It’s not uncommon for visitors to Southeast Asia to spend upwards of two months on the region’s extensive and increasingly popular backpacker trail as it offers a myriad of travel itineraries. Here we’ve focused on spending 10 days in Southern Thailand, both the mainland and its nearby islands.
This trip could come smack in the middle of your extended Asian voyage, or maybe Thailand is the only country you have the opportunity to visit. Either way, the following offers a great way to get the most out of this intensely beautiful area.
All in-roads and major airlines come through Bangkok, so the city will serve as our point of entry.
Plan for two to three jam-packed days’ worth of activities. The main backpacking thoroughfare is Khoasan Road, a short strip bustling with foot traffic, street vendors, food carts, and the very bizarre. Nearby hostels range in quality and cleanliness, but anything in the area will be ideal for exploring the area and likely adjacent to some of the best Pad Thai in the world. Embrace and revel in the crazy atmosphere of the big city.
Born-Free Hostel, among others, offer urban bike tours that take you through Bangkok traffic, down hidden alleyways, and into local markets.
The Grand Palace and Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha) are shining examples of the cultural sites that exist throughout the city. Atop Wat Traimit there is a stunning panorama of the Bangkok metropolis. The canals and water taxis heading into the city are somewhat intimidating but well worth the experience. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, and luxury hotels offer an alluring contrast to the backpacker haven that is Khoasan Road.
Plan on booking an overnight train headed south out of Bangkok with a connecting ferry ride to the island Koh Tao. These arrangements can be made through any of the hostels in the area. Plan to stay in one of the many beachside bungalows that adorn the island.
The ferry will get in mid-morning, allowing plenty of time to make the most of the day. We recommend taking a hike over to the opposite, and less developed, side of the island where you will find some awesome cliff-jumping sites and a moderately eerie abandoned hotel structure. Once back in town, set up the next day’s dive (Scuba certification is required) or snorkelling trip. Koh Tao is well known for its dive sites and there are a dozen different dive shops (Roctopus Dive is run by a fantastic group of folks) that can make arrangements for your half or full day of snorkelling or diving.
Then it’s time to head back to the mainland for a quick pit stop between islands. Catch a ferry back to shore and hop on a bus headed for Krabi Town. Once again, these arrangements can be easily made through your hostel or any of the local travel agencies in town.
Krabi Town is a charming and comfortable spot to recharge. Pak-Up hostel comes highly recommended as its air-conditioned rooms and hot showers are a welcome and very recuperative respite. After a solid rest, it’s time to get right back at it.
Tiger Cave Temple (a five-minute tuk-tuk ride to the outskirts of Krabi Town) is a must-see. Ascending over 1,200 steps to the peak of the temple will take up the better part of the day, but is worth the stunning views and impressive golden Buddha shrine that sits nearly 1,000 feet above the city. Along the way you’ll be sure to see numerous cute and playful monkeys and other wildlife, but you'll regret it if you taunt them.
Once back down, do a bit of jungle trekking at the foot of the temple where Buddhist monks live in the nearby caves. All trails are clearly marked and easy to find.
Koh Phi Phi
After the couple of days on the Mainland, set your sights on spending your remaining days on the tiny island of Koh Phi Phi, a true gem of Southeast Asia. No cars, no rush, no worries: It’s a place that absolutely operates on island time.
As with Koh Tao, there are a multitude of diving, deep sea fishing, and beach relaxing opportunities. The rooftop Banana Bar is an awesome spot to spend the evening hours. The bar screens newly released movies on their outdoor projection screens and offer great island-themed drink specials that come by the bucket.
Not to be missed is the 45-minute hike to the Koh Phi Phi overlook. The panoramic view from the top truly is the stuff of dreams.
This marks the end of your 10 days in Southern Thailand. Hopefully you have been exposed to vast new cultures, met scores of like-minded and fascinating travelers, and seen some of the most beautiful scenery the world has to offer. Well wishes on your next adventure whether it be motorbiking the coast of Vietnam, exploring the ancient temples of Cambodia, or making the long journey back to the States.
Originally written for Craghoppers.