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Authored by Kellen Rauch

The glorious, mysterious, and (at times) ridiculous country of Thailand is a smorgasbord when it comes to things to do, places to visit, and experiences to be had. Although the country is relatively small in area, it’s impossible to take advantage of all it has to offer in a short vacation stay.

But no matter how long you intend to spend in Thailand, make sure that you at least manage to immerse yourself in most, if not all, of the following.

The Islands

ang thong :: viewpoint

If there’s one thing you should know about Thailand, it’s that it is made up of beautiful sun-drenched, tropical islands which feature “emerald lagoons and secluded beaches, mountainous plains and jungle terrain”.

On the southwestern side of the country you have the entire province of Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and more.

On the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand you have Koh Chang, Koh Sichang, Koh Samet, Koh Larn, and more. There are so many to choose from, enough to fill an article in itself just to compare which one is right for you.

So if you’re bored of Bangkok make sure you compile some research on Thailand’s different islands to find out which sun-drenched paradise is for you. They’re all different and all amazing in their own way.

Vist a National Park

Elephant's Sunscreen - Thailand - July 2012

Thailand’s beauty isn’t strictly limited to the country’s coastline, and its stunning natural landscapes continue inland to well over 100 official national parks.

Do you know that there are still tigers, elephants, leopards, gaurs, bears roaming free in many national parks across Thailand? Do you also know that 10% of all marine species in the world can be found across the country’s 22 marine national parks? Also, Thailand is the best bird-watching destination in mainland Asia. Which are the best National Parks in Thailand?

With such a varied range of parks boasting unspoiled landscapes and providing a haven for endangered species, you have to try to get to at least one while visiting Thailand. Each park is completely different from the next, some mountainous, some covered by forests, and some located on the beach.

Two of the most popular? Erawan National Park (Kanchanaburi) and Khao Sok National Park (Surat Thani), the latter home to one of oldest evergreen rainforest in the world.

A third that is quickly gaining more and more visitors is Huai Nam Dang National Park which is in the north of Thailand, close to Pai. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Pai, I personally suggest Mad Monkey Hostel Pai!

Bangkok

GrandPalace - Bangkok

Not visiting Bangkok on a trip to Thailand would be the equivalent of traveling to England but not stopping by London. Even if you’re passing through, you’re most likely going to arrive at BKK airport for your connecting flight, and then out again for your subsequent flight home, so you may as well spend at least a day in BKK. Should I visit Bangkok? Things to do in Bangkok

The hustle and bustle of Bangkok is unlike anywhere else in Thailand. 14 of the country’s 66 million live in a city that is very much built up, and not out. If urban exploration is your thing, “with so much of life conducted on the street, there are few cities in the world that reward exploration as handsomely as Bangkok”, and the contrasts of the city make it a fascinating place.

“Here climate-controlled megamalls with world class tailors sit side-by-side 200-year-old village homes; gold-spired Buddhist temples share space with neon-lit strips of sleaze; slow-moving rivers of traffic are bypassed by long-tail boats plying the royal river; and streets lined with food carts are overlooked by restaurants on top of skyscrapers serving exotic cocktails. As Bangkok races towards the future, these contrasts will never stop supplying the city with its never-ending Thai-ness.”

At Least One Temple

This one can be knocked off the list pretty much no matter where you decide to travel in Thailand. Temples (predominantly Buddhist) are EVERYWHERE.

Of course some are more extravagant than others, though no matter how big or small the temple you’re visiting may be, every single one will display amazing, and intricately hand-crafted detail. Best temples in Thailand. 

Each of Thailand’s main regions will host at least one big temple to visit. Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun are two to look into. Hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the day to see the temples.

Go to a Half Moon Festival or Full Moon Party

Partier on Haad Rin Nok

No-one throws a beach/jungle party quite like Thailand, and if you’re thinking about heading to Asia and define yourself as “young”, you need to be at one of these parties. When is the Full Moon Party Thailand

Both held on Koh Phangan, each of these parties is completely off the charts, however they are both completely different. The Full Moon Party is an all night beach party which sees 10,000-30,000 people show up each month. The party begins at dusk and there are more than a few different bars to dance and party at as you make your way along the beach. In twilight , small tables are lined up on the beach and thousands of lamps are lit. The beach explodes into a dancing frenzy as different DJ’s play their mix.

The Full Moon Party happens…you guessed it…on the night of each full moon. So there’s one approximately each month. The Half Moon Festival however is totally different. Occurring once every two-ish weeks, the party is held at a concrete venue in the middle of the jungle. Unlike the Full Moon Party, the Half Moon Festival is hosted in a singular venue. If you’re into deep house. The Half Moon Festival is for you. When is the Half Moon Festival Thailand?

Of course, there is so much more to Thailand than just these 5 broad things. Though these are a great place to start, and if you find that Thailand is truly a place you want to immerse yourself in, it’s becoming a trend among travelers to find a job and decide to live there! You could also dive  into a kung fu retreat and restore your mind, body and spirit. Thailand offers something for everyone.

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Kellen James is an American teacher in Asia, formerly living in Thailand and currently living in Shanghai, China.

At times he cries himself to sleep because truly great beers are usually difficult and expensive to find in Asia.

Photo credits: Featured photo by Mike Behnken. Ang Thong Viewpoint by hjjanisch. Elephant by Matt Martin. Grand Palace by DanaRiza EltraStudio. Partier on Haad Rin Nok by Joe Stump. Pinterest images by Mark Fischer & Mike Behnken.

    36 Comments

  1. I would just add the island of Koh Kradan on your island list as one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever visited.

    • Thanks for the tip! We’re hopefully heading through Asia again soon so have noted it on the list :)

  2. Oh Thailand my second home….SO many great things to do in Thailand. I always start with eating and a massage!

    • Ooooh a massage is a great idea :D Such a fabulous country to have based yourself for a move abroad – glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your time!

  3. Tick, tick yes these are all wonderful things to see and do in a country that we visit often. I agree with the above comments, Thailand is our go to place for excellent and super cheap massages

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed your time in Thailand previously Paula – I’ll have to get there myself for one of these famously amazing massages!

  4. Nice summary Megan, it’s crazy. Despite two years living in Chiang Mai I have not yet done the islands/been to a full moon festival. Three Songkrans though!

    Glad you included Bangkok, ever the polarising city does need to be experienced by all.

    • Three Songkrans sounds like an immense amount of fun! I would love to get to Thailand to take part in that! Hopefully one day soon :)

      Glad you’ve been enjoying your time in Thailand so far – hope you have the chance to get out and explore the islands!

  5. Kellen, I have only been to Thailand once. We templed and templed to our little hearts’ content, but we didn’t go to any national parks. I will have to check them out next time. BTW – When I was living in Asia I cried myself to sleep each night because of the lack of cheese!

    • It’s the little things in life we miss when we venture overseas!! Hope you can manage a return visit for the National Parks Corinne :) Though it does sound like you could dedicate essentially a whole trip to just temple hopping around the place!

  6. loge this article. We have just returned from Thailand and have totally fallen for the country. It was so great and your suggestions above show why it’s an amazing country. Two things that j would to do would be the Half Moon Party and the national parks.

    • So glad you’ve enjoyed your time in Thailand! Everyone who returns seems to do so with a determined mindset to get back!

  7. Great post. I’m not sure if I consider myself young anymore but part of me still wants to make it to a full moon party just to witness it for myself. Oh and I love Bangkok, such a great city!

    • You’re only as young as you act and feel!! I’m sure you would absolutely love the full moon party – there’s no age restriction on it, it’s more one of those “young at heart” things :D

  8. I bet the full moon party was kicking last night! Thailand is a great country to explore, and whilst I wouldn’t exactly call it an ‘off the beaten path’ country, it still does have that feeling out in the small towns and villages.

    • It’s definitely a touristy destination, though I think that there are parts of the country which offer the off the beaten path experience for those who want that too :)

  9. The beach looks like reason enough for me. I’d love to be sitting there right now.

    • Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just jump in through the computer screen :D

  10. I would add Chiang Mai to the list.

    • Great tip – thanks Jo!

  11. Wow! The amount of national parks in Thailand is incredible, as is the fact that 10% of all marine species worldwide can be found throughout Thailand’s 22 marine national parks. Awesome post, and I love the photos of Bangkok.

    • I was blown away by the number of national parks they actually had – was not something I was expecting at all! Kudos to Thailand for keeping their natural enthronement preserved!

  12. A full moon party sounds like it would be amazing. The national parks would also be a must do for me.

    • Hope you manage a trip to Thailand soon then Jeh-C :) You would love the National Parks – and with over 100 of them there’s definitely choice there for you!

  13. I’ve done Bangkok, the islands, the full moon party and temples. I would also add eat delicious curry.

    • Psyched to hear you’ve covered so much of Thailand Rashaad :) Thanks for the tip on the curry – will absolutely make sure to remember that for our next Asia trip :)

      Travel safe!

  14. Every single thing about Thailand is amazing. It just fuels up my wanderlust to visit there over and again. Thanks for sharing these common interests.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Neha! And glad you’re also in love with Thailand! Hope you have the chance to get back soon :)

  15. Glad you didn’t mention “elephant riding” as I’ve seen in many blogs out there!

    From this list, I’ve only missed the Full Moon Party. Next time – yes there will definitely be a next time!

    • Elephant riding definitely did not make the cut!! That’s reserved for an opposite “what NOT to do in Thailand”. I am quite impressed with the amount of blogs though that are starting to help raise social awareness about the consequences of such activities and how irresponsible it is and harmful for the wildlife.

      So glad you’ve had a fab time in Thailand! Full Moon Party sounds like a perfect excuse to plan a return trip to me :D Happy travels!

  16. Your post is very much interesting to read.Thanks for sharing.I will recommend your post.I really appreciate your post.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  17. Great to here i am deciding to visit Thailand next month and i’m collecting information about this country i have founded one more article like your article here.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post ZeeShan, I hope you have a wonderful time in Thailand in July :)

  18. Excellent article, Those photos are amazing. It’s really helpful when I planned to travel to that paradise. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Ajeesh, so glad that the post was helpful for you. Enjoy your time in Thailand!

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