Bangkok assaults all of your senses immediately, in the best way – the color, the noise, the heat and humidity, the flavor – and if you relax into it you’ll enjoy the best of what this city has to offer. If you stay right on the Chao Phraya River, there is something to see 24 hours a day, from giant heavily-laden barges, each being pulled upstream by multiple tugs, brightly-colored longtail water taxis zooming from pier to pier, and ferries moving at a more stately pace.
Spend a few days in Bangkok to get a good dose of temples, street food and amazing shopping, then head north. Chiang Mai is only an hour’s flight away, but a different world than Bangkok – a much smaller city surrounded by mountains and jungle, dripping with history and culture with temples and Buddha statues everywhere you look. Tour the old town, wander the quiet lanes, visit the elephants, or take a cooking class, and don’t forget the fabulous night market!
North of Chiang Mai, consider visiting the Golden Triangle where the Myanmar, Thailand and Laos borders all meet along the Mekong River. Historically famous for the opium trade, this region is now better known for growing coffee, fruit and tea in hillside fields. Learn about the many different hill tribes in the area, and what makes each of them unique. Stay in Chiang Rai or even further north in one of the fabulous jungle resorts where elephant trekking is available.
Finish your trip with a few days on the beach – with so many islands to choose from in both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, you’ll have no problem finding one to suit your style. Relax and forget about your shoes, then set off on your flight home totally refreshed.
Thailand works well as a standalone destination, or you can easily combine it with Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, or Myanmar. The only limiting factor is time!