation to the next. From your boat, stop off at The Artist’s House in Klong Bang Luang, a creative community to explore along the canal. Grab a coffee, string beads to create bracelets or simply admire the artistic creations of this tightly woven little neighborhood.
Finish your boat tour by arriving at Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. Built in the early 19th century, this Hindu temple will dazzle you day and night. It’s a place equally frequented by Buddhists from all over the world.
Everywhere in Thailand, temples are accompanied by large Buddha statues. In Bangkok, the most famous include the Reclining Buddha, which you can visit right next to Wat Pho temple and the Royal Palace.
The royal family has always been cherished by the Thai people. Built in 1782, Bangkok’s Royal Palace is an iconic landmark, and many parts of it, including its gardens, courtyards and certain rooms, can be visited.
A word of advice: get there as soon as it opens at 8.30 a.m. to avoid the crowds and, above all, to protect yourself from the afternoon heat. Make sure your shoulders and legs are fully covered (men and women, mandatory) to gain access to the premises. Admission costs $20 (500 baht).
Here are some other things to do in Bangkok if time permits:
- Rooftop terraces: Bangkok is full of bars, terraces and restaurants with impressive views over the city. There’s no shortage of choice, and although cocktail prices are higher because of the view, these are perfect places to enjoy the Bangkok sunset. I really liked the one at SO/Bangkok, where I stayed for several nights.
- Nightlife: Bangkok is just as lively by night as it is by day, with something for everyone. Explore the Patpong or Ratchada night markets, stroll through Sukhumvit, Silom and Khao San Road or discover hidden speakeasies.
- Maeklong Railway Market: 60 km from the center of Bangkok, this is a market where, every time a train passes, the merchants quickly line up their wares to make way for the train, offering a unique spectacle.
- Icon Siam shopping mall: It’s very hot in Bangkok, and the best place to cool off (other than a swimming pool) is undoubtedly the huge new mall, which contains 500 stores and 100 restaurants. An entire floor is transformed into a Thai market with a large food court and artisans, giving an authentic experience without getting overwhelmed by the heat.
Many of these Bangkok experiences can be booked online via Viator:
Bangkok has plenty of hotel options to suit all budgets. For a more luxurious experience, a stay at The Sukhothai hotel offers the best of Thai refinement and pays homage to the country’s cultural heritage, while the SO/ Bangkok is an avant-garde design option with its roots in the world of fashion. Both are five-star hotels, and excellent options. Here are all our Bangkok hotel reviews:
Thailand - Sukhothai
Located north of Bangkok, 6 hours by road or 1 hour by air, Sukhothai is considered the first capital of Thailand, which was known as the Kingdom of Sukhothai in 1238. Its historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
I recommend flying from Bangkok to get there, if only to cross the open-air airport, probably the most unique I’ve had the chance to visit!
Before visiting the famous historic park, I recommend waking up at dawn and visiting Wat Traphang temple. Every morning, Buddhist monks gather here and cross the bridge to receive offerings from the people.
A visit to the temple also tells us a lot about the lives of these monks and the significance of Buddhism in Thai families.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sukhothai’s main attraction is of course its historic park, where the remains of Buddhist monuments and temples tell the story of the history and culture of ancient Thailand. The stupas, Buddha statues and architecture are awe-inspiring. You’ll need a few hours to get the full picture.
Reminiscent of another era, Sukhothai is a great place to slow down and appreciate Thailand’s natural beauty. The beautiful scenery and numerous rice paddies contribute to this relaxing atmosphere. We were able to visit a ceramics workshop and appreciate Thai craftsmanship.
Ban Na Ton Chan community
On the way to Chiang Mai, stop off at the Ban Na Ton Chan community. In this small ecotourism village, you can observe the life of the villagers and learn many traditional techniques for creating all sorts of things, such as natural fabric dyeing and carpet weaving. Numerous small “homestay” style inns are available for the most authentic experience of rural Thailand. Take a ride in the E-tak, a local vehicle, taste the local specialty of Khao Poep prepared in front of you, sample local fruits and honey, and let yourself be completely charmed by the beauty of this community.
Thailand - Chiang Mai
The cultural journey continues north to Chiang Mai, once the capital of the ancient Thai kingdom of Lanna. A visit to Chiang Mai is an ideal opportunity to :
- Visit its many temples
- Stroll through the historic city and its picturesque streets
- Get a taste of Northern Thai cuisine
- Take a Thai cooking class
- Go hiking or biking to enjoy the scenery
- Visit an elephant sanctuary
Chiang Mai - Elephant Nature Park
This last option is definitely the must-do activity in Chiang Mai, and I highly recommend choosing the Elephant Nature Park. Be sure to book in advance, as their calendar fills up fast.
Founded in 1996 by Lek Chailert, Elephant Nature Park is an elephant sanctuary and rehabilitation center that works tirelessly to improve the living conditions not only of elephants throughout Thailand, but also of many other animals. Recognized worldwide, the organization was awarded the Légion d’honneur in France for the work carried out by its “Save the Elephant” foundation.
A visit to Elephant Nature Park is both educational and immersive; you’ll learn a great deal about the organization’s efforts, the elephants’ way of life and how you can ethically observe and interact with them. Having been lucky enough to visit the sanctuary twice, it’s a magical experience that I recommend to everyone. Here are a few photos:
For a pleasant stay in a hotel that offers many services and is well suited to families, I recommend the Meliá Chiang Mai. My full review is available here :
Thailand's islands - Ko Samet
Ko Samet, also spelled Koh Samed, is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Rayong province, about 4.5 hours’ drive from Bangkok. It’s a popular tropical destination with its many white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. The island is part of the Khao Laem Ya – Mu Ko Samet National Park, which ensures the protection of the area. You need to obtain an access ticket, available on arrival on the island.
While many of Thailand’s islands are lively, festive destinations, this is not the case for Ko Samet, which is much quieter and more peaceful. This makes it an ideal destination for nature lovers who want to relax and enjoy the surrounding area. Still, the island has enough restaurants, bars and accommodation options to make for a pleasant stay.
For a luxurious stay, you won’t find better than the resort Paradee Koh Samed where I was lucky enough to stay. Here is my review of this hotel:
Ko Samet is the ideal place to indulge in non-motorized water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding, or to observe marine life by snorkeling. You can also book a boat trip to the surrounding islands, which are also part of the national park.
Thailand has no shortage of islands to visit, and each has its own unique characteristics. Koh Tao is renowned for its scuba diving schools, and Koh Phangan for its monthly full moon festival. Étienne from our team visited the island of Koh Samui earlier this year. Here are his hotel reviews:
Plan your trip
Organizing an itinerary on the other side of the world can sometimes seem complicated, but that’s not the case for Thailand, which is a well-established tourist destination. Whether you plan ahead and book everything remotely, or decide on your itinerary at the last minute, the country serves demand very well, whether it’s for transport, accommodation, excursions or anything else.
As mentioned above, I highly recommend using the services of a local guide to discover Thai culture. This was my second visit to the country and my first with a local guide, and it completely changed my experience. Platforms like GetYourGuide and Viator offer just this kind of guided experience.
You can also book small group tours that take care of every aspect of your trip, such as G Adventures, which offers many itineraries depending on your travel style and desired duration. I was able to try it out during my trip to Vietnam, and I greatly appreciated G Adventures’ concern to offer an authentic experience that respects the local culture.
Travelling in Thailand with points
Thailand is a very affordable country where it’s easy to travel luxuriously for less. The costly part is often the price of plane tickets from Canada.
A simple way to travel to Thailand with points is with Aeroplan. For example, in a quick search, I found flights in February 2024 (high season) ranging from 47,000 to 60,000 points from Montreal to Bangkok in economy class with the preferred rate for Aeroplan credit card holders.
To find the best prices (and shortest routes) on points, you sometimes need to be creative in your research and choose your layover destinations carefully. For Thailand, perhaps flying first to Singapore or Tokyo with your Aeroplan points, or via Europe with these sweetspots, will help you maximize your savings and your time.
The Marriott Bonvoy chain has 54 hotels in Thailand, almost half of which are located in Bangkok. Prices in points vary widely depending on the hotel brand chosen and the time of year of the stay. For example, in February 2024, prices range from 16,000 to 122,000 points per night. The more luxurious banners are sometimes available for attractive points prices, such as the Rayong Marriott Resort & Spa at 19,500 points per night.
I would still advise you to explore other options, as there are a host of exceptional and affordable hotels in Thailand, both independent and owned by other hotel chains. These hotels can be booked via platforms such as Booking. com or Expedia. Then, several types of rewards points can be applied to these expenses in exchange for an account credit.
Here are a few examples of flexible travel rewards programs:
My trip to Thailand led me to discover hotels that pay homage to Thai culture, and that aren’t all associated with large hotel chains. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back using, for example, the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card to save on foreign currency fees, and to be able to redeem or accumulate points directly on the Expedia platform dedicated to Scene+.
For each hotel I visited on my trip, I explain how to stay there using the points :
Thailand is a country with a lot to offer, for all types of travelers. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, luxury, a gastronomic, cultural or urban experience, this country will satisfy your desires. This type of trip is often considered expensive because it’s in Asia, but thanks to reward points, you can get there at low cost. Once in the country, it’s a very affordable destination that has a lot to offer.
Finally, I’d like to underline the country’s focus on sustainable tourism, which is now at the heart of Tourism Thailand’s initiatives. Having first visited the country in 2016, I was able to see a decrease in the amount of single-use plastic during my second visit in May 2023. The government is currently working to make this destination more sustainable through education and public awareness, in addition to the concrete initiatives presented in this article.
What are the best months to visit Thailand?
The ideal time to visit Thailand is from November to March, the dry season. During these months, it almost never rains and temperatures range from 29 to 34 degrees, and it’s less humid too. When I visited in May and June, it didn’t rain much, but the heat could sometimes be overwhelming due to the humidity.
Where to go in Thailand for the first time?
The country has a lot to offer, so explore it according to your interests (beaches, mountains, culture, etc.). For a first trip, I recommend an island stop (Koh Tao, Ko Samet, Koh Phangan or other), a visit to Bangkok, the capital, and a trip further north to Chiang Mai, stopping off at Sukhothai on the way. Other destinations worth a visit: Phuket, Pattaya, Krabi, Hua Hin and many more. You can also take inspiration from G Adventures ‘ itineraries to plan your trip.
What precautions should I take when visiting Thailand?
It’s always important to find out about the customs and laws of the country you’re about to visit. For example, there are many rules to follow in Thailand to respect the environment, the local culture and enjoy a pleasant stay. A wealth of travel information is available on this page.
Are credit cards accepted in Thailand?
Although it is possible to pay by credit card in department stores and chains (hotels, restaurants, etc.), it is strongly advised to always carry cash, i.e. baht, the local currency. Many locations and small merchants don’t have a terminal to accept credit or debit card payments.
It’s also advisable to exchange money at exchange offices, as ATM fees are often very high, despite the use of a low-fee card.