WITH INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL now back on the radar after a two-year holding pattern thanks to the global pandemic, it’s finally possible to start planning an overseas trip.
Thailand has long been a destination of choice for Australians for obvious reasons – proximity (flight time from Sydney to Bangkok is around nine hours), fabulous food, rich culture, beautiful beaches and spectacular natural beauty. If fact, the 2000 film The Beach, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio (and the All Saints hit Pure Shores), brought flocks of tourists to the stunning waters off Kho Phi Phi. Naturally, this was not without consequences; Maya Beach, where the movie was filmed, closed in June 2018 to allow its environmental recovery. But come January 2022, it reopened with new sustainability rules in place.
For picturesque beaches, gorgeous galleries, museums and traditional architecture, you need look no further than Phuket. Thailand’s largest island, it sits on the southern west coast on the Andaman Sea, a one-hour flight from Bangkok. If you’re a nature lover, a thrill seeker, a history and culture connoisseur or a bask-on-the-beach type, Phuket ticks all the boxes.
But with seemingly endless options in Thailand, it can be difficult to narrow down where to stay and what to do. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve compiled a one-week Thailand itinerary taking in Bangkok and Phuket.
How to plan a 7-day trip to Thailand
Day one: Bangkok
Explore the Grand Palace
A trip to Bangkok is not complete without a tour of the Grand Palace, built in 1782, which houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha.
Open daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm, discover more here.
Take a Thai cooking class
Set in a historic colonial-style house, the Blue Elephant cooking classes, specialising in Royal Thai cuisine, teach participants how to prepare four or five traditional recipes in half a day (the morning session, which includes a local market visit, runs from 8.45am to 1pm and the afternoon session from 1.30pm to 5pm). Book your class here.
Day two: Bangkok
Visit the Jim Thompson House Museum
Named after the late James H.W. Thompson, the Jim Thompson House Museum is certainly worth a visit. Known as the Thai Silk King, Thompson revitalised the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s, and was a renowned collector of Asian art. The beautifully preserved house, which Thompson — an architect — designed himself in 1959, comprises six traditional Thai teakwood houses, and is flanked by lush gardens.
Open daily from 10am to 6pm, discover more here.
Shop at Siam Paragon
Shopping aficionados should not miss a trip to Siam Paragon, Bangkok’s premier shopping and food destination. The luxurious mall set over five floors features Harrods Tea Room, SEALIFE Bangkok Ocean World, as well as brands including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Bvlgari, Cartier, Celine, Chanel, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci, Hermès, Jimmy Choo, Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Prada, Saint Laurent and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Open daily from 10am to 10pm, discover more here.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Opt for the sleek, contemporary minimalism of the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, the stunning art gallery-esque Park Hyatt Bangkok (featuring a 40-metre saltwater infinity pool), or Bangkok’s first hotel — on the banks of the Chao Phraya river —the 146-year old palm tree-lined Mandarin Oriental. For something with a lot of character and quite out of the ordinary, try the Bangkok Publishing Residence, which was once a publisher’s home and printing house and has been restored into a bed and breakfast with eight individually designed rooms. Or check out the discreet and stylish Ad Lib Bangkok, and urban oasis in the heart of the city.
Day three: Phuket
Explore old town
The beautiful and highly Instagrammable Thalang Road features the colourful and vibrant Sino-Portugese buildings. The popular Sunday Walking Street Market occurs each Sunday from 4pm to 9pm.
Soak up some sun
Travellers are spoilt for choice for beaches in Phuket. Freedom Beach is incredibly picturesque, and off the beaten path so is less of a haven for throngs of tourists. To get there, you will need to take a long tail boat which departs from the jetty at the southern end of Patong Beach (during high season from December to June).
Both Karon Beach and Kata Beach are popular with families, with beautiful azure water, white sand and plenty of dining and shopping options.
Day four: Phuket
Visit Phang Nga Bay
Consider taking a day trip to Phang Nga Bay, where you will see the iconic vertical rock formations rising majestically out of the emerald clear waters. There are various ways to explore this part of the world, including by speedboat or canoeing tours.
Day five: Phuket
Get back to nature at Khao Sok National Park
Located 2.5 hours north of Phuket, Khao Sok boasts the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest. With majestic waterfalls and limestone cliffs, it is also home to a huge number of plants and animals including wild elephants, gibbons, tigers, leopards and Malayan sun bears.
Day six: Phuket
Sample the scuba diving and snorkelling
Phuket offers many opportunities for both new and experienced scuba divers. Aussie Divers Phuket offer a full-day Learn to Dive adventure and scuba diving day trips to Phi Phi Islands.
Or from 1 November, you can take a day trip to the stunning Similan Islands by a high-speed catamaran for either certified scuba divers or for snorkellers (open to anyone over the age of 3).
Day seven: Phuket
Destination dining at Pru
End your Thai trip on a high with lunch at Phuket’s first (and only) Michelin-starred restaurant, Pru, which stands for Plant, Raise, Understand. The restaurant has a focus on local, sustainable and organic ingredients and aims to tell a story through every dish.
There is a five course (including vegetarian) or seven-course menu, with or without wine pairings.
“Pru Jampa, our own farm that supplies vegetables, herbs and flowers, is where we put the idea of permaculture into practice, while pursuing sustainability and supporting artisan producers. Seasonal ingredients including line-caught seafood and free-range animals decide our menu cycles and are 100% from Thailand,” chef Jimmy Orphost said in the Michelin guide.
Where to stay in Phuket
Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas
83 pool villas flank a tranquil lagoon, plus all your spa and wellness needs catered for with the award-winning Anantara Spa.
Book your stay here.
Featuring a 45-metre lap pool, kids club, and yachts available to charter, plus its own private beach, Trisara is also home to Pru restaurant.
Book your stay here.
Sanskrit for ‘a place of peace’, this luxury beach resort has multiple villa options, as well as state-of-the-art water equipment, including wakeboards, wakeskates, hydrofoils or waterskis.
Book your stay here.
Twin Palms Phuket
A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the accommodation is centred around a large lagoon pool and six dining venues, including the Catch Beach Club.
Book your stay here.
When to visit
Temperatures can reach in the 40s in March and April, with September and October being wet season (the upside being fewer tourists and cheaper prices). November through to February is the ideal time to visit.
What should I know when planning a trip to Thailand?
Be sure to leave plenty of time to organise your passport if you require a new one, with delays occurring due to high demand.
To travel to Thailand, you will need to apply for a Thailand Pass. For more information, see the consular’s website.
It’s also recommended you opt for health insurance with a minimum cover of US$10,000 ($13,900) (including treatment relating to Covid-19) throughout your period of stay in Thailand.
Masks are required in public for all people over the age of 2.
Is Thailand safe to visit in 2022?
For more information on travelling to Thailand, see the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website.