Here’s a few travel notes from my trip to Thailand and Cambodia. I got a lot of helpful recs before I went and so here are a few of the tips and notes I had.
I did a two week trip to a lot of cities — probably too many cities for that period of time.
The itinerary was Bangkok → Chiang Mai → Siem Reap → Phuket → Ko Yao Yai → Koh Phi Phi → Krabi → Bangkok.
General Travel Tips
- Just drink bottled water. A number of people mentioned this to me. Now I’m not really sure if you could drink the tap water but I didn’t really want to get sick.
- The normal US chargers work in Thailand. I was a bit confused on that at first.
- I was able to get a international setup for my phone which was really handy while traveling. There is wifi in a lot of places but it never worked reliably.
- Almost the entire cost of the trip was travel/transportation.
- You need to take off your shoes inside everywhere in Thailand
The Thai language is quite hard to understand. Here are two key phrases to know:
Sa-wa-dee-krap or sa-wa-dee-kap (for guys)
Sa-wa-dee-kah (for girls)
This means Hello. For guys, you end in ‘kap’ (really ‘krap,’ but people say it fast so it sounds like ‘kap.’), and for girls you end in ‘kah.’
Kob-kuhn-krap or kob-kuhn-kap (for guys)
kob-kuhn-kah (for girls)
This one is Thank You and Your Welcome. So it’s very common to just say it and they say it back.
In Cambodia, the language is Khmer. My friend Andy gave me a few phrases, but the best one was Sum Toe Puma which means “Sorry my friend.” In both Cambodia and Thailand people are always hounding you to buy things so this was a very helpful phrase.
The currency is Thai Baht, which is about 32 Baht to 1 USD. The smallest bill is a 20. I would go and take out a larger amount initially because the fees are large.
Everything seems negotiable in most places in Thailand.
In Cambodia the currency is the Riel. 1 USD is 4,000 Riel. So 2,000 Riel is 50 cents. You also just pay for everything in dollars, they accepted dollars everywhere and I didn’t need to exchange the money. In some places I would pay with dollars and they would give back dollars and Riel as change for the cents (so say it was $3.50 they would give back $1 USD and 2000 Riel for the 50 cents).
I really enjoyed the markets in Bangkok. My favorite one was the floating market. I went to Damnoen Saduak. There are a lot of touristy markets and local markets and markets that seem both touristy and local. Chatuchak Market is supposedly one of the biggest markets — but I think I went twice at the wrong time. It was still very cool but you should go during the weekend daytime I believe. We also went to Wang Lang Market which seemed much more for locals, while we were there I did not see another tourist. I also didn’t recognize any of the food.
Bangkok is a crazy city. The roads are crazy and there are no rules. The tuk-tuks are cool but also watch out for scams. There are a number of well-known scams and we almost fell for one.
Checked out the Grand Palace — and, to ward off the misinformation: It is open during normal hours (8:30–3:30 every day), you do not need a passport, but you can’t wear shorts.
I stayed near Khao San Road — which is a crazy spot. It’s kind of like an Asian Bourbon Street. But people are selling everything.
I was a big fan of the fresh coconuts, which you can get all over Thailand. Saw prices from 30 baht to 100 bath (about 32 baht per USD).
I was also a fan of the pad thai, saw prices there from about 60 baht to 120 baht, and maybe more if it was very touristy.
In Chiang Mai I did one of the elephant tours. It was pretty crazy. The one I went to was more of a sanctuary/conservatory where you just feed the elephants. There are other ones, which I heard are more unethical where they ride the elephants. So probably go to one of the sanctuary/conservatory elephant tours. Still very cool.
We also visited a food truck market in Chiang Mai, which was a lot of fun. This one had all sorts of food and really felt like a very westernized food truck market.
Sieam Reap is in Cambodia, not Thailand. It was probably my favorite city of the trip. It is so different. Thailand is already really different but Siem Reap is another level.
I went to the floating village in Siem Reap which was probably the most interesting and different thing I visited. There is a community of people living essentially on the water, in these houses on stilts. Also crazy.
I saw Angkor Wat and did the small circuit tour by tuk-tuk. You can do the small circuit or large circuit — even the small circuit takes 4 hours for 3 temples.
I also visited a school in Cambodia — the Opportunities of Development through Art school. This is a school for orphans and other students who maybe only had one parent to learn English and art. The students create paintings and sell those paintings to fund the school. The paintings are extremely impressive. This was one of the most memorable parts of the trip.
Phuket is one of the large islands in Southern Thailand. It was the most tourist one I went to, and I stayed on Kata Beach.
Koh Yao Yai
Since Phuket was so touristy, I wanted to check out a much quieter island so I went to Koh Yao Yai. This was quite hard to get to. From the pier I left from on Phuket I was the only tourist. We took a speed boat out to the island. Then there was really only one taxi option to get to the hotel. This was a much, much quieter island. There are lots of standard trips between islands — they usually call them “island transfers” — and Koh Yao Yai was not on any of those standard transfer schedules. They still had scheduled transfers it was just much less common. I thought it would take about 30 minutes or an hour to get between islands but it actually took me 4–5 hours each time.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi was also very touristy. I think this one has become very touristy recently, but it’s a small island and does have very nice beaches. There are very narrow roads, and every other shop there was selling tattoos, pizza, or boat trips.
I went from Koh Phi Phi to Tonsai Bay, which was quite tricky to get to. Tonsai Bay is on Krabi, but not accessible from any roads, which is not obvious. It’s not even easily accessible from the beach next door. There are long tail boats which can take you between places.
These both have really nice views and beaches. The Tonsai Bay/ Railay Beach area is much quieter than the general Krabi or Ao Nang area.
Overall, Thailand and Cambodia are great places to visit!
Thanks Brian, Ben, Ben, Andy, and Dana for the initial travel tips!