My girlfriend and I just booked our first trip to Thailand. It will also be our first international trip on our own (I went to Israel on birthright, she went on a school trip to Turkey). We’re both extremely excited. We fly into Chiang Mai late November, then fly out of Phuket in early-mid December (two weeks total). We booked directly through Air China, and plan to book additional flights to Bangkok and Krabi soon. Though I’m sure we could ask a hundred questions, we have a few that we would love to get some insight on, if you can help. :)
1. Where should we stay in Chiang Mai and Bangkok? We are looking for the Brooklyn of these cities, not the Times Square, if that makes sense. :) Somewhere local and chill, but central enough to not be isolated.
2. We are planning on flying into Krabi from Bangkok — where are the best places to stay amongst the Islands? We want as much serene beaches and tropics as possible. :)
3. Air BnB vs. Hotel vs. Hostel? We have primarily used Air BnB while traveling through the U.S., but I’m not sure how it compares in Thailand? We’re traveling on a bit of a budget, so nothing fancy is needed. Just trying to gauge what is typical and best. I know the U.S. dollar goes pretty far there, so maybe we actually can afford fancy, haha.
4. Best way to get cell service? We are considering pocket Wi-Fi, but perhaps an international sim card will be better?
5. We have a 12-hour layover in Beijing on our way to Chiang Mai (5am - 5pm). We qualify for the TWOV; is it worth trying to go out and explore? We would ideally just take public transit to Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square for a few hours.
6. From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, should we fly or take the train? I admittedly like to marvel at the idea of riding through Thailand on a train like The Darjeeling Limited (even though that’s set in India). It seems like flying would be easier though, right?
7. We live in NYC, and aren’t really looking to get caught up in tourist traps or shopping districts. Rather, we want as much nature and authentic Thai food / culture as possible. Along our journey from north to south, what are the must-see nature/food attractions?
8. Best way to get around? I'm guessing it's different in each part of the country. Renting a car is at the very bottom of our list, so ideally any type of public transit or affordable car service would be best.
Any insight you guys have on any of these questions would be extremely helpful. We are so incredibly excited!