Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand
Published 26 May 2016
Close your eyes and think of Thailand, a land of glittering golden spires, warm sapphire seas and thick green jungle topped off with a fascinating history. Combine this with a famously friendly population who welcome visitors with beaming smiles and friendly chitter-chatter, and you’ll see just why Thailand is Southeast Asia’s most popular holiday destination. Travellers usually make a beeline for one of the hundreds of palm-fringed islands dotted throughout the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, but the interior’s traditional villages, floating markets and mouth-watering local food should definitely be on your trip list too.
Here’s our countdown of the top ten Thai sights:
Vist the Grand Palace in Bangkok
On first arrival into Bangkok it’s natural to be a little overwhelmed. A mass of motorbikes weave in and out of the cyclists and pedestrians at frightening speeds, accompanied by an endless cacophony of traffic noise. To get your bearings head to the relative peace of the Grand Palace which, together with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, offers a welcome escape from the chaos outside. The palace has been the residence of the King of Thailand since 1782; come for its towering gold spires, jewel encrusted statues and fabulously over-the-top display of wealth.
Enjoy a cookery class in Chiang Mai
It’s no secret that Thai food is delicious, but recreating its delicate flavours for yourself is another matter entirely. The cooking methods are not complicated, but balancing the many spices takes a bit of practice. To try for yourself, sign up to one of the many cookery classes on offer all over the country – Chiang Mai is the best place to start. You’ll begin your day with a trip to the local market to buy ingredients and then venture into the classroom to concoct your own feast of flavour. Come hungry, because you’ll eat everything you cook, and that’s an awful lot of food.
Go sea kayaking in Krabi
Sea kayaking is a wonderfully relaxing way to get a closer look at the cliffs, lagoons and coves that fleck Thailand’s coastline. Although most beach shops can rent you a kayak, Krabi is a great option, especially for beginners. Its karsts and sea caves, some of which contain 3000-year-old cave paintings, mean there’s plenty to explore, while its calm seas and lack of waves mean even the least active types can have a go at paddling. Sometimes, the sea is so clear you can see the tropical fish swimming just inches below the surface.
Explore the White Temple on the Golden Triangle
Otherwise known as Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple is actually a piece of art, created in 1997, in the style of a Buddhist temple. You’ll find it in Chiang Rai, part of Thailand’s famed Golden Triangle. Designer Chalermchai Kositpipat is still working on it, and doesn’t expect to complete it until 2070. Despite this, visitors flock to glimpse its bizarre structures, such as the bridge over a mass of hands, all reaching for the sky, and it’s all-white ubosot, (main building) which is inlaid with mirrored tiles. Inside, murals depict everything from fire and death to Michael Jackson and Hello Kitty.
Chill on the Phi Phi Islands
Photogenic Phi Phi is one of the shimmering jewels of the Andaman Sea. With sweeping powdery white beaches at the foot of towering limestone cliffs and impossibly clear waters of intense blue, the islands are conventionally beautiful and enduringly popular. Be sure to head to Maya Bay, a perfect cove of talcum powder sand and sheer cliffs that you might recognise from the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach. Chill out on the sand and soak up the postcard views.
Cross the bridge over the River Kwai
To see the infamous bridge on the River Kwai, you’ll need to head for Kanchanaburi, an unassuming town filled with World War II landmarks. The bridge was built as part of the Death Railway, so-called because over 100,000 prisoners died due to the squalid conditions and brutal labour involved in its construction. You can walk across the current bridge, a reconstruction, or see the original in the nearby War Museum. For the best views, ride the train over the bridge to Nam Tok, two hours of mountains, countryside and extraordinary engineering.
Learn about the history of Ayutthaya
The ancient capital of what was then Siam, Ayutthaya is a fascinating collection of towers, monasteries, temples and palaces. Most are a little weather worn, but that adds to the appeal. The city and its ruins are a World Heritage site, its stupas and statues now surrounded by trees and grass, making for a pleasant spot for an afternoon’s exploring, especially if you are into photography.
Trek in national parks
There are 127 national parks in Thailand, which gives you ample opportunity to trek the forests, climb the mountains and explore the caves. A favourite place to try this is Chiang Mai, where treks tend to visit the local hill tribes, and Khao Sok, whose cavernous grottoes are home to some rather freaky looking spiders and bats. Hiking is not just confined to the mainland though – combine your beach trip with a trek through the dense jungles of Mu Ko National Park in Koh Chang or spot butterflies and wild pigs in the forests of in Koh Samui.
Relax on Koh Lanta
Beautiful Koh Lanta epitomises your dream Thai island. A typical combination rainforest and white beach, as well as some fine diving and snorkelling, it ticks all the boxes. On top of this, thick mangrove forests, best explored by traditional longtail boat, blooming orchid farms and a collection of intriguing caves keep the activities coming. There’s an atmospheric Old Town too, with a couple of temples and a few leftovers from the Chinese merchants who once frequented these parts. It’s a good place to pick up authentic souvenirs and sample some seriously tasty food.
Dive in Phuket
There’s world-class diving to be had all over Thailand, and Phuket is up there with the best. With numerous diving schools to choose from, it’s easy to arrange, even if you’ve never set foot in the ocean before. The best known site is Racha Yai, where you’ll find an abundance of colourful corals and a wreck (although this is for experienced divers only), but you could also try Shark Point and its many leopard sharks, or search for reef fish and moray eels at Doc Mai’s wall. If you’ve ever dreamt of trying free-diving, this is the place to do it, with a number of schools offering beginner tuition.
Tempted to visit Thailand? Round the World Experts offer a range of tailor-made Journeys to Thailand, including our popular Bangkok, Jungle & Beach holiday. Chat to your Expert today for advice and to book.