From Bangkok to Phuket, there are thousands of life-changing places to visit in Thailand, from towering cities and palatial gardens to beautiful beaches and lush islands.
So many places, so little time. That’s a mantra every traveller has probably uttered once or twice. When it comes to Thailand, those words are particularly true. There are so many things to do in Thailand, a country that is brimming with superb nature, mouth-watering food, historic sites and more. So we’ve taken a different tack. If you only have time to do one thing in each of these cities, these are the most memorable.
1. Bangkok: Fly High in a Unique Night Market
There are plenty of high-end shopping malls to choose from in town, but we bet none of them have the cool factor of Chang Chui Bangkok Plane Night Market. Think that’s an odd name? Not for a market that has its own decommissioned Lockheed airplane right in the middle.
Here you can eat to your heart’s content — choose from an English tearoom, a burger joint or an eatery that serves food created with insects — before picking up some boutique fashion or listening to smooth acoustic jazz. Then top it off with a drink underneath the airplane’s wings, at a pub called, naturally, Runway Bar (for atmosphere alone, one of the best bars in Bangkok).
2. Phuket: Capture the Sunset Photo of a Lifetime
Think you’ve captured a lovely #goldenhour sunset photo in your time? Think again. Consider Promthep Cape, the rocky headland that is Phuket’s most southerly point and still quite non-touristy, with no touts to be seen (though that changes if you wander to busier beaches). If you’re arriving from bustling Bangkok to Phuket, the peace and stillness is divine.
If you want to explore views that feel like they have never been explored before, this could be the place. Pack a picnic and go with your loved one — and don’t forget your camera. Don’t feel like bringing your own packed lunch? Head to the nearby Promthep Cape Restaurant, an open-air eatery that also boasts great views of the beach.
3. Koh Samui: Spend a Day in Wonderland Squared
The lure of Thailand’s beaches is irresistible in Koh Samui. But it’s worth taking a day trip to Angthon National Marine Park — think of it as a wonderland within a wonderland. This collection of 42 islands is the perfect spot to snorkel, kayak, explore caves, hike, rock climb or even camp. <o:p></o:p>
If you’re an animal lover you can spot everything here: hairy-nosed otters, Oriental pied hornbills, sea turtles, collared kingfishers, angelfish, black tip sharks and more. There are plenty of tour operators that offer their bespoke spin on activities. It’s worth opting for one with small group sizes, so you can feel extra-secluded.<o:p></o:p>
4. Krabi: Zip Along on Your Own Quidditch Adventure
Looking for things to do in Thailand with the family? Krabi’s Tree Top Adventure Park has adapted the standard zipline-through-trees activity (already pretty fun), into a broomstick, so you can live out all your Harry Potter dreams. There are also bicycle or skateboard adaptions, all high up in the trees. Once you have done that, the treetop tightwalking rope or Tarzan bridge may even seem tame. One note: kids must be aged seven years.<o:p></o:p>
5. Hua Hin: Go Wine-tasting (and Bike-riding)
Thai cuisine is world-famous, but few know that you can sip an excellent home-grown red or white in Thailand too. With its rich soil, vibrant monsoon and warm weather, Hua Hin boasts some excellent grape-growing conditions. To find out just how good, head to the hills and spend a day at Monsoon Valley Vineyard Restaurant.
You can choose from a range of tastings, from sweet wine to flagship bottles, and enjoy the rolling hills as a backdrop. Don’t drink too much though: you’ll want to explore the vineyard afterwards. You can opt for a jeep tour — which comes with its own welcome drinks — or if you’re up for some cardio, a short mountain bike tour.
6. Chiang Mai: Get Inked and Get Spiritual
Many people want to commemorate a fabulous holiday by getting a meaningful tattoo — usually at a tattoo parlour. In Chiang Mai, you can get inked in a more ancient manner. Sak yant, or bamboo tattoos, were originally introduced by the Khmer people centuries ago. The tattoos, applied with a bamboo stick and needle, were often given to warriors, as they were thought to offer the wearer magical powers that give strength and protect them from harm. Which is why you will see many modern Muay Thai fighters wearing them even today.
If all that makes you keen to get one yourself, you’re in luck. Travel experience providers Where Sidewalks End offer a sak yant inking. You’ll meet Ajarn Rung, a Buddhist monk, in his samnak, or studio, where he will consult with you about which tattoo fits your life’s values best. If you want to own a souvenir that really resonates, the best thing to buy in Thailand might just be this experience.
7. Koh Chang: Tuck into Hearty Seafood as the Fireflies Dance
With its charming blue-and-white interior, you might think you’re in Santorini, but the food at Phu-Talay Seafood Koh Chang is pure Thai perfection. After you’ve savoured your stir-fried crab curry, tom yum soup and chilli-slathered fried squid, you may be tempted to just take in the view of the canal as it leads to the sea.
But, post-dinner at this truly charming Thai restaurant, it is worth gathering the energy for the firefly boat ride offered by the restaurant. You’ll see fireflies light up the dark trees and, if you’re like most first-timers, never want to leave.
8. Chumphon: Combine Thailand Island-hopping and Bird-watching
Many people use Chumphon, located on the east side of the Malaysian Peninsula on the Gulf of Thailand, as a brief transit point before heading on to Koh Tao or Koh Samui. But they’re missing out. Chumphon, whose name translates to land of blessings, is worth a visit in its own right.
Surrounded by mangroves, caves, corals and islands, there’s something for everyone, so it’s worth checking out tours that fit in the activities that best suit you. One must-visit is Koh Ngam Noi, a tiny limestone island studded with wooden camps that sit on the cliffs. Bamboo shoots poke into the island’s caves, as enterprising locals collect edible bird’s nest, a popular medical ingredient in Asia.
9. Pattaya: Wander a World-class Garden
Nong Nooch Tropical Garden is the perfect way to while away an afternoon — and not just because it covers 2.4 square kilometres. The brainchild of a Thai couple who purchased the land in Pattaya, a city on Thailand’s eastern gulf coast, in 1954, the garden can rival the manicured lawns of Versailles Palace in France. You’ll see everything from manicured hedges surrounding stupas, to an orchid nursery with 670 native orchid species and even a cute recreation of Stonehenge. Tip: you can rent bicycles if you get tired and want to make sure you cover every attraction.
10. Trat: Window-shop at a Truly Local Market
The architecture might be grey, but Trat’s indoor market is about as colourful, and authentic, as it gets. Tired of touristy shopping in Thailand? You’re in luck. This is a market for locals, selling kitchen utensils, toiletries and everyday house goods. That’s part of its charm, seeing what ordinary locals buy. If you want to ogle something more exotic, just head to the food section.
Alongside mouth-watering noodle soups and fresh fruit smoothies, you’ll find marine life that looks like it jumped straight from a National Geographic documentary. Horseshoe crabs, flaming-red jellyfish pulsating in buckets, octopuses, silvery mackerel and more. As one blog puts it: “Whatever came in early that morning on the fishing boats will wend its way here.” It makes for a fun wander, one you can end with a sweet coconut pudding to cleanse the palate.
Now that you know where to go in Thailand, it’s time to decide where to stay. Whichever of these cities you decide to visit in the Land of Smiles, there’s a room from Accor for you. Whether you want to enjoy an afternoon of golfing just minutes away from a stunning beach or revel in five-star comfort high above Bangkok, find your perfect stay today.