One of my most memorable travels this summer was returning to Thailand with Thailand Insider. As part of the third annual Women's Journey Thailand campaign, the tourism authority hosted a trip through Thailand for myself and three of my favorite social influencers (@tourdelust / Christine Tran, @christinagalbato / Christina Galbato and @hannahrheaume / Hannah Rheaume). Yes, all girls! What a treat it was to experience the country with such a strong group of ladies, and also learn about each of our destinations from our rockstar local female guides. In just 10 days, we visited the north (Chiang Mai and Pai), the city (Bangkok) and the islands (Koh Samui) with a packed itinerary that included five star luxury resorts, canyon hikes, spa treatments, rice field walks, evening markets, cooking classes and so much more. I wanted to share our general itinerary with you all, in case any of you are looking for girl trip inspiration for an upcoming visit to Thailand.
All smiles arriving in Thailand for the second time this year.
NORTHERN THAILAND: CHIANG MAI
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai)
For years I'd been dreaming about a stay at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai. Not only did we get to stay here this trip, but our group was lucky enough to call the Royal Residences home for two nights. The private villa complex was home to six Lanna-style pavilions, swimming pools, saunas, a lotus pond, open-air salas and a bar. Surrounded by high walls for privacy, the Royal Residences truly felt like we were living the high life. And that was just our digs! The rest of the property was equally lovely with sprawling rice fields, water buffalo, infinity pools, tropical gardens, ancient palace-styled structures and one of the most iconic hotel entrances in Thailand.
Baan Rai Yam Yen
Completely local, and one of my new favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai. Baan Rai Yam Yen was my first meal this trip, and it really set the bar high. We ordered an absolute feast of authentic Thai dishes, but my favorites were the Pla Rad Prik (fried whole fish with sweet chili sauce) and the Pad Yod Fak Maew (stir fried chayote).
Le Grand Lanna
A lavish Thai feast bento-box style, and I didn't even have to leave the comforts of the hotel. Located on site at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, we ate in the Le Grand Lanna's beautiful open air setting where we enjoyed lunch tailored to each of our dietary restrictions. Our group was a mix of vegans, pescatarians, gluten-free and meat eaters, so no lunch set was exactly the same. However, the overwhelming favorite amongst everyone was the Khao Soi, a curry noodle dish - a speciality of Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra Singh
There were so many wats and temples we wanted to see in Chiang Mai, but with our tight schedule there was only time for two. First stop was Wat Phra Singh. The temple was located within the old city walls, so a very convenient spot for Chiang Mai sightseeing. I'd seen so many photos of this place online, but it was so special to finally see it with my own eyes. The soaring gold chedis were pretty incredible, as I'd never seen a temple with so much gold coloring.
Wat Suan Dok
Still my favorite place in Chaing Mai. It was raining when we visited the beautiful group of white-washed mausoleums and temples, but Wat Suan Dok couldn't have been more lovely. Ours was an afternoon visit, but sunrise is the best time to see this place. Watching the sky turn purple over the white temple structures is absolute magic.
Tui from Window of Thailand was the first person I met when I landed in Chiang Mai, and she was one of my favorite people I met on this trip to Thailand. We spent five days in Chiang Mai and Pai (road tripping between the two), and Tui was with us every step of the way. From historic wonders to local markets, she was a wealth of knowledge about all the places we experienced. Yes, Tui was a super savvy guide, but she also has to be the sweetest soul in Thailand. It was such a pleasure getting to know her, hearing her stories and learning about her business. I'd mentioned my love of passion fruit to her my first day in Chiang Mai, and no matter where we were, Tui was always finding passion fruit for me.
The Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre
An appointment at The Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre is worth it just to see one of the city's most beautiful, ornate spas. I felt like I was having treatments in an exotic Thai palace - the place was so decadent and beautiful. I opted for a two hour Lanna massage, a specialty of northern Thailand.
One of my favorite pools in Thailand, at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai.
Matchy matchy inside our Royal Residences at Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai.
My second visit to Wat Suan Dok - this place never gets old!
NORTHERN THAILAND: PAI
A haven for backpackers, the Pai hotel scene was definitely geared toward its clientele. The little town was filled with funky guest houses and affordable hostels, perfect places for European and Australian travelers exploring Thailand on a budget. We needed something a bit more upscale, and discovered the most luxurious Pai gem at the Reverie Siam Resort. The open-air oasis was absolutely gorgeous with its colonial-styled architecture overlooking the Pai River. The rooms were modern and spacious with darling colonial design cues including record players, old books, typewriters and old-fashioned phones. Walking through the resort felt like I was in a living, breathing Anthropologie catalog - the place was beautiful!
Earth Tone Cafe
For chill vibes, good energy and the cutest food in Pai, look no further than Earth Tone Cafe. The menu was filled with vegetarian goodness including colorful Acai bowls, homemade spring rolls, delicious shakes, fresh salads, raw balls, a variety of juices and so much more.
There were several hiking options for exploring Pai Canyon, but we found that the region's most famous viewpoint was conveniently located a short walk from the parking lot. We followed the trail to a narrow orange dirt pathway that extended out into the canyon with curvy, narrow footing that resembled a massive dinosaur spine. The surrounding valley views were spectacular in every direction, and seemed to go on forever. This was my favorite viewpoint in Pai.
Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen)
We climbed 353 steps up to reach Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Temple on the Hill), home to Pai's famous White Buddha. It wasn't a long climb to the top, but the heat and humidity made things really uncomfortable. I was a sweaty mess, but forgot about all of the pain when I reached the view at the base of the Buddha. Another amazing panorama in Pai!
Pai Walking Street
A fixture of Pai, the city's vibrant Walking Street was a hub of energy at night. The sidewalks were lined with vendors selling noodles, crepes, sushi, fresh juice and more, along with bars, restaurants, Thai massage and funky boutiques that lined the streets. This was the place to be at night in Pai.
Ko Ku So Bridge
A raised bamboo walkway above the prettiest rice fields, this bridge was built for monks to get to the local village from their remote temples. Ko Ku So Bridge was a bit of a drive from town (maybe 30 minutes), but worth it for its serene setting amongst the vibrant green rice fields.
Obsessed with the vibes and healthy goodness at Earth Tone Cafe.
The prettiest feast at Earth Tone Cafe.
The soaring views over Pai Canyon.
The gorgeous stone pool, at the Reverie Siam.
Ko Ku So Bridge.
It was 365 steps to reach Pai's iconic White Buddha.
I feasted on passion fruit 24/7 throughout the trip.
The views over Pai, in northern Thailand.
Colonial vibes checking into the Reverie Siam.
The cutest food stalls along Walking Street at night.
So many cute cocktail options at the hotel's bar.
It was a hot and sweaty climb up to the White Buddha, but worth it for these sweeping views.
Eating my way along Pai's Walking Street.
THE CITY: BANGKOK
The Peninsula Bangkok
This was my first stay at a Peninsula property, and boy did they roll out the red carpet. I checked into a Deluxe Suite, a massive set of digs equipped with a living area, master bedroom, master bathroom, walk in closet, guest powder room and specular views over the Chao Phraya River. With three nights at The Peninsula Bangkok, I really felt like I got to experience all aspects of the property including the gorgeous riverside pool; a Thai massage at The Peninsula Spa; cooking classes; and dinner on the river.
I visit Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) on every trip to Bangkok - it's one of the prettiest places in the city. Crowds are always an issue here, so our amazing guide Thip got us to Wat Arun when it opened. The temple sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, making it accessible by car or boat. We had a private driver and arrived by car, but there is nothing more spectacular than seeing Wat Arun from the river for first-time visitors.
A visit to one of the city's night markets was a must while we were in Bangkok. We spent our last evening in town at the Rod Fai Night Market Srinakarin, but this was just one of many options throughout the city.
Guide Thip was our fearless leader in Bangkok, and I'm not sure how I visited this city twice before without her. I'm perfectly capable getting around the city without a guide, but Thip made Bangkok so much more fun! She was a wealth of knowledge, and knew all the ins and outs when it came to sightseeing, the markets, the roads etc. Will definitely be in touch with her next time I'm intown, her e-mail is email@example.com.
It wouldn't be a trip to Bangkok without a visit to beautiful Wat Arun.
The most amazing three-night stay at the luxurious Peninsula Bangkok.
Smelly durian at the local morning market.
We took the hotel's luxurious tuk tuk to the local market to shop for ingredients for our private cooking class.
Cooking up a storm - Mango Sticky Rice, Pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup!
The hotel pool overlooked Bangkok's Chao Phraya River.
Gorgeous set up for the Women's Journey Thailand event!
THE ISLAND: KOH SAMUI
W Koh Samui
This was the last leg of our trip, and it couldn't have ended at a better place than the W Koh Samui. I stayed in one of the resort's 74 private pool villas, and the placed oozed with five star luxury. My villa had all the modern design cues signature to the W brand, as well as high ceilings, bright colors, big windows, massive tub, indoor shower, outdoor shower, private infinity pool and the most spectacular ocean view at sunset. Our itinerary for Koh Samui was pretty busy, but I tried to indulge as much as possible while at the W, enjoying the infinity pools, private beach, restaurants and the most luxurious spa (I booked treatments two nights in a row!).
Coco Tam’s X Peppina
I love Thai food, but after 10 days of tom yum soup and pad Thai, I desperately needed a Western fix! Located in the heart of Bophut, Coco Tam's X Peppina was one of my favorite evening outings of the trip. We ordered a variety of dishes including fresh salad, sea bass, wood fire oven pizzas, pastas and creative cocktails. The oceanfront restaurant spilled onto the beach with bean bags and little tables, perfect for soaking in the Poi shows on the Friday evening that we were there.
Vikasa Life Cafe
The yoga retreat set over the island's iconic rocks occupied the best bit of real estate on Koh Samui. I'm far from a yogi, but I loved that I could still experience the beauty of this stretch of the island by visiting the resort's restaurant, Vikasa Life Cafe. The open air space was an Instagram haven with some of the most colorful dishes and food creations including mezze platters, vegan pizza, chia jars, wraps, rolls, sushi and more, all bursting with shades of purple, green and yellow.
The island paradise of the Ang Thong National Marine Park was going to be our big finale in Thailand, but windy weather scrapped those plans and we ended up taking a private boat out to Koh Madsum instead. The island was a deserted gem in the early hours with empty white sand beaches, island piglets and the clearest water that sparkled every shade of turquoise.
I don't have an exact address, but if you explore the southwest roads of Koh Samui, there are miles and miles of beautiful palm groves just off the road. I wanted to find a mountain of coconuts, so this became our final mission on our last afternoon in Thailand. Thankfully, this part of the island was a coconut jackpot, and there were plenty of piles to choose from, as well as kindly farmers who didn't mind us stopping for photos.
Bangkok Airways was our go-to airline while in Thailand. We flew them from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and then again roundtrip between Bangkok and Koh Samui. My airport experience with them was such a treat, as we had access to their Blue Ribbon Club Lounge, and all the perks and amenities that came along with it (complimentary drinks, snacks, meals, fresh coconut, popcorn, wi-fi, etc.).
Special thank you to Guide June for showing us all the best spots on Koh Samui, and helping me with photos while on the island! Guide June was my awesome sidekick, always game to explore the beaches, island rocks, palm groves and coconut farms in search of the coolest spots and best photo opps. From boat tours to dinner reservations, she really made everything happen for us. She also does guided trips on Phuket, her contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was me within an hour of landing on Koh Samui.
The most colorful feast at Vikasa Life Cafe.
Soaking in sunshine at our private infinity pool at the W Koh Samui, one of my new favorite resorts!
Sunset views from my suite's balcony.
The most coconuts I'd ever seen!
We were on the water early and had the islands to ourselves most of the morning.
Floating breakfast on my last morning at the W Koh Samui - what a send off!
Lunchtime views at Vikasa Life Cafe.
Happiness at the coconut farm we found on the side of the road.
So many colorful meals on Koh Samui.
The prettiest island sparkles on Koh Madsum.
Special thanks to Thailand Insider and their partners for hosting my amazing trip through Thailand and sponsoring this post. xx