Top things to do in Thailand
The BEST of Thailand from the North to the South…
We spent almost two weeks in the Kingdom of Thailand and found the best places to stay, dine & spa. Here are recommendations on what to do while visiting this amazing country in Southeast Asia.
“Thailand is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food and massage, Thailand features a modern capital city, and friendly people who epitomize Thailand’s “land of smiles” reputation,” shares Lert Narongchaisakun of the Thailand Tourism Office.
Below is a list of activities and excursions in the North, Chiang Rai – the Golden Triangle, the South, Phuket & Koh Samui, and Bangkok.
North – Golden Triangle (Chiang Rai)
Adventures awaited us at Four Seasons Tented Camp in Northern Thailand. After meeting our concierge at the airport, he drove us in a wi-fi powered vehicle to the river meeting place, where a long-tail speed boat took us to the dock of the tented camp. Upon arrival we banged the traditional gong and followed the path to an exotic bamboo jungle.
We met Ali Mohammed, the Camp Manager, and staff as they shared our tailor-made program printed out on a handmade bamboo scroll. From the open lounge area, we looked out to the river and mountains of the Golden Triangle that meets the south of Burma/Myanmar and the west border of Laos.
Our few days in the Golden Triangle were filled with adventure! Here are some highlights:
- Become a Mahout! Ma’hout translates to an elephant’s best friend. We took a Mahout Training Program at Four Seasons Tented Camp, and received a certificate from the Elephant Camp Coordinator. We learned basic commands like, “Pai” go forward, “Baen” turn, and the most important one – “How”, stop. We took the elephants to a pond in the jungle where they could get some water and bath in the cool waters. The most important part of training an elephant is winning the animal’s confidence and affection.
The Four Seasons works closely with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) that provides elephants with a humane and natural environment.
- Adventure Trekking to hot springs, waterfalls, and through lush green jungles.
- Visit Local Hill Tribes is another activity where you can meet the Yao, Akha, Lahu and Karen (long-neck) hill tribes via the Yapha route and discover their unique traditions, culture and handicrafts.
- Golden Triangle Excursion where you can stop at the North Thailand/Burma border or go by long-tail boat to the location where three borders meet (Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Laos).
- Traditional Thai Massage at the Four Seasons Tented Camp was a highlight! Our therapist applied techniques passed down from the Buddha’s doctor and practiced in Thai temples in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. In your own private open air pavilion, you can relax while listening to birds and feel the jungle breeze.
The South – Phuket, Koh Samui & Krabi
Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern Thailand. Its natural beauty surrounds you …white-sand beaches, breezy coconut plantations, limestone cliffs, lush tropical gardens, and the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.
- Phang Nga: When in Phuket, a day trip to Phang Nga Bay is a must!
The sheer forested limestone pillars that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water are a sight to see.
You can cruise or kayak through the islands, bays, and caves. Popular stops include James Bond Island where the famous movie, The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed, and Koh Panyee, the Muslim fishing village built on stilts over the sea.
- Ko Phi Phi is another popular day trip where you can explore a group of 6 islands in Southern Thailand…
a little paradise for snorkelers to swim through crystal-clear waters, divers to explore coral reefs, marine life, kayakers who want to explore limestone cliffs and caves, and beachniks who want to relax on white sandy beaches!
- Relaxing at the Resort! Take some time to lounge at the pool or on the beach and enjoy the Andaman Sea breeze.
- Order Phuket Lobster! Preparations vary from boiled, steamed, grilled and it’s served with ginger (Chinese style), or coriander (Thai style), or coconut cream (Malay style).
- Taste the variety of Tropical Fruit from purple mangosteen to pineapple to the hairy red rambutan, papaya, coconut, and mango.
- Koh Samui – One of the highlights of our Thailand trip was staying on the tropical island, Koh Samui, and visiting the Ang Thong Islands: a well-preserved national state park of 42 islands where we snorkeled, hiked and even went to a private beach!
- Release a Lantern – make a wish and send it up into the sky!
- Sign Up for a “Muay Thai” Boxing Class – Four Seasons Koh Samui has a Thai Boxing expert who taught us the basics of this national sport.
- Meditation Class – Four Seasons Koh Samui offers a morning meditation class on the beach in an open-air pavilion (sala). We learned the basics from a meditation instructor and started our day with a heightened awareness of the beauty surrounding us.
- Thai Massage – The Rainforest Experience at Banyan Tree Koh Samui is unlike anything you’ve probably experienced with 9 hydrothermal therapies. The Siam Fusion treatment at Four Seasons Koh Samui was heavenly – you can’t leave Thailand without getting a few Thai massages.
- Krabi – We heard this is a beautiful destination in the Andaman Sea and 2-3 hours from Phuket by boat.
Bangkok – Temples, The Royal Palace, Floating Markets!
- Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
- Wat Arun – there are 27,000 temples in Thailand, our guide Sammy took us to the most visited and famous temples in Thailand.
- Visit the Royal Barges Museum where the Royal Boats/Barges are stored and maintained for major ceremonies of His Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty.
- Take a Long-Tail Boat Ride & Visit a Floating Market: one of the best ways to see Bangkok is on a Long-Tail Boat Ride down the Chao Praya River.
We visited a local Bangkok Floating Market, but heard there’s another amazing Floating Market a couple hours drive outside of Bangkok if you have the time.
- The Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat) is the biggest flower market in Thailand. Our long tail boat took us down the Chao Praya River, and we got off at the dock just a couple blocks from the market. Follow your nose to the most fragrant street in Bangkok where you’ll find a maze of alleyways lined with a kaleidoscope of gold marigolds, pink lotus blossoms, multi-color orchids, lilies, roses.
Garlands, called “phuang malai” dangle from street stalls that symbolize good luck, and adorn everything from spirit houses, temples, even Thai taxis, tuk-tuks.
- Take a Cooking Class at The Peninsula Bangkok: We highly recommend the “Joy of Thai Cooking” Class with Thai Chef U-rai Pungrung at The Peninsula Bangkok!
Learn some basic traditional Thai cooking and try these recipes at home – Pomelo Salad with Grilled Tiger Prawns, Thai Rice Noodles (Phad Thai), and Spicy/Sour Soup. Compliments of Thai Chef U-rai Pungrung and Executive Chef Andreas Haugg of The Peninsula Bangkok.
- Siam Ceremony Treatment: Pamper yourself with the Siam Ceremony Treatment at The Peninsula Bangkok Spa – we left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated!
DK Travel Guide – one of our best guides in Thailand was the DK Travel Guide packed with photographs, illustrations, maps.
Thailand Tourism Office – We worked closely with the Thailand Tourism Office to find the top excursions and which excursion providers to hire.
Bangkok Airways – Voted best regional airlines in Asia, we flew Bangkok Airways to most of our destinations. Our flights were on time and we had great service!
ExOfficio Clothing – We highly recommend ExOfficio clothing while traveling in Southeast Asia – especially the lightweight clothing pieces that provide sunscreen protection, repel mosquitoes. ExOfficio’s clothes are quick drying so easy to wash & wear again. Our clothing was practical yet stylish! In our travels through Southeast Asia, we wore the blouses and skirts or trousers that covered our knees to show respect in the Buddhist temples and at religious ceremonies and rituals, and these clothes also wore well for our adventures.