Thailand’s worldwide reputation is as varied as its geography. The “Land of Smiles” is equally known for its nightlife, beaches, mountains, wildlife, and more. No matter what kind of traveler you are, there’s something unique to do in Thailand that either you’ll only find here, or will not be the same anywhere else. These experiences range from truly novel ways to spend to your vacation to some truly unordinary options.
Become a Monk for a Month
Those looking for something a bit deeper in their travels should look no further. Rather than coming to Thailand and quickly visiting a wat (temple) why not get a deeper, behind the scenes look at things? There are a few groups now offering monk packages of various lengths. You’ll live in the temple, practice guided meditation, and learn about the Eight Precepts all while soaking in authentic culture.
There is no shortage of organizations working to help the people of Thailand. Groups exist to help Thais from all walks of life — from orphans to those at risk of trafficking, from prostitutes to indigenous groups, and more. There are even organizationsthat work to motivate Thai people to help their neighbors. While certainly you can help people anywhere in the world, Thailand has some truly innovative and groundbreaking programs such as the pioneering Rahab Ministries that helps women stuck in the entertainment lifestyle in Bangkok.
Care for and Ride an Elephant
If you really want a full elephant experience while also giving something back, visit the Thai Elephant Home just outside of Chiang Mai. Here you get the opportunity to not only ride them, but also truly learn about elephants and how they live. You’ll spend time cleaning the elephants and their homes, cut grass to feed the elephants, and hopefully make friends with one of the giants. The best part is that you are assigned an elephant for the day, rather than dealing with different ones through the day, increasing the likelihood of a bonding experience. The Thai Elephant Home is located at 50 Charoen Rd, Chiang Mai. Tel: 089 434 2047; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Explore Deeper Bangkok via Long-tail Boat
Bangkok was once known as the “Venice of the East.” These days many of the klongs (canals) have been paved over to accommodate growing modernization and development. There is still, however, a handful of river networks snaking their way through the city. Check out Klong Saen Saep, accessible at the end of most major roads along Suhkumvit. To get to the riverboats you need to leave the comfort of the BTS line (skytrain) and head to the end of Thonglor, Ekkamai, Asoke, etc. From the BTS station, grab a motorcycle taxi driver and tell the driver to get to the docks. Take the boat to the end of the line near Khao Sarn and enjoy a backdoor view of Bangkok not seen by those sticking with modern modes of transport.
Catch a Live Muay Thai Match in the Upper Decks
Catch a “Muay Thai” match at either the Lumpini or Rajadamnern Muay Thai stadiums, but don’t spring the extra baht for ringside. Instead head to the upper levels with the locals and watch the fight through a chain link fence. Here’s where the real action takes place: gambling, shouting, and the passion of true fight fans. It might not be the most comfortable experience, but you’re guaranteed to walk out with a story.
Get a Bamboo Tattoo
Most people take home a plate, poster, post card, or some other knick-knack from their journeys. A traditional style bamboo tattoo is for those wanting something a bit more personal and permanent. Instead of the dull motorized drone of a modern tattoo, bamboo tattoos are done with a long bamboo “spear” with a metal tip at the end. Your skin will be pierced manually and ink applied. Check out Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Chaisri. Nakhon Chaisri is to the
west of Bangkok, just outside of Nakhon Pathom. Here you can find many locals and a few adventurous foreigners receiving a sacred tattoo unique and personal to each person receiving.
Chomp Down on Something with Chompers
Thailand has long been famous for its food, but none is more infamous and notorious than its insect cuisine. Long favored by rural Thais, insect eating has become a tourist rite of passage in Thailand. With just a little bit of searching around Nana or Soi Cowboy late at night in Bangkok you’ll easily find a vendor (just look for the foreigners snapping pictures in the street). The vendors will typically serve up silk worms (maybe not the Thai Silk souvenir you thought you’d take away), grasshoppers, bambooworms, water beetles, and crickets. Most of the insects have been battered and fried and could pass for anything if it’s dark enough (or the diner is drunk enough).