Tips from a traveller: Thailand

Once you’ve taken a trip with Insight Guides, you’ll know your chosen destination inside-out, says Thailand expert and trip planner Thitaporn. In the first of a new series, we ask a traveller who’s taken a holiday with us for their top tips once they've returned
Infinity pool in Bangkok's hotel. Photo: Shutterstock
Infinity pool in Bangkok's hotel. Photo: Shutterstock

Once you’ve taken a trip with Insight Guides, you’ll know your chosen destination inside-out, says trip planner Thitaporn. In the first of a new series, our local experts ask a traveller who’s taken a holiday with us for a few top tips on their return.

This week, Kate tells us about Thailand:

1. How to say hello

When you arrive, you’ll want to greet people in the Thai way. Called ‘Wai’, you simply press your palms together, close to your chest, and bow. Initially, I expected a more European way of saying hello and shaking hands, but this is the local custom, and will ensure you receive a friendly welcome.

While an increasing number of people in Bangkok speak English, negotiating the rest of Thailand will need a little phrasebook help. Learning how to say the very basics in Thai can help you out. S̄wạs̄dī (phonetically: sah•waah•dee) means hello. Find more useful Thai phrases here.

2. Baking in Bangkok

April is the hottest month in Thailand (before the rainy season in June). While you may not notice this at the coast, in Bangkok you feel the heat with double strength. Average temperatures in the city can reach 36°C. This can make it impossible (or, at least, unpleasant) to visit the city’s sites during the day.  

Pick a hotel with a good pool to relax in when it’s hot, you’ll feel recharged to explore the best of the city in the cool evening hours. Find out when to visit Thailand here.

3. Get the timings right

Part of our stay in Bangkok included visits to temples and the city’s cultural sites. It may sound obvious but always check the opening times of anything before you visit. Having decided to explore the Grand Palace, we discovered on our arrival at 15:10 that it closed at 15:00.

Explore wonderfully ornate wats, learn about history at the stunning Grand Palace, tour the eccentric floating market and get a taste of Siam Thai culture on this Bangkok Culture tour.

Grand Palace in Bangkok. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Pad Thai perfection

Before our trip to Thailand, I heard many great things about street food in the capital city. Admittedly, I am a real fan of pad-thai (stir-fried rice noodles) and the first thing I did on the Khao San Road was to order a heap of the stuff, for around 50 bahts (about £1). Undoubtedly, it was the best pad Thai I have ever eaten!

Khao San Road is the place for tourists to buy anything: from street food to local fruits, clothes to paintings. In the evening, the street turns into a fun-fueled line of bars where music is played. The road is also full of food shacks where you can try various insects and exotic snacks.

5. Prepare to get wet

Time your trip right to coincide with the Thai New Year. Forget fireworks and champagne you may be used to on 31st December. This is New Year South-East Asian style. Imagine thousands of people (adults as well as children) taking part in a mass waterfight, armed with water guns and buckets of (extremely cold) water. Nobody is safe. Even people on motorbikes get drenched.

Soaked after being on the street for two minutes, we bought our own water guns and joined in the fight. It was a lot of fun.

6. Tour guide talent

Across the country and for the whole of our trip, the local tour guides were faultless; they took care of us during our stay and ensured we had the best recommendations. As a nice surprise, a chocolate cake was organised and waiting for me on arrival in Bangkok. It’s the little touches like this, which really made the trip special.

Insight Guides ensures it only works with specialist operators who go that extra mile. What are you waiting for? Find your ideal trip to Thailand now

Welcome chocolate cake. Photo: BartWelcome chocolate cake. Photo: Bart/APA

7. Island paradise

Phi Phi island presents visitors with a little slice of paradise. As well as exploring the island, we took a trip to Maya Bay – famous film location for The Beach – and Monkey Beach. Opt for an early departure: these trips are popular and can leave the destinations feeling crowded.

Monkey Beach should be called ‘Monkeys Everywhere Beach’.  The animals here are fearless and approach you for food. They can jump on boats and steal personal items too. Visitors need to be careful, as they can be feisty and bite for no reason. If travelling with children, display extra caution, as the monkeys are not afraid of them.

Unmissable while on Phi Phi Island is a snorkelling excursion. The water is crystal clear, leaving you with a brilliant view of the marine life and coral reefs.

8. Get back to nature

Koh Yao Yai Island is a world away from the noise, crowds and chaos of Bangkok and Phuket. It is unspoilt, and the perfect place to discover real nature and meet local people. On the island, you’ll find amazing beaches with gold sand, pure water and almost no people. There’s also a wealth of great places to eat, as well as a local Thai market to explore

Private bungalows in Koh Yao Yai village, in the middle of the jungle, provide a calm, peaceful atmosphere. Its also home to the best infinity pool I’ve swum in.

After a few more days on the island, Kate’s vacation came to an end. She revealed that, after such an incredible trip with Insight Guides, she’s certain that one day she’ll return to this great country to see more and more…

Ko Phi Phi Lee Island. Photo: BartKo Phi Phi Lee Island. Photo: Bart/APA

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