Thailand is a country of myriad exotic islands, impenetrable jungles, majestic temples, and divine mountain landscapes. The balmy climate developed tourist infrastructure, and relative cheapness attracts thousands of visitors, many of whom choose to stay here forever! If you have only 10 days of vacation to spend in this beautiful country don’t just to the usual thing and go straight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, here’s what I’d personally recommend doing instead…
Day 1-2 Bangkok
The unique spirit of Bangkok and its multi-faceted atmosphere appeals to everyone. It is a perfect place to see centuries-old temples and monuments of cultural and historical heritage. With such a variety of shopping centers and markets scattered around the city, shop till you drop becomes more than a saying. Foodies will be impressed, too. All sorts of delicious foods are available at a huge number of authentic local eateries, extravagant restaurants, and open-air stalls exuding the enticing aroma of street food.
One of the most memorable experiences to try in Bangkok is a tuk-tuk ride (a local three-wheeled taxi). These motorized rickshaws can deliver you to the frontier between the old city and rapidly expanding new quarters. If you want to marvel at the staggering contrast between the ancient buildings and towering skyscrapers, it is the right place to be. Reserve your evenings for the local exoticism – traditional Muay Thai fights, night markets or even a lively ladyboy show! I’d recommend staying at least a couple of days in Bangkok if you can.
Day 3 Khao Yai National Park
Located 20 km from Bangkok, Khao Yai covers a vast area of pristine jungles and mountainous terrain around the Khorat plateau. A scenic route by a rented car will take you to the most famous Thai national park and one of the top 5 largest nature reserves in the world. Khao Yai is a heaven on earth for thousands of species of flora and fauna. The central part of the park is occupied by dense evergreen forests shrouded in vines, fig groves, fern meadows, as well as thickets of wild orchids. The park takes a lot of pride in its inhabitants, here wild elephants, gibbons, deer, bears, wild boars, buffaloes, and even tigers roam freely in their natural habitat. You can go on safaris or the highland areas lend several platforms for discreet wildlife watching. Further, our journey continues to Ban Phe, a port town near the city of Rayong. Before calling it a day, you may enjoy the evening views of the Gulf of Thailand and feast on some delicacies of Thai cuisine.
Day 4 Koh Samet
Located only 4.3 miles from mainland Thailand, a small island of Koh Samet is our destination for Day 4. Ferries run between the pier of Ban Phe and the island’s beaches almost every hour. Most island’s territory belongs to the Khao Laem Ya – Mu Ko Samet National Park. The unspoiled nature and beautiful sandy beaches are a zest of this place.
The most popular beaches lie on the eastern strand of Koh Samet. Hat Sai Kaew, a wide stretch of coast spanning for about half a mile, is an ideal spot to bask in the sun and bathe in the sea. Water activity enthusiasts will benefit from water skiing, windsurfing, and snorkeling. If you prefer a more secluded beach holiday, head to one of the many sandbanks on the southern shoreline. After soaking up the sun and taking a swim in the sea, hop on a ferry back to Ban Phe, and then return to Bangkok.
Day 5-6 from Bangkok to the Islands
Low-cost airlines connect Bangkok directly with Ko Samui and Phuket, as well as with many other islands if you’re willing to add an extra boat or bus trip. Phuket is a perfect option to explore Thai island resorts for the first time. It offers entertainment for every taste and budget but its main attraction is stunning beaches. Patong and Karon Beach draw in water sports enthusiasts at day and partiers at night. If you want to enjoy your holiday peacefully, you won’t go wrong with the sunny Kamala Beach. Wildlife buffs can spend a day in the Orchid Garden that exhibits more than 1,500 types of exotic flowers and the Sirinat National Park boasting untouched rainforest and its inhabitants.
One day is clearly not enough to see even a fraction of Phuket’s wonders so ensure to expand your stay to at least two days. Phuket is an idyllic island paradise with pure white sands and turquoise sea and it would be foolish to miss out on this kind of beauty even if you only visit Thailand for just 10 days. After a couple of unforgettable days in Phuket, hop on an evening flight to Chiang Mai to continue your trip through Thailand.
Day 7 Chiang Mai
After getting acquainted with Southern Thailand, it is time to check out its northern regions. Chiang Mai, the capital of northern Thailand and the second-largest city in the country, resembles a huge garden dotted with splendid buildings and landmarks. The city is situated far from the sea so you are unlikely to meet the hoards of tourists. Chiang Mai is deservedly called the city of magnificent temples. Its center and environs alike are teeming with dozens of ancient shrines. The most famous and revered one is Wat Chedi Luang built in the 14th century. To get the most out of your fleeting trip to Chiang Mai, spend half a day exploring the old part of the city and then finish the day with a climb to Wat Doi Suthep Temple to receive the blessing of the monks and feast your eyes on the stunning evening views of Chiang Mai.
Day 8 Doi Inthanon
Chiang Mai is a jump-off point for highland tours and trips to Doi Inthanon National Park. The latter is located only 50 km from Chiang Mai. You can reach it by bus but a car is a handier option. The park is huge and bristling with various landmarks so you can’t do without wheels if you want to see it in just one day. Must-visit places include the highest waterfall in Thailand, Mae Ya, discharging the streams of water from a height of 900 feet, two pagodas in honor of the royal couple, as well as the highest peak in Thailand (8415 feet above sea level). Alternatively, you can explore numerous hiking trails or pay a visit to the villages of native tribes.
Day 9 from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai
Sukhothai, lying 290 km from Chiang Mai, can be reached by bus, train or car. The picturesque road to Sukhothai starts with mountain serpentines that gradually give way to rice fields. Upon arrival in Sukhothai, be sure to visit the elephant sanctuary BLES, 750 acres of scenic jungle inhabited by rescued and retired elephants. Here they don’t abuse or offer elephant rides like some faux elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and I would thoroughly recommend a visit.
Then spend the afternoon gazing at the ruins in Sukhothai Historical Park. Many centuries ago, these were the temples of the ancient capital of the Sukhothai kingdom. The main tourist magnets are the picture-postcard Wat Mahathat and Wat Si Chum temples both housing huge Buddha statues.
Day 10 Back to Bangkok
Since most international flights take off from Bangkok, the final destination of our 10-day trip is the Thai capital. Bangkok Airways has two flights a day from Sukhothai. On your last day in Thailand, circle around the old district, stop by the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) and get your feet rubbed at one of the numerous Thai massage parlous. Alternatively, you may explore Bangkok’s canals on a traditional Thai boat, wander around the old Thonburi quarters, and admire the temple of the morning star Wat Arun. Rising above the waters of the Chao Phraya River, this is one of the most atmospheric and worshipped temples of Bangkok. Lastly, you should try the traditional Thai street food at Wan Lang Market. Enjoy your 10-day vacation in this truly beautiful South East Asian country!