What to do in Thailand
And now you need to plan your route. It is not as easy as it may look. As soon as you start researching, you find out that there is much more about Thailand than well-known package tourist destinations, from Phuket to Pattaya and from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui. And even in the best explored destinations you are always sure to find off the beaten path corners which will reward all your efforts you spend to find them.
Our recommendations for Thailand if you like…
Inevitably, the sea is the first thing which comes to your mind when you think of Thailand. Apart from the heavyweights like Phuket, Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao Thailand boasts many more tropical paradise spots, often less known, less developed and less crowded.
In the Gulf, Koh Samet has been an easy weekend escape for partying Bangkokias for years; its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters teaming with marine life attracting backpackers on a budget and luxury holiday-makers alike.
Jungle-covered Koh Chang caters for nature lovers and is yet not so overdeveloped. The neighbouring Koh Kood and Koh Mak are both ultimate tropical paradise with little else than bungalows, beautiful beaches and turquoise seas. Koh Wai will definitely appeal to romantic souls.
The Andaman Sea is home to more stunning islands. Koh Phi Phi islands have become backpackers’ mecca after the cult ‘Beach’ movie with Leo had been screened. Too crowded and overdeveloped now, Phi Phi still retains (some of) their savage charm.
Koh Lanta is a perfect holiday retreat for couples and families. With its long and never too peopled beaches, amazing Old Town and mouthwatering fresh seafood it is the place to be.
The Trang and Satun islands are easily the best kept of all the Andaman secrets. Go to Koh Libong to meet endangered dugongs; pamper yourself in world-class spas on Koh Ngai or let the sublime splendour of Koh Kradan win your heart.
Koh Phayam and Koh Chang Noi, up the coast towards Ranong, are both a great destination for those looking for quieter spots.
Ayutthaya, easily reached from Bangkok, is obviously the most popular destination for archaeological buffs. A wonderful mix of ancient ruins integrated into the modern city is Ayutthaya’s winning formula.
Sukhothai can satisfy even the most discerning connoisseurs of ancient temples. It has a lot of them and some more! The best way to explore the area is by bicycle – and do not miss out their famous kuay tiaw sukhothai! If Sukhothai looks too glamorous for you, check its neighbours – Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai instead.
If you are dreaming about handsome Khmer prangs of Angkor, there’s no need to head for Cambodia immediately: Thailand has its own set of Khmer ruins which are not so large-scale but impressive just the same. Number 1 in the list is Phanom Rung historical park in Buriram which has a couple of smaller beautiful satellite temples.
Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima is not as large as Phanom Rung, but it features a lot of beautifully carved lintels and a one-tree-forest is one step away.
Prasat Mueang Sinh in Kanchanaburi enjoys peaceful setting on the banks of the river and you can combine the trip there with the visit to some other attractions in the area like a walkable stretch of the Death Railway.
Ayutthaya which we recommended above for the buffs of the ancient ruins, caters for lovers of Buddhist temples, too. We love contemporary temples with occasional ancient stupas in their courtyards – you really feel how the past and the present co-exist there!
Not many foreign visitors call on to Phetchaburi, and it’s a real pity as it is a treasure box for those who enjoy Buddhist temples. With a couple of Royal monasteries in the city and abundance of other wats which do differ greatly from each other in style and decoration you can easily spend two or three days just visiting the temples there.
One more heavily templed city is Ubon Ratchathani in Isan. Ubon’s temples are just spectacular! The local authorities set up a free tram for tourists to visit the most prominent wats, so you can see them all in a day.
With almost 150 national parks, including marine parks, and 120 forest parks Thailand has everything for those who want to get closer to nature.
The first national park in Thailand and the third largest as far as the size in concerned, Khao Yai National park in Nakhon Ratchasima is an entire jungle planet roamed by wild elephants, Sambar deer, Indian muntjac and many other animals.
The sunning beauty of Khao Sok National park in Surat Thani province with its amazing 165 sq.km Cheow Lan Lake never fails to impress.
The seven-tiered Erawan Waterfalls in the namesake National park attract hordes of tourists and are at their best during the rainy season. For a more authentic experience, plan to stay overnight in the park – there is a camping area and bungalows.
Other national parks worth visiting in the first turn include:
- Kui Buri National park for wild elephants;
- Kaeng Krachan National park for wild life, hiking and misty panoramas;
- Ao Phang Nga National park for dramatic scenery with its 40+ astonishing
- karst islands, water caves and pristine beaches.
Trekking and hill tribes culture
Well, go North! All of the star destinations of the north like Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai provide plenty of opportunities for hiking and trekking in the mountainous regions with visits to hill tribe villages, waterfalls and hot springs featured in many programs.
Head to Pai to experience the slow living attitude and the old-school hippie vibe on the background of mind-blowingly beautiful valley. Move on west to Soppong, number 1 destination for off the beaten path caving in Thailand and finally reach Mae Hong Song, an increasingly popular but still underrated destination offering a lot of routes for trekking, as well as mud spa, hot springs and more.
Mae Salong with its spectacular tea plantations calls for tea amateurs and enthusiastic walkers alike while Mae Sariang has probably the least visited hill tribe villages in the region.
Our personal favourite though is Phu Kradueng in Loei with an abundance of challenging paths for hiking and amazing sun dawns from up the mesa.