Inspiration Asia The Land of Smiles: 7 Experiences You Can Only Have in Thailand 

The Land of Smiles: 7 Experiences You Can Only Have in Thailand 

March 18, 2024
A boat in the river beside a temple with lanterns released for Loy Krathong festival, something you can only experience in Thailand - Luxury Escapes

There’s nothing like a trip you’ll be talking about for weeks, and Thailand's unique experiences speak for themselves. 

Signature sandy stretches, bustling cityscapes and cultural richness – within just a 10-hour flight from Sydney, you can arrive in the land that has it all, Thailand. A treasure trove of unique experiences, there isn’t just one way to explore the Land of Smiles. But one thing’s for sure: there’s a piece of Thailand to please any traveller. Whether you’re on a flop-and-drop honeymoon, searching for soul food or looking for something new to experience with the family, each trip is bound to leave lasting memories. So how should you say ‘sawasdee’ to Thailand? 

Read on to find out what you can only experience in the Land of Smiles.

1. Stroll through the world's largest Chinatown

In contrast to the serene Chao Phraya River nearby – Bangkok’s Chinatown, the main hub for its large Chinese community, is alive with activity. Take a food tour and navigate crimson-dressed alleyways off Yaowarat Road, letting the aromas of sizzling street food be your ultimate guide. Visit the family-owned Michelin-starred Lim Lao Ngow and try their signature fish ball and noodle dish and fill up on a heaping plate of khao pad (fried rice) dressed in chilli and fish sauce at Khao Phad Pu Chang Phueak. Stay at the luxurious Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers or the five-star Mandarin Oriental, the perfect launchpads to spend a day exploring this gastronomic playground.  

2. Celebrate Songkran and the Light Festival 

Attracting both locals and tourists alike, Thailand’s annual cultural celebrations showcase the spirituality, rich tradition and festive nature of the Thai people. Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year celebrated in April, is marked by joyous water fights signifying cleansing and purification, believed to bring good luck into the new year and wash away the year past. In November, Thailand’s waterways become illuminated by thousands of banana leaf boats as people flock to celebrate the Light Festival. Loy Krathong is a celebration of joy and gratitude, as people release their decorated floating lanterns into rivers and lakes as a gesture of respect and thanks to the water spirits. With several festivals happening throughout the year, Thailand certainly lives up to its nickname – the ‘Land of Smiles’. 

3. See Bangkok come alive at night

Renowned for its lively street life, Thailand’s capital is full of experiences best enjoyed when the sun dips below the horizon. Picture this: the daytime heat simmers down and you take to the streets in a three-wheeled, open-air tuk tuk, weaving through the city’s extensive network of night markets with a local driver. Visit spots like the retro-inspired train night market Ratchada where you can sample local dishes like Thai barbecue, the Talad Neon Downtown Night Market with its illuminated signage acting as a map for your journey, and Asiatique the Riverfront, with bonus cabaret shows and a giant Ferris wheel.  

After a feed at the markets, the Bangkok skies are full of top-tier rooftop bars like the award-winning Vertigo Restaurant & Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree. It’s at bars like this where you can get a snapshot of Bangkok’s glittering skyline and watch the streets thrumming below – all complemented by delicious drops like a Mai Tropical Tai, Nutty-Presso Martini and an Issan Coco.  

4. Learn to cook Thai classic food 

For the sentimental, what better way to take home a piece of Thailand than a Thai cooking class? Not only will you walk away with a newfound passion for Thai cuisine, but you’ll also gain new skills you won’t find anywhere else. Think of this like a cultural exchange: learning the secrets of classic Thai dishes and their significance. Explore the warm, hot and sour flavours of a rich tom yum soup from central Thailand – officially recognised by the United Nations as part of the country’s heritage - the freshness of a green papaya salad or the distinct sweet and creamy Penang curry. Then, at the end of it all, taste the delightful fruits of your labour and allow the flavours of Thailand to linger long after your trip.   

5. Visit stunning Buddhist temples 

Thailand is home to a myriad of temples, each with their own unique charm making up the country’s spiritual landscape. In Chiang Rai, a drive away from the sacred city of Chiang Mai, lose yourself in the masterful details of Wat Rong Khun’s white facade, restored to its former glory in the late 1990s, then pay a visit to Wat Rong Suea Ten, known as the ‘Blue Temple’ decorated in shades of cobalt. Trace the colourful mosaics of the towering Wat Pha Sorn Kaew in the central Thailand hinterlands and touch the right-hand fingers of the colossal 92m-high golden Buddha of Wat Muang for good luck. In Phuket, take a tour of its many big Buddhas, including the Big Buddha some 400m above sea level in the Nakkerd hills, the gilded reclining Buddha at Sri Sunthorn, and the Phang Nga cave temple home to another reclined Buddha reachable by boat. 

6. Go island hopping in Phang Nga Bay/Andaman Sea

With a large collection of more than 1000 islands, escaping Thailand's tourist hotspots has never been easier. Many ports dotted along the coast of the Phang Nga Bay offer speedboats and ferries, taking the guesswork out of your exploration. Take your pick of islands and journey the waters of the Andaman Sea, unveiling hidden white sandy beaches, towering limestone cliffs and turquoise lagoons teeming with wildlife. A two-hour ferry from Phuket will take you to the Phi Phi islands, where you can hop from one lesser-populated island to another and spend days on sun-soaked beaches flanked by palms and jungle-clad hills. Off the coast of Krabi, explore the Trang archipelago and swim through emerald caves, discover some of the best snorkel spots and wander the sands of untouched secret beaches.  

7. Be pampered in the home of Thai massage

If R&R is what you’re searching for, there’s no better place to treat yourself than in the birthplace of Thai massage. Characterised by yoga-like rocking and pressure point techniques, it focuses along the body’s energy lines known as ‘Sen’ to heal illnesses and maintain wellbeing. While this ancient practice has spread across the globe, nothing compares to the sensation of being pampered on a Thai beach. Picture yourself lying beneath swaying palm trees, the ocean serenading you as the sea breeze enhances the soothing effects of this unique therapeutic art. With hundreds of beachfront wellness resorts in Thailand keeping the tradition alive, you can feel pampered from the comfort of your accommodation. 

Looking for more Thailand inspiration? Here’s Thailand’s best beach hotels & resorts 

About Siri Smith
Lover of trinkets and a wistful sentimental, Siri likes to collect tiny things and craft playlists to commemorate her favourite places. When she's not daydreaming, find this self-described polymath picking up a new hobby.

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