As beautiful as it is here, there are possibly a few places to avoid in Thailand. Places may look fantastic in pictures but the reality might be quite different. The land of smiles is almost 2000 km long and borders 4 other countries. There are so many lovely places to visit and explore, yet most people still end up going to the same places and following the same routes. Here is my list of 7 places you might want to consider taking off of your travel itinerary if you are looking for a more authentic Thailand. You have traveled so far to come here, don’t waste your journey, travel a little further and discover a different Thailand.
Phuket was once a paradise, but this is a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong there are stil many beautiful corners here, but they are only corners. In-between there is a hustling, bustling, and quickly developing urban area. There is so much traffic now that they are building tunnels to ease the traffic. Also it has become very western orientated, and so the prices are high. For me this is one of the main places to avoid in Thailand.
The more remote beaches in the north-west and east are quieter than the south/west. Though in the South there are also still some nice beaches like Kata and Ao Sane. Though you must ask yourself is it worth it coming here just for just a small corner of paradise?, when you could be staying at a “real” paradise? Is it worth coming here just to get that instagram picture of you at Phrom Thep Cape?
If your thing is staying at over-westernized places, excessive parties, lots of shopping possibilities, attraction parks, and sex tourism. Then this is the place for you. Though if you want to experience a true paradise or a more authentic Thailand. Then there are many other great options that will appreciate your visit more.
This is a town very popular with middle aged and overweight men from all corners of the world. The reason for this, it is the central hub for sex-tourism in Thailand. Of course like all places in the world there are many sides to all places.
Even Pattaya has a lovely country side, beaches, many great tourist attractions, friendly locals, family activities, temples and markets. Though given the choice, do you really want to spend your holiday in a place where seeing a 60 year old foreign man walking along the beach hand in hand with a 12 year old local boy or girl, and it is normal?. So for this reason alone it is for me among the places to avoid in Thailand.
Hua Hin has been developing a lot in recent years. It has mainly become a popular town for westerners to retire at. There are many condos by the sea, a local sailing club, horseback riding and some good golf can be played here. So this is a paradise for the wealthy and the yuppies.
However Hua Hin is much quieter than Phuket and Pattaya. There are beautiful beaches nearby, temples, markets, small villages toward Myanmar, and nature to be discovered. Its not bad place to visit, just not a fantastic place to visit depending on what you are looking for.
Pai is set in a lovely place. A small town surrounded by rice fields, plantations, jungle, mountains, caves and waterfalls. Once it truly was a backpackers paradise. Now like all places that have become famous, have become over-westernized, and saturated by tourism. To find some decent local food I had to wander quite a bit from the central part of town.
However my feeling for Pai is mixed, yes it has gotten developed, nevertheless it still has charm compared to some of the other places on this list. If you stay in a bungalow on the outskirts of town and rent a bike, there is much to do and see here. Like visiting the Tham Lod caves or going on a trek in the surrounding mountains. There is indeed something for almost everyone here; you can party, meet travelers, enjoy nature, great organic food, and you can practice meditation and Yoga here too.
There are 2 Koh Chang’s in Thailand, one is near Ranong and the other near the Cambodian border. In this list Im talking about the latter. The first time I set my foot on this island was way back in 2003, back then it truly was a paradise. There was only one 7/11 was on the island and Bang Bao in the south really was a fisherman village.
Now Koh Chang has become quite developed. It is not a all bad place to go, there are still nice parts, especially on the east side. If you come in the rain season it still can be quite beautiful and idyllic. Though if given the choice, there are places very close to here, which are much nicer to visit. In the same archipelago you can find islands like, Koh Kood, Koh Maak and Koh Whai that are “real paradises” still.
Another island like Phuket that once was a “real” paradise. Now it too has become overdeveloped and over-westernized. Koh Samui has an airport, car ferries and high-speed ferries that bring people to the island all day.
Also Samui still has many nice places, waterfalls, and beaches to relax at. Though if you stay on the ferry a little longer you could stay at Koh Phangan or Koh Tao, where you can find quieter and more beautiful beaches. The islands are also developed, but not as much as Koh Samui.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is probably Thailand most famous Island. From the sky and sea it simply looks stunning. The perfect place to take your selfie, but is it the perfect place to spend your holiday?. The main part of the island is now covered with concrete, buildings several stories high, there is a MacDonalds, Burger King, and many 7/11’s. If you like to party it is a great place for this now too.
To make any kind of activity you have to rent a kayak, rent a longtail boat, or join a tour. There a few walks you can take, but otherwise there is not much for the independent traveler.
If you stay at the northern part of the island it is still very nice. There are bays like Ao Lo Lana and Ao Lo Bakao. These are lovely places to spend a few days. Though staying here, means you are more or less stuck there with only a few restaurants and very basic shopping options. To get to the main town is a long trek or kayak trip.
Around the island there is a lot of boat traffic. Everything from large ferries to speed boats, long-tail boats, and private boats. They come from all sides and stop at all beaches. Tourist siege the island from Koh Lanta, Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi itself. If you really must see Phi Phi island, then visit from Krabi or from Koh Lanta on a day trip. Otherwise this is also one of the places to avoid in Thailand if you are looking for a more authentic and laid-back island.
where should I go then?
There are many great options for traveling and holiday in Thailand. Instead of going to Phuket, stay in Krabi. If you want to stay on an island around Krabi, stay on Koh Lanta instead of Phi Phi. Rather than Koh Samui stay in the north of Koh Phangan or on the east side of Koh Tao, like Tanote Bay. Instead of staying on Koh Chang, stay on nearby Koh Kood, or stay on Koh Phayam. If you want to experience awesome nature, then visit Mae Hong Son or Chiang Dao in the north or Khao Sok north of Phuket. If you want to stay in a Thai town but also to have access to deserted beaches, then visit Chumphon instead of Hua Hin.
Discover more places in our blog: Best islands to visit in Thailand