Talk to experts about the three top destinations in Thailand and you are likely to hear Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui, but there are many other regions to explore. For example, Chiang Mai, the Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Ko Tao, and Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya are among them. In each of these areas, there is an almost endless number of things to see and do. Why, you might wonder, are we limiting our list to just three “must-do” activities in Thailand? It is to ensure that anyone planning or considering a holiday to this beautiful country has at least a few opportunities for truly unforgettable experiences. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to see and do, so we aim to narrow it down to a few very accessible, easily accomplished activities.
Let’s start with what is easily one of the most famous and familiar of them, visiting the gorgeous waters of Phang Nga Bay.
A Visit to Angthong National Marine Park, Phang Nga Bay
As one travel writer said, the Anghtong National Marine Park is “the best Koh Samui day trip you can’t afford to miss.” What makes it a must-see? First and foremost is that it consists of more than forty islands spread out in the Gulf of Thailand. It spreads over 100 square miles and is part of a national park. It is made of enormous limestone karsts and has an array of gorgeous snorkeling destinations beneath its crystal clear waters.
According to experts, the karsts should be familiar to many as they are some of the most famous and frequently photographed and filmed, hence the name of one being James Bond Island. Another of the more famous is Koh Panyee, and both are the focus of many day trips and private cruises through the region.
A day in the park is not usually enough to take in the majority of sites. After all, if you are touring the marine park alone, you may not get to see the mangrove forests (some of the last in Thailand) as well as the scenic overlooks. Visiting the Phang Nga Bay, however, does allow you to see one of the loveliest bays in the world. Taking a guided tour is the way to go and booking one that visits the most iconic sights may be right for you, but there are also tours that emphasize snorkeling and other interests.
For example, Ko Panyi is a village on stilts, while Khao Ping Gan is a leaning rock island. The authentic fishing village of Ko Ma Paay is also an option.
Perhaps you are not eager for a day or more on the water? If not, then another of the most exciting things to do in Thailand includes touring the temples and wats of the different regions.
Touring Temples and Wats in Koh Samui and Phuket
Phuket or Koh Samui? It is actually an iconic question posed by many people planning a trip or holiday to Thailand. Both of the islands are amazing and full of marvels for travelers to see and enjoy. The key difference between them is really the weather and time of year. Phuket’s best weather is November to January while Koh Samui has fine conditions from May through September; meaning February is great in both spots.
And because there are direct flights between the two areas on a regular (daily basis), and because the flights last less than an hour, it could be the right time to go and see the temples and wats in both areas!
Buddhist temples are also known as wats, and there are many sites where wats and temples are in great abundance (roughly 90% of the Thai population is Buddhist) throughout Thailand. As one expert noted, “Koh Samui is home to many old Buddhist temples and Chinese shrines, including two impressive religious landmarks: Samui Big Buddha – a massive 15-metre seated Buddha overlooking the sea on the northeastern coast and, in the same area, Wat Plai Laem, a superb temple featuring a striking white 18-arm statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.”
Phuket is not short on its own share of temples and wats, and as another expert noted “there are close to 40 Buddhist Temples (or ‘wat’ in Thai) located all over the island. Some wats are quite new but some have a long history going back more than 100 years or even longer. Such places include Wat Pra-nang Sang and Wat Srisoonthorn in Thalang, Wat Karon and the most famous wat in Phuket, Wat Chalong.”
And you might wish to do little more than enjoy the comfort of your luxury villa or rental while paying a visit to Thailand, but you would miss out on one of the best things to do while in the country – partake of the impressive Thai massage treatments and spa services available.
Spas and Massage
First and foremost, travelers do not need to be at a spa to get authentic Thai massage. The history of the treatments, and their benefits are so well known that they can be procured in every location by experienced providers. They are good for eliminating tension and joint pain, and they are often used to help with trigger point pain. Most treatments are done while the recipient wears the garments supplied by their provider, and then the body is “pulled, stretched, and rocked at the hands of your Thai massage therapist. They will use every part of their body in order to do this, including their thumbs, elbows, and knees. Some masseuses might even walk on you.”
You may find that some luxury rentals provide in-house massage options, which is a great opportunity for experiencing profound relaxation and relief. Spas in Thailand may also offer an array of classic treatments, and this can be one of the best things you can do for yourself during even a short visit to the “Land of Smiles”.