An itinerary from the ocean & islands of Phuket to the city and forests of Chiang Mai.
We only had 8 days in Thailand so we opted to skip over the busyness of Bangkok knowing we could get the same Thailand experience and the rich culture by seeing the beaches, forests and smaller popular cities while avoiding the “LA type hustle”… yes please! Now this itinerary doesn’t include your flight days/travel time to and from Thailand, but if you’re like me and you just want to know when to go and where to have a great itinerary that ties in both: doing a lot and also relaxing, then our trip might be perfect for you.
People ask me often, “What are your favorite places you’ve visited in the world?” And before I visited Thailand, they all were equally good with their own unique offerings. Once we visited Thailand, it quickly became one of my TOP THREE favorite places in the world to visit. I really think it was because we stayed at one of the neatest Resorts and had such a great experience on the beaches/islands of Phuket, and also because we really learned about the animal sanctuaries there and got to be hands on with their wildlife. Hands down you must visit Phuket and play with the tigers and elephants (what a once-in-a-lifetime experience).
One of the great things about Thailand is, although expensive to fly to, once you are there it is radically cheap. You can have a full meal for two with dessert and drinks for roughly $2.50 – $5.00. Now the resort was a little pricier but worth it. We also found a few local meals at restaurants walking the beach that were just as yummy and back to about $3usd for a total. The food is delicious and the people are so kind. We easily had a 4 star resort experience at Santhiya Koh Yao Yai, renting a 2 story ocean view villa with an infinity pool, outdoor tub overlooking the ocean, and even an outdoor shower and bathroom experience. Purely magical! I recommend booking straight through Santhiya’s website. Their prices are good, quick check out, gauranteed booking and their staff is the most helpful we found (after trying to work with a travel agent, we got the most help from Chris at Guest Relations and utilized him for ALL of our bookings while there. He speaks great English too).
The colors of Thailand and their land is remarkable. You can also catch multiple flights from Jet Star Asia to bounce from city to city because the flights are SO cheap (which is what we did flying from south Thailand-Phuket to north Thailand-Chiang Mai) (flights as low as $40 usd). Keep in mind that Jet Star is very strict about bags however, so you could get charged lots of extra fees depending on the weight and size of your luggage. I always recommend packing light when traveling anyway.
Make sure to grab your downloadable PDF at the bottom of the blog post.
If you have any questions about Thailand or traveling to and from, leave your questions in the comment box below and I’d be glad to help. Enjoy traveling to Southeast Asia with us.
Land at Phuket Airport in a.m., get picked up by resort shuttle to take you to Ao Po Marina, take boat ride to Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort, & explore the day away: swim, relax, beach. You can rent a paddle-board or kayak from the resort at no cost, walk the beach. Go meet & talk to Chris Vera, the Guest Relation Officer as early as you can to have him schedule your next days elephant “Morning Visit” experience, boat transportation to Ao Po Marina & Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (EJS) pick up at Marina (the extra cost is worth it to insure you make it to the right place.). He will also schedule with EJS, your transportation back to Ao Po marina & your boat ride back to Santhiya. Enjoy a great dinner back at the resort after cleaning up.
Have breakfast at the Resort to the sounds of Thailand as a trio plays traditional Thailand instruments at the buffet. Take scheduled boat ride to mainland for Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (EJS). Be picked up at Marina by EJS. Spend day/afternoon at EJS. Have EJS take you back to marina when over for last boat ride (roughly 5pm) to Santhiya Koh Yao Yai. Dinner at Santhiya Resort. *NOTE: If you’d rather save on the boat expense or not have to bounce back & forth, they have an Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai you could instead do (days 5-8) *ALSO NOTE: If you choose to get your own transportation to EJS (your own risk), do NOT go to their offices in south Phuket. The elephant sanctuary is nearer the Phuket airport in North Phuket.
Schedule a snorkling tour from Chris the Guest Relation Officer (snorkling in Thailand is amazing!) You can visit a few different islands around that area on the tours, lunches provided. Head back to Resort & spend evening at Resort. There’s so many great restaurants to try at Santhiya and they even have scheduled events. You’ll have to make sure you soak up the Resort & island as much as possible. We walked the beach & found a nice little restaurant that was yummy and amazingly cheap, had some fresh coconut water & enjoyed discovering. We also had a private outdoor tub AND pool at our villa so we grabbed some wine, pulled the speakers outside, & relaxed with some newly made friends under the stars. Did I mention we caught a proposal and got to document their love story RIGHT THERE on the beach at sunset? See Sammi & D’Mitri’s proposal shoot here.
Have a yummy breakfast. Spend last day relaxing. Pack up and check extra carefully that you have all of your belongings. Take the scheduled boat ride back to the Mainland & have Santhiya schedule a shuttle to take you back to Phuket Airport for your flight out to Chiang Mai.
Get an UBER from Chiang Mai International airport to your fav Airbnb in Chiang Mai (the one we stayed at was right next to a yummy restaurant and had a rooftop garden to see the city.See the listing here. (There are hotel stays also if you aren’t excited about an Airbnb but we liked our host & the location). Eat at a local food truck, then spend the afternoon visiting some temples & shrines. Some we visited this day were: Wat Chai Si Phum & Wat Chedi Luang/Pillar City Shrine (A MUST see & close to many), You can literally walk anywhere and see what seems like, hundreds of temples & shrines. Just google them in Chiang Mai, they’re literally on every corner! Take a Tuk-Tuk (everywhere you go, they’re so fun and cheap) to Ploen Ruedee Night Market & come hungy. Lots of food, desserts & entertainment.
Take an UBER to Chiang Mai Zoo (wasn’t our favorite zoo in the world), for the morning and afternoon. Visit more temples & head to Night Bazaar for the evening. Come hungry again! Fun, entertainment & shopping galore!! You’ve GOT to get a Fish Pedicure (nearby at local stores) & a leg/foot massage. You can’t visit Chiang Mai without doing these signature things. A great experience & so cheap too! *Make sure to have walking shoes & sunscreen all day*
Take an UBER to Boy Sang’s Umbrella Making Centre. Enjoy your time there learning about the artists & history of Boy Sang, walk around the streets there to see shops & eat lunch at a local restaraunt. Then take an UBER to Tiger Kingdom arriving about 1.5 hours before they close (this is when there are less people there). We had a great experience learning about Tigers becoming extinct & how they are trying to help save them. We paid to play with 3 medium sized tigers, took photos & they let us stay in their home cages about 20 minutes longer than we paid for. This experience was, amazing! We even pet the tigers & watched them play with banana leaves on the end of a bamboo stick like house cats after wrestling each other in their pool. I swear they were like giant kitties. There is a lot of animal people who leave bad reviews saying they drug the cats here but I saw literally no negative signs of mistreatment or drugging the animals. We watched many in many cages, wrestle and attack each like playful cats would in the wild. The trainers were friendly with them and us. They are so happy playing with siblings & friends here & we left really feeling like these magestic creatures were being treated like family, taken very good care of & we are glad they are saving them from extinction. I’m not saying I know the ins and outs of their business but we had to see for ourselves and felt like it was a very good place for these cats and the tourists who are helping raise money to save these beauties! *You’ll want to look good this day for lots of framable photo opportunities. The tigers were one of our fav things to see in Thailand!* Your choice for dinner (we went back to Ploen Ruedee Night Market because there were so many good choices we had to try).
We purchased a private tour guide from Buffalo Tours (who we googled & found) and Ruby was our private tour guide, she picked us up from our Airbnb early in the a.m., gave us a private hiking & coffee tour in Inthanon National Forest in Chiang Mai & met the local village people who still wear some traditional clothing & live off the land. It was gorgeous seeing the farm land, & learning everything about Chiang Mai from her (a local). She even surprised us taking us to Wachirathan Waterfall and to the Royal Gardens Project at Inthanon & topped it off with a yummy meal nearby. What a great day this was! She made it so wonderful for us. It gave us a chance to get away from the city & be a part of the land of Thailand: waterfalls, fields, bridges & more. For dinner, take a Tuk-Tuk to Mani Noppharat Night Food Market for an authentic dinner experience. The next morning pack up and take an UBER back to the Airport. We “scheduled” our Uber to pick us up the night before, because we needed to be picked up about 4:30am.
OUR CHIANG MAI AIRBNB:
- See the listing here. Do note it is in the city on the ground floor. Didn’t bother us a bit. We loved the rooftop garden get-away & friendly host. A pool or hot tub would’ve been super cool after long walking days though and many other Airbnb’s have that included in their listing.
- The restaurant next door is SOOOO delicious. A full meal, great smoothies and amazing tea/coffee for two ran us about $3 each time we stopped by. It was our go-to for breakfast.
- There is a darling hotel next door too we’d also recommend if you’d rather do that than Airbnb. We’ve found that Airbnb is reliable and a wonderful experience no matter where we go in the world.
Some of our favorite travel links:
- Google Flights & Google Maps (we use maps religiously)
- Airbnb (we stay at Airbnb’s no matter where we go in the world)
- Trip Advisor
- I personally wouldn’t book an experience from anyone selling on the streets. They are not reliable, most likely are over priced or aren’t concerned with the health and well being of the animals or the land. This is just what I heard from the locals. They most likely all aren’t like this.
- If you want to book experiences before hand or even while there, I would do it online at a reliable source such as Trip Advisor.
- Taxi drivers will try to convince you that Uber’s are dangerous (they are very upset that Uber’s business is taking off there and “stealing their customers.” We just told taxi drivers we were waiting on friends to pick us up anytime they asked. I think Uber might be semi-illegal in Thailand also.
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