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Boon Lott Elephant Foundation

8 unique things to do in Thailand

For many years Thailand has been a popular destination for gap year travels and voyages of self discovery. Drawn by stunning scenery, wild full moon parties or spiritual enlightenment, millions of people make the journey to South East Asia every year. Whatever your reason for visiting this intriguing anomaly of a country here are 8 fantastically unique things to do in Thailand when you get there…

Spend a day as an artisan in Chiang Mai

Artisan Chiang Mai

This is a fantastic tour with Local Alikea community based initiative offering tours which focus on inclusiveness and responsibility. A person taking the tour can immerse themselves into daily life in the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Lanna, an Indianized state established in the 13th Century when Chiang Mai provided a cross-section of cultures on the silk road. Renowned for their skills in textiles, silver work and lacquerware as well as their unique dialect and folklore traditions, the legacy of the Lanna people is still very much alive today. As a traveller you can learn about these customs and support local craftspeople by engaging in community-based tourism. Try visiting the Baan Tawai woodcarvers enclave or the Bor Sang umbrella making village to see artisans at work, or take advantage of day-long courses that give you a chance to try making some of the traditional handicrafts yourself. Courses also include some delicious local food specialities and riveting folk tales from the province. See the bottom of the article for special offers on Local Alike tours.

Volunteer at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary

Boon Lott Elephant Foundation

One hour’s drive from the rather picturesque airport of Sukhothai in Northern Thailand awaits a haven for animal lovers of all ages and nationalities. Founded by Katherine Connor in memory of a particularly courageous young elephant named Boon Lott the eponymous elephant sanctuary offers travellers the opportunity to volunteer for 3-5 days with these majestic creatures. Imagine waking up to the sound of elephants calling or walking beside a family of them as the flaming sunsets overhead. Here guests can stay in one of the traditional teak cottages nestled amongst banana trees and have a truly unforgettable hands-on experience whilst providing a valuable contribution to the continuance of the Sanctuary’s good work. A lovely location to visit in Thailand – be sure to book well in advance as the space for volunteers is limited and fills up quickly!

Night Golfing at Summit Windmill, Bangkok

Summit Windmill Night Golf

A huge sum of money was invested into the landscaping and elegant layout of this outstanding course. Surrounded by extravagant mansions and housing a luxurious 5 star hotel, Summit Windmill is hailed by many as the best golf course in Thailand. Its innovative and well-lit design provides a challenge for all golfers and a unique night-time experience for professionals and amateurs alike. Night-time golfing is incredibly popular with locals, who relish the opportunity to escape the heat of the day and enjoy their sport in the cool evening air.

Help Phuket’s street dogs (and cats) at The Soi Dog Foundation

Volunteer Soi Dog Foundation

In southern Thailand, surrounded by the Andaman Sea and sporting some of the most stunning scenery around is Phuket, the country’s largest island. Jutting peninsulas, rain-forested mountains and expansive white beaches provide havens for diving enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers whilst the vibrant nightlife is an irresistible draw to those who like to party. However, a darker side to the island is expressed in the brutal treatment of its huge population of street dogs and stray cats. Soi Dog Foundation was set up in 2003 to protect neglected and abused animals, educate people to bring an end to the dog meat trade and set an example of how to humanely manage the growing numbers of unwanted dogs and cats through sterilization. Pet lovers can volunteer at the shelter and help socialise the animals, preparing them for adoption further down the line. It always feels good to give something back and who knows, you might even meet your new best friend!

Explore the old Bangkok

Exploring old Bangkok

Discover lost treasures and immerse yourself in an unspoilt part of Bangkok by paying a visit to the Ban Bat and Kudeejeen communities. In Ban Bat you can watch the last remaining makers of the revered Buddhist Almsbowl at work and gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of their craft. The Kudeejeen neighbourhood by the Chao Phraya River will amaze you with its melting pot of cultures exemplified in a melange of architectural delights. The rare beauty of this district is epitomised by the multiple religions co-existing harmoniously within its borders and the unique vibrancy of the food and folk you will encounter here.

Visit Bangkok’s most macabre museum

Siriraj Medical Museum

Housed in the oldest hospital in Thailand in the shadows of Bangkok’s bustling streets is The Siriraj Medical Museum. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a very unusual thing to do in Thailand as the museum houses a plethora of curiosities both fascinating and freakish, displaying some of the most disturbing medical exhibits in the world. A preserved fetus and a skeleton blighted by Rickets are just some of the dastardly delights on offer. The museum also houses the mummified corpse of Uey Sae Ung a notorious serial killer who suffocated and then ate the hearts of several young boys in the 1940s. It is not surprising that his ghost is believed to haunt this macabre gem and his name is still used to frighten Thai children into good behaviour!

Stay in the Bangkok Tree House

bangkok-tree-house-open-air-room.jpg.650x0_q70_crop-smart

Sheltered by mangroves and palm trees on the small island of Bang Krachao, this 12 room unique boutique inn is one of Bangkok’s few green hotels. Bang Krachao is nicknamed the ‘Green Lung’ of Bangkok and the hotel pledges to remove 1kg of waste from the river for each booking taken. The inn nestles amidst the 6 small island communities and, surrounded by fruit trees and 200-year-old Buddhist temples, it offers a tranquil and idyllic setting away from the bustle and fumes of Bangkok main. Guests stay in sun-drenched nests and are treated to delicious organic food sourced from local farmers. This is the perfect place to escape from the cacophony of the city and replace it with peaceful nights ablaze with fireflies and mornings resounding with birdsong.

Visit the phallic shrine

phallic shrine

In the grounds of the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel in the Chidlom Ploenchit area of downtown Bangkok stands a most unusual shrine. Honouring Chao Mae Tubtim, a female fertility spirit, the shrine is positively tumescent with phalluses of varying shapes and sizes! Ladies wishing to conceive visit the shrine and place offerings of lotus flowers, jasmine and incense. If their wish comes true they return and leave a phallus in thanks. Although it might make us westerners blush the sight is really not that unusual in Thailand. Phallic imagery and fertility rituals are a common aspect of both Buddhism and Hinduism, these particular appendages, in fact, originate from the celebrated Hindu god Shiva. They are a talisman for good luck and protection and readily available in many markets, meaning travelling around Thailand may yield even more fun than expected!

Visit a Yoga Retreat

For something a little different try a silent detox retreat in Chiang Mai. Teaching Mahasidda and Tantra Yoga at a peaceful location you can’t get more zen than this! All the classes, workshops and retreats are kept by qualified yoga teachers of Atman International Federation of Yoga and Meditation. Also, all students participate in ongoing classes, retreats and workshops are invited to consult our teachers regarding practice, health and lifestyle in order to receive support for their own growth and practice. Visit the website tantayogathailand.com for more details.

How to stay connected in Thailand

Traveller SIM

If you’re traveling around Thailand it’s always handy to have access to maps, apps, WhatsApp messages or emails on the go and one of the best ways to do this is to buy a local SIM card for your smartphone when you arrive. AIS is the leading mobile operator on the most trusted network in Thailand.

Their local SIM cards are available at their shop in the arrivals hall (2nd floor, between gates 6 and 7) of Suvarnabhumi airport (or other retailers). Depending on the length of your trip, there are 7, 15 or 30-day options, all including unlimited internet. Also if you purchase the AIS Traveller SIM card it allows you to have access to discounts from their partner brands Local Alike (10% off), a community-based tourism marketplace and Golfdigg (100 THB voucher), a mobile golf booking service.

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Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children's theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa'd in Cuba and road tripped down America's west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her cat and ukulele amid the misty valleys and rolling hills of beautiful South Wales.

24 Comments

  • Avatar

    Happyluke TH

    12 July, 2018 at 2:32 am

    The Tree House is amazing! Like I don’t want to leave this place and if I had lots of money I could definitely stay here forever.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Raymond Haasewinkel

    29 September, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Interesting article and good to know they no longer ride on elephants in Bangkok.
    Talking about riding! I just done an amazing tour in Bangkok where we went around on bicycles! Yep, you read that right! I myself could not believe you could ride in Bangkok along the streets but it came as a total surprise to us that behind all those big buildings along the streets you in fact have hundreds of communities that make is an awesome experience!

    Trust me! You don’t want to miss doing a bike tour in Bangkok

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Leena Boor

    31 May, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Nice post…
    Thailand is the number one tourist location in South East Asia. Here you can visit beautiful beaches, stunning temples,Have a massage,Ride on a Tuk-tuk,Eat street food,Chatuchak weekend market.
    Great collection of thing to do in Thailand.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Anthony Horovitz

    6 March, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Thailand is a beautiful place to visit. Thanks for giving unique lists of things in Thailand.The Bangkok Tree House is looking so beautiful.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    I Left Home

    6 March, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Fantastic! it just goes to show that no matter how many times we come to Thailand, there is always something more to explore and something new to discover! Looking forward to adding a few of these activities to the list. Cheers!

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Felicia

    8 December, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Wow! These are some really awesome and unique things to do in Thailand.
    Will definitely try them out on my next visit (especially volunteering at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary).

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Jo (The Blonde)

    7 December, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Some of these I knew before, but some are completely new to me. I really like the volunteer at the dog shelter. What a great idea for someone like me, who loves doggies.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Agness

    7 December, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Perfect timing, girl! Honestly! Me and Cez are meeting up in Thailand, Bangkok in January 2nd and we will be spending 3 weeks in the country. I wanted to train thai boxing and Cez wanted to spend a day as an artisan in Chiang Mai. Let’s hope we can do both :-).

    Reply

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