Known for its world-class beaches, awe-inspiring architecture, and natural beauty, Thailand is a must-see destination. Ancient meets modern in this prevalently Buddhist country, with its traditional temples and modern places of worship. Historical, natural, and cultural attractions brought over 32 million visitors to Thailand in 2016, a number that increases annually. Adventure lovers will enjoy outdoor activities like the Erawan Cascading Waterfalls and Caves, while savvy shoppers can get their fix at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Here are 25 things to do while on vacation in this tropical paradise.
1.Bat Caves of Khao Yai National Park
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Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second largest national park in Thailand, located roughly 4 hours from Bangkok. Covering nearly 1,350 square miles of land, it’s home to a large variety of wildlife, but its bat caves have gained the most notoriety. Visitors from all over the world come to the park to witness for themselves the enthralling vision of thousands of bats emerging at twilight from the caves situated at the parks edge. It is quite the spectacle to witness: A cloud of immeasurable black shapes surge through the sky at dusk.
Hin Tung, 26000, Thailand, Phone: +66-8-60-92-65-29
2.Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
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The Ananta Samakhom Throne hall is the centerpiece of Bangkok’s Champs Elysees, situated on the end of Dusit’s wide, long Royal Plaza, a lush ceremonial boulevard. This impressive two-story white marble palace was created by renowned Italian architects, Annibale Rigott and Mario Tamango, and boasts neoclassical Renaissance architecture. Its ornate interiors serve as a prestigious locale used to hold state council meetings, impress visiting dignitaries, and host royal events. Additionally, the hall acts as a museum welcoming visitors to explore its elegant décor while viewing a few permanent exhibitions from the country’s national artists. Guided 30-mintue tours are available for those who want to gain knowledge on the building’s history.
71 Uthong Nai Alley, Khwaeng Dusit, Khet Dusit, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10300, Thailand, Phone: +66-2-28-39-44-11
3.Elephant Kraal Ayutthaya
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The Elephant Kraal of Ayutthaya is the last remaining of its kind in Thailand, dating back to the 16th century, when these incredibly large mammals were essential components to trade and war. This peculiar structure was used by the Ayutthaya kingdom in order to trap wild elephants to be used by the Thai army; the entrapment ceremonies were held within the kraal, attended by the kings of the 16th century. As an invaluable commodity to the Thai people, elephants were herded into the kraal using a funnel in the back wall. The last round-up was conducted in 1903, and now visitors can tour the unusual space, which features a temple at its center.
74/1m.3 Tumbol Suanpik, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000, Thailand, Phone: +66-8-06-68-77-27
4.Erawan Cascading Waterfalls and Caves
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Located within Erawan National Park, the Erawan Cascading Waterfalls are a series of seven waterfalls that thunderously flow over gorgeous limestone terraces. They are the focal point of the national park and among the most majestic waterfalls in all of Thailand. Founded in 1975, the park received its name due to its resemblance to the mystical three-headed white elephant, which the uppermost area of the falls looks like. The national park is also home to a string of caves known as Phartat, Mi, Wang Bahdan, and Rua. Visitors are welcome to visit the park and hike along the waterfalls or swim in their pools.
Tambon Tha Kraden, 71250 Thailand, Phone: +66-0-34-57-42-22
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The Erawan Museum is located in Bang Muang Mai and situated in one of the most peculiar places – inside a massive three-headed elephant. Visitors will begin their journey through gardens that are filled with statues of Thai’s mythical creatures before climbing an intricately carved stairway lined with opulent pillars that are three stories high. The interior showcases a beautiful stained-glass ceiling leading into one of the heads, which features ancient Buddha statues and a temple. Below the ground there is a museum displaying Thai pottery created by Lek Viriyaphant, the same person who built the Ancient Siam Park and the Sanctuary of Truth. The artist was dedicated to preserving Thai arts and cultures for future generations to enjoy.
99/9 Moo 1 Bangmuangmai, Samet Prakan, Bang Muang Mai, 10270 Thailand, Phone: +66-0-23-71-31-35
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The Giant Swing is 88 feet tall and overlooks Wat Suthat and additional surrounding buildings. It was originally constructed in 1784 under the guidance of King Rama I. For centuries it was used by young Thai men as a “slingshot to heaven,” and it was an integral element in annual swing ceremonies that symbolically reenacted components of Hindu origin tales. Teams of Thai men would wear elaborate headdresses and compete against one another by launching themselves into the air, from where they would have to use their teeth to catch a bag of coins tied to the top of a pole 82 feet or higher above ground.
Bamrung Muang Road, Phra Nakhon, 10200 Bangkok, Thailand, Phone: +66-8-86-16-52-97
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Situated in the heart of Bangkok, the Grand Palace is the former palace of royals from King Rama I to King Rama V, who ruled the Rattanakosin Kingdom. Today, the property is used to welcome the state’s guests, the king’s guests, and foreign dignitaries as well as a place where royal ceremonies are hosted. It is also the locale where the remains of kings and other prominent members of the royal family were located until their cremation. Visitors can tour the palace, which is sectioned off into two zones: The royal residence and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The former is divided into three primary areas, the Inner Court, the Middle Court, and the Outer Court.
1 Maha Rat Road, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, 10200 Thailand, Phone: +66-0-26-23-55-00
8.Khao Kheow Open Zoo
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Khao Kheow Open Zoo is a massive attraction covering nearly 2,000 acres of land and serves as the home of 8,000 animals from more than 300 species. It is most prominently known as the biggest tiger zoo in the Asia Pacific Region, featuring rare varieties such as white tigers. Some of the highlights of the zoo include animal shows that demonstrate the behaviors and living conditions of various wildlife and provide interactive close encounters with macaws, chimpanzees, otters, and eagles. Feeding Eld’s deer (one of 15 preserved wildlife species in Thailand), watching elephants swim, and taking night safaris are additional activities at the zoo.
235 Moo 7, Tambon Bang-Pra, Amphur Sriracha, Chonburi, 20110 Thailand, Phone: +66-03-83-18-44-44
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The northeast region of Thailand is usually known for its rice farming, but the stunning wetlands of Lotus Lake, hidden among tall grass, are well worth a visit for their gorgeous bright pink lotus flowers. The best time for visitors to see this spectacle is during the cool season, December through February. Once there, tourists will take a wooden boat guided by a local fisherman or villager through the cleared elephant grasses to where a thick expanse of flamingo-pink lotus blooms suddenly emerge above the sparkling waters of the Lotus Lake. The wetlands are also home to roughly 80 species of birds, including the endangered purple heron, grey heron, and black kite.
10.Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden
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Recognized as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, the Nongnooch Pattaya Garden is visited by more than 5,000 people every day. Originally slated to be an orchard, the land was instead turned into ornamental gardens at the request of Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha, who had admired the gardens she had visited on a trip abroad. The site was later developed to include accommodations, a swimming pool, a spa, and restaurants. Visitors can tour a variety of themed gardens, watch dance and Muay Thai boxing presentations, visit the automobile collection, and observe local wildlife at the mini-zoo, aquarium, and aviaries.
34/1 Moo 7 Najomtien District, Sattahip, Chonburi, 20250 Thailand, Phone: +66-0-38-23-80-61
11.Phra Prang Sam Yot
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This 13th century Buddhist temple is home to more than 2,000 macaque monkeys that originally started visiting the area to be fed fruits and vegetables by the locals during the Monkey Buffet Festival held each November. Now the monkeys have become the main attraction despite the temple’s religious and cultural significance. The compound houses three prangs, or towers, made from laterite and sandstone that are said to represent the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The temple is easily accessible from the Lopburi train station and is open from Wednesday through Sunday from 6:00am until 6:00pm.
Phra Prang Sam Yot, Mueang Lop Buri District, Tambon Tha Hin, Thailand, Phone: +66-9-66-57-02-79
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Safari World is open daily and is billed as Thailand’s most popular animal park. Attractions include a drive-through safari, a jungle cruise, a bird demonstration, dolphins and orangutans performing tricks, stunt shows, and much more. Two buffet restaurants and two fast food restaurants offer guests a variety of Thai and international food and beverages. Snacks are also available at food wagons located throughout the park. Before returning home, visitors can swing by one of the many souvenir shops to collect a commemorative photo of themselves feeding giraffes or something more traditional like a t-shirt or hat to remind them of their trip to this unique zoological park.
99 Panyaintra Road, Samwatawantok, Klongsamwa, 10510 Bangkok, Thailand, Phone: +66-25-18-10-22
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13.Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm
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The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm is the largest alligator and crocodile farm in the world. Located on the outskirts of Bangkok, this unusual tourist venue houses over 60,000 reptiles, including albino alligators and crocodiles with two heads, two tails, and six legs. The park also claims to be home to the largest crocodile in captivity, measuring 19 feet and 8 inches long and weighing 2,456 lb. Tourists can buy buckets of chicken to throw to the crocodiles from the safety of a bridge that spans the feeding pond. Other popular attractions include reptile wrestling shows, an elephant show, a small zoo, and a dinosaur museum.
555 Thai Ban Road, Amphoe Muang, Thai Ban, 10280 Thailand, Phone: +66-27-03-48-91
14.Siriraj Medical Museum
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Housed in the oldest hospital in Thailand, this museum of medical curiosities comprises several smaller museums that cover pathology, forensics, parasitology, anatomy, and the prehistoric era. Visitors curious about the medical field will find the mummified remains of serial killers as well as disease samples, dissected organs, artifacts, and parasites collected from human patients on display. Though the average tourist may find the museum morbid, the Thai people show their respect by leaving candy as an offering for the spirits of the people who ended up as exhibits, and students and medical professionals use the material to learn more about traditional and alternative medicine. Places to Visit in Thailand
Siriraj Sub-District, Bangkoknoi District, Bangkok, 10700 Thailand, Phone: +66-24-19-26-00
15.Sukhothai Historical Park
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Sukhothai Historical Park is home to dozens of well-preserved monuments that date from the 13th to 15th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park contains impressive temples from the first independent Thai kingdom as well as distinctive Sukhothai-style statues and images of the Buddha and his serene disposition. A small on-site museum, the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, displays artifacts from the Sukhothai empire. The park’s natural setting makes it a peaceful destination for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can walk through the park, rent bicycles, or take the electric train that leaves directly from the entrance.
49/10 Nimitmai Road, Sam Wa Tawan Auk, Khlong Sam Wa, Bangkok, 10510 Thailand, Phone: +66-09-59-59-95-25
16.Thailand Burma Railway Centre
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This interactive museum tells the story of the Thailand-Burma Railway, built by Allied prisoners of war and Asian laborers during World War II. Under the direction of the Imperial Japanese Army, these laborers constructed 415 kilometers of a railway that was intended to transport military supplies for the eventual invasion of India by the Japanese forces. The displays describe the technical building process and pay tribute to the human experience. The center is open daily and can be found on the site of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, which is 128 kilometers west of Bangkok but easily accessible by private car or public transportation.
73 Jaokannun Road, BanNua, Amphoe Muang, Kanchanaburi, 71000 Thailand, Phone: +66-0-34-51-27-21
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17.Thailand’s Biggest Buddha
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The Big Buddha at the Wat Muang Monastery is an awe-inspiring 92 meters tall and 63 meters wide. Completed in 2008, this golden statue is the tallest statue of Buddha in the country. It towers over the surrounding sculpture garden with scenes from the Buddhist version of hell, images of Thailand’s gods and kings, and depictions of historical events from the Burmese-Siamese War. The enormous statue was formed from concrete and covered in gold paint. Construction began in 1990 and took 18 years to complete at a cost of nearly $4 million. It is said that luck will come to those who touch the right hand of the Buddha.
Moo 6, Tambon Phai Cham Sin, Thailand, Phone: +66-0-76-25-46-93
18.The Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden
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This statue garden is full of grim reminders of what happens to Buddhists whose bad deeds outweigh the good. In Buddhist “hell,” the punishment fits the crime, and scenes showing sinners boiled in cauldrons, ripped apart by dogs, and having their eyes pecked out by birds are only some of the graphic representations of the fate that awaits those who don’t live life in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha. This macabre collection of life-size dioramas is meant to serve as a warning to would-be sinners and it is, believe it or not, a popular tourist attraction, and only one of many such “hell gardens” in Thailand.
6 Bang Saen Sai 2 Soi 19, Tambon Saen Suk, 20130 Thailand, Phone: +66-8-96-90-39-14
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Wat Arun is named after the Indian God of Dawn and is one of over 31,000 wat (or temples) in Thailand. Designed to represent Mount Meru, the center of the Buddhist universe, the wat has four towers that symbolize the cardinal directions. Decorated with colorful pieces of porcelain and guarded by two demons, Wat Arun is thought to be one of the most photographed landmarks in Thailand. The temple can be reached by taxi, bus, or boat and is open daily. Because it is a fully operating place of worship, it is expected that tourists follow standard rules of etiquette when visiting the temple.
158 Thanon Wang Doem, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, 10600 Thailand, Phone: +66-28-91-21-85
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20.Wat Mahathat Temple of the Great Relic
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Home to the Mahanikai School of Buddhism and the Center for Vipassana Meditation at Buddhist University, the “Temple of the Great Relic” is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. On the grounds of the Ayutthaya Historical Park, the temple was built to house a relic of the Buddha. The walls of the temple are painted with murals of religious and historical significance and the temple is well known for a stone head of Buddha embedded in tree roots. As the temple is on an island, the only way to reach it is by boat to Chang Pier, followed by a short walk up Mahathat Road.
Soi Ton Pho, Bangkok, 13000 Thailand, Phone: +66-22-22-60-11
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21.Wat Phar Sorn Kaew Temple on the Glass Cliff
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Tourists who want to visit a more non-traditional Buddhist temple should plan a trip to Wat Pha Sorn Kaew in Khao Kho. Otherwise known as the “Temple on the Glass Cliff,” this modern sanctuary is in a remote location in the hills of Thailand. The contemporary architecture is said to closely resemble that of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí rather than traditional Thai design and construction. Those who want to visit this unique temple and the white shrine of five meditating Buddhas nested together like deconstructed matryoshka dolls will need to arrange for private transportation for the 5-hour trip north of Bangkok.
95 Moo 7, Red House Campson, Khao Kho, Tambon Khaem Son, Thailand, Phone: +66-07-99-10-38-78
22.Wat Phra Yai Big Buddha Temple
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The 12-foot-tall golden Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai sits on top of Pratumnak Hill overlooking the water surrounding the small island of Koh Faan. Visitors can ring each bell encircling the Buddha for luck and observe morning prayers if they arrive early in the day. Food and souvenir vendors can be found near the base of the temple for guests who want to try Thai cuisine or bring home something by which to remember their visit. The temple complex is connected to the main island of Ko Samui by a causeway and can be reached by car or local bus.
Thai Highway 4171, Ko Samui, Thailand, Phone: +66-8-61-25-25-04
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23.Wat Rong Khun
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The temple of Wat Rong Khun is also known at the White Temple for its stark white construction symbolizing purity. Contemporary murals by Thai artist Chalermchai Kosipipat (who sold his paintings to fund construction of the temple) show scenes from popular culture and recent events that illustrate the wickedness of the human mind. Visitors are not allowed to take videos or photographs of the artwork, but reproductions are available in the gift shop. Some classic Thai elements were included in Kosipipat’s design and typical religious symbols can be found throughout the building. The Wat Rong Khun is open daily and visitors pay a small fee for admission.
Phahonyothin Road, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, Thailand, Phone: +66-53-67-35-79
24.Wat Samphran Temple
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The Wat Samphran Temple is not a common tourist destination, but guests who have made the trek to visit the site are impressed by the 17-story pink tower with a dragon coiled around it. For a small donation, visitors can climb up through the body of the dragon to the observation deck for a nice view of the surrounding area. On the grounds, a bronze Buddha keeps watch over several small shrines and a variety of animal statues. The temple has a scandalous past and is in general disrepair, but those who have been to visit say it is worth the trip to see this unusual temple and the dragon that guards it.
92/8 Amphoe Sam Phran, Chang Wat Nakhon Pathom, 73110 Thailand, Phone: +66-8-35-93-92-02
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25.Chatuchak Weekend Market
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The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the world’s largest shopping market, a legendary place that has easily reached landmark status as a must-see attraction for tourists. Its incredible size, spanning 35 acres and boasting more than 8,000 market stalls, makes it the ideal destination for seasoned shoppers whose ambitions are to literally shop until they drop. Each weekend the market welcomes over 200,000 visitors, providing them with a vast and diverse number of goods for sale. They will find clothing, accessories, ceramics, handicrafts, food, home décor, furniture, books, pets, art, collectables, and antiques among other things within the 27 sections of the market.
Kamphaeng Phet Road, Lat Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand, Phone: +66-8-39-56-36-56
25 Best Things to Do in Thailand
- Bat Caves of Khao Yai National Park, Photo: Courtesy of ryzhkov_sergey - Fotolia.com
- Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Photo: Courtesy of Mik Man - Fotolia.com
- Elephant Kraal Ayutthaya, Photo: Courtesy of lspi138 - Fotolia.com
- Erawan Cascading Waterfalls and Caves, Photo: Courtesy of auresa - Fotolia.com
- Erawan Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Stéphane Bidouze - Fotolia.com
- Giant Swing, Photo: Courtesy of se7enimage - Fotolia.com
- Grand Palace, Photo: Courtesy of sakda - Fotolia.com
- Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Burmakin - Fotolia.com
- Lotus Lake, Photo: Courtesy of sitriel - Fotolia.com
- Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Tatiana Grozetskaya - Fotolia.com
- Phra Prang Sam Yot, Photo: Courtesy of powerbeephoto - Fotolia.com
- Safari World, Photo: Courtesy of Dare Pixel - Fotolia.com
- Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm, Photo: Courtesy of wi6995 - Fotolia.com
- Siriraj Medical Museum, Photo: Courtesy of milkovasa - Fotolia.com
- Sukhothai Historical Park, Photo: Courtesy of sikaraha - Fotolia.com
- Thailand Burma Railway Centre, Photo: Courtesy of ayakochun - Fotolia.com
- Thailand’s Biggest Buddha, Photo: Courtesy of Eakkaluk - Fotolia.com
- The Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden, Photo: Courtesy of tuayai - Fotolia.com
- Wat Arun, Photo: Courtesy of sakda - Fotolia.com
- Wat Mahathat Temple of the Great Relic, Photo: Courtesy of Jose Ignacio Soto - Fotolia.com
- Wat Phar Sorn Kaew Temple on the Glass Cliff, Photo: Courtesy of mickey_41 - Fotolia.com
- Wat Phra Yai Big Buddha Temple, Photo: Courtesy of puhhha - Fotolia.com
- Wat Rong Khun, Photo: Courtesy of ownza - Fotolia.com
- Wat Samphran Temple, Photo: Courtesy of MICHEL - Fotolia.com
- Chatuchak Weekend Market, Photo: Courtesy of martinhosmat083 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of ponsatorn - Fotolia.com