Over the past decade-and-a-half, Thailand has emerged as one of the most popular tourist spots in the world and with us Irish set to head east again in record numbers this Summer, we expect a flurry of exotic destinations and all sorts of idyllic, exotic locations to be populating our Facebook and Instagram feeds in the weeks and months ahead, reminding us just how short-lived a ‘scorching’ hot summer in Ireland really is!
The attraction among Irish visitors to Thailand is obvious, with great food, wonderful hospitality and breath-taking scenery, it’s a dream destination for those accustomed to the rain and not much spice in our food! The low cost of living means the value you get for your Euro is incredible, but the low prices aren’t the only thing that attracts millions of visitors to the Land of Smiles each year.
Thailand has the best of both worlds; the north of the country is land locked and has the most amazing hills and forests, while the to the south lie the picturesque beaches and islands you often see on postcards, in movies and dotted across your social newsfeeds as you scroll with envy; It really is the complete package!
Naturally, in such a vast country with so many wonderful destinations to choose from, deciding how best to spend your precious time and hard-earned holiday budget can prove quite difficult! Read on as we take you through on and off the beaten track with some of the best things to do on holiday in Thailand, encompassing some tried and trusted staples along with some of the lesser-known hidden gems dotted throughout The Land of Smiles.
The Splendour of the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace, Royal Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the adjacent, mesmerising Wat Po sit atop almost all ‘things to do in Bangkok’ lists compiled across the net, so let this one be no different as it would be truly remiss not to recommend this breath-taking feat of both modern and ancient Siamese architectures to any first-time visitors to Thailand.
Just a stones’ thrown from the popular backpacker hubs of Khoasan Road and the wider Banglumphu area, chances are that this’ll be on your list when touching down in city, and rightly so. With the serene flower market nearby and the Democracy Monument nestled in the background, there’s a constant flurry of activity and pitter-patter of awestruck travellers snapping furiously at the surrounding sights and sounds as they saunter their way around the area.
Be sure to cover up shoulders and midriff and leave the flip-flops in your hotel room for this one, as Buddhist tradition is strictly upheld with the Grand Palace dress code.
Also, be wary of local Tuk-Tuk drivers and guides informing you that the Grand Palace or Wat Po is closed for the day, as this is a common ploy in order to get tourists to come for a cheap ride around town and getting dropped to various tailors and gem vendors, whereby they’ll get a commission if you happen to make a purchase! Simply ignore such information from anyone other than a bone fide police or tourist police officer and carry on your journey to one of Thailand’s most spectacular sightseeing excursions.
The Refreshing Bliss of Hua Hin Waterparks
A firm favourite among family holidaymakers to Thailand, Hua Hin is traditionally renowned as the playground of the Thai upper classes, with the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej (the world’s longest serving monarch) himself paying regular recreational visits to his majestic Maruekhathaiyawan Palace in prime beachfront surroundings.
Having invested heavily in tourism in recent years, Hua Hin now hosts some of the finest family-friendly tourist activities in the nation, with the wonderful Night Bazaar and Market Village offering all sorts of wonderment to those who visit.
What sets Hua Hin apart from Bangkok and some other more developed tourist spots is its ease of navigation; stretched along one major thoroughfare with various ‘sois’ or side streets emerging from its midst, manic traffic isn’t really an issue for such a large town.
With sweltering heat, particularly around April-July, the main source of amusement for kids and adults alike is the abundance of top-notch waterparks! Vana Nava Hua Hin and Black Mountain Water Park are worthy of singling out due to their unique range of enthralling water slides, lazy rivers and great value food and drink on site; something for all the family to truly enjoy – don’t forget the sunscreen!
The Stunning Scenary of Khao Yai National Park
The Khao Yai National park is part of a huge evergreen forest called Don Phaya Fai. It is famous for its fertile landscape and adventurous trekking paths. This area serves as the birthplace for many of the rivers of the vicinity, and the forest provides these rivers with the water that sustains them.
From the tourist’s point of view, the Khao Yai National park is an excellent one-day trip from Bangkok. The wild open jungle provides a perfect place to trek and the wildlife in the jungle is sure to keep you entertained. On a normal day, you will be able to spot wild elephants, monkeys, parakeets and even deer and buffaloes. The trek usually takes you to either one of the two waterfalls that are present in the area, so you can cool down after all of the hard work!
The Khao Yai National park is the perfect place for any nature lover to spend a day at; it’s peaceful, it’s quiet and it oozes natural beauty in abundance!
The Exotic Enchantment of Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai zoo is an attraction that both adults and children should not miss. There’s a vast range of animals at the zoo, including Koala bears, Rhino, Hippos, and Ostriches. The zoo is quite large, so it’s no wonder there are multiple modes of transportation available. You can hop on a rented golf cart or a bus. Alternatively, you can also drive your own car around. This is extremely useful if the weather is particularly hot or if you have young children in tow.
One of the biggest attractions for tourists is the ability to feed the animals, with a vast selection of exotic creatures including pandas, lions, tigers, elephants, crocodiles and the ultra-cute white-handed gibbons, it’s a great experience just trawling though the park and soaking up the atmosphere.
For a nominal fee, you can purchase some food that is supplied by the zoo. The animals are very friendly and feeding them is a really fun experience for adults and kids alike!
The Exuberant Revelry of Patong
The heart of the party along the Andaman Sea in the Gulf of Thailand, Patong is a crescent shaped beach that forms a world-renowned tourist hub at the heart of the beautiful island of Phuket. There’s a good chance that almost any foreigner (or ‘Farang’ as we’re referred to by the natives) who has visited Thailand previously has made a pit stop at this famous beach on their way to or from another island in the region to let off a bit of steam and unwind in this cultural melting pot.
The ever-popular Ko Phi-Phi is right nearby, but in terms of popularity on a global scale, Patong is a must-see for any Irish traveller making the trip. Patong is notorious for its nightlife; the seemingly quiet and serene beach turns into a hub of activity as soon as daylight fades. Late night alcohol consumption, music, dancing and large masses of people are the hallmarks of this beach town, so keep that in mind when plotting out any island hopping excursions in this part of the country; it’s not for the feint-hearted!
Patong also has some of the most visited discos and clubs in Thailand. Unlike the conventional clubs, these clubs don’t charge an entrance fee. On the contrary, you need to buy a drink to enter and have fun. It makes the whole theme extremely interesting. So if this sounds like your kind of holiday (many Irish visitors can relate!) then simply buy a drink and join the party!
The Serene Tranquillity of Golden Buddha
Located in the sleek located in the temple of Wat Traimit, the Golden Buddha is called 'Phra Phutta Maha Suwan Patimakon' by the local Bangkok natives. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t pronounce or remember that name, almost everyone in Thailand is aware of the fact that tourists find it easier just to call it the Golden Buddha!
The statue itself is around 3 metres tall and is estimated to weigh around 5.5 tonnes. As the name suggests, the statue is made out of gold, which values the statue at almost 220 million Euro! The Golden Buddha is on display for the public, but be forewarned that the Golden Buddha is in a religious place and similar dress codes to the Grand Palace apply for both male and female visitors.
This means that short skirts and short pants aren’t allowed but interestingly, if you do wind up at the temple in shorts, then don’t worry; you can simply rent a traditional Thai sarong to keep cultural sensitivities in check just for the visit!
The Hustle and Bustle of Pattaya Floating Market
Pattaya is not a town that is normally associated with relaxing boat excursions, offering more in the way of say, Las Vegas or Amsterdam with its glitzy, often lurid nightlife scene, but that’s not to say it isn’t without it’s distinct natural beauty and the Four Regions Floating Market is one such landmark worthy of a day trip in its own right.
Located on the Sukhumvit Road, which runs all the way from Bangkok through to Cambodia along the Eastern Seaboard, the Pattaya floating market covers an area of almost 100,000 sq meters. It is separated into four parts, with each section representing one of the four parts of Thailand (i.e. north, south, east and west) and offers a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of the nearby expressways and spaghetti junctions.
The floating market is filled with a lot of wonderful sights to see and amazing traditional Thai food. Sample the Authentic Thai cuisine and explore food from all of the different regions of Thailand. To get around the market you have to hire a boat, of course, which will take you through the market, so you can sit back and enjoy the traditional Thai architecture away from the hustle and bustle of one of Thailand’s most hectic cities.
Off the Beaten Track at Ko Mak
The relatively unspoilt island of Ko Mak is still very much on the ‘up and coming’ list of island getaway destinations in Thailand that perhaps many Irish visitors may not yet have had the pleasure of experiencing.
Located an hour to the southeast of the wonderful Ko Chang, it is a truly hidden gem deep within the offshore treasures tucked away in the relatively obscure midst of Trat, near the Cambodian border crossing of Poi Pet.
With just a sprinkle of reports and only two operational piers accepting visitors on day tips or indeed overnight stays, the island boasts a sleepy sense of enchantment and lack of urgency experienced at some of its more developed older siblings on the Thai tourist trail, think of it as what Ko Samui or indeed Phuket may have felt like before the first commercial Western tourists starting showing up after the Vietnam War subsided less than 40 years ago.
The reports on Ko Mak are full of wonderful Thai charm and world-renowned hospitality, be sure to try a beachfront Thai massage with a happy hour cocktail in hand if that’s your thing! Mosquito repellent a-plenty is also advised. Despite being offically declared Malaria-free for the past decade, the vast majority of Thai islands are still inhabited by these harmless yet infuriating little critters.
The Stunning Landscape of Railay Beach
The jaw-dropping carst landscape of Railay beach has steadily become popular among couples who are in search of the perfect place to go for their honeymoon. Situated along the Andaman coast on the southwest of Thailand, Railay beach is a perfect place to spend a long, relaxing and romantic holiday.
The limestone cliffs that dot the shore provide both shelter and ambience. Many adventurous tourists venture out into the wild outdoors and tackle the faces of these towering limestone monsters. If you aren’t that much of a daredevil, you can sit at the base and watch them do their thing.
With the sea so nearby, you will find that the water sports are fun too. Indulge in snorkelling, kayaking and scuba diving. If you don’t like the exercise, then just laze and relax in one of the numerous hotels that dot the coast. Railay is the perfect place to be in, if you want to chill out and have fun. In fact, most people call it a paradise that was found!
The Hidden Oasis of Sirindhorn Dam
Last, but by no means least on this list of top ten places to visit in Thailand this year, is perhaps the most obscure, but it certainly is a sight to behold should a trip to the Northeast Isaan region of the country be on your travel itinerary.
Steeped in rich local history on the famous Mekong River basin, Sirindhorn is nestled in the stunningly beautiful province of Ubon Ratchatani near the borders with both Laos and Cambodia. This beautiful rockfill reservoir impounds the Lam Dom Noi River and serves as the de facto lifeblood of the entire surrounding region which is prone to high temperatures and low rainfall year round; bringing essential power and water supply to the region.
The Dam is sidled by the amazing Sirindhorn Park, a truly unique, beautiful area with naturally bountiful gardens, modern art sculptures, fountains, and even some fairly guesthouses should you choose to stay a while. The food served in the Park is amazing, utilising chilli and fish sauce to its full potential in the traditional Isaan style experienced only in the Northeast of Thailand.
Start Planning your Thai Adventure Today
Thailand has a vast range of activities that cater to almost every age, taste and style. The streets of Bangkok are famous for the shopping and the street food is so scrumptious it draws people from all walks of life with interests and backgrounds from all realms. In addition to this, Thailand also has spectacular beaches, crystal clear waters and dense forestry which makes for unparalleled instances of natural beauty up and down the country; It really does offer the best of both sea and land adventures.
While Thailand is a relatively small country by international standards, it’s almost seven times the size of Ireland, with a population almost 12 times that of ours. When planning your visit to Thailand, you will find that it is difficult to cover all the tourist haunts in one go. That’s why Thailand continues to be attractive even after you’ve visited it before. It beckons you to come back and indulge again.
Thailand is just one of those countries that continues to be affordable and yet still offers the thrills and excitement; we’ve yet to meet an Irish person who has visited the Land of Smiles and not wanted to start making plans to book their next holiday back there right away!
If this list has given you the urge to discover amazing Thailand, visit https://www.travelmood.ie/ today for further information on the fantastic range of trips, tours and itineraries that can make your dream Thai holiday a reality!
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