Thailand is an amazingly diverse country. You can be in the rural countryside, to bustling city-life, to laid back beach towns, to beautiful islands all in a matter of a few hours. We were fortunate enough to visit all of these places. And because I couldn’t stop at 10, here are 11 things to do when visiting Thailand:
1) ELEPHANT NATURE PARK IN CHIANG MAI.
Probably the coolest thing I experienced in all of Thailand. Where else can you get so close to these giant animals? Plus, there’s no abuse or riding. It’s a sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates abused elephants, dogs, cats, and buffalo. We only did a half day visit, but you can actually stay and volunteer for the week. elephantnaturepark.org
2) VISIT THE “WATS” AKA TEMPLES.
There are over 40,000 Buddhist temples throughout Thailand. Chiang Mai alone contains over 300 of them. I never thought I would be so amazed by these structures, but they are a sight to behold. My favorites were Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Pho.
When visiting any wat, you have to dress respectfully. No shoulders or knees showing, and you must take your shoes off when entering. Some have shoe racks, and some give you a bag to carry your shoes in while walking through. Also, you are supposed to step over, not on, any threshold- a tip I was glad I read beforehand.
3) CHECK OUT ART IN PARADISE.
Art in Paradise is a 3d art museum with 3 different locations throughout the country. We visited the Chiang Mai location because we are able to walk there from our hotel. Adult admission is 300 Baht which is roughly $8 USD. So worth it! I could’ve spent hours here taking photos…if we hadn’t already spend all morning exploring the old city by foot.
4) GET AN ICED COFFEE AT 7-ELEVEN.
I know it sounds weird, but seriously you will not regret it! Why do we not have this in America?! Also, the 7-Eleven brand pastries they have are delicious. I tried pretty much all the danishes- coconut, pineapple, and the basic cheese danish were my faves! 7-Eleven’s are EVERYWHERE in Thailand, and are a good place to use up your big bills to get change for some of the smaller street vendors that might not always have it.
5) HIRE A LONGTAIL BOAT.
You can’t go to south Thailand without riding in one of these! In Laem Tong Beach, the boats were lined up all along the beach. You won’t have to look too hard to find a driver- they will usually approach you as you walk by the rows of boats. Our driver was charging 1500 Baht for 4 hours, which seemed to be the average going rate. We could’ve bartered but $10 usd per hour seemed pretty reasonable- and was a cheaper rate than our hotel was charging. We ended up hiring him again the next day for another excursion.
6) EARLY MORNING TRIP TO MAYA BAY.
Maya Bay is where they filmed the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach”. Might be the most stunning beach I’ve ever seen… until the boatloads of tourists start rolling in. You have to get there early. I cannot stress that enough. If you’re taking a day trip from Phuket or Krabi, you won’t beat the crowd. It’s too far away. You pretty much have to already be staying on Koh Phi Phi Don and hire a long tail to take you out as early as possible. We left at 7am from Laem Tong Beach and basically had the beach to ourselves…for about 20 minutes. And then it started to fill up…
…which doesn’t look bad from a far, but it feels much more crowded when you’re actually on the beach or swimming. It’s a much smaller area than you would expect. There’s also a pricy 400 Baht per person fee just to get on the beach. I guess when you have a tourist hotspot in your country you can charge whatever you want. Big crowd/fee or not, it’s worth the visit.
7) HIKE TO THE PHI PHI VIEWPOINT.
There are two ways to get here from Tonsai Pier (the main town of Phi Phi Don). Once you start walking, you will see signs. Some are signs for the long way to the viewpoint, and some are for the shortcut. We took the long way up, and the shortcut down. I’m not really sure which way is less strenuous. The shortcut is about a million stairs going straight up/down. Nothing too exciting along the way. The long way is a steep winding unpaved backroad that cuts through the jungle and takes you past where some locals live- much more adventurous. I don’t think I’ve sweat so much in years, but the view was worth it. Make sure to take enough water! You’ll need it. Also, there is a 30 Baht per person fee at the top, so don’t forget to have some Baht with you.
8) STAY IN INCREDIBLE HOTELS FOR CHEAP.
I could probably never afford some of these places in America. Avani Riverside Hotel Bangkok was amazing. Rooftop infinity pool, 24 hour room service, waterfall shower, great views of bangkok- this place even had it’s own three floor shopping mall attached to the hotel- all for about $105 USD a night. I’m still in awe at how cool this place was.
9) MONKEY TRAIL IN AO NANG.
I was barely brave enough to venture onto the monkey trail. One look at the stairs, and I almost didn’t go. Flip flops are definitely not a good idea here. The trail is mainly used for guests of the Centara Grand Beach Resort to get over to Ao Nang without having to come by boat. But it’s also a great place to spot monkeys. Just don’t bring any food. The monkey pictured above just got done ripping someone’s chicken sandwich from their hands, with about 30 other monkey helpers. They mean business when it comes to food.
10) EAT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
I also mean business when it comes to food. I had so many good things here. And despite always hearing about people having stomach issues in Asia, I did not get sick once. Some of my favorites were spring rolls, pad thai, pineapple fried rice, coconut ice-cream, chili sauce for dipping french fries, and- you’re not gonna believe it- PIZZA! I had some of the best pizza of my life in Thailand.
11) THE FLOATING MARKET.
We took a tour here from Bangkok with Tour East Asia booked through Expedia. Highly recommended. The guide was informative, had a good sense of humor, and everything went smoothly. Normally I’m not big on group tours, but I wasn’t sure how else to go about getting here, since it was a solid 2 hours to Damnoen Saduak. We stopped on the way to a coconut farm and learned how they make palm sugar from coconuts. The market itself was cool to see and take photos of the boats, but I found most of the vendors to be too pushy. Not my favorite thing in Thailand, but still something that I’d recommend seeing if you have the time. Plus, they have coconut ice-cream and lemurs!
All in all, I loved Thailand. Each place we visited, I wished I had just a few more days to see it all. We stayed for 2 weeks, but I can see how easily you could fill up an entire month with cheap things to do there.
Until next time… ❤