Thailand is much more than Full Moon parties, cheap beer, ladyboys, tuktuks and The Beach… Our partner Cat McGloin, currently in the country, shares her 10 favorite places for you to find your Thai paradise.
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Ladyboys, Buddhist temples and opulent Grand Palaces are just three reasons to stop in Thailand’s capital. Get away from Khao San Road and its cheap food stalls to discover a much more seductive side of ancient Siam. Escape from the noise of the city and take a boat ride along the canals to see the temples in a much quieter way, or sign up for Tai Chi on the banks of the river in Lumphini Park. After a hard day of sightseeing, recharge your batteries at Thip Samai, Bangkok’s best place for pad thai.
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- Chiang Mai
Take the night train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and wake up amidst some of Thailand’s highest mountains, perfect for a few days’ trekking in the jungle. Go to one of the local elephant sanctuaries and have a great time bathing and feeding them. But first make sure that the profits from the activity go towards protecting these noble animals. If food is your thing, sign up for a Thai cooking course at one of the schools or organic farms in this special place on the heights.
With a reputation for being a slightly hippie mountain destination, Pai is 80 kilometers north of Chiang Mai and is the perfect place to let yourself be pampered with a massage or spa (or two). Home to countless waterfalls and natural springs, days will fly by with Thai massages. Start your day by relaxing in your private bungalow before trying one of the traditional local dishes and a big favorite among backpackers: banana pancakes.
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Krabi, on the west coast of Thailand, is a popular place for those visiting Koh Phi Phi, where the movie “The Beach” was shot, as well as 80 other islands that are just a short boat ride away. However, Krabi is also the gateway to many natural parks, including Railey. Take a boat from Ao Nang to Railey and visit its fascinating caves, go rock climbing or simply enjoy the romantic sunsets over the Andaman Sea from the viewpoint on the peninsula.
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Suspended on the edge of a mountain range, the cool climate of this small town is a real relief for those who need to get some air after suffering the heat of central Thailand. It is possibly best known for its famous bridge over the Kwai River, part of the Burma Railway and the setting for a film about World War II starring the brilliant Alec Guinness. Once a year the whole town dresses up to recreate the battle with an impressive fireworks display. The nearby Temple of the Tiger will also allow you to get closer to and interact with these big cats than ever before.
- Koh Li Pe
Here you will find some of Thailand’s most unspoiled and pristine beaches. Pattaya beach is the main one, and there you will find everything from five star resorts to seaside bungalows. For a more remote island experience, head west from Koh Li Pe to Sunset Beach for, as the name suggests, spectacular sunset views. It’s just a stone’s throw (more like an hour’s boat ride) from Langkawi in Malaysia, if you feel like exploring a little more.
- Koh Tao
Home to some of the best diving in the world, Koh Tao, or Turtle Island, is a mecca for both novices and professionals. It’s also one of the cheapest places in the world to get your scuba certification. And you can swim with all kinds of exotic aquatic animals, such as sharks and green turtles. At night, take a walk through the bars that fill the Sairee beach or go to Thian Og beach to watch the sunset in solitude.
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Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is a must on any tourist route. But stay a few days and you’ll find there’s much more to it than flashy resorts and expensive spas. If you want to see how Muay Thai is done, or just feel like getting in shape you will find many gyms that offer courses from one day to one month. If wrestling is not your thing, try to see how good you are at kitesurfing in Chalong Bay during the winter months.
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- Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand is home to the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest. Discover it on foot with a hiking trail or join a jeep safari through the jungle, to see local wildlife such as gibbons (a kind of small monkeys), deer and wild boar. For more excitement, try tubing (the latest adventure sport in fashion) or go canoeing on Lake Cheow Larn, where you can also stay in a private floating bungalow.
- Phanom Rung
This Hindu sanctuary complex is located on the summit of an extinct volcano in northeastern Thailand and was built to represent Mount Kailash, the sacred home of the god Shiva. It is one of the most important examples of Khmer architecture in the country and is over a thousand years old. In April, when the sun aligns through the 15 gates of the shrine, the park hosts a festival and visitors can camp in the area.
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Do you have any advice from Thailand to share? Leave us your ideas and experiences in the comments of this article
Keep reading about Thailand and prepare your trip:
- Complete 20-day tour of Thailand
- Travelling to Thailand: 8 tips to avoid problems
- 10 places in Thailand you shouldn’t miss
- 10 foods you have to try in Thailand
- Pattaya’s 10 best kept secrets
- 9 great things to do in Koh Phangan, Thailand
- Everything you should know about traveling to Thailand