Today (April 23, 2018): Top 10 best things to see & do in Thailand.
With more than fifteen million tourists visiting the country each year, Thailand is Asia’s most popular, diverse and vibrant travel destination. The country offers a myriad of attractions to its visitors: pristine rainforests, spectacular coastal scenery, sun-kissed beaches, floating markets, UNESCO protected ruins, and remote hill tribes. And then there’s Bangkok, Asia’s most exciting city and a sublime destination in its own. Despite being a magnet for budget and backpacker travelers, Thailand also happens to be home to some of the world’s most ultra-luxurious resorts, whether it be beach enclaves, urban hotels or jungle retreats. To help you plan your next holiday to Thailand, I have compiled a list with my 10 preferred things to see & do in this stunning Asian nation.
There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite site or activity in Thailand in the comments section, or take my poll below!
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10. TAKE A TRIP TO THE PHI PHI ISLANDS
The Phi Phi islands are widely recognized as one of the most beautiful island archipelagos in Asia. A short boat trip from either Phuket or Krabi, these picture perfect islands rise from the Andaman sea like a tropical fortress, with sheer cliffs towering overhead, giving way to lush jungle, magnificent beaches, and ridiculously clear turquoise waters. The two main islands are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. The larger and inhabited Phi Phi Don is overdeveloped and a far cry from the tropical getaway that it used to be, but the smaller uninhabited Phi Phi Leh is still worth a visit as it features insanely beautiful bays and beaches, including the world-famous Maya Bay, where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed. Though you can hardly notice it anymore, the Phi Phi islands were one of the areas hit hard by the 2004 tsunami.
9. VISIT A FLOATING MARKET NEAR BANGKOK
A visit to one of Bangkok’s colorful and famous floating markets – Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak being among the most popular ones – is a must on many traveler’s bucket list because it offers a great photo opportunity and it’s a fun way to experience local life and observing local vendors in action. Even though some markets cater more to the tourist crowds than locals these days, there are still floating markets that offer a nice authentic travel experience, with piles of tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boats. You’ll need to get up early to visit a floating market, as vendors are out in their long wooden boats first thing in the morning with their goods, fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and tasty dishes.
8. EXPLORE AYUTTHAYA, A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce. This site was chosen because it was located above the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam as it existed at that time, thus preventing the attack of the city by the sea-going warships of other nations. The city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. The city was never rebuilt in the same location and remains known today as an extensive archaeological site and a World Heritage property, its temple and palace ruins serving as a powerful reminder of Siam’s glorious past and dark history.
7. EMBRACE NATURE AT KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK
Khao Yai is without any doubt the best national park in Thailand to visit since it is relatively easy to observe a number of interesting animals here. Established in 1962 as Thailand’s first national park, Khao Yai it is now part of Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO, covering several protected areas from Khao Yai to Cambodian border. Blessed with a mountainous landscape – with jungle-clad valleys, scenic waterfalls and rich biodiversity – Khao Yai is a year-round getaway destination just three hours’ drive from Bangkok. Some often seen animals include elephant, deer, gibbon, and porcupine. There haven’t been any sign of tiger activity in the park for a while, but camera traps has revealed a significant tiger population in neighboring Thap Lan and Pang Sida National Park.
6. RELAX ON KRABI’S RAILAY BEACH
Krabi province is home to some of Thailand’s most stunning scenery, with sugar white beaches that stretch on for miles, thick jungle everywhere, and over 200 islands just off the coast. Although the area is growing as a tourist hotspot, the province is still relatively untouched and manages to retain its natural charm. The prime reason to visit Krabi is Railay, widely considered one of the best (but also most sought-after) beaches in the country. Accessible only by boat, Railay delivers on it promise of the ultimate tropical island getaway. In just one small peninsula you’ll find four gorgeous white sand beaches, clear blue water, viewpoints, caves and a lagoon hidden inside the cliffs. Railay is also a rock-climbing hotspot, as its karst peaks draw adventurers both experienced and novice to try their hand at climbing the soaring limestone cliffs.
5. TRY OUT STREETFOOD AND A MASSAGE AT CHIANG MAI
Chiang Mai, at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, is Thailand’s fifth-largest city and often dubbed the “Rose of the North”. Located among the rolling foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, it is blissfully calm and a much more laid-back place than the capital. A perfect sanctuary to relax and recharge your batteries, the historic centre of the city still feels overwhelmingly residential, more like a sleepy country town than a bustling capital. Every evening, the city hosts its night bazaar – a favorite among bargain shoppers. Chiang Mai is also the best place in Thailand to try out some delicious street food (present in abundance at Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street) or to book a divine Thai massage. Surrounded by lush green countryside, pristine rainforests, country villages, rice paddies, and elephant sanctuaries, Chiang Mai is also a great base for some exciting excursions.
4. SPEND TIME IN THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE
Lush jungle, mist-shrouded mountains, herds of elephants, and tranquil views of rice paddies mark the Golden Triangle, the point in northern Thailand that converges with Laos and Burma where the Ruak and mighty Mekong rivers join. The area gained notoriety in the 1920s as the center of opium production and trade in South East Asia but those days are gone. Now the Golden Triangle is peaceful and tranquil dotted with hill tribe villages, ancient temples and markets. This scenic are was a stronghold of the Lanna culture that prevailed for several centuries and was called the ‘land of a million rice fields’, which hints at the scenic charms that await. The area’s gateway, Chiang Rai, became the first capital of the Lanna kingdom in 1262, under King Meng Rai, and is dotted with landmarks such as the famous Wat Rong Khun (White Temple).
3. BOOK AN EXCURSION TO PHANG NGA BAY
Located north-east of Phuket, Phang Nga Bay is an almost unique site in the world (only Ha Long Bay in Vietnam presents some similarity). Instantly distinguished by its limestone karsts jutting out vertically of the emerald-green Andaman Sea, Phang Nga Bay is a must-see excursion for beach and nature fanatics, with caves, lagoons, and secluded beaches all part of the stunning landscape. The most famous of the many islands in the bay is the so-called James Bond Island, a needle formed limestone rock in the sea, which featured in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. By far the best means of enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only brief encounters with the tourist crowds as James Bond Island, is to take one of the boat trips from the northern end of Phuket. Most visitors explore the area in a one-day tour, but some larger islands have accommodation available.
2. BE WOWED BY BANGKOK’S GRAND PALACE
If you only have one day in Bangkok then be sure to visit its dazzling Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark, and within the palace grounds, Wat Phra Kaeo, which is Thailand’s most revered temple. The Grand Palace complex was built in 1782 for the new capital of Siam (after the destruction of Ayutthaya) and has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam and later Thailand since then. Today, the Grand Palace remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom and continues to awe visitors with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail – a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. It is highly suggested that visitors dress properly when visiting the Grand Palace; entry can be refused to those dressed incorrectly. While you’re there, don’t miss nearby Wat Pho, which is home to the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand.
1. GO BACK IN TIME AT KOH KOOD
Located in the eastern part of the Bay of Thailand, Koh Kood is Thailand’s fourth largest but least populated island. This is Thailand as it was years ago, with untamed jungle, pristine beaches, and fishermen going about their business. The largely undeveloped tropical paradise is a real gem. Surprisingly, Koh Kood is one of Thailand’s best kept secrets as the island remains an ‘off the radar’ destination. The supersoft sands are like talcum powder, the water lapping the bays is clear and there are more coconut palms than buildings. Koh Kood is also home to Soneva Kiri, my favorite resort in the world, where spectacular highlights include 36 incredible villas, personal electric buggies, impeccable service courtesy of Mr./Ms. Friday private butlers, a fabulous beach, the open air Cinema Paradiso, Benz’ mangrove restaurant, the chocolate and ice cream parlour, the fabulous beach and the incredible treetop dining pod.