When you think of Thailand, you think of unrivaled beaches with white sand and beautiful blue water. Or perhaps you think of the fantastic food you’ll be eating at fine restaurants and street vendors. Maybe it’s the shopping you’re looking forward to, from the malls to the floating markets, and let’s definitely not forget the nightlife.
You’re correct — those are great things to do in Thailand. But there are other activities that Thailand isn’t as famous for that you ought to consider adding to your bucket list. If you want a truly unique Thai vacation, be sure to try at least one.
1. ELEPHANT CONSERVATION CENTERS
There are about 3,000 elephants in Thailand (a significantly reduced number from 100,000 at the start of the 20th century.) Elephants are an important part of Thai culture and have, for hundreds of years, played an important part moving both people and goods around. They are also part of the national identity. You will also see elephant motifs on stamps, the Navy flag, Buddhist temples, art, and more. This giant beast of burden is integral to Thailand, making a ride or spending some time with them an important part of any trip to the nation.
Elephant conservation has played an important role in the establishment of centers which focus on the care of elephants. It is here that you can spend the day with the elephants, and get a chance to go on a trek.
The Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang is a popular site.
2. MUAY THAI BOXING
Muay Thai Boxing is the national sport of Thailand, and you will definitely want to see a bout when you are visiting. The pageantry and almost artistic grace of the ceremony and fight are unmatched. This fighting style is marked by the use of knees, elbows, shins, and just about any body part, all with supreme physical control and precise delivery. It is known as the “art of eight limbs” because of this intensity. You can also learn Muay Thai boxing (or at least get an introduction to it) on your vacation.
Professional Muay Thai boxers spend much time on their physical fitness with a training regimen a casual participant would not be able to manage. That’s OK, though. You’re not looking to be a professional fighter. Instead, you want an introduction to the sport. And, at the very least, you’ll get healthy exercise and learn conditioning routines that you can use back home.
Muay Thai gyms and training centers are found throughout Thailand. Know what you are looking for when you choose a gym. If you are a martial artist looking to expand your repertoire, you are going to want different training than a casual observer who wants a taste of the experience and some exercises they can do back home.
3. SEA KAYAKING
Boats abound in the beautiful crystal blue and emerald green waters of Thailand, but if you’d rather not spoil the moment with the sound of a motor or a packed tourist boat, sea kayaking and canoeing are for you.
Some kayak tour companies offer multi-day kayak trips for the more adventurous who really want to see an untouched Thailand. Others offer day trips to give you a taste for kayaking but deliver you back to your homebase.
Bringing your family with you to Thailand? Some tour companies offer an educational component that promotes sustainability, protection of the environment, and Thai culture. This is a wonderful way for your family to get exercise, make great memories, and learn about another culture.
4. BIKING (MOTORCYCLE OR MOUNTAIN BIKE)
Motorcycles are everywhere in Thailand, but we’re not talking about the kind that you see on the road in the traffic every day. We’re talking about a bit of off-road adventure, or a longer tour.
There are many motorbike companies that offer such tours on different routes (some even bring you from Laos to Thailand via motorcycle). The same can be said for those of you who want to skip the motor and use a mountain bike.
Be sure, if you decide to do your own thing, that you understand safety rules, and that you are using a trail meant for bike use. Thailand has many forests and jungles, and has worked hard at preserving their natural gifts. Don’t go off the trails or designated bike areas if you are avoiding paved roads.
Not everyone wants to see the countryside from inside a car or bus. If you prefer two wheels to four, Thailand is still open for your viewing pleasure.
5. ROCK CLIMBING
With many jutting rocks, hills, and mountains — both from the land and seeming to rise out of the sea — rock climbing and serious hiking are popular activities. Railay Beach is popular for dedicated climbers, as is Krabi, both with their high, jutting limestone fitted for every level of climber. There are many guides and rock climbing outfitters that offer differing levels of service. Be sure you are honest about your skill level, as some will provide instruction.
Ask about what you can climb to, if there is a destination other than “just” the top. If you’re not afraid of getting muddy and having a serious workout, for example, Railay has a “hidden” lagoon near lookout point. Though it’s a steep climb, it’s well worth it if you want to get off the beaten path. Some of the best views and “hidden” secrets in Thailand can only be accessed by hiking or climbing off of the regular tourist routes.
There are so many things to do in Thailand! Whatever your interest, be it athletic or environment or cuisine, there is an opportunity to learn how it is done in Thailand. The best advice? Venture outside those tourist “walls” and try some activities you wouldn’t normally do!