Best of Thailand

A breakdown of our favorites!

Best Experiences to Do for Free

Go to the beach - anywhere in Southern Thailand (day or night!)

Walk out to Long Beach on Koh Phi Phi

Chill in a hammock on Koh Lanta

Wander the Chatuchak Sunday Market, Bangkok

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Walk around Chiang Mai's Old City

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Sunday Night Market, Chiang Mai

Best Experiences to Splurge On

Live-aboard diving trip to the Similion Islands

Blanco Beach Party Booze Cruise

Hire a long tail boat to explore the Phi Phi Islands early in the morning

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Renting kayaks in either Koh Phi Phi or Ao Nang Beach

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Rent a scooter to explore Koh Lanta

Rock climbing in Krabi

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Diving at Sail Rock, Koh Phangan

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Kata Beach, Phuket

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Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi

Long tail boats around Southern Thailand

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Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok

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Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

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Silver Temple, Chiang Mai

Pai Canyon at sunset

Best Restaurants & Bars

Order a fruit smoothie on Phuket Beach

Banana Bar for rooftop drinks on Koh Phi Phi

Living Room Cafe & Restaurant, Koh Lanta

The Jungle Club, Koh Samui

SOHO, Koh Phangan

Shirlea, Had Yao, Koh Phangan

Iron Fairies Bar, Bangkok

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Skye 20, Bangkok

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Simple Natural Kitchen, Bangkok

25 Degrees, Bangkok

Iwane 1975, Bangkok

CRAFT Beer Bar, Bangkok

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Breakfast World, Chiang Mai

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai

Rustic & Blue, Chiang Mai

Sunset Bar, Pai

Cafecito, Pai

Ganesha’s House, Pai

Earth Tone, Pai


Best Places to Stay on a Budget

Slumber Party Hostel, Phuket Beach

FIN Hostel, Kata Beach

Loro Loco 2, Koh Lanta

The Moment Hostel, Ao Nang Beach

Slumber Party Bangkok

Thunderbird Hostel, Chiang Mai

Jikko Harem, Pai

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Wish We Did

Parasailing off the beach

Viewpoint hike on Koh Phi Phi

Diving off Koh Phi Phi

Emerald Cave, Koh Lanta

Sa Phra Nang (Hidden Lagoon), Ao Nang Beach

Lady Boy Show, Bangkok

Floating Market, Bangkok

White Temple, Chiang Rai

50 Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia

50 Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia

We’ve gone through many rounds of trial and error while traveling, especially during the time we spent in SE Asia. If you’re headed to this part of the world, check out our top 50 take aways from five months in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

Read More

Kicking Back in Pai

Ahh, Pai. What is NOT to like about Pai? That's my question. 


Just a few hours, and a couple hundred turns, north of Chiang Mai, this mountain paradise was recommended to us from everyone we met who’d traveled across Thailand. It was usually referred to as “the place where you get stuck” or “the stoner’s paradise.” Everyone who mentioned it told us it was their favorite place in Thailand. 

Pai is full of amazing coffee shops - this one was right next to our hostel.

Pai is full of amazing coffee shops - this one was right next to our hostel.

Right they were. 

Not only is Pai absolutely beautiful, but it’s become a haven for travelers and expats alike who’re looking for a more laidback place to set up shop for a while. With a stunning natural backdrop, plenty of daytime adventures to take, and seemingly endless restaurants and bars, Pai is an easy paradise. 

I have to be fully honest, Anna and I spent 5D/4N in Pai doing nearly nothing. It was fantastic, we regret nothing. That was all we wanted to do after what felt like forever of constant go-go. We put our feet up and said NOPE to everything other than food, the night market, and a few solid nights out with some German friends we met at our hostel. 

So, without further ado, here’s a solid list of things I can personally recommend and the things my less lazy friends recommended to me.

How to Get to Pai


Simple enough. You’re probably getting into Pai from Chiang Mai, which is the largest city in northern Thailand. You can hop a bus from Arcade Bus station, purchase tickets from just about any accommodation or tour center, and you’re set. They run about 5x per day and take roughly four hours. 

WARNING: This road is turns on turns on turns. 762 of them to be exact. If you get motion or car sick, dramamine is a great idea. 

You can also fly to Pai from Chiang Mai. Seems a bit like overkill to me since they’re so close but if you’re looking to go straight through the airport that is an option. 

Your last option is to motorbike. This is probably the best way to see the drive if you’re comfortable on a bike. It is also the most dangerous due to weather, the roads, and other drivers. Please only do this is you’re comfortable on a bike and WEAR A HELMET! So many people get into accidents on this road and you don’t want to cut your trip to Pai short before you even get up there. 

Where to Stay in Pai

These are all hostels, though I’m sure Pai has some beautiful, slightly pricier options if that’s what you’re looking for. I recommend checking Trip Advisor!

Jikko Harem

This was where we stayed. It’s located slightly off the Pai’s main area, but the wonderful staff who run the place will give you a lift into town whenever you want. It’s beautiful, clean, quiet, and the hostel chain owns two bars in town that you’ll get awesome discounts at. We were going to stay for two nights before switching to Common Grounds and just never did. Highly recommend.

Hostelworld Link

P.S. I think now they have a more central location, though we never saw it. 

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Common Grounds

Probably the most popular hostel in Pai, Common Grounds is the place to stay if you want to be right next to the action and get your party on every night. Definitely a bit pricier than some of your other options, but that comes with demand.

Hostelworld Link

Green Hostel & Skatepark

The other hostel we looked at. Looks beautiful and has fantastic reviews as well as a skatepark attached.

Hostelworld Link

Where to Eat in Pai

This is a toughie because where do I begin? You’ve got so, so many fantastic options in Pai, especially if you’re vegan/vegetarian. Without going into too much detail, here’s a solid list of where we went/where we were sent:

  • Earthtone Vegetarian Cafe**

  • Ganesh

  • Cafecito (Mexican)**

  • Om Garden Cafe

  • FatCat

  • Oasis Bar & Restaurant 

  • Pen’s Kitchen

Breakfast at Cafecito.

Breakfast at Cafecito.

Where to Party in Pai

Let’s level here: if you’re headed to Pai it’s fair to assume that you’re looking to party, to smoke, to get a little twisted. 

If you’re looking to drink, there are endless options for you. Here are some we checked out and heard about:

  • C Bar**

  • Jikko Bar

  • Yellow Sun

  • Boom Bar

  • Why Not?**


If you’re looking for a little something more, there are two places you can go: Sunset Bar and Paradise Bar. We went to both to check them out, they’ve definitely got a lot of hype, and preferred the atmosphere at Paradise but the drinks at Sunset.

Warning: drugs are illegal in Thailand and you can 100 percent be prosecuted for purchasing/consuming them, regardless of how many people do it or whether or not a place is “chill” about it. In Pai, specifically, police raid the main drag and are stationed both near the bridge leading to Sunset/Paradise at night and at tourist hotspots like the Grand Canyon. They can and will search you if they suspect you!

Adventures in Pai

Heading to Pai to explore some of the natural beauties in the area? You’ve got plenty of options!

The trickiest element is getting from one or the other. The easiest way to zip around Pai is by motorbike. You can easy rent these in town or just ride yours around if you drove up on one. Your other option is a rental car, taxi, a tuk-tuk, or a tour, depending on what you’re trying to do. 

Some of your options for scooter rentals.

Some of your options for scooter rentals.


Some of Pai’s natural highlights include:

  • Pai Canyon (go for sunset)

  • Pai Hot Springs

  • Pam Bok or Mor Paeng Waterfall

  • Pai Piranha Fishing Park

  • Boon Ko Ku So Bridge


Night Market

Looking for something to do in the city? Explore Pai’s fantastic night market! You’ll find wonderful street food and tons of crafts, jewelry, and clothing lining the main walking street in Pai each night. 

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Kickin it on Koh Phi Phi

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Young Leo’s secret has been blown. Made famous by thriller cult movie The Beach, the Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea host thousands of beach-goers every year - no sketchy map necessary. 

Koh Phi Phi Don is the main island. A pedestrian-only matrix of brick pathways weave around the central part of the island, with most restaurants, hostels, tattoo shops, and souvenir shacks concentrated all in one place. If you’re not here to party, try to get away from this part of the island - head east towards the resort villas along Long Beach for a quieter escape. 

That being said, Koh Phi Phi is notorious for its party scene. Party party party. But if you’re looking for other things to tell your mom about, it also has unbeatable diving, brilliant blue beaches, and a lively international atmosphere. 

BE WARNED: Koh Phi Phi is notorious for people getting sick. I fell victim to the shockingly common bacterial infection that lots of visitors contract from eating on Koh Phi Phi. All food has to be shipped to KPP, and in the hot climate that is Southern Thailand, the food doesn’t always stay frozen for the entirety of the shipping line. Which means that some food might make you sick. We recommend staying away from meat, but even as a vegetarian, I ended up in the World Clinic. They took care of me extremely well. My room even had Netflix.

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Getting to Koh Phi Phi

Phuket has a pretty big international airport, so if you’re coming from far away, start there.

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Koh Phi Phi is part of at network of ferry stops, including Phuket, Koh Lanta, and Krabi. There are multiple trips per day, so you’ll have a couple of options to fit your schedule.

Partying on Koh Phi Phi

So many party hostels. Just head to the beach on the north side of the island, and take your pick. Some offer packages with boat cruises. You don’t necessarily have to be staying with them, but you get special drink options if you do. Ibiza House Pool Party, Slinky Hostel, Stones Bar Dorms, Phi Phi Bucket Hostel, and both Blanco locations.

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We stayed at one of the Blanco’s. There’s one on the beach and one just a hundred yards off the beach. If you’re planning on staying up all night, beachfront Blanco is your spot. We stayed off the beach, opting for longer “quiet" hours.

Boat Cruise

A.K.A. booze cruises. There are multiple options, all offering basically the same thing: half day cruise around the Phi Phi Islands, kayaks, snorkels, a beautiful sunset, and booze. Some of them are all you can drink, some of them you’ll have to pay for each drink. The price difference will only be helpful if you’re not going to drink at all, or you’re ACTUALLY only going to have one drink. Otherwise, open bar is worth it. Blanco does a great rate for the package that everyone offers. They’re also the only ones that were allowed to continue their tours for a while when Koh Phi Phi cracked down on all the monkey business.

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Speaking of which, your first stop out of the port will be monkey beach! Have fun, but respect the monkeys. You might not believe it, but they’re stronger than you. If you piss them off, they will lunge at you. They will also steal your food if you bring any. If you get close enough, they might climb up your leg, or arm, or up onto your head and shoulders. Get that monkey selfie.

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After the monkey beach, you get to crack some beers and get the party started. Blanco plays some great tunes and the group is young and fun. Make some friends and play some flip cup. The Blanco boat has a bunch of kayaks and snorkels and SUPs for you to play with. They make a stop at Pileh Lagoon in the afternoon for you to fool around with the toys and do backflips off the top deck.

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When you get to Maya Bay, Blanco party hosts will take you ashore to explore the white sandy beaches that Leo once walked in the year 2000. You’ll head towards the back of the island, learn all about “Blowjob Beach,” and climb around the wild island made famous by the movie. You’ll even get to replicate the jump photo from the movie with your new best friends!

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Blanco has a simple but filling buffet to fulfill your drunk munchies. After a beautiful sunset on the water, they’ll bring you back to the main docks and set you free. Have a shower and eat some more food, but make sure to head back to the Blanco on the beach for an afterparty! 

Long Tail Cruise

For the less boisterous bunch, you can still see all of Phi Phi’s best beaches without the boozy backpackers. Go to the main port in the morning (7-8ish) when the waters will be less crowded. Find yourself a friendly captain, asking price 180 baht for 3-4 people for 3 hours.

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He’ll know where to take you: Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, Loh Samah, Pileh Lagoon, and Viking Cave. It’s a great way to see all the hotspots at your own pace and with fewer people. 

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It’s a National Park, so you can’t technically fly your drone (we waited to fly it once we were back at Phi Phi Don). Also, if you step foot on the beach at Maya Bay, you’ll have to pay a park entrance fee. But snorkeling in the water is free! Bring a floaty and a speaker, maybe some food and drinks too! 

Kayaking

One of the best activities on Koh Phi Phi is renting a couple of kayaks off the main beach and heading out into the bay to explore the island's stunning coast. Prices can range from $3-$6 per hour (single vs double kayak) to $20 for the whole day. You can rent them on Tonsai Beach or from Loh Dalam Bay.

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Depending on how ambitious you are, you can use them to explore some of the more popular areas, like Monkey Beach, or just to get off the crowded beach and into the crystal clear waters around the bay. Bring a speaker, some water, SUNBLOCK, and find an empty buoy in the middle of the bay to tie up your kayaks and go for a dip. It's a fantastic way to explore Koh Phi Phi and work off some of those questionable decisions you made last night.

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Long Beach

Long walk to the Beach is more like it... if you go towards the main docks, and make a left along the beach (eastwards), just follow it all the way until the walkway ends. You’ll start to follow a path with cute villas along the way. There are small handwritten signs pointing you in the right direction. Once you eventually get to Long Beach, you’ll realize why it has that name.

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Pick any spot on the beach and just kick back for the afternoon. Pencil your name in a time slot for a coconut oil massage if you’re keen. Grab an ice cream or a fruity shake from one of the beachfront stands. If the walk is too far for your unavoidably dehydrated body, hop in a longboat back to town for only $3.

The Viewpoint

Take the long hike up to the Viewpoint for some killer views of the island. Make sure you go down to the second viewing platform for a little more space and fewer people in your shot! The earlier you go, the fewer people you’ll find at the top - and it won’t be as hot as later in the day.

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Diving

In addition to being one of the best islands to party on in Southeast Asia, Koh Phi Phi is also one of the best places to dive! The crystal blue waters are picture perfect, making for great visibility under the surface. When arriving on Koh Phi Phi, you have to pay an "environmental fee," which covers the costs of maintaining trash-free beaches and underwater ecosystems. Plus, the vibrant reefs are home to big fish, turtles, and even reef sharks!

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There are loads of dive shops to choose from. Anna finished off her PADI open water course with Sea Frogs Diving. She reported back with nothing but good things, praising the instructors for their professionalism, and good food on the boat! Veg-head options available :)

Digs on Koh Phi Phi

  • Banana Bar - mexican rooftop restaurant and bar with amazing sunset views, conveniently around happy hour!

  • Patcharee French Bakery - delicious pastry breakfasts for before a morning longboat tour!

  • Papaya - great local cuisine!

  • Anna’s - another great local option!

Koh Lanta: The Peaceful Alternative to Koh Phi Phi

After experiencing both Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, I came up with a loving analogy to compare the two. 

If Koh Phi Phi is a first semester freshman in college who’s never left home and is finally turned loose on the world of partying, then Koh Lanta is the super senior who’s taking the bare minimum number of classes and spending most of the time stoned on the couch.

If you’ve gone to college, you probably get what I’m saying.

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Koh Lanta is bigger, less crowded, and unbelievably chill compared to Koh Phi Phi. To be honest, one of the best things to do in Koh Lanta is nothing, which me and my two companions did plenty of. Also eating, which I recommend you do at Secret Garden. I think we went there four times in three days (the crepes...).

When we weren’t doing nothing, we explored the area around our hostel on foot and around the island by scooter. We stayed at an amazing hostel called Loro Loco, which had incredibly friendly staff and an amazing pool/lounge area. It was also right on Long Beach, the main beach on Koh Lanta, which is lined with fun, colorful sunset bars.
*Note: If you're looking for a bit more of a luxurious stay on island, ASALANTA has amazing reviews and would be well worth checking out!

Needless to say, we spent every sunset and evening on the beach with a couple of beers and as much fresh fruit as we could carry.

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Renting a scooter on Koh Lanta is very cheap, only about three US dollars a day.

There's a number of places you can explore on Koh Lanta via scooter. There's Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Mai Kaew Cave, Koh Lanta Old Town, Khlong Chak Waterfall, and countless stunning beaches, including Phra Ae Beach and Bamboo Beach. If you're looking to stack your day full of activities and places to explore, there's no shortage of options.
*Note: We heard from a couple of people that the entrance fee to the National Park isn't worth it, which is why we didn't go there, but if you're still interested it's worth noting that there is in fact an entrance fee of 200B per person.

If you're in Koh Lanta for a little longer, there's also plenty to do just off the island. There's diving, sunset cruises, and a day trip to Morakot Cave. Also known as the Emerald Cave, this stunning cave is on a tiny island just off of Koh Lanta and is well worth a visit. We didn't have enough time when we were there, but if I were to go back that would absolutely be on the top of my to do list.

What we DID do is rent two scooters for the three of us to explore the perimeter of the island for an afternoon. We opted for a more casual exploration and just stuck to aimlessly driving around and seeing the landscape before parking it on a deserted beach with a couple of fresh coconuts for a few hours. If you're enjoying a more low key day or trip, you can't go wrong with this.

Whether you want to go full explorer or have a chill day meandering around the island, you've got plenty of choices.

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On a side note, this would be an amazing place to practice riding a scooter, due to the low traffic and wide, paved roads all over the island. So if you’re looking for a place to gain confidence before embarking on a 3-month Vietnamese bike tour… I’ll say no more, you know who you are.

If you’ve been traveling for a while and are looking for a break or if you’re simply in need of a quick detox from the craziness of Koh Phi Phi or the Full Moon Party, look no further than Koh Lanta. This is the perfect place to put up your feet, string up your hammock, and read a few chapters of that book you picked up two months ago but haven’t opened yet.

A Guide to Kata & Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand

I’ll start by saying that it’s largely chance that brought us to Phuket. MJ and I were ready to write off Phuket as a tourist-heavy, crowded beach with little to do other than party. Given that we were headed to Ko Phi Phi immediately after to do just that, we almost skipped Phuket all together. 

In the end, I’m glad we didn’t. 

Phuket is one of the bigger islands off of Southern Thailand and there are many ways to see it. Here’s our take.

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Patong Beach

I know, I know, starting with the obvious here. 

Patong Beach is without a doubt the most famous beach and tourist attraction on Phuket Island. This city is a haven for backpackers is probably one of the best places to meet and party with your fellow budget travelers. 

The place essentially is a 24/7 happy hour.

There are no shortage of bars and clubs on Patong Beach. As soon as the sun goes down, head to Bangla Road and duck into any one of the tens of bars and restaurants offering food, seemingly endless happy hour deals, and live entertainment. 

Not sure where to start your night? We stayed at Slumber Party Backpackers in Patong, which offers amazingly comfortable rooms and a different party itinerary for every night of the week. If you happen to wander over on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, join their pub crawl and see how long you can keep up (spoiler alert: I personally did not impress anyone). 

What else is there to do other than party? Patong Beach is the perfect place to lay out for a nap (go on, you’ve earned it), grab an icy fruit juice (COCONUT!), or even give parasailing a try.

Still not tired? Check out Patong’s night market for some of the most delicious and cheap eats you’ll find in the city. 

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Kata Beach

All right, so maybe you’re a little partied out and are looking for a more relaxing place to spend your time in Phuket. Allow me to direct your attention to…

Kata Beach is yet another stunningly beautiful beach town about 25-30 minutes south of Patong Beach. While it’s also got its fair share of tourists and nightlife, Kata is definitely the calmer of the two. 

You’ll have more room on the beach, less noise at night, and less traffic on the road if you’re looking to explore the city on foot, something I didn’t get to do but a friend highly recommended. 

After a few crazy nights in Patong, Kata was the perfect place to wind down with a beer on the beach at sunset.

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