Thailand is often referred to as the ‘land of smiles’ because being surrounded by emerald waters, sensational food and jaw-dropping temples makes you want to do just that – smile. Here is a selection of stunning sights and insider secrets to bring you the top 10 things to do in Thailand.
1. Have a Thai massage
It wouldn’t be a Thai holiday without a Thai massage but with a spa seemingly on every corner where should you go for the best? The unexpected answer we received from locals is – to a temple. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok is said to be home to the city’s best masseurs. The team will work on all your knots and tensions for only £7.50 an hour – so you can treat yourself to more than one visit!
2. Take a trek into Northern Thailand
Take a trek into Northern Thailand and meet the traditional hilltribes who have been living off the land in this rugged forest region for thousands of years. Each village has a different language, belief system, style of dress and tradition. One of the most well known hill tribes are the Karen “Long Neck” whose women wear weighted rings around their necks to give them the elongated look.
3. Go to a Thai night market
Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a Thai night market. One of the largest is held in Chiang Mai and caters for both tourists looking for souvenirs and locals looking for a snack. Head to centre of the market and look for the stall with the longest queue to find the best food!
4. Learn to cook a Thai meal
Learn to cook a traditional Thai meal from scratch in a cookery workshop. Classes are held daily in Chiang Mai and will take you from sourcing the ingredients in the market to sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
5. Visit Maya Beach
We couldn’t write a top 10 Thailand list without including a visit to arguably one of the most famous beaches in the world. Maya Beach near Ko Phi Phi in Southern Thailand is ‘The Beach’ from Alex Garland’s book and the Leonardo DiCaprio film of the same name. In real life it is just as stunning as you imagine, if you ignore the fleet of tourist boats in the background.
6. Walk to the viewpoint at Ko Phi Phi
For spectacular views of the cobalt water and limestone rock surrounding Ko Phi Phi take a short hike (1 hour 30 minutes) to the viewpoint. This route, which takes you out through the back of Phi Phi Don village and up to a height of approximately 600 metres, is a mesmerizing place to watch the sunset.
7. Drink at the Sky Bar at the lebua
Back in Bangkok, if you prefer a glass of bubbly with your spectacular views take the elevator to the Sky Bar at the Lebua Hotel. Suspended on a precipice over the city 820 feet in the air, Sky Bar is the highest bar of its kind in the world. Film buffs may recognize the same backdrop from the The Hangover Part II.
8. Scuba dive at Ko Tao
Thailand is an incredible setting to learn to scuba dive and at Ko Tao (Turtle Island) you can join one of the many scuba diving schools for a very fair price. Ko Tao is second only to Cairns, Australia when it comes to the number of annual dive certifications issued and it is easy to see why – dive sites are abundant, the island is idyllic and finding a dive school is easy.
9. Visit the White Temple, Chiang Rai
Looking like a palace fit for an Ice Queen the White Temple in Chiang Rai is one of the most extraordinary temples you will ever see – extravagant, ornate and blindingly white. A contemporary Buddhist and Hindu temple designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat in 1997, the White Temple includes unexpected elements like statues of the damned trying to escape from hell, references to pop culture (including Michael Jackson and Spiderman) and some of the most beautiful public toilets in the world!
10. Visit Erawan Waterfall
Thailand is sprinkled with paradisaical waterfalls but at Erawan National Park you will find one that blows all others out of the water. Erawan Waterfall is a stunning seven-tiered affair, the uppermost of which is said to resemble Erawan, the three-headed elephant of Hindu mythology. To view the cascading and pooling water from above you will need to take a 2 km hike, but the view is more than worth it. (The waterfall can be reached by bus from Kanchanaburi, situated 130 km from Bangkok.)