Since last year it was on my bucket list to travel alone. I’ve done some short-time solo travel before. The longest was one week in Colombia, but to be honest, I didn’t really like it back then. Nevertheless, I had this strong desire to do it again. I started looking up flights but I was scared to go on my own. Anyway, after a few weeks I finally decided to do it! Where to? Thailand! South East Asia was also on my bucket list for quite a long time. Well, I booked my flight to Bangkok on a Sunday and Wednesday I was already on the plane 🙂 It was one of the best decisions and I had one of the best trips in my life 🙂 If you struggling, STOP! Just do it! Any country in South East Asia is a well known backpacker destination and even if your travel on alone, you won’t be alone! I met a bunch of lovely people and I’m quite sure that with most of them I’ll keep in touch. Let me tell you one thing: traveling alone will be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life! Try it at least once and find out if you like it. In the end, it will take away your fears and you will get to know yourself better if not even the real you! You invest in yourself and believe me, there is a bunch of people out there waiting to get to know you 🙂
Destination Thailand and Planning
As I mentioned earlier, Thailand was for quite a while on my bucket list. I started my traveling the other way round. While most of the people are starting their travel adventure in South East Asia, I started years ago with South America. Why? Because I did an exchange at University in Chile and lived there for 6 month. Afterwards, I traveled South America for 2 month with my Australian friend. Anyway, as I am a female solo traveler, it was also important to me to choose a quite safe destination. In my opinion, there is no 100% safe destination. You need to be careful everywhere, also in your own country, even just in front of your door 😉 I admit, I have a good friend from Thailand who is living in Bangkok and that also made me feel a bit safer. Well, I didn’t plan a route, I wanted to be as spontaneous as possible during these 3 weeks. I only had a rough plan of what I want to do. So my rough plan was as following: Bangkok, North Thailand, South Thailand. I booked my flight with Eurowings (I don’t really like them for long-haul flights) because they had the cheapest flight option (direct 10h flight) I could find. I paid 600 Euros but you can definitely get cheaper flights, especially if not booking last minute like I did 😀
Good to know:
- Don’t take too much stuff with you. In the end, you’ll wear the same things and you can wash your clothes for small money in every hostel. You only need summer clothing but bear in mind, to take one winter jacket with you as you’ll come back to a cold winter if your only traveling for a weeks like I did (I was freezing when I came back as it got really cold and I only had light clothing on and with me). I went with 13 kg (it was too much, you can do it with less) and came back with 16 kg.
- If taking taxis, ask them to turn on the taximeter. But to be honest, it’s better to negotiate a price as most of them will just drive away if you ask them to turn it on. I only had one taxi driver turning it on. ALWAYS negotiate as they tell you a really ridiculous price for only a few kilometres. There are also motorbike taxis. You recognise them by a orange vest. They are not only cheaper but also faster.
- Last but not least: The Thai „Uber“ is called Grab. You can download the app and either use to book a taxi or use it as a price orientation but keep in mind, a Grab taxi is cheaper than a normal taxi but NOT in the south. In the south Grab is more expensive than a usual taxi.
- Bangkok has a really bad air pollution. Get a mask and do your health a favour. I got sick after spending a few days in Bangkok and I also got a cough after a few hours. Next time, I’ll be in such a polluted city, I definitely will get one of these masks!
- For domestic travel, you can use AirAsia, NOK Air or Lion Air, that are the low-cost airlines. But keep in mind, that you need to book for your luggage additionally as it’s not included in the price.
- Street food is the best and cheapest thing you can do in Thailand! And it’s mostly really yummy and better than restaurant food!
- At the markets you can always try to negotiate the price. You will always get it a bit cheaper. You should know before, what you are willing to pay. Sometimes you might get it for your price, sometimes not. My experience was you can negotiate the price up to 10-30% of the price they tell you.
- If you want to travel by train, keep in mind that you need to book the sleeping cabin at least 2 weeks in advance, especially if you’re traveling in the main season.
- Buy a sim card from AIS. This operator has the best coverage. Don’t buy it at the airport, it’s more expensive. Buy it at their store and ask for a sim card that includes unlimited Internet for 100 BAHT. It’s not available at every AIS store though so you might ask at different stores.
Arrival to Bangkok
I arrived Thursday morning in Bangkok. Me and my Thai friend Charly are friends since 9 years now. We met at University in London. Since then we have been in touch and he also visited me last year in Germany. Of course, I contacted Charly (it was the 3. time, I was contacting him because I’m planning to come to Thailand 😀 but so far I never came but THIS time finally I came over :-D) to ask him about some advice. It turned out, that Charly offered to pick me up from Suvarnabhumi Airport. I got to eat some typical Thai breakfast and we made our way directly to Ayyutaha.
If Charly wouldn’t have picked me up, I would have taken a taxi to the hostel. As my hostel was very close to Khaosan Road, it would have cost me around 700 BAHT. There are also buses going to Bangkok City but I cannot give you detailed information about this as I didn’t really researched that option.
Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom after Sukhothai. The city is located about 80 km away from Bangkok. Today, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can visit the remains which are mostly temples and palaces all made of stone.
People usually do a day trip here and you can explore Ayutthaya either by bike or walking. We did only a small part of the Historical Park and Wat Mahathat (Buddha head wrapped by Fig tree) by walking. It is quite impressive what you get to see.
Along the way, I got to taste ice cream made of durian. Durian is a fruit and very popular in SEA. It is very sweet and it’s thick texture is perfect for ice cream.
After we visited Ayyuthaya, my friend dropped me at my hostel. I had a few hours to chill and get ready as we were meeting up at Ratchada Night Market. You really need to visit that market while in Bangkok. It is a great area with bars, street food and clothes, etc. It is, compared to Khaosan Road, not over crowded with tourists and it has a really nice atmosphere.
That night, I also got to meet another friend from Thailand I met years ago in London. My trip was also a good revival with old friends.
My highlight though was the motorbike trip by night around Bangkok and the Grand Palace. Of course Charly took me, I would never ever drive a motorbike in Bangkok 😀
Bangkok is a huge city and you can do a lot of things here. But in my opinion, 3 days are enough. If you want to do a tour to the floating market, which I didn’t do, you might be fine with 4 days. I spent 4 days in Bangkok and to be honest, I was really happy when I was leaving. Not that I didn’t like it but it was exhausting. Also the air, is not the best. After a few hours in Bangkok, most of the people get a cough and you also can get sick (getting a cold). Next time, I’ll be in such a polluted city, I definitely get one of these masks to protect myself 🙂
1. Strolling around Bangkok is one of the best things you can do. You find yourself at places, you would not see if going from A to B all the time with a Tuk TuK or taxi.
2. Khaosan Road. A typical tourist street with street food, market to buy souvenirs, a big choice of getting every kind of massage and bars. If you have the chance, try to get to know both sides during day and night time.
3. Ratchada Night Market. Must do! I loved it! Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to go there again.
4. Wat Pho Reclining Buddha temple.
5. The Grand Palace. The entrance fee is quite expensive, 500 BAHT. I would recommend to visit the Grand Palace with a guide or at least with an audio guide. It is quite big and if your on your own, you don’t really know where to go and what it is actually about.
6. Wat Arun. This temple was my favourite one. It is really beautiful and you get there by taking a boat taxi. There is also a small market around and you can spend quite some time walking around the temple and the market.
7. Lebua State Tower. One of the most famous Sky Bars in Bangkok. Did you see the movie Hangover 2? Yes? Than welcome to one of the film scenes. You get a really beautiful view over Bangkok BUT drinks are expensive! The cheapest long drink costs around 30 Euro.
8. Make the Tuk Tuk experience 🙂
9. Get a massage!!!
10. Try the street food, it’s so yummy and cheap!
Chiang Mai – Pearl of North Thailand
Sunday night I was going to Chiang Mai. Charly joined me and took care of the train tickets. In me, he found a victim to travel with him the lowest of the low train class. It was an experience – I admit, but I wouldn’t do it again 😀
The sleeping train was sold out. anyway. Keep in mind when you traveling during the high season, you need to book the tickets at least 2 weeks in advance, if you want to travel comfortable. Well, the good thing about it: the ticket was really cheap. One way 8,50 Euro :-D.
I was the only tourist in that part of the train. After 3h some other brave tourists joined :-D. I admit, it was really uncomfortable and the seats were hard as hell. If you have back problems, like me by the way, it’s not the best option…
Anyway, you won’t starve as from time to time a food seller is walking around the train. So, we took the night train at 10 PM from Bangkok central station and arrived the next day around 12 midday. Charly was staying with me for 2 days in Chiang Mai, so we decided to rent a car. Of course, he was driving 😀
Chiang Dao – Visiting the cave
We got the car at around 2PM and as I did some research before what to do and to see in the North, I asked Charly to go to Chiang Dao to see the cave. We arrived quite late, they were almost closing for the day but we managed to get in. If you want to visit the cave, you should definitely get a guide (cost around 100 BAHT) as you can get lost. It was all right to see the cave but I wouldn’t really recommend to go all the way from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao to see it as it wasn’t really worth in my opinion.
We came back quite late to Chiang Mai and went to the MAYA Shopping Mall. There is a rooftop with some bars and restaurants and you can have some drinks with a nice view. In comparison with Bangkok it got a bit cold at night. Don’t forget to take a jumper.
Chiang Rai – Wat Rong Khun – The white temple
No matter what, the white temple was on my bucket list. Perfect, Charly has never been there so he got something new to explore in his country 🙂 The temple is really beautiful and a must see. In 1997, they started building it but it’s still not finished. Not far away from the white temple there is also a black temple but we didn’t go there. Apparently, it is an interesting contrast to Wat Rong Khun. In total, it took us 6h to get there and to go back.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
On our way back we went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – this temple is on a hill and Chiang Mao’s landmark. Other, than the internet says, it’s open until 8PM. It was the best decision to go there by night as it was not crowded and I could take some nice photos.
It was our last day as Charly was leaving to Bangkok the next morning. I still stayed for another 3 days in Chiang Mai.
Day trip elephant sanctuary
Unfortunately, I was feeling sick and couldn’t do the 2-day jungle trekking I was planning to do. Instead I did a day tour which also included an elephant sanctuary. I researched quite a lot, as it was important to me, to visit a sanctuary which is treating the elephants well. I did book my day trip in the hostel where they guaranteed to only work with well approved sanctuaries. First, we went to feed and bath with the elephants. This was a really unique and special experience. Afterwards, we did a short trekking to see and swim at a small waterfall. The trip ended with a bamboo rafting on the river.
Thai Cooking class
I also took a Thai cooking class which was great. I decided to do the morning class. First, you go to the market and learn about the different ingredients. After that, we went to the cooking school. It was really fun and if you have time, do it! I’ll share in a different post some of the recipes with you. I took the class at Zabb-E-Lee Thai cooking school.
I love Chiang Mai and I definitely will be back. I still need to go to Pai as I didn’t have time to go there this time. I met some really great people in the hostel I was staying with whom I’m still in touch. I’m pretty sure, that I’m going to meet some of them again 🙂 Chiang Mai is also a well known digital nomad destination. People love it, mainly in terms of cost as it is cheaper than e.g. Bangkok or any destination in the south.
The North in a nutshell:
- Chiang Mai. A charming beautiful city with a great night market. Dive into the cities life and you’ll love it, I’m pretty sure!
- Chiang Dao. Visiting the cave. From my side not recommended.
- Chiang Rai – Wat Rong Khun – the white temple. There are day trips to visit the white temple. These trips also include the black temple and some of them also the golden triangle. The golden triangle is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar are meeting with their borders along the Mekong river. Anyway, Wat Rong Khun is a must see!!!
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Chiang Mai’s landmark. Apparently, it’s worth to go there by sunrise but that means to get up early and catch a taxi as it is an 1h drive.
- Do a day trip to an elephant sanctuary but do your research before. The company I went with is called „Elephant Family Care“. As far as I can assess what I saw and believe the hostel, it was one of the „good players“.
- Take a Thai cooking class. It’s fun and you learn something more about the country.
- You can do loads of outdoor activities in Chiang Mai. Check out the local agencies or your hostel/hotel.
Krabi – from North to South
It was mind fuck. I couldn’t decide where to go in the south, especially not on which island. There are just too many. I wanted something chilled, not over crowded and not much party. Well, in the end I had to make a decision. I flew from Chiang Mai to Krabi with AirAsia, a low-cost airline. Krabi is a province in south Thailand at the Andaman coast. After some research on my way I decided to stay at Reset Hostel at Klong Muang Beach. It is a bit further away from the main happening area in Krabi but that’s what I actually wanted. Klong Muang is not over crowded, it is more a family holiday destination, with a few beach bars, perfect to chill and relax and even to have your own private party at the beach 🙂 I got to know a bunch of really cool people and spent 3 days there. Just to let you know, I planned to stay only 1 night 😀
What to do in Krabi:
1. Koh Phi Phi Island tour. Yes, the main tourist attraction. I did a day tour and it was fun. The landscape is really beautiful. We passed Maya Beach to have a look from the boat (it’s still closed and I think it’s good in order to preserve the nature) We also went to Monkey beach but luckily our tour operator didn’t let us go on the island to disturb the monkeys. There are some tours which let the people out and I could observe that happening and it was awful! Let the monkeys be the monkeys and don’t enter their living environment. It’s not good. Phi Phi Island itself is crowded and the perfect place to party. The tour also included some snorkelling which was great.
2. Khao Ngon Nak (Dragon’s Crest). It’s a national park not far away from Klong Muang. It’s an exhausting hike but worth it. You get a beautiful view, some great pictures and you do some work out. In total, it took us 4h return. Our hostel told us, that this is a new upcoming trekking route in Krabi. Entrance is free. After you are done with the hike, go to the hidden beach Tubkaek to relax.
3. Tiger Cave Temple. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do it because of time. You need too take around 1270 steps to get on the mountain where the temple is.
4. Railay Beach. I passed that beach on our Koh Phi Phi Tour. It’s a nice beach which you can only reach by boat.
5. Ao Nang. This is the main launching point for boat trips and parties. Haven’t been there as I was really happy at Klong Muang Beach.
6. Ko Lanta. Unfortunately, I didn’t go to Ko Lanta but it’s definitely on my list for my next Thailand trip. Ko Lanta is supposed to be a quiet, relaxing island. Some even say, it’s a honeymoon destination. Still, from what I’ve read, there are quite a few solo traveler going there.
7. There are plenty of other island tours you can book yourself in. Just check it out when you’re there.
I enjoyed Krabi a lot. I think especially because of the people I got to know there. We did the Ko Phi Phi Island tour together, we hiked up the Dragon’s crest together and we had our private beach parties at one of the bars.
Where to next? I wanted to explore the Golf of Thailand. So, after a lot of research and re-thinking, I decided to go to Koh Tao. Diving and snorkelling paradise.
Koh Tao – From the Andaman coast to the Golf of Thailand
It was a day traveling to get from Krabi to Koh Tao. But everything was really well organised. I took a transfer from my hostel to the bus station. After 30 minutes waiting at the bus stop, we entered the bus and it took us about 2h to go to Surat Thani. In Surat Thani we entered the ferry and went via Koh Samui and Koh Phangan to Koh Tao. It took us around 5h. Still, the journey was quite comfortable but don’t forget to wear long pants and have a sweater with you as they turn on the AC in every transportation and it gets quite cold.
What to do in Koh Tao?
1. Go diving! It is said to be the best place to do that. I took a 1-day diving beginners course. I paid 2500 BAHT in total. Prices are the same, no matter which diving school you choose. Omg, I was really scared, especially because the pre-lesson in the pool didn’t go very well for me. And now into the ocean? OMG! But it was great! I loved it! The first dive we’ve been 40 minutes under water, the second one 35 minutes. There are plenty of diving schools around the island, just choose the one you like and feel comfortable. I did mine at Phoenix Divers. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the diving instructor in my group. He was very arrogant and you didn’t feel comfortable to ask questions but hey, if you’re doing it for the first time, you have plenty of them – no matter if your instructor thinks they’re stupid. Anyway, there are no stupid questions and you pay for the course so you can expect to be treated with respect. I loved the dive but not the instructor. You can do different diving licences, the fastest one is the open water and lasts 3 days. From what people told me relating the price, it’s not cheaper. It’s quite the same price if you want to do it at home (in this case Germany). In my case, I was proud of myself as I did go pass my comfort zone with the dive 🙂
2. Snorkelling day trip with visit to Nang Yuan island. I booked my snorkelling day trip in the hostel with Oxygen Tours. The tour was from 09:30 AM – 5:00 PM. The tour company was great including the guides. That day, the weather for snorkelling was not really good. The water was not really clear and some of the highlight you might get to see like turtles or blacktip sharks, we couldn’t spot them. You also make a stop at Nang Yuan Island. This small island is really beautiful but the time we got there it was over crowded and I spent the whole time in the queue to get a photo on top of the island. Well, it was definitely worth it. Lying on the beach was not an option anyway as there were way too many people. My recommendation: Take a taxi boat to Nang Yuan Island to be there at 8 AM. It gets crowded at around 10 PM when all the day tours arrive. You could also go in the afternoon, around 3 PM but then you have only about 2h to spend time on the island as they are closing quite early. You also need to pay a landing fee when entering, 100 BAHT.
3. Check out the different beaches on Koh Tao and rent a motorbike if you’re not scared.
4. Go to a Yoga class at Shambhala Yoga Centre. (300 BAHT a lesson)
5. Don’t forget to negotiate the taxi boat price. We were 2 people and paid 800 BAHT return. They ask for 1500 BAHT. Just keep going and ask different operators.
6. Get a massage!
7. There are some bars right at the beach where there is a fire show. Find it, sit down, get a drink and watch it! I was sitting there for 2h and watching 🙂
I spent 5 days on Koh Tao. Of course, I was thinking to check out Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and its possible to do that in short amount of time as its close. But I decided to stay on one island to enjoy, relax and chill. My personal opinion is, that Koh Tao is not a snorkelling paradise. I did it a few times while I was there and I need to admit that I’ve been to way better snorkelling spots 😉
Koh Tao to Bangkok
It was time to leave after 5 days on Koh Tao. I had to be back to Bangkok to catch my flight back home 😦 The cheapest option for me was to go from Koh Tao to Surat Thani Airport. You can also catch a flight from Koh Samui but it’s more expensive. I left Koh Tao early morning and arrived early evening in Bangkok. One night in Bangkok. This time I stayed in Pratunam. Not recommendable! Pratunam has a big whole sale market with everything you want. Some people say it is good for souvenir and bargain shopping but I cannot agree. I didn’t feel comfortable in that part of Bangkok. It was an experience and if you have the chance to check it out, go there, but don’t book your hostel or hotel necessarily for more than one night in that area 😉
At least, it is easy to go to the airport from Pratunam. You go to Ratchaprarop station and catch the train for 45 BAHT. It only takes 30 minutes to get to the airport. Actually, I need to write about this 😀 I put on google maps to walk from the hostel to Ratchaprarop station. Google Maps sent me through a very unusual way along the railway (no train running on that route, it was a closed railway). It was getting dark and me walking along that railway, left and right poor houses, people cooking and sitting outside eating and watching me walking with my big backpack which is bigger than me 😀 For a second, I felt a bit insecure but actually I realised after 5 minutes nobody was really interested in me and I started feeling confident again 🙂
Anyway, after I walked around that area for quite a few hours I decided to go to Khaosan Road to get my last minute souvenir shopping done. Instead of taking a taxi or a tuk tuk, I took the local bus.
If you’re in Bangkok, take the local bus at least once. It’s not bad. It is actually an interesting experience. I kind of enjoyed it 🙂
My first solo trip Thailand conclusion
It was one of the best decisions to travel on my own! I only regret not having done it earlier. I have been traveling 3 weeks on my own but I never have really been alone. I met so many great people from everywhere, group traveler and solo traveler. I have made many new friends from USA, Italy, South Korea, France, Greece, UK, Germany, Thailand, Canada, Finland and Chile – from literally everywhere! If you’re hesitating and being scared to travel on your own, especially such a long way I can take that fear of you. I was also scared, I was scared to book the flight and really do it but in the end, as I already mentioned it a few times, it was the best decision and you’re really never alone. You always meet people, if being in a hostel or on a tour, you’re never alone. Just do it and make your experience. Maybe you need to do it to find out that you hate to travel alone or maybe to find out that you love it. Go beyond your comfort zone! Most of us are stuck in their comfort zone because as the word itself says: its comfortable. But you’ll be proud of yourself, no matter what it is. If it’s traveling on your own or attending that course on your own you always wanted to do or whatever. It reliefs you and makes you happy and proud of yourself in the end. I will do it again and I will be back to SEA as there are many more places and countries to explore 🙂 “If you have to wait for someone to travel with you, you may end up waiting a life time!”
Accommodation & Transportation
I booked all my accommodation via booking com. Flights I was looking up on skyscanner.com but booking via the airline website. For research I was reading blogs on the internet and checking tripadvisor.
Here’s a list of the places I was staying at:
- Bangkok: Shayne Hostel (walking distance to Khaosan Road but still quiet) and Happy Monkey Hostel (Pratunam area, ok for 1 night, good airport connection)
- Chiang Mai: Monkey Toe Hostel
- Krabi: Reset Hostel (really recommendable!)
- Koh Tao: Savage Hostel Koh Tao and Indie Hostel
Here’s a list of the transportation I was using:
- AirAsia (low-cost airline)
- Ferries (I always booked the ferries with the hostel. It doesn’t matter where you book it, the price is everywhere the same). You can also check prices and timetable on 12Go.Asia
- Local Bus (fare: 45 BAHT)
- Taxi (dependent on where you going to but always negotiate the price. In general taxis are cheap)
- Grab (Thai Uber, cheaper than a taxi but not in the south). Sometimes, I was using Grab only to get an idea of how much the route should cost me as it shows you the price.
- Tuk Tuk ( negotiate the price. You want to go by Tuk Tuk when you’re in Thailand ;))
- Motorbike Taxi (you recognise them by an orange vest. In general faster and cheaper than a car taxi)
It’s true that Thailand is being ran over by tourists. But still, it is a beautiful country and I am happy I had the chance to explore it. It’s also a cheap travel destination although it became more expensive over the years from what people told me who are going on a regular basis to Thailand. Apparently, other SEA countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar) are way cheaper than Thailand.
Hint: On the eastern side of the Golf of Thailand, there are the islands Koh Chang, Ko Kut and Ko Mak. Apparently, these islands are still like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan etc. 10 years ago. I guess, we need to hurry up if we want to experience it. Things are changing very fast in Thailand.
I hope you enjoyed my blog post. If you have any questions or feedback don’t hesitate to leave a comment. It’s very much appreciated 🙂 Happy travels!
P.S. If you’re interested to have a private guide in Bangkok get in touch with me. I’ll give you contact details of my friend Charly and I’m sure, he’ll makes a good price 🙂