Thailand is the Mecca for travellers to Fareast Asia. Over one million travellers make their way from the UK to Thailand every year yet only a few of them are able to look past Bangkok, Phuket and Krabi towards country’s other beautiful cities and towns. However, it is at these places that one can still discover the Thailand of locals, away from the curious eyes of travellers and boasting virgin encounters and great adventures.
Here are our top picks if you are looking to explore Thailand beyond the popular tourist hotspots:
About 70 kilometres from Phuket, Khao Lak is entirely comprised by a long stretches of beaches along Phang-Nga’s west coastline. The beaches here are not only some of the most pristine, they are also free from over-crowding that beaches in more popular areas of Thailand are subjected to. Additionally, tourists can explore the unspoiled natural beauty of mountains and parks at their own pace. Khao Sok National Park is a major attraction here and is popular for Rafflesia, the largest single flower in the world.
Popular as the ‘City of Good People’, Surat Thani is alluring in its natural beauty. Once the seat of the Indonesian Srivijaya Empire, the city also boasts reminiscent art and architecture from Thailand’s past. Apart from local Buddhist temples and local handicraft shops, tourists can have a glimpse at the life of working people of Thailand here. Food is one of the major draws here and is cheaper and tastier than elsewhere in the country. You can also plan an excursion to Koh Samui, the second largest island in Thailand, popular for its breathtaking beaches as well as Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao islands from here.
For touching base with Thailand’s recent history, Kanchanaburi is where you should be heading. The town in the Western Thailand has been made popular by Pierre Boulle’s book ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’. The book is based on a real life event during the World War 2 when Japanese troops forced war prisoners to build a rail route between Thailand and Myanmar under inhumane conditions. You could explore various war cemeteries, museums as well as ride a section of the infamous ‘Death Railway’ here. The town is also a great starting point for discovery of Thailand’s many national parks.
Nakhon Ratchasima is a place of great natural beauty and splendour and remains largely popular for the Khao Yai National Park. The park boasts over 112 mammal and 320 bird species, making it a great attraction for animal and bird lovers. Explore Phimai Historical Park, a Khmer historical attraction similar to Angkor Wat in architecture along with Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, Thao Suranaree Monument and Lamtakhong Dam. If you are looking to take back a souvenir, you must definitely explore unique local handicrafts like Kwian potteries and Mat Mi silk here. Adventure-lovers will also find great opportunities for trekking and camping.
Just three hours away from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a laid-back destination in the northern Thailand, perfect for exploring Thailand’s marvellous countryside. Some of the most popular attractions here include the clock tower where a light and sound show is held every evening. Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple, a famous Buddhist temple designed by artist Chaloemchai Kositpipat woos travellers with its intricate and unique design whereas the Baan Dam Museum or the Black Temple stuns with its eerie exhibits of animal remains. Chiang Rai’s night bazaars and food courts dish out some great local delicacies and are a must visit for every traveller.