Things to do in Thailand

Our top activities

Find your beach

Traveling beyond the tired resorts of Phuket and Koh Samui, you can still find the idyllic postcard image of white sand, turquoise sea and swaying palms, with a tiny fishing boat or two bobbing in the background. There are bar-lined beaches, beaches with little more than a hammock, exclusive beaches and child-friendly beaches. Thailand has, quite literally, a beach for everyone – just look beyond the well-trodden tracks to find your dream bay.

Look after Thailand's elephants

Of all the things to do in Thailand, spending time with some of the region’s last elephants has to be one of the most exciting. Tracking them in the wild through the magical scenery of a national park is thrilling – but despite their size these enormous creatures are elusive, so combining this with a sanctuary visit allows you to get up close. Sadly, there are many unscrupulous camps, so do your research to ensure the elephants you meet are neither taken from the wild nor maltreated. Good camps function as “retirement homes” for former working elephants, and as hospitals for sick or injured animals – and as elephants eat a whopping 300kg of food a day, the money from your visit will be well spent!
The Elephant Nature Park is certainly one of the best sanctuaries; the elephants have said goodbye to their trekking seats and chains, and are allowed to live their retirement blissfully, playing, bathing, eating and interacting as they would in the wild. Come for a daytrip to “pamper a pachyderm”, spend the night at the camp or become a full time carer on a longer volunteer placement. You can cut food, maintain the park and clean enclosures, and – most memorably of all – bathe them in the rivers, as both you and the elephants cool off in the 40 degree heat.

Trek with tribes

Here, traditional tribes speak a multitude of languages and wear colourful dress. Head to the region of Pai to meet shamans, former crossbow hunters, rice farmers and weavers. Stay in a communal village house and trek with them through the glorious mountain scenery they have called home for centuries – this is one of the most insightful and rewarding things to do in Thailand. However, if anyone tries to sell you a tour to see the "long-necked women" - politely decline. These are sad "human zoos", with no benefit to the communities themselves.

Know your noodles

Slice and dice your way around Thailand with a cooking vacation, introducing you to the secrets of one of the world’s favourite spicy cuisines. Discover the differences between regional dishes, select the freshest vegetables from local markets, and learn to tell your galangal from your ginger with expert local chefs.
For hardcore foodies, two-week cooking trips take you up and down Thailand, from the Isaarn influence of the north, to the fried squid of the southern fishing villages. Alternatively, take a beachside evening class or join a workshop in a city restaurant to learn how to whip up a pad Thai. Most classes can be tailored to vegetarians and vegans, just be sure to inform your guide in advance.
Photo credits: [Find your beach: Eulinky] [Look after Thailand’s elephants: brianfagan] [Trek with tribes: Tetsushi Kimura ] [Know your noodles : Fabio Achilli]
Written by Vicki Brown
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