Thailand is one of the top ten countries in the world for backpackers. Every year, a couple of hundred thousand backpackers make it to Thailand and spend everything from several days to several months or longer here. Thailand is cheap, it’s easy to get around and it’s safe. It also has three top destinations backpackers love to travel to.
Bangkok (Khao San Road) – Just about the most famous place in the world for backpackers is in Bangkok, Thailand. Khao San Road is the number one destination for backpackers in Thailand and a mecca for most. It’s the place where you can stay and eat cheaply and also meet other backpackers to hook up with, travel with or just to get travel tips from.
Khao San Road is in the middle of Bangkok, close to the Chao Praya River. It’s an area of the city that’s centered around one road (Khao San), with a few other blocks off from it. This area is crammed full of low-budget hotels, restaurants and cafes. There are street stalls selling everything from clothes, books and DVDs to jewelry and shoes. On Khao San Road, backpackers can also get their hair dreadlocked or hands henna tattooed.
My recommendation is to establish a base on or near Khao San Road, then explore Bangkok from there. It’s a safe neighborhood, you can get a hotel for as cheap as 300 baht a night ($9) and a meal for 30 baht (95 cents). You’ll also meet some fun friends.
Pai (or Bpai) – Located in northern Thailand, around a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, Pai is the quintessential Thailand backpacker destination. A small town made up almost entirely of cool cafes, low-budget restaurants and hut or chalet-style guest houses, Pai is THE destination for backpackers in Thailand. Add into the mix that it’s surrounded by incredible mountains and rice paddies, waterfalls and rainforest, is home to many eco-friendly trips, and many backpackers end up going for a week and staying for a year.
Be aware, lately Pai has been experiencing a bit of a backlash against backpackers, as some of the locals are a bit sick of the mass influx. But, if you’re polite and friendly and try to understand the culture, you
should have little problems. Get there by taking the train or bus to Chiang Mai, then taking a van or bus from there directly to Pai.
Koh Pahngan (or Koh Pah Ngan) – Honestly, you can’t call yourself a real backpacker if you haven’t yet been to Koh Pahngan. Famous for its monthly ‘Full Moon Party’, Koh Pahngan is an island in the Gulf of Thailand with the usual beautiful Thai beaches, beach huts and cheap fun. It became even more famous after being featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, ‘The Beach’
Backpackers will hang out on Koh Pahngan for several weeks, but the real time to be there is for the Full Moon Party. This is a monthly event at Haad Rin beach, that attracts more than 30,000 people. All the bars and restaurants stay open all night, music is played everywhere, live bands pop up, drugs are readily available and fire dancers and other entertainers perform on the beach.
Be warned, although an incredibly fun event, in today’s climate in Thailand it’s best to avoid the drugs and stick with the booze. The Thai police force are targeting the Full Moon Party’s for drug users and arresting a large number every month. Thai drug laws are harsh and you could find yourself stuck in a Thai prison for several years. Not worth one night of fun in my book.
To get to Koh Pahngan, book a trip with a Khao San Road travel agent. They’ll organize a van and a boat for you.