Millions of people visit Thailand every year for numerous reasons (some of them illegal but that’s another story) so we thought we’d check out ten of the top activities in this Indochinese kingdom. Thailand is home to 65 million of some of the loveliest people in the world, has a remarkable culture of history, religion, politics, and cuisine, plus sun, sea, and surf, and let’s face it, 27 million visitors a year can’t be wrong!
1. Check Out Some Really Old Stuff
For a glimpse of history, architectural genius, and an awe inspiring experience you can’t beat Ayuthaya. Once the second capital of Siam, Ayuthaya was founded in 1350 and was considered the trading capital of Asia because of its location between India, China, and Malay, and despite being one of the largest cities in the world, it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. Only the temples and palaces remain, but it’s still remarkable and worth the trip to get there.
2. Eat And Sleep On The Cheap
No visit to Thailand would be complete without visiting Bangkok – unless you have a fear of crowds, hustle and bustle, and erratic driving behavior, in which case we suggest number six on our list! While there, pretty much everyone visits Khao San Road, as it’s a great area for food stalls to sample the local cuisine in a lively and vibrant environment – you can also find cheap accommodation there, so if you’re looking for activities on a shoestring, this is the place to go.
3. Visit The Red Light District
Along the same lines, but not nearly as family friendly, is Patpong, which comes alive with a fantastic night market, but the main reason people visit here is for the world famous red light district. You can get a good feel for the place just by walking around, but be warned there are some unsavoury characters around here!
4. Experience Palace Life
On a more cultural level, a visit to The Grand Palace competes with many popular activities yet holds the title of the top tourist spot in Bangkok, and when you see it you’ll see why. Construction started in 1782 when Thailand was still Siam, and numerous kings lived in the hallowed halls until 1946, but now it’s just home to the Emerald Buddha – one of the oldest and most recognised Buddhas around.
5. Shop At A Floating Market
Canals and boats have always been a major form of transport in Thailand, and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi near Bangkok is the best way to experience this lifestyle. Hire boats and head to the canals for some of the best noodles in town, fresh fruit and vegetables, and the obligatory trinkets and souvenirs that dominate many of the stalls here.
6. Relax In Style
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has been, or goes to Phuket and Koh Samui for their summer holidays, but for a truly relaxing activity away from most of the maddening crowds, why not check out Krabi? This province on the Andaman Coast contains archipelagos of islands that have been inhabited for over 20,000 years, and when you get there, you’ll never want to leave. One of the most beautiful islands in the region, Kho Phi Phi Leh, was made famous as the location in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach, so has become a popular destination, but there are plenty of other deserted islands and bays to relax on while you’re there.
7. Dive In Koh Tao
If diving is your thing you can’t go wrong here, as Koh Tao is part of the Suratthani Archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand, and has some of the best reef diving in the world. With marine life ranging from turtles, barracudas, and the occasional shark, there’s a reason why 7,000 divers get their certification here every year.
8. Immerse Yourself In Culture
Buddhism is the most adhered to religion in Thailand at 94%, and temples and shrines to Buddha are as commonplace as Starbucks in some Western countries, but there are some minority religions that have made their mark, and this Hindu shrine complex is a case in point. Constructed with sandstone and laterites in northern Thailand by the Khymer culture circa the 13th century, this remarkable temple sitting on a volcano near Nang Rong is a homage to the Hindu god, Shiva – and a must see for all culture vultures.
9. Life’s A Beach – Enjoy It
Yes, we know we suggested Krabi as our preferred beach destination, but if you’re like the millions of people that head to this popular attraction to enjoy all the activities under the sun, over the sea, on the surf, and by diving through the day, with a wild nightlife during the night, well this is the place for you!
10. Ride An Elephant
If you like elephants, Chiang Mai is the place to go! Seriously, we found at least five elephant parks/clinics/reserves/sanctuaries in the region, all with the mission to combat declining numbers in the country. There are plenty to choose from, but the Patara Elephant Farm is considered the best of the bunch, and there are lots of daily excursions here where you can feed, ride, and learn about these gentle giants.
Whether you like culture, religion, food, history, or just the beach and a book as your preferred activity on your holiday, Thailand is a wonderful place to visit with hundreds of things to do – and it’s cheap too! The people are lovely, but they’ll love you even more if you make an effort with their language. Find a course in a city near you before jetting off to the Land of Smiles!