A 5-Day Itinerary to Thailand - Bangkok & Phuket

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Photo of A 5-Day Itinerary to Thailand - Bangkok & Phuket by Husein Haveliwala

No matter how old you are or what you’re interested in, if you visit Thailand; you are guaranteed with days of enjoyment and relaxation. Your trip starts out in the vibrant metropolis of Bangkok, with the Chao Phraya River flowing through its bustling streets, unique skyscrapers, busy markets, and structures depicting Thailand’s rich heritage. You can see why the capital has been named the "World's Best City" to travel in by many publications, as it truly is highly explorer-friendly. After 3 days of jam-packed fun, shift gears and take it easy on the tropical island of Phuket. With its azure waters, white-sand beaches, and lively nightlife; Phuket is a blast! So, get your holiday mood on, and take a trip to Thailand!

Getting in and around

Getting into Thailand is easy as Bangkok has the Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is one of Southeast Asia’s biggest airports and travel hubs, that connects the country to more than 175 cities in the world. From the airport, you can take the Bangkok Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai station near central Bangkok. Tickets cost 45 Thai baht (or THB). Alternatively, you could take a metred taxi from the marked booths at the airport, or a taxi from the Grab app, which would cost anywhere between 250-400 baht for a ride to the city.

Travelling in the city is both convenient and fun, with its extensive public transport system that uses road, rail and river! The easiest way to travel from one part of the city to another is by using the BTS Skytrain. This rail system is easy to understand, as long as you know the closest station to your destination. Tickets cost between 15 and 55 baht, and you can check the prices at the English fare maps at every station. If you have 5 or 10 baht coins, use the vending machines as they usually have shorter queues than the normal ticket counters. Another way to travel in the city is by using the iconic Chao Phraya River that meanders through the city. The Chao Phraya Express Boat is a great way to commute. Take the orange-flag boats that halt at all the important stops, with tickets costing 14 baht that you buy at the piers or, sometimes, on the boat itself. Keep in mind when your stop is supposed to arrive, as there are generally no announcements. Although the roads in Bangkok gets jammed during rush-hour, one can take the occasional metred taxi ride, with base fare being 35 baht (make sure the metre is on, and displays this). You can also use the Grab app to book cabs. And finally, a crazy tuk-tuk ride is one you have to take for experience’s sake. Use them for just a short 5-10 minute ride, and make sure to agree on a price beforehand. Of course, exploring the city on foot is by far the best way, as you get to see Bangkok up-close and personal, and can experience it like a local.

To get to Phuket, the easiest way is to take a flight from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. Nok Air and Air Asia have the most economical services; fares being as low as 1200 baht (one-way) if booked well in advance. From Phuket International Airport, the minibus service is perfect to get to your hotel in Phuket, costing 100-200 baht per seat (depending on where on the island your hotel is). You can also take the metred taxi service, which generally cost around 600 baht to places in Phuket.

Getting around each of the beach-towns in Phuket is best done on foot, with taxis/minibuses being able to take you from one town to the other.

Accommodation

Bangkok

Budget: Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sathorn, House of Phraya Jasaen, VM1 Hostel, Siam Journey Guesthouse

Mid-range: Inn A Day, Old Capital Bike Inn, Akara Hotel, Lancaster Bangkok, Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok, Millennium Hilton Bangkok, Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn, Pullman Bangkok Hotel G

Luxury: The Peninsula Bangkok, Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok, Banyan Tree Bangkok, SO Sofitel Bangkok, W Bangkok, The St. Regis Bangkok, Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, The Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Phuket

Budget: The Marina Phuket Hotel, The Bliss South Beach Patong, Patong Beach Hotel, Holiday Inn Express Phuket Patong Beach Central, Nap Patong

Mid-range: Angsana Laguna Phuket, Allamanda Laguna Phuket, Laguna Holiday Club Phuket Resort, Novotel Phuket Resort, Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa, Andaman White Beach Resort, Ramada Phuket Deevana, Holiday Inn Resort Phuket

Luxury: Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, BYD Lofts Boutique Hotel & Serviced Apartments, Amari Phuket, The Surin Phuket, Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa

Day 1

This is an old-school café which serves up some delicious breakfast options to start your day on the right foot! Their speciality is a baked egg with meat and baguette, alongside a perfectly brewed cup of Thai-style coffee. A filling breakfast here should cost you less than 300 baht for two people. The café is open daily (except the last Tuesday of the month) from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm.

Walk about 15 minutes from the café, and you should find yourself at one of the gates of the Grand Palace of Bangkok. This imperial structure stands dazzling golden in the sun, with a temple complex adjacent. The monumental architecture is complemented by the intricate carvings in every nook and cranny. Walk through various rooms, reception halls, facades, and courtyards; even making your way to the stunning Wat Phra Kaew to have a look at the iconic and sacred jade figurine. To maintain the sanctity of the palace and temples, one must be dressed appropriately when visiting. This includes sleeved t-shirts/tops (no tank tops), long pants, and covered feet (no flip-flops). The palace is open every day from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, entry fees being 500 baht.

Just south of the Grand Palace is the entrance to the Wat Pho temple complex. One of the oldest and largest temple complexes in Bangkok, with 91 temple structures of different shapes and sizes, and more than one thousand figurines and images of Buddha; this space will transport you to another world. The sheer amount of Thai architecture all around is exquisite. A highlight of the complex is the Reclining Buddha; a 46m long, 15m high figure of Buddha in a reclining position, and completely gold-plated. A visit to this enchanting complex requires an appropriate dress code. The complex remains open to visitors every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with an entrance fee of 100 baht.

From Wat Pho, walk 2 minutes to the Tha Tien ferry pier, and take a cross-river ferry (4 baht) to the pier at Wat Arun. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, this temple looks rather different from the ones you just saw at Wat Pho. With a singular spire standing 70 metres high over the Chao Phraya. It is decorated in gorgeous Chinese porcelain, with a myriad of small coloured glass pieces, that give the temple its distinctive look. You can even climb up the steep steps of the spire and get some unmatched views of the river and the Grand Palace across it. To enter, you must pay 50 baht; and the opening hours are between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm.

Get a taxi from Wat Arun to Platinum Fashion Mall (about 30 minutes, and between 120-150 baht). This will be your first encounter with the cheap Bangkok shopping that everybody talks about. 7 floors of shopping consisting of clothes, accessories, souvenirs and food and beverage; here’s where you can get some decent quality apparel at fantastic prices, especially if you purchase in large quantities. For lunch, go to the 6th floor food court and have a bite of some delectable Japanese style fried chicken at Yotori, available in various flavours and styles.

Located on the 61st floor rooftop of the Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel near Silom, the Moon Bar is the perfect place for a sundowner after a long day. Watching the lights of Bangkok glitter under, over, and all around you with a drink in hand; this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make sure to dress in smart casuals too, as this is the Bangkok high life. However, the glitz does come at a price. Soft drinks start at 330 baht, mocktails at 390 baht, and cocktails at 670 baht. The bar is open from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am.

A 130-baht taxi ride should take you, what some would call, from sublime to ridiculous. However, getting back to Earth; Khaosan Road is the 400-metre strip of Bangkok nightlife. With cafés, pubs, clubs, bars, street food, massage parlours, shopping, and so much more; this is the place to be post sunset! A hub for Bangkok’s youth and travellers alike, you will always find someone here to share travel tales over a pint with (that is, if you can hear over the blaring music and crowds). For dinner, you can try some authentic street-style Pad Thai, various crispy skewered meats, sukothai noodles, noodle soup from the stalls. If you’re the overly adventurous type; lines of stalls sell insects like spiders, grasshoppers, and cockroaches!

Day 2

Today, visit the largest market in the whole of Thailand; the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Divided into 11 basic sections, this sprawling market consists of more than 15,000 stalls with literally anything under the sun for sale. Clothing, accessories, cosmetics, furniture, handicrafts, electronics, home décor, books, antiques, collectibles, handicrafts, art, plants, pets, pet accessories, foods and beverages are just the basic categories of items you can find here. To get here, take the Sukhumvit Line (green) of the BTS Skytrain and get off at the last station: Mo Chit. There are transfers to the Silom Line (at Siam) and the MRT Blue Line at Asok/Mo Chit. From there, walk to any entry point of Chatuchak; and the rest is all up to you. You can easily spend half a day here just walking through the market and shopping to your heart’s content. Remember, the full market is only open on the weekends: Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Located in Section 27 of the Chatuchak Market, Toh Plue is a must-visit restaurant, and your lunch destination for today! Toh Plue excels in giving diners a delightful dining experience; by placing a small flag of your country while serving drinks and presenting the food in exciting ways. Coming to the taste, practically anything you order here is lip-smacking, fresh, and quite authentically Thai. The Pad Thai, papaya salad, spicy mango salad, pineapple fried rice chicken, and stir-fried beef black pepper are some recommendations; as well as a refreshing coconut water! The restaurant is open from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm on Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays.

Walking back to Mo Chit station, take the Sukhumvit Line on the BTS Skytrain heading towards Samrong and get off at Asok station (11 stops, 44 baht). A 7-minute walk should take you to Divana; an exotic spa that provides professional massage therapies in a relaxing ambience, a juxtaposition against the bustling street it sits off of. A “Siamese Massage” is a great option, that includes a foot scrub, soak and a traditional Thai massage that includes gentle stretches in various yoga postures. This would cost you 1250 baht for 70 minutes and 1650 baht for 100 minutes. There are several other treatments and massages on the menu to choose from. Divine Massage & Spa is open every day between 11:00 am and 11:00 pm.

A taxi (130-160 baht) from Divana should take you to Asiatique; your port of call for this evening. Once an abandoned complex of warehouses, Asiatique is now a happening riverfront destination that houses an open-air night market, swanky shops in the old warehouse buildings, entertainment options, as well as a number of restaurants and cafés. A laid-back end to the day; you can stroll around the prettily lit alleys and purchase trinkets, souvenirs, or go on a boutique shopping spree. If you want to turn up the fun quotient on your night out in Bangkok, you could also watch a typical, glamorous ladyboy cabaret or even a classic Thai puppet show. Asiatique also has Bangkok’s tallest Ferris wheel! Asiatique is open from 5:00 pm to midnight, every day.

Located near the entrance of Asiatique is MK Restaurant, a Thai suki restaurant. This is basically a hot pot style of eating, where every table has a cooktop with a large pot of boiling broth on it. You then order various items off the menu such as vegetables like baby corn, 5-6 types of mushrooms, cabbage, spring onion, etc., fresh meats like chicken, beef, pork, eggs, fish, shrimp balls, squid, jellyfish, etc., and other things like tofu, roasted duck, and types of noodles. You then put all these ingredients into your broth pot, let it boil for 5-7 minutes, dip ingredients in the dipping sauce, and then gobble down some hot, healthy, and delicious Thai suki! What a great way to end your second day in Thailand!

Day 3

Let’s commence your third day in Bangkok with a proper breakfast at Brooklyn Baker, located off Wireless Rd neat Lumphini Park (closest MTR: Lumphini, and BTS: Phloen Chit). Open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, this place offers a scrumptious All-Day Brunch menu. Fill yourself up with an American Breakfast (250 baht) that includes pancakes, bacon, smoked sausages, and scrambled/fried eggs. A “must try” on their menu is the Egg Rothko (240 baht). To add a savoury Thai twist to your breakfast, taste the Baker’s Rice Bowl (210 baht). You could also try the Middle Eastern Shakshouka (240 baht). And of course, the all-time-favourite Grand Marnier French Toasts (300 baht) is also available.

Just a 6-minute walk will bring you to the Wireless Rd entrance of the Lumphini Park, the green lungs of Bangkok. Set against the backdrop of Bangkok’s dizzyingly tall skyline, this is one of the few open, wooded spaces of the city. A rejuvenating stroll around the park, and even a rowing/paddle boat ride around the lake are just what you need to start the day off right. Don’t be surprised to see some urban fauna such as huge monitor lizards wandering around the lakeside! The park is open from 4:30 am to 9:00 pm every day.

Exit the Lumphini Park from the gate by the King Rama IV monument, and walk across to the Sala Daeng BTS station on the Silom Line. Take a train to the last stop of National Stadium (3 stops, 26 baht), and after a 3-minute stride across sky-walks; you should be at the MBK Center. Probably one of Bangkok’s most iconic shopping malls, it is basically a street-style market with the addition of air-conditioning. The prices here are unbelievable, as long as you know how to bargain. From clothing, shoes, cosmetics, toys, gold, jewellery, electronics, furniture, to souvenirs; let’s just say that the quality and originality of the products are proportionate to the prices. Still, it is one of the most frantic shopping experiences you will ever have, and that’s part of the fun! The mall is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.

A 10-15 minute along the connection bridges, or just on the streets through Siam Square, will get you to Siam Paragon. If you find yourself at MBK near the National Stadium, hop onto the BTS Skytrain to the next station Siam (16 baht), that has a connection into Siam Paragon. This is one of the most upscale malls in Bangkok with over 250 shops that mostly cater to elite locals and travellers. Versace, Prada, Chanel, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Rolex, Bvlgari, Hermes; you name it! Of course, you will also find more affordable stores like H&M, Zara, and Gap. With one of the best designed interiors of a mall, you must make a trip to Siam Paragon, even if it’s just for window shopping! Additionally, their food hall has so many amazing places to eat; you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Located on the 4th floor of Siam Paragon, Sushi Den is divided into indoor and outdoor sections. Get a spot on one of the high-chairs in the outdoor section for an authentic sushi bar experience! Here, you will see various plates of appetising types of roll pass you on a conveyor belt. Different coloured plates are priced differently, from 37 baht to 140 baht per plate/piece, that a sign in front of you will indicate. Just pick up a plate, and enjoy a piece of exotic Japanese cuisine!

The entertainment for tonight is a grand one. Book a ticket for the Siam Niramit show on their official website. Tickets for the dinner and show start at 1850 baht (adults)/1710 baht (children) for standard seats. The round-trip hotel transfer facility costs 300 baht per person. You can also get deals on Bangkok.com/Klook. You will be picked up from your hotel at around 4:00 pm, and taken to Siam Nirmat compound.

Once you arrive and complete your registration, you can walk around a miniature Thai village and can have a look at the traditional houses, food preparations, and music of the locals. There is also a pre-show from 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm in the courtyard. The international buffet dinner features some traditional Thai dishes, and is open from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. You will then be escorted to the grand 2000-seat theatre at 7:30 pm, and the show commences at 8:00 pm. For 80 minutes, you will be seated completely awestruck of the spectacle in front of you that tells the story of Siam from centuries ago. Magnificent sets, intricate costumes, brilliant performers, and even an actual river on stage- this is one enthralling show you cannot miss!

Day 4

If you were an elephant who has worked and been abused by men for years; this is the place you’d want to come to retire. Spread over 30 acres of lush tropical forests and brimming lagoons, this is your chance to get up-close to these gentle giants. The price for an afternoon with the elephants is 3000 baht per adult, and 1500 baht for children between 4-12 years (can be booked here). At around 1:00 pm, a taxi will come to pick you up at your hotel (the organiser gives you a contact for a safe, cheap operator; about 500 baht return trip for most parts of Phuket) and take you to the sanctuary on the east of the island, reaching by 1:30 pm. After being educated on the elephants, you explore the sanctuary to locate them. Spend the rest of the afternoon with the elephants, watching them socialising. As evening sets, you walk the elephants back to their shelters and feed them. Unlike other commercial ‘shows’, the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary cares about its inhabitants and doesn’t make them do anything they usually wouldn’t. Post your jaunt with the elephants, sit back and eat a sumptuous vegetarian Thai buffet, and relax. The tour ends at 1:00 pm. This will mark your entry to Phuket in the most delightful way!

Post the tour, request your taxi driver to drop you off at the Big Buddha. The road up to this huge 45-metre tall statue is long and winding, but worth it. Perched on top of the Nakkerd Hills, the marble monument shines in the tropical sun. There is an aura radiating from the figurine, and you feel a spiritual energy as you climb up the stairs to the imposing, yet pleasing Buddha. And then, you turn around to see rolling hills, tropical forests, golden strips of sand, and then the blue Andaman Sea. This is the best place to get a view of Phuket, and one of the best sunsets you will ever witness. The opening hours are from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm.

Running perpendicular to Patong Beach is the infamous Bangla Road. The minute you step onto the street, get ready for a sensory overload. With neon signs, disco lights, blaring music, and very less clothed street performers; Bangla Road is the perfect place for a wild night out. There are so many bars and clubs to choose from, as they are all open-fronted, and alcohol is cheap and aplenty. And lest we forget, you will be stopped every few metres by touts trying to sell you tickets to “ping pong” shows that are strictly 18+. A walk through this street is a total frenzy, but somehow it doesn’t fail to leave you laughing in joy! Joe’s Downstairs (international cuisine, fantastic location) or Kaab Gluay Restaurant (authentic Thai food) are suggestions for a great dinner experience; however, a night at any place in and around Bangla Road can never be just mediocre!

Day 5

Get ready for one of the most stunning experiences of your life. Book the Raya Island Snorkeling Trip from Klook.com, priced at about 1400 baht. You will be picked up from your hotel at around 8:00 am, and dropped at the pier. Board the speedboat, and you will be whisked away to a little island called Raya/Racha, sitting south of Phuket in the Andaman Sea.

The boat comes to a halt at Kon Kae Bay, and you leap into the clear blue water for snorkelling. Schools of fish swim alongside you, as you spot various colours of coral and fish. Taking a peek into a mystical, unchartered world is an experience of a lifetime. The boat then makes it way to Patok Beach, where you can swim or sunbathe at your leisure. You then head for lunch at a hillside restaurant overlooking the lagoon, and the sight of the sea in shades of azure and turquoise is mind-blowing! After a couple more hours of seaside fun, you head back to Phuket, and are dropped back to your hotel at around 5:00 pm. The rest of the day is spent resting, and dreaming of the magical island you visited today.

Thailand proves to be the quintessential holiday destination for any kind of traveller. Whether you’re into urban exploration, shopping, eating new cuisines, beachside relaxation, animal interaction or adventure sports; Thailand has something for you. So, pack your bags for the most perfect vacation you could ask for!

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