Top 7 Things to Do in Thailand

7 Best Things to See and Do in Thailand

Who doesn’t love the The Beach (2000), starring Leonardo Dicaprio? If you don’t strongly like this movie there’s something seriously wrong with you. How can it get any better than finding your own secret paradise on a dreamy tropical island? Watching the movie for the first time, left me in absolute awe of Thailand. Could it be that good? Where was this beach?

A few years later, the dream eventually happened and I found myself in Thailand on a backpacking holiday. The sad part is that I missed out on going to the beach in The Beach due to my stupidity. After learning that filming had taken place on Ko Phi-Phi, it never entered my mind that there could be two islands using the Phi-Phi title, with Ko Phi-Phi Don and Ko Phi-Phi Leh sounding very similar. I loved Ko Phi-Phi Don island and assumed digital enhancement and multiple location shots had been layered together creating some sort of super beach. At the time I didn’t think The Beach could possibly exist in real life. How could it get any better than the spectacular beaches I had already seen in Thailand? Live and learn.

For my trip to Thailand I had also purchased the book to read. Loved the movie so much that I had to read the book as well, plus I heard it had a few differences, so I wanted to know it all. I really wanted to immerse myself in the full uncut original story while travelling through Thailand. Who was this visionary genius who came up with this story? This meant that during my trip in Thailand, I spent most of my spare time reading The Beach instead of my trusty travel guide. I wanted my trip to be a visit into the unknown anyway, since I hoped to serendipitously enter paradise. Luckily I did find paradise, however not at The Beach film location.

On the 4th of January 2004 I arrived in Bangkok for a month long sojourn in Thailand to experience this beautiful tropical country for myself. The only definite places on my itinerary at the start were Bangkok, Phuket and Ko Samui. I would depart Thailand on the 8th of February.

Here are the top 7 things to do in Thailand that I highly recommend from my own experience.

1. Visit Krabi and go Island Hopping

I really got lucky finding out about Krabi. I only found out about it when I was on a bus and started talking to someone who was going rock climbing in Krabi. It sounded like it would be a fun thing to try so I stayed for a couple of nights, but I definitely should have stayed longer. It’s a magical place. I suck at rock climbing though. I gave up very quickly.

Ko Phi Phi Don turned out to be my favourite island in Thailand, most probably because I was on the island as part of a day trip during a planned scuba-diving trip. There are so many amazing islands in Thailand but this island have to be right up there.

I still wish I could have stayed on the island nicknamed James Bond for at least half a day or so. Our tour only gave enough time for tourists to have half an hour or so on the island.

Looking back I also wish I had visited Ko Nang Yuan in the Surat Thani Province, just off Ko Tao. Nevertheless, I count myself lucky to have taken in some of the splendour around Phuket, Krabi, Ko Phi-Phi Don, Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan. I count myself very lucky to have found my way to the Krabi province. It’s an absolute must visit location in Thailand, and luckily I didn’t miss it. It’s spectacular. Krabi has to be on your agenda.

Top Destination Thailand Krabi

The views are beautiful.

Views from Krabi Thailand

Scuba diving Sail Rock near Ko Samui was an absolute awesome experience. I consider it to be the best dive I’ve ever done. I asked a few dive shop assistants in Ko Samui regarding the best place to go scuba diving, and ‘Sail Rock’ popped up numerous times as the most popular answer. The huge schools of fish at this site and the rock jutting out of the ocean was amazing. The added wonder during my dive had to be getting attacked by a large trigger fish. I tried to punch the fish to scare it away from me, but it kept coming back for more and more. After the dive, the scuba dive master told me he had never seen anything like it before. I would give the fish a punch and the fish would back off out of the way, before coming back at me with its mouth full of sharp teeth looking like it wanted to bite me.

Best Sights in Thailand

Ko Samui Waterfall

Ko Samui and Phuket were great places. So much to see and do. I enjoyed jet skiing for the first time and tried wake-boarding in a man-made lake where pulleys were used to pull you along. You would stand on a platform holding a rope with handle bar, and it would hurl you into the water. My best attempt included completing three laps without falling over.

I must mention Phuket Fantasea. This cultural theme show played out with Thai dance, pageantry, magical acts, state-of-the-art light and sound, with a huge range of animal performers really blew me away. It was an absolutely incredible show at the time I attended. This show was billed as one of the greatest ever, and I have to agree.

2. Visit Mysterious Temple Sites (Ayuthaya and Lopburi)

The Buddha is highly revered in Thailand. I can’t believe how white I appear in the photo next to the Buddha head wrapped in tree roots in the Ayuthaya Historical Park at the top of this post. I don’t think I’ve ever been so white. I have to say this photo has not been whitened on purpose. If anyone thinks they don’t have Hellenic blood in their veins, well you could be mistaken.

Ayuthaya is approximately 85km north of Bangkok and it really is a fantastic day trip from Bangkok. The place really impressed me and you’ll know straight away why it’s a Unesco World Heritage site. The former capital of Siam just oozes major historical significance.

Thai Tempe Ayuthaya

On my way to Chang Mai in the north of Thailand, I stopped at the town of Lopburi and stayed the night. What drew my attention were the stories about monkeys. They actually even have a festival for the monkeys held every year, where they give the monkeys a feast. After I arrived I could see straight away that monkeys were honoured in this town, which you can easily figure out by looking at the pictures below.

Thailand Lopburi Monkey Statues

Monkeys also hanged around at the base of these giant Monkey statues. The town really impressed me and it had a charming vibrant side to it. Two nights in this town is a good way to go.

Best Places in Thailand

There are many Buddha statues in Thailand, but how can you beat a golden Buddha? Buddha wisdom:

Golden Buddha Statue Thailand

“When you see, just see.
When you hear, just hear.
When you smell, just smell.
When you touch, just touch.
When you know, just know.”

3. Explore the Madness of Bangkok

Tuk-Tuk taxi drivers gave me some of the most insane rides of my life. Seriously you feel like your life is on the line. The relief of making it to a destination alive without injury felt like winning the lottery. With markets, shopping and entertainment districts, Thai boxing stadiums and temples, Bangkok had much to explore. Getting where you want to go is far from relaxing though.

One night in Bangkok I found myself on Koh San Road. I only visited this famous backpacker destination after a fellow traveller mentioned it and reminded me that it was in The Beach. I should have stayed at one of the many accomodation providers at this busy westerner hotspot for a few nights anyway, but I already had accomodation booked elsewhere. From that point onwards I couldn’t distinguish between truth and fiction in The Beach.

Thailand Koh San Road

Doing some shopping in Thailand is an absolute must, especially in Bangkok. During my trip, I bought a couple of fake Rolex watches, a tailor made business suit, a fine looking red silk decorated dressing gown making me look like Bruce Lee, and a few other interesting souvenirs. I wanted to buy the best movie ever made in Thailand and ended up buying the dvd of ‘Ong Bak,’ which the sales guy recommended, even though I had never heard of it at the time. This martial art movie proved to be very different.

Bangkok Markets

4. Watch a Thai boxing match from a ring side seat

The spectacle of Thai boxing match was very entertaining and risky as well, since it meant the possibility of being hit by blood. Watching a fight at a ring side seat shocked me when a few drops of blood just miss me on one occasion. These guys don’t mess around.

Thai Boxing Bangkok

Later on I couldn’t resist getting my photo taken with a champion Thai boxer.

Thai Boxing Match Champion


5. Go on an Elephant Trek in Chang Mai

Chang Mai up north sounded very interesting, so I decided to catch a train and spend a few nights up there. The town is located more than 700km north west of Bangkok so it was a long trip especially in the second class cabin I had taken, which had hard wooden seats. On my way I had been sitting opposite a few Thai teenagers. I decided to stop at a town midway for the night, to see a bit of provincial Thailand. As I got up to leave with my backpack, one of them looked very surprised and asked me where I was going. He didn’t look at all happy when I told him I was leaving. I think they were planning a bag snatch or something.

I stopped at town called Phitsanulok, located approximately half way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, but closer to Chiang Mai. As I made my way towards the bicycle taxi rank, I tried to communicate my desire to see the town. There was still a bit of daylight left. I couldn’t make one of the bike riders understand what I wanted, so another much older guy approached and we started a weird game of charades. Me tapping the bike, doing circling motions with my hand to try and get the message across. The old chap had an ahah moment and yelled out a price. I accepted and then the two of them laughed their heads off like they had just ripped me off or something. We both won in the end as the rooms in this town were very cheap, even though it came with a few cockroaches. It cost as much as the cheap bicycle taxi fare.

I arrived in Chiang Mai the following day and went straight to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar precinct. I ended up getting a modest price hotel room and explored the night bazaar that night. I loved the banana pancakes served by a lady who seemed to be making a small fortune. They were very delicious.

Elephant trekking turned out to be the best experience in China Mai. Mae Taeng Elephant Park orchestrated the elephant trek superbly. It didn’t feel like the elephants were being exploited at all.

Elephants in Thailand


The above photo shows them having a bath scrub down.

Thailand Elephant Trek

I gave a few of the elephants some of their favoured sugar cane treats to show my appreciation afterwards for the job they were doing. Is it an easy job? Is it hard? Don’t know.

Feeding Elephants in Thailand


6. Check out the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha-Ngan

I only found out about the Full Moon Party while on Ko Samui. Sounded like a bit of fun so I made my way over to the island of Ko Pha-Ngan on one of the massive number of small boats chockablock full with party revellers in the late afternoon. The island is very close to Ko Samui, about half an hour away.

Full Moon Party Ko Pha Ngan

If I had the chance of doing it again though, I would have stayed on the fabulous island for three nights, with the middle night being the night of the full moon party. It’s no fun knowing you have to leave and get back to your own accomodation back in Ko Samui.

7. Watch or do something daring in Thailand

Go to a snake show.

Great Things to See in ThailandPutting your head inside a crocodile’s mouth. Is there anything a Thai won’t do?

Next someone will tell me that snake blood drinking is actually on the menu.

Thai Zoo Crocodile Act

Make sure you get an authentic Thai massage as well. It’s scary at first especially with all the cracking you’ll hear and feel, but after it’s all over you’ll feel great.

What about having a go at pully-chain wake-boarding?

Phuket Wake Park Cable Wakeboarding

You’re assured of finding a bit of paradise in Thailand. My own magical paradises in Thailand that I discovered happened to be Krabi and the island of Ko Phi-Phi Don.

Hopefully this post will encourage you to put Thailand at the top of your overseas holiday wish list. Those of you who know Thailand already and love the place, well I fully understand why. Thailand has fantastic Thai cuisine and friendly Thai people. It’s paradise for adventurers.

Most important things to take from this post:

  1. Make sure you visit Krabi
  2. The Beach exists