It’s hard to believe how many times we have been to Thailand. The first time was 20 years ago, and we keep going back again and again. The Thai people are some of the friendliest people in the world, and each time we return we feel at home.
Many friends and readers are always asking us where they should go, and what to do in Thailand. Thailand is the first stop on most people’s South East Asia trip. So we thought we’d share our expertise from our multiple travels to Thailand.
Best Things to do in Thailand
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Thailand is open for business and welcoming visitors in 2021. These are our favorite things to do in Thailand to help you plan your visit.
1. Rock Climbing in Railay Beach
Railay Beach is our favorite place in Thailand and not only because of the amazing beaches surrounded by massive limestone cliffs, and turquoise waters, we love it for the climbing! There are hundreds of routes to climb for all levels of climbers. We climbed with both Hot Rocks climbing school and King Climbers and both were fantastic. Check out Best Things to do in Krabi, Thailand
2. Sea Kayak in Krabi
Exploring the karst islands of The Andaman Sea by Sea Kayak is one of the beset things to do in Thailand. Join John Gray Sea Canoe to paddle through caves to enter gorgeous lagoons in the middle of islands surrounded by sea cliffs. Make sure to book overnight on one of the uninhabited islands in the area.
While Sea kayaking is very popular in Krabi going inland to the mangrove forest is also unforgettable. You’ll explore mangrove forests and ancient caves housing hieroglyphics. An experience you’ll never forget.
3. Motorcycle to the Myanmar Border
Take a tour of Northern Thailand on a motorcycle. We loved our safe luxury motorcycle tour with The Smiling Albino. They created a custom tour where we had a thorough riding lesson (with a test included!) before taking an epic tour off the beaten track.
4. Visit the Golden Triangle
Standing on the border of northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, (The Golden Triangle) is a once in a lifetime experience. What was once infamous for the opium trade is now filled with lush tea terraces and temples and hill tribes. For an off the beaten track destination in Thailand, this is it!
5. Muay Thai Kickboxing
Want a great way to whip yourself in shape? Try enrolling in a Muay Thai Kickboxing course. There are schools all over the country and you can sign up for a few short days or stay for months at a time. Kickboxing is an important sport to the Thai People and if you want to immerse in Thai Culture this is a great option. We trained with Rawai Muay Thai in Phuket and found them to be outstanding.
If you are not up for Muay Thai Training, check out a professional Muay Thai Fight. There are matches somewhere every night in Thailand, and it’s a huge part of the country’s tradition.
6. Get Soaked at Songkran Festival
It only happens once a year, but if you find yourself in Thailand when the Songkran festival is going on, you have got to go out and experience it. It’s the world’s largest water fight celebrating the Thai New Year. (Songkran Festival usually takes place at the beginning of April) Songkran Festival the celebrates ringing in Thailand’s ancient New Year.
7. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary – Elephant Nature Park
Skip riding elephants and instead visit an elephant sanctuary that gives refuge to former working and logging elephants. Elephants in Thailand have lived hard lives and the sanctuaries that are opening are starting to give them a safe haven to live out the rest of their lives.
8. Tour the Chao Phraya River
Best Things to do on the Chao Phraya River
- The Grand Palace and Wat Pho – The Grand Palace is the most popular place to visit in Bangkok. Wat Pho houses the reclingin buddha
- China Town – Hop off at this vibrant area of Bangkok
- Temple of the Dawn, (Wat Arun) – Wat Arun, Aka The Temple of the Dawn is a Buddhist Temple that is not to be missed.
- The National Museum
- Flower Markets in Bangkok – Most of Bangkoks flower arrangements come from this. One of Asia’s largest flower markets.
- Floating Market – The main Floating Market – Damnoen Saduak, is located outside of the city, but if you hire a longtail boat, you can hit floating markets in the backwaters of the Chao Phraya.
9. Shop at Chang Mai’s Night Market
At night the streets of Chang Mai come alive with rows and rows of vendors. The prices seem to be higher here than anywhere else in Thailand, but once you know what to pay for things, you can get them down to the proper price.
10. Take a Long Tail Boat Island Hopping
Thailand’s beaches are the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most famous being Koh Phi Phi and Railay Beach. Take a longtail boat from island to island. Longtail boats are canopied long hull boats with a long outboard motor. They are one of the most photographed images of southern Thailand. Read More: Beautiful Beaches in Thailand to Spark Your Wanderlust
Thailand’s Best Islands
Koh Phi Phi – Koh Phi Phi was the island we visited in 2000 and it is the most recognizable beach in Thailand. It is due to open back up in 2021, and it is considered one of the most beautiful and famous islands in Thailand. Koh Phi Phi is that perfect horseshoe beach with incredible karst formation jutting out from the Andaman Sea. Koh Phi Phi was featured in James Bond and the Beach. There’s a reason it is the most famous,
Koh Phangan – Koh Phangan is popular for its Full Moon Party that happens each month at the full moon. Most islands have some sort of full moon party each month, but Koh Phangan is the original and people flock to it for the festivities. People party so much on Koh Phangan, they have even added a half-moon party to the celebration.
- Koh Samui – Located on the Gulf of Thailand, this is very popular spot. Read more: 20 of the Best Things to do in Koh Samui
- Koh Lanta – Excellent for chillaxing.
- Koh Lipe – Southernmost island with white sand beaches and small enough to walk around.
- Railay Beach – popular for climbers and beautiful beaches. Read more: Best Things to do in Krabi, Thailand
- Phra Nang – often named the most beautiful beach in the world.
- Koh Tao – Koh Tao is the best place in Thailand to go diving
- Phuket – Thailand’s largest island has amazing beaches. Check it out Best Things to do in Phuket, Thailand
11. Watch a Fire Spin Show
When hanging out on the beach of your choice in Southern Thailand, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to watch a fire-spinning show known as Fire Sparkle Poi shows.
12. Visit the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Thailand. The former Royal Residence, The Grand Palace (Royal Palace) covers an area of 218,400 sq. metres; It is Grand indeed and houses the Emerald Buddha (which is really made out of Jade). Be sure to go into Wat Phra Kaew to see the Emerald Buddha with your own eyes. (no photos allowed)
13. Check out Wat Pho
Wat Pho is home to the Reclining Buddha at 46 metres long and 15 metres high. This golden beauty is Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha it is in the oldest Wat in Bangkok. It is the first thing that most people see and do in Thailand and I can understand why it is magnificent.
14. Catch a Movie at Siam Square
We can’t help it, we love movies and wherever we go, we always go to a movie. In Bangkok, you have designated seating and you must stand before each movie while watching a montage of the King. (we haven’t been since the new King was crowned, but expect it to be the same)
15. Release a Lantern at Yi Peng Festival
Yi Peng is a wonderful time to be in Thailand. It takes place in November alongside the Loi Krathong Festival. Both festivals are lantern festivals. Yi Peng has revelers releasing paper lanterns in the sky and Loi Krathong has worshippers release bamboo and boats in the river. Be sure to only use environmentally friendly lanterns! Read more: Loy Krathong and Yi Peng – A Guide to The Lantern Festivals of Chiang Mai
Where to Celebrate Yi Peng and Loi Krathong
- Chiang Mai – Northern Thailand
- Bangkok – Chao Phraya River
- Sukhothai – North-central Thailand – It was the original Capital of Thailand and is still a very important city.
- Lampang – Northern Thailand
- Phuket – Southern Thailand
- Chiang Rai – Northern Thailand Celebrates Yee Peng
16. Ride a Tuk Tuk
You gotta ride a tuk tuk at least once while visiting Thailand. They’re loud, polluted and one zany ride, but you haven’t lived until you’ve zipped around the streets of Bangkok in a three-wheeler two-stroke engine zipping machine. Feeling wary about hopping in a tuk tuk for the first time? Book a Bangkok Tuk Tuk Tour .
17. Get a Thai Massage
Traditional Thai Massages are cheap in Thailand and they are heavenly. We recommend having a Thai massage every couple of days to keep the body limber. You’ll find them anywhere in Thailand. On the beaches, at Khao San Road, in high end hotels and on any street.
18. Take a Cooking Class
We love Thai food and it’s even better when you know how to cook it. Our very first visit to Thailand ignited our senses and we learned about Thai food. I am so glad we took a Thai cooking class so we can recreate our favourite Thai recipes at home like delicious Pad Thai from scratch!
19. Visit the Bridge on the River Kwai
Do you remember the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai? It tells the story of the Death Railway built by British POWs and forced laborers from around South East Asia. The Railway is still in working order today and is a popular tourist attraction. But it is also a sombre memorial to those who died on this Death Railay. There are many memorials paying tribute to the thousands that died during the war including the Chungkai War Cemetery and the JEATH War Museum.
20. Visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
We love riding boats in Thailand and there are many floating markets you can visit near Bangkok. The largest floating market is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Amphawa Floating Market is another less crowded option. Book a tour to Damnoen Saduak. This day tour takes you to both the Damnoen Saduak floating market and the famous Maeklong Railway Market.
21. Take the Slow Boat to Laos
Ride along the Mekong River from Luang Prabang Laos to Chang Rai doing nothing but taking in the scenery. See the mighty Mekong River and meet the local people that live along its shores. Insider Tip: Bring some food and drink and some cards or games to keep you occupied for the trip.
22. Chiang Rai’s Wat Rung
One of Thailand’s newest temples is Wat Rong Khun aka The White Temple. It is also one of Thailand’s most beautiful temple. Restoration began in the late 20th century and it has transformed into pure beauty of white intricate designs and mirrored reflections.
23. Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai
When you visit Chiang Mai, a popular option is to do a Mediation retreat. We took a multi-day meditation course in Chiang Mai and it was heavenly. We were the only two people in the course and worked on several different types of meditations and tai chi. As we talked with our instructor, we cooked vegetarian food and really bonded with each other during that time. There are many Meditation courses in Chiang Mai. Read more: 35 of the Best Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
24. Swim in a Waterfall
Thailand is full of waterfalls. You can hike to one in nearly every major tourist area. But we loved the waterfall in Koh Samui. Swimming in the pool below the falls and letting the water run over your head cools you off during a long hot day. Find your favorite waterfall in the country and spend the day suntanning on rocks and cooling off in the fresh water.
There was also great waterfalls in Doi Ithanon National Park in Northern Thailand just outside of Chiang Mai.
25. Visit Thailand’s National Parks
Besides Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand has several national parks to visit. Khao Yai national park is Thailand’s first national park and is part of Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular park for animal watching where you’ll see Elephants, Sun Bears, gibbons, civets, and many other animals of Thailand. Khao Yai National park is located in Central Thailand 120 km (75 miles. from Bangkok.
Other National Parks that we’ve visited are:
- Khao Sok – Great for jungle trekking, the Cheow Lan Lake Tour and the Khao Sock River.
- Erawan National Park – Visit Erawan Falls, hiking trails and caving.
26. Chiang Mai Temple Tour
Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand, you cannot miss going there on your Thailand trip. When you visit Chiang Mai, it is all about the. In fact, there are more than 300 temples to discover. Monks walk the grounds and study Buddhism. A beautiful temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Suan Dok where you can watch the monks chant daily. Wat Chedi Luang – pictured above, is our favourite temple in Chiang Mai at night.
27. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Just a few km outside Chiang Mai is the wonderful Doi Suthep Temple. Hire a taxi, tuk tuk or Grab Taxi to take you to the temple early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Doi Suthep was our favorite temple in Thailand. Walk the 309 steps to the complex where we were treated to an extraordinary panoramic view of Chiang Mai.
28. Shop at the Chiang Mai Night Market
Chiang Mai is famous for its Night Bazaar. When the sun goes down, the markets open up. Chang Klan Road is where the Night Bazaar is open every evening. But on Sundays all the streets by Thapae Gate close to traffic and it become and endless line of street stalls. You haven’t experienced shopping in Asia until you have explored the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. It’s a great spot to grab some street food and sample the best of Thai cooking.
Located just one hour from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is an incredible temple complex that is a popular day trip. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 1300s, Ayuthaya is the former ancient capital of Siam. Ayutthaya Archeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with historic temples. Book a day trip to Ayutthaya.
30. Hang Out in Pai
Pai is a laidback and popular hotspot for backpackers, hippies, and artists. It’s a great place to chill out, soak in the hot springs and explore the waterfalls. Read about all the The Best Things to do in Pai by The Experts
31. Railway Market
Take a 70km trip from Bangkok to the Maeklong Market. The railway runs through the center of this world-famous market with the wheels passing just inches from the beautifully laid out fruit and vegetables which are displayed along the edges of the track.
32. Visit Khao San Road
There is no doubt that when you first land in Bangkok, you will make your way to Khao San Road. It is the original backpackers ghetto and it’s not to be missed. This famous street is lined with bars, eateries, and shops. You’ll see people walking the streets 24 hours a day. It’s a great place to eat some Pad Thai, eat street food, or chill out while sipping a Singha Beer and watching the crowds go by. And there are many affordable hotels in the area.
33. Mountain Bike, Chiang Rai
We took a mountain bike tour from the city streets of Chiang Rai out to the surrounding countryside. Biking up impressive hills and through rice paddy fields was a challenging yet fun ride and really took us off the beaten track of Thailand.
34. Eat Street Food
Some of our best dining experiences in Thailand were outside on the street. Just make sure to eat cooked food only. Street food in Thailand is generally safe. It is fresh, well cooked and there’s a high turnover of food. Look for street vendors with long lines and places where the locals eat.
It’s fitting that we end off our list of things to do in Thailand with food. Thai food is our favorite food on earth and a trip to Thailand wouldn’t be complete without immersing in the food culture.
So what are you waiting for? Thailand awaits.
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Read More about travel to Thailand:
- Sea Caves, Canoes and Culture in the Isles of Thailand
- Things to Do in Chiang Mai
- Where to Stay in Bangkok – A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods
- Loy Krathong and Yi Peng 2019 – A Guide to The Lantern Festivals of Chiang Mai
- Thailand Travel Tips – 32 Things to Know Before you Go
- The Importance of Responsible Tourism in Thailand