Originally Posted by LonerMatt
Chiang Mai is excellent - there's a great hostel called 'a little bird' which always has great people chilling in it. Run by really friendly guys. Good place to meet plenty of others, too.
If you're there please make your way to the Elephant Nature Park - which I could have spent 3-4 days at easily, it's amazing.
It's on your way if you go from Laos to Thailand. You can also head out to Pai and learn how to motorbike, or trek, or go to cooking school. It's a pretty easy, relaxed and navigable city.
When in Laos maybe avoid Vang Vien - it's basically alcohol and prostitute central. People ride in tubes down the river there and bars pull them in for cheap alcohol. Imagine 100s of drunk tourists and you get the idea.
If go want to hit beaches in Thailand I've been to Koh Tao - which was OK, but not really amazing. I heard good things about Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui. Avoid Phuket was also pretty general advice.
It's also worth nothing that the Vang Vien tubing scene is pretty much shut down. The government went in and tore down all of the slides/etc and the majority of the little bars from what I read.
Here's my rough agenda through thailand/cambodia:
- a few days in bangkok ( muay thai fights, temples, nightlife )
- head up to chiang mai / ri for about a week and explore more temples, elephant park
- fly down to phuket and immediately hop to phi-phi and then krabi (railay beach). I think I'll do my SCUBA certification here.
- shuttle transfer over to the gulf coast side and his ko sumai and phangnan for the full moon party
- return to bkk for a flight to phnem penh, spend a day there checking out the killing fields and museums
- take the bus up to angkor wat and spend around 2-3 days there
- fly back to BKK and back home
That's my 6 week schedule for May. I'm most worried about the weather on the andaman side (phuket/phi phi/krabi).