Thailand looks like a small country on the map, but there are SO many cool cities to visit. Over the course of three trips, I’ve spent a total of about three months in Thailand so far and I still haven’t visited half the places I want to see. Here’s a list of my favorite of the few places I have gotten to visit:
Number one on this list, number one in my heart. I wandered into this place a few years ago, lured in past the parked old VW van by the loud reggae floating out into Mae Haad. Inside, as you pass the bar and the two choppers one of the owner makes a daily hobby of working on, you get to a couple levels of wooden platforms, some with benches, some with mats and pillows to sit on. Most nights there are some volunteers who take up the drums and guitar on the stage and you get to enjoy some live music with your Chang. Naturally, there are posters of Bob Marley all over the place. With a very chill atmosphere, Baby Rasta is a window into Southern Thailand’s Rasta culture. It’s also one of the island’s notorious coffee shops 😉
My second favorite place in all of Thailand, and another coffee shop that is a nice place to relax day or night. It’s in “the mountains” (it’s up a hill, but you do feel like you’re in the mountains) and has some outdoor seating that makes magic of full moons and clear night skies. There’s a pool table and televisions running nature shows.
I only learned about this place on my most recent trip to Koh Tao because a friend of mine was renting out its yard and sleeping in a tent (actually the tent was eaten by dogs, so he was sleeping in his hammock). But that’s just to say, if you’re planning to stay on Koh Tao for a little while and don’t want to spend much on accommodations, this bar might double as your home.
Aside from that, located near Tanote Bay, this bar offers an incredible view of the sunset, and is worth visiting for that reason alone.
I’m not a party person for the most part, and so was never a frequenter of Sairee Beach. But I do love beer pong and dancing and this restaurant/bar in Sairee drew me in with both of those things. After 10pm or so when the restaurant closes, it is transforms into a giant beer pong room. And when you’ve had your fill of victory at the tables, you can head over to the bar’s dance floor, where I was lucky enough on two occasions to hear the hip-hop and R&B that I enjoy dancing to.
This is my favorite beach on Koh Tao. It is one of a growing number of beaches on the island that has an entrance fee (50 baht), but it is one of the most beautiful places to be at sunset.
I did step on a sea urchin in the water here, though, so be careful.
Sai Nuan Beach
My second favorite beach on the island. It’s 25 minute walk from Mae Haad along a really beautiful path surrounded by the jungle, with the occasional view of the clear blue sea. There’s a slack line and a swing, and it is another of the more beautiful beaches you’ll find on Koh Tao.
This is an okay beach in my opinion, but I list it here because there’s a giant rock you can swim out to and jump off of if thrills are your thing. Also a pretty good beach for snorkeling.
So, people tell me there’s no way to make it to the top of the tower these days, but if you can figure out a way up (safely of course), this was the coolest experience I’ve ever had in Bangkok (not that that’s saying a whole lot. Full disclosure: I don’t like Bangkok). When we went up a few years ago, a group of us had to haggle with some guys who had pitched tents on the ground floor and were charging folks to walk up the 40 flights of steps to the top of the crumbling building.
If you ask around and get the foreboding messages I heard the last time I was there, perhaps one of these rooftops bars is a cool second option. I wish I could say I’ve been to any of them, but when I tried to go to Above Eleven, I was stopped at the door for dress code violations. No flip flops, really?
Khao San Road
I suppose this would be a must for Bangkok. It’s really just a street lined with a bunch of restaurants and vendors. It’s a decent place to pick up some last minute gifts on your way home, as I tend to do. But it’s at night when Khao San picks up its reputation for the crazy tourist party scene. Again, I’m no party animal, so I’ve just seen the 4am aftermath: loud tourists stumbling through the streets, into 7-11’s, into taxis, sketchy guys holding signs that read “laughing gas” and asking if you’re interested in seeing a ping pong show, ladyboys hitting on my new Korean friends. It can get pretty wild, but hey, you do you.
It may very well be because I’m strange, but this is my favorite place in Chiang Mai. I make sure to get to this art museum every time I’m in the city. The students produce some incredible art, from paintings and photography to sculptures and conceptual pieces. Entry is donation based, which makes it more than worth checking out.
I was afraid to go to this place initially because I thought I would drown, but they actually require everyone to wear life jackets so it’s all good. This is essentially like one of those obstacle courses you see on weird game shows with the plastic, blow-up infrastructure, but it’s in the middle of a canyon full of water. You get to climb things, slide down things, jump off of things, and then go play in the kiddie pool. It was a pretty exhausting day, really, but the park is worth checking out if you need an activity for a day.
Visiting temples is usually omitted from any agenda I have while traveling, but this one was f-ing cool. We hiked up past the Chiang Mai zoo for 45 minutes or so when we reached this beautiful sanctuary with waterfalls flowing over rocks and series of beautiful Buddhist statues. One of the reasons I liked this temple so much was that it was lacking the typical decorative, gold-plated walls and statues that you see around the rest of Thailand. Plus this place just has some very cool energy. Take the nice hike up, and it’s a great place to go hang out for a day.
A nice night spot for live music lovers. They have different themes some nights–reggae, samba, etc. So you don’t have to love jazz to enjoy.
I didn’t know if I was going to like this show, but it turned out to be quite entertaining. They performers sang along to some popular old songs until the last performance, when one of the ladyboys stripped away all of her clothes and makeup while Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played in the background. I haven’t made it sound as powerful as it was, but I cried a little. A show worth seeing if you’re open.
I spent an hour or two walking around this park with my jaw on the ground. It’s full of giant sculptures of Buddhas and Hindu gods, and it was much more interesting than I had expected it to be. It’s one of those things that it’s really quite worth seeing in person. Plus there’s a pond in the back with some giant fish that you can feed.