We all have our favorite travel spots – places that are etched into our hearts for one reason or another and places that we will always return to throughout our lives.
Two of my all-time favorite destinations as a solo traveler are in Thailand. However, I actually put off traveling to this popular Southeast Asian nation for quite some time.
I had a preconceived idea of what it was like, and I saw it as a bit too cliched to be worthy of my time and money.
However, from the moment I was hit with that warm blast of humid air when I stepped off the plane at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, my love affair had already started to be written.
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Before the pandemic, Thailand regularly ranked in the top 10 most visited countries in the world – in 2019 it attracted a record of almost 40 million international tourists.
It’s that popular for a reason – it’s a land of incredibly friendly people, amazing weather, unbelievably beautiful beaches, and fascinating history and culture.
It also has one of the most exciting and delicious cuisines in the world (it’s not all spicy) and is still relatively cheap to visit despite its popularity.
Now that travel to Thailand is back to business as usual, I wanted to share two of my favorite solo travel destinations in the country that will always have a place in my heart.
It would be easy to dismiss Bangkok as simply the entry point to Thailand and not worth spending time to explore on its own merit.
But this mega metropolis is a very intoxicating place despite the hustle and bustle of its nearly 10 million inhabitants.
As a solo traveler, there’s no shortage of accommodation options, from cheap and cheerful hostels around the city’s Khao San Road party district through to serviced apartments and hotels of all shapes and sizes.
The sheer scale of Bangkok means there is something for every budget and taste, and it’s not unreasonable to expect to pay as little as $30 for a room.
Food and drink are also very affordable, with street food being the obvious choice to keep the costs down, costing as little as $2.
Public transport is cheap and easy in Bangkok, whether you jump into a tuk-tuk or take the metro.
It may be an urban jungle that appears chaotic, but it’s easy to work your way around, and there are almost endless hidden gems to explore.
My three things not to miss in Bangkok:
1. Bangkokian Museum
A free museum based in three restored heritage houses in the Silom district of the city that showcases what life was like for the middle and upper classes in Bangkok in the 1940s.
It’s a quieter alternative to the famous Jim Thompson House Museum.
2. Mahanakhon Sky Walk
Located in the heart of the city, the Mahanakhon Sky Walk offers incredible 360-degree views of the city from its staggered observation deck and glass-floored terrace, which is over 1,000 feet above the city streets below.
It costs about $25 to get a ticket to go up, but if you do it at sunset or even at night, you’ll be solidly rewarded.
3. Wat Suthatthepwararam Ratchaworamahawihan
While the Grand Palace and the Golden Mount may steal a lot of the limelight, this slightly quieter temple is a nice place to get a feel for Thailand and its rich Buddhist culture.
Located next to the famous giant swing, Wat Suthat boasts intricate Southeast Asian architecture, impressive murals, and many ornate golden Buddha statues.
Located in the far north of Thailand, surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful countryside, Chiang Mai is a change of pace from Bangkok.
That said, there’s still plenty of great nightlife in the city for those who seek it out – jump aboard one of the famous red truck taxis and see where the night takes you.
Food and accommodation are also cheap here, and modern developments mean that there’s no shortage of stylish apartments to choose from if you decide to base yourself in Chiang Mai for a while.
Littered with enchanting temples, pretty gardens, and a thriving art scene, the city itself can keep you entertained for at least a week before you even think about heading out into some of the amazing National Parks and natural beauty that surround it.
My three things not to miss in Chiang Mai:
1. Cycling Tour
I won’t single out any one company, but Chiang Mai has a host of organizations that offer guided cycling tours around the area.
On two wheels, you’ll visit street food markets in the suburbs, see unknown temples, and ride past rice fields. Don’t worry, the whole area is located in a very flat valley, so the riding is easy.
2. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The Thailand Tourism Authority says exactly what I need to say about this: “Locals would say you haven’t really gone to Chiang Mai unless you’ve been to Wat Phratat doi Suthep.”
Yes, it is touristy, but it’s worth the effort. This super impressive temple is about 6 miles outside the city (you can catch local buses between 5am and 5pm) and sits atop a mountain that gives unbeatable views back to the city.
3. A Real Thai Massage
Chiang Mai is one of the best places to get an authentic Thai massage that will have your back feeling 20 years younger.
My personal favorite is the Lila Thai Massage chain, which employs women who are rehabilitating after spending time in prison – it gives them a purpose and a career to help rebuild their lives again.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com