The Best Things to do in Thailand:
After eight fast flying months living abroad in Thailand, I feel that I have unofficially somehow acquired the authority to offer this simple list of things to do in Thailand.
It’s actually a massively rich and diverse country full of lots of ways to get lost, sick, and overwhelmed; it is also simultaneously one of the most accessible and easy places to travel in Asia.
If you’re in Thailand a week, a month, or for an extended holiday, (doing a soul searching eat-pray-love type thing) any and all of these recommendations still hold strong. Take some probiotics, update your passport, and enjoy one of the top rated destinations in this hemisphere.
Get underwater in Thailand. Snorkel off the bow of your own private longtail for less than $20USD or get your PADI Dive certificate in delightfully warm bath water filled with only a few things that can potentially kill you.
Either way, the islands in Thailand, both on the east and west sides of the country offer incredible underwater exploration activities as well as the opportunity to enjoy one of the best things to do in Thailand in peacefully clean warm water, and maybe even the clearest blue you’ve ever seen.
2. Get a massage
I’m a huge proponent of massages; my advice is always: get them. But, you have not lived until you have had a Thai masseuse crack every joint on your body, and work knots out of your system that you didn’t even know existed.
Without fail my most recommended massage was at Zira Spa in Chiang Mai. Never have I ever felt more like a princess (save for my seventh birthday party) than I did at this spa.
Before even getting on the massage table, I was met with an aromatic foot-bath, hot towels, tea, and after receiving my own private spa room… the most practiced and knowledgeable Thai therapist treated me to an aloe vera body scrub, full body massage and a gentle facial.
The attention to details at this place is incomparable.
Perhaps if you can’t swing by here… grab a recommended bed on the beach and learn to love the brilliant intensity of a Thai massage. Works every time.
3. Get totally irreversibly (almost) lost
Take a tuk tuk, or don’t. Leave your phone at home. Burn the guidebook…however extra you’re feeling, Thailand is a great place to explore steaming morning markets, late night rooftop parties, even capital city jazz clubs.
People will go out of their way to help you around, or laugh at your wandering, depends on your luck, honestly, but roaming and wandering are always some of the best things to do in Thailand.
Fortunately, I’ve never found myself too far from a noodle shop, a friendly face, or a cafe with excellent and always free wifi.
4. Eat. Just do a lot of that.
Forget Pad Thai. Get down with a crispy omelette spread evocatively over rice, dim sum buns oozing chocolate cream, fried chillies with thick greens, and morning rice porridge topped with shredded ginger, sliced shallots, and deep fried garlic chunks.
Check out local markets and sample bits and pieces of every kind of treat, or sit down on plastic chairs and spend the equivalent of $3USD on some life changing noodles.
Thailand has a unashamed passion about its food. Ask any local their favorite cuisine, and without blinking…it’s their own, literally nothing compares. I’m not sure I’m 100 percent convinced of this, but I’m willing to continue the necessary research.
5. Visit temples. Be quiet. Chat with a monk
Take off your shoes, wear a shall, be respectful, listen. Thai temples range from breath-robbing gittering palaces in the middle of a skyscraper forest, to simple one room bungalow type structures filled with single sticks of incense.
Spend an entire day doing one of the best things in Thailand: exploring a city’s temples or visiting them in purposeful small sips throughout your time in Thailand.
Most every city has at least a few that are always open to visitors and are easy to find, their name always including the Thai word wat, or temple.
6. Take a cooking class
Speaking of incredible Thai food… One of my favorite things that I’ve done since moving here has been taking a cooking class, (and then attempting to recreate dishes at my home using a one heat setting pan and plastic spatula).
Thai Akha Kitchen in Chiang Mai was seriously one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to Thailand (that, and upgrading to a semi-automatic motorbike).
In a half day, we crafted eleven traditional Thai dishes using fresh local ingredients from the market and still had room for mango sticky rice for dessert.
The organization was impeccable, and the presentation made you feel like a seriously legitimate Thai chef. Our guide was from an Akha village in northern Thailand and was able to customize all dishes to our spicy-ness handling abilities as well as vegan and vegetarian versions of everything.
It’s not touristy. It’s not kitschy. It’s way too much fun, and worth every baht.
7. Drive a motorbike
Be it back roads through rubber tree forests or skirting around tuk tuks during Bangkok rush hour, driving a motorbike is one of the best things to do in Thailand, and it is my favorite ways of getting around. It allows you the freedom of exploring on your time, and offers the thrill of the ride.
If you don’t know how to drive a motorbike or scooter, take some time to test it out on quiet roads before braving the inevitably crazy streets of any Thai town, then with helmet in tow, enjoy the roads, GPS your way around, or again, get really lost and immensely enjoy it.
8. Make friends. Ask Questions.
Thailand is full of some of the most beautiful locals, travelers, expats, and travelers drawn to the energy of this place. Listen a bit more than usual, and you might pick up a few key Thai phrases… hello, thank you, and this is really delicious are some of my favorites.[If you’re looking for ways to make friends while traveling, check out this article on the art of chatting it up while on the road.]
Hello: sah wah dee (kah= women khap=men)
Thank you: Koopkhun (kah= women khap=men)
This is really delicious: Aroy mak!
Whether you’re on a short term tour of the country, or looking to make this place home, there are always things to do in Thailand, people to chat up, and seriously wonderful beaches made for nothing but hammocks and Chang.