SSimply, one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, Thailand has paradise islands, fascinating cultures and delicious food that will have you coming back for more…
1: Visit palaces, temples and pagodas in Bangkok.
Yee Peng Festival Bangkok, Thailand – Image by Miki Studio
Bangkok may be known for its wild nightlife, traffic chaos and street food, but it is also home to over 400 temples, countless ornate pagodas and a spectacular Royal Palace.
Religion (predominantly Buddhism) and Royalty are integral to Thai culture. Temples and pagodas dot the capital’s landscape with such regularity that they can be enjoyed in almost any part of the city. It’s worth making the effort to visit the most notable sites, including the glittering Grand Palace complex, the biggest cultural draw, which houses the temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred site.
Wat Pho is famous for its 45m reclining gold plated Buddha, while Wat Arun’s distinctive Khmer architecture is particularly lovely at sunset.
2: Cross the Bridge over the River Kwai
Train on River Kwai Bridge of Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Image by PreechaB
Immortalised by the 1957 Oscar-winning film The Bridge On The River Kwai, the bridge is part of the ‘Death Railway’ that was built during World War II by prisoners of war, including British prisoners. It runs 400km from Myanmar to Thailand.
Set in picturesque Kanchanaburi in the hilly Thai-Myanmar border region, the bridge itself is just a small part of this monument to war and cruelty. Visit the Thai Burma Railway Museum for an insight into the history, before taking a walk over the bridge itself. A short train ride takes you to the Wampo Viaduct where wooden struts support the track over sheer drops as it hugs the towering Kwai Noi cliff face.
3: Join the locals at a Colourful Floating Market
Floating market in Damnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi Province – Image by TopTen22Photo
Long before Thailand’s road and rail infrastructure developed, its network of canals and waterways were the focus of commerce, and this practice continues today with the colourful and quirky floating markets. Narrow longtail boats packed with fresh local produce take up position to sell their wares to locals and tourists alike.
Whether you choose to shop from the riverbanks or hire a boat to take you right into the heart of the action, this unique shopping experience is a cultural treat. Enjoy ‘street food’ prepared freshly onboard a tiny floating kitchen.
The biggest markets are found around Bangkok. Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi is the most famous but is very touristy. For a more local experience, try the Tha Kha Market in Samut Songkhram.
For more suggestions for things to do in Thailand contact us for more information and a free travel consultation.
4: Take a Leisurely Island-hopping Adventure
Koh Lanta Island and Beach, Thailand – image by Tom Grundy
Thailand has an abundance of tropical paradise islands. Favoured by generally sympathetic development and the Thai’s uber hospitality, it’s no wonder that Thailand is a favourite of those who want to kick back and relax.
From party capital Phuket to laidback family retreat Koh Lanta, the Andaman Islands have something for everyone. Phi Phi’s Maya bay draws the crowds but dotted between these paradise powerhouses are plenty of relatively undiscovered little island gems. Tiny Koh Jum is a hop off between Phi Phi and Lanta, with white sand beaches, few tourists and little to do but relax. Koh Yao Yai is an unspoilt haven of tranquility and one of the best places in Thailand to taste the rich Massaman curry of the south. Ferries are easy and frequent, except during the monsoon season.
5: Get the Camera out at Ayutthaya Heritage City
Buddha Head trapped in Bodhi Tree roots at Wat Maha That, Ayutthaya – Anonymous
Once the capital of Siam and one of the largest cities in the region, Ayutthaya was ransacked by a Burmese army and abandoned in 1767. The original city was never rebuilt, and the remaining UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site is now a popular day trip, easily accessible from Bangkok.
Temple and palace ruins line the riverbanks, so a boat tour is a relaxing way to enjoy the ancient Siamese city. The famous Buddha head entwined in tree roots is located at Wat Mahathat, one of the four main temples.
After sightseeing and photographing the atmospheric city, make some time to enjoy Ayutthaya’s culinary scene. The city is particularly famous for its giant river prawns and fresh seafood.
6: Get Fighting Fit at a Muay Thai Camp
Muay Thai training Ring, Thailand – Image By View Apart
Thailand’s national sport, Muay Thai, is becoming an increasingly popular way to fight the flab and kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Muay Thai kickboxing camps for foreign visitors are springing up all over Thailand, from Phuket to Pattaya, offering anything from drop-in taster sessions to fully immersive experiences lasting weeks and featuring catered diet plans to get you in top condition.
Known for its intense, no-nonsense training regimes and strict rituals, ‘the sport of eight limbs’ is a physical challenge that is a huge part of Thai culture.
Reward yourself after training or bouts with a Thai massage to soothe aching muscles. Get inspired by joining the Thai locals to cheer on local fighters at a Muay Thai stadium, such as Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium in Bangkok.
If you are curious about things to do in Thailand why not contact us for more information and a free travel consultation?
7: Scale the Heights of Railay Beach
Long boats and Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand – Image by Preto Perola
Railay Beach in Krabi Province offers an enticing blend of Rasta-inspired relaxation and extreme adventure sports. It’s most famous for rock climbing, with over 700 bolted routes on the spectacular limestone karsts that tower over the white sand beaches. Expert climbers from across the world flock here but it’s also a fantastic place for novice climbers or those who want to try something a little different, perhaps to get outside their comfort zone.
Climbing courses are easy to find here, and the views over the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea are enough to help quell even the shakiest nerves.
Scuba-diving, sea kayaking and deep water bouldering are also popular adventure activities in Railay, as is kicking back in a beach hammock with a chilled bottle of local Chang beer.
8: Enjoy Wine Tasting with a Twist of Thai
Sunset vineyard in Khao Yai thailand – Image by Kidsada Manchinda
Thailand is more famous for inventing Red Bull than for wine production, but in the coastal regions of Hua Hin and the hills of Khao Yai, local vineyards are beginning to produce some interesting wines as the local industry grows. The Khao Yai Wine region is a cool retreat a couple of hours from Bangkok where you can enjoy vineyard tours and tastings with spectacular views of the Koh Yai National Park.
These vineyards have a particularly Thai twist, with elephants often used to assist with the harvest. The wines produced are designed to complement Thai food.
9: Dive, Dive, Dive in Koh Tao
Diving with Whale Shark, Koh Tao, Thailand – Image by Adam Leaders
With clear, warm waters, a plethora of accessible dive sites, cost-effective diving courses and a laidback vibe, Koh Tao is an island that lives and breathes scuba diving. Originally an uninhabited stopover for fishermen, this tiny ‘21km rock’ in the Gulf of Thailand exploded as a scuba diving mecca in the 1990s and the infrastructure followed.
Whale sharks drop in to visit local waters, and bull sharks can be spotted at Chumphon Pinnacle. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to see one of these giants, with the diversity of tropical marine life and colourful corals, it’s hard to have a bad dive.
10: Trek to Meet the Hill Tribes of the North
Sunrise at Yun Lai viewpoint, Pai – Image by YP_Photographer
Trek through the lush mountains of the Thai Highlands to visit one of Thailand’s hill tribes for a taste of traditional culture that sometimes seem untouched by modern life. Head to Chiang Mai, and you’ll find a variety of hill tribe treks on offer. Some of the more accessible treks are also the most popular, even crowded treks, with reports of hikers being hassled to buy local crafts from tribeswomen along the route. As always, a bit of effort goes a long way. For a less well-known and more authentic experience, try heading to Pai, northwest of Chiang Mai, where communities are more remote and receive fewer visitors. For the most authentic experience choose a certified eco-tour with a guide from the hill tribes.
For more information on things to do in Thailand, contact us for a free travel consultation.
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Sam Roberts is a travel writer and web designer, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and an expert on travel in South-east Asia.