Planning a vacation can be quite a head-scratcher. There’s the matter of booking flights, reserving a hotel, packing only the essentials (not an easy thing to do, especially if your travel companion insists on bringing a bag exclusively for shoes), and the actual travelling. By the time you get to your destination, you’re so worn out from all the preparation that you’re looking forward to having the same amount of fun as the people shown on your travel brochures. And while you’re hoping that everything goes smoothly and without a single hitch, naturally, you may also start wondering how you can possibly do everything that you want to do in one place, and all in just seven days.
Thailand is an awesome country, dotted here and there with mystical temples, picturesque beaches, and its city life is an urban warrior’s idea of paradise. It is a memorable destination, even for short trips. It’s ideal for a honeymoon, for a family vacation, or for hanging out with friends. For a seven day vacation, you must plan on doing the following: shopping, going to the beach, indulging in the local cuisine, and soaking up the culture. Before I give you my suggestions for a 7-day itinerary, here are a couple of tips you might want to keep in mind:
- The driest months are from November to April, so schedule your vacation leave on any of those months and you’re golden. Nothing’s worse than going on a trip to a tropical country during the monsoon city, so unless you plan on staying indoors, go when it’s nice and dry.
- Be prepared. Consider being vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. Not only will these vaccinations protect you for this trip alone—it’s also good to be protected from sickness in the future. And you don’t have to bring anti-malaria pills, unless you’re spending much time in the jungle. A travel-sized bottle of mosquito repellent lotion will suffice. If you’re on medication, bring enough to last the whole trip.
- Thailand’s climate is consistently warm and can even be scorching, so pack light clothing such as short-sleeved cotton shirts. Bring some conservative clothing if you plan on visiting the temples. It’s also a good idea to bring a jacket for unexpected rain showers and during commutes on air conditioned buses or trains. A folding umbrella is also a good thing to have with you at all times, it will protect you from the harsh rays of the sun and from sudden downpours.
- Leave the valuables at home. Rather than risk losing or destroying your designer items, go for simple walking shoes and a pair of flipflops, and carry a sturdy bag with no flashy logos.
- Always have some cash with you. Most markets and flea market stalls don’t take credit cards, so have some small bills on hand before you leave your hotel room.
Now that you’re ready, set and raring to go, here’s your itinerary for seven days. Here we go!
DAY 1: Tradition and Mystery Day – The Temples of Bangkok
If you can somehow manage to arrive during the daytime for your first day, you can jump in the right away to experience the quintessential Bangkok experience. Start by visiting the Grand Palace and the nearby Wat Pho, which is home to the famous reclining Buddha. Then, hire a tuktuk (it’s a three-wheeled motorcycle) driver to take you around to see the temples—trust me on this, you will need a tuktuk to get around because Bangkok has a lot of temples.
Just make sure that your driver knows that you intend to visit the temples only for the time being, because many drivers will insist that you go shopping. The reason for the hard sell is the fact that they get kick backs for every customer they bring into a shop. You might want to save the shopping for your last day just because you don’t want to be schlepping all that stuff with you all over the country.
DAY 2: Gastronomic Adventure Day at the Floating Market in Bangkok
It’s easy to spend half a day at the Floating Market. Some may call it a tourist trap, but c’mon, you can’t really miss out on this experience. There are several floating markets located just minutes away from the city. Among the most notable ones are Damnoen Saduak, the largest and most popular with the tourists. It is also one of the few markets where visitors can make their way to the stalls in their own boats. Souvenirs and traditional food are plentiful here, so make sure to sample the food and the fresh tropical fruits.
DAY 3 and 4: Up North to Chiang Mai
From Bangkok, you have 3 options to go to Chiang Mai: by bus, train, or a plane. It’s a 400 mile trip, so if you get antsy on a long commute, opt to go by plane, which will take only a little over an hour. Make sure to book the flight in advance so you’ll get a good deal. You might want to check out Bangkok Airways or Thai Airways for the best deals.
Chiang Mai draws about 2 million tourists on a yearly basis, yet despite the impressive volume of tourist arrivals, the vibe of Chiang Mai is slower and more relaxed than Bangkok. Most of the action is found within the city walls. On your first day in Chiang Mai, you can visit more temples. You can also check out the night market, which opens daily at 5PM and closes at 11PM. If you’re travelling with kids, you can stop by the zoos and go on family friendly adventures such as ziplining.
On your second day, plan on visiting the hill tribe villages to get a taste of ancient Thailand. A short trek up the mountain can also be part of your itinerary.
DAY 5 and 6: Soaking Up the Sun in Phuket
From Chiang Mai, you can take a plane to Phuket via Air Asia or Kho Samui. No Thai vacation is complete without a day, or several days spent at the beach. There are many places of interest in Phuket, but for some travelers, the only reason to go to Phuket is Phi Phi Island. Upon approaching the island by boat, you’ll see cliffs towering overhead, and you’ll get a glimpse of the jungle. After a day of soaking up the sun, catch a Las Vegas-style show at Kamala Beach, called the Phuket FantaSea Show. It has elephants onstage, trapeze flyers and pyrotechnics combined with traditional Thai myths, humor and fantasy.
DAY 7: Back to Bangkok
From Phuket, you can take a plane going to Bangkok via Air Asia or Nok Air. Because it’s your last day on vacation, now you can go on a shopping spree for yourself (yay!) and for souvenirs to bring back home. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the perfect place to shop ‘til you drop. You can buy anything, from Thai silk, jeans, shoes and very affordable bags. A lot of these bags are knock offs, and you can haggle. For Thai handicrafts, check out the MBK shopping mall. If you have a hankering for customized clothing, visit one of the many tailor shops in Bangkok where they can make you an exact copy of a designer suit of your choice. It’s probably best to do this on your first day in Bangkok, so the tailor has enough time to make you a suit, then just pick it up on your last day.
With a little planning, anyone can experience the best of Thailand in 7 days. Just make sure to be prepared, gather some knowledge on how to get around, and book flights in advance to get the best deals. Have an open mind and be flexible in case your meticulous planning doesn’t work out. And most of all, have fun! Hey, it’s a vacation after all.