Things to Do in Thailand
In many ways, Koh Nang Yuan is the paradisiacal location most people imagine when they think of Thailand. Consisting of three tree-topped islands adjoined by a tan-colored sandbar beach, Koh Nang Yuan is one of the most sought after destinations in all of Thailand. The best part? Unlike nearby Koh Samui or Koh Tao, accommodation options are extremely limited on the island, meaning the crowds remain relatively sparse as well.
Most people come to Koh Nang Yuan on day trips from other nearby islands and snorkeling excursions as well as scuba dives are extremely popular. And although the quick day visits are available, you'd be doing yourself a great favor by coming to the island and spending a night or two. In the evenings and early mornings, you can almost have the entire beach to yourself. During the heart of the day, activities such as snorkeling, zip-lining, and hiking are available.
In stark contrast to its famed northerly neighbor, tiny and sleepy Koh Tan tempts visitors with empty beaches and vehicle-less roads just three miles and a 15-minute boat ride south of Koh Samui’s southern tip. Koh Tan (also spelled Koh Taen) is sometimes also called Coral Island for its diversity of colorful hard and soft corals, and it often serves as a popular day-long escape for snorkel or kayak excursions through its clear inshore waters. Though the island doesn’t have quite the aquatic diversity of other more remote locations, it still affords excellent snorkeling, relatively empty beaches and navigable mangrove swamps all very close to a major tourist hub. Longboats make the crossing daily and usually stop at several unique coral spots around the island.
On land, Koh Tan spans only three square miles, and its population barely tops 30 people; their rustic lifestyle with limited electricity affords a glimpse of what much of Thai Island-living was like decades ago.
A visit to Bangkok's Grand Palace is at the top of every visitors 'must-see' list. Built in 1782 by King Rama I who established Bangkok as Thailand's new capital, the Grand Palace became the Royal seat for 150 years.
The striking buildings within the palace complex reflect the spirit of each successive monarch and the era in which they ruled. While Thailand's current (and longest-reigning) monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has never lived in the Grand Palace, the complex is still used to mark ceremonial and auspicious happenings. Deep within the Palace grounds you'll find Thailand's most sacred sight - Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha) contained within a beautiful temple (Wat Phra Kaeo). This highly revered Buddha sculpture is carved from a single block of jade and dates from the 15th century AD.
To make the most of your visit it is worthwhile hiring a guide who will help broaden your understanding of the Grand Palace and its colorful history.
During the height of World War II in 1943, the Japanese Imperial Army used forced labor — both Allied prisoners of war and Asian laborers — to construct a rail line between Thailand and Burma to aid in the transport of troops and supplies. The railway stretched for 258 miles (415 kilometers) between Bangkok and Rangoon. Conditions for the workers were abhorrent, with long hours and sweltering heat. By the time it was finished 12,621 Allied POWs had died, as well as tens of thousands of Asian civilian laborers.
In 1947, after the war had ended, the Death Railway closed. A decade later the portion running between Nong Pla Duk and Nam Tok reopened, and today visitors can learn about this dark period in history by traveling the very same rail from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. The portion of the original Death Railway that passes along the Wampo Viaduct offers spectacular views.
This iconic set of islands used to be nothing more than a spot on the map in Ao Phang Nga National Park. But in 1974, when James Bond chose Khao Phing Kan as a hideout in The Man with the Golden Gun, this rarely visited limestone island became a popular destination frequented by travelers on Longtail Boat tours.
Along with the island's new fame came hoards of tourists and potential destruction of the island's natural beauty. So since 1998, it has been forbidden for boats to approach Ko Tapu, the 66 foot (20 m) limestone rock that lies just off the shore, in order to stop the erosion of the limestone and eventual collapse. Travelers love the lush vegetation, rocky cliffs and dark caves that make this pair of islands easy to spot. Most trips offer the opportunity to swim and explore the surrounding waters and hungry visitors can make the most of their excursion by eating lunch at the nearby floating Muslim village.
Also known as the Don-Rak War Cemetery, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery commemorates victims of the building of the Burma Railway during World War II.
Located on Saeng Chuto Road, the main road of the city of Kanchanaburi, the cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and contains the graves of Australian, British and Dutch POWs who were forced into labor by the Japanese, who controlled the area at the time of the Burma Railway construction. A nearby privately funded museum, the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, contains interactive displays describing the history of the railway and the prisoners who died building it. The city of Kanchanaburi is easily accessed by rail and bus from Bangkok, and the war cemetery is located about a 5 minutes walk from the city's main station. The central Bangkok railway station has trips to the Burma Railway and stops to let visitors view the cemetery.
Nearly 200 unique ruins are tucked into the 70 square kilometers of land that make up the Sukhothai Historical Park, including towering buddhas, ornate palaces and crumbling temples. Travelers can wander the area on foot, or rent bikes and ride between the structures that date back as far as the 13th and 14th centuries.
Visitors love the quiet, peaceful escape of the park, which provides a stark contrast to some of Thailand’s more urban destinations. The most popular ruins are located near the central entrance and are visited by most tour groups, but the sites further afield are equally beautiful and far less crowded.
More Things to Do in Thailand
The Temple of the Dawn - or Wat Arun - towers 260 ft (79 m) above the Chao Phraya river. With fabulous views of the rising and setting sun and of the city's main attractions, the temple is one of Bangkok's most visited sights after the Grand Palace.
Named by Bangkok's founder King Thaksin to signify the rise of the new kingdom (after Ayutthaya was destroyed), the Temple of the Dawn was originally much shorter until its expansion during King Rama III's rule (1824 - 1851). Local people donated the ceramic pieces that make up the temple's unique exterior decoration.
It is possible to climb the temple for views across the river to the Grand Palace and beyond but its narrow steps are not for the faint hearted.
The Chao Phraya River (or Mae Nam Chao Phraya) runs north to south through Thailand, whose most notable and densely populated cities lie along the river's main tributary.
In Bangkok, the Chao Phraya is a major transportation artery. A vast network of ferries and water taxis, known as long tails, ferry locals and tourists up and down the river, connecting with the city's main sights. For many, these boats are the preferred way of getting around Bangkok, whose streets are often choked with traffic.
Several boat lines compete for business on the river and its canals and you’ll find variations in price and distance traveled. If you start at Tha Sathon (accessible via sky train at Saphan Taksi), you'll chug sedately past (or be able to disembark at) Chinatown, Wat Arun, Wichai Prasit Fort and the Grand Palace. There’s no denying it - the Chao Phraya is a murky and sometimes smelly river, but even a short boat trip along it gives you a fresh perspective on the city.
In the center of Doi Inthanon National Park rises Thailand’s highest peak. Doi Inthanon, named after Chiang Mai’s last sovereign, King Inthawichayanon, summits at 8,415 feet (2,565 meters) above sea level, and while temperatures at the top run much cooler than in Chiang Mai, you’ll never see snow on the peak.
While a vast majority of visitors come to the park to take in the views from the summit (accessible by car), the surrounding forests, waterfalls, stupas and nature trails make it one of Thailand’s most spectacular national parks. Birdwatchers flock to the park in hopes of spotting some of its 362 species of birds, while other visitors come to picnic and swim at Mae Klang Falls.
The southern Thailand province of Krabi is surrounded by surreal rocky islands that poke out of the surrounding turquoise Andaman Sea, including the beautiful group known as the Hong Islands.
A popular day-trip destination from Ao Nang, the Hong Islands are fringed with rainforest and white-sand beaches, with rocky viewpoints and hidden lagoons.
Offshore dives reveals a spectacular underwater world of coral reefs, and if you’re sea-kayaking you can access lovely sea caves.
No trip to Koh Samui is complete without spending a day at sea visiting the islands of Ang Thong Marine National Park. Scattered across the sea lies an archipelago of 42 small islands with sheer limestone cliffs, white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons and dense vegetation.
A lovely sight from sea or land, the islands offer snorkeling and diving, beach picnics and hiking to lagoons and caves.
Coral Island, or Koh Larn, is a picture-postcard island off the coast of Pattaya. The popular day-trip destination is set up for underwater diving in the surrounding coral, glass-bottom boat tours and beachfront relaxing at one of several beaches on the island.
Activities like sea-kayaking and parasailing are also catered for, and buffet lunches are served on the sand.
Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is perhaps the city's most popular must-do attraction. The colorful mix of regular shops and stalls create a unique market buzz.
You’ll find everything for sale here, from ersatz designer brands to embroidered hill tribes textiles, lacquerware, silver jewelry, carvings, silks, ceramics and antiques.
The best range of antiques is on the second floor of the covered market building called the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, to the north of the busy intersection near a narrow cross street.
Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province is home to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and the beginning of the Thai-Burma Death Railway, both poignant reminders of the thousands of POW's and forced laborers who lost their lives in WWII. Made famous by the 1957 David Lean movie of the same name, the building of the bridge in 1943 was one part of a huge Japanese wartime project to link Thai and Burmese railway lines and create a direct route from Bangkok.
Due to illness, starvation and neglect, thousands of people lost their lives building the bridge and railway – you can visit the graves of nearly 7,000 POWs at the nearby Kanchanaburi war cemetery. Parts of the original bridge are now displayed in the War Museum here. You can walk along the restored railway bridge on foot or take a train specifically for tourists.
Koh Phi Phi is a group of islands, but most of them are just limestone spires. The only ones of any size are Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley. When you come to visit these heavenly islands, you'll be coming into the port on Koh Phi Phi Don.
After the infrastructure here was largely swept away by the 2004 tsunami, it was hoped that rebuilding could take place with more care for the environment and a swing upmarket. But the rush to get the tourist business back on track meant that the island - with all its rash of tourist businesses - remains much the same. Koh Phi Phi Ley has its share of over-touristing too - Maya Beach is where the film The Beach was shot, and it's regularly crowded and littered. Koh Phi Phi Ley is also famous for its bird's nests, which are used in soups.
Despite the islands' commercialization, they remain stunning little patches of paradise - all silken warm waters, limestone pillars and luminous underwater scenery.
- Things to do in Krabi
- Things to do in Phuket
- Things to do in Bangkok
- Things to do in Koh Samui
- Things to do in Chiang Mai
- Things to do in Ko Pha Ngan
- Things to do in Koh Tao
- Things to do in Ko Lanta
- Things to do in Ko Phi Phi Don
- Things to do in Surat Thani
- Things to do in Cambodia
- Things to do in Laos
- Things to do in Gulf of Thailand
- Things to do in Southern Thailand and Andaman Coast
- Things to do in Northern Thailand