Thailand, with its pristine white beaches, pulsating cities and fascinating culture is a dream for travellers – but where to start? Sometimes the wealth of things to do can be overwhelming, so I’ve put together a Thailand bucket list – 8 must-do experiences to get out the way before you croak!
1. Get wet during Songkran festival
During Thai new year celebrations in April, the whole country descends into three days of water-fight mayhem. The streets (especially around tourist centres like the Khao San Road in Bangkok) fill up with water pistol and bucket toting revelers, as everyone gets thoroughly and happily drenched!
2. Hunt for bargains in Chatuchak market
With almost 10,000 stalls and around 200,000 visitors each DAY, Chatuchak is not for the faint hearted! The atmosphere, however, in the warren-like maze of stalls, is unbeatable – wander through rows of stores selling everything from clothes and textiles to pets and furniture as pop music and chat wafts through the market. Arm yourself with some comfy shoes and a willingness to haggle and you’ll be sure to come away with some great bargains.
3. Chow down on some street food
Head on a journey of discovery through the street food stalls of Bangkok (or any other large Thai city), sampling everything from deep-fried flowers to pad Thai. Street food in Thailand is fresh, cheap and fabulously cooked – lots of vendors specialise in particular dishes, so ask them what they’d recommend and enjoy! Check out this video of some of the best eats in Bangkok: http://www.i-to-i.com/campfire/honor/videos/102
4. Live a beach life
Thailand wasn’t chosen as the backdrop for Alex Garland’s novel The Beach for nothing: the country boasts some of the best beaches in the world, and the best beach culture to go with them. Head for the all-night raves of Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Parties or just relax and let the world go by on tranquil islands like Koh Tao and Koh Chang.
5. Watch a Muay Thai match
While Muay Thai (Thai boxing) isn’t the most delicate of sports (it’s reputedly the most brutal martial art), watching it is certainly a spectacle. As well as the grit and determination you’ll see during the boxing itself, where fighters are allowed to inflict damage on every part of the body apart from the head, you’ll also get a glimpse into the tradition behind the scrapping, with fighters having to go through a series of rituals before they get stuck in.
6. Go diving
The sapphire waters surrounding Thailand’s coast are teeming with all kinds of exotic creatures, including clown fish, leatherback turtles and whale sharks. Head to any of Thailand’s major dive centres, including Koh Tao and the Similan and Surin Islands and you’ll find all levels of diver catered for – so even if you’ve never even strapped on a snorkel before, you’ll soon be getting up close with Thailand’s underwater inhabitants.
7. Witness Phi Ta Khon
Each June or July, the streets of Dan Sai in Loei Province, fill up with men dressed as ghosts brandishing phalluses dipped in red paint. Yes you did read that correctly. Phi Ta Knon, often dubbed ‘Thai Halloween’, is both an animist fertility rite and a celebration of the penultimate incarnation of Buddha, when he was greeted by ghosts on return to his hometown. It’s also a fascinating spectacle and a damn good party!
8. Cruise along the Chao Phraya River
Escape the frenetic pace of Bangkok with a leisurely cruise along the city’s main waterway. Hop on and off river taxis as you explore the golden temples nestled on the banks of the river or soak up some luxury on an evening cruise as you float through an illuminated Bangkok during a slap up meal.
For more information and articles about Thailand check out the Thailand group on i-to-i’s travel community Campfire: http://www.i-to-i.com/campfire/groups/204-Thailand