Thailand has much to do, see, experience, and discover. It’s a unique culture on the other side of the world, and it’s worth the trip out there. What exactly should you do when you go there? A whole bunch. If you’re making Thailand travel plans, be sure to add these places to your bucket list itinerary!
Getting to Thailand
Most travelers entering Thailand fly into Bangkok international airport. As the nation’s capital, it’s the easiest to access with the biggest airport.
Wherever you fly into, you’ll likely need to find public transportation to get to your hotel or where you’re staying. Some tips:
- When using a taxi (called a tuk-tuk), first use licensed taxis found at official taxi stands. Operate the meter instead of negotiating a pre-fixed price. It will be cheaper, and you’re less likely to be scammed. Use Google Maps to map and follow the route to your destination, which allows you to see if the driver is taking a longer route to jack up meter prices.
- Consider taking the local bus to and from the airport.
- Use Grabr app or Uber app
- Take the BTS Skytrain.
Entering Thailand does require a tourist visa. You can apply and obtain one online at Thailand e-Visa.
You may have attended your fair share of farmer’s and local markets, but you’ve likely never been to a floating market.
Bangkok is famous for these markets. The canals and waterways were how people used to get around back before the city became the developed urban space we know today. As for the experience, you are floating through the city in a canoe while vendors, in their canoes, are selling their goods. What are they selling? Items range from flowers and spices to food and souvenirs.
The most popular one is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, located about an hour outside the city. While it’s usually crammed with tourists, a visit to this bustling market is well worth the time. Traveling along the waterways in this area will get you views of different plantations and remote villages.
There are plenty of temples to choose from in Bangkok. Each one carries its own history, opulence, and significance.
One of the most famous is Wat Arun, opposite the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (the oldest temple in Bangkok). Built during the 17th century, its full name of ‘Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.’ Or, as people also like to say, the ‘Temple of the Dawn.’
Several palaces in Bangkok are available for sightseeing; however, the most iconic is the Grand Palace. Built in 1782, it was the home of the Thai King for 150 years, plus the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. The Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint are within its walls.
In addition, a visit to the Grand Palace will get you a view of Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which dates back to the 14th century.
Shopping At Chatuchak Market
If you like shopping, you need to check this place out. The market includes 8000 plus stalls that cover 27 acres. Open only on the weekends, the market attracts 200,000 visitors a day. And yes, this is one of the largest markets in the world.
If the floating markets mentioned above aren’t your thing, consider a regular old boat ride down the Chao Phraya River. This river and its many offshoots that permeate Bangkok give the city its nickname “Venice of the East.”
Some 50,000 locals use the ferry system on the river for their daily commutes. As a visitor, the ride will get you a sneak peek into the different layers of the city.
Visit a Rooftop
Want spectacular views, good food, and solid drinks? Visit some of the famous rooftops in Bangkok.
One of the more popular choices is the Banyan Tree Hotel Vertigo and Moon bar on the 61st floor. The rooftop is designed to give unobstructed 360-degree views of the city. As soon as you reach the top, you are outside so beware if you are scared of heights.
Of note, they have a strict dress code, so double-check that before you head over!
There are a few options to get to Chiang Mai. You can fly, take the bus, hire a driver, or take the train.
Riding elephants is probably on everyone’s to-do list nowadays. However, doing so is not safe or healthy for the animal. For elephants to be domesticated enough to accept human travelers, they must be trained, and their training is brutal.
If you’re interested in visiting and spending time with these magnificent creatures, then visit the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai instead. They rescue these abused animals and let them roam free. You cannot ride them, but you can walk alongside them, feed them, and take a bath with them! Since they are already trained, they are friendly towards people.
The Park also rescues dogs, an elephant’s favorite four-legged pal, and runs primarily via donations. The local caretakers developed one-on-one relationships with the elephants assigned to them, and you can see the beautiful friendships all in one place!
Next up on the Chiang Mai to-do list is the Tiger Kingdom. You’ve probably seen plenty of Instagram photos with people and tigers – this is how they do it. The animals are not drugged. They are just super sleepy due to the Thailand heat!
You have the option of hanging out with the baby tiger cubs or with the adults. If with an adult, you are not allowed close to their face (safety first!), and with the cubs, you get to be playful and cuddle! It’s a win-win all around.
The best shopping is in Chiang Mai. Their night market has all the goods you could hope for from a Thailand vacation. You can purchase clothes, shoes, art, decorative pieces, spices, food, and anything else you can imagine.
Bargaining is a must! So get ready to flex those muscles to try and get the best price for your souvenirs.
World Famous Beaches
Koh Samui versus Phuket
Both locations are popular and scenic, with pristine white sand beaches. Phuket may be more well known from a tourist perspective, but Koh Samui is equally beautiful. Both are priced approximately the same with regard to hotel costs. So, how do you pick which to visit?
Koh Samui has more quiet time at the beach, beach clubs, street markets for shopping, more water activities, access to friendly locals, and convenient food options.
Phuket has a busier beach hub, nightclubs, malls for shopping, more land activities, unique local cuisine, and a more upscale clientele.
Depending on your interests and goals for the trip, you can decide which is a better destination to fit your plans!
There is no shortage of activities to do while you’re at the beach. You can snorkel, scuba dive, rent out a boat or a jet ski and have your own fun.
Thailand has over 70 languages spoken, with the most common being the language you’ll hear when you visit: Thai.
The local currency is the Thai Baht. The most recent exchange rate with the US dollar is 1 USD = 35.5 THB
If you’ve ever been to a spa, you’ve probably seen the option for a Thai massage. There’s no better place to experience an authentic one than in Thailand! A lovely spa day there will afford you a luxury Thai experience. It’s well worth the investment.
Who doesn’t love good Thai takeout? As you can imagine, the version of Thai we experience stateside is not the same as what you will experience there. Expect slightly different flavors and spicier options. Don’t worry, though. Thailand is a very diverse and accommodating country. You will surely find what you’re craving if you need a break from eating the local cuisine.
If you’re really interested in the food scene, consider taking a Thai cooking class. Learn the ins and outs of putting together an authentic meal and then eat and enjoy! Otherwise, make it a point to try everything, from upscale restaurants to mom-and-pop joints to the street food stands. You won’t be disappointed.
While you’re there, check out the local fruit. The tropical climate allows locals to grow exotic fruit we don’t always find here at home. Take advantage, push your comfort zone and be sure to try them all!
A trip to Thailand is a fantastic experience. There is plenty to do and see for everyone. Use these tips to help you plan your trip! Happy travels!
This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional to give women a voice and a community and provide resources to help them overcome hurdles and achieve success. With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands women's struggles and frustrations. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top. Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest through this platform.