Top 10 things no traveller should miss on a trip to this vibrant South-East Asian nation
>> Things to do
6. The Golden Triangle
The point where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River is known locally as Sop Ruak, but to the rest of the world it’s the Golden Triangle: the point at which Burma/Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.
Stand on the Thailand river bank, and you can look across to Burma/Myanmar and Laos, or hire a boat for a closer look. You’ll find market stalls, Buddha and elephant statues, and plenty of signage to confirm that, yes, this is the Golden Triangle.
This used to be a prolific opium-growing area; the exhibitions at the Hall of Opium, in Golden Triangle Park, offer a good introduction to the local history and effects of the industry, as well as the potency of the drug.
If you fancy venturing further from the beaten track, see our guide to alternative itineraries in Thailand – and discover a side to the country that few other travellers get to see.
7. Island hopping
Thailand has over 5,000 miles of coastline just waiting to be explored. Travel by long-tail boat and discover as many beaches and islands as possible. See Phang Nga Bay and the limestone rocks that are so famously photographed off Thailand’s west coast, or island hop in the Andaman Sea off of Phuket and Krabi. Here’s you’ll discover white-sand beaches and abundant snorkelling on Ko Phi Phi Lee and Ko Phi Phi Don. Want to capture some fantastic shots while you’re snorkelling? See our expert guide to underwater photography.
The calm sea and clear conditions are perfect for kayaking, too. It’s a great way to explore the islands without the masses on tourist boats or passenger ferries, and take the experience at your own pace. The coastlines of Koh Phan Ngan, Koh Tao and Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand are particularly picturesque.
Visitors are very welcome to join in local celebrations, and most festivals and events offer a unique insight into local customs and traditions.
Must see events include Loi Krathong in November, Songkran/Thai New Year water festival in April (read our Songkran guide here), and the Naga Fireballs in October – a natural phenomenon that occurs just once a year.
Kanchanaburi province, an area of lush forest and a haven for backpackers, has a dark past. Here, you’ll also find the start of the infamous Death Railway (which links to Burma/Myanmar), and the bridge over the River Kwai. Both are haunting relics from WWII, constructed by prisoners of war. It’s a chilling spot, but essential on any Thailand itinerary.
Close by, you’ll find the Tiger Temple, which has been the focus of some damning animal welfare reports. Consult other travellers for advice, and follow your conscience before booking.
10. Shop ’til you drop!
From street stalls to bustling markets, you can shop at every turn in Thailand.
In Bangkok, try any of the following markets: Chatuchak (JJ Mall); Weekend Market (Sat/Sun), all day; Asiatique Night Market (riverside), open 4pm – midnight, seven days a week.
In Northern Thailand, stroll the streets of Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, daily from 6pm; Wualai Walking Street Saturday Market, from 2pm.
There are a variety of shops and local markets throughout the north and north-east that specialise in local handicrafts, wooden carvings, silverware, silks, pottery and furniture. Korat and Khao Yao in Nakhon Ratchasima has a popular night market, too.