Thailand is one of the most beautiful and vibrant countries in the world.
But many foreigners don’t manage to see past the bright lights of Bangkok.
There’s so much to see and do in beautiful Siam that it can get overwhelming – what’s worth spending your time on?
We’ve compiled the ultimate Bucket List that breaks down the absolute best things to do in Thailand, whether you’re a two-week tourist, a long-term expat or even a born and bred local.
This list has been years in the making — and we can assure you, it’s pretty damn comprehensive.
What have you managed to tick off so far?
Let us know what we’ve missed out in the comments!
- Natural Beauty
- Historical and Cultural Sites
- Activities and Adventure
- Food and Drink
- Best Thai Markets
- Best Thai Festivals
1. Bamboo Island
Part of the Phi Phi island group, Bamboo Island – or Koh Mai Phai – is exhilaratingly quiet in comparison to its tourist-saturated neighbours, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley, simply comprised of a beautiful white sand beach, cerulean waters, washed up coral and a solitary snack bar. The landscape on this diminutive island is not as diverse as its sister islands, but the water is perfect for swimming. There aren’t any resorts or hotels although you are allowed to camp out on the beach if you so desire.
2. The Golden Triangle
Aside from being one of the world’s hotspots for opium production, the Golden Triangle is the meeting point of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, and where the Mekong meets the Ruak River. Aside from boat tours, there are a couple of excellent museums on the area’s opium history, a handful of cafes and restaurants, and abundant photo opportunities.
3. Watch the sunset at Phromthep Cape
Sunsets at Phromthep Cape at the southernmost point of Phuket are a prerequisite for many a tourist visiting the island. With incredible views out over the Andaman Sea and the beauty of being at the end of the island, it’s an incredible feeling to catch a sunset here although you will be joined with a lot of people with the same idea. There’s a viewing platform near the car park, or if you’re feeling a little more active, make the walk down to the very end of the cape.
4. Maya Bay
Koh Phi Phi Leh
Maya Bay is best known for being the location of The Beach in the Leonardo DiCaprio film back in 1999, and is a popular spot on the tourist trail around Koh Phi Phi. Despite the often high numbers of tourists and criticism regarding pollution, litter and over-development, it’s still an undeniably beautiful beach with visible coral in its turquoise waters. After arriving at Phi Phi Ley by boat, you’ll need to approach Maya Bay through a short section of jungle as the bay itself is inaccessible to boats.
5. James Bond Island
Phang Nga Bay
Otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, the beautiful limestone towers of James Bond Island are well known for featuring in Bond films The Man With The Golden Gun and Tomorrow Never Dies. They’re always well attended by tourists in their droves coming to tick off the island from their own Thailand bucket lists, and despite an increase in litter, the topography of the area is still well worth seeing for yourself.
6. Sam Phan Bok
Somewhat misleadingly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Siam, Sam Phan Bok might not have quite the magnificence of its Arizona namesake, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.
It can only be seen during the dry season when the water levels are at their lowest as it lies adjacent to the Mekong River, near the borders of Cambodia and Laos. Eroded by thousands of years of the Mekong’s flow, Sam Phan Bok literally translates from the Isaan dialect to ‘Three Thousand Holes’; a reference to the curiously pitted shape of the canyon.
7. Sunset Beach
Koh Lipe as a whole is a beautiful island with a plethora of gorgeous beaches to enjoy. Avoid popular Pattaya Beach in the south and head for the western-facing Sunset Beach instead if you’re looking for seclusion. Positioned so as to enjoy exquisite sunsets, the beach is relaxing and chilled with gorgeous white sands and clear blue waters.
8. The Island Of Beautiful Stones
Koh Hin Ngam
Also known as the Island of Beautiful Stones, the small isle of Koh Hin Ngam is not covered in beautiful white sand like most other Thai islands, but is scattered with black shiny rocks instead. Supposedly, if you take a rock from Koh Hin Ngam, you will be cursed by the island’s spirit Chao Pho Tarutao – people have been known to post them back to the authorities after suffering late onset guilt from this act. Or you could make a tower of 12 rocks on the island in order to make your wishes come true, according to the legend.
9. ‘The other side’ of Koh Phangan
Many people write off Koh Phangan as nothing more than a backpacker magnet for its Full Moon Parties. While that may be true for the south of the island, near Haad Rin, the north tells a different story.
Thong Nai Pan refers to the area of northeastern Koh Phangan home to the two beaches of Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi. These beaches are two of the island’s most beautiful and secluded spots and just 15 minutes of walking apart from each other. Both beaches have waterfalls and both are perfect spots to catch the sunrise.
Although popular with Thai travellers, Loei is one of Thailand’s most underrated provinces for tourists in terms of sheer natural beauty. It’s surrounded by imposing mountain ranges at the border with Laos – including the stunning Phu Kradueng, Phu Luang and Phu Ruea, and is also the perfect spot to take in the views of the Mekong at Chiang Khan. Loei is home to a number of hill tribes and just some incredibly beautiful landscapes. It’s also Thailand’s coldest province.
11. Koh Rok
Koh Rok is the name given to the twin islands of Koh Rok Nok and Koh Rok Nai, found to the south of Koh Lanta and to the west of Koh Libong, Kradan and Muk in the Andaman Sea. Between them, the islands are home to a number of absolutely gorgeous beaches – and a host of brilliant snorkelling opportunities – that will redefine the meaning of paradise for you. Coral, sea turtles, angelfish, eels, sea snakes and anemones all inhabit Koh Rok, while the sand is super fine and super pale.
12. Doi Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao is Thailand’s third highest mountain and is the one to ascend if you relish a good view. The peak itself is a limestone massif aged around 250 million years old, and the trek and summit offer astonishing panoramas over the other mountains in the Daen Lao Range and over the Ao Salung Valley. You are required to hire a guide to trek in Chiang Dao National Park, although some climbers are known to have avoided this by saying they intended on birding in the area.
13. Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Namtok Thi Lo Su in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary is reputedly the largest and highest waterfall in Thailand. It is 250 metres tall and almost 450 metres wide, found on the Mae Klong River. The waterfall is usually closed to the public during the monsoon season as the area is so incredibly wet, and it allows this swathe of virgin forest some time to recover and for the resident wildlife, some time to breed.
14. Emerald Pool
Found in the Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve, the Emerald Pool – also known as the Crystal Pool – is a large natural lagoon that is pumped full of pure spring water. Not only beautiful to look at, it’s also perfect to swim in, being both clear and relatively warm in temperature. A trip to the Emerald Pool is often paired with a dip in the nearby Hot Springs too.
15. Khao Yai National Park
Thailand’s third largest national park is abundant in wildlife, with 3,000 plant species, 320 bird species and 66 mammalian species too. The Asian black bear, Asian elephant, sambar deer, Ussuri dhole and wild pig can all be found at Khao Yai while the beautiful landscape, complete with stunning waterfalls, will satisfy all nature lovers.
16. Emerald Cave
Beautiful Koh Muk off the coast of Trang is home to the spectacular Emerald Cave – also known as Tham Morakot – a cerulean lagoon perfect for swimming. The legend goes that this was the site where the Andaman Sea pirates would hide their treasures. Beware though – the cave is only accessible during low tide and you will need to wait for the next low tide to exit the cave if you miss it.
17. Erawan Falls
Erawan Falls are Thailand’s most popular, if not most beautiful, waterfalls – they are seven tiers, spotted with emerald pools and are so-named because they resemble Erawan, the tri-headed elephant god in Hinduism. Located in Erawan National Park, the falls are surrounded by lush evergreen forest and an abundance of flora and fauna. The falls are particularly crowded during April’s annual Songkran festival, while they’re particularly impressive and flowing during the rainy season.
18. Khao Sok National Park
Although not quite as popular as Khao Yai, thanks to its more remote location in southern Thailand, Khao Sok is still one of the Kingdom’s most stunning national parks. Covered by the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world and framed by limestone mountains, caves and huge lakes, Khao Sok is home to a plethora of fauna and flora. Some of it’s most beautiful inhabitants include the clouded leopard, barking deer, Malayan sun bear, tiger, spitting cobra and hornbill.
19. Bueng Boraphet
Bueng Boraphet is Thailand’s largest natural lake and swamp at 224 square kilometres, near the confluence of the Nan and Ping rivers. Fish and bird lovers will have a riot here: there’s a huge junk boat-style aquarium home to over 100 species of freshwater fish and birds, while the nearby Nok Nam Park is a birding haven. The incredibly rare white-eyed river martin was once spotted here in 1968 but hasn’t been seen since 1980.
20. Tha Pai Hot Springs
Mae Hong Son
Beautiful Pai is home to these glorious, natural hot springs which allow for blissful spa-style bath therapy. The cold river and boiling source meet here in 10-16 inch deep pools, which are at around 80° Celsius and positively steaming. The springs are in the vicinity of the Huai Nam Dang National Park, and unfortunately fall under the park’s dual pricing policy – THB20 for Thais and a crazy THB400 for foreigners.
21. Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand and one of the Kingdom’s most beautiful spots to boot, surrounded by lush forest and amazing views to savour at the top. Situated in Chiang Mai province, the mountain and its surrounds have been conserved as a national park, and the area is home to a multitude of birds and animals. While the summit has poor views and is more of a tourist trap, the nature trail on the way there is well worth spending time on.
22. Monkeys in Lopburi
The mischievous macaques of Lopburi are infamous for jumping on tourists, stealing food and occasionally even pooping on you from a great height off a telegraph pole. Don’t let that put you off though – as well as monkey madness, as one of Thailand’s oldest cities, Lopburi is full of ancient Khmer and Ayutthaya ruins to get excited by. Just make sure you’re not waltzing around with any valuables within snatching reach…
23. Bird Watching in Mae Wong National Park
Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaeng Phet
Covering almost 900 square kilometres, Mae Wong National Park is Thailand’s largest remaining forest tract and one of the prime spots for birding in the country, thanks to the variety of altitudes and accessibility to the western forest complex. The rufous-necked hornbill is the most prized of the park’s inhabitants, probably followed by the crested kingfisher, Burmese yuhina and the coral-billed scimitar babbler.
24. Watch the Monitor Lizards at Lumpini Park
Lumpini is one of Bangkok’s best parks, thanks to its wide, green open space and plethora of opportunities to be active – whether it’s using the running track, taking part in a yoga or fencing class or even having a go on the swan pedalos on the lake. While dogs aren’t allowed in Lumpini park, you will come across another type of creature – the monitor lizard. Although harmless, these reptiles certainly aren’t shy and they’re readily spotted wandering the park.
25. Help Thailand’s elephants
There are a lot of dangers and ethical concerns surrounding the elephant-riding tourist trade in Thailand, but there are some options to get up close and personal with the elephants in a way that supports them. Elephantstay is one such place: a working elephant village in Ayutthaya. They offer multi-night packages which see you actively involved in the elephant’s care, riding and bathing it in the river, as well as accommodation and food during your stay.
26. King Cobra Village
Ban Khok Sa-nga is a village in Isaan known primarily for its many King Cobras. Around 60 years ago, a doctor from the village designed a plan to make the area more attractive to tourists: he would teach his fellow villagers how to raise and train these snakes. Now, almost every household has at least one pet snake and daredevil (read: dangerous) shows are put on regularly.
27. The Grand Palace
The cultural heart of Bangkok is undoubtedly the Grand Palace complex on Rattanakosin Island in the old city. The official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782, the complex consists of an array of palaces, temples and official buildings all designed in an incredibly ornate style. The most notable building is definitely Wat Phra Kaew, or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.
28. The third largest reclining Buddha in the world
Wat Hat Yai Nai is an open-air temple in the southern city of Hat Yai that is home to the Buddha image of Phra Phuttha Hattha Mongkhon – the third largest reclining Buddha in the world. It is 35 metres long, 15 metres tall and 10 metres wide. Both tourists and Thais flock to the temple to make merit and pay their respects to the sacred image.
29. The Tallest Buddha in Thailand
Wat Burapha Phiram is a third-class royal temple found in the town of Roi Et in Thailand’s Isaan region. It’s most famous for being the home of Thailand’s tallest Buddha – known as Luangpho Yai – who stands at an imposing 60 metres tall, plus a significant base. This site is much treasured by Roi Et locals and tourists who come to visit the Buddha and the adjoining museum.
30. Wat Phra Dhammakaya
Resembling something more akin to a spaceship, the Wat Phra Dhammakaya is one of Thailand’s weirdest temples. The Dhammakaya are a Buddhist sect, founded in the 1970s. The temple itself was built to symbolise world peace through inner peace, and is the largest venue for mass meditation and prayers in the world – congregations have reached 100,000 in the past. The abbot is currently facing an arrest warrant in a graft investigation.
31. Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is one of Thailand’s most stunning temples that dates back to the 14th century, and was once the holding place for the famed Emerald Buddha. It is semi-ruinous but has been well restored in places thanks to a project by UNESCO and Japan – its top was part destroyed by a combination of a bad earthquake and the destruction wrought by the Burmese when they looted the Lanna Kingdom in the 16th century. It’s still very tall though at around 60 metres.
32. Wat Samphran
Located just outside of Bangkok, there’s very little information about Wat Samphran, including who built it and why. 17 storeys high, bright pink in colour and with a huge serpent coiled around the tower, it’s certainly hard to miss! The grounds of the temple are similarly quirky, filled with other similar giant animal sculptures.
33. Ban Chiang
Ban Chiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Udon Thani, in the Isaan region of Thailand. It’s most famous for its distinctive red pottery, as well as the discovery of skeletons, grave gifts and rice fragments. The artifacts were dated back to around 1500 BCE after archaeological excavation began in 1967. Artifacts are now displayed in museums across the world, including the British Museum in London.
Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s most important cultural hubs. The ancient city was the centre of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which existed from 1351 until it was razed by the Burmese in 1767. Once the biggest and wealthiest cities in the world, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is now a huge collection of ruins, from temples to palaces and more. It takes at least a day to explore the city; bike and walking tours are available if you don’t fancy guiding yourself around. Perhaps the most famous sight is the huge Buddha head entwined in the roots of a tree at Wat Phra Mahathat.
35. The Lost City of Wiang Kum Kam
Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient city on the banks of the Ping River, was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom before it suffered innumerable floods and was relocated to Chiang Mai in 1296. Thanks to the river regularly bursting its banks, Wiang Kum Kam was eventually lost and buried metres underground, before being discovered once again in 1984. Artefacts found in its uncovering date back as far as the 8th century.
Sukhothai is the ancient city that was once the centre of the Sukhothai Kingdom, from 1238 to 1583, and the first capital of Siam. Now, it’s home to an abundance of ancient ruins from that hallowed age and is a generally wonderful spot to learn more about Thailand’s history and culture. The site is huge and is best explored by either bicycle or electric tram. Divided into two zones – central and north – some of the best sites are Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Phai Luang.
37. Phimai Historical Park
Phimai Historical Park is a treasure trove of Khmer architecture – some of which is even older than the world famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia – and its most important temple marks the end of the Ancient Khmer Highway. Although the structures were constructed for Buddhist worship, evidence of Hinduism and Animism can also be spotted here. The complex as a whole bears a striking resemblance to Angkor Wat, if on a smaller scale.
38. Hell Garden
Wang Saen Suk
Often described as one of Thailand’s creepier attractions, the Wang Saen Suk Monastery Garden depicts various scenes of Buddhist hell with huge figures shown enduring cruelly creative acts of torture for the various sins they committed during their life on earth. Lightening the mood somewhat, the garden ends with a glimpse into the rewards meted out for good karma.
Nestled to the rear of the Swissôtel near the Klong Saen Saep is the Chao Mae Tubtim Shrine – a shrine full of wooden carved phalluses in all shapes, colours and sizes. Chao Mae Tubtim is a fertility spirit who is worshipped by women hoping to get pregnant, and her shrine was once a clandestine meeting point for lovers.
40. Sak Yant Tattoo
A traditional Sak Yant is a tattoo hand-etched by a Buddhist monk into the skin using a pointed bamboo stick. The monk will pick the design and location of your tattoo according to your aura, and embellish it with geometric shapes and Buddhist prayers. The wearer of the Sak Yant is said to be blessed with magical powers of healing and strength. Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Pathom is the most famous monastery in which to get a Sak Yant tattoo although temples and tattoo parlours all over Thailand offer this service. You can read about a first time experience here. Remember to fully consider the safety risks before choosing to have a Sak Yant.
41. Elephant Round-Up
Held every November in Surin, the Elephant Round-up is essentially an elephant festival that dates back to the medieval times when the huge beasts were used for the royal hunts, organised by the indigenous Kuy people. Now the round-up consists of a two day Elephant celebration, with parades, an elephant breakfast, soccer games, tugs of war, elephant polo and more. Elephants and their trainers travel from across Thailand to Surin for the festival.
42. Wat Rong Khun
Otherwise known as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is a beautiful, contemporary art exhibit, created and constructed by Chalermchai Kositpipat as an offering to Lord Buddha. Although not yet completed, you can still visit Wat Rong Khun and entry is free. Symbolism is rife throughout the complex with huge inferences to Buddhism and Hinduism; there’s a bridge of ‘the cycle of rebirth’, the ‘gate of heaven’ and an abundance of naga imagery.
43. Baan Dam
Also known as The Black House, Baan Dam is a natural adversary to the White Temple; it is both dark in aesthetic and in spirit, exploring the shady side of humanity through art and architecture. It was created by local artist Thawan Duchanee and is distinctly unsettling – animal skins and skeletons are in liberal use – although the artistic and philosophical merit is apparent.
44. Mae Nak Phra Khanong Shrine
Mae Nak is one of Thailand’s favourite ghosts – there’s even a really successful movie, Pee Mak, about her folklore. Her shrine can be found in Wat Mahabut near Phra Khanong BTS station, and is visited by locals regularly who make merit to her — particularly the night before the lottery draw. Mae Nak is said to give out winning lottery numbers and can be benevolent to men who have to participate in the military service draw.
45. Bo Sang Umbrella Village
Around 8km from Chiang Mai is the small village of Bo Sang – unremarkable save for its incredible Saa paper umbrella craftsmanship which can be seen throughout the area. The legend goes that the artisan umbrella-makers inherited their craft from a local monk who learned how to make these protective umbrellas in Burma. He then walked from Burma back to Bo Sang, teaching his people the craft when he returned. There is an annual umbrella festival in the village every January to celebrate.
46. Erawan Shrine
If you’re from outside of Thailand, chances are that the only thing you’ve heard about the Erawan Shrine is that it was bombed in August 2015. But there’s so much more to it than that: the shrine, at the corner of the busy Ratchaprasong intersection, is technically Brahman, although is worshipped by Buddhists, Hindus and other religions alike. Huge numbers of people make ceremonial offerings all day and night at the shrine while Thai classical dancers and musicians entertain the crowds.
47. Ancient Siam City
Ancient Siam City, or Mueang Boran, is essentially an open air museum park, home to recreations and scale models of Thailand’s most famous buildings and structures, as well as a few originals saved from demolition. There are 116 structures in total, together with a host of small markets and street vendors for refreshments throughout the day. The museum describes itself as “a Thailand-round journey within a day” and is a great way to get quickly acquainted with the country’s heritage.
48. Luang Pho Daeng
Luang Pho Daeng was a Thai monk who underwent the rare and intense ritual of self-mummification, eventually dying while meditating in 1973. His incredibly well-preserved body is held in a glass case at Wat Khunaram temple on Koh Samui. He wears sunglasses so visitors will not be repulsed by his gaping open eye sockets. Adding to the creepy effect are the many geckos that lay eggs and hatch inside of his body. Eggs were found in his eye sockets, mouth and beneath his skin during radiography scans. He also still has his dentures in.
49. Hellfire Pass
Hellfire Pass is the site of a particular cutting of the notorious Death Railway — built by Allied prisoners of war and Asian Romushas under the duress of Japan in World War II. While the entirety of the Death Railway construction saw around 100,000 deaths in the horrendous working conditions, Hellfire Pass was known for being particularly difficult and brutal. Almost 70 men were beaten to death during the construction and many more died of cholera, dysentery, starvation and exhaustion.
50. Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson House is the former home of James HW Thompson, an American entrepreneur who revolutionised the Thai silk industry before his mysterious disappearance in 1967. His house has been preserved as a living museum to both his work and the elegance of Thai style. Composed of 6 traditional Thai teak houses, the Jim Thompson House is decorated with a slew of artwork and antiques, as well as much of the exquisite silk he reintroduced to Thailand.
51. Nightingale Olympic Department Store
Deep in the heart of Chinatown is the Nightingale-Olympic, opened in the 1960s as Bangkok’s first department store. Despite its doors still being open, it’s clear that very little has been altered in the years to now, with the store resembling more of a living museum experience. Unsold stock – including wooden tennis rackets and rusty musical instruments – spill out over the shelves while creepy old mannequins are dressed in the style of yesteryear. Customers are pretty few and far between so there are no modern amenities like air-conditioning, adding to the feeling of being trapped in the past.
52. Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
This unexpectedly wonderful museum is found within the gates of the Grand Palace. It showcases the textiles used and developed through the ages in Southeast Asia, with a special look in particular at the royal court and the personal dress collection of HM Queen Sirikit.
53. Cycle Bang Krachao
Not too far from central Bangkok is the city’s ‘green lung’ – otherwise known as Bang Krachao. This is a small, artificial island that is subject to strict development laws so there’s no skyscrapers, no shopping malls and no condos – just Thailand. The best way to explore is by bike, which you can rent for a small daily fee once you arrive on the island. If you head there at the weekend, you can catch the brilliant Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market.
54. Watch a Ladyboy Cabaret
Pattaya is notorious for being one of Thailand’s seedier cities, attracting a certain breed of foreign men, but the famed Alcazar Cabaret Show is certifiably fun for all the family. There are lots of different ladyboy shows in Pattaya, but the Alcazar troupe is widely touted to be one of the best in the country. Performances are fun and flamboyant, high in spectacle, with a beautiful cast.
55. Jam at Studio Lam
If you fancy a music venue with a difference, head to Studio Lam in Thonglor which serves up modern reinterpretations of traditional Thai molam folk music. They routinely host special events, live sessions, and DJ sets from international and local DJs, as well as playing host to the experimental molam band, Paradise International Molam Band, who will be touring Europe’s festival season this summer.
56. Batik Painting
Koh Lipe is best known for its beautifully serene beaches and excellent opportunities for diving, but the island also has a flourishing art scene. Lipe Art Garden is the creative focus, which offers classes and the chance to make your own batik alongside its very own gallery.
57. Explore Soi 4/Patpong/Soi Cowboy
‘Bangkok’s not just prostitution and temples,’ they say, and while that’s certainly true, a trip to one of the capital’s notorious red light districts is always a fun box to tick – even for women! Soi Cowboy is the most fun, with more neon than you can shake a stick at, while it’s all about the ejection of ping pong balls in Patpong, and the infamous Nana Plaza on Soi 4. Choose your poison wisely…
58. Party with the locals
… Or, you can leave the older, Western men behind in the red light districts and opt to party the night away Thai-style instead. One of the most popular clubbing spots for young, trendy Thais in Bangkok is RCA – otherwise known as Royal City Avenue – near Thonglor and the Phetchaburi Road. Within this street are a host of clubs and bars with plenty of live music venues too – Route 66 is probably one of the most popular.
59. Diving in the Similan Islands
Thanks to clear, azure waters and an abundance of marine life, Thailand is known for being a brilliant spot for snorkelling and diving. The Similan Islands, a group off the coast of Khao Lak, is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world for it. You can’t stay on the islands but can sign up to a Liveaboard dive trip, or a number of day treks, from Phuket and Khao Lak. Granite boulders, sublime coral and even turtles are some of the rewards for diving here. Elephant Head Rock is the most adored spot in the Similans.
60. Watch Muay Thai at MBK
MBK Shopping Centre hosts a free fight night every Wednesday at 6pm for a few weeks every year. The fighting is intense and brutal, and the atmosphere electric. They generally host fights between international stars and a slew of homegrown Thai talent too. You can keep track of when the next season starts on their regularly updated Facebook page.
61. White Water Rafting
Mae Hong Son
Pai is one of the best spots in Thailand for the thrills of white water rafting, which can be enjoyed along the Kong and Pai rivers in amidst the stunning jungle scenery. There’s plenty of operators offering dozens of different routes and treks, which you should choose according to your budget and ability level. The mid-section of the Pai river has over 60km of rocky landscape with as many as 60 rapids up to class 4.
62. Explore Ko Kret
A little like Bang Krachao, Ko Kret is another spot just outside of Bangkok’s centre that allows you a peek at the slower pace of life enjoyed outside of the city. It’s an artificial island, home to a settlement of the Mon tribe, and has a number of temples, a weekend market, thriving pottery industry and even a craft brewery to explore. The weekend is the best time to hit Ko Kret in order to make the most of the market which stocks many locally made specialties. Away from the market and cafes, the landscape becomes lusher and provides the perfect setting for a quiet bike ride among nature.
63. The Museum of Death
The Siriraj Medical Museum, nicknamed the Museum of Death, is one of Thailand’s more morbid sight-seeing opportunities. Its premise is medical discovery and is comprised of five small museums that focus on: pathology, anatomy, prehistory, parasitology and forensic medicine. The museum’s inhabitants include a mummified serial killer and various preserved foetuses and dead babies. Don’t go just after eating lunch…
64. Ride the Chao Phraya River
The River of Kings is the beating heart of Bangkok and a day exploring even just a small expanse of it will open your eyes to some of the city’s history. You can choose to take a tourist boat, a cruise, the Chao Phraya Express Boat, or even hire one of the longtail taxis to take you somewhere further afield – like Ko Kret, for instance. Along the Chao Phraya you’ll find Chinatown, the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, the Oriental and old European Quarter, the flower market and far more.
65. Flying Squirrels Zipline
This zipline is located over 1,000 metres above sea level amidst the rolling hills and evergreen forest of northern Thailand. The course is comprised of 17 ziplines, the longest being 600-metres long, with 32 stations, and a number of sky bridges, climbing nets, Tarzan jumps, abseils and a slider to round off with. Beloved by both adults and children, this activity will get your heart rate up while allowing you unparalleled views over Chiang Mai.
66. Full Moon Party
Practically a rite of passage for many backpackers and young travellers making their way through Southeast Asia, the Full Moon (and half moon, black moon, and more or less any moon) parties on party island Koh Phangan are certainly a sight to behold – if not remotely authentically Thai. Characterised by strong buckets of cheap alcohol and hundreds of inebriated westerners partying on the beach of Haad Rin, the parties are definitely notorious. Keep your wits about you; violence and sexual assaults have been reported in the past.
67. Flyboarding on Chaweng Beach
If you’re feeling the need to indulge in some water sports, why not try flyboarding? On the shores of Chaweng in beautiful Koh Samui, you can take a class in flyboarding: strapping yourself to a board that’s connected via a long hose to a boat which you can ‘fly’ in the air behind. If you can keep your balance, the water pressure will keep you in the air – and it’s actually easier to get a handle on than it looks.
68. Climb the Ghost Tower
Bangkok Ghost Tower is actually the Sathorn Unique Tower; an abandoned skyscraper that was destined to be a high-end condo building, before being discarded by its developers at 80 percent completion in 2007. While it’s by no means safe and surely illegal to climb, that hasn’t stopped a few daredevils from ascending the 47 storeys to experience some incredible views over the City of Angels. It’s a pretty creepy tower, all things considered – check out these weird facts about it.
69. Bangla Road
Bangla Road is likely to be familiar to many people who have holidayed in Phuket as it’s the centre of the island’s nightlife offerings in the popular tourist spot of Patong. It becomes a walking street once the evening sets in and a myriad of bars line the 400 metre road with the usual girls hawking for business. It’s a friendly spot – everyone is welcome – with less of a ‘scammy’ atmosphere than in Bangkok’s Patpong Road, for instance.
70. Get a Massage at Wat Pho
Getting a massage at Bangkok’s Wat Pho – the national headquarters of traditional Thai massage – is a must-do if you’re in Thailand. Located near the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the massage school offers traditional Thai and foot massages for either 30 or 60 minutes. The massages are provided communally and with clothes on.
71. Rock climbing on Railay Beach
The limestone cliffs that dominate the Krabi landscape are at their arguably most beautiful on the sublime Railay Beach. Not only are these great view points but also the pinnacle of Thailand’s rock climbing capabilities. There are over 700 bolted climbing routes around the bay, plenty of companies offering lessons and also the opportunity to try out deep water solo – an adventurous climb without ropes over the water.
72. Karaoke in Thonglor
Thonglor is at the heart of Bangkok’s Japanese district, and if there’s one thing other than sushi that the Japanese do well, it’s karaoke. There are plenty of karaoke spots around Sukhumvit 55 and all its many subsois – ranging from big, obvious places like Woodball to tiny hole-in-the-wall places with no English name.
73. Slow travel
You will either love or hate train travel in Thailand. Slow, invariably delayed and occasionally quite uncomfortable are the moans of the uninitiated, while others love the freedom to cheaply explore far flung places within the Kingdom on a flexible schedule. You can go native and opt for third class or anything up to the comparative luxury of first. It goes as far as Tan Yong Mat on the Malaysian border, Nam Tok in the West, Chiang Mai in the North, Nong Khai on the Laotian border, Ubon Ratchathani in the North East and Aranyaprathet on the Cambodian border.
74. Fall in love with a bar girl and pay for her sick buffalo
One of the most common tropes among expats in Thailand is that of the retired older gentleman from the West who comes to Bangkok and falls in love with a beautiful bar girl. She affects love for him too and they seemingly embark on a happy relationship. After a while, the money requests start coming in — her family’s buffalo is sick! Will the man fall for the buffalo scam or cry foul and rant about it on the Thaivisa forum? Often, it’s a combination of both.
75. The Hangovertini at Lebua
Lebua is one of Bangkok’s most opulent hotels and was the site for much filming during The Hangover II (as well as being where the actors stayed during the shoot). To commemorate its position in Hollywood history, Sky Bar at Lebua created the Hangovertini – a potent mix of Martini Rosso, green tea liquor, apple juice and infused honey – which you can still buy at the bar today. If the drink gimmick isn’t enough for you, go for the sublime views over Bangkok instead.
76. Isaan Food in Korat
If you want spicy and authentic Thai food, the Northeast region of Isaan is definitely worth a trip. Korat, otherwise known as Nakhon Ratchasima, is one of the four major Isaan cities and is the place to go for some of the most flavourful (and spicy) food you’ll probably ever lay eyes on. Whether you eat at a restaurant or one of their ubiquitous street food stalls, you won’t be disappointed. Dishes to try include Larb Moo (spicy minced pork), Som Tam Pla Ra (papaya salad with fermented fish), and Khanom Jeen (noodle soup).
77. MBK Food Court
The international food court on the fifth floor of MBK shopping mall is beloved by tourists who can’t get enough of the plethora of cuisines and dishes on offer. From Mexican to Italian to Arabic to Japanese to Indonesian to traditional Thai puddings and more, there’s certainly something to wet your whistle at MBK.
Cabbages and Condoms is Thailand’s favourite novelty restaurant, serving up cheap and tasty Thai food among figures made of condoms and sexual health posters. An initiative from the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), C&C can be found on Sukhumvit Soi 12 near the PDA headquarters. It’s aim is to provide delicious food within an environment promoting sexual health and safety.
79. Try some street food
Bangkok is one of the best cities in the world for street food but there’s just too many amazing spots to list them all individually. You can find our best spots on Sukhumvit here, and the brilliant Migrationology blog has a guide to the best in wider Bangkok here. Whether it’s curries, salads, boat noodles, fruit, mango sticky rice, pancakes, sausages, roast chicken — whatever you can think of, you can find on the streets of Bangkok.
80. Eat a Thaiger burger
It’s not just Thai food that you can get on Bangkok’s streets — if you fancy trying the best burger in Bangkok, you’ve got to find the Thaiger van. Currently shacked up on Sukhumvit Soi 30/1, these burgers are the stuff of dreams: succulent beef, beautiful grilled patties, stuffed with fresh veg and a delectable secret sauce. Thaiger burgers are also sold in the brilliant Game Over Lounge on Soi Thonglor. Don’t miss out!
81. Home-grown Coffee
Thailand is one of the world’s biggest coffee producers, and the north of the country is home to multiple small coffee plantations and a number of companies growing, roasting and grinding their own beans. The speciality coffee scene in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, in particular, serve up some of the most deliciously flavourful coffee you’ll likely ever try – look out for small brands like Red Cliff and Nine-One Coffee and shophouses serving up local drip coffee.
82. Terminal 21 Food Court
While tourists tend to opt for MBK when it comes to food courts, seasoned locals prefer what’s on offer at Pier 21: Terminal 21 mall’s popular food court. At rock bottom prices, you can get a cracking selection of Asian dishes here and really feel like you’re feasting like the natives. It’s best to go in a group as tables fill quickly at lunchtime and dinner and the atmosphere is raucous and buzzing.
83. Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice – or khao niaow ma muang – is probably Thailand’s most beloved dessert, combining as it does the sweet, sticky coconut milk, fresh and ripe mango slices, glutinous sticky rice and the crunchy topping of the toasted sesame seeds or mung beans. The star of the show here is undoubtedly the mango – make sure to try this dessert in Thailand’s mango season in May.
Bangkok’s Chinatown, centred around the Yaowarat and Charoenkrung Roads, is one of the biggest and most vibrant in the world, sprawling around a labyrinth of alleyways. While there’s plenty of shops and temples to explore, the real star of Chinatown is undoubtedly the food scene – hundreds of street food stalls sit outside handfuls of restaurant shophouses, serving up all manner of Thai, Chinese and even Indian delights. Just watch out for the shark fin and birds’ nest restaurants, which aren’t ethical and harmful to the animal kingdom.
85. Eat a Scorpion on Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the backpacking hub of Southeast Asia that’s continually buzzing with the thrill of every person passing through being in transit. When you’re not imbibing down a super-strength cocktail bucket or entranced with people watching, you’ve got to try out one of the deep fried scorpions being touted by the many street hawkers. Spoiler alert – they’re not great.
86. Authentic Thai Cooking Class
No trip to Thailand is complete without a lesson in how to create authentic and delicious Thai dishes. Chiang Mai is the hub for all things scrumptious when it comes to food, with arguably one of the most flavourful regional Thai cuisines. The city is home to a number of cookery schools, some of which take and teach you how to navigate a Thai market, others which take place in the home of the chef, all of which are very rewarding experiences.
87. Eat Durian
The Thais refer to the Durian fruit as the “King of Fruits”, and you certainly won’t be able to miss them once you arrive in Thailand. Firstly, they’re very large with spiky husks and, most notably, they are truly stinky. So stinky, in fact, that you not allowed to take them into public areas like airports, hotels and shopping malls. But past the prickly exterior and foul odour lies a deliciously creamy fruit. Try it, if you dare!
88. Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad)
Although under threat of partial closure at the moment, the Flower Market is a cultural icon in Bangkok as the largest wholesale and retail flower market in the city. Foreigners are routinely shocked at the bargain basement prices and the swaths of beautiful displays on offer. It’s open around the clock although before 6am it’s usually full of wholesalers and traders plying their wares so best to go quietly if you’re up early enough.
89. Khlong Toei Market
Khlong Toei is Bangkok’s largest wet market and is the place to go if you want wholesale food ingredients or just want to explore where all that wonderful Thai cuisine comes from. It’s a real assault on the senses – be prepared for the fishmonger section! – but is an unrivalled market experience. CNN have apparently described it as one of Bangkok’s most authentic markets and a place to avoid if you’re hungover. Open daily from 6am to 2am, best early in the morning.
90. Train Market
The Maeklong railway market is just like any other Thai market – except the trains that run right through the middle of it a few times a day. A warning bell sounds to indicate a train is on the approach and so vendors have to pull up their stalls and close their awnings with just moments to spare before the train rounds the corner and moves through the market. As soon as it passes, it’s back to work and the market starts up again.
91. Ban Khlong Luek Border Market
Also known as the Rong Kluea Market, the Ban Khlong Luek Border Market is found very near to Aranyaprathet at the Cambodian border and is one of the country’s busiest and most popular border markets. Second-hand brand name clothes (and counterfeit goods) brought in via Cambodia dominate the market and you should be prepared to barter in order to get the best bargains. It’s a very large market with a number of warehouses and smaller street stalls.
92. Asiatique Night Market
Asiatique is a night market on the Chao Phraya River, which you can catch a free shuttle boat to from Saphan Taksin boat terminal. As well as plenty of shops, cheap market stalls, restaurants and bars, there’s also lots of activities to indulge in, including a ferris wheel, theatres and live performances.
93. Talin Chan Floating Market
Forget Damnoen Saduak – while it might be the most famous of Bangkok’s floating markets, it’s also the busiest and least authentic. Talin Chan, on the other hand, is not nearly as busy and feels very local – and it’s only a few kilometres from Bangkok. You can have a real feast on the boats here – the seafood is particularly good – and there’s no need to book a tour or turn up ridiculously early like you have to elsewhere.
94. Sunday Night Market Walking Street
Chiang Mai’s Sunday night market is a real spectacle to behold and certainly one of the best markets in Thailand. As well as bustling street stalls and street food, you’ll find local artisan craftsmanship, street performances and coffee shops. It’s held every Sunday from 4pm until midnight along the Ratchadamnoen Road, which is closed to traffic.
Chatuchak Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets and is certainly a unique experience. The souq-like maze of sois and alleyways are stuffed to the brim with anything and everything you can think of: from squirrels to art to food to socks to furniture to Pomeranians. Take some water and try to avoid that penetrating midday heat – early in the morning or Friday evening is best for navigating the crowds.
96. Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Vegetarian Festival (or Nine Emperor Gods Festival) is celebrated throughout Thailand in September or October every year but is taken to extremes in Phuket. In order to help invoke the gods, some of the local men in Phuket will pierce their bodies with incredibly large and unusual objects – they are supposedly blind to the pain thanks to being ‘possessed’ by spirits. At the same time, Thailand will be abstaining from meat, seafood and dairy products, while some will also forgo sex, alcohol and gambling for the period of the festival too.
97. Bun Bangfai Rocket Festival
May in Thailand sees a series of ‘rocket festivals’ throughout the northeast of Thailand, but the most infamous is the Bun Bangfai festival in Yasothon. Huge and ornate rockets are launched during the festival alongside other parades and festivities – be careful though, there have been fatalities in the past as the rocket launches are so explosive.
98. Songkran Festival
Songkran marks the beginning of the traditional Thai new year and is celebrated with a series of water fights in Thailand’s major cities over a period of three days. Originating from the tradition of pouring water over Buddhist statues to symbolise purification, now major streets are closed and huge water fights held in the hot spots of Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.\
99. Loy Krathong
Every November, Thailand celebrates the Loy Krathong festival which sees the locals release floating baskets into the waterways of the country in order to symbolise the letting-go of negativity and the honouring of the water spirits. Nowhere is Loy Krathong more beautiful than in Chiang Mai, where the festival coincides with the Lanna celebration of Yi Peng, where floating lanterns are released into the sky.
What’s on your Thailand bucket list?
Featured image is a collage of Creative Commons images via ryan harvey, Hatoriz Kwansiripat, Qormyach, JJ Harrison, Prachanart Viriyaraks, J Aaron Farr, Maeklong Railway Market, Globe-trotter, John Shedrick and What’s On Sukhumvit.