Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai have the mix of culture and fun we’re craving.
Virtuoso travel advisor Joanne Socha recently spent two weeks in Thailand exploring Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. Here’s her firsthand report on favorite discoveries, sites not to miss, and tips for travelers looking to head to one of Southeast Asia’s top destinations.
It’s a great destination for travelers looking to combine wellness with cultural immersion, great food, and a laid-back beach break.
What to know before you go?
Download two apps: Timeshifter and the Grab transport app. The former helps reset your circadian rhythms to fight jet lag when crossing the international date line. The latter is Southeast Asia’s version of Uber, a “superapp” for transport and food delivery – you can even reserve a ride on the back of a motorbike to zip through the city.
What’s one can’t-miss, unexpected stop in Bangkok?
The Jim Thompson House Museum. Jim was an American architect (and quite the character) who helped revitalize the country’s silk industry before mysteriously disappearing in 1967. His teak houses along the Chao Phraya River, which he had transported from Chiang Mai, are constructed without nails and worthy of a visit to browse their interiors and gardens and for his vast art collection. Drop by the gift shop or visit his flagship store, a quick taxi ride away in the Surawong district, to bring home a vibrant silk pocket square, throw-pillow cover, or a dress you can wear for a night on the town.
Bangkok's Jim Thompson House Museum.
Favorite Bangkok hotels?
Guests at the 101-room Capella Bangkok can watch longtail boats drift by from their villa, enjoy a Brave Lady cocktail at the Stella bar, then hop on a longtail boat in front of the hotel to explore the city. Wraparound suites at the 370-room Peninsula Bangkok have my favorite city views, while the 171-room Waldorf Astoria Bangkok has the best pool.
One experience I should ask my travel advisor to book:
In Phuket, plan a day trip to visit Phang Nga Bay’s “James Bond Island” (aka Ko Khao Phing Kan) and its famous rock, featured in The Man with The Golden Gun. It’s a bit touristy, yes, but a fun excursion. To reach it, charter a longtail boat, catamaran, or yacht from Surakul Pier.
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Ko Khao Phing Kan.
What did you love most about Chiang Mai?
The former capital of the Lanna kingdom dates to the thirteenth century, and it’s all about arts and culture, wellness, and nature. One of my favorite discoveries was Baan Kang Wat, an artists’ colony off Suthep Road where each shop stands out as an independent gem specializing in jewelry, ceramics, wood carving, home decor, and silver. Cats comingle with digital nomads drinking espresso at cafés while plotting their next move. For a great meal, reserve a table at Ging Grai, my favorite nonhotel restaurant of the trip, and order the city’s best pad thai in a relaxed atmosphere. Follow it with a visit to Chiang Mai’s night markets.