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Thailand – My 5 Favorite Places

Chao Phraya River flows through Bangkok - photo by Brad Augsburger

Chao Phraya River flows through Bangkok – photo by Brad Augsburger

Thailand – My 5 Favorite Places

I haven’t written much about Thailand on LashWorldTour, which is exceedingly ironic because Thailand has been the single most significant country of my entire world travels.

For starters, I kicked off my life-long world trip in Bangkok. I thoroughly explored that vast & intriguing city before setting off on a long bicycle journey down to Singapore along the east coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. I wasn’t in any hurry – it took me three months. I explored national parks, beaches, islands, small towns and many off-the-track rural areas.

LashWorldTour cycling at Khao Luang NP

cycling at Khao Luang NP in 1999

During following years I cycled Thailand’s entire west coast, the length of Kanchanaburi Province, the shores of the mighty Mekong River near Nong Khai and several other regions of the country.

Bangkok was loosely my travel base from 1998 – 2004 while I explored SE Asia. I returned there several times each year, staying one week to one month at a time and taking all my flights to/from there.

I celebrated the turn of the century New Year’s Eve on Phuket. I enjoyed my first solo Christmas on a small Thai beach. Over the years I’ve visited 80-90% of Thailand’s gorgeous tropical islands.

LashWorldTour scuba diving in Thailand

teaching scuba diving in Thailand

I’ve been speaking and reading Thai since 1998 when I cycled down to Singapore. I’ve had a few Thai boyfriends and have made many Thai friends & acquaintances around the country.

In 2002 at Koh Tarutao Island I was recruited, literally off the beach, to crew on Thailand Survivor – as a Thai translator. I learned all about working with Thai people, which is an entirely different ball game from traveling through Thailand as a visitor, let me assure you!

In 2004 I completed most of my scuba training in Thailand, receiving my Instructor’s License at Phuket. From 2004-2010 I spent half my life at Tonsai Beach, Krabi, teaching diving and hanging out with rock climbers from all over the world. I worked in dive shops with western dive pros, Thai colleagues, Thai bosses and Thai subordinates. Whew, what at trip!

You might say I’ve really immersed myself in the full Thai experience for over a decade. Although I’ve explored a huge chunk of that amazing and diverse country, I do have my select favorite places, some that I’ve returned to year after year, others that I’ve just visited once or twice.

Tonsai Beach is one of my favorite places in Thailand

Tonsai Beach – Thailand

 1. Tonsai Beach, Krabi

Without doubt, this is my very favorite place in Thailand.

Tonsai/Railay Penninsula is the premier rock climbing mecca in Asia. Climbers of all skill levels from Europe and N. America flock there to challenge themselves on sheer limestone walls that soar high above the stunning Andaman Sea and golden powdery sands. More than 700 climbing routes have been set in the cliffs and more are in progress all the time.

I did a short climbing stint but then moved on to scuba diving, working as an instructor at Tonsai. As mentioned earlier, from 2004-2010 I spent literally half my life at Tonsai diving, hanging out with climbers, living in thatched bungalows and enjoying dance parties on the beach. What a life!

Grand Palace in Bangkok - photo by Brad Augsburger

Grand Palace in Bangkok – photo by Brad Augsburger

 2. Bangkok

Bangkok is an immense and fascinating city filled with hundreds of elaborate Thai temples, dozens of districts and neighborhoods, the world’s largest market (Chatuchak Weekend Market), fascinating shopping malls, incredible food, fun-loving people and a vibrant night life.

There’s no mystery why it’s one of SE Asia’s most popular, most visited cities. Bangkok is exciting, overwhelming, exotic, edgy, fun and awe-inspiring.

Unlike most travelers to Bangkok, I completely avoid the tourist areas of Khao San Road and Sukumvit. Instead, I stay in an entirely Thai neighborhood right beside the mighty Chao Phraya River. I immerse myself in the real Thailand, the real Bangkok. Very few locals speak English. The only westerners there are staying at the same little hotel as I am.

I love cycling Bangkok’s super-hectic roads, riding Chao Phraya river ferries, re-visiting Bangkok’s amazing temples, checking out massive shopping malls full of Thai teens, eating street foods, getting massages, stocking up on trendy clothes at Chatuchak Market and going out dancing.

riverside bungalows in Kanchanaburi Province

riverside bungalows in Kanchanaburi Province

 3. Kanchanaburi Province

I’ve only explored Kanchanaburi once, but it was an amazing trip. I took my bicycle on a train then bus to the province’s far western border with Myanmar. At the border there’s an unusual lake, temple ruins and a large Burmese village. I explored that intriguing area then slowly cycled back to Bangkok.

Kanchanaburi is full of National Parks with lush forests, mountains, rivers and hot springs. I spent two weeks cycling, hiking and camping.

The Province is also famous for it’s notorious WW II Bridge over the River Kwai. Thousands of tourists visit the spot, riding the train built by prisoners of war during horrendous conditions. The train passes along the very edge of the river and through dense jungle with spectacular scenery. I joined the tourist throngs for that exciting historic rail ride.

My two-week trip through Kanchanaburi still remains as one of my most memorable explorations of Thailand.

Koh Bulon beach

Koh Bulon beach

4-5. Tiny islands of Trang and Satun Provinces

I first visited the little-known islands of Trang & Satun Provinces back in 2001 on a 3-month island-hopping adventure. The islands were quiet, lush and peaceful. The coral reefs just off-shore were in pristine condition, full of colorful corals and thronging with reef fish & marine creatures.

My absolute favorite island, Koh Ngai, I returned to several times after that trip. In 2013 I embarked on a second island hopping journey, only to discover that most of the beautiful islands have been over-run with Thai tourists, the once gorgeous coral reefs 80% destroyed. It was heart-breaking.

But two of those numerous islands are still basically quiet & unspoiled, at least during off season. They are Koh Bulon and Koh Tarutao National Park. I wrote about both of them in more depth during my 2013 visit.

Tropical Paradise: Koh Bulon

Koh Tarutao National Park

Islands of Satun Province

Islands of Trang Province

QUESTIONS:

What are your favorite places in Thailand? 

Have you visited any of my favorite places? If so, what did you think of them? 

(* for more information about this post, please see this page *)

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9 comments

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  1. Katja

    You are so inspiring! Me and my BF are travelling around Asia for a year, a month in Sri Lanka, 3,5 months in India, we’re going to Nepal for a month or so and then Thailand, mostly Bangkok and north. Do you have any experiences with the monsoon in Thailand?

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Katja,

      Wow, sounds like an awesome trip you have planned! Enjoy!

      Great, so glad to hear my stories and tips are useful and inspiring. THat’s the idea! :))

      Monsoons in Thailand typically are heaviest in May and Sept-Oct. Long ago the seasons were the same every year, but these days it fluctuates a lot, so harder to say exactly what will happen. But usually July and August are hit or miss. YOuc ould end up with entire weeks of beautiful sunny weather. Oryou could end up with scattered rain & storms… or rain for a week. You just never know.

      This all applies to Thailand’s south west coast, BAngkok and east toward Cambodia. The east coast is usually spared.

      cheers, Lash

  2. Katja

    We’ll try our luck. We have to see the monsoon somewhere anyhow :)
    Thanks for all the info,
    Katja

  3. patricia

    Hi Lash!!! I’m from spain and I follow your blog me and my boyfriend are travellers, I have wrotte here before… Well, we finally decided to move to Thailand for a few months. We wanted to avoid crowded areas so we are flying to phuket and then going south. The thing is now, lots of friends and people I know are scaring me to visit Thailand.
    Is it a dangerous place? Is it so crowded? Is there a lot of night life?
    We are looking for a safe area, quiet and relaxing… kinda local.
    I don’t know, I’m just having so many doubts with this people scaring me!!!

    thankyou

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Patricia,

      Thailand is a very diverse country. There are many, many different kinds of places. The big tourist attraction areas: Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and of course, Bangkok are very crowded, noisy and have lots of nightlife.

      But there are also many, many less developed, less touristy islands and towns. The islands & towns of Trang and Satun province are still mostly quiet and rural.

      So you can go to the quiet, local-style areas and avoid the noisy, crowded places.

      As for safety, i’m sure you know that since about DEc. last year Thailand has been undergoing a big political struggle, with demonstrations in Bangkok. My friends who still live in Thailand tell me that situation is NOT affecting the other areas of the country. They say it’s safe in south Thailand.

      Two women who have been living there, who you can perhaps contact via FB, are ‘Rolien in Thailand’ and ‘Satvic Family’ aka Kiran Bradley. Ask them how the situation is. Both have been living in Phuket. Kiran has a husband and child there, too.

      Meanwhile, the people who are scaring you – have they personally been to Thailand, and recently? If not, what do they know? Why should you listen to them? Westerners who haven’t traveled tend to be scared, because of the unknown. And they are concerned for your safety, but probably without correct facts. Don’t listen to them. Find people who are in Thailand and know Thailand.

      You can read some posts on my blog here about places to go in S Thailand and places to avoid. Find them all under my Thailand section:
      http://www.lashworldtour.com/category/thailand

      Good luck, have fun and enjoy Thailand!

      cheers, Lash

      1. patricia

        Thank you very much Lash, I really appreciate your answer!!! it makes me happy to hear that there is still not crowded spots. We are flying straight to Phuket with the intention of moving to an island. We followed some of your posts and decided that an island of those provinces you mention will be the best option. I will contact these people you mention so I make sure.
        And yes, those that tell me not to go to Thailand have never been there, but I haven’t either so sometimes I fall into the drama and the “fears”. I should not listen to them.
        Thanks for your advices !!!! you are awesome

        patricia.

        1. Lash WorldTour

          Hi Patricia,

          You are most welcome!

          Yes, there are always people – usually back home and usually friends & family – who will be terrified of you going out into the world to travel. They are scared themselves to travel. So they put their own fears on to you. They mean well, of course. They are worried about you and your safety. But If you listen to such people, they can sap your dreams! Don’t let the dream sappers get you down!

          One thing I read in a success book, and which I always remember, is to be careful WHO you take advice from. Make sure you take the advice of people who are experts, who KNOW what they are talking about through personal experience and knowledge. I think that is GREAT advice!

          Enjoy Thailand! Please write and tell me where you go and how you like it.

          cheers, Lash

  4. Jeremi Poulin

    Hi Lash!
    You’ll probably find this comment coming out of nowhere, but here it is anyway…
    I did the open water course with you in Tonsai, it was amazing, but never received the certification? That was years ago (maybe 2007) and now that I am in Southeast Asia for a while I was wondering if there would still be a way to get it (how) or do I have to take the course again…
    Maybe you moved on and don’t want to deal whit this or maybe there’s nothing to be done, but if there is I would truly be very greatful.
    Thanks and best to you,
    Jeremi

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi John,

      Welcome! Great, glad my site has been helpful in planning your trip to Singapore.

      My best suggestion is to read through all the other articles I’ve written on Singapore. From them you can decide what you like best to do.

      I’m not a travel agent, so I don’t actually plan peoples’ vacations for them. I just offer all the tips, info and suggestions I know from my own experience and let them use that for their own planning.

      Happy trails!

      cheers, Lash

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