Img_110a438180312e8eebb934319dc9326CONTRIBUTED BY JEN PRESTON

[Photo Courtesy of]

With the U.S. dollar flopping about like slimy, gasping, beached trout, it’s difficult to find a travel destination that doesn’t make me feel…well…poor.  (Let’s just all be happy we are not currently stationed in Europe.)  I’ve always heard an American could do pretty well in Thailand, and apparently this is even more true these days.  According to Lonely Planet, one could travel comfortably in Thailand for $15-$35 per day. (Although keep in mind that Lonely Planet seems to cater more to the 20-something single tourist, so if you’re traveling with a family and like a bit more comfort, plan for the increase in expense.)

My friend Lauren took a trip there recently with some friends, and I must say that after hearing about her trip, I’ve already told my husband where we’re going this fall.

How did you travel? Flew roundtrip to Bangkok – tickets from Kadena ITT.

Where did you stay? Julie’s Guesthouse, which prides itself on NOT being a hotel, but a vibe-y mix and meet location for travelers.  There a lots of options for things to do from this “non” hotel, like trekking, mountain biking, rafting, and kayaking. We chose to try Muay Thai boxing ($10), to take a cooking class ($20), a one day elephant ride/bamboo rafting/hiking excursion ($50), and to spend the last day on rented scooters riding up a mountain to Doi Suthep temple/Royal Gardens just outside of Chiang Mai ($30 for rentals/admissions…$60 if you wreck the bike, like my friend Marvin).

Any particular places you would recommend? The Irish bar on the main drag for Duck curry, night bazaar – huge, and there are lots of bars on the walk back to Julie’s from there including one that was Texas themed. (full disclosure, Lauren is a Texan.)

That night we took an overnight train to Bangkok (book in advance for a sleeper car and watch your luggage) and checked into an unremarkable hotel that was in an Indian neighborhood/red light district. While in Bangkok we went to the floating market and walked around a gigantic mall. Because we happened to do all of our temple site seeing on a Buddhist holiday, we paid about $5 for a cab for the whole day since the government tuk tuk’s were discounted. (Tuk tuks are the auto rickshaws that are used for cabs in particularly busy areas such as Bangkok.)  We saw the Royal Palace, Wat Pho, Leaning Buddah, Emerald Buddah, etc…felt like uber tourists on that day…and basically let the driver take us to any place he could think of, all of which were free for the holiday. Bangkok has a great night market, a bit more expensive than Chiang Mai – but a bit more upscale.

During our three days in Bangkok we hired a cab to take us out to Pattaya. It’s a 1.5 hour drive, and only $25 per person or so for the trip…but in terms of beaches, the main road was kinda a tourist trap and loaded with strip bars even in the afternoon…you can’t see much from the streets. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else there besides bars and shops. There is a private beach that you can access from the top of a hill at what I think was called Hotel Asia that had a bar on the beach…a dive shop on the drag had recommended the place and it was a great end to the trip.

I also really recommend Khosan Road in Bangkok for good bars and food.

If I did it again, I would spend more time, if not all, in Chiang Mai, it was more of a hippie town. Very relaxing.

Thanks Lauren! 


  1. Me and Kelly did a 2 week Muay Thai kickboxing camp in Pattaya. Saw a bit of Bangkok, temples and all the tourist places. We were even then during the terrorist attacks on New Years. We were on our way out of the hotel to see a few sights and were ushered back in by hotel staff. They told us bombs were going off all over Bangkok.

    Here’s the video.

  2. We have done Chiangmai twice, Bangkok at least 5 times, AoNang (near Phuket and Krabi) once, Ayutthaya once, and Koh Samoi once.

    We always buy my tickets off base…seem to have better prices than on base. We also seem to always fly though Thailand when visiting other SE Asian countries because Visas are faster and the airfare is cheaper. We only go to the Khaosan area to do the tickets and Visas because otherwise it has too many tourists and not enough culture…but that is just our outlook. Some people like the tourist thing…to each his/her own.

    Didn’t know about the buy one get all option for the temples during a Buddhist holiday…that is very cool if you haven’t seen any of them. I agree with Lauren on Pattaya…haven’t been there but don’t have a desire to go there because I hear it is packed with tourists and not nearly as inexpensive or beautiful as many of Thailands other beach areas are.

    Highly recommend Ayutthaya if you haven’t been to Siem Reap in Cambodia (or even if you have). Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand and the temples are amazing. We took the train there for about 25 baht(less than a $1 at the time) in each direction and then hired a baht truck for the day to drive us to all the locations. We had just come back from Angkhor Wat in Cambodia, but Ayutthaya was still an amazing place. The train is open air and takes about an hour to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok and you get a chance to see some of the countryside.