Our Top 10 Must Dos in Thailand

Be you a beach bum, a foodie or an adventurer, Thailand has long been a favourite destination of travellers of all varieties. On a holiday to Thailand, you’re safe in the knowledge that you’ll get your fair share of culture, fabulous beaches, amazing cuisine and beautiful nature – there is so much to see do and experience!

Here are our top 10 must do things on any Thailand visit:

1. Eat!

This one goes without saying really, we all know how delicious Thai food is. Quick, fresh and fragrant whether you dine in a restaurant or pick something up from one of the numerous street stalls, you just know from the very first bite until the very last, that you’re in for a treat! There are so many must-try option, pretty much anything is great, but we particularly recommend not leaving Thailand without sampling:

Pad Thai – probably the best known Thai dish and available all over the world, nothing beats having this noodle dish freshly stir-fried in its native land.

Laap – from the north of the country, this dish of minced meat is seasoned to perfection with herbs, lime juice and fish sauce. Consume with sticky rice.

Som Tum – a vibrant dish that hits all the five of the basic tastes, som tum is a salad of unripe papaya, tomatoes, carrots, beans and peanuts with a dressing of garlic, chilli, palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce.

Gaeng Som – a sour and spicy fish curry, this is southern Thailand’s signature dish. Curry paste and turmeric give it its distinct yellow colouring and it is often served with pineapple or bamboo shoots.

2. Marvel at the Grand Palace, Bangkok

With its bright lights and high-rise urbanity, Thailand’s capital Bangkok may seem familiar at first glance, but on its bustling streets you’ll find something a whole lot more exotic! The Grand Palace is a symbol of the city, a former royal residence who’s glittering roofs and spires dominate the riverfront. Consecrated in 1782, the complex is full of architectural styles, both royal and sacred, the gold of the buildings contrasting beautifully with the velvety green lawns of the gardens. The major pilgrimage spot, Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is also within the palace walls, offering a fascinating glimpse into the city’s devout Buddhism.

3. Explore Chiang Mai’s Old City

Chiang Mai is the gateway to Thailand’s northern highlands, a laidback place that is quintessentially Thai in its essence. Although a sprawling modern metropolis, Thailand’s second largest in fact, at its heart are the remains of the walled and moated city that was capital of the Lanna Kingdom between the 13th and 18th centuries. A maze of atmospheric streets, the area is packed with history, heritage, cafes and boutique shops and a delight to wander. You’ll stumble across the likes of Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai’s oldest temple and the famous Wat Chedi Luang, pass through bustling markets and even find opportunities to interact with monks, all while enjoying the relaxed, cosmopolitan vibe that makes this city so popular.    

4. Taste wine at an award-winning vineyard

Yes, you read that correctly – there is indeed an award-winning vineyard in Thailand! Monsoon Valley is just 30 miles from the city of Hua Hin, a well-known beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand and, as of 2020, had won over 300 awards as well as being recognised as a key producer of ‘New Latitude’ wines. One of Monsoon Valley’s signature wines is a fruity yet crisp Chenin Blanc, of which they also make a dessert version, and there has been great success with adapting the often temperamental shiraz grape to produce a juicy red and aromatic rosé. As well as tasting the wines, time at Monsoon Valley can also be spent learning about their holistic take on wine making and their relationship with the local biodiversity.  

5. Admire the White Temple, Chiang Rai

Nestled close to the Thai border with Myanmar and Laos in the spectacular northern highlands, this small and friendly city remains wonderfully under the radar. The capital of the Lanna Kingdom before Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai has some fascinating heritage to explore, as well as being a launch pad into the surrounding hill country. It’s most popular and interesting sight, though, is the White Temple. Wat Rong Khun sits 13 kilometres outside of the city and is a pretty unique piece of architecture. White to symbolise the purity of Buddhism, the building is also studded with mirror pieces that make is sparkle in the sun. Begun in 1997 by Thai visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the complex is yet to be completed but the main temple building is striking and full of sculptures and frescoes of popular culture and Buddhist symbolism.  

6. Meet the hill tribes of Mae Salong Mountain

Not far outside of Chiang Rai, Mae Salong Mountain offers an interesting contrast to the rest of Thailand’s northern highlands. The area is particularly known for its tea production, and you can visit a plantation to taste the wares, and its hill tribe villages. The village of Mae Salong, once at the heart of the opium trade of the ‘Golden Triangle’ today offers a fantastic opportunity to visit the traditional villages of Thailand’s minority hill tribe communities for a glimpse of their lives, heritage and culture.

7. Ride the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi

Sounds grim yes, but the Death Railway offers a valuable piece of World War II history, as well as a scenic train ride through the lushness of Kanchanaburi province’s nature. A tragedy immortalised in the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ the Death Railway was built by POWs and local labourers from 1942, to transport troops and supplies from Thailand to the front in Burma. The work was back-breaking and many succumbed to disease and starvation. Today, three trains a day run between Kanchanaburi and Nam Dok, crossing the River Kwai Bridge – a dark journey, yes, but one that also showcases the undeniably beauty nature, a fitting tribute to those who laboured on the line.

8. Discover the history of Ayutthaya

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmospheric ruins of Ayutthaya are the remains of what was once one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and wealthiest cities. The capital of a Siamese kingdom between 1351 and 1767, when it was brutally sacked by the Burmese, today the ruins are spread through the modern city of Ayutthaya yet it is still easy to get an idea of Ayutthaya’s grandeur as you explore with must-see sites including Bang Pa Palace, Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Na Phra Men. Keep an eye out for beautifully carved Buddhas, stupas and sculptures, including one of Thailand’s most famous images – the Buddha head caught in the roots of a bodhi tree.

9. Visit a beach or island

Another obvious one – Thailand is known for its extensive list of spectacular beaches and paradisiacal islands. There is one suitable for every possible taste, from party islands to deserted honeymoon getaways, you just need to find the one that suits you best! From famous names like Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Ko Pha Ngan to lesser discovered corners like Koh Chang, Koh Lanta and the Similan Islands, to name a few, for those looking for an all-out blissful beach break, Thailand is at the top of the list. In fact, one of the joys of this glorious country is that you can easily combine a beach break with a bit of exploration – what better way to end a cultural adventure?

10. Cruise on the Mekong River

Within the once notorious Golden Triangle, the point where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, the Mekong flows languidly through beautiful countryside. From Thailand you can board a boat and cross into Laos, where you can visit a little local market for a nosey before heading back across the border. At this point, the river is shallow and slow and the banks undeveloped – it really feels like a pioneering adventure! There is also something extra special and relaxing about sightseeing by boat and this activity offers the opportunity to get a little taste of the gorgeous nation of Laos.

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Cruise the Mekong - Buddhist White Temple - Hill Tribes in Mae Kampong

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