Planning a trip to Thailand was one of the most challenging itineraries I’ve ever put together, and after weeks of scouring through travel sites, reviews and forums dedicated to this popular destination, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. For starters, there’s the foreign language barrier and currency, the unfamiliar geography and modes of transportation (hello, tuk tuks and long-tail boats), the overwhelming amount of things to do and see, options of where to stay, foods to avoid, foods to embrace, and so on. And because it isn’t exactly a hop, skip and a jump traveling from the U.S., there’s a lot of pressure to maximize your time there. But despite these challenges, it was truly one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken.
With the exception of a few hiccups that inevitably come with traveling abroad to tropical destinations, like jet lag, unpredictable weather, and more mosquito bites than anyone should endure, it was a trip full of an even greater amount of unforgettable moments and some of the most breathtaking scenery you could ever imagine. My boyfriend and I both agreed that, in hindsight, there was very little we would have changed about our trip, so I wanted to share our itinerary – the highs, the lows, and everything in between – with the hope of making the process easier for any of you who might be interested in planning your own trip to Thailand.
Because we only had two weeks to explore the country and wanted a relaxing trip mixed with a little adventure, we decided to skip the mainland and and focus on the islands. After lots of research, we settled on the five islands listed below (in order of our visit):
1. Phuket (specifically Koh Racha Yai)
2. Koh Tao
3. Koh Samui
5. Koh Lanta
It’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite island, as each one offers something unique and special, but we both agreed that narrowing the trip down to four islands might have been the way to go. Spending 2-3 days in each location allowed us to cover lots of territory, but it also meant lots of unpacking, repacking and long travel days on ferries and planes between destinations. Plus, as I’ll touch on later in these posts, many of these islands are relatively close to one another, so some can be visited as a day excursion rather than an overnight visit.
First stop: Phuket
We chose Phuket as our first destination due to the fact that it’s home to one of the few international airports in Thailand. Jet lag is inevitable, but we found that arriving at nighttime helped us adjust more quickly, as it’s easier to get a full night of sleep if you arrive exhausted and are able to go straight to bed. However, if you do plan to arrive at night, make sure your hotel doesn’t require a boat transfer because you won’t be able to get one after sunset. We learned this the hard way after booking a room at The Racha Resort, only to discover that the hotel was actually located on a tiny island off the coast of Phuket (oops!). As a result, we had no choice but to book a last minute stay in a motel on the actual island of Phuket and wait until the morning when the boats were operating. If you’re interested in staying at The Racha, you’ll definitely want to keep this in mind.
Since we only spent one night on the main island of Phuket, I don’t feel qualified to offer an opinion of the island as a whole, but we weren’t too impressed with what we did see during our short stay. We were, however, blown away by the beauty of The Racha Resort and the island of Racha Yai that it resides on. The property sits atop a beautiful white sand beach with some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. The hotel itself is nestled between lush mountains, and as you can tell by some of these photos, the architecture and decor is minimal and understated in color and design, so the beauty of the surrounding nature really shines. There are also hundreds of butterflies and monitor lizards that grace the property each day, so you really get the feeling that you’ve been transported to a remote island. It’s pretty magical.
We stayed in one of the Grande Deluxe Villa rooms, which we loved. It included our own private balcony that overlooked the water on one end and had a beautiful patio with an outdoor shower on the other end. As you’ll see below, each corner of the room was filled with thoughtful details, like fresh flowers and fruit. Housekeeping even generously filled our bathtub with flower petals while we were at the beach one afternoon (I shared more about the story behind that here). Between the attentive staff and beautiful property, we felt extremely spoiled throughout our entire stay.
There was no reason to leave the island, so we filled our days exploring the grounds, reading on the beach, enjoying the restaurants and indulging in the hotel’s famous Anumba Spa with some of the best massages we’ve ever had. In addition to the noteworthy treatments, the spa itself is the most beautiful spa I’ve ever been to, so if you stay at The Racha, you can’t leave the hotel without paying a visit.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our itinerary where we explore Koh Tao and Koh Samui!