My visit to Thailand came about after I seriously needed a good tan, which I think the above photo proves. WTF, I look like a ghost!
This adventurous Thailand travel guide was born from my memorable backpacking trip to Thailand back in 2004. It is ideal for first-time visitors to the land of smiles.
What inspired me to go on an adventurous Thailand backpacking trip began in the same way as many other travelers seeking adventure in a foreign land — the classic movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Beach has inspired thousands of backpackers from around the world to want to visit Thailand, and I was one of them.
At the time, I was a massive fan of the film. I still am to this day. The book is also incredible!
During my adventurous trip to Thailand, I discovered that Thailand truly is PARADISE!
I’m telling you the truth. Paradise exists in Thailand, provided you know where to go and you don’t spend all of your time in Bangkok.
So for me, The Beach lived up to its promise. Sure, Thailand can appear hellish in certain parts of the country, but if you go to the right places, you will love it.
When planning a trip to Thailand, you need to know some of the best places to visit, such as Krabi. Knowing about some of the most awesome adventurous things to do in Thailand, like elephant trekking is also important.
In this Thailand travel guide, I have included some great tips to ensure your trip to Thailand is extra special.
Choosing the best things to do in Thailand isn’t easy because there are so many great things on offer, but this travel guide should be enough to ensure you don’t miss out on the top experiences.
Thailand Travel Guide – Adventurous Thailand
My Thailand travel guide reveals some of the best tips for first-time visitors traveling around Thailand.
I had several destinations in Thailand on my itinerary before I landed at Bangkok airport.
They included Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, plus two of the most popular Thai islands, Phuket and Ko Samui.
My Thailand adventure began on the 4th of January 2004. That’s the day when I first arrived in Bangkok.
The plan involved leaving Thailand on the 8th of February. So all up, I spent just over a month in Thailand, which gave me a decent amount of time to explore the country.
Discovering the paradise of Thailand turned out to be an incredible experience.
I won’t tell you the exact order I did everything in during my trip to Thailand because it doesn’t matter.
There are plenty of adventurous things to do in Thailand for everyone here, especially if you are a first-time visitor to Thailand.
Believe me, every one of these experiences in Thailand will be extremely memorable if you do them.
Krabi – A Thailand Paradise
I still can’t believe how lucky I got finding out about Krabi.
Somehow I only learned about this beautiful paradise when traveling on a bus to some other destination. At the time, I had no idea about Krabi.
The person I was speaking with told me they were going climbing in Krabi. Rock climbing sounded like it would be an awesome activity to try, so I headed to Krabi and stayed for a couple of nights, but I should have stayed even longer.
In my opinion, every Thailand travel guidebook should have this destination in the top 5 things to do in Thailand. Krabi is a magical destination!
The only thing that sucked was that I sucked at rock climbing.
I gave up quite quickly when attempting to rock climb. Even though I hired the proper climbing gear and hired a rock climbing guide, I gave up in less than 5 minutes.
I’m just not a rock climber of vertical cliffs, but you may love it!
Even if you don’t like rock climbing, you have to visit Krabi. It’s a fantastic destination.
Ko Phi Phi Don – My Paradise Island
Ko Phi Phi Don turned out to be my favorite island in Thailand. I went to the island as part of a day trip to go scuba-diving.
Tip: You have to stay on Ko Phi Phi Don for at least one night.
Another Tip: If you want to learn to scuba dive, here’s a great island to learn. I went on a refresher course here and then went on some dives nearby. All of the dives were great!
Thailand has so many incredible islands, but for some reason, I loved this island in Thailand the most.
The island is relatively small, but it is truly spectacular!
When I think of paradise in Thailand, this is the island that comes to mind.
It’s probably Thailand’s answer to Corfu or Santorini in Greece.
James Bond Island
I wish I could have stayed around the Thai island nicknamed James Bond for at least half a day or more.
The boat tour I went on only gave enough time for tourists to explore the area for about half an hour or so.
Visiting the Krabi province in Thailand is a must, especially if it’s your first time in Thailand.
Make sure you put Krabi on your trip itinerary. The views are so beautiful. Here’s a marvelous view I had one evening.
Experiencing some of the splendor around Phuket, Krabi, Ko Phi-Phi Don, Ko Samui, and Ko Pha-Ngan was fantastic.
Looking back, I also wish I had visited Ko Nang Yuan in the Surat Thani Province, just off Ko Tao.
Sail Rock (Koh Tao) – Scuba Diving
Scuba diving at Sail Rock (Koh Tao) near Ko Samui was a fantastic experience. I consider it to be the best dive I have ever done.
When I asked around a few different dive shops in Ko Samui for their opinion about the best place to go scuba diving in Thailand, I heard ‘Sail Rock’ numerous times as the answer.
There are humongous schools of fish to see at Sail Rock. It lives up to its name, that’s for sure. The rock juts out in the middle of a calm ocean. It’s like seeing the tip of an iceberg.
Sail Rock is a fantastic dive spot!
Incredibly during my dive, I got attacked by a large triggerfish.
Soon after diving, I felt something tapping me on my back. So I looked around and was shocked to see this massive triggerfish about a meter away.
One of the guys I was scuba-diving with tapped me on my back to warn me.
I tried to punch the massive fish to scare it away, but it kept coming repeatedly. It probably looked a bit like underwater kickboxing.
After the dive finished, the scuba dive master told me he had never seen anything like it.
I tried to punch the massive fish in the face, which caused the fish to back away just before it got hit, and then it would come back at me again and again with its mouth wide open ready to bite.
The triggerfish had a mouth full of sharp teeth. Looking back, I don’t know how it didn’t end up biting me.
The Beach: Set in Thailand
I visited Thailand mostly due to The Beach, the awesome travel movie, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
How could it get any better for a traveler than discovering a secret paradise with the most beautiful beach imaginable on a dreamy tropical island in Thailand?
The Beach is one of the best travel movies of all time. Watching the movie for the first time left me in total awe of Thailand.
I wondered whether Thailand could be that good. Did the dreamy beach in the movie exist?
A few years later, my dream of visiting Thailand materialized. It was going to be an adventurous backpacking trip of a lifetime.
One disappointing part about my trip is that I missed out on going to the famous beach shown in The Beach film, mainly due to my foolishness.
After learning that filming took place on Ko Phi-Phi, I never realized that two islands used the Phi-Phi title.
Ko Phi-Phi Don and Ko Phi-Phi Leh sound very similar, so it confused me.
I loved Ko Phi-Phi Don island and assumed digital enhancement and multiple location shots had been layered together to create a super beach.
During my visit to Thailand, I never really contemplated the possibility that The Beach existed in real life. It just seemed too good to be true.
How could any Thai beach be superior to the spectacular beaches I had already seen in Thailand? Live and learn.
The Beach by Alex Garland
On my backpacking trip to Thailand, I read The Beach book whenever I had the chance.
Here’s the copy of the book I took over with me to Thailand.
I loved the movie and heard great things about the book. The book and the film had some significant differences so I had to know the differences.
While traveling throughout Thailand, I wanted to immerse myself in the original story the author Alex Garland envisioned. I had already read about half of it before going.
The book was excellent, but I remember not liking the ending as much as the film.
Reading The Beach during my trip around Thailand meant I spent most of my spare time traveling on buses and lying on the beach reading that book instead of reading my Lonely Planet “Thailand” travel guide.
I wanted my trip around Thailand to be a journey into some unknown paradise, hoping to enter heaven serendipitously.
Luckily, I did find paradise. However, I didn’t find it at The Beach, because I didn’t go there.
Ko Samui and Phuket were both great island paradises. There was a lot to see and do.
Here’s a spectacular waterfall I visited in Ko Samui. No, it wasn’t from the movie because there was no way you could jump down into the pool of water below.
In Phuket, I tried jet skiing for the first time. I also tried wakeboarding, where overhead pulleys using ropes pulled you along on an artificial lake.
To begin with, you first had to stand on a platform holding a rope with a handlebar. Then at a particular moment in time, it hurled you into the water.
My best attempt at wakeboarding included three complete laps without falling over. However, I felt pretty tired by the end. Beginners can do it with no problem.
I have to mention Phuket Fantasea. The cultural theme show extravaganza is terrific!
The magical animal show included Thai dance, pageantry, magic acts, and incredible state-of-the-art light/sound displays.
Seeing various animal acts, from elephants to birds performing in unusual ways, blew me away.
It has to be the most incredible show I have ever seen. It was advertised as the greatest show on earth or something like that, and it was.
Phuket Fantasea is expensive, but you have to see it to believe it.
Ayuthaya: Temple Site
In Thailand, the Buddha is highly revered.
I still can’t believe how white I appeared in the very top photo when taking my picture next to the Buddha’s head surrounded by tree roots at Ayuthaya Historical Park.
I don’t think I have ever looked so white in my life. And believe me, I haven’t whitened that photo in any way.
Anyone out there thinks they can’t possibly have any Hellenic blood in their veins because of their whiteness, you could be wrong.
Ayuthaya is approximately 85km north of Bangkok, and it was a fantastic day trip from Bangkok. I discovered it when reading my Thailand travel guide.
The ancient site of Ayuthayai impressed me greatly. You can easily understand why it is a Unesco World Heritage site. The former capital of Siam oozes major historical significance.
On my way to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, I stopped at the town of Lopburi for a night.
The stories of monkeys in the streets made me curious about the town. So when I read about it in my Thailand travel guide, I knew I had to go there to see it for myself.
Lopburi even holds a yearly festival for the monkeys, where they offer their monkey population a feast.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t there at the right time, but watching it must be incredible.
When I arrived, I could see that monkeys were revered in the city. You quickly figure it out when you visit the giant gold monkey statues.
Small monkeys also hang around the base of the giant monkey statues.
Lopburi impressed me. It had a charming, vibrant side to it. Staying for two nights in Lopburi is the way to go. Staying for only one night in Lopburi felt a bit too short.
Buddha Statues in Thailand
You can see many Buddha statues in Thailand, but how can you beat a golden Buddha?
I sometimes wonder why there are no gold Greek God statues in Greece.
“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.”
Tuk-Tuk taxi drivers in Thailand are insane! They offered me the most insane rides of my life!
Seriously, you will feel that your life is on the line every time you’re out on the street in a tuk-tuk, and it most likely is. The relief of making it to your destination alive brings enormous relief.
With markets, shopping and entertainment districts, Thai boxing stadiums, and temples to explore, Bangkok is not a boring place.
The problem is getting where you want to go, which is far, far from a relaxing experience.
Khao San Road Bangkok
One night in Bangkok, I found myself on Khao San Road. I only visited the famous backpacker road in Bangkok after a fellow traveler mentioned it.
When I mentioned that I didn’t know anything about Khao San Road, the person reminded me that it was mentioned in The Beach. Fans of The Beach were everywhere!
I should have stayed at one of the many accommodation providers on Khao San Road or close by for a couple of nights, but I already had accommodation arranged.
Westerners are drawn to this Bangkok hotspot. At this point, I couldn’t distinguish between reality and fiction in The Beach.
Shopping in Thailand
Going shopping in Thailand is an absolute must, especially when you’re in Bangkok.
During my trip to Thailand, I bought a couple of fake Rolex watches, a tailor-made business suit, a fine-looking red silk dressing gown that made me look like Bruce Lee, and a few other interesting souvenirs, including a gold-plated elephant.
I even purchased the best movie ever made in Thailand at the time.
A DVD of ‘Ong Bak,’ which a Thai guy convinced me to buy, even though I had never heard of the Thai film at the time.
Watching the martial arts movie, Ong Bak was very different from your standard chop fest.
It was a pretty impressive film, but it’s not a movie you’d want to repeatedly watch like The Beach or Enter the Dragon.
Thai Kickboxing Bangkok
One of the things I wanted to experience in Thailand was to go and see a Thai kickboxing match.
I had a few different kickboxing experiences, and I highly recommend them.
The spectacle of a Thai boxing match was highly entertaining and risky, even for you, the spectator.
It could mean being hit by blood if you have a ringside seat. So make sure you don’t sit in the first row closest to the ring. I can’t stress that enough.
Watching a fight at the ringside seat where I was sitting close to the ring shocked me greatly when a few drops of blood missed me on one occasion. These tough guys don’t mess around.
After one of the events, I couldn’t resist getting my photo taken next to a champion Thai kickboxer.
By that time, my tan was coming along nicely. I also lost a bit of weight with all that walking around.
Chiang Mai: Train Ride from Bangkok
Chiang Mai in the north sounded fascinating, so I decided to catch a train to spend a few nights in the northern part of Thailand.
The town is located more than 700 km northwest of Bangkok, so it was a long trip, especially in the second-class cabin I traveled in, which had hard seats.
On my way there, I sat opposite a few Thai teenagers.
At some point, I decided to stop at a town midway for the night to see a bit of provincial Thailand and to avoid getting my stuff stolen, just in case I fell asleep. My intuition was right.
As I got up to leave, taking my backpack with me, one of the guys looked extremely surprised. He asked me where I was going and didn’t seem happy at all when I told him I was leaving.
I’m sure they planned to do a bag snatch or something if I fell asleep.
A night in Phitsanulok
The town I chose to stop at was called Phitsanulok.
Phitsanulok was located approximately halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. However, the town is slightly closer to Chiang Mai.
As I headed toward the bicycle taxi rank, I tried to communicate my desire to see the town with one of the bike riders.
It was in the evening, but some decent daylight was still left to see the place.
I wanted someone to ride me around the town. But unfortunately, one of the bike riders couldn’t understand what I wanted to do, so another much older guy tried to figure it out.
We started a weird game of charades with me pointing to the bike with my hand and making circular motions to get the message across.
The old guy with a toothless grin had his AHA moment and yelled a price.
I accepted, and then the two laughed their heads off as if they had just ripped me off or something.
We both won in the end because the accommodation in town was incredibly cheap.
A room cost me as much as the cheap bicycle taxi fare, about $6 from memory.
What wasn’t so great about the accommodation was that it also had a few bonus humongous cockroaches. I’ve never seen them that big in my life.
Night Bazaar (Chiang Mai)
When I arrived in Chiang Mai the following day, I went straight to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar precinct.
I found a modest-price hotel room and paid something like $60 for a night, ten times more than the other place.
In the evening I explored the night bazaar next to the high-rise hotel.
I loved eating a banana pancake served by a lady who seemed to be making a small fortune from the delicious treats. People were lining up while watching her cook them. It was very delicious!
Elephant Trekking in Chiang Mai
Going elephant trekking was the most adventurous experience in China Mai.
I learned about the experience from reading my Thailand travel guide. Mae Taeng Elephant Park orchestrated the elephant trek superbly.
It didn’t feel like the elephants were exploited at all. The above photo shows the elephants being scrubbed down during bath time.
Here we are crossing a river.
At some point on the elephant trek, a photographer took pictures of everyone. Here’s my photo.
When it finished, I gave these elephants a couple of sugar cane treats to show them my appreciation.
Full Moon Party: Ko Pha Ngan
I only found out about the Full Moon Party while walking on a street in Ko Samui. I think they had signs everywhere advertising the event.
It sounded like fun, so I made my way over to the island of Ko Pha-Ngan on one of the large number of small boats making their way there.
The boats were chockablock full of party-goers. I went over in the late afternoon.
Ko Pha-Ngan is close to Ko Samui, only about half an hour away.
If I had the opportunity of doing it again, I’d probably stay on the fabulous island for three nights. Make the middle night the night of the full moon party. That’s a top tip.
It’s no fun knowing that you have to return to your accommodation in Ko Samui at some point to sleep.
Every good Thailand travel guide talks about the full moon party in Thailand, so it needs to be part of your plan, especially if you are a younger partygoer.
Make sure you are there at the right time, so you don’t miss out.
Adventurous Things to do in Thailand
Seeing a snake show in Thailand is something you have to do. In The Beach film, Leonardo tries snake blood, but you don’t have to go that far if you want something adventurous to do in Thailand. Anyone can experience this entertaining show.
Ok, if snake blood drinking is available on the menu like it was in The Beach, you may also want to give that a shot. However, that’s way too adventurous, even for me.
Putting your head inside a crocodile’s mouth doesn’t seem like a possibility, even in Thailand.
Is there anything a Thai won’t do?
All of the crocodiles’ jaws must have been broken because there’s no way you’d be crazy enough to do something like this otherwise.
I was still shocked that someone would be willing to do this to entertain the tourists and visitors.
I highly recommend getting an authentic Thai massage at some stage in Thailand.
It’s scary at first, especially with all the cracking you’ll hear. But I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience of a traditional Thai massage.
Where to find Paradise in Thailand?
You can find paradise in Thailand, rest assured. You don’t even need to have a Thailand travel guide with you. Just visit the places I have suggested here.
For me, the magical paradises in Thailand turned out to be Krabi and the beautiful island of Ko Phi-Phi Don.
Thailand should 100% be at the top of your overseas holiday wish list if you’ve never been there before. If you want an adventurous experience of a lifetime, you need to go.
Thailand is fantastic! The cuisine in Thailand is delicious and Thai people are friendly, which makes it the perfect paradise for adventure seekers.
Best Things to do in Thailand
Essential tips to learn from this Thailand travel guide:
- The first thing to remember is to make sure you visit Krabi.
- Secondly, The Beach exists on Ko Phi Phi Le. Don’t miss it.
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