What to do in southern Thailand?
March 23, 2017 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I'll be spending the month of april in Thailand. We will be spending the Thai New year with friends in Ko Phi Phi and we are planning on island hopping for the rest if the trip. Have you been to southern Thailand? What MUST I see / do / eat?

We are 39 and 30. Definitely budget travelers. My husband is a veteran at this stuff so he's lined up several places for us to stay and now we are filling in the gaps.
My husband loves to snorkel so we will be doing a lot of that. I'm happy to walk alone on a pretty beach or nature trails. We don't plan on eating out every meal but we will go out if it's cheap. Our tastes in places to stay lean more toward camping and "rustic" than resort. Any specific recommendations?
posted by pintapicasso to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If either of you are interested in scuba diving, head straight to Koh Tao and get your diving certification. It's one of the cheapest, reputable places to get a certification, and the diving is great (my boyfriend saw a whale shark!). The snorkeling sites were good too.

Koh Chang, on the Eastern coast, has settled beaches and a rugged interior that should have great hiking trails. I haven't gone, but I seriously considered it for a recent trip.

If you're 100% sure of the all-beach itinerary, pick up a copy of Loney Planet's "Thailand Islands & Beaches" to get an overview of them. In your shoes, I would spend a week of the month in Northern Thailand to visit the Forest Wat and some other temples in Chiang Mai, visit an elephant rescue/conservation project, and maybe do some trekking around Chiang Rai and get a bit farther off the tourist trail. As a bonus, it's both a bit cheaper and a bit cooler in the north.
posted by asphericalcow at 7:28 PM on March 23, 2017

Addendum: If you have Amazon Prime, you can activate a free 30 day trial of Kindle Unlimited to download the guidebook I suggested above.
posted by asphericalcow at 7:32 PM on March 23, 2017

I think you can plan on eating out a lot as street food stalls will almost certainly be cheaper (30-45 B) than any meal that you fix yourself. Staying at a place that provides bottled water daily will be a plus, you'll need to drink a lot as April is the hottest month of the year and temps will top 100 F.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:44 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Thailand is the one place I've been where it's probably cheaper to go out than make your own food, especially since most budget places don't have kitchens (*because* it's cheaper to go out). We're talking US$1-2/meal for street/market stall food and $5 for an inexpensive sit-down restaurant. And honestly, street food is where it's at in Thailand. When I lived there, one of my favorite things was to go to the night market and get some grilled pork, sticky rice, and som tam, and call it a meal. Or a big plate of noodles and veggies. So good.

I actually didn't go down to the peninsula (stuck to the Gulf islands) because I'm an idiot, but I always heard amazing things about Khao Sok NP. You can stay in a treehouse!
posted by lunasol at 9:58 PM on March 23, 2017

I'll second a trip to visit the elephants if possible. They're lovely creatures, and you can watch them play and possibly ride, if you're feeling up to it.

My Dad use to say that you can find a lot of really great western food in Thailand, too, because many westerners moved there. This might be mostly a Bangkok thing, but there's honestly good eating almost everywhere.
posted by Alensin at 10:14 PM on March 23, 2017

Phuket, although extremely touristy, is a good place for Thai cooking classes, excursions to nature preserves (Gibbon Rehabilitation Project – the area has some hiking trails too) and the like. There seems to be an elephant sanctuary there too, although I have not been there
Mangrove forests are great if you have never seen one. The one in Krabi was easily accessible on a 4 hour boat ride.

I second Koh Tao for scuba (it’s the gulf side though). A wide variety of courses start regularly, and if that gets old, you can sit on a beach admiring the sunset, or rent a sea kayak and find yourself a deserted beach. I heard great things about Ko Lanta.

Oh. If you’re doing just island hopping, that’s ok. Know there is a US state department warning about traveling to far Southern Thailand, so don’t be tempted.

Eat everything! Eat durian, if it’s in season; you can do it, and it’s delicious!
posted by Dotty at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2017

Whatever you do, please don't ride an elephant! They are trained (broken, really) using brutal force and trauma. And sadly, a lot of the elephant camps in Thailand masquerade as sanctuaries, but are really just out for profit and don't treat the elephants well at all. If there is elephant riding or elephant "shows" (painting, etc), or if the elephants are kept in chains, know that it's not a good place. (Elephant Nature Park is the best place in the world, but it's up north in Chiang Mai.)
posted by désoeuvrée at 2:58 AM on March 27, 2017

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