Thailand is a gorgeous country, with a ton to offer would-be travelers as far as the senses are concerned. With a long history, and a proud tradition of resisting colonial rule, the Thai people have had the time to develop a magnificent culture chock-full of vibrancy, art, culinary delights, and a rich way of life — all set in a tropical paradise. While these brief tips don’t cover the entire span of everything you’ll need to know before planning a trip to Thailand, they do offer up a few tasty nuggets and highlights about what to see, do, and buy — as well as a few things you might want to give a miss.
Get A Bespoke Suit Made
What’s a bespoke suit? It is (for those of you unfamiliar with this British term) a suit tailored specifically to you. And Thailand, especially Bangkok, is a great place to get a beautiful well-made suit custom-designed for some ridiculously-low prices.
While buying a suit might not be high on your list of things to do, if you have the time, swing by shops like Excelsior Tailor, Romeo and Juliet Tailor’s House (cleverly enough, for men and women), Tailor On Ten (shirts made on the premises), and more. Sure, you can walk around most of Thailand in your shorts and flip-flops, but when you come home with a few killer tailored suits in tow, you’ll be the fashion talk of the town.
Check Out Some Muay Thai Kickboxing Matches
Muay Thai Kickboxing is fascinating to watch, and there’s no better place to see it than Thailand. Last time I was in Bangkok, I caught a series of bouts (more than 10) at Rajadamnern Stadium. About half of the men competing where knocked out cold, usually with a swift kick to the back of the head. Enjoy the high-spirited crowd, and the thrill of Muay Thai in pulsating locales like Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and Rajadamnern — and see what this very unique style of fighting is all about.
Don’t Forget the North
Bangkok, as well as the many islands in the Gulf of Thailand and off the western coast, usually top people’s lists of places to visit. While those destinations are great, don’t forget to wander up north, and into the mountains.
Although there’s too much to see and do to list everything here, some of the northern highlights include the ancient capital of Ayutthaya (just north of Bangkok), Lopburi with its shrines and famous monkeys (living ones!), Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao (nature and trekking), and Chiang Rai. Be sure you don’t miss Lampang, either, which boasts an impressive number of temples, and the Pang La Sanctuary, overflowing with elephants. In other words, there’s a hell of a lot more to do in Thailand other than shop, eat, and lounge about on the beach.
Be Prepared to Meet All Kinds of Interesting, Creepy, and Sweaty People
Thailand is hot and humid, and attracts all sorts. While there has been some political instability in recent years, tourism is a lifeblood for the country, which means it’s generally a pretty safe place to travel for relaxation and adventure. That being said, the sex trade and beach parties draw a good number of sweaty foreigners, who get up to some nefarious and less-than-savory activities. Just be warned that while you’ll run into friendly families and cool scuba divers on holiday, chances are you’ll probably cross paths with a few creeps as well.
Explore the Streets (Markets, Great Street Eats), But Avoid Being Scammed
Street food, street life, open-air markets, floating markets (Amphawa, Damnoen Saduak, and more), elephants walking the roads, and the overall vibe of the Thai street — these are things you have to experience, not hear about or see from a distance. Don’t be shy, and dive right in, but keep your wits about you, because like any place full of tourists, scams are everywhere.
Some scams to watch for are folks trying to get you to buy gems and sell them back home, people giving you the wrong change, fake tourist agents helping you book seats (guys just standing around trains stations), taxis with “broken” meters, or tuk-tuk drivers taking you places where they’ll get a commission if you buy something (gems and clothing being the more popular ones). Thai people are generally very gentile, but as a tourist, a little bit of suspicion and common sense applied here and there can save you lots of headaches down the road.