Best Of Thailand
The Ultimate Thailand Activity Guide
Video Credit: Never Go To
Looking at countless blog posts and reviews, it can be a little overwhelming trying to plan your holiday to Thailand – so we did the work for you! Sourcing suggestions from some authoritative bloggers and travel journalists, we have curated a travel guide that spans every corner of the country! From hidden islands to unique festivals, from exotic foods to community projects. This comprehensive guide will highlight some of the BEST of Thailand and give you a taste of what awaits – all in one place!
There are so many things to do in Thailand, sometimes it’s just a matter of looking to see what’s available, and matching those to your interests (and maybe even some things outside of your comfort zone).
You probably can’t do it all in one trip to Thailand – but you can do all the things that suit you best! Bookmark this guide for later if you wish to use it as a resource for planning your next epic Thailand adventure!
If you know of something missing from this list that you think deserves some recognition, let us know in the comments below!
Already have your tickets booked to Thailand? Make sure you are travelling with Travel Insurance!
Best of Thailand’s Destinations
Bangkok can be a stark contrast to those imagining Thailand’s beautiful beaches or sleepy mountain town, but it is an epicentre of activity and a melting pot for all the rich different cultures that coexist in Thailand. At first glance you may only see the tall sky-scrapers, massive shopping malls, and busy streets which seem to have traffic 24/7, though it doesn’t take much to get away from that and find winding canals, massive green parks and even villages within the city which appear to have remained relatively unchanged for decades (if not centuries).
You will find a haunted temple honouring the ghost of Mae Nak, massive green areas such as Bang Krachao with floating markets and houses on stilts, massive food markets, a fertility shrine said to help women bear children, night bazars, abandoned train and airplane graveyards, peaceful parks and much more!
Don’t get trapped in the Khao San Road crowd and say “I did Bangkok”. There is SO MUCH to explore in Bangkok – sometimes it just takes thinking outside the box.
Where to stay: Hotels in Bangkok
Read our blog for more ideas on cool and ‘different’ things to do around Bangkok.
Located in the north of Thailand, the ancient city of Chiang Mai is home to many fantastic activities. A peaceful city, coined the ‘City of Temples’ due to its abundance of ancient Buddhist monuments, Chiang Mai is also home to trekking, camping, whitewater rafting and zip-lining. While you could easily get lost in the ancient city’s winding streets filled with cafes and restaurants, a great activity is to hike up the Monk’s Trail in Doi Suthep. Within minutes you can find yourself amidst waterfalls and greenery before arriving at the magnificent Wat Phra That temple!
Check out Adventure In You’s article things to do in Chiang Mai for more ideas!
Koh Tao is a mid-size island. It has an area of 21 km². It is famous for being a scuba-divers’ paradise. Lots of young people come here to enjoy the spectacular underwater life that the island has to offer. Visitors can not only enjoy diving and snorkelling on the island, but also rock-climbing, bouldering and hiking. Granite boulders in the forests and on the beaches attract many climbers to the island.
The island is covered with vegetation and visitors can climb to the top in about an hour and see all the beaches below them. Additionally, it is an important breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles. Chumpon Pinnacle to the west of the island is a famous dive site to spot whale sharks and bull sharks. Koh Tao is also a host to over 130 hard coral and 223 reef fish species. This makes Koh Tao not only fun, but spectacularly beautiful!
Want more like this? Check out Jet-Settera’s ideas for Things to do in Thailand
Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s feature destinations. Three centuries ago it was the capitol of Siam and the largest city in the entire world, until the Burmese decimated it in 1767. Now Ayutthaya is a UNESO World Heritage Site that is filled with dozens of Thailand’s most acclaimed ruins that date back to the 13th through 18th centuries. Despite flooding, earthquakes, and looting, the ruins of Ayutthaya are magnificent to behold. Several temples have been restored while others still look fascinating in their ruin.
Ayutthaya is conveniently located about 80 kilometres from Bangkok. To get there it will take roughly an hour by car, an hour and a half by train, or two hours by bus. You can get around via tuk-tuk, taxi, bicycle, or foot – though there can be several kilometres between attractions. The best time to visit Ayutthaya is between November to January when temperatures are a little lower and humidity will be less intense.
Have a look at Traveling Thru History for more information on Ayutthaya temples
Koh Hong makes the list in the best of Thailand because it’s both accessible yet feels super-private! Just an hour long-tail boat away from Ao Nang Pier near Krabi is this gorgeous island that few know about! Koh Hong has beautiful crystal clear turquoise water so calm that you can see fish swim alongside you, even without a snorkel! If you take a private boat, you may spend the entire day relaxing and enjoying Hong Island. Some group tours stop there in the late afternoon, but otherwise you can have this gorgeous island practically all to yourself for the whole morning!
The best time to visit is in January-March, when the seas aren’t quite as choppy and the weather is more predictable. Even going off season, the seas may be a bit rougher, though you will still get lots of sunshine and beautiful days. Remember to pack a lunch and bring everything you need for the day (especially water and sunscreen) as there are no shops or restaurants on this tiny island!
For more travel tips and ideas like this, check out Eternal Arrival
Ratchaburi has many attractions such as the ‘Ratchaburi National Museum’ where a good selection of artifacts with details about the history of the city are on display, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Chakri Monument Park and Wat Khanon where amazing leather puppet show by school children welcomes many visitors every day.
Ratchaburi is also the hub for ceramic wares such as jars, plant pots etc. Despite the world’s migration to plastic, many Thai people are trying to revive this element Thai culture. Locals of all ages have started paying attention to nature and environment. In turn, the earthen water jar has become one of the favoured. For some, keeping indoor plants is important while for others, the drought situation in the country has resulted in more demand for ceramics pots to store water.
The earthen process is inherited from generation to generation. There are only 4-5 major water jar manufacturers in Ratchaburi province. The trademark dragon still figures on the jar.
For this experience of the real Thailand, Ratchaburi should be included in your itinerary. Avoid rainy season, rest is all good for a visit there.
Visit Lemonicks for more information on Ratchaburi’s dragon earthen jars
Koh Phra Thong
Koh Phra Thong might be Thailand’s best kept secret, but I like it this way. This island in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand is special for more than one reason. Tourism is still undeveloped and getting here is quite the adventure, but it’s absolutely worth the effort: magical sunsets, friendly locals, and cheap massages on the beach are what awaits the adventurer. The interior of the island is similar to the African savannah and is worth to go explore it.
Theoretically, the high season starts in November, but here’s a little secret: if you go in October, the weather will be ok most of the time and there will be virtually no other tourists but you! Explore endless kilometres of deserted beaches just for you.
Getting there: Phuket – Khao Sok (then taxi to the Pier)
Want more like this? Check out Every Steph’s list of Top Ecotourism Destinations
The Death Railway found in Kanchanaburi is considered one of the Top 10 most dangerous railways in the world. During World War 2, the Japanese had invaded South East Asia and the Imperial Japanese Army had wanted to use the Death Railway to cut through Burma from Thailand to invade India. The Railway started construction in September 1942 and was completed in October 1943, in a short span of 13 months, with horrific working conditions, maltreatment, sickness, and starvation. The figures of forced labours are estimated at 330,000 with more than one-third died building the railway.
Though much of it was dismantled or abandoned following the war, the railway remains an important historical monument. Visit the railway in Kanchaburi, along with memorial sites and museums to understand some of the impact of the World War 2 in Thailand. If you want to be get the full experience, take the train to Kanchanaburi.
Read Bernard the Traveller’s experience with the Death Railway
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi (just off the coast of Phuket and reachable by an easy mini bus/ferry combo) is an all time my favourite spot for travellers heading to Thailand!This area was made famous as the filming location for “The Beach” but Maya Bay isn’t the only highlight, many come here for the scuba diving and island vibes!
Whether you’re looking to learn to scuba dive in Thailand or make the most of some amazing tropical dive sites Phi Phi offers up a whole host of locations – including amazing reefs, wall dives and even a choice of 2 shipwrecks, both of which are highly recommended!
For those who don’t love to dive or are just looking for some days of chillaxing ,Koh Phi Phi is surrounded by amazing coves and lagoons. A $15 USD island hopping day trip is a sound investment which will leave your camera filled with postcard-perfect shots! Plus there are those incredible views from the islands lookout point that are well worth the hike!
For the best weather head here between November to March, although the shoulder season will save you some money and help avoid the crowds!
Follow Backpacker Banter more tips on Thailand and chillaxing.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like when a gang of monkeys takes over part of a town (think “Planet of the Apes”, only cuter), Lopburi is a place you should visit! The city is home to thousands of crab-eating macaques! The area around Prang Sam Yot (also known as the Monkey Temple) is their turf, and if you’re carrying food or anything resembling food, you’ll be a target. Hotels in the area even have metal cages to keep the monkeys from climbing in the windows and stealing things from tourists. Lopburi is also famous for its Khmer ruins, which are scattered around the town.
Lopburi’s one of the most fun towns in Thailand to walk around — there’s always something around the next corner and monkeys are always entertaining!. A lot of people visit Lopburi on a day trip from Bangkok (between November and April) but it’s best to spend a couple of days there if you have the time. There’s even a festival in late November where a giant buffet is set up for the monkeys, and thousands of them converge on the Khmer ruins to feast!
Check out Jon Is Travelling for more details on the unusual monkey town of Lopburi.
Located off the eastern coast of Thailand, close to the Cambodian border, Koh Kood is an idyllic island paradise with stretches of powder white sand, crystal clear waters and picturesque palm trees. Undoubtedly one of the best islands in Thailand, Koh Kood is still surprisingly quiet. You won’t find it hard to grab a tranquil spot in this awesome island.
While Koh Kood offers a chance to explore waterfalls, river mangroves and fishing villages, the best part about visiting Koh Kood is the chance to enjoy not just one but several pristine beaches on its western coast.
A favourite beach on Koh Kood is Bang Bao Bay, a crescent shaped bay with several wooden piers. Another great beach to explore on Koh Kood is Ao Noi, a lovely little beach in an isolated spot. If you’re lucky, you may even have these beaches all to yourselves. A private beach experience in Thailand? In Koh Kood, it’s possible.
The best time to visit Koh Kood is from the beginning of November to the end of April.
Hop over to Mismatched Passports for more info on Koh Kood.
The city of Khon Kaen has one of the best temples in Thailand. The temple of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakorn is built with nine tiers, all covered in so much gold that it’s almost painful to look at as it dazzles in the sun. Hundreds of tiny bells hang under each of the nine roofs and tinkle in the breeze. Inside it’s a hotchpotch of styles and a riot of colours. As you climb in ever-decreasing circles your eyes are assaulted by opulent deep reds on the wooden shutters and the richly painted story panels which cover almost every surface and ceiling.
From the balconies on each floor you get tantalizing glimpses of the large green/blue Bueng Kaen Nakhon Lake below – until you reach the top and you have the whole spectacular lake and what seems like much of Issan province stretched out below you.
For some personal stories, check out Scarlet Jones Travels experiences in Isaan Province.
Koh Lanta, a little piece of paradise, differs a lot from the ‘usual’ touristy Thai islands. It’s not that easy to get there, which is why the island has been able to keep its laid-back attitude and resist crowds of tourists. So make sure to visit before they’re done building a bridge connecting the island to the mainland.
Renting a scooter is a must while on Koh Lanta, as the island is quite long and relatively flat and narrow. On a scooter you’ll be able to go as far as to the mostly uninhabited South where, even to this day, sea gypsies live and where a beautiful National Park can be hiked through.
In addition to its exceptional beaches, you can also find delicious street food on Lanta. All possible accommodation options can be expected, plus there’s an awesome co-working space. Very digital nomad friendly!
The island is pleasant all year round, with low season from May to October.
Take a look at Travel Geekery’s ideas of things to do in Koh Lanta.
The 13th century, when Sukhotai was the capital of the Siam Kingdom, was one of the most prosperous eras of Thailand. The Sukhotai Historial Park, where the ruins of this ancient city are found, is an UNESCO World Heritage site located at a 6 hour bus ride from Bangkok, or a 5 hour journey from Chiang Mai.
The best way to explore the ruins is by bicycle, and you can spend a whole day exploring this huge historical site (it covers around 70 km2). The Central Zone is the best conserved, where ruins are found in a picturesque environment between lakes, bridges and small islands. Wat Mahathat is the most impressive temple with several huge Buddha figures. Visitors love biking around the more peripheral sites, which feel like seemingly untouched ruins, transporting you back to that golden era.
You can visit Sukhotai whenever you travel to Thailand, although the best time to do that is between November and February, when the temperatures are cooler, or between June and August, while there are short daily rain showers, making the region green and lush!
Read Surf the Planet’s comprehensive guide before you travel to Thailand
Koh Yao Noi
Chances are you haven’t heard of Koh Yao Noi, though it definitely deserves to be included in the Best of Thailand destinations! The little gem lies in the Andaman Sea and laid back is the word which describes it best.
The island is predominately Muslim which means you won’t find bucket drinks and fire dancers here but instead almost unspoiled serenity. That means golden beaches, rubber tree plantations, and local fishermen as well as roadside food stalls, one lone 7-Eleven, a yoga retreat and a fancy Six Senses Resort.
In case doing nothing in paradise gets too boring you can always hop on a long-tail boat and explore the surrounding karsts and turquoise waters of the Ao Phang-Nga National Park. Far away from the “pancake trail”, you can still enjoy said pancakes and revel in the feeling that though the bustle of Phuket is fairly close by you are still worlds away.
Explore Midnight Blue Elephant for more info about Koh Yao Noi!
Nestled in majestic mountains of Northern Thailand and just 135 km from Chiang Mai, Pai is what you might consider a nature lover’s oasis. Admittedly it can be a bit touristy, especially in high season, but if you leave the touristy town and venture out you will naturally fall in love with Pai. The catch phrase for Pai is “Pai is falling in love” for gosh sakes. A day trip to Pai will become a week and before you know it, you will be forced to leave because your Thai visa is expiring (otherwise you would never leave)! The landscape is breathtaking, the hippy vibes are intoxicating (sometimes literally), and the amount of awesome things to do in Pai’s surroundings are exciting and endless.
Hike over 4 hours through a lush jungle to see a hidden waterfall, enjoy a gorgeous sunset over Pai’s rice fields, rent a scooter and ride around Pai’s beautiful and mesmerizing countryside, take a stroll at night and gaze at the lucid stars or swim in a natural hot spring. If it’s nature you seek and a escape from the bustling Thai cities and touristy Thai Islands, Pai will not disappoint. Guaranteed.
Tip: If you want to avoid the crowds and burning season we recommend heading to Pai between August – Early Oct. It will be a bit rainy, but what’s better than clouds rolling over the mountains? Also try to avoid weekends or Thai holidays as it get very crowded with both Thai tourist and foreigners.
Visit the Road Affair for more awesome things to do in Pai.
If you are done with over-developed islands then Ko Phayam is for you. Ko Phayam is an island in the Andaman Sea, near Ranong. The island has no cars (only motorbikes), there are no ATM’s, and power is not 24 hours in some places. There is just enough tourism infrastructure to make this a relaxing place to unplug while still enjoying modern comforts. There is hippy and alternative scene here with some great organic cafes, so it is like Pai on an island.
Rainy season is around May to December with April being the hottest month, and otherwise it’s sun and smooth seas the rest of the year, so plan your visit according to your preference. To get here there are small ferries from Ranong.
Now that your interest is piqued, check out Nomadic Notes Ko Phayam Guide!
The White Temple is the thing that draws most people to Chiang Rai, but the city itself is something special. To describe the white plaster temple emblazoned with gaudy mirrored tiles and decorated with temporal cultural references (like Predator from Alien vs. Predator) as “unique” would be an understatement. It is absolutely weird, and the perfect illustration of how pop culture is infiltrating old culture in Thailand.
After you’ve explored the White Temple (and perhaps the lesser known Black House), you’ll find the reasonably sized city offers a small town welcome. It is just far enough out of the way that it has stayed quiet, while still having incredible restaurants, fun dive bars, and one of Thailand’s best night markets. Rather than shopping the usual craft stalls, here you can order live crickets, dine on local specialties, or join in with the locals in a quite amusing dance circle in front of the stages set up with live music.
Surrounding the city of Chiang Rai, you will find endless mountains and rice terraces, some spotted with eco-lodges, making this beautiful countryside one of the best in Thailand!
Follow Travel Outlandish for more adventures in Northern Thailand.
If you find yourself in Thailand looking for the perfect island with ridiculously beautiful coloured water, head to Koh Lipe. Most tourists head to well known islands of Phuket or Koh Phi Phi but don’t realize there are a ton of islands in Thailand. One such favourite is Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea, Thailand’s southern most island. This little gem has no airport and takes at least a half day to get to. Due to this fact, it turns off many tourists with limited time, which is great actually.
Koh Lipe is nicknamed “The Maldives of Thailand” – this is a tough name to live up to BUT it does (and this is coming from people who have spent months living in the Maldives). No other island in Thailand has this colour water or white sandy beaches. You can rent a private long tail boat for the day to make your own Thailand island hopping day trip for only 1,500 baht. Make sure to head to Sunset beach for an epic sunset, washed down with 100 baht mojitos. It’s not only a favourite place in Thailand for those who visit, but some claim it to be their favourite island in the world!
The best time to visit is December-April, as the ferry from other Thai islands only operates during high season. If you’re arriving during low season the only way to get to Koh Lipe is from Pak Bara.
Getting Stamped has everything you’ll need in their Koh Lipe Guide.
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the south of Thailand. It is covered by huge limestone mountains, evergreen rainforest, deep valleys and breathtaking lakes. Situated on the mainland between Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak and Koh Samui, this is where you can feel nature at its best. In the heart of the park is the beautiful Cheow Larn Lake with its floating raft houses and luxury tents. To get there, you need to ride a long-tail boat to get to the heart of the lake where you can explore caves, go on a night safari and just enjoy the beauty of nature.
This place is perfect anytime of the year, whether you prefer the sunny reflection of the lake or the mist of the rain and smell of the rain forest.
Read about Travel Moments similar discoveries in the region such as Moh Koh Angthong National Park.
A quick 10 minute boat ride (100 baht) away from Koh Lipe is the island Koh Adang. Most people head over to Koh Adang for only a hour as it has some great snorkelling spots but that’s a mistake… there is so much to do & see on Koh Adang. You can easily spend 2 entire days hiking in the jungle. There is an amazing viewpoint hike that takes less than an hour to get to and has a epic view of Koh Lipe. Very few tourists are willing to work up the sweat so you’ll almost have the entire trail to yourselves. There are several waterfalls to chase. Hiking to Pirate’s Waterfall and you might not see any other tourists during the entire 3 hour trek.
As an added bonus you can even stay on the island. The National Park service has medium priced chalets, 200 baht beach camping tents with bedding, or 30 baht to pitch your own tent.
The best time to visit is December-April, as the ferry from other Thai islands only operates during high season. If you’re arriving during low season the only way to get to Koh Lipe is from Pak Bara.
Find out more about Koh Adang with Getting Stamped.
Sakon Nakhon city is striking! Its houses may remind you of the northern Lanna style found around Chiang Mai. Sakon Nakhon city has its own Hong Han lake and an evening stroll along it in the city’s park is seriously beautiful! You may also visit Wat Phra That Choeng Chum Worawihan temple and quietly observe monks teaching children the ways of Buddhism.
Nearby, Phu Phan national park contains many waterfalls, the ruins of an old Khmer temple and the rest is mountainous terrain covered with jungle. The Free Thai resistance movement during World War II used to store weapons and other supplies inside a cave here. You can visit this cave and a nice viewpoint inside the Phu Phan national park. The Nam Phung dam and lake next to the Phu Phan national park are perfect for a photo-stop and to relax and soak in the atmosphere.
The best time to visit the off the beaten path Sakon Nakhon province is immediately after the end of the rainy season in early November, when the weather is cool and the waterfalls are still impressive.
Visit Don’t worry Just travel for more special stories about Thailand.
Koh Chang – East (near Cambodia)
If you tell someone experienced in Thailand travel that you’re going to Koh Chang, invariably the response will be “That’s one of the best islands in Thailand”. Upon arriving, you’ll likely agree!Most people think of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phan Ngan, Phuket or perhaps Ko Tao when they think of Thailand. Many of these islands have scenes in Hollywood blockbusters, and Koh Phan Ngan is famous (or infamous) for its Full Moon Party. The lure of those islands is part of what makes Ko Chang so great. Located on the eastern leg of Thailand, Koh Chang is far less touristy, despite only taking a few hours to reach by bus and ferry.
White Sand Beach at the top has resorts and… white sand beaches! Lonely Beach is anything but lonely with its beach parties and clubs. A favourite for those looking for an escape is Bang Bao on the Island’s southern end. It’s an old fishing village built on a pier. Now it’s converted into guesthouses, restaurants and shops, but with the old village motif. Bang Bao is also where all the island’s scuba and snorkelling trips leave from.
You can explore the jungles, mountains and waterfalls on the island, or just relax on the beach. The best weather is between November-February when it’s not too hot or rainy.
Read more at info on Koh Chang East with Skye Travels.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai national park makes every visitor happy. You can explore it casually by car or hike or bike your way through it.Highlights in the park include the Haew Suwat waterfall, the incredible sights from the viewpoints all over the park and some interesting animal residents. You may find wild cow species, deer, black bears and elephants, though most are very shy and hence prefers to hide in the forests – its best to not engage them, and let them enjoy their home undisturbed from a distance.
You will need your own transport. If you arrive without transport, get organized in nearby Pak Chong first. You will love adjacent Wang Nam Khiao, if you are the casual type of tourist, exploring the area by car or motorbike, stopping wherever something strikes your eye. You will be able to experience how locals like to spend their holidays. Explore vegetable farms, vineyards, fruit plantations, mushroom farms, temples, the Lam Phra Phloeng reservoir lake and the Flora Park with its hanging pumpkins all in Thai style!
The best time to visit the Khao Yai National Park and surrounding area is from November to May.
Follow Don’t Worry Just Travel to read a story on the neighbouring Wang Nam Khiao.
Whilst Koh Samui has all the usual tourist things you’d expect from Thailand, many visitors still love the great laid back, hippy-like vibe Koh Samui has going on. By day you will find travellers hanging out at the beach, soaking up the sun, and cooling off in the warm sea’s water. Once the sunsets, it’s easy to find a laid back restaurant on the beach, have a few drinks and listen to some cool tunes.
When visiting Koh Samui, you can hire a local long-tail boat and go to a deserted beach like Koh Taen or take a day trip to Angthong Marine Park for diving, snorkelling or kayaking.
South Chaweng or the quieter Lamai are great places to stay on Koh Samui. You will find all sorts of accommodation here from budget hostels, private villas, and 5 star resorts.
Visit Koh Samui during February through to April when the weather is hot, it rains very little, and there are less tourists.
Explore Thrifty Family Travels for more ideas on where to go in Thailand.
Arguably the best thing to do in Thailand is sadly one that most tourists don’t make time for during their visit. Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in the entire country. Because of the serious altitude (more than 2500 meters), the park has some of the best views found while hiking in Thailand. Most people don’t know that Doi Inthanon is actually part of the Himalayan fault.
At the top of the mountain, you can find two stupas dedicated to the late king and queen. As you make your way back down you’ll encounter an entire series of waterfalls. Some of the falls are small, others are large enough to climb and swim in the pools at the base.
The elevation means the top of the mountain is quite cold and humid year-round. However, you’re able to camp at the base of the mountain year-round where temperatures are better.
One of the best things about camping at Doi Inthanon is you don’t have to bring anything with you. Everything you need can be rented and the tents are already assembled- saving you the hassle. Definitely don’t leave Thailand without visiting Doi Inthanon National Park.
Check out more Foodie Flashpacker adventures on Doi Inthenon National Park
If you are visiting Koh Chang, you might think life could not get much better. However, if you want a real adventure then make your way to Koh Wai – just a 20 minutes boat ride away – and you will realize that paradise on earth does actually exist!
This tiny island is the furthest thing from a major tourist destination. It lacks all the infrastructure that has made many islands of Thailand favourites of travellers. There are no fancy restaurants, and only a couple of local (and REALLY good) places to eat; no luxury resorts, but a bunch of huts on the beach; no roads and as such no cars, no scooters, no noise and no traffic. There are no rooftop bars to admire the view at sunset, but there are two spectacular beaches where the few people that stay there enjoy the sun and take advantage of the clear waters to swim, snorkel and kayak. That is the ultimate idea of heaven!
Explore My Adventures Across the World for more info around Koh Wai.
Mae Hong Son
They say “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” – well Mae Hong Son offers both! Twisting roads, mountain views, spectacular caves, beautiful villages and ethnic cultural experiences – these are just some of the things that make the Mae Hong Son Loop one of the best things to do in Thailand. This motorbike route can be done in 4 days, but the longer you have the better. Rent a bike from Chiang Mai and head towards Mae Sariang, stopping off to see Thailand’s biggest mountain Doi Inthanon along the way. The roads are empty and newly paved, winding through gorgeous forests towards the traditional city of Mae Hong Son. This gorgeous mountainous town holds many of the old traditions but gets enough of a stream of tourism to make hotels and great restaurants readily accessible. It would be easy to stop here for a few days to explore!
Leaving Mae Hong Son, the mountains grow in height, as do the chance to visit ethnic minorities on the way towards the hippy-haven Pai. Spend a few days longer than you anticipated there, before returning to Chiang Mai.
The best time of year to do this motorcycle journey is from December to February when the weather is cooler and drier.
Want more details on doing this yourself? Check out NOMADasauarus’ Mae Hong Song Loop Guide.
Many people associate Koh Phangan with the monthly, drunken, all-night, Full Moon Beach Party… and they’re not wrong to. It’s been world-known for decades. However, what would be wrong is to avoid Koh Phangan entirely thinking that’s all there is on offer. This beautiful Thai island is one of the best destinations for a serene commune with nature. You just have to be sure to visit outside of the days around the full moon. Once the partiers have left, the island becomes quiet and peaceful and is a perfect time to see Koh Phangan’s more idyllic side.
Here you can hike into the mountains and see the monkeys and birds in their natural habitat. You can visit gorgeous jungle waterfalls and private beaches. You can practice yoga or play volleyball on the beach, you can stroll the local markets or dine at the many vegetarian restaurants and you can relax at a rejuvenating retreat like the Sanctuary Spa & Yoga Resort.
Don’t let the tales of debauchery keep you away if that’s not your scene, just plan your time according to the phases of the moon and you will see Koh Phangan in a whole different light *pun intended*.
Check out Live, Dream Discover for more tips on a peaceful visit to Koh Phangan.
Best of Thailand’s Food
Som Tam – Spicy Papaya Salad
One does not simply travel to Thailand without trying Som Tam! Green papaya salad aka Som Tam is originally from Laos, yet it’s become one of the top three most popular and scrumptious delicacies in Thailand. It’s prepared from shredded unripe papaya, green beans lime, crab, hog plum or tomatoes, peanuts, traditional Thai seasoning called pla-ra and it’s sweetened with palm sugar.
You’ll find a cart with a vendor selling Som Tam basically anywhere in the country as it’s a favourite dish of locals, too. Normally they eat Som Tam with sticky rice, fried chicken or other grilled meat.
Green papaya salad is quite a spicy and sour dish. If you’re not a big fan of hot food, don’t despair. You can get a milder variation of Som Tam from most vendors by asking to leave chilli out. Just say “Mai Pet” (not spicy) – this works for all dishes in Thailand (though your idea of spicy may be different than theirs).
Discover Nomad is Beautiful’s list of other tropical Thailand fruits.
Ratchawat – off the beaten path market
Bangkok is full of exciting fresh markets to try, but today’s recommendation isn’t for the biggest or most central market. Instead, we’re sending you off the beaten path to explore Bangkok’s Ratchawat Market, near the old city. Although it’s a bit harder to find, the market will reward you tremendously, as the people are incredibly friendly and it’s so overrun with food that the street food vendors are exploding out onto the sidewalk in front of the market too.
While you’re there look for bananas being grilled on the sidewalk, an incredible display of fried pork near the entrance, and don’t miss the authentic and tasty food found in the restaurants on the opposite side of the street. You’ll be hard-pressed to spot many tourists here, so take advantage and don’t forget your camera and your appetite!
For more foodie recommendations, check out BKK Fatty’s Bangkok Restaurant Guides
Pad Thai. By far the most infamous and most popular staple dish in Thailand, right? With every local whipping up this yummy national cuisine though, there’s going to be a lot of variation. Some of it utter rubbish. Other times, a forkful of pure taste-blasting pleasure. ‘Where is the holy grail of Pad Thai?!’ you cry. We might just have found it!
Admittedly, many people have found it but there’s a good reason for that. Thip Samai Pad Thai restaurant in Bangkok has been serving up its ‘special’ Pad Thai for the last 50 odd years. It is renowned for just how lip-smacking good it is. For the perfect balance of sweet, sour and salty, make sure to order it for a classic Pad Thai wrapped in a yummy thin case of an egg. Customers are queuing out the door every night. Rightly so.
Check out Teacake Travels for more of Bangkok’s great secrets
Bang Rak Food Tour
Many travellers to Bangkok focus on all of the great food there is to eat. In order to get a behind-the-scenes look at what to eat, in a less touristed area, check out Taste of Thailand’s Bang Rak food tour. In a four-hour, gut-busting tour, Taste of Thailand offers a more personalized look at a food tour, focusing on the history of the neighbourhood, and the people that live there. It’s the best food tour in Bangkok!
Take a look at With Husband in Tow’s experience on the Bang Rak food tour
Massaman – Peanut Curry
For any curry lover visiting Thailand, massaman curry is a must. This creamy, peanut-flavoured dish is rich in flavour and spicy without being too overpowering. As with many curries in the country, you have the choice of adding any number of different meats or even tofu to the sauce. Each one is made slightly differently depending on which restaurant you visit, though massaman curry always contains potato – a staple for anyone in search of a filling meal.
This relatively mild curry may not have originated in Thailand, but has adapted the dish from India, it is now one of the most popular curries in the country and is a must-try for anyone visiting!
First time in Bangkok? Find more newbie Bangkok food tips with Travelling Book Junkie
Yarrowat Market – Chinatown
Without a doubt, Bangkok’s Chinatown on Yarrowat Road is the best place to visit if you love street food. Every Friday and Saturday night the streets are lined with vendors selling everything from grilled squid on a stick to crispy duck and more. Look beyond the street vendors and you’ll find an assortment of hole-in-the-wall restaurants cooking up BBQ pork and my personal favourite – steamed buns and dumpling soup. We personally prefer to have a roaming dinner rather than choosing one place to eat at. Just make your way down the street eating whatever takes your fancy as you go… and trust us, it’s all good!
For the Vegetarians out there, head to Bangkok around October to catch the During Tesagan Gin Je Festival or Vegetarian Festival (more on this below). Many of the streets stalls will be serving up variations of tofu delights, delicious mushroom dishes and more. Keep an eye out for the yellow and red flags on the carts and eat to your heart’s content. This event is recommended for non-vegetarians too – the food is just that good!
Follow along with Food, Fun, Travel for more things to do in Bangkok.
Khao Soi – Curry Noodles
Thailand is known for its food. The best Thai dish is a topic people can argue endlessly about. One that nearly everyone can agree is a contender for the top place is khao soi- the regional dish of Chiang Mai. This soup has a coconut milk and curry base. The most common recipe includes chicken although there are variations with pork, beef, tofu and even curdled blood. One of the things that makes this dish so great is that it has two types of noodles- egg noodles in the slightly spicy broth and crunchy fried noodles on top.
As a side, you’ll also be served pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, and ground chillies which have been fried in oil, almost like a spicy chilli paste. You’re able to add as much or as little of these sides to make your soup just as you like it.
Although this dish is considered the regional dish of northern Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, variations are also served in Laos and Myanmar.
This is one of the definite “must-have dishes” during your time in Thailand!
Best of Thailand’s Community Projects
Courageous Kitchen Thai Cooking Class
We all love to eat Thai food, but how many of your favourite dishes can you make? On your next trip to Bangkok, make it a point to not only feast on, but learn to make your favourite Thai dishes like pad thai! Participating in a cooking class is a great way to do just that, and they usually begin in a local market where you’re exposed to a variety of fresh ingredients. The hustle and bustle of Thai life are visible in the market, along with the tall stalks of fragrant lemongrass, dangerously colourful chillies, freshly ground curry pastes, and much more. vThe cooking teachers will purchase some of the ingredients and take them back where you’ll learn the techniques, some of which are the same as those your favourite street food chefs use, for cooking Thai food like a pro!
The Courageous Kitchen class has the added aspect of being run by a local charity improving the education, nutrition, and confidence of children at risk in Bangkok. Here’s a unique way to do good and eat great!
For more information, please visit Courageous Kitchen
Volunteering with children in Thailand
Many NGOs in Thailand work with disadvantaged children. One such organization, Warm Heart Worldwide, is based in a remote part of Chiang Mai province. There, they work to provide Hill Tribe children and the surrounding communities with better access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and sustainable farming practices. It isn’t easy work and involves being self-starting and proactive. Being accepted as a volunteer at Warm Heart means you have useful skills to share, have provided a background check, and can stay long enough to make a meaningful contribution. Warm Heart also works closely with other organizations, such as Always Always Reading Caravan and Philanthropy Connections.
Before volunteering with children in Thailand, it’s important to educate yourself. An ethical NGO should never exist to satisfy our needs as travellers. The best interests of the local children and their community must be of primary importance. Contact a number of projects directly – or reputable organizations that can assist you in the process, such as Omprakash and People and Places. Ask questions and determine if you’re a good fit.
What systems does an NGO have in place to protect the children and aid their long-term development? What contribution can you make that will also have a long-term positive impact on these children? This doesn’t necessarily mean all short-term visits are bad, but make sure you understand the effect your presence will have.
For more thoughts on Volunteering in Thailand, follow Dr. Ben Salt on Twitter @_bensalt.
Also, have a look through The Code to see potential risks associated with volunteering with children.
Koh Lanta Animal Welfare
If you are looking for a responsible kind of experience in Thailand, definitely check out a non-profit Lanta Animal Welfare based in Koh Lanta. The sanctuary takes care of stray dogs and cats that were abandoned by hotel owners after tourists left or when work on building hotels finished (dogs that used to be night guards). There are professional vets volunteering at LAW who sterilize the animals from Koh Lanta and other islands.
How can you help? You can volunteer there for a longer period of time and help with feeding, cleaning and cuddling the animals, or you learn about their work on a free educational tour and walk a dog who will be happy to have some company for an hour or two.
You can also support LAW financially, as they run the sanctuary only thanks to international donators, or adopt a cutie you’ve fell in love with during your visit there!
Visit Nomad Is Beautiful for more information on the Lanta Animal Welfare project.
No longer the “Elephant in the room”, there has been a huge awakening to the realities of animal tourism in recent years. Spending time with elephants and being in Thailand go hand-in-hand, or hand-in-trunk. However, most elephant attractions in the country cause more harm than good. When selecting an elephant experience, it is important to find a place that is truly a sanctuary.
What does this mean:
– no bull-hooks or other instruments/force used to control the elephants. The ethical spots use positive reinforcement via food rewards only.
– no chains (unless it is for safety reasons for the elephant, such as undergoing medical treatment).
– no riding (even bare-back), no shows, no paintings. Legit sanctuaries provide comfortable lives for the animals where they can simply BE animals.
– ample access to food, water, mud – happy elephant stuff!
– no engagement with people — observation only. This one is tough as most people want to touch and get close to the elephants, and therefore most sanctuaries still offer this in order to bring in people. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find an enclosed place that does not place humans in nearly direct contact with animals, except perhaps some of the national parks. Voice your opinion and encourage the outfits to offer observation only and set an example for others.
– no captive breeding. There is no need for it, as there are already too many elephants with lost instincts or habitat unable to live in the wild (and still many more who would be better off to move in, breeding takes space from another adult elephant to be rescued).
Elephants are the National Animal of Thailand, and with good reason, they are incredible! Just make sure your visit is creating a positive impact for them as a result.
For more on responsible elephant tourism tips, check out D Travels Round’s in-depth educational piece about the realities of elephant tourism.
Want to see this for yourself? Join WSE Travel as we take you to Chiang Mai for this unique and responsible elephant experience: Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park Experience
Best of Thailand’s Activities
Surfing in Thailand
Thailand is not known for surfing. That’s because Thailand only has a limited number of surf spots and they are definitely of lesser quality than those in other nearby countries like Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. However, if like me, you prefer surfing uncrowded small-medium waves over surfing big, popular, crowded waves, then Thailand is a great spot.
April – November is the best time to surf in Thailand. The conditions along Thailand’s West Coast are fairly inconsistent because they’re dictated largely by storms in the Indian Ocean, but there are several spots around Phuket, Koh Pahaym, and elsewhere, that produce beautifully shaped barrels on the right days.
There is surfing at one beach in the east of the country – Mae Rampheung, which is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Conditions here are extremely dependent on weather in the Gulf of Thailand, so waves tend to be inconsistent, small, and messy a lot of the time. On the upsides, you’ll almost never be in the water with more than 2-3 other people, and will never have to compete with another surfer for a wave.
Find out more hidden surf destinations with Xpat-Matt!
Sunday Night Market – Chiang Mai
When someone says that you would be able to buy absolutely anything from the Sunday Night Walking Market in Chiang Mai you might take what they said loosely. After all how big could one market really be?
Approximately 2 kilometres of streets inside the old city of Chiang Mai are closed down to traffic every Sunday evening and stall after stall is erected on the many sprawling streets. From clothing to paintings, handmade art goods, sunglasses and handbags, if you cannot find your souvenirs here, you won’t find them anywhere.
Food is also in abundance, and some restaurants actually close on a Sunday for this reason. You cannot walk more than 15 steps before finding a stall offering a selection of fresh fruit smoothies, ice cream or something on a stick. If you are after something more substantial, wander into the grounds of one of the many temples and you will be hit by a veil of great smelling dishes from Pad Thai to numerous curry dishes, everything is on offer.
Whilst this market is unbelievably busy, to the point where you will at some point have someone tread on your toes, it is an experience not to be missed. The rest of town will seem quiet on a Sunday night and that is because everyone is taking a stroll around the market – both locals and tourists alike.
Check out Travelling Book Junkie for more tips on Thailand.
Many people travel to Thailand in search of a traditional Thai massage. But, most spa treatments are a much better value than they are back home. Thailand is a perfect place to splurge on a special massage. One of the best places to go for a couples massage in Bangkok is Dahra Spa, but there are other options as well. They offer a half day, 4 hour package, for next to nothing. It might be the best way to end a romantic trip to Thailand!
Go for a Thai Spa and Massage in Krabi: Hot Spring Thai Spa and Massage Treatment in the Rainforest
Follow With Husband in Tow to learn more about getting a Couple’s Thai Massage
SCUBA diving in Thailand
Thailand is a hot spot for scuba divers in South East Asia and there are a variety of dive locations for both experienced scuba divers and those looking to tick an open water dive course off their bucket list.But where are the best spots to scuba dive in Thailand?
For those who are super, budget-conscious Koh Tao offers one of the cheapest places on the planet to learn to scuba dive Dive sites like Chumphon Pinnancle and Sail Rock offer up some of the best scuba diving here with frequent visits from bull sharks (more info on this below) and whale sharks being a huge draw for divers of all levels.
Those looking to go all out the Similan Islands off the West Coast are arguably the best spot for diving in Thailand. With world-famous spots like Richelieu Rock and Elephant Head Rock, there is a variety of sites to explore – from sprawling coral gardens to deep-sea pinnacles and awesome swim-throughs.
Open from Nov – early May the best way to experience the Similan Islands is on a scuba dive liveaboard, with Khao Lak being one of the best places to depart from.
Koh Phi Phi
If you’re looking for the perfect balance of price and dive site quality I’d definitely recommend scuba diving on Phi Phi.
Although dive courses here are pricier than Koh Tao the variety and quality of dive sites are much better and include wall dives, coral gardens and 2 wreck dives too which are both awesome sites to tick off your bucket list!
Before taking the plunge, make sure you are travelling with Travel Insurance!
Visit Epic Gap Year for some of the best dive packages around!
SCUBA Diving with Bull Sharks
If your looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush on your Thailand travels, scuba diving with bull sharks without a cage might be just the activity for you! Located 11km north of Koh Phangan and about 2 hours south of Koh Tao is a landmass known as Sail Rock. Because it is the only landmass between the two islands, it supports the breeding cycle of many species, the most notable of these being Bull Sharks. Traditionally thought of as an aggressive shark, being in the water with these graceful, powerful, and beautiful animals is the ultimate adrenaline rush.
The dives at this site usually consist of a lap around the rock, and although the sharks are not known to swim right up to the rock’s surface, they can be often found gliding around just a few meters away!
Responsible Travel Tips:
– Make sure your SCUBA operator is not chumming (attracting the sharks with bait)
– Choose an operator which respects the sharks
– Be mindful of your surroundings, and try not to step on/break any coral
Although safe – accidents still happen, make sure you are travelling with Travel Insurance
For more fun ideas around Thailand, check out Make Time To See The World
Maeklong Train Market
One of the most fascinating experiences in Bangkok is visiting the Maeklong Train Market, located about an hour southwest of the city. What makes the Maeklong Train Market so interesting is that several times a day, a passenger train rolls right through the market. Vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables and fruit, to all types of fresh and dried fish, listen for the blow of the train’s horn, and then have about two minutes to take down their awnings and rearrange their displays so the train can roll over the top of it all on it’s way through the station. You won’t believe it until you see it. It’s incredible that they do this every single day!
Follow Savored Journeys for more info on the Maeklong Train Market.
Wineries in Thailand
Between latitude 14 and 18, well beyond the 30 degree threshold, a group of pioneer winemakers have started to produce what has been termed New Latitude Wines. Thailand falls into these latitudes and it may just be the right place to take a renewed look at Old World vines grown in warmer climates. PB Valley was the first winery in the mountainous Khao Yai district, about 2h from Bangkok.
In those early days at the end of the 80s, winemaking was not laid out. The winemakers had to find out what varieties of vines would work in the Thai soil and weather and wait for a decade to see their results.
You won’t have to wait so long. Guests to PB Valley are welcome to book one of the winery’s organized tours around the property onboard a funky train. Aside from having the chance to see all the varieties of grapes that grown on site the tour also takes in some of the fruit trees and orchards that flank the vines. PB Valley’s owner is a successful businessman in the agricultural business known for growing some of Thailand’s main crops. After the tour, enjoy a Thai wine pairing lunch on the restaurant overlooking the gardens and vineyards.
Visit Once in a Lifetime Journey for more information on Khao Yai’s PB Valley Winery
One of the most sought after spiritual experiences in Asia, getting a sak yant (bamboo tattoo) from a wise shamen or mystic tattoo master can be an memory that lasts a lifetime. Literally. Getting a sak yant isn’t simply getting a souvenir tattoo – it is a personal journey which can allow you to open up your innermost secrets and find a protective yantra or symbol which will either help you overcome obstacles or reinforce values you hold dear.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information online, and a growing number of tattoo artists who are capitalizing on the ancient practice without honouring or respecting the sacred practice. A true ajarn studies for many years under a grand master to learn how to properly cast the magic into thousands of enchanted designs. You will not find this in a typical tattoo parlour (not that their hand poked tattoos aren’t cool, though hey aren’t traditional and have no magic or enchantment).
Going solo can also be a fun journey, though without communication with the ajarn or master that is blessing you to discuss what you should get, the meaning of the yantra is no longer personalized and is likely just a generic enchantment. You may also not b able to communicate any concerns to hygiene (clean needles, ink, etc).
A few cheap operators are starting to facilitate experiences without respecting the ancient customs or honouring the ajarns wisdom through proper consultations. Hygiene standards may be compromised using a cheap operator as well. In turn not guests are not getting a personalized design, while putting themselves at risk of disease. Going the cheapest way is not often the best way – especially if this will live on you forever!
It is best to research a little before you go, and go with a trusted operator or translator who is knowledgable in the sacred arts of sak yant, and can ensure good hygiene is practiced. The more your facilitator knows, the deeper you can connect to the culture. The deeper you connect, the better your experience will be, even if the experience costs a bit more to do so.
This is one of the most incredible experiences in Thailand, and if you’re going to get something on your body that will last a lifetime, you might want to make sure your understanding of it does too. Cherish the experience for a lifetime to come!
Learn more by reading WSE Travel’s Everything you need to know about getting a sak yant Guide!
Chiang Mai’s Amulet Market
Calmly sitting on the outskirts of Chiang Mai’s city wall is a beautiful local Aladdin’s cave of curiosities, trinkets, antiquities and amulets! Chiang Mai’s Amulet Market, also known as Thippanet Market is where the locals are hanging out and tourists like you are quite scarce!
As you enter the sides of this treasure trove, tables and tables of amulets will stretch out before you. Monks, standing out in their bold orange robes, will quietly glide and interweave amongst the stalls as workmen carefully craft the plastic, gold and silver cases for their powerful amulets. Some are full of good. Some are holding something a little more sinister. With the remains of cremations within some, it’s wise to choose your protection carefully.
It’s a fascinating place to visit and a welcome activity after receiving one of Where Sidewalks End’s Sak Yants in Chiang Mai.
Learn more of Teacake Travels’ Sak Yant in Chiang Mai
Muay Thai Kick-Boxing
Muay Thai kick boxing is more than a national pass-time, it’s an ancient martial art with cultural roots dating back to the 16th century. Muay Thai differs from other kick-boxing, in the sense that it uses 8 points of contact – 2 fists, 2 feet, 2 knees, 2 elbows. Over time, Muay Thai adapted many elements of Thai Folklore, with many of the moves coming from stories of the Ramakien.
Muay Thai stadiums can be found all throughout Thailand, with the largest being found in Bangkok. You will easily find a match in the heavily populated or visited areas of Thailand, and the matches go late into the night. Most Thais would agree, that this is one of the best activities in Thailand. Just be forewarned: this is a ruthless sport, and not for the feint of heart.
See a Muay Thai match in Bangkok: Muay Thai Kickboxing with Ringside Seats and Private Transfer
Take a Muay Thai Lesson in Bangkok: Muay Thai Lesson with Pad Thai Meal
Enter the ring with an extra layer of armour, make sure you are travelling with Travel Insurance
Health and Wellness Retreats
Thailand is known for its tropical islands, beautiful temples, friendly people and bustling Bangkok but there’s another big draw to the Land of Smiles. More and more Thailand is becoming known as the place to go for good quality and affordable health and wellness retreats.
From the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and even in the touristy island of Phuket you can find places of healing, meditation and rejuvenation. Some favourites are the Chivasuka wellness retreat in the Lanna Hills outside Chiang Mai, The Sanctuary Yoga retreat on Koh Phangan and Kamalya Holistic Spa and wellness sanctuary on Koh Samui, but there a literally hundreds of options to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a raw vegan detox, an intense yoga bootcamp, a week of physical pampering or immersion into Vipassana meditation you will find it in Thailand.
Take a look at Live, Dream, Discover for more ideas on Health and Wellness in Thailand.
Chatuchak Weekend Market (or JJ Market as many of the locals call it) is arguably the best market in all of Thailand, perhaps in all of Southeast Asia! It boasts over 15,000 stalls selling everything from handmade leather purses to tourist souvenirs, gardening supplies to delicious Thai and Western food.
It is located on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road in Bangkok and is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9AM to roughly 6PM. Visitors can easily spend a whole weekend exploring the tiny stalls nestled in the little alley ways. It is very crowded but well worth the trip.
Visit Forks and Footprints for more ideas on what to do in Thailand
Khlong Toei Market
One of the best ways to immerse yourself into the local culture on your travels is by visiting a local market. Khlong Toei, Bangkok’s biggest fresh market is a must-visit for food and market lovers.What makes this one of the best market experiences in Bangkok, is that you get an immediate immersion into the daily local life. Situated at the main sea port and in one of Bangkok’s biggest slums, the energy is electric and pulsating.
Expect to see fish, chickens and other animals freshly slaughtered with innards in full view. Be surprised by the exotic fruits and unusual vegetables you will find. While fresh products are the main attraction, be sure to try Thai dumplings, curries, sweets and more.
Located on Rama IV Road, the closest MRT (metro) station is Khlong Toei, which is a 10 mins walk to the market. The market is open 24 hours, though the best time to go and see all the action is before 9 am.
This market is perfect for visitors looking to get off the tourist path.
Discover more of Bangkok’s Food Markets with Authentic Food Quest.
Best of Thailand’s Festivals
Thailand is well known for incredible festivals. Many people flock to Bangkok or the islands for the incredibly fun water festival, Songkran, or the majestically beautiful Yi Peng Floating Lantern festival in Chiang Mai. But one festival that requires special attention is the truly unique Wai Kru Sak Yant Festival.The entire festival revolves around bamboo tattoos (sak yant); ancient, religious tattoos that bestow mythical and magical powers upon its owner. The Sak Yant festival takes place over two days.
The first evening on a Friday is a whirlwind of tattoos given by ajarns (teachers) to a seemingly endless number disciples, sometimes toppling a thousand! You can view the ajarns tap Sak Yant tattoos with long metal sticks (khem sak) throughout the course of the entire night, blessing those with the sacred designs.
Early Saturday morning ten thousand people converge on the temple, sitting cross-legged, gathered in a large lot in front of a raised stage. Monks chant prayers as many of the tattooed crowd become possessed by ancient spirits blessed into their yantra tattoos. Watch bemused and befuddled as men (and occasionally women) rush the stage in a trance, sometimes slithering like a snake or like a crazed monkey. The day ends with a final prayer as the crowd is blessed with holy water (note: blasted with a fireman hose) .
The Wai Kru Festival at Wat Bang Phra date changes annually as it is based on the lunar calendar, usually over a weekend in March.
This festival is amazing, but can still get a little hairy. Make sure you are travelling with Travel Insurance
Check out Global Gaz for more info on the Wai Kru festival at Wat Bang Phra
Want to see this for yourself? Join WSE Travel as we take you to Wat Bang Phra for this one of a kind event: Original Wai Kru Experience
Songkran is the Thai Lunar New Year’s festival, and it is easily one of the craziest and most fun filled experiences in South-East Asia. Every major city and island in the country becomes a massive water-fight, and you basically just run around shooting people with a super soaker. The atmosphere is unimaginable, and it’s a great way to make some local friends. You can hop on the back of random people’s trucks and ride through the city while you target people walking by. There’s also tons of great music events throughout the city, and is definitely one solid party! Throw on your bathing suit and grab your water gun, and we guarantee it’ll be an experience you never forget!
– Don’t blast people in the face
– Don’t squirt people carrying unprotected cameras
– Don’t splash people carrying their backpacks
– Don’t attack those who clearly don’t want to get wet
– DO have fun!! Songkran is one of the best festivals in the world!
Follow Jones Around the World for more festivals like Songkran
Phi Tha Khon Festival
The Phi Ta Khon (AKA Pee Tha Khon, or ผีตาโขน) festival is best described as a bawdy rainmaking festival with phalluses on display. It usually happens on the first weekend after the 6th full moon – sometime in June or July. Expect parades, costumes, mud-men, two-foot-long wooden phalluses, Buddhist monks, dancing, and lots of pictures!
Before getting too engrossed in the festivities, you may want to head to the Phi Ta Khon Mask Museum on the temple’s grounds for a bit more context – and maybe a bit of breeze. The smaller English panels explain a bit more of the festival’s context and the city’s history. The rest is in Thai. This is still relatively off the beaten path, so expect to only spot only a handful of foreigners during our visit.
Share One Weird Globe’s experience at the Phi Tha Khon Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Of Thailand’s many amazing celebrations, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival (locally known as During Tesagan Gin Je Festival) has to be the most bizarre. Although plenty of vegetarian street food can be sampled, the main attraction, if it can be described as such, is the processions of spirit-possessed mortals known as mah song. In a trance, they parade through the streets with tongues, faces and other body parts punctured with a bizarre collection of items including knives, guns, skewers and other household items. We even saw a motorbike through the side of one guy’s cheek! Shocking yes, but also a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Phuket.
The best place to stay is Phuket Old Town – many of the island’s important shrines are in or close to the old town and the main parades wind their way through the streets in and around the Old Town.
The dates of the annual festival are based on the Chinese lunar calendar and in 2017 are predicted to be 19-28 October.
Go deeper with Kathmandu & Beyond’s visit to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Want to see this for yourself? Join WSE Travel as we take you to Phuket for this one of a kind event: The Phuket Vegetarian Festival Experience
Aside from great food and spectacular natural attractions, Thailand is also known for its cultural celebrations, the most popular of which is Yee Peng, the Floating Lantern Festival. Held in Chiang Mai every November (there is no exact date as it depends every year on the lunar calendar), tens of thousands of people participate in the event by releasing lighted lanterns into the sky to pay homage to the Buddha and to send away all worries and unpleasantness in life. While there are some specific venues that people congregated (e.g., MaeJo University), a lot of locals just head to the riverbank to release their lanterns.
It is a bit hard to describe how it feels to be part of this festival. The moment that thousands of lanterns are simultaneously released into the sky is so magical it can make you teary-eyed and give you chills of delight. Of all the festivals around the world, nothing is as moving as much as Yi Peng. We highly recommend you attend it at least once in your life.
Check out Solitary Wanderer for more info on the Yi Peng Festival.
Many people to Thailand in November to visit the local Yi Peng Festival. Few realize that the coinciding Loy Krathong festival is also happening. Literally translated to ‘float a basket’, locals and visitors alike can purchase ‘krathongs’ made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with vibrant flowers and incense.
On the first day of the three-day festival, people release the banana floats into rivers praying to the gods for good luck. This continues until the final parade on the third day where people of different Thai groups walk through the streets dressed in beautiful gowns and offering krathongs and other items to the gods.
It’s hard to know what you may like more, releasing a beautiful krathong and watch it float down the river along with hundreds of other glowing lights on the water, or taking in local Thai culture when watching the locals walk in the parade in the centre of town. If you ever have the chance to travel to Chiang Mai during Loy Krathong, do it! Visit the temples during the day to take part in rituals and release a beautiful krathong at night before watching the parade.
Follow Linda Goes East for more travel tips for Thailand.
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As you can see, Thailand is an endless world of discovery (and this is just the BEST of Thailand)! If you know of something missing from this list that you think deserves to be mentioned as the Best of Thailand, let us know in the comments below!