10 Best Things to do in Thailand

Palm trees and boat at Laem Tong Beach on Koh Phi Phi Island Thailand

To narrow down the best things to do in Thailand is a hard thing to accomplish.  There are so many things to enjoy about traveling in this amazing country. So here are my top 10 things that I loved most about traveling in Thailand.

1) Enjoy Thailand’s Hospitality

Almost every hotel you stay at will greet you with a refreshing drink and a cool washcloth.  It is such a nice touch. I find after traveling to each destination, I typically arrive tired and hot, and this touch of kindness makes me feel human again. This butterfly pea drink was our first welcoming drink, given to us by our hostel in Bangkok. Butterfly pea tea is thought to provide many health benefits and was the welcoming drink of choice at most of our hotels.  It was also very light and refreshing!

Purple sweet pea tea Thailand drink

This butterfly pea tea was one of the welcoming drinks. It is said to have great health benefits and it tasted good too.

2) Eat Thailand’s Amazing Fruit

One of the best things to do in Thailand is to eat your fill of fruit!  Thailand has so much wonderful, delicious tropical fruit!  It was a fruit-smorgasbord and I loved every minute of it!  My all-time favorite fruit was mangosteen.  I can’t really describe the flavor, sweet with a little tang – basically, it was fruit candy and I couldn’t eat enough of it!

Thailand mangosteen fruit

Mangosteen. I had never tried these before coming to Thailand and now they are one of my favorite fruits!

Mini-mangoes, also known as ma phrang in Thai, ranked right behind mangosteens.  Take the juicy goodness of the regular Thai mango and now put it in a small size so you can pop the whole fruit in your mouth in one big bite!  No pulpy fibers like full-size mangoes can have either.

They were A-MAZING!

Thailand miniature mangoes

I don’t know why ma phrang (mini mangoes) aren’t sold here in the states. They are SO good!

In addition to my two favorites, Thailand also has great oranges (they look sort of like mandarin-sized limes) pineapples, watermelon, rambutan, durian, and many more choices. For me, though, it is the mangosteens and the mini-mangoes that would bring me back again and again.

3) Meet the Locals

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but Thai people are friendly and generous. I first encountered this in the States at my favorite Thai restaurant.  The owners knew me by name and even gave me presents on my birthday.  They also fed me some of the most delicious food I ever ate and inspired me to visit Thailand.  I saw this same warm and inviting attitude while traveling in Thailand.

At a restaurant in Koh Lanta, we saw the waiter rush out of the restaurant and down the street after a motorcyclist crashed, just to make sure the person was okay.  While taking a snorkel tour we saw the love our guide had of his island and when we took a tour of an elephant nature park our guide clearly displayed his concern for injured animals.  And on multiple occasions when buying fruit from a local stand, the family gave us free fruit along with their beautiful smiles.   The Thai people have shown themselves to be generous and warm individuals who love their country and enjoy sharing it with others.

4) Eat Thai food

I know Thai food is known for being delicious and many others like myself travel to Thailand because of it. Sometimes when you’ve eaten the food at home and then you travel to that country and try it, it’s not always as good as what you had at home.  With Thai food, that was not the case!

Dinner at Thai restaurant in Thailand

Tom Kha Gai Soup, Spicy Papaya Salad & Mango with Sticky Rice and Coconut Sauce

Mango with sticky rice and coconut sauce is a favorite of mine that I can’t seem to eat enough of!  Deep-fried bananas with coconut ice cream, also a must-try! Crying Tiger, a dish I also love to eat at home in the States, is a spicy dish that will reveal why the “tiger” is crying.  And no my eyes weren’t watering, it’s just my allergies, okay!

Thailand's crying tiger spicy beef salad

Thailand’s crying tiger (beef salad with spicy peppers). And yes my eyes were watering.

Tom Jude Woonsen also referred to as glass noodle soup with pork, was a new dish we tried and it was so delicious I am going to try to make it myself here at home. These are just a few of the Thai dishes I tried while visiting Thailand. And a favorite snack I discovered was seedless dried tamarind.

I think one of the best things to do, no matter what country you visit, is to try new dishes you’ve never eaten before. Chances are you’ll find a new favorite!

Tom Jude Woonsen Thai noodle soup

Tom Jude Woonsen/ Glass noodle soup with pork. This was the noodle soup you wished Mom had made when you were sick!

5) Thai Massages

It took me getting three traditional Thai massages for me to get it right and to really get a good traditional Thai massage!  The first was at the Thai Massage School in Bangkok by the reclining Buddha, this is definitely a touristy place, you’re all crowded in one big open room, lying right alongside each other.  There were also some hygiene concerns that would keep me from returning.

The second one was at a massage studio in Chiang Mai. We had private rooms and it was a decent massage. However, it didn’t feel as though the therapist were giving me a massage based on what my body needed, rather she was going thru the steps of a programmed massage routine.

Cold washcloth and refreshing drink after a Thai massage.

Thai massage studios will offer you a refreshing drink and a cool washcloth after your massage.

The third time is the charm!

But finally, the third time was the charm. I had the best massage in Bangkok, not to mention some of the best coffee (they have a cafe separate from their massage studio) at Stand Alone Coffee Bar & Massage. I highly recommend them for both coffee and massage!  Honestly, if they also had rooms for rent, I might never have left. I was so disappointed it was our last day in Thailand when I found this place however when I return to Bangkok, I will return here for a coffee & massage!

6) Visiting Thailand’s Islands

Now, this probably should have been number one of the best things to do in Thailand! No vacation to Thailand would be complete without spending some time at one or more of these gorgeous tropical islands.

Thailand beach on the island of Koh Lanta

This is one of the beaches in Koh Lanta.

There are over 1,400 islands in Thailand.  Not all are inhabited of course, but can you imagine trying to see every single one?  I can!  We only were able to squeeze in 3 islands during our stay and they were enough to leave us wanting to see more.  We visited Phuket, Thailand’s largest island.  Koh Phi Phi where we stayed at the quiet end at Laem Tong Beach and the even quieter and more relaxed island of Koh Lanta.

I think Koh Lanta was probably our favorite with its laid back vibe, however, Laem Tong Beach on Koh Phi Phi was the perfect place to just do nothing but spend all day at the beach. It was relaxing and not at all crowded like the more popular Tonsai Beach side of the island.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Koh Phi Phi Island in their Sunset Pool Villas that come with their own private pools and sunset views.  And on Koh Lanta we stayed at Lanta Casa Blanca which I highly recommend!

7) Riding a long-tail boat in Thailand

Be sure to ride a long-tail boat while in Thailand. It was so fun to be zipping over the water with the wind blowing in my hair! There are long tail boat captains everywhere in Thailand.  You can hire them to take you out to one of the many islands for snorkeling or relaxing or even to taxi you to the other side of the island.  We used them for a snorkel trip and also to go from Laem Tong Beach on Koh Phi Phi to the main ferry terminal at Tonsai Bay.  They are a fun way to get around and enjoy the water.

Thai long-tail boat anchored in the water.

Long tail boat anchored offshore on Koh Phi Phi Islands Laem Tong beach.

8) Go Diving in Thailand

Thailand is a great place to go diving whether you are a beginner or an experienced diver.  There are dive centers on all the major islands where you can get your beginner or advanced PADI scuba certifications.  Koh Tao is a top destination in the world for getting PADI certified. One of the reasons for this is the price, it is cheaper to get your PADI certification there than at most other locations. Another reason is that they have one of the highest concentrations of dive shops and therefore lots of choices.

The Similan Islands are also a popular diving destination as they are in a protected National Park that is regulated by the Thailand government. Research a good dive shop ahead of time, chances are no matter what island you are visiting you will find good diving opportunities. Check out PADI’s site to learn more.

9) See a Muay Thai Fight

Muay Thai has a long history within Thailand’s culture dating as far back as the 18th century. It is the national sport in Thailand and is a version of kickboxing that utilizes the fists, elbows, knees, and legs.  It is one of the top things to see and do in Thailand.  I recommend going to a Muay Thai Fight while you’re in Bangkok.

Muay Thai fight in Bangkok Thailand

They adhere to specific rules and format for this ancient martial art form that dates back hundreds of years.

We went to a Muay Thai fight in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium.  I thought it might be really crowded, it wasn’t.  There was plenty of seating no matter which ticket choice you purchased. Also no need to purchase in advance, we just bought one at the ticket office.  They have different levels of fighters throughout the night.  Ranging from junior Muay Thai fighters to the ones in the professional class.  Also, it’s important to note that they are only open on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. You can check out their website to learn more. And in addition to watching a fight, there are many local gyms throughout Thailand where you can take Muay Thai classes if that’s something that interests you.

10) Visit one of Thailand’s ancient historical sites.

There are so many options to see historical sites in Thailand.  Whether it is the Grand Palace or Reclining Buddha in Bangkok or the historic cities of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai (both of which are UNESCO world heritage sites).  Make sure to research which ones appeal to you most.  We visited the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun while in Bangkok and then chose Sukhothai as the historical city we wanted to explore.  Sukhothai is far less crowded than Ayutthaya or Bangkok for that matter.  It is easily seen on a bicycle and was a highlight of our time in Thailand.  Read Visiting Sukhothai Historical Park to learn more.

Ancient buddah statue in Sukhothai

Discovering the ancient monuments throughout Sukhothai

These are just some examples of things to do in Thailand, but there are so many more for you to discover in this incredible country! So no matter what you decide for your trip, you will have an unforgettable vacation experience!

For another great coffee option in Bangkok read about this eco-friendly coffee shop. And for a full 3-week itinerary to Thailand read What to See on Your First Trip to Thailand.

Happy travels!

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