So you’re thinking about visiting Thailand, but you’re overwhelmed with the amount of places to visit and things to do. Don’t worry. All of us feel the same way when we are trying to get the most out of our short trip to a foreign country. Here I have compiled a list of things that I did while I was in Thailand for a week. And maybe you can take some inspiration from it and add it to your pending itinerary. Even if you don’t get to cross off all the things you listed on your “must-visit” or “must-do” list, you could always go back to Thailand one day and complete them. So here it goes, I hope you enjoy my curated list of 12 things to do in Thailand!
1. Visit the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is arguably one of the most famous, if not THE most famous floating market in Thailand. And due to its popularity, it has become quite touristy in the past few years and hence provides less of a “local experience”. However, if you’re a big fan of the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Sun, you might realize that this floating market was used as a setting in the movie, and you just might want to check it out. Despite its touristy-ness, it still is exactly what you imagine a floating market would look like. Loud, lively, colorful, and extremely busy. If you do visit this market. The easiest way is to join a tour since it is over an hour away from Bangkok, and the transportation there isn’t the most tourist-friendly.
2. Shop till you drop at the Chatuchak Weekend Market
If you brought an empty suitcase with you to Thailand and your goal is to fill it all the way up before you leaver. Then visiting the Chatuchak Weekend Market is an absolute MUST. It is the largest market in Asia, with more than 8000 stalls and 27 sections. Selling everything from religious antiques and handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, food, electronics, plants, and the list goes on. It’s almost impossible to not get lost in the market. So please arm yourself with a free map provided at the information kiosks so that you know which section you’re in and what you can buy there. Lastly, the Chatuchak Weekend Market, as its name suggests, is only open from Friday to Sunday. It opens Friday night at 6 pm and closes at midnight. And on Saturdays and Sundays, it stays open from 9 am to 6 pm.
3. Treat yourself with extremely cheap Thai massages
My absolute favorite thing to do while in Thailand was treating myself to the amazing Thai massages that you can find virtually at any corner there. My personal favorite was situated in the Wat Pan Whaen temple in Chiang Mai. The lines are sometimes a bit long. So you’ll have to wait around thirty minutes for your turn but it is definitely worth the wait.
Not only were the masseuses super attentive and managed to crack every bone in my body, but the price is unbeatable too. Only 150 Baht ($5 USD) for an hour of high-quality massage?! After that magical massage session at Wat Pan Whaen, I was ready to move to Thailand for retirement and peacefully die there. If someone were to ever ask me what is the one thing I miss the most about Thailand. I would without a doubt scream out, “THE CHEAP MASSAGES AND GETTING MY BACK CRACKED EVERY DAY!”
4. Go snorkeling in the Phi Phi Islands
As a person who can not swim at all, I was hesitant as to whether or not to go snorkeling in the Phi Phi Islands. However, after having a long conversation with the coward in me, I said F it, we’re going in. And I must say, it was by far one the most amazing experiences in my life. For those who are thinking about going snorkeling too, I recommend joining a half-day or full-day snorkeling speedboat tour.
My half-day tour was around $35 USD (snorkeling equipment, buffet lunch, and transportation all included), and I booked it through my hostel. There are tons of tour operators scattered all around in Thailand so booking a tour is pretty easy. For my half-day tour, we stopped at different spots like the Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, Loh Samah Bay, and the Bamboo Island. And we also spent quite some time frolicking in the sun and snorkeling in the beautiful crystal clear ocean.
5. Take a muddy bath with adorable elephants at Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary
Disclaimer: This is probably the most expensive activity on the list. However, if you’re obsessed with elephants like me, then you would for sure enjoy this experience. My full-day visit at the Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was around $80 USD (transportation and lunch included). However, I was more than happy to pay this amount because the money raised from visits is primarily used for elephant rescue, food, veterinary care, infrastructure, and land so that the sanctuary can continue to expand its capacity and rescue more elephants. (Check out my post on the “8 Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand” if you’re interested in supporting the well-being of these gentle giants!)
And moreover, I got to take a mud bath with the elephants, swim in the river with them, feed them bananas, and almost get slapped in the face with their big ears! Lastly, the sanctuary hires photographers to follow you around and take super nice photos. But still, make sure to bring your own camera so you can take some nice selfies with these adorable elephants.
6. Indulge in some delicious Khao Soi and Thai Tea
Can we talk about how easy it is to gain weight in Thailand? Ugh, I was truly concerned with how much food I was consuming on a daily basis. And I definitely had to consciously remind myself to hold back from drinking more than one cup of Thai Tea each day. The extremely cheap food prices in Thailand will make it impossible for you to not stuff your face with the delicious delicacies that you’ll encounter in almost every street corner.
Out of the million different kinds of food that I managed to devour in Thailand, Khao Soi has to be my personal favorite. However, keep in mind that Khao Soi in every restaurant tastes a little bit different. Some are sweeter while some are spicier. And I definitely prefer the spicier version. But definitely go try and see for yourself. (This delicious combo of Khao Soi and Thai Tea cost me a mere $4 dollars…..shook!)
7. Grab a quick picture with the Thai Ronald Mcdonald
Thai Ronald McDonald is without a doubt one of the most famous celebrities in Thailand. Almost every tourist wants to take a picture with him. In Thailand, Ronald McDonald greets everyone with the traditional Thai “Wai” greeting gesture of both hands pressed together. And since the Thai population is 90% Buddist, this traditional Thai gesture of Ronald McDonald represents the beautiful marriage between a popular icon of Western consumerism and the beauty of Eastern culture and religion. So if you happen to pass by a McDonald’s in Thailand, don’t forget to snap a quick picture with the famous Thai version of Mr. Mcdonald!
8. Eat Insects
Fried grasshoppers? Spicy scorpions? Juicy worms sprinkled with garlic salt? I dare you to hop out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to one of these protein-rich delicacies. These bad boys can be found in street vendors and night markets in every Thai city. And I have to admit, I personally did not try it because I just physically could not. But, instead of being a coward like me, prove that you’re better than me by taking a bite of these lovely creatures. And let me know how it tastes like haha!
9. Visit the reclining Buddha at Wat Po
I definitely underestimated the tremendous amount of effort and skill that is required to take a full, beautiful, and compositionally impeccable photo of the enormous reclining Buddha. However, once you get the perfect shot and are finally able to enjoy being in the presence of the reclining Buddha, you will be astonished by the pure magnificence of this gold-leaf covered figure.
The image that represents Buddha lying down is a major iconographic theme in Buddhist art. It represents the historical Buddha during his last illness, about to enter the parinirvana. He is lying on his right side. His head resting on a cushion or relying on his right elbow while supporting his head with his hand. Built by Rama III in 1832. The golden reclining Buddha in Bangkok stands 15 meters tall and 46 meters long, with his feet alone 3 meters high and 4.5 meters long. Hence the difficulty in capturing a photo with his full body in the frame.
10. Marvel at the breath-taking Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) during sunset
Wat Arun, or locally known as Wat Chaeng, is a landmark temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. It’s easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok. Not only because of its location by the river but also because the design is very unique and quite different from other temples in Thailand.
Wat Arun is beautiful during the day because you can see all the exquisite details of the colored glass and Chinese porcelain that it is decorated with. But once the sun starts to set, Wat Arun starts to light up and transform into an unbelievably stunning golden masterpiece. Seeing this majestic beauty standing over the water, your breath will be taken away. And to get there, (since Wat Arun is located on the opposite side of the reclining Buddha), taking a boat ride across Chao Pharaya river is the easiest and cheapest way to get to this temple.
11. Buy Elephant Pants
Somehow, every backpacker that has traveled through Southeast Asia ends up with a pair of these elephant pants. But we can’t blame them, elephant pants are so comfortable and it goes so well with flip-flops too. You can find these iconic printed pants with banded elastic cuffs at almost any market for usually $5 USD. If you feel most comfortable in your hippie element like me, elephant pants is a must-buy. Also, these are great souvenirs to get for your friends and family. They’re affordable and can be worn at home as pajamas. I still wear mine to bed sometimes and it reminds of my good old backpacker days in Thailand.
12. Rent a bike and explore Chiang Mai
One of the most enjoyable days in Chiang Mai was when I rented a bike from my hostel and went on a one-day bike tour of the small towns in Chiang Mai. I purposefully “got lost” and just rode around on my bike all day long, experiencing the life of the locals. I stopped at different temples and meditated, tried food from a street vendor in a small alley, asked the locals for directions to a noodle stand, and discovered a few interesting places that weren’t marked on Google map. However, safety always comes first. So please remember to be extra careful since traffic in Thailand can get kind of scary sometimes. Wear a helmet and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
Enjoy Your Time In Thailand! You’ll Love It
I hope my bucket list of 12 things to do in Thailand has provided a bit of value to your life. Whether it’s through helping you brainstorm a few ideas for your upcoming trip to Thailand or just providing plain entertainment to your day. If you decide to do one or more of these activities I’ve suggested on the list, please leave a comment or contact me to let me know how it went! I would love to hear about your experience. And lastly, thank you for making it till the end of this blog post! Make sure to travel safe and travel smart wherever you go in Thailand. And try to enjoy the beauty and richness of the Thai experience by immersing yourself in the local culture.
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