A Whirlwind Week in Thailand
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Hello friends! I am SO excited to share my week in Thailand with you!
Though I've been dragging my feet when culling and editing photos for the past week and a half, it's been a treat being able to relive my trip through photos, and now I'm going through to relive it again as I tell you all about it!
I heard from many people that 1 week in Thailand is not enough. Though that is true and there is so much left for me to see, I felt that my week was so jam-packed with activities that I came back feeling that I made the most of what little time I had there. I was lucky to have the opportunity to explore 2 different cities (Bangkok and Krabi) within that time.
Additionally, I did 80% of this trip solo (Reuben was there on business and was working for most of it). Not only did I jump into exploring a new country given only a week of time, I did majority of it alone. It was the first time I've done anything like that and I certainly learned a lot about myself!
So, you want to go to Thailand, you only have a week, and you're a solo female traveler? Look no further than here!
General International Travel Tips
Bring cash. This is especially true in Thailand. Drivers, street food vendors, marketplaces, temples, etc. typically do not accept credit cards. We found that the Bangkok Airport's currency conversion booths didn't have a terrible rate, so we exchanged some cash there, at minimum, to get us to the hotel and get around for the next day or so.
If you don't know the language, learn a few phrases in the native language. I regrettably did not learn much Thai beyond "Hello" and "Thank you". It definitely would have been helpful to learn a few more phrases to get around. Fortunately, most people knew some English and a lot of signage contained sentences in both Thai and English.
When there was a language barrier, I used the Google Translate app (Apple and Android). The camera feature was also incredibly useful to translate signs with no English translation. While obviously it wasn't perfect, it got the general point across. Be sure to download Google Translate's offline dictionaries before going on your trip!
Look into getting a SIM card. I bought an 8-day SIM card in the Bangkok Airport for about $9 USD. I don't even remember how much data was on it, but as someone who checks social media incessantly, it worked well for my needs.
What to Pack
There aren't too many unique things to pack for Thailand specifically, but I wanted to highlight a few things that I packed for my trip that were incredibly useful and also items you might not even think of.
Sunscreen. Thailand has a tropical climate and gets a lot of sun, so be prepared!
Bug spray. Tropical climates come not only with beautiful scenery, but annoying mosquitos.
Anti-theft backpack. One of the things that made me the most anxious was reading up on the high pickpocket rate in Bangkok. I bought the Travelon Anti-Theft Backpack because it was relatively compact and had an RFID blocker. I typically wore this on my front to be especially cautious, though I think it would have been fine on my back for the most part. Another option is a secure fanny pack.
Tripod. This is an item probably not necessary for most people, but in case anyone was curious, I packed the Geekoto 58" travel tripod, which just barely fit in my backpack above, and it supported my Canon EOS R plus the Tamron 35mm f/1.4.
Plug adapters. Thailand's outlets are actually the same as the US, but they also have the "Type C" outlet. I bought a couple, though only needed 1.
Temple-appropriate clothing. While the weather may be hot, temples typically have a strict-ish dress code: no shorts, sleeveless shirts, tight clothing, torn clothing (jeans), or low-cut shirts. As long as you pack clothes that cover your shoulders and go past your knees, you are good to go!
Seasick patches. If you plan to take a ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi or Krabi to Phi Phi and have a motion sickness problem, these were an absolute lifesaver. It was also helpful for the longtail boats I rode while in Krabi.
Getting Around Thailand
Transportation within Thailand was one of my primary concerns before I went, but I didn't have it all figured out until I got there.
Taxis are literally everywhere in Thailand and probably the most obvious way to get around. It is generally well-known that taxi drivers in Bangkok don't always use the meter, meaning that they can charge pretty much whatever they want, making it especially easy for tourists to get ripped off (which unfortunately happened to me). In my time in Bangkok, I only found one driver who actually used the meter. To avoid getting ripped off: 1.) do not get in a taxi parked by a major tourist area (hail your own), 2.) refuse to get in a driver's taxi if they refuse to use the meter. I stopped using taxis pretty early on in my trip (see below...).
Grab was a lifesaver for me and the primary form of transportation I used for the duration of my trip. Grab is the southeast Asian version of Uber or Lyft and worked well in both Bangkok and Krabi. It eliminated the problem I had with taxis described above -- the price was agreed upon beforehand, so there was no opportunity for the driver to scam me. Additionally, I could use my card with Grab, saving cash for other purchases. The only place I was not allowed to use Grab was leaving the Bangkok Airport (being dropped off at the airport is fine). As long as you follow the same safety protocol as you do with Uber or Lyft (i.e., ensuring the license plate matches, etc.), you are good to go!
BTS (Bangkok Skytrain) was the most economical way to get around Bangkok, but not always the most convenient. While our hotel was close to a BTS train station, it wasn't always close to where we wanted to go. When I was in Bangkok, I typically prioritized train routes over driving. When the train routes didn't match up, I used Grab. If you plan to spend an extended amount of time in Bangkok and anticipate using the train a lot, it's a good idea to invest in a Rabbit card (I didn't use the train too much, so I only paid for individual fares). Another thing to note is that the train gets incredibly crowded around rush hour. Expect getting up close and personal with your fellow commuters!
Tuk tuks are a novelty of Thailand and I imagine are good for short distances. I avoided them since I was afraid of being ripped off, and also I have already experienced "baby taxis" in Bangladesh, which are very similar. They were neat to look at, though -- so brightly colored!
Both places I stayed at in Bangkok and Krabi were amazing.
Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit. The room was very clean with an amazing view, and the staff was super friendly and helpful. We were close to the Thong Lo BTS station, which made using the train convenient as long as our destination was close to a station. The hotel staff was helpful in navigating the city, recommending when it would be easier to take the train vs. driving, and writing translations in Thai to more easily communicate to taxi drivers.
Andakiri Pool Villa. This was the hotel I stayed at in Krabi and I could not have asked for a better stay. I only wish Reuben traveled with me to Krabi to experience it. Each unit had its own infinity pool overlooking Ao Nang Beach. My only complaint is that to get these spectacular views, the hotel is positioned on the side of a cliff, which made taxis and tourist shuttles unable to traverse it all the way up. Luckily, the hotel sends its own free shuttle down the cliff to retrieve you in this case.
One Week in Thailand
Now we're at the good part -- what the heck did I do for a week!? I will go through my day-to-day itinerary in brief-ish detail (after all, a picture is worth 1000 words!).
Day 1 - Bangkok: Shopping and Silk
Reuben and I lucked out when it came to jet lag. We arrived the night before "Day 1" around 10PM Bangkok time. Naturally, after a 25-hour journey, we were beat! We slept the whole night and woke up in the morning, not tired, and ready to explore.
This was one of two days I had with Reuben.
Chatuchak Weekend Market. It was Saturday, which meant we could visit JJ Market! It's only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so it seemed like a perfect activity for us to do together. We took BTS from Thong Lo to Mo Chit and followed signs to the market.
With aisles upon aisles of all the items you can think of (souvenirs, clothes, food, furniture, even pets), it's easy to spend a full day here. We did all of our souvenir shopping this day. If you plan to stop by here, be prepared to negotiate! Unless otherwise noted, everything is negotiable.
Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an ex-pat in Bangkok who founded the Thai Silk Company, who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967. His house, which he designed and built, still stands today as a museum. After our time at the market, we decided to check it out. We took BTS from Mo Chit to Ratchathewi and walked 8 minutes to the museum. While the house was beautiful and the history behind it was interesting, it was probably our least favorite activity of our trip. It's worth a visit if you're at a loss of what to do.
For dinner that evening, we ate at The Coffee Club. While I was fervently pushing for street food, Reuben's shellfish allergy and vegetarianism greatly limited our options. Though it wasn't as good as the street food I had later in the week, it was nice to have the opportunity to sit after a long day.
Day 2 - Bangkok: Temple Run!
This day marked the first day of my solo excursion. Reuben had to work, so I decided to do a temple run! Fortunately, every temple I wanted to see were within walking distance of each other, but unfortunately, not feasible to access via train, so I took a taxi.
A few tips I heeded prior to going to temples: if the taxi attempted to convince me that a temple was closed, I was going to ignore them (didn't happen, but is a popular scam run by taxi drivers), and I was wary of people asking me unusual questions that I assumed were to distract me, for my paranoid fear of pickpocketers (especially since people approached me after I brought out my tripod, which clearly identified me as a super tourist).
Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha). I'm not sure if it's because this was the first temple I visited, but this was probably my favorite temple to visit. Its grandness and beauty isn't quite captured in any photos I've seen or taken. This was where I got the handle of taking photos of myself with my handy remote and tripod, thereby looking like a tourist to the extreme. I would do it again to get the photos I did.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha). Just a short walk down the street from Wat Pho is the Grand Palace and its neighboring temple Wat Phra Kaew. It was way more crowded here than it was at Wat Pho, and there was torrential downpour for about 10 minutes while I was here (where I got to spend quality time cramped under an awning with my fellow tourists). Like Wat Pho, the architecture was gorgeous and elaborate. I was able to find a little hallway tucked away with no other people, where I felt more comfortable bringing out my tripod again.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). About a 5-10 minute walk from the Grand Palace is the ferry to Wat Arun. It lies across the river and can only be access by the ferry. I was so tired from walking around temples all day that I went through it fairly quickly, but I still believe it was smaller than the other 2. It was also the least crowded, which made walking through it and taking photos much less stress-inducing (still looked like a tourist, though!). It was a treat to walk through and a perfect way to end my temple run.
The taxi driver who took me back to the hotel from Wat Arun was the one who ripped me off (again, don't go for the taxis that are parked right outside high tourist areas!). For dinner, I ate at the hotel's rooftop restaurant. It had an amazing view overlooking the city, just like the room.
Day 3 - Bangkok: Chinatown and Impromptu Temple
After becoming a new expert on navigating Bangkok by myself, I decided to explore street food! My goal was to eat as much as possible. Unfortunately, I was filled up by 1 plate of curry and decided to spend the rest of the day at another temple. No regrets!
Chinatown. Often known as the best place for street food in Bangkok. I used Grab to get there, and walked around for a bit taking in the sights and smells. I then realized I was there in time for Jek Pui Curry to open (featured in Netflix Street Food), so I knew I had to make a stop there. I had the green curry chicken, and it was absolutely delightful. It was spicier than any Thai food I'd gotten in the states, and oh so satisfying! I would definitely recommend it. At only 40 baht (a little over $1 USD) a plate, it's an absolute steal.
Wat Traimit (Temple of Golden Buddha). The curry had already filled me up, so to pass the time and digest, I walked about 10 minutes until I reached Wat Traimit. This was probably the smallest temple I visited during our trip and much less crowded than the previous day's temples. Though the architecture wasn't as impressive as the previous temples, it was still neat to see the giant golden Buddha and walk around a relatively uncrowded temple.
After this, I ended up taking the train from Hua Lamphong, switched to the BTS track in Siam back to Thong Lo.
Since Reuben had already eaten by the time I returned, I dragged him to Hoi-Tod Chaw-Lae with me so I could try some Thai oyster omelets. It was within walking distance from our hotel. Absolutely delicious! Unfortunately, being there was not ideal for Reuben; since they were cooking shellfish in open air, it irritated his skin our whole time there.
Day 4 - Krabi: Beach Day!
This day marked the first day I was truly going solo! I was flying hundreds of miles away from Bangkok, where Reuben stayed to work. I flew out super early in the morning. I used Grab to get from the airport to my hotel, where I was 2 hours early for check-in. Luckily, they had a beautiful restaurant area where I could enjoy the view with a cup of tea while I waited for my room to get ready.
Once I got settled in my room, I took advantage of my hotel's free shuttle to the beach!
Ao Nang Beach. This is your typical beach, but with beautiful cliffside views on either side of you. There was also an old-fashioned wooden swing on the beach that was always crowded, so I was unable to take advantage of it. The street that runs alongside the beach has a lot of shops and restaurants that I ended up visiting the next day.
Longtail Boat to Railay Beach. This deserves its own section because the boat ride itself was gorgeous (though I do not recommend keeping your camera out because it will get wet!). To my knowledge, this is the only way to get to Railay Beach. They run every hour, and I believe the last return boat from Railay Beach is around 7PM.
Railay Beach. This beach was objectively more beautiful than Ao Nang Beach. Not only can you enjoy the beach here, there is a hiking trail and I've heard the rock climbing is one of the main draws of Railay. I enjoyed relaxing by the beach, but would have considered a hike had I been mentally (and physically) prepared for one!
After taking the return longtail boat to Ao Nang and the return shuttle to the hotel, I showered and decided to do dinner in the hotel's restaurant. I had the chicken curry, which I obviously devoured.
Day 5 - Krabi: Of Stairs and Elephants
This was the only day I had actually planned prior to flying to Thailand -- I was going to see the elephants! However, the elephant tour wasn't until the afternoon. How was I going to kill time in the morning? Apparently, I decided to torture my out-of-shape self to climb up 1,260 stairs... to see yet another temple.
Tiger Cave Temple. I used Grab from my hotel to get here. The unique factor of this temple is that it resides atop 1,260 steps. Now, you might be wondering, how hard could it really be just walking up stairs? Well, as it turns out... really hard. Do not attempt this without having at least 2 water bottles on you (the hotel room had free ones that I grabbed on my way out). There is a filtered water spout at the top, which I can personally verify is safe to drink. It had rained just before I got there, so everything was pretty slick. Be sure to wear shoes with good traction -- I wore my Merrell hiking boots, and still slipped on the stairs on the way down (oops).
The Grab driver who took me to Tiger Cave was really nice and offered me a return journey to the hotel, outside of Grab, for cheaper. While I was trying to save cash, I couldn't say no to that gesture (granted, I didn't know how to say no to begin with).
When I got back to the hotel, I had a little break before I was picked up by the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary, leading into my favorite part of the trip.
Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. Elephant sanctuaries are for domestic elephants who are retired from the trekking industry, which is known for its cruel practices against elephants. If you ever go to Thailand, do not support the trekking industry by finding somewhere to ride elephants. If a tour company offers elephant rides, there is no way those elephants are being treated well. Sanctuaries allow people to get close to elephants, but not ride them. Sanctuaries exist since retired elephants cannot be returned to the wild (as they have been raised in captivity their whole lives).
This particular sanctuary was absolutely amazing. We could really tell that our guide, Kloy, loved and cared deeply for the elephants in their sanctuary. We had the opportunity to feed sugar canes to the elephants, make snacks for them by hand and also feed it to them, observe them bathe in mud, and then join them in the water to scrub off the mud. It was a once in a lifetime experience I'll never forget.
I got a ride back from the sanctuary's shuttle, quickly showered, and then took my hotel's free shuttle down to Ao Nang to have dinner and shop. As this would be my last night in Krabi before I flew out the next day, I had to make sure I got my souvenirs! It was also around this time that I learned about Hurricane Dorian, and was mildly panicking about our house.
Day 6 - Krabi: Quickest Phi Phi Journey Ever
Since I was scheduled to fly out this evening, for some reason I thought it would be a great idea to schedule a Phi Phi longtail boat tour from Krabi. Though it was beautiful, I would probably opt to stay in Phi Phi for a night instead of attempting to do this in one day again. It is 4 hours roundtrip by ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi alone, and I was only out on the water for a couple hours before having to take the return ferry, which only runs twice a day.
Phi Phi Island Boat Tours. The company (linked above) booked my roundtrip ferry ticket for the day and also provided a shuttle from my hotel to the ferry dock and back. My guide, Hannafee, met me as I was getting off the ferry at Phi Phi. We had a bit of a slow start as he was getting the motor on the longtail boat situated, and when we did get going, he didn't say much aside from pointing out landmarks by simply naming them and not offering any additional detail. We only had enough time to stop at Monkey Beach and Pileh Lagoon. Hannafee also taught me how to snorkel while at Pileh Lagoon, which was a more fun experience than I was anticipating (though, I wanted to take more photos!).
After I got back, I freshened up at the hotel and ate dinner there before calling a Grab car to take me to the airport to head back to Bangkok. My already late flight was delayed, and I didn't get back to the Bangkok hotel until roughly 2AM.
Day 7 - Bangkok: Reunited and Lax(st) Day
Reuben worked a short day this day, so I rested until he got out so we could actually have our second day in Thailand together. I was still sore from Tiger Cave Temple, so I was taking it easy. I wanted to get more street food since I was seriously lacking in that department, so we headed over to Victory Monument once Reuben got back.
Victory Monument. We took the BTS train from Thong Lo to Victory Monument and walked around the area there until we ventured onto some street food. A lot of the stands had no English writing on their signs, which made using Google Translate vital for us to communicate and read. I picked up a couple of chicken baos as snacks before we stopped by boat noodle alley, where we ate at Baan Kuay Tiew Ruathong. Reuben got a boba tea (no vegetarian options, sadly) while I got the chicken khao soi, and it was singlehandedly the best thing I ate in Thailand. They gave it to me with a side of chili paste, which made it so spicily delicious that I was sweating.
Siam Paragon. On our way back from Victory Monument, we stopped by Siam. This mall is insane -- five floors worth of shopping! Unfortunately, both Reuben and I were pretty beat by this point (due to a long week of work for him and a long week of exploring for me), and most of the shopping consisted of stores we had back in the US, so we headed back to our hotel shortly after we got there.
After Siam, we took BTS back to our hotel. Our return flights were separate; Reuben's was that night, while mine was the following morning. We spent the remainder of our time in Thailand relaxing until each of us had to fly out.
Is Thailand doable in a week? Yes. Did I get to see and do everything I wanted? Mostly yes. Is it safe for a solo female traveler? Yes, just make sure you take the same precautions as you would back home!
Next time we go (because there definitely will be a next time!), I want to hit up Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya, and explore more of the Phi Phi islands than I did this time. I also wouldn't mind going through the temples or elephant sanctuary again with Reuben, since I know he would have really enjoyed it.
If you made it this far, I commend you! I'd barely want to read this much on a blog post. However, I hope you found some of what I said useful and that it guides and inspires you on your own vacation to Thailand!