2 weeks in Thailand: a highlights itinerary

The first country that often comes to mind when people contemplate travelling to South-East Asia is Thailand. The country is cheap, the food is tasty and the people are friendly. The country is developed enough to have plenty of pretty hotels, good healthcare and good infrastructure but there are still plenty of places to truly go off the beaten path. It is no wonder that people fall in love with the ‘land of the smiles’ and keep on returning. I visited five times and still love it. Travelling to Thailand for the first time and looking for a guide? Look no further, you clicked on the right article. In this 2 week itinerary, I’ll explain all about where to go, what to eat and where to stay!


– Itinerary –

This itinerary gives you a rough sketch on where to go and what to see. For more in-depth information you can simply click the title of each day which will take you to an article I wrote about that specific location. Don’t agree or still got questions? Leave a comment below!

Day 1 – 3 Exploring Bangkok, the temples, Chinatown and Patpong
Day 4-5 Exploring the temples of Ayutthaya, taking the night train to Chiang Mai
Day 6 – 8  Exploring Chiang Mai, doing a cookery course
Day 9 – 10 Chiang Rai, Elephant Valley and the White Temple
Day 11 -14 Relaxing on the Thai paradise island Koh Tao
Day 15 Going back home

Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok

China town after nightfall

Considering Bangkok is one of the main ports to enter South-East Asia from both Europe as well as the United States, I am assuming this is your point of entry as well. Arriving in any new country can be quite stressful so the first day will be just about taking the time to arrive and acclimatise. Find your way to your hotel (use my guide to find out how to get to any part of Bangkok the easiest way), and settle in. 

Get a  Thai massage

The best way to drop all stress and get into a relaxed holiday-vibe? Get a massage! Take note that a traditional Thai massage is not the relaxing oil massage as you might expect but actually a quite strong massage focused on stretching. Personally, I love the Thai massages. Its the best way to get rid of tight muscles and its just feels damn good afterwards. If you are in a parlour and have a choice of masseuses, go for the oldest lady in the room. You’ll be amazed at how strong these old Thai ladies are, and the amount of skill they have.

See a traditional Thai dancing dinner show

After the massage it is time to go to a traditional Thai dinner show, where you see traditional Thai dance performers while you are getting aquainted with the Thai cuisine. There is nothing authentic about these shows but it is entertaining, the food is good and it is an easy way to get your adventure started. After the show you’ll probably be exhausted so its time to call it a day and head back to your hotel.

Where to stay? Here are some personal recommendations, which are all superb places within their own budget-range. 

The Yard Hostel

Located in Ari (the trendiest neighbourhood in Bangkok), and perfectly located en route of the BTS Skytrain, this social hostel is my top-pick for backpackers or young couples travelling together. The vibes are great, the yard (obviously, considering the name) is big and relaxing and the dorms are comfortable with great mattresses and good working air conditioning. They also do doubles if you need a little extra privacy;). 

Old Capital Bike Inn

This small boutique hotel is perfectly located in the middle of the historic old centre (close to Khao San Road and all the temples), and sleeping here is like sleeping in Bangkok from the 18th-century. Both the rooms and the hotel itself is decorated in detail in an old-colonial style with a bicycle theme. Book for a few days, stay a week. 

Bangkok Tree House

The place is very hip and the rooms are stunning. Location-wise this is not the most convenient place but the accommodation makes more than up for it. Breakfast at the leafy rooftop-terrace overlooking the river is probably the best way you can start your day in Bangkok. It is not the cheapest place in Bangkok (about EUR 100/ USD 110 a night), but you won’t find a hotel like this in every country in the world.


Day 2: Exploring the temples of Bangkok

The stupa at the top of the Golden Mount, hence the name

Get up early, because it is time for a day of temple-hopping. Bangkok has probably the most pristine temples in the whole country (if not in whole South-East Asia) so what better way to start your trip? Take the Canal taxi to get to the Golden Mount early in the morning after which it is on to the iconic Wat Pho temple, with its famous 46-meter long reclining Buddha. Cross the river by ferry and get to Wat Arun. Find a nice spot for lunch and head back to your hotel to escape the hottest hours of the day, or if you’re up to it, head over to Kao San Road (or better, the more atmospheric Rambutttri road which is only one block away) to have some afternoon drinks. 

Around 6-7 PM, head over to China Town to have a walking dinner, sampling on the wide variety of street food Yaowarat Street has to offer. Be ready to be overwhelmed by smells and flavours from all kinds of food, both traditional Thai as well as Chinese and Indian. Finish off the night by either heading over to one of the many fancy rooftop bars Bangkok’s got on offer, or have a bucket (or two) at Kao San Road.

Day 3: The floating market, shopping malls and Patpong 

Get up even earlier to see the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, that beats all the bigger more well-known floating markets around Bangkok. You can easily get there by BTS Skytrain and the market includes a small boat-tour which visits a couple of local sights. 

Head over to one of the many shopping malls to see what all the talk is about (the best ones are in Saigon) and to avoid the afternoon heat. Either take some time to relax at your hotel, get a massage or have a few drinks on or around Rambuttri Road, or by taking in the sunset from a rooftop bar.

When the night has fallen, head over to the notorious Patpong area, the redlight district of Bangkok. Patpong is still the place to go to see one of the infamous ‘ping-pong-shows’ but the area is far from the ranchy place it used to be. Tourists of all ages visit Patpong to be amazed at the bizarre side of Bangkok and all the neon lights. Patpong also has a night market, where you can browse through touristic trinkets. If you are looking for a good bargain, however, Bangkok is not the place to go souvenir-shopping. 

Day 4: Getting to Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Si Sanphet, if you buy a postcard from Ayutthaya, chances are it is going to look like this

Take your time this morning and sleep in to have a good nights rest. Use the remainder of the morning and afternoon to either take it easy or visit something you skipped on the previous days. Consider going to the Jim Thompson HouseGrand Palace the Lumpini Park or if you find yourself on a Sunday, the Chatuchak market

At the end of the afternoon, take the train to Ayutthaya, which leaves several times an hour from the Hua Lamphong railway station. Check into your hotel and use the evening to stroll around the inner city (within the moat) and have dinner at Nongnine Bike & Gear restaurant. The following places provide excellent value-for-money to spend the night.

1301 Hostels 

Price: 200B. A fun, clean and social hostel beautifully located at the river-side. 1301 Hostels is probably the best dorm-option in town. Its only 200B a night and the bunks are spacious with comfy mattresses. Its leafy garden is a great place for relaxing after (or right before) a busy day of temple-hopping. They also have great privates for 750B a night.

 Krungsri River Hotel

Price: 2500B (double). If you are looking for a little more comfort, the Krungsri River Hotel is a great option. Its rooms are spacious and clean, the breakfast buffet (included) is tasty and its rooftop-pool is a great perk. The biggest selling point of this eco-hotel, however, is its leafy river-side terrace where the hotel’s restaurant serves its food.

Day 5: Cycling from temple to temple in Ayutthaya

Wat Chai Watthanaram, located at few miles out of town but the prettiest temple in Ayutthaya

Start the day by renting a bicycle and cycle around the temples of the old capital of Thailand. The temples are all located within a few miles from each other and there is virtually no elevation so going by bicycle is just perfect. Don’t be tempted to skip Wat Chai Wattanaram, located a bit further away, as this is the best temple out there.

After a full day of cycling and temple-hopping its time to get your bags and settle at the station for dinner, a nice restaurant where they serve delicious food overlooking the train tracks. Ask a waiter to inform you when your train is about to arrive and get on the night train to Chiang Mai. This low-paced mode of transport is an adventure on its own. After settling into your cabin, walk around the train for a bit to see people carrying all sorts of livestock and goods on the train, before tucking in and get rocked to sleep by the clickety-clack of the train moving slowly along the old imperial tracks.  

Day 6: Arrival in Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang, one of the coolest temples within the city walls

My favourite city in Thailand has got to be Chiang Mai. Its inner-city is small enough to be explored by foot while it got all the facilities of a sizable city. It is also very well restored and managed to retain its charm, despite the fact that its population has boomed over the past decade. Top this off with uncountable activities to do and you have a great place to stick around for a couple of days, which is exactly what you should do.

You arrive very early by night train and most probably you did not have the best nights of sleep on the night train so today its time to take it slow again. After checking into your hotel, have a stroll around town to explore all the smaller temples that are dotted around town. As there are so many temples, you don’t necessarily have to follow a certain route but be sure to visit Wat Chedi Luang, the best temple in town.

Have a leisurely lunch at one of the many streetside restaurants, and end the afternoon with a massage from an ex-prisoner at the Women’s Correctional Institute Massage

Use the evening to visit the Night Bazar at the Tha Phae gate, which is a great spot to go souvenir hunting as well as a good place for some evening street food. Finish of the day with a drink at Ram Bar, or head to bed early.  Where to sleep? Green Sleep Hostel of course.

Green Sleep Hostel

I planned on staying only 3 nights but ended up staying 5. Green Sleep Hostel is an incredibly comfortable boutique hostel with comfy sleeping pods, great private-rooms and the best breakfast I’ve had in any hostel around Thailand. The hostel is incredibly clean and they have bicycles for guests to use for free. Green Sleep Hostel is not a party-place like stamps (which is probably the best party-hostel in town) but the social vibes are great. Communal breakfasts make sure that solo travellers always meet like-minded people to go spend the day with.

Day 7: Visiting Wat Doi Suthep

one of the shrines in the Wat Doi Suthep complex

After breakfast, it is time to visit the most-visited temple of Chiang Mai; Wat Doi Suthep. This pretty little temple is located at the top of a hill and provides an incredible view over the city from above. Click the title for a guide on how to visit independently and avoid the costs and drag of an organised tour. 

This will probably occupy you for the most of the day. When you return head over to Wat Umong to partake in Monk Chat, where you can talk to a local monk about just about anything you want. Alternatively, you can find the monks at Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Suan Dok but these places are usually more crowded. Find a nice spot for dinner afterwards before heading to Thapae Stadium to see a Thai boxing match.

Day 8: Cookery course

the night market at the Mai gate

Take an easy morning and sleep late before doing going on an (organic) cookery course to discover some of the secrets of the Thai cuisine. The course will take several hours and in finished off with eating the food you just prepared meaning you don’t need to find a place to have either lunch or dinner. Use the remainder of the evening to relax or head over to the night market at the Mai Gate, which is mainly food focussed. Head to bed early as tomorrow will start very early. 

Day 9: Chiang Rai

The old clock tower in Chiang Rai

Take a morning bus up to Chiang Rai, which will take you there in about 2.5 hours. After checking in to your hotel, head out to explore the town. Chiang Rai is not the prettiest of towns but worthwhile are the clock towers and the Muaeng Park. Be sure not to skip the incredibly insightful Hilltribe Museum. Have dinner at the night market which is also an excellent place for souvenir shopping, at prices that you will probably find nowhere else in Thailand.

Whether you are looking for a dorm or a private room, Happynest hostel is a great pick to spend the night.

Happynest Hostel

Happynest Hostel is a sustainable boutique hostel with beautiful rooms and all amenities you need. it is a social place and the staff actively tries to connect its guests with the locals by providing in-house activities for both. 


Day 10: Elephant Valley and the White Temple

The entrance of the White Temple

Rent a scooter bike or mountain bike and head over to the White Temple, located about 15 kilometres out of town. Wat Rong Khun was erected in 1997 and immediately became one of the most recognisable temples in the country. A lot of people go there at sunrise to get pictures without any tourists in them. However considering the temple only opens at 9 AM, being there at sunrise means having to wait around for a few hours before you can actually get in there. 

Only about a mile away from the temple is Elephant Valley, one of the most ethical elephant sanctuaries in the world. An encounter up close with the friendly giants of Thailand is awesome and really cannot be skipped in any Thailand itinerary. Spend the rest of the afternoon here before heading back to town. Kick back and relax for the rest of the day and close off the evening with a drink at the Dinner Late Cafe, which has a tiny but atmospheric rooftop bar where they serve local craft beers and good cocktails. 

Day 11: Getting to the Thai Islands

Mango Bay on Koh Tao

Take an early bus back to Chiang Mai and grab a morning flight to the Thai Islands, more specifically Koh Tao, the best island to visit in the Thai Gulf. The whole trip takes up most of the day and can be pretty exhausting as you will be taking the bus, the plane as well as a boat. Expect to arrive sometime early in the evening. Click the title of this day for a more detailed explanation of the route, but in short, it goes as follows.

Bus Chiang Rai- Chiang Mai 2.5 hours
Flight Chiang Mai – Chumpon 3.5 hours (including check-ins etc.)
Bus & Boat Chumpon – Koh Tao 1.5 hours

Add a few extra hours of switching transport and calculating in possible delays and you find yourself arriving on Koh Tao exhausted but having done the whole trip in a day! Use the evening to have a late dinner at the beach while watching a Firedancing show before calling it a day.

Day 12 – 14: relaxing on Koh Tao

The shallow reefs surrounding Koh Tao, you can literally walk in and start snorkeling straight away

After a busy itinerary, it is time to kick back and relax. Although there are lots of things to do on the island, it is also perfectly fine to just lazy on the beach having an occasional sunset-cocktail, feast on the seafood dinners and do nothing much else. Koh Tao is the perfect place to get your PADI certification but this will require staying on the island for at least 5 days. Click the title of this day to get a full grasp of what there is to do on Koh Tao but if you like white beaches, azure blue seas, great snorkelling and social beach bars, you’ve come to the right place. 

The Dearly Hostel

This is probably one of the best accommodations in the whole of Thailand, if you don’t love it your mad. Their deluxe suites go for 2800B (EUR 70) a night, and are absolutely dreamlike. If you are traveling solo this sustainable boutique hostel also has dorms on offer which also give you access to the pristine pool and the clean and beautiful amenities. Dorms start at 700B a night, that might be pricy for Thailand, but you get a lot for it in return.

For the same price you can also book a dorm at Savage, on of the most popular hostels on the island, but the people and staff in Savage are just terrible. I stayed there for one night just to see the place and was glad to leave the next.


Gecko Republic Jungle 

Looking for a place that is still pretty, but a little friendlier to your budget and which is also one of the most social and lively on the island? Check out Gecko Republic Jungle Hostel. They have dorms ‘pod-style’ starting at 400B, and a great social bar. And similar to Dearly Hostel, the place is run in a sustainable way without compromising on your comfort.


Sadly this ends the 2-week itinerary, but by now you’ve got a great taste of Thailand which will most probably convince you to come back a second time, and a third.. If you got more days to spend there are multiple ways to extend this itinerary. I’ll sum up a few but the country is large enough to spend at least 2 full months and never get bored.

Adding extra days

Kuhn Korn Waterfall Cycle to the highest waterfall in northern Thailand 1 day
Jungle Trek Take a 3D/2N Jungle trek in Chiang Mai 3 days
Kanchanaburi visit the bridge on the river Kwai, 2.5 hours from Bangkok 1 day
Suthokai visit the old city of Suthokai by taking a day train from Ayutthaya to Phitsanulok, visiting the temple and taking a bus further up to Chiang Mai instead of the night train 2 days
Khao Sok NP visit the Khao Sok National Park at the Andaman coast in the South of Thailand 2-3 days
Pai take a scooter up to Pai from Chiang Mai and spend a few nights exploring the green hills of the North 3 days


– Practical information – 


Best time to visit Thailand is from the end of October to April. Northern Thailand will be covered in smoke starting sometime in March because the local farmers burn the lands to clear space for farming anticipating on the coming rainy season. In the South, it is generally fine to visit until the end of April but around this time the humidity and temperature are picking up rapidly.


Daily Budget EUR 35 (40 USD)
Street food EUR 0.80 – 3 (1-3 USD)
Meal in a restaurant EUR 5 (6 USD)
Dorm EUR 5-10 (6-12 USD)
Double in a 3-star hotel EUR 20 – 40 (25-45 USD)

Thailand is still a place where you can strike a bargain. Accommodation can be found more cheaply than in the table above but the so-called ‘flashpackers’ provide way better value for money. 

In & Out

For details on getting in and out of each individual place in this itinerary, simply click on the title to get all information you need.