Things to do in Thailand
Phuket ranks among the globe's top diving destinations. Day tours, including two dives, all equipment and three meals, can cost as little as $100. Aqua Divers offers day trips as well as multi-day ventures to islands further out in the Andaman Sea.
One of Asia's premier golf courses features 18 holes on 720 acres of undulating, well-maintained fairways and lush greens. Tiger Woods has even played here.
Known more for its vibrant ornamentation than its architectural significance, this popular temple houses elaborate statues of revered monks. Don’t be concerned about the incessant exploding firecrackers – these are expressions of thanks for fulfilled wishes.
Chao Phraya Express Boat Co.
It's not the Venice of the East anymore, but Bangkok's life still revolves around waterways. Express boats offer cheap sightseeing, long-tail boats tour private groups around the city's canals, and converted teakwood rice barges offer lunch and dinner cruises.
Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre
The former provincial offices house an intriguing multi-media exhibition on Northern Thailand’s distinctive cultures, including the hilltribe and Lanna people. Kids love the knowledgeable guides dressed in traditional clothing.
The steep mountain west of the city harbors the north's holiest shrine. Most come for the panoramic city views, but the gold-plated chedi and upper terrace of carved wood are equally mesmerizing.
Get a spa treatment
Nothing beats a spa treatment or a traditional Thai massage at the end of a busy day of sightseeing. The Dusit Thani Hotel’s Devarana spa is equipped with private suites that include a steam room, floral bath, massage area, lounge, and shower room.
Grand Palace and Wat Pho
The Palace is home to the sacred Emerald Buddha (but not the Royal Family) and a blend of intriguing Siamese and European architecture. Tranquil Wat Pho harbors a huge reclining Buddha and is the place to receive a traditional Thai massage.
Khao Phra Thaeo National Park
Home to Phuket's only remaining virgin rainforest, this lush park features leisurely trails leading to two scenic waterfalls (bring your swimsuit for a dip in the cool ponds). You may even spot barking deer, gibbons and monkeys. Guides are available at the park's headquarters.
The “Central Park of the Tropics” offers a much-needed break between sightseeing and shopping, with picturesque lakes and wide lawns, the possibility to practice sundown aerobics, and a glimpse into the lives of Bangkokians.
Hop on the evening safari tram that chugs through natural jungle and spot creatures from the zoo's 1,000+ predators, apes, reptiles and birds (plus the famous panda bears).
Chiang Mai's old town, with its walls still intact, teems with fresh markets, 150-year-old houses and charming alleyways. A handful of temples mingle with cute coffee and handicraft shops.
Thanks to streets filled with go-go bars and tourist traps, Phuket's main beach gets compared to seedy Pattaya. But it’s recently moved upmarket and toward family tourism, and the long, sandy beach – Phuket's most developed – is quite scenic. Plus, this is the place to come when you need a serious nightlife fix.
Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Center
Gibbons, a primate species native to Phuket, disappeared from local forests in the '80s when hunters captured and used them to stage photo-ops for tourists. See the survivors in their natural habitat at the center, which aims to return as many of the monkeys as possible into the wilderness.
Sirinat National Park
Situated in Sirinat National Park on Phuket's northern tip, these unique saltwater swamps can be entered via elevated walkways. Look for unusual plants like mountain ebony, red cycas and black myrsina, and be on the lookout for leatherback turtles, which nest here in the winter. The park also harbors a string of undeveloped, deserted beaches.
Thailand Creative and Design Centre
This sophisticated design institution raises the bar for Thailand with imaginative, thought-provoking multimedia exhibitions (not to mention a cool design store) that draw in crowds.
The Jim Thompson House
The exotic mansion of the man who brought Thai silk to the world's attention is a treat, with bustling tropical gardens and six traditional teak houses filled with art and antiques from around Southeast Asia.
Wat Phra Singh
Enter this must-see temple to discover Viharn Lai Kam, a wooden gem of traditional Lanna architecture, with its exquisitely carved pediment. Inside sits a stout bronze Buddha, also Lanna style.
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Visit amusement parks in autumn for reduced admission prices and smaller crowds.
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