41 of the best things to do in Thailand

Lauren Allain

Washington, USA

Thailand: the country appropriately named The Land of Smiles. The nation that has something for everyone to enjoy, whether it’s your first international trip or the 57th. The country evolves quickly, so there’s always something new to explore, a neighborhood that’s been redeveloped, or a new trendy food to try. Thailand is never boring and always leaves you wanting more each time you say goodbye. It’s a country that will have you smiling ear to ear the entire time.

Planning a trip? Here’s our roundup of the 41 things you must do while in Thailand:

Treat yourself to a rooftop bev in Bangkok

Rooftop bar, Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok has no shortage of rooftop bars, and with the balmy weather and sprawling city, there is no reason not to visit one while you are here. It is the perfect way to get above the noise and bustle of the city and into the sky. These tend to be quite classy locations, so don’t forget to dress accordingly or you may be turned away. The Penthouse rooftop above the Park-Hyatt in Phloen-Chit is a serene option. As is the CRU champagne bar by G.H. Mumm, conveniently located atop the Centara Grand in Central World. There is also the film-famous Lebua Sky Bar rising 820 feet above Bangkok if you are looking to live out “The Hangover 2” yourself. Although, they seem to have taken advantage of this notoriety and the prices have shifted accordingly.

Eat and play at a Terminal 21

Terminal 21 mall, Asoke, Thailand. Jub-Job / Shutterstock.com

I know it sounds strange, but trust me when I say you must head to the fifth floor of Terminal 21 mall in Asoke and dash to the food court. This food court is nothing like the sad mall food courts we’ve come to avoid in America. No, this is Thai food heaven. A place for you to try everything and at about $2 per plate, you really can afford to try it all. Thailand is ubiquitous with incredible street food, and here in this mall in Bangkok you will find almost every type of street food, but in air-conditioned glory. Come extra hungry.

Dance all night at Koh Pha-ngan’s full moon festival

If you’re in Thailand during a full moon, it’s almost mandatory you make your way to Koh Pha-ngan for the full moon party. Thai lesson: “koh” means “island”. The monthly festival kicks off at sundown and ends at sunup the following day. It’s a wildly infectious atmosphere with everyone clad in their best neon tourist gear. Join in the massive crowd and enjoy some buckets of cocktails with thousands of new friends.

Go diving on Koh Tao

Diver in Thailand.

Koh Tao is known worldwide for its access to beautiful and plentiful waters perfectly suited for your diving needs. A number of dive operations are nestled between the bungalows along the sandy coasts of Koh Tao. A wide array of dives are offered, from all-inclusive education packages to whale shark viewing, which keeps you on their list until they spot one. There is certainly something just right for your skill level. Also, if tanks aren’t your thing, a number of freediving companies operate on the island as well, such as Apnea Total and Blue Immersion.

Take a dreamy long tail ride

Long-tail boats, Thailand.

Longtail boats are perhaps the second most iconic form of transportation in Thailand, giving the tuk tuk a run for its money. Find the nearest photo of an idyllic beach in Asia with a boat in the shot. That is a longtail boat. Ok, maybe it isn’t, but it is pretty likely to be a longtail. If you intend to travel to an island or along the coastline in Thailand, this goal will not be difficult to achieve. In fact, travelling by longtail will likely be a necessity at some point during your trip. If you have not seen one in action, think of an oversized heavy canoe with a small truck engine welded onto a long pole to guide the boat screaming toward your destination. A must- have experience in Thailand.

Hike the 1,237 steps of Tiger Cave Temple

Tiger Cave Temple, or Wat Tham Suea, is a beautiful temple just north of Krabi. If you plan to travel by land to the Andaman Coast and catch a boat out to Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta, Krabi will be where you catch your boat. We recommend taking a day or two in Krabi along the way. Tiger Cave Temple is known for its 1,237 step staircase up to a large golden Buddha and a beautiful view of the surrounding area. These stairs are not for the faint of heart: some are shaded and average sized, but many are in direct Thai sun and knee height. Make sure to look where you are going and bring water! There will likely be opportunities along the way to meet the local dogs that climb these stairs regularly and the monkeys at the base of the stairs as well. Take note: the monkeys are not shy and may attempt to steal any food you’re holding. 

Tour a crematorium-turned-temple in Bangkok

Wat Saket, Thailand.

The Golden Mount, Wat Saket, is a Buddhist temple on the top of a man-made hill surrounded by 300 steps circling the temple to appear as a snake. Once the site of the city’s crematorium, and dumping ground for 60,000 or so plague victims, this temple is now a serene sight to visit. Views are abundant from the top, especially at dusk. If you are looking for a beautiful temple that is easily accessible in Bangkok, but a bit less on the tourist map than others, this is likely the destination for you.

Wander the green grounds of a former palace

Suan Pakkad Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. Parmna / Shutterstock.com

This former palace is built on the site of a former cabbage farm. It’s comprised of a number of buildings formerly located all over Thailand and moved to Bangkok. The Suan Pakkad Palace is a unique gem. Not as popular as many of the big sights, but quite unique, is this collection of various Thai regional styles of buildings brought together to house a collection of various interests. This museum is part open-air museum of the home of the former owners, Prince and Princess Chumbhot, and part display of their various collections of musical instruments, stones, shells, puppets, and more. The gardens are also a nice way to take a break from busy Bangkok for a bit.

Cruise around Bangkok like the locals

Khlong boat, Bangkok, Thailand. Photo APS / Shutterstock.com

When in Bangkok, do as the locals do (but keep your mouth closed!). The khlong boat has long been a utilitarian method to get locals around the city cheaply while avoiding the infamous Bangkok traffic. The khlong boats travel through the network of canals running around Bangkok cheaply and without frills. This is another recommendation that is not for the faint of heart. Pay attention to everything going on around you. The ticket taker walking around and hanging from the outside of the boat will need to be paid based on how far you are going. Avoid the water if at all possible; it can barely be called water at this point. When it is your time to get on or off, make certain you get going or the boat may leave without you. Watch when and how the locals are using the plastic window curtains. Use yours when they do, or better yet, if there is someone else nearby, let them have the cord until you are a pro curtain operator. Master a few techniques and you will save tons of time and money in Bangkok travel, and seriously, don’t touch the water. 

Get your shop on a the Platinum Fashion Mall

Platinum Fashion Mall, Bangkok, Thailand.

You cannot visit Bangkok without doing a bit of shopping. If you are looking for cheap clothes and don’t care about name brands you recognize, this is the place to go. Some 1,200 or so small shops are roughly divided into themed floors, such as jeans, shoes, purses, etc. Platinum is focused on bulk purchases and wholesale, so there may not be an option to try things on, but they will rarely turn down a sale if you just want one of something. Whether you are looking for beachwear, ball gowns, suede shoes, or earrings, you will not be disappointed here. This is actually where most of the street vendors and small shop owners in Thailand and around the world go to buy their inventory, so expect to see enormous bags full of clothes piled throughout the mall in any available spaces. Extra tip: if you are looking for big savings and have a bit of room in your luggage, buying three of something is generally the magic number to give you a steep discount.

Bar crawl your way through an alley in central Bangkok

Co Co Walk, Bangkok, Thailand. Credit: Bangkok.com

Directly off of the Ratchathewi BTS exit 4 lies Bangkok’s hip bar and restaurant alley called Co Co Walk. Bring your travel companions for this adventure because this is the perfect spot to bar hop all night while enjoying beer towers of Singha (don’t be a tourist by pronouncing the “a.” It’s pronounced “sing”). Of course, you can dine in the nextdoor restaurants too and shoot some pool. The area comes to life around 4pm and closes around 1am. One of our favorites here is Chilling House Cafe, which holds true to its namesake and is a chill place to spend a few evening hours.

Ethically befriend elephants in Chiang Mai

When in Thailand, you have to pet some elephants, of course. But this is one to be cautious about; many operations treat the animals poorly and anytime they’re offering you to ride the animals, stay away. Instead, head directly for Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai for the best elephant experience. This park is a sanctuary and elephant rescue center that treats the animals exactly as they should be treated. Here, you can bathe and feed the elephants or even head out on a jungle walk side by side with your new, insanely huge friend.

Temporarily blind yourself at the White Temple

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai White Temple, Thailand.

Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, in Chiang Rai is a stunning temple and exhibition built to mimic a Buddhist temple. The private owner has grand plans for the White Temple, including a meditation center, art gallery, and living quarters for monks, however he doesn’t plan to complete all of this until 2070. But in whichever stage you visit the temple, it’s sure to impress with its familiarity to other Thai temples while being stark white. The result is a magnificent structure that will leave you speechless.

Learn how to cook up your favorite Thai dish

Thai Farm Cooking School, Chiang May, Thailand. Vasin Hirunwiwatwong / Shutterstock.com

Of course, you’re partially visiting Thailand to indulge in some of the best cuisine on the planet. Take a cooking course while visiting to learn how to make traditional Thai dishes. Then bring those skills back home and impress your friends with your incredible flavors and knowledge of Thai ingredients. In Bangkok, check out Silom Thai Cooking School that takes you to the market to shop for ingredients for the morning and afternoon classes. In Chiang Mai, check out Thai Farm Cooking School where you’ll pick the herbs for your dish straight from the garden. Bon appetit!

Explore Bangkok’s “green lungs”

Green lungs of Bangkok, Thailand.

A quick five-minute or so boat ride at a price of 30 cents takes you across the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. It will deposit you on Bang Krachao: Bangkok’s green lung. Yes, the area is shaped like a lung, but it’s also a bit more lung-friendly than the downtown areas of Bangkok. Less smog settles into the coconut and papaya groves. It’s truly the jungle out here.

Once you disembark your boat, rent a bicycle (about $3) and take off on the elevated cement walkways that meander past stilted houses, Thai temples, unique coffee shops, and endless palm trees. Plus, the shade provides respite from the Bangkok sun.

This is local Bangkok life seen on two wheels, just as the locals use to get around. Special note: if you’re not confident on two wheels, you might want to hop off the bike in some areas. The elevated walkways are about 6-ish feet wide and some stretches don’t have any side barriers, so a sharp swerve could be troublesome. Best to walk those areas if you’re questioning your ability to ride in a straight line.

Party the night away at RCA

RCA, Bangkok, Thailand. istockphoto/justhavealook

Royal City Avenue, more often referred to as RCA, is a generic street in Bangkok by day. Apartment complexes, a grocery store, small restaurants, and of course a good spattering of 7-11s line the street here. But come nightfall, part of the street is closed to traffic, tables and chairs are set up in the street, and the music starts pumping. With no less than 12 clubs and bars lining the street, you’re sure to find exactly the atmosphere you’re looking for on any given evening. If you’re looking for the best party/dance spot, Route 66 is waiting for you.

Chill out with a massage

Spa at The Four Seasons Koh Samui, Thailand. Credit: Four Seasons Koh Samui

Thailand is famous worldwide for its massage, and there is certainly no shortage of availability wherever you may find yourself in need of some relaxation. Whether you are looking for top-tier pampering from The Four Seasons Koh Samui, or a simple massage while laying on a sarong in the sand from the teams of masseuses who wander daily from beach to beach on Koh Samet, you will certainly find your chill. Really, there’s probably a massage place two doors down from any given door in Thailand in whatever your price range is, so give it a try. Most offer a wide range of massages, from foot or hand massages to full body traditional Thai massage. The latter option will involve stretching and pulling in ways you didn’t know you could bend. It’s great for muscle soreness and flexibility, but it’s not a pampering oil massage. Although that’s an option as well.

Get completely lost in Thailand’s largest market

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Self, we should hit up a market with over 15,000 stalls spread out over 35 acres.” You have? Ok, great because you can do exactly that in Bangkok at the Chatuchak weekend market. It’s just as overwhelming as it sounds and just as magnificent. You can find anything you’d ever need here from housewares to clothingto  toys to a few sugar gliders, if that’s what you’re looking to buy. This is a great place to find the latest from Thai fashion designers. It’s also one-stop shopping for any souvenirs you need to purchase. I recommend taking breaks often here so you don’t overheat and definitely drink plenty of fluids. The market is littered with excellent food options as well, so you could easily make this the entire day’s adventure and be more than satisfied. You probably need more than one day to see the whole market.

Swim next to the largest fish on the planet

Swimming with whale sharks, Koh Samui, Thailand.

The beloved teddy bear of the sea, the whale shark, frequents Thai waters. The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has exactly zero relation to whales. They can grow up to 40-feet long and although their mouths are typically five feet wide sporting 300 teeth, they’re a docile, gentle giant. Nothing to be afraid of here. On the beautiful island of Koh Tao, Koh Samui, or Koh Phan-nang, sign up with a dive school for their whale shark snorkeling experience. They’ll take down your contact information and let you know as soon as they spot the giant shark, whisking you out on the open ocean to swim with the biggest fish you’ll ever meet. Before this adventure, we highly recommend you either have a waterproof phone or waterproof casing for your phone because this is a bucket-list item you’re going to need to document thoroughly. On Koh Samui, we recommend Calypso Diving.

Take a bicycle tour of the old capital

Bike tour of Ayutthaya, Thailand.

Ayutthaya was once the second location for the capital city of Thailand. By 1700, Ayutthaya was the most populated city in the world with 1 million inhabitants. It was also the trading capital of the world. Three rivers surrounding the city, all lead to the ocean, made it an ideal location for global trade. The glory didn’t last forever, though. In 1767, the city was invaded and most of it was burned to the ground and extensively looted. Local residents were forced to flee. The city was never rebuilt and the capital of Thailand was moved to Bangkok.

What now remains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins of the once opulent and influential capital city are fascinating to see, especially by bicycle. The ruin locations are close enough together to walk, but a bicycle affords covering a bit more ground. Of course, I have to recommend hitting the pavement on two wheels early in the day with a lot of water on you, a hat, and some sunscreen. Thailand is hot, but you already knew that.

Chill at the locals’ park in Bangkok

Lumpini Park, Bangkok, Thailand.

Lumpini Park is real Bangkok. It was the first public park in the city and here you’ll find the locals doing what locals do. Some serious ladies will be playing tennis. Some old guys will be playing chess. A few macho guys will be lifting weights at the rusty outdoor gym. Some talented young kids will be playing takraw (think of a mix between volleyball and hacky sack). And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a monitor lizard crawl out of the pond and eat a turtle. Just locals going about their ordinary day.

The park is massive for being smack in the middle of the city. Grab a cold soda or an ice cream bar and wander around observing local life in Bangkok. Bring a blanket and find a shady spot to watch the world go by. Do give a wide berth to the monitor lizards, though. They’re not friendly.

Visit one of the world’s largest Chinatowns

Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand. MR. SUTTICHAI CHALOKUL / Shutterstock.com

Bangkok’s Chinatown is seriously impressive. The street of Yaowarat is packed full of incredible restaurants, shops, and grocery stores full of mysterious ingredients. Day or night, this area is always buzzing with activity. If you’re coming to eat though, evening is best. Conveniently, evening is cooler as well, so dining al fresco is a bit less sweaty. Before dinner, be sure to check out the China Gate at the Western entrance to Yaowarat for its picturesque beauty. Also go say a friendly “hello” to the three crocodiles that live at Crocodile Temple, Wat Chakrawat.

For dinner, head to Kuay Jab Nai Huan for a neighborhood favorite of kuay jab: a peppery noodle soup with crispy pork. The widest noodles you’ve ever encountered are more like rolled sheets of noodle and the crispy pork with just the right amount of pepper is an unforgettable dish. If you’re feeling adventurous, or you’ve already had some beer to alleviate the fright of the crocodile experience, go ahead and order your soup with pork intestines. 

Hike and swim in a seven-tiered waterfall

Inside of Erawan National Park lies the popular Erawan Falls and its seven tiers. Depending on how adventurous you’d like the day to be, you can hike the approximately one-mile trail up to the seventh waterfall. Although the “trail” between the sixth and seventh waterfall is more of a rock climb. All of the waterfall tiers possess their own beauty, so I suggest trying out all of them for the maximum scenery enjoyment and swimming pleasure. Eat before you enter the park at one of the restaurants at the entrance. Food isn’t allowed beyond the second pool. Also recommended is to visit these falls on a weekday, if possible. Weekends can get crowded. This is a fantastic way to spend a hot day in Thailand.

Visit Thailand’s most sacred spot

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.

The Palace of the Royal Family of Thailand was built in 1782 and is home to the royal family as well as a multitude of ministries, governmental bodies, and official state buildings. If you are traveling to Thailand for the first time, this is an essential stop in Bangkok. The whole area is ornately decorated in a uniquely Thai style that is not seen anywhere else. There is much that could be said about the Grand Palace, but simply put, you must see it yourself. It’s best to be there when they open to avoid the crowds and heat. Being Thailand’s most sacred place, proper attire is required, which means pants and sleeves on men and covered shoulders on women.

Pro Tip: Due to the number of tourists in the area, people may approach you and try to tell you the Grand Palace or Temple areas are closed today for a holiday or event. This is a common scam and it is not true, simply continue on your way.

Stand in awe at the Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is a short ten-minute walk from the Grand Palace, and just behind the temple of the emerald buddha is likely a first stop on your list of sights to see in Thailand. The 50-foot long gold covered Reclining Buddha is certainly a spectacle unlike any you have seen before. The giant statue represents Buddha during his last illness, right before he entered post-death nirvana. Wat Pho is also historically significant as the sight of the first university in Thailand and the birthplace of Thai massage. In case you were curious, the temple’s official Thai name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan. We’re thankful there’s no pronunciation test.

Just like the Grand Palace, this site is best seen in the early part of the day before the Thai sun tries to scorch you. Appropropriate dress is required.

Drink from a bucket

Bucket drinks during a Full Moon party, Ko Phangan, Thailand

Thailand has found a new and more age-appropriate use for the pail you used to build sand castles with as a child. In most beaches, and many bars, your childhood sand pail is the standard unit for drinks of your choice. Whether Mojito, Whiskey Coke, Red Bull Vodka, or any number of other concoctions, the bucket will soon be your friend. It may even help you to make new friends as there is plenty to pass around. It even doubles as a perfect party hat once the night has gone a bit blurry. Bottoms up!

Let some fish eat your feet

Fish pedicure, Chiang Mai, Thailand. istockphoto/taikrixel

As a selfless act of personal recycling, you can attend a fish spa. Simply sit on seats around a large aquarium filled with fish, drop in your feet, and relax. The fish will give you a gentle pedicure as you catch up on those photos you have been meaning to post to Instagram, or that book you wanted to finish. Yes, the fish do act as tiny piranhas viciously eating away all of your dead skin cells with their rubbery little jaws, but that is all they do. You don’t want the dead skin around anyway, so why not offer some snacks to a fish or two? And no, it doesn’t hurt at all, just a few little tickles here and there, which even the most ticklish quickly get used to. Give it a try. If nothing else, it’s good for a hearty laugh and some wholesome pictures to send home.

Feel the heat at a fire show

Fire show, Lonely beach, Koh Chang, Thailand.

The unforgettable Thai fire shows are another must-see that will be tough to miss. Simply pick an island, wait until dark, and head out toward the beach. If you can’t see fire from where you are standing, simply follow the pulsing sounds of music until you do. Generally speaking, the fire show is a resident of the less resorty and more bungalow-ish islands, but they are a staple of the evening festivities all over. Fire shows tend to be a variety show of the various skills each individual brings to the table. From dreadlocked poi dancers to children balancing on shoulders tossing flaming rings, charred hula hoops, jump ropes, fireball blowing, or limbo poles, you just never know what you may see. One tip though: often the performers have built up their liquid courage into the night, so it is best to give them plenty of space to perform, unless you want to end up as an unwitting element of the show.

Relax in Pai

Sunrise at Yun Lai view point, Pai, Thailand.

Over city life but don’t love beach life either? Pai might be just the place for you. Way up north, the hippie town of Pai offers unlimited relaxation. If you feel like it, rent a motorbike and explore the surrounding rice terraces. Or ride out to one of the many waterfalls surrounding the area. If you’re chilly (yes, Pai actually does get cold), head for Tha Pai Hot Springs. If you’re warm, ride out to Mo Paeng Waterfall to cool off. Or if you prefer to stay in town, take a dip at the Fluid Swimming Pool. In the evening, wander around and eat dinner at the Pai Walking Street night market. Pai offers endless opportunities to chill out and do as little as you’d like or as much as you’d like. It’s a great place to waste a few days, which could turn into months if you forget to check the calendar.

Beach where the locals go: Ko Samet

Ko Samet beach, Thailand. travelview / Shutterstock.com

What is the quickest way to get to a beach from Bangkok? If you aren’t looking to take another flight, then your answer is surprisingly a bit of a hidden gem. Koh Samet is 3-4 hours on a bus or in a mini-bus, then a half hour or so boat ride away. Koh Samet is the island where Thais living in Bangkok go to get away from city life for the weekend. It is a relatively small and simple island with great beaches and no large resorts, but plenty of bungalows and banana pancakes. Find a bungalow for a few nights, lay out on the beach, and wait for the vendors to come around selling fresh fruit, coconuts, cold drinks, and whatever else you could need directly from the luxury of your sarong on the sand.

Hang loose on the beach

Tonsai, Railay beach, Thailand.

Railay is home to an abundance of beautiful limestone cliffs that are well-known and a must climb on many a climbers’ radar. Whether you want to chalk up straight off the beach, up the hill in the shade, or out on a deep water solo, Tonsai, Railay and the whole Ao Nang region has you covered. Bring your own gear and check it out yourself. Or the easier option is to go with one of the local companies like Hot Rock, Basecamp Tonsai, or Krabi Rock Climbing for some gear, some beta, or to pick up a class or two. Gorgeous views surround the region and you have sleeping options from huts to luxury resorts at your fingertips. If you have always thought about rock climbing but never found the right opportunity, this might just be your place!

Become an amateur Muay Thai fighter for a night

Reggae Bar, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. Instagram/margolitaa

Do you and your buddies wonder which of you is the toughest? Or maybe you just happen to have a habit of getting into fights when you get a bit too tipsy…you know, just for the fun of it. Perhaps it is time to show your travel buddy that you get the top bunk from now on. Or you just want some free drinks and don’t mind taking a few punches between friends to get them. Maybe you like to watch wasted people in a ring in front of a crowd alternate giggling and boxing with often unexpected results. If any of these describe you, then the Reggae Bar on Koh Phi Phi is the right spot for you. Every night there is a Muay Thai “show” with professionals, alternated by the real show: amateur fights involving anyone from the crowd who wants to step into the ring. The deal is simple. Each participant is given a free alcoholic bucket drink to soothe their bumps and bruises once the fight is finished. The participants can be individuals, but are more often pairs of friends in a deal to keep it chill, at least until that first blow that catches one of them off guard and then the fight is on. Whether a spectator or a competitor, this is a unique evening. Just remember, these are real fights in the ring and things can happen.

Get soaked in Thailand’s national water fight

In the middle of Thailand’s hot season in mid-April comes the national holiday of Songkran. The origin of the holiday is to celebrate Thailand’s new year, which includes washing Buddha statues to rinse off one’s sins and bad luck. It’s a way of entering the new year in a purified state. However, modern Songkran has erupted into a massive water fight. Each year, from April 13 to the 15, the entire country takes part in this water festival where no one is safe from getting soaked. Store your phone, passport, money, and anything else you don’t want to get drenched in a waterproof bag because the moment you step outside, you’ll be in the middle of a water fight. Grab a water gun from the local convenience store and dive head first into this epic festival.

Shop til you drop at the king of all malls

MBK center, Bankok, Thailand. Panya7 / Shutterstock.com

MBK is Bangkok’s eight-story, 2,000 shop juggernaut of shopping. If you are looking for a souvenir and they don’t have what you are looking for here, it either doesn’t exist, or you have not found your way through the labyrinth into the area that sells it. The focus of MBK is less on standard mall shops, although there are a reasonable number of them as well, but more on the small, individually-owned shops, grey market, souvenirs, knock-offs of many varieties, and locally produced items. Whether looking for a hamburger, suit, massage, some costco brand vitamins, haircut, or a Nintendo Switch, you can find it here. Many of the shops here will haggle a bit on price, especially if you want more than one. If you are looking for a genuine, branded item of high-value, I would consider looking elsewhere.

Spend the day on Pottery Island

In the northern Bangkok area of Nonthaburi in the Chao Phraya River is the island of Koh Kret,  also known as Pottery Island. The island itself was created in 1722 by being detached from the mainland during a widening of the river. Today, it is a great day trip from Bangkok to see a more traditional way of village life. The island itself is easily walkable via a simple path spanning the length of the island. The people who live here are largely known for their prowess in creating pottery goods and handicrafts all over the island. It is an easy walk around to see many small shops and facilities producing and selling all the pottery goods one could desire by hand, right in front of your eyes. Make sure to bring a few extra baht because the prices are great and you will certainly want to buy a few souvenirs or additions to your kitchen from here.

We especially love hanging out with coffee on the deck at Rongsi Studio, which hangs over the river. 

Hang with the college kids in hipster Nimman

You can’t go to Chiang Mai without wandering the streets in the Nimman neighborhood. This is the city’s hip neighborhood filled with coffee shops, boutiques, bars, and restaurants specializing in any type of cuisine imaginable. Chiang Mai University is just down the road, which lends itself to the neighborhood’s trendy and young vibe. Spend the day cafe hopping and browsing some of Thailand’s small boutique items. By night, head to the entrance to the university for Kad Na Mor, the student’s night market. Food and shopping meet you here, as it does at every night market in Thailand. This one is especially budget friendly being so close to the university. The market starts heating up around 6 pm and fizzles out around 10 pm when the students return to their studies.

Grab a bite outside on the Chao Phraya River

Asiatique is not your average Bangkok mall. Situated next to the river with longtail boat traffic humming in the background, Asiatique is part mall, part open-air market, part restaurant heaven, and part amusement park. Opening at 4pm daily, head here for your evening shopping and eating forays. 1,500 shops and 40 restaurants should keep you entertained for a while. If you find yourself with nothing left to see, there’s always the World War II bunker to check out or the Calypso Cabaret show.

Unwind on a private island

Koh Nangyuan Island, Thailand.

It’s undeniable that the Gulf of Thailand is stunning. Dotted with wonderful islands like Koh Tao and Koh Samui, its beaches are postcard perfect in every way possible. But most tourists don’t make it to Koh Nangyuan, which is as close to heaven as you can get. It is privately owned with no roads. The tiny island is home to exactly one resort, meaning at times, the island will feel like it’s all yours. Day trippers will be coming over to snorkel the pristine waters, but early mornings and evenings will be your own paradise. This will be some of the best snorkeling or diving you’ll do in the tropical paradise of Thailand. Especially cool note: the island is environmentally friendly and strictly upholds a ban on single-use plastic water bottles.

Explore the jungles of Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

Khao Sok National Park is a rainforest wonderland. It would be easy to spend three or four days in this nature-lover’s paradise. This rainforest is older and more diverse in wildlife and plant life than the Amazon rainforest. Here, you can choose your method of transportation between trekking or exploring via boat. The national park offers a variety of tours that take the guesswork out of planning the best excursion here. Possible wildlife sightings here include: Asian elephants, tigers, monkeys, hornbills, bears, deer, and wild-boars. 

Head to the waterpark at Thailand’s Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Water Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Facebook/Grand Canyon Water Park

Yep, you heart me right. With emerald green water below and red cliffs jutting into the sky, Chiang Mai claims to have their own Grand Canyon. It is pretty, although not quite as stunning or large as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But unlike the original U.S. Grand Canyon, the Thai version of the Grand Canyon features a waterpark. Take your pick between cliff jumping, floating serenely in an intertube, or running around on the inflatable obstacle course/water slides. Slather on the SPF 500 for this day because there’s no such thing as too much water sliding in anyone’s life.

First round is on you at Cheap Charlie’s

Cheap Charlie’s Bar, Bangkok, Thailand.

Budget traveler alert: if it’s your turn to buy the first round for your friends, Cheap Charlie’s Bar on Sukhumvit 50 in Bangkok is your best bet. Charlie’s drinks are 80 baht each, which rings in at $2.50. It takes sipping a whole drink just to soak up the eclectic mix of decor behind the bar. In addition to the menu (written in whiteout on a wood board), you’ll spot a train chugging along the tracks above the bar, a Jack Skellington plush toy, paper money from all over the world, license plates also from all over the world, and some signage with strict rules like “last order at 11:50, closing time at midnight,” and the endearing sign that explains the toilet is only available for liquids. Charlie doesn’t take crap from anyone. Despite this, everyone still loves Charlie and his cheap drinks. Bar opens at 5 pm and it’s a wise idea to be there at opening to snag a seat.