2 WEEKS IN THAILAND
Travel Guide with Daily Itinerary
Last updated March 2017
Here’s how to spend the best 2 weeks in Thailand. Read on for my daily itinerary covering Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Ko Samui and Ko Tao! I had the best time exploring both the mainland and the Gulf islands. I’ve been searching (in vain) for the same delectable frozen pineapple smoothies, thai iced coffee and chicken & cashews ever since!
Thailand has such a different vibe from the States and we spent quite a while travelling around so I thought it’d be fun to do a Instagram recap of each city we visited. The best Thailand itinerary needs to include a visit to both the main cities (Bangkok, Chiang Mai), the islands (Ko Samui, Ko Tao, etc) and some historical ruins (Ayutthaya, Sukhothai). If you’re stumped on the best places to go in Thailand, read on for my 14 day trip itinerary!
Thailand in 2 Weeks: Trip Itinerary
2 Weeks in Thailand Itinerary
Here are my recommended priorities to experience both Thailand’s cities and islands for a unique blend of culture, temples, sun and sand. If you have time, I highly recommend getting certified on Koh Tao for PADI scuba diving!
If you don’t want to get dive certified, I would cut the time in Koh Tao to just 2 days and spend more time in Chiang Mai – it’s such a fun, vibrant city (with a reputation as one of the top “digital nomad” destinations in the world so be prepared for lots of expats and young millennials). I regret only have 1.5 days there!
|Days 1 – 2||Bangkok||Courtyard Marriott Bangkok|
|Day 3||Ayutthaya||Hotel Pailyn Phitsanulok|
|Day 4||Sukhothai||Hotel Pailyn Phitsanulok|
|Day 5||Chiang Mai||Sibsan Resort & Spa Maeteang|
|Day 6 – 9||Koh Samui||Baan Chaweng Beach Resort and Conrad Ko Samui|
|Day 10 – 13||Ko Tao||Simple Life Resort|
|Day 14||Bangkok||Conrad Bangkok|
We spent two weeks in order to see both the cities and beaches but you could easily spend one week in Thailand choosing the first or second part of the trip by adjusting to your liking.
If you’d like to plan your own trip to Thailand, I highly recommend the Lonely Planet Thailand guidebook (under $20 on Amazon), which contains detailed ferry advice, sight suggestions and maps of the ruins which I found very helpful when trip planning.
Click the toggles below for a day by day itinerary of must-see sights, things to do and what to eat! For any other questions, please feel free to ask it in the comments below!
DAYS 1-2: Bangkok
We spent two days in Bangkok, mainly exploring it’s beautiful Buddhist temples and the historic Royal Palace. Thailand’s capital is a fast paced Asian metropolis and in a way, almost like every other large city. You’ll find great rooftop bars, delicious thai cuisine and beautiful historic temples showcasing the country’s past alongside businessmen in air conditioned malls and buddhist monks.
Bangkok is home to some of the most impressive wats (temples) and palaces in the country. Most are conveniently located in Ko Ratanakosin, Thonburi and Dusit, all of which border the Banglamphu hotel district. Make sure to pack a scarf and long pants for covering up. Despite the humid, sticky 90 degree plus summers, you won’t be allowed to enter the temples or palace without covering your shoulders and knees.
Some highlights of my 48 hours in Bangkok:
a) Hopping on and off the Chao Phraya Express to glide along the city’s main river and sightsee
b) Exploring the streets of old Bangkok, including Ko Ratanakosin, on foot
c) Toasting the stars and twinkling skyscraper lights on rooftop bars like Moon Bar at Vertigo and Sirocco Sky Bar
d) Burning baht at one of the world’s largest markets, the Chatuchak Weekend Market
e) Pretending to be a houseguest at the city’s most beautiful former residence, Jim Thompson’s house
The Courtyard Marriott is located in Siam Square and quite comfortable. For our last night in Bangkok, we decided to splurge and stayed at the Conrad Bangkok near the business district, which was a real treat! For more pictures and reviews, check out my post here.
DAY 3: Ayutthaya
Next, we took a train headed north to check out the ruins of Siam’s ancient capital. Ayutthaya contains a collection of time and war worn temples and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Essentially more Buddhas but in a open air context. It’s surreal how close Thailand lets you get to it’s ancient artifacts – literally, on top of them!
Ayutthaya historical park is a must see stop on the cultural trail and makes for an easy day trip from Bangkok. Many of the great monuments have been destroyed or stolen, but the city remains historically important and the key ruins can be visited in a day. We bought a one way 3rd class seat train ticket from Hualamphong station. There’s no air conditioning but the train windows are open, seating is comfortable and passes are incredibly affordable at 15 baht per person. When you get to Ayutthaya’s train station you can stash your luggage in the left luggage office on the platform if you’re also making a one way trip like we did. Then take a short ferry to the island, boats run every few minutes. At the platform where you get off, there’s a great ice cold fruit smoothie shop to cool you down!
I wouldn’t recommend seeing the park on foot, as it’s quite a large set of grounds. On a bike, you can see the entirety in about 2-3 hours and explore the rest of the new town as well. Rent a bike from the 2nd restaurant on the right when leaving the train station – it’s cheaper than the first and the lady will provide you with a map.
*Long pants/skirts and shirts with sleeves are required to visit the temples.
Highlights of Ayutthaya
a) tour the park on bike
b) take a sunset boat tour to view the temples from the water
c) in the southeast corner of the old city, wat suwan dararam is a beautiful and peaceful temple, particularly interesting for its brilliant and historical murals.
d) try Ayutthaya’s muslim dessert roti, roh-dee sai mai
For more pictures and must see individual temples, read my post on Ayutthaya here.
Overnight: Hotel Pailyn Phitsanulok
We wanted to visit both of Thailand’s historical ruins, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. To do so, we left Bangkok early, did a day trip to Ayutthaya and then hopped on a train to overnight in Phitsanulok, the nearest city to Sukhothai Historical Park.
DAY 4: Sukhothai
When planning the trip, I couldn’t decide whether to visit Ayutthaya or Sukhothai. Both are essentially outdoor ruins of ancient Thai cities. Since we decided to take the northern train route all the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Sukhothai was (kind of) on the way and we did a day trip there as well. Take your pick! Personally, I liked Sukhothai better but just be aware it’s slightly inconvenient to get there on your own. Still, the ruins are straight out of Tomb Raider so if you find the photos below captivating, make your way stat!!
We were incredibly dirty, hot and tired after Ayutthaya and then spent a very uncomfortable 5 hours on the train headed towards Phitsanulok. Thailand trains are really interesting and can be quite comfy in the sleeper cars. Throughout the basic seat cars, locals will hop on and off selling food snacks. For some inane reason, I wore long white pants to Ayutthaya and proceeded to get extremely dusty and dirty and was then disgustingly uncomfortable for the entire train ride. I would definitely recommend wearing a skirt or a long scarf to wrap around instead (for girls) and long shorts that cover the knee for guys. Luckily people started to get off during the ride so I had an extra seat to stretch out with my luggage.
Phitsanulok is an industrial, local town with virtually no tourist presence… but it’s the closest town with a train station to Sukhothai so unavoidable if you’d like to visit the ruins. We could not for the life of us find our hotel in the dark and enlisted the help of friendly locals who drove us in their pickup truck at midnight through the rain. Not recommended, btw. I shared a couple panicked looks with my friend but it turns out the locals were just incredibly nice and helpful.
Despite the nightmare logistics, Sukhothai was a gorgeous historical park full of many more temples and ruins than Ayutthaya. Old Sukhothai is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and has 21 historical sites within four old walls, with an additional 70 sights in a 5km radius. A bicycle is totally necessary here – there’s no way you can cover the whole park on foot in a day, and not even all of it on bike and some of the most impressive ruins are outside the city walls.
* The best time to see the ruins is in the early morning, when its cooler, and also before the group tour buses arrive.
Getting to Old Sukhothai
a) Phitsanulok’s bus station is 2km east of town on Highway 12. Frequent buses operate every hour from the main bus terminal to Sukhothai and take approximately 1 hour
b) Take the large blue songthaew to the historical park, it ends 750m from the park entrance
c) after exploring the park, head from Old Sukhothai back to New Sukhothai. Then from New Sukhothai take bus back to Phitsanulok (I told you it was complicated!)
d) the best spicy basil chicken I had in thailand was on the street leading to Old Sukhothai’s bus station. so so spicy!
For more pictures of the must-see individual temples, read my post on Sukhothai here.
Overnight: Hotel Pailyn Phitsanulok
This hotel was highly rated and very inexpensive. I’d recommend just taking a cab to and from the bus or train station since the city is a bit hard to navigate on your own. We thought we could walk it (it is within walking distance, we just got lost) and ended up getting chased with our luggage by a pack of wild dogs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
DAY 5: Chiang Mai
Finally, we arrived at our northernmost destination in Chiang Mai. Nestled in the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a city of artisans and craftspeople, of university professors and students creating a beautiful quirky sanctuary.
This is also definitely Euro-backpacker central. On our overnight train ride, I woke up early to loud chants of “Chiang Mai Chiang High” haha. This was my favorite city in Thailand and I loved the abundance of quirky coffee shops here. Anyone who knows me knows that I NEED coffee to survive and if you’re in Thailand, Thai iced coffee is a MUST try. I still haven’t puzzled out exactly what makes them so good. At first I thought it was the substitution of condensed milk instead of regular milk but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.. We also took a Thai cooking class and had a lot of fun recreating classic southeast asian dishes!
Highlights of Chiang Mai
a) Chiang Mai adds lots of spice for the aspiring chef! Take a cooking class and learn about regional cooking ingredients (you can read about my experience and which school I chose in more depth here)
b) Or, if you just prefer to eat your way through Northern Thai delicacies, head over to Grandmother’s Khao Soi pronto for the best crunchy curry noodles you’ll ever have
c) Chiang Mai is Thailand’s base for outdoor activities in the cool, lush northern mountains. Consider a trek to a minority tribal village, a visit to an elephant sanctuary or zipline courses through the forest
d) This is also the home of the Tiger Santctuary but any place that drugs animals isn’t much of a sanctuary. I would really encourage people not to patronize this place…
e) Check out the Night Bazaar for some of Thailand’s gorgeous handicrafts
f) Chiang Mai’s temples showcase Lanna art and preserve folkways and ethnic culture
g) Th Nimmanhaemin road and its offshoots are an incredible hive of energy bursting with bistros, trendy bars and boutiques
Overnight: Sibsan Resort & Spa Maeteang – this hotel is a gorgeous stay slightly outside the city near the Elephant sanctuary. It’s a village set in the rice paddies and hills and given that it’s thailand, still very affordable!
We only had time for 24 hours in Chiang Mai but I would love to come back and stay longer to do the city justice. If you’re not planning to head south to the islands, check out Chiang Rai which is even further up north.
DAYS 6-9: Koh Samui
This beautiful island is the paradise to unwind. We spent two days in Chaweng, the largest of Samui’s beaches with a vibrant nightlife scene. Then we changed hotels to the ultra luxurious Conrad Koh Samui on the more private southwest tip of the island and settled it for an utterly relaxing couple of days.
The Conrad is a perfect choice if you’d like to be completely closeted away – we spent two nights of bliss in our private hilltop villa with our own infinity pool and magnificent sunset views without seeing any other visitors. Sometimes there’s nothing more that you want than a complete “do nothing” vacation and Samui is the perfect place to relax and recuperate. For more photos, you can read my Conrad Ko Samui hotel review.
Samui is incredibly expensive. That being said, if you’re comfortable splurging it is an utter treat to relax in a completely secluded property! Most of the high end hotels are all private villas set into the hills on the southwest side of the island (about 1.5 hours away from the airport). For the Conrad, we did not see anyone else at the hotel unless we went to get breakfast or have dinner – each villa has everything you could want including your own infinity pool overlooking the ocean and getting around the villa is via chauffeured golf carts. It was total bliss after the hot sticky sun at Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.
If you’re looking for more of a nightlife scene, stay in Chaweng (near the airport) which has a more vibrant scene and regular hotel properties. We did two nights on Chaweng and two nights at the Conrad. Both were great and if you have the time, an excellent option to get different experiences. The next time I go back, I’m dying to try the W Retreat!
DAYS 10-13: Koh Tao
From Koh Samui, we boarded the catamaran to Ko Tao. Ko Tao is the smallest island in the Samui – Ngan – Tao trio but it makes up for it with a vibrant expat population, a laid back atmosphere and world class diving.
This is THE spot to learn how to scuba dive. We spent four days on the island to get our open water certification and every minute was worth it. Don’t expect the luxury of Samui – I always had sand somewhere and never really felt clean after a shower but man, the diving is incredible. It’s amazing to learn in crystal blue water and see exotic fish on your very first dive. The island itself has great, low key bars – we spent many nights playing pool and watching the world cup. I’d say Ko Tao has a bit of bohemian meets paradise kind of vibe – it’s a twisted maze of cute boutiques, clothing shops, coffee shops and restaurants serving simple delicious inexpensive Thai food. If I could go back to any island immediately, I would come back to Ko Tao. I really, really loved it here.
Overnight: Simple Life Resort
We stayed in a basic beach hut as part of the accommodation provided with the PADI scuba certification. It’s bare bones but really, the focus on Ko Tao is not on lodging but all about diving. It’s like a backpacker’s campground meets the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re staying for longer than 4 days or not interested in diving, I’d recommend something a bit more luxurious. Don’t expect Ko Samui glam though!
DAY 14: Bangkok
On our last day in Bangkok, we took the opportunity to rest, do some last minute shopping and explore Jim Thompson’s House. At this point, we were all wat-ted out and had a lot of fun pretending to be a houseguest at the city’s most beautiful former residence. Jim Thompson is a former CIA operative who helped develop Thailand’s silk trade and mysteriously went missing in the jungles of Myanmar. Conspiracy theories abound but his house is crazy beautiful with Balinese antiques, it’s own moat entrance and tons of koi ponds.
Overnight: Conrad Bangkok
Thailand Wrap Up
How Much to Budget for Thailand
I also got many questions on how much this exact 2 weeks in Thailand cost. I don’t remember the exact amount unfortunately, but the flights were by far the most expensive (coming from New York).. something like $1,700? I’m sure you could find a better deal by booking in advance. Scuba diving on Ko Tao was part of our trip itinerary and may or may not be something you’re interested in. We chose to get PADI certified on Ko Tao as it’s one of the least expensive places to get your dive certification and has top notch dive school instruction. In 2012 I remember it was ~$350 USD per person for the PADI open water certification.
Otherwise, meals could be very inexpensive if you ate at roadside, authentic Thai places or more expensive if you ate at established restaurants or inside hotels. We did a mixture of all and thought the street vendors had the best food to be honest!
Transportation in Thailand
Save money by booking Thai trains online before you go. Taxis within Bangkok and Chiang Mai are very affordable but just make sure you negotiate and set the price before getting in. If they hear your destination is a fancier hotel, be prepared to pay more or haggle harder. Koh Samui is the one place with very expensive taxis as it’s a large island and run collectively. Try hiring Mr. Samui’s private cars – we did that and found it to be more comfortable and cheaper than hailing a taxi off the street. Songthaews and tuk tuks for each destination vary, but we referenced our Lonely Planet book for estimated fares. The LP guide was quite handy and I definitely recommend picking up a copy (under $20 on Amazon). There was detailed ferry advice, sight suggestions and maps of the ruins which was all invaluable for planning.
Planning a trip to Thailand? Save this post by pinning it for later or read the full series:
Choosing the Best Thai Islands Andaman or Gulf Coast
2 Weeks in Thailand: A Daily Itinerary Covering Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Ko Tao & Koh Samui
An Easy Bangkok Day Trip: Exploring Ancient Ruins at Ayutthaya
Conspiracy Theories & Thai Mansions at Jim Thompson’s House
Classic Bangkok Sights: Wat Pho & the Reclining Buddha
Exploring Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun
Chiang Mai Things to Do: Learning to Cook Authentic Thai Food
Here’s Where to Find The Best Curry Noodles in Chiang Mai
Deciding Between 2 Ancient Ruins Sukhothai or Ayutthaya
Checking In: Our Luxurious Private Villa Conrad Koh Samui
And that’s a wrap! Our 2 week trip to Thailand in a nutshell. Have you been? Let me know your recommendations if so!
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