Thailand is the perfect blend of yin and yang. One one hand are the southern seas and sands with their turquoise waters, pristine and lively islands and floating markets. In contrast, the quaint northern side is laced with hilly terrain, winding rivers, elephant villages, banana trees, and tuk-tuks. Here are some of the best places in Thailand, especially for old souls who like to delve deeper into a destination.
Thailand has fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping adventure sports. It also has monks in their orange robes, walking through temples and keeping the spirituality of the country intact. The contrast of pastoralism and modernity is interesting and beautiful.
Thailand is a tiny country, but it remains one of the most visited destinations in the world. There are so many things to do here it would take many visits to enjoy it all. Some experiences, however, do stand all out.
Experience a traditional Thai homestay in the wilderness
A Thai homestay is not really like having a home away from home; it’s different, and so much more. It’s a chance to live close to the people whose country you are visiting. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in their culture, food, traditions, and language. It’s a step above the typical pre-packaged tourists experience.
Take a Thai cooking class
The cuisine of tropical Thailand makes use of many spices and flavors in dishes from pad thai to som tum. The combinations and culinary intricacies of Thai dishes are best learned from professionals. To learn about Thai cooking, join a cooking class when in Thailand. You’ll relish the cuisine even after you’ve left the country.
Pick some killer moves (quite literally!) of Muay Thai
Muay Thai, literally Thai boxing, is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. The martial art uses the whole body as a weapon and a shield. It is known as the “art of eight limbs” because it uses a combination of fists, elbows, knees, and shins.
The fierce fighting style is thought to have been used by soldiers and also by locals protecting their lands. Long before it was a sport, Muay Thai was an important survival tool. For dedicated Muay Thai practitioners, the art form or sport is a lifestyle. To pick a move or two when in Thailand is highly recommended.
Explore Thai temples
Thailand’s beautiful temples not only have cultural significance, but are also great visual treats. Prasat Hin Phanom Rung is a Hindu Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano. In Buriram Province at 402 meters elevation, Phanom Rung symbolizes the Indic connection of Thailand.
There’s also The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun, which is an unconventional Buddhist Temple located near Chiang Mai. With a pure white exterior, this temple symbolizes purity. Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Pai, and Surin have more than their fair share of temples and are absolutely worth exploring.
Volunteer for Thai monks at the temples
Thai Temples also act as learning centers and help sustain the Buddhist culture. In this endeavor, the temples also encourage young boys to embrace Buddhist principles and become monks. The Thai government sponsors food, housing and education for these young learners as they become monks. Moreover, the Thai government also provides educational facilities for young children in the temples. A good way to explore and understand this cultural and social phenomenon is to volunteer to teach young monks.
Explore an ethical elephant experience: Volunteer for the gentle giants
A lot has been said about how elephants, although sacred in Thai culture, are mistreated in Thailand. Due to poverty and rising ‘elephant tourism’ the beautiful and intelligent creatures may be reduced to mere circus props. Therefore, it is important to choose an elephant experience that ethically supports, sustains, and takes care of its elephants.
Thailand is a ‘Mecca’ of adventure activities
The countryside of northern Thailand is one of the most beautiful and affordable places to indulge in adventure activities. Leave the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai and walk along winding roads through lush strawberry fields and lychee farms. Take in epic mountain vistas of Mon Cham as the beautiful Mekong River runs through this verdant wilderness. You can explore the area by trekking, hot air ballooning, ziplining, white water rafting, and guided ATVs.
Visit the hill tribes of Thailand
The northern part of Thailand houses many hill tribes that aren’t very well known. Living in remote villages where indigenous ways of life remain intact, it’s an experience worth exploring when in Thailand.
Close to Chiang Mai is Ban Mae Jok, a beautiful countryside escape in Northern Thailand. This habitat of about 140 members of the Karen hill tribe is accessible after a long trek. It’s a learning experience to witness the tribe living in harmony with its surroundings.
Most tribes depend on the cultivation of rice, hand weaving, and hand dyeing clothes. A local homestay gives a closer look into their culture and lives. Many great walking/hiking trails are also recommended for travelers.
Drive through the tea farms of Mae Salong
The cooler temperatures of northern Thailand make it ideal for tea and coffee cultivation. Plantations at high elevations (some 8,200 feet above sea level) provide the major source of income for the village of Mae Salong. Lychee, longan fruit, oranges, and passionfruit are grown at lower elevations. Wayside stalls on the bumpy road up to Mae Salong are some of the best places in Thailand to buy fresh fruit. The area was once known for the furtive production of opium, but this has ceased under Thai government rule.
Travel along the ‘Thai-ways’: Tuk-tuks, trains and more
One of the best ways to explore a country is using public transportation, which takes routes the locals use. Thailand has miles of expansive highways, but trains and tuk-tuks are ideal for exploring the less-frequented lanes of the country. Especially enlivening is a tuk-tuk ride in the wilderness of northern Thailand.