A major tourist destination, bordered by Myanmar to the west, Malaysia to the south, Cambodia to the southeast and by Laos or northwest, Thailand is an unmissable gem of Southeast Asia. With a population and an area comparable to metropolitan France (68.3 million inhabitants over 514,000 km²), Thailand stretches from the Malay Peninsula to the mountains along the Burmese border to the north. As one of the newly industrialized countries, counting among the “Asian Tigers”, the Thai economy is essentially based on mass tourism and the export of manufactured products. We can only be charmed by coming to visit this country, but here it is: what to do in Thailand?
Defining your itinerary can be complex depending on the dates of your stay because there are a lot of unmissable things to do and see: Bangkok and its temples, its bars and restaurants, its historical monuments, the Chiang Mai region, the Ayutthaya, the resort town of Pattaya, Phuket, the islands of the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Tao), the Andaman Sea (Koh Phi Phi), etc. Both a giant open-air amusement park reviled for some and a popular dream destination for others for nature between countryside, mountains and dream beaches, Thailand – both decried for being a hotspot for prostitution – appeals to all audiences. Here is our selection of the most beautiful sites to see when visiting Thailand!
- 1. Bangkok
- 2. Chiang Mai
- 3. Good
- 4. Chiang Rai
- 5. Koh Pha Ngan
- 6. Koh Samui
- 7. The islands and beaches of the south
- 8. Khao Sok National Park
- 9. Khao Yai National Park
- 10. Baie de Phang Nga
- 11. Phuket
This will surely be your gateway to Thailand: the Thai capital is a megalopolis of 19.5 million inhabitants that never sleeps. The city has more than 400 Buddhist temples and is a unique blend – as often in Asia – of tradition and modernity. You can both visit the temples and get drunk 24 hours a day in the bars of Khao San Rd, the backpackers’ avenue (which in no way reflects authentic Thailand, but which is a good spot for cheap accommodation and celebration).
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun and Wat Pho are three must-see temples that should absolutely be discovered on a temple tour . In Wat Pho, you will walk around the large reclining Buddha – representing the Buddha on his deathbed accessing the parinirvana -, 43 meters long and rising 15 meters in height. Bangkok is famous for its frenzy, its energy and the feeling of being in the middle of a “joyful mess”.
2. Chiang Mai
What to do in Thailand if you don’t like the beaches where Western tourists accumulate? Ride to the north of the country, into the mountains and visit Chiang Mai. It should be noted that a large community of expatriates and/or western nomadic workers, including european people, has settled there. We went there in 2013 during a first trip to Thailand and Chiang Mai is for us one of the most beautiful sites to explore when visiting Thailand. Admittedly, it is a major tourist destination in the country, but the atmosphere is pleasant.
As for temples, you should visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – the most famous temple in Chiang Mai – and Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in the city. The other interest of Chiang Mai: take the opportunity to discover Thai cuisine! You can also, on returning from a cooking class, attend a match of Muay Thai, Thai boxing!
Are you looking for something to do in Thailand that is not punctuated by paradise temples and beaches – which you say are “overrated” and “fake”? Pai , a small town northwest of Chiang Mai, is a nice place to visit for a few days. Pai looks like a ghetto for Western tourists but offers – it’s no coincidence – beautiful things to do and see: it’s an ideal place to go for a trek in the surrounding mountains and roads.
4. Chiang Rai
Located in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai appeals to trekkers and mountain lovers. To experience more authenticity in northern Thailand, this is the place to go. Chiang Rai has 70,000 inhabitants and is home to the famous “white temple”, Wat Rong Khun, to be discovered during a guided tour of the city , an excursion full of promise and discovery.
5. Koh Pha Ngan
Visiting Thailand without going to the southern islands is a shame. Koh Pha Ngan delights revelers who come to Haad Rin for the Full Moon Party on the beach, but that’s not the true face of the island. Located in the Gulf of Thailand off Surat Thani, Koh Pha Ngan is a tropical paradise worth visiting.
We recommend renting a scooter to explore the island freely, but beware of accidents because the roads are rather dangerous. The heavenly beaches – we really liked the village of Ban Chalok Lam and its very calm beach – in the north of the island. The Ang Thong reserve is made up of around forty unspoiled islets, which you can’t miss if you have time. Do not miss the Than Sadet waterfall after enjoying an excellent Pad Thai or a Red Curry (for example).
6. Koh Samui
Koh Samui will suit you better if you come to visit Thailand with your family or if you are looking for rather calm and family-friendly beaches lined with coconut trees. Chaweng and Mae Nam beaches, for example, are worth seeing. The Na Muang waterfall , the highest on the island (30 meters), will change the coastline a bit, but it is best to see it in summer, during the wet season. Wat Phra Yai is a tourist site on the island: it is the temple of the Big Buddha, a statue of the Buddha painted in gold, 15 meters high
7. The islands and beaches of the south
To visit Southern Thailand, prefer the dry season, that is to say between the end of November and the end of March. We went in July, and the rain was tarnishing the beauty of the beaches and the islands. However, the must-see beaches in the south are Maya Bay , Koh Lipe Beach, the beaches of Koh Lanta, the island of Koh Phi Phi – where the film The Beach was shot -, Phang Nga Bay. The common denominator of all these places is the natural beauty with which they are adorned!
8. Khao Sok National Park
Departing from Krabi or from Bangkok, it is absolutely necessary to visit Khao Sok Park . You will criss-cross islets covered in thick jungle, strewn with limestone cliffs and home to exotic tropical wildlife, such as parrots and elephants. Unique nature reserve in the world, this is where you will see the tower-shaped karst formations, as if floating in the water like ice cubes in a glass of water.
9. Khao Yai National Park
Located 3 hours by road from Bangkok, the Khao Yai National Park is a rejuvenating lung of greenery after the tumultuous effervescence of Bangkok. The park is one of the largest forests in Asia and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So what to do in Thailand? In this park, you can see more than 2,000 different species of plants and go hiking without suffering from the heat: the massif culminates at 1,351 meters above sea level. To explore its beauties, an experienced ranger will be needed because the park is rather remote in the tropical jungle.
10. Baie de Phang Nga
What to do near Krabi and Phuket? When visiting southern Thailand, Phang Nga Bay seems logically unavoidable. You can kayak there and admire an extraordinary landscape made up of vertiginous limestone cliffs and dark caves. The bay is made up of 300 limestone peaks, and is nicknamed the “Halong Bay of Thailand”. For example, James Bond Island where certain scenes from the film “The Man with the Golden Gun” were filmed (several excursions are organized there), Khao Phing Kan , Ko Hong Island or Koh Panyee are the unmissable.
Finally, what to do in Phuket to end your trip? This 536 km² island is not just a synonym for sex tourism. Very popular, the island is magnified by its beaches, the proximity to Phang Nga Bay, the Similan Islands, its monuments – the Big White Buddha -, Wat Chalong, or even the very festive nightlife. You got it: you won’t be bored!