Let’s Talk about Thailand: A Local Insight.
Sandy beaches, night markets in the middle of abandoned railways, 24-hour themed nightclubs, what more could you ask for in a country? With its playful and vivacious atmosphere, there is no doubt that Thailand is the ultimate tourist destination, but this incredible country also conforms to the expectations of those desiring a more unconventional or adventurous trip. Thailand has got you covered left, right and center for all your travelling needs. As a girl born and raised in the heart of Bangkok city, I’m spilling all the secrets on things to do, places to see, and food to eat!
There’s nothing more Thai than Pad-Thai. This post-WW2 dish is the countries’ staple meal. Deliciously flavoured stir-fried rice noodles with a ton of veggies and shrimp is perhaps the most common food available, and you won’t find a more delicious Pad-Thai dish in any other country. Trust me, I’ve tried. Since it’s so easy to make, you can find it anywhere and everywhere. You’ll find it by the side of the road, being prepared by a vendor, before you begin your hike up the mountains of northern Thailand, or on the menus of the most high end and glamorous of restaurants.
The capital of Thailand is bursting with both a traditional and modern energy. No matter what kind of traveller you are, this city has something for everyone!
The cheapest and coolest way to travel around the city is by the Bankok Mass Transit System: BTS. Unlike Europe’s favourite underground systems, the sky-train – as we call like to call it – roams around the capital from above. It’s by far the quickest method to see the city’s skyscrapers and monuments in all their glory. Every stop is unique; some are connected to shopping centers, temples and even art and cultural museums!
If you desire a wild night out, Khao San road is naturally the place to be. Don’t get there too early though, as parties in Bangkok start as late as midnight and continue on until the sun rises. But always make sure not to get too far lost or inebriated, as Bangkok is undeniably frivolous fun but can be equally as dangerous – especially if you don’t speak the language.
Temples are also a must-do and a must-see. My favourite is Wat Prakaew and Wat Po, located in the ‘Old Town.’ The fascinating architecture in this part of town is also a highlight. The temple is close by to numerous monuments, so definitely pack a lot of sunscreen as you could easily end up spending the whole day there.
For more unconventional adventures, I definitely recommend riding the BTS from the beginning to the end. It’s a great conversation starter. HOF gallery in Prakanong is also a stunning art gallery that holds different contemporary exhibitions every single month.
Another place to hit is the railway night market. Located in the middle of an abandoned train track, vendors set up all sorts of stalls filled with trinkets and knickknacks, plus there’s never a shortage of street food! If you’re willing to travel a little out of Bangkok, the ‘Sanctuary of Truth’ in Chonburi is a temple us locals believe will never be completely constructed. To this day, it’s still one of the most beautiful sites. English guides are available if you need them, but I just love roaming around the area as the all-wooden and carved architectures and sculptures are captivating figures in and of themselves. But be warned, everything is symbolic and filled with hidden meanings; you might unwittingly find out things about yourself you didn’t know existed before. The Ghost Tower, located on Bangkok’s Sathorn Road is also famous, not just for being abandoned, but also for being haunted. Make sure you’re prepared for a long walk up towards the top and be very careful; it’s not equipped with any safety railings or protective walls. It’s a great place to watch the sunset over the city, even if you have to share the space with a few ghosts.
The south of Thailand is known for its incredible islands and beaches. It’s got loads of hostels for those on a budget, and equally as many luxury hotels for those who aren’t. For more adventurous folk, cheap boat trips are available all over the beach to access the surrounding smaller islands. The boats are small and quaint, and as you travel across the waters you’ll be greeted with spectacular views at every turn, courtesy of the very limited human intervention to the surrounding nature and wildlife. The water is a translucent and sparkling turquoise, a beachside paradise you’d be hard pushed to beat. It’s a great way to relax and get in touch with your surroundings. Scuba diving is also an amazing endeavor around these parts; nothing is quite as stunning as living life through a fish’s eyes.
The north of Thailand is considerably less hot and humid in temperature. It’s the place to be if mountains and natural forests are your thing. There are great health and fitness communities up in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai that love their healthy cafes and hikes up the hills, whilst white water rafting and zip lining are a fantastic choice of activity for those who love a good adrenaline rush. For those wanting a more relaxed but still unconventional experience, try booking or attending one of the many elephant sanctuaries. These centres are not only safer for the traveller, but also for the elephants; you won’t be encouraging the cheap and abusive elephant rides that specifically target non-Thai speaking tourists. My personal recommendation of sanctuaries that are specifically wonderful and trustworthy are the ‘Elephant Nature Park’ in Chiang Mai and the ‘Thai Elephant Conservation Centre’ in Lampang. Both do require advanced booking, but I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed with your experience there amongst some of the most magnificent creatures on earth.
I’ve lived here for 19 years and I still get excited boarding the plane to go back home. If there is one thing for sure, you’ll never be bored in Thailand; jaded travellers are a bi-product only of Thailand’s abundance. There’s so much more to say, so many more places to recommend about my city and my country, but I leave you for now with what I’ve already offered in the hope that this rough guide helps to ignite some yearning to discover, or perhaps even to re-visit this astonishing land.