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Top 20 Things to do in Thailand

Culture and & the Thai Life

Top 20 Things to do in Thailand

Temples & Monuments

Top 20 Things to do in Thailand

Top 20 Things to do in Thailand

Just as a restaurant lists many dishes on its menu but recommends only a few, so we have decided to highlight some of the most amazing activities and attractions all visitors to the Kingdom of Thailand must definitely not miss.

Famous for its wealth of Buddhist temples, the holiest of holies is the Temple of the Emerald Buddah in Bangkok. If your looking for another taste of Thai culture, seasoned with tradition, take a cooking class in a five-star hotel, or take a classical theatre performance at the renovated art-deco theatre in the capital.

Lovers of sports and the great outdoors will not be starved for the choice. There's abseiling down a gushing waterfall in the country's biggest national park; there's elephant-back riding in the mountainous and verdant north; plenty of sunken pleasures await aquanauts in the supremely scenic, national marine parks of the Andaman Sea. Then again, you could have a ball playing golf at seaside resorts like Hua Hin and the ever-popular island of Phuket. Or learn the ropes of Muay Thai kick-boxing at a Resort in Ko Samui.

But there are plenty less strenuous options. Find some peace of mind by doing a Buddhist-style meditation retreat at the forest monastery. Tune up your body with a healthy detox programme at a beachside resort. For a shopping spree of epic proportions, head for that behemoth of a bazaar- the Weekend Market in Bangkok. To make tracks back into the past of ancient Siam's glorious Kingdoms and World War II history, hop aboard the legendary and luxurious Eastern-Oriental Express.

Of course you'll discover thousands more side dishes and appetizers to make your vacation - or return trip - a smorgasbord of excitement and relaxation. But these 20 astonishing and truly satisfying 'main courses' need to be fully savoured.

The Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha
Thailand's most sacred statue, the Emerald buddha, resides at the gradious Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), right next to the former residence of royalty, the Grand Palace. The murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana, a magical epic, are otherworldly. But so are the gilt-covered pagodas and Buddhist images in the country's number-one tourist attraction. What is also fascinating is how many everyday Thais come here to pray.  Watching them observe age-old Buddhist rituals is a genuine slice of Thai life, served fresh everyday.

The temple and palace, located in the historic Rattanakosin Island, are only a short walk from the other marvels, such as Wat Pho (home of the Reclining Buddha and a traditional massage school), as well as the National Museum, the City Pillar and the National Gallery.

It's open from 08h30 to 15h30 except on special days. Visitors are advised that polite and modest dress is essential.

Khaosan Road
The crossroads for any young traveler coming or leaving Southeast Asia are the Khaosan Road. This lively strip is a multi-nationality experience, with dozens of street vendors, artisans, fancy bars and restaurants galore. Ever since Alex Garland's novel 'The Beach', and the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, appeared, the road's reputation has been on the up and up. Nowadays, there may be a Boots pharmacy, a Burger King, a McDonald's and more upscale accommodation, but Khaosan still attracts many young travelers - and even their one-time hippie parents.

Near to Khaosan, Phra A-thit Road is Bangkok's Little Bohemia, with arty restaurants, chic bars and a riverfront park that hosts festivals of theatre, dance and music from time to time. The beautifully preserved old wooden buildings here are a portal into Bangkok's past. And the nearby pier for river-taxis makes arriving and departing a breeze.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
For a truly Thai Shopping experience, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is guaranteed to appease both the thrifty bargain-hunter and the moneyed antique collector. From home decorations and artworks to exquisite Thai handicrafts and exotic pets, you'll find them all - and much more - in this sprawling behemoth of a bazaar. When you're on the final shopping spree for souvenirs or presents for your loved ones back home, this is the place to shop until your bank balance drops. With more than 15,000 individual stalls spread over 35 acres, the Weekend Market (which is on the Skytrain line) can seem overwhelming at first.

Just remember that the outer rim of the market usually features plants, gardening equipment and some used clothing, while stalls in the inner section deal in clothing, souvenirs, jewellery and household decor. Towards the back and north-ends of the market is where most of the exotic plants, fish and other animals are contained. The Nancy Chandler Map for the market is a handy-time souvenir.

Khon, Hun Lakhon Lek and Siam Niramit
Now visitors to the capital can time travel back to the 15th Century Siam through performances of khon (Thai Classical Dance) at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, the art-deco venue that was the first air-conditioned cinema in all of Southeast Asia, and hun lakhon lek (Traditional Thai Puppet) at AKSRA Theatre. These exciting shows are packed with traditional Thai music, and bedazzling costumes. Once performed exclusively for the Royal Court, now visitors can enjoy these regal forms of entertainment.

These extravaganzas are based on the mythical Ramayana. At the nucleus of the story is how Hanuman, the white monkey warrior, came to serve the god King Rama, on his quest to defeat the demoniac overlord Thotsakan and his green-masked minions. During the performances of Khon at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre,  English subtitles are flashed across a screen above the stage. And before the show even starts, there's a film explaining the significance of certain movements the dancers perform and details about their elaborate masks.

Another venue to add a zesty, cultural dimension to Thailand's nightlife is Siam Niramit. Located in Bangkok and Phuket, they offer a nightly dinner show package that uses hi-tech special FX to spotlight highlight heaven, hell and the enchanted Himapaan Forest, which lies between then. The other acts of the show give the audience previews of some of the country's most colourful festivals and take them on a whirlwind tour of its four distinct regions.

Pak Khlong Talat & Yaowarat
Pak Khlong Talat & YaowaratPak Khlong Talat, the leading flower market in Bangkok, comes in a painter's palette of colors - orchids of every hue, garlands of marigold, birds of paradise, bouquets of roses from Chiang Mai, chrysanthemums, and the florid, ceremonial ornaments known as Bai Sai, constructed from banana leaves and crowned with flowers. What many travelers do is buy a special flower box there, spray the flowers before boarding, put moist tissues around them, and carry them on as hand luggage. It's a great way to save money and make a dazzling arrival. The market is busy during the day and at night, but it's really blooming in the early morning hours when vendors are setting up shop and the streets are filled with carts and trucks full of flowers.

This area, near the Chao Praya River, is a wonderful way to cool down after a day of overheated shopping in Yaowarat, Bangkok's Chinatown, famous for its golden shops, street markets, and Chinese-style temples. Some tours of the canals in the vicinity stopover on their itineraries. After a visit here, you'll feel fresh as a daisy.

Floating Market & Khlong Tour
Bangkok used to be known as the 'Venice of the Far East' for all the watery arteries connecting to the main vein - Chao Praya River. Taking a long-tail boat tour of a few of these canals on the Thon Buri side of the river, like Bangkok Boi (little) and Bangkok Yai (big) with breaks at the Temple of Dawn and the Royal Barges Museum is a great way to immerse yourself in Thai and Siamese history. And buzzing down the waterways in a long-tail boat, past canal-side houses and floating petrol stations, inspires a real buzz of excitement you won't find anywhere else.

Another gistoric voyage is along the canal of Khlong Om to the island of Ko Kret, home to a thriving community of Mon Artisans, who sell the fruits of their labours, like sandstone sculptures, for very reasonable prices. To get there, take the taxi to the last station, Nonthaburi, and charter your own long-tail boat from the pier.

No Journey to the Land of Smiles would be complete without visiting some of its globally lauded, tropical islands and the oceanfront resorts. Dip into Hua Hin (the country's oldest beach resort) for golf and horse-riding on the beach. Try Chang for its abundance of eco-tourism activities. Tock up to Pattaya forits raucous nightlife or savour all of these different delights on Koh Samui.

But there are many other natural treasures with some sandy fringe benefits where serenity reigns supreme. Ko Tao is popular with families and also certifies more rookie scuba-diver each year than any other destination in Southeast Asia. To really get away from it all, try Ko Mak in the Ko Chang National Marine Park. For a more Thai-style experience, close to Bangkok, head for Bang saen, which boasts some of the cheapest and most succulent seafood in the country.

Relaxing in Pai
Pai, the postoral town in Mae Hong Son province nestled in the northern mountains of Thailand, has become a base camp for eco-explorers of all ages, with trekking and staying over at hill-tribe villages whitewater rafting and mountain-biking being some of the most attractive options. close to this town are waterfalls and rolling green hills. And the town itself offers a wealth of classes in everything from Reiki to traditional massage to various New Age disciplines. A favourite haunt for young travellers, Pai is slowly moving more up market thanks to its new airport.

But its increasing popularity has yet to sully the town's tranquil charm, art galleries-cum-coffee shops in century-old wooden dwellings, and riverside bungalows in every price range.

Muay Thai
When it comes to martial artistry, everyone know that Muay Thai kick-boxers are the lords of the ring. Professional bouts provide plenty of punchy entertainment in Bangkok. But more and more people are getting their kicks in Thailand by taking lessons at the many schools across the country, for fitness reasons, self-defense, or to become professional boxers.

And there are gyms all over the country which welcomes foreigners and give classes in English. What's even more thrilling are the Muay Thai resorts and training camps opening near beaches on Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Pha-ngan. There's nothing more soothing or those aches and pains than some downtime on the beach or a swim in a tropical sea after a hard day's workout, learning pugilistic moves like 'breaking the elephant's tusks'.

Biking Tour in World Heritage Sites
Sukhothai, which means 'Dawn of Happiness', also makes the dawning of the first Siamese Kingdom and the birth of the Thai language. Once and outpost of the Khmer empire, they were driven out by the Siamese who established their first Kingdom here in 1238. It was a golden age for classical art, architecture and Buddhism. To traverse these magnificent ruins in Suhothai Historical Park rent a mountain bike for a pittance.

You can also cycle leisurely past dozens if remnants from the next Siamese empire, Ayutthaya, in its 'Ancient City', or scattered around the town, and hugging the banks of the rivers, which form a natural moat around what was once considered the most glorious town and trading port in Asia. And well-appointed museums in the city give an overview of the Kingdom's 400-year-plus reign. There are not many towns in the world where you can drive by the ruins of a 15th century pagoda, just down the street from a modern convenience store, but that's the magic of Ayutthaya for you.

Elephant Trekking
Siamese soldiers rode elephants into battle as the tanks of the ancient battlefields. Now tourists can ride one, too. Though you can go for an elephant trek on many Thai islands the most scenic outings are up in the great green north. Atop the elephant's back you can climb the hills, ford streams and lumber through the jungle. Some of the camps also put on shows. For an incredible display of the animal's might, just watch them hauling logs.

At the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, in the northern province of Lampang, tourists can also sign up for courses on how to be a mahout. Learn how to 'drive' the beast, how to take them to the river for a bath, and even sleep with your elephant out in the jungle. Please bear in mind that these intelligent and endangered creatures, which have the same lifespan as a human being, are sacred to Thai people and that a white elephant once graced the flag of Siam. even today, you can still see Thai's walking under the elephants belly, like ancient siamese warriors used to do, in order to bring themselves good luck and strength.

Abseiling in Khao Yai
Imagine climbing down a cliff gace with a gushing waterfall on both sides of you. Tht's the thrill of abseiling in Khao Yai National Park, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its diverse eco-systems and 800 different species of fauna. The park is also renowned for its waterfalls, ranging from 15 to 50 metres high. Abseilling (or walking backwards) down them is a thrill sport that will make you feel like Spider-man.

But there are more than just chills and spills to fill out a day in the park. To get to some of the waterfalls requires kayaking across a lake, or trekking through some of the most luscious greenery in the Kingdom. And the jungle is a lair for wild elephant herds, gibbons and hornbills. Even Spide-man never got this wild.

Diving at Similan & Surin Islands
Some of the world's most bedazzling spots for scuba-diving and snorkeling are in the archipelagos of the Andaman sea's Similan and Surin Islands. Below the emerald-green and sapphire-blue surface, you'll see manta rays, whale sharks, lion fish, schools of barracuda and around 75 percent of the coral species in Thailand. But there's also leather-back turtles, squid, octopus and giant Gorgian sea fans.

For the upscale option, book a live-board (which means you sleep and eat on a bot for several days) from Phuket to explore the Silian Islands and their multitude of dive spots, awash with colours of what people call the 'rainforest of the sea': coral reefs teeming with marine life. You'll sleep in comfort and wake to smell the salty breeze and then plunge into the wild blue yonder beneath the waves.

If you're not a diver, don't worry, because you won't be left high and dry. Many snorkellers opt to stay on the Surin Islands in accommodation provided by the National Park service, or put up their own tents. The park also runs its own daily snorkeling trips to some fantastically beautiful reefs. Even if you're not a strong swimmer, they provide you with a life jacket so you can get into the swim of things.

Andaman Coast
Whether you're looking for hard or soft adventures, from sea kayaking to simply soaking up the sun on a sandy tropical beach, the islands of Krani province and Phuket are truly amazing destinations.

The symbol of Krabi, which is the oldest continually inhabited province in Thailand, is the limestone crag. Nature's exclamation marks, these towering monoliths punctuate Krabi's inland geography, and make for dramatic cliff faces framing seaview sunsets. For water sports aficionados, there are lots of ways to get a high tide of adrenaline flowing, from jet-skis to banana boats, and parasailing to marine fishing.

But softer tours of beauty are available in the area, too. One of the most scenic trips is visiting Phang-nga Bay, studded with limestone crags rising hundreds of metres out of the sea. Most of these tours throw in a stop over at James Bond Island, while 'paddlingguides' also take you in kayaks through sea caves that open up into lagoons, over flowing with placid aquamarine water that's surrounded by limestone cliffs.

The stressed-out urbanite who craves some peace of mind should contemplate doing a meditation retreat in one of the country's many temples. Near the forest monastery of Suan Mokkh, Garden of Liberation, in Syrat Thani or at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok you can learn the secrets of serenity from real Buddhist monks. These practical lessons will also teach you why the tolerant and compassionate teachings of the Buddha make it the fastest-growing religion in the world today.

At the aforementioned temple in the capital, located near the Grand Palace, visitors receive lessons in sitting and walking meditations from Thai moks conversant in English. You can even stay over at the centre in the temple for a night or even a few weeks as long as you obey the different precepts, like not eating after 12pm, just like the monks do. The temple asks only for a small donation; the amount is up to you.

In contrast, the courses at Suan Mokkh International, about one kilometre from the forest temple in Surat Thani, are much more intensive. Here, you have to rise at 4am to begin a long day of meditation practice that includes listening to talks about Buddhist teachings and even doing yoga. For an entire 10 days you have to remain completely silent.

It's tough, but it does have many benefits, including increased concentration, more willpower, and the taming of what the Lord Buddha called 'the monkey mind'.

Beauty Spa & Thai Massage
Thailand has become the fountain head of the spa business in Southeast Asia. Most of the country's major hotels have a spa, where you can opt for everything from facial treatments to holistic treatments, based on traditional Asian methods of healing, which strike a balance between the physical and spiritual. Many of these spas are pulently appointed with art and antiques to help rejuvinate all of your senses.

What's more, plenty of people come to Thailand to get their teeth done (yes, there's even a dental spa in Bangkok, too) because, for the fraction of the price in the west, they can enjoy quality dentistry and then use the savings to bankroll the rest of their vacation.

As obesity, stress and a lack of physical exercise claim more and more lives each year, good health has become a matter of life and death. No wonder so many tourists are choosing health-consious holidays. These might entail a week-long fasting and colonics program on a tropical island; or working in some spa treatments after doses of sightseeing; or making sure your hotel has a decent gym and pool to keep yourself in good shape. These days, holidays are not just exercises in gluttony and sloth.

Tom Yam Kung, Phat Thai, & Cooking
Now that traditional dishes like Tom Yam Kung (a spicy broth laced with lemon grass and fresh shrimps) and Phat Thai ) Thai noodles) have become globally renowned, more and more people want to learn the basics of the one of the world's more popular culinary arts. Forget the thousands of cookbooks and experience authentic Thai food preparation with a distictly local flavour.

Better still, you choose your own kitchen. Would you like to study aboard a converter wooden rice barge? How about in a humble wooden abode? Or would you prefer the gleaming kitchen of a five-star hotel? Whichever you choose you can take a day-long course - or longer - and learn the secrets of preparing your favourite local dish from a real Thai chef. And then you can get to join in the feast along with your fellow cooks.

Fancy a sweet green curry with chicken, a chicken mussaman curry or a spicy papaya salad? How about a mouthwatering grouper steamed in lemon and ginger? They're all on the menu at these cooking classes, along with outings to buy ingredients at local fresh markets.

Songkran & Loi Krathong Festivals
As night falls, the country's waterways are illuminated by tiny boats filled with flowers, incense and a candle. This tribute to the Water Goddess takes place on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month. Loi Krathong is a romantic festival, too. Couples go to float their Krathongs together. While you can see - and participate in - this festival all across the country, wherever there's a river, stream or canal, the most unforgettable place to catch it is in the atmospheric ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park, where it originated many centuries ago.

The festivities prove how important water is in a society with such agrarian roots. During Songkran, the Thai New Year held in mid-April (13-15 April) splashes down with water wars on the streets; the ritual bathing of Buddah images; and endearing displays of young pouring over the heads of their respected elders.

Both of these uniquely colourful festivals show off the spiritual and mirthful sides of the Thai people and twill surely deposit some scenes in your memory banks that will not soon be forgotten.

Tons of pros and amateurs have a ball in Thailand every year during their golfing vacations in scenic settings like Hua Hin and Phuket. The country's courses are not only world class but they sport some of the cheapest green fees in Southeast Asia and excellent local caddies.

So many tourists come to the Kingdom of Thailand every year to indulge in their favourite sport that a number of tour companies have sprung up to cater to these aficionados. This means you can choose from a variety of packages, from VIP golf holidays to more inexpensive variations, or even stay at a resort with a course on site. Let the tour operators take care of the details so you can concentrate on your game and take in the splendid scenery.

Travel by Rail
When it comes to railway journeys of a lifetime, the true fans of luxury and history have a one-track mind of the legendary Eastern and Oriental Express. Get your dram vacation on track by booking the eight-day/seven-night package with stopovers at the history-rich cities of Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi. These sightseeing breaks include guided tours with a cornucopia of attractions, from religious ruins to remnants of the World War II 'Death Railway' and the Bridge Over River Kwai, as well as river cruises.

From the privacy of your immaculate compartment on the E&O, you'll have your own window on some of the most cinematic scenery in Thailand (both pastoral and urban). Into the bargain you'll be pampered like a prince. The range of intercontinental dishes available in the dining car is to drool for. And how many other trains have their own well-stocked library? After seven days traversing Thailand, the Eastern and Oriental Express makes tracks through Malaysia to reach the end of the line in Singapore.

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