I am likely to have a business trip to Chiang Mai in November, and my wife and I are planning to take a week off beforehand to go somewhere warm in the southern part of the country. I have never been anywhere in Southeast Asia (or Asia for that matter), so advice from any travelers with Thailand experience would be very welcome.
I am looking for input on the following:
Resort/Vacation Spot: For our beach vacation, we are assuming we’d end up in a resort, but we are open to suggestions. As far as location goes, right now we are thinking somewhere in Phuket, but that’s primarily because it’s one of the only places we have heard about, so we are not married with the idea. We are looking for a place that is 1) relatively easy to get to; 2) relatively upscale; 3) beautiful and relaxing. We want it to be a recharging, memorable experience. Great food is very important to us; access to entertainment, shows, nightlife less so.
Airlines/Connections: given that this is a long set of flights and we don’t have a ton of days, what is the best way to organize our flights? We don’t have a ton of miles currently so we are likely looking at traveling Economy.
Chiang Mai: what are some of the best spots (things to see, do, restaurants) in the city? Any day trips worth taking in the mountains nearby? I’m an avid trekker/hiker but I would be hesitant to just go out somewhere by myself given the unfamiliarity with the place and culture.
Cultural insights and specific foods to seek out are also welcome. Hit me up with your experiences!
I wish you could advies about good places but haven’t been there myself but tons of people I know have and it’s a proper tourist destination, paradise if you find the right spots so it should be worthwhile doing some proper research and maybe not necessarily the most interesting to head to the most famous tourist resorts.
From what I have heard (including from those I know living there) is that most everything is very affordable when you are there, and I reckon that also applies to the travels bit as well.
For the hiking I would probably not go to wild on my own, isn’t it jungle like mostly with everything that comes with it?! I’d go with a guided tour for those things but it’s an affordable place shouldn’t be something that discourage you from that type of exploration.
I was just there in February. Chiang Mai is lovely, inexpensive, has great people, and elephants! We started in Bangkok, which you can totally skip. We then spent four days on a live aboard dive boat in the Similan Islands, followed by four days in Chiang Mai.
Thanks for the suggestions so far - agreed that I will want to do some proper research. I am hoping that people here may have some recommendations from personal experience to use as a starting point.
Good point on not going off in the jungle on my own… I see there are plenty of tours available - some interesting ones linked in the article that @brigcampbell linked above, and I am finding others as well. I wish I had the time to book a 3-day trekking tour, these sound like really unique experiences.
My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Thailand, mainly on Krabi Island, back in 2002. Easy boat ride. We stayed at the Rayavadee, which was amazing. Back then, the Rayavadee was owned by one of the major “luxury” hotel chains, and we got a nice deal on a suite that backs into the rocks, with monkeys running around in the backyard/spa area. We also did a private dinner in a cave by the ocean, where they packed fresh seafood, set up a table, and cooked everything in front of you. Amazing experience.
As others have mentioned, maybe stay away from Phuket, at least the downtown part. Don’t know how many times I was approached by bar girls as I walked down the road with my new bride. Crazy.
All that said, I have no idea how things have changed since 2002.
I can actually find flights that go directly to Phuket, for example from a Seul or DOH layover. Koh Samui would be a different story - I’d definitely need to layover in Bangkok. BTW thanks for recommending Koh Samui - that looks really promising, I may want to investigate that more. A colleague recommended Koh Kood, but that seems more difficult to get to.
We loved Rayavadee when we stayed. It was owned by Starwood at the time.
Honestly, I don’t remember how we got there.
We flew into Bangkok from Los Angeles, spent a night or two there, and then made our way to Phuket and Krabi.
But can’t remember how we got from Bangkok to Phuket (too many years and glasses of wine).
I second Khao Lak. Stayed there for a weekend at Casa de la Flora and stayed in one of the villas. It was exceptional. Food was really good, spa was great. We went during rainy season and it rained most of the weekend we were there, but it didn’t matter.
We flew into Phuket and the hotel arranged a driver for us. I think it was 45 minutes or so. After that we stayed in outside Phuket for a few days at another great hotel which I’ll have to lookup.