After a long bout of lockdown, a family vacation is an ideal segue to breaking the monotony, and what better place than Thailand for your overseas adventure? Home to mighty mountain peaks and expansive plains in the North, lush-green rice paddy fields in the rural heartland, gleaming golden temples dotted all over, and luxuriously long coastlines, this Kingdom checks all the right boxes for a fun-filled outing with your loved ones. We’ve crafted a lesser-explored 10-day family holiday itinerary for your rebound travels to this tropical heaven.
By Bayar Jain
Getting To Thailand
For this 10-day family holiday itinerary, begin your adventures at Phuket, the country’s largest island. India is well-connected to this city, with multiple direct flights from New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru.
First Stop: Phang Nga
Beautiful caves, rubber tree artificial flowers, attractive islands, and mighty mountains — Phang Nga has a little bit of everything to suit the varied tastes of families, and a must-visit on this itinerary!
To begin your family holiday in Thailand, head straight to Mu Koh Surin National Park. An archipelago in the Andaman Sea, this proclaimed national park includes islands with beautiful coral reefs in the shallows and various schools of fish easily found by snorkelling. From here, head to Khao Lak Beach. Located on the Phang Nga mainland, this palm-tree beach is a popular tourist spot offering scenic sunsets, an apt way to end your day. The bustling location features a coastal park full of rare birds, exotic mammals, and scenic waterfalls, as well as many luxury and budget hotels along the spectacular coast for you to spend the night.
Seeing stalagmites and stalactites is often restricted to novels and movies, but at the Phung Chang caves in this district, they come to life. Spend day two exploring beautiful caves such as Ruesi Sawan cave and Luk Suea cave in Somdet Phra Sri Nakarin Park. Next, head to Phang Nga National Park where magnificent sceneries with immensely different attractions await, the most famous of which is the Phang Nga Bay National Park. Replete with islets, sunken caverns, and startling rock formations rising vertically out of the sea, they are bound to mesmerise travellers of all ages! Opt for a kayaking expedition while here to make the most of your time.
How to get there
There aren’t any train stations or airports at Phang Nga, so your best bet is to hit the road from Phuket. You can choose to rent your own car or hire a taxi service. Alternatively, you can even hop on a local bus. Irrespective, the total journey will take you approximately an hour and a half.
Second Stop: Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is a haven of cool, owing to the altitude and presence of natural forests and rivers here. Picturesque and worthy of a visit in its own right, this quaint town is a great way to explore the many cultural, natural, and historical attractions of the countryside.
After dropping off your luggage at the accommodation of your choice, cycle your way to Wat Ban Tham, an ancient cave temple. Built in the reign of Sukhothai (1569–1629), the temple features a long staircase winding up to a hill and into a dragon’s head. Inside the dragon’s head, colourful paintings depicting scenes from the classic Thai novel Khun Chang Khun Phaen don the walls. This temple tour could take up most of your day, and rightfully so! Beyond the dragon cave lie stunning views of greenish mountains and breathtaking trees, made better by human-like stones.
Kayak along the River Kwai and walk over its famous historic bridge to end your Kanchanaburi sojourn on a serene note. The steel bridge was once a part of the railway lines in World War II, destroyed in the war and renovated later by the Thai government in 1946. Despite its past, today it stands tall as an ode to the lives lost in battle. Here, you must go cruising on the glass-like river Kwai. On the ride, you’ll find various temples on the shore and swan goose accompanying you on your journey.
Where to stay
If you’re hoping to stay close to the waters, consider Pung-Waan Resort, The Legacy River Kwai Resort, or River Kwai Village Hotel.
How to get there
Hop on an overnight bus or take a private vehicle from Phang Nga, and wake up refreshed at Kanchanaburi. The journey could take up to 14 hours and includes a stop at Bangkok.
Third Stop: Ko Chang
For the third stop, choose Thailand’s second-largest island, Ko Chang that offers dozens of unspoiled hidden gems itching to be explored. Located in Trat province, east of Bangkok, almost 70 per cent of the area is covered by untouched rainforest. In addition to this natural beauty, the island also houses a wide range of wildlife, including native birds, snakes, and deer. When here, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice by the numerous tranquil beaches surrounded by crystal clear water.
Start your day early and head to the White Sand Beach (or Haad Sai Khao, as locals like to call it). Stretching roughly two kilometres, this powder-soft beach is a great way to unwind with your family. Your little ones can spend hours bumming out on the beach creating sandcastles, while you and your partner can walk along the shoreline soaking in the romantic hues of the sun-kissed skies. Next, spend your afternoon at Bang Bao, a local fishing village where you and your family can relax before embarking on a trip to Klong Plu Waterfall. This cascading water body is ideal for kids to splash around in, thanks to the large plunge pool at the base of the beauty.
If you’re surrounded by water, it’s only justified to indulge in some water sports! Families can spend the day canoeing and kayaking at any of the islands of Ko Chang. The more adventurous lot can even deep-dive into the underwater world by opting for snorkelling and diving tours. For some family fun, you can even try mini-golf in the Kai Bae Beach area, or go jungle hiking.
Where to stay
The majority of tourists stay at Hat Sai Khao, Hat Kai Muk, Hat Ta Nam, and Laem Bang Bao, all districts of the region that are linked by a single road running down the west coast. Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway and The Emerald Cove Koh Chang are some of the top-rated hotels here.
How to get there
The journey to Ko Chang from Kanchanaburi is an adventure in itself, allowing you to soak in the country’s many different landscapes at one go. First, take a two-hour train ride to Bangkok, from where you can take an hour-long domestic flight to Trat Airport, or enjoy the picturesque countryside by opting for a bus ride. Either way, you’ll need to then take a ferry from Laem Ngop pier to complete your journey.
Fourth Stop: Khao Yai National Park
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Khao Yai National Park is the country’s first national park. An easy escape from the bustling city life, this primordial jungle is replete with waterfalls and streams accentuated by a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Mammoth elephants, playful baboons, colourful birds, and countless insects seek refuge here, making it a great spot for the younger ones to explore, and a perfect way to continue with your memorable family outing.
Spend day seven of your vacation venturing deep into the jungle and hiking across the many trails here. Make pitstops at Haew Narok Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in the national park; Khao Laem and Khao Khiao, two viewpoints to give you a bird’s-eye view of the luscious greens; and Nong Phak Chi Wildlife Watching Tower, an ideal spot to catch a glimpse of the many jumbos here.
The surrounding areas of the national park deserve a day of its own to explore. Consider heading to the farmers market at Pak Chong and splurge on local produce. Follow that with a walk around the Khao Yai Art Museum where private collections and sculptures greet you, or head to Primo Piazza where you can feed alpacas, sheep, and donkeys. If you’re a wine aficionado, then use this day to stopover at any of the local wineries here as well for a two-pronged activity: wine for the adults, and a chance to squash some grapes for the kids!
Where to stay
Camping inside the park, although challenging, is the best way to make the most of your nature-filled experience. You can choose from either of the two campsites available here: Lam Takhong or Pha Kluai Mai. Alternatively, the national park also has bungalows for a more comfortable stay.
How to get there
The quickest way to reach the national park from Ko Chang is by taking a ferry to the mainland and driving to your destination. Alternatively, you can even opt for a private taxi.
Fifth Stop: Chiang Rai
Located at the junction of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, Chiang Rai doubles as a melting pot of cultures and traditions. After an adventure-filled getaway at the national park, make sure to soak in some serenity, and get transfixed by the mysticism of some of the oldest temples in the country. Picture an atmosphere of complex mountain ranges dressed in Lanna culture, a way of life now largely confined to this region–an experience that your children will remember for years to come.
Begin your Chiang Rai adventures by taking it slow and gazing at the scenic Mekong River from Doi Pha Tang—a viewing point on top of a high cliff over the Thai-Laotian border. Try planning your vacation between December to January when the Siamese sakura blossoms in all its glory. From here, head to another scenic spot called Phu Chi Dao. Translating to ‘mountain pointing to the stars’, this surreal location shrouded in clouds, gives you the illusion of being one with the sky. Before making your climb here, drop by at the homes of the Hmong ethnic group, and learn more about their lives. There’s no better way to teach your kids the idea of responsible travel.
Thailand is known for its glittering golden temples, but Chiang Rai strays from this ordinary and presents a pristine white sacred spot instead. Designed and built by Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat, the Wat Rong Khun is a must-visit when in Thailand’s northernmost province. Mingmuang Temple, the oldest temple in Chiang Rai, is another unmissable destination. Once an abandoned temple, today fine carved sculptures, exquisite mural paintings, and an aura of calm paints the space.
Where to stay
Lovers of luxury can opt Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort. The rooms and suites are super chic here and their luxe spa offers relaxing therapies too. Plus, an infinity pool with river views will surely leave you spoilt for choice.
How to get there
Being the northernmost province of the country, a flight is your best bet. First, take a train from Khao Yai National Park to Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, from where you can take an hour-long domestic flight Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport.
Returning To India
Retrace your steps by taking a domestic flight back to Bangkok, from where you can take an onward flight back to India. Bangkok is well connected to all major Indian cities, with an option of direct and indirect flights, both.
What To Eat
Apart from being aromatic and healthy, Thai food is renowned for its blend of textures and flavours. A visit to this Kingdom is incomplete without gorging on a plate of Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles), Khao Phat or Khao Pad (fried rice), and Khao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup). Being a tropical nation, ensure you eat the Khao Niew Mamuang or mango sticky rice and drink fresh coconut water at least once!
Best Time To Visit
Although the climate varies all year round, the best time to visit the country is during the cool and dry season between November and early April.
Indians Travelling To Thailand
To enter the country, Indian citizens can get a tourist visa-on-arrival valid for a period of 15 days.