Like many popular destinations, Thailand is known by duality—its tropical beaches contrasting with ultra-modern cityscapes, opulent royal palaces against canalside communities, ancient ruins and ornate temples. The culmination of these things combined with the local fare and the fact it’s easier to stretch a dollar there, all make booking a ticket to Thailand pretty tempting.
The late travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain made no secret of his feelings for the country. "To be fortunate enough to be able to visit Thailand, to eat in Thailand, is a deep dive into a rich, many textured, very old culture containing flavors and colors that go far beyond the familiar spectrum," Bourdain wrote. "Given our limited time on this earth, and the sheer magnificence, the near limitless variety of sensory experiences readily available, you don’t want to miss any of it."
When it came to travel, Bourdain focused on finding hidden gems more than checking the boxes off popular tourist attractions. It’s more important to collect the experiences in a place than pack an itinerary full of things to do. To prove our point, we've found the 10 best things to do in Thailand that range from giving elephants baths to setting off lanterns with the masses. Thanks to the recommendations of travelers on TripAdvisor, you can book that ticket to Thailand knowing these options will fill your itinerary with experiences that are more than just activities.
10. Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Bangkok
One of the largest temples in Thailand, Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, holds the largest Buddha in the country, measuring 150 feet in length. The ornate temple is filled with gold, gold, and more gold. Be sure to cover up and show respect in the temple space.
Traveler Approved: "If you're short of time, this is one of the key places to see in Bangkok. The reclining Buddha is amazing and the grounds it is set in are beautiful. The Palace is nearby so both can be seen at the same time." — 2018LisaDS on TripAdvisor
9. Bangla Road, Patong
When you’re in Patong, chances are you’ll want to experience its nightlife. Even if it’s not your scene, taking a stroll down Bangla Road will fill your senses with neon lights, thumping music, and more bars than you can imagine.
Traveler Approved: "Full of life and excitement during the evenings. Night markets open to late 11 pm. The street is closed off for the public to walk freely on the street." — Denise C. on TripAdvisor
8. Floating Market, Damnoen Saduak
About 100 kilometers from Bangkok is the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. During market hours, the river becomes packed with long wooden boats filled with produce to sell to people on land.
Traveler Approved: "The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a must-visit place whenever you are in Bangkok. It will be a big loss if you miss a visit to this great marketplace." —TShahrizam on TripAdvisor
7. PhraNang Cave Beach, Ao Nang
A picturesque beach in Ao Nang, PhraNang Cave Beach delivers the dreamy beach scenery you’ve had on your mind since you booked your ticket. Walk through the white sand to reach clear blue water surrounded by rocky cliffs.
Traveler Approved: "Very picturesque, the beach is just beautiful on a sunny day. I loved the scenic combination of cliffs, sand, sea, and sun (and sunsets). It was so incredible, and the sea obviously great to swim in." — Vivian T. on TripAdvisor
6. Grand Palace, Bangkok
Perhaps Bangkok’s most famous landmark, the Grand Palace’s intricate walls hold not only the resident of the Thai king but royal court, state departments, and war ministry. It’s also the spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom, with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on its campus.
Traveler Approved: "Beautiful palace and so tranquil. The landscaping is stunning. You can easily spend two to four hours here viewing the grounds and temples." — TravelCrazy0 on TripAdvisor
5. Maeklang Elephant Conservation Community, Mae Wang
About an hour from Chiang Mai is the Maeklang Elephant Conservation Community. The organization rescues elephants and tries to keep elephant families together. Visitors not only get to learn about elephant conservation, they can help give the animals baths, too.
Traveler Approved: "Initially, we were put off on the idea of elephant visits, as most offer riding, which we weren’t into. Maeklang definitely functions as an ethical sanctuary, where the babies are kept with their mother instead of being trained to ride." — Dan F. on TripAdvisor
4. Koh Phi Phi, Krabi
Visiting this island in the province of Krabi will change your views on beaches. Featured in films like James Bond and The Beach, Koh Phi Phi redefines paradise. With two main beaches on the island, you’ll have your pick.
Traveler Approved: "I recently visited Thailand with friends. Going to the islands was one of the best things of the trip. We took the speedboat tour, and it was amazing. You can visit different islands, great sightseeing, amazing islands. Going to Phi Phi Islands is a must on Phuket." —Jose David G. on TripAdvisor
3. Khao San Road, Bangkok
To eat well in Thailand is to eat street food. No matter what you’re looking for, and when you’re looking for it, you’ll be able to find a vendor serving it up on the street. Throughout Thailand, you’ll be able to find delicious street treats, but in Bangkok, visit Khao San Road, which is considered the city’s backpacking hub. Khao San Road stays busy with bars, restaurants, and travelers.
Traveler Approved: "Crowded place during the weekend but worth the visit. You can try many street foods (including insects and scorpions)." — Laura P. on TripAdvisor
2. Loi Krathong Festival, Chiang Mai
Forget, Tangled. View the floating lanterns for yourself at the annual Loi Krathong Festival in the twelfth lunar month. Thousands of Krathongs are lit and left to float away from rivers and canals, often illuminating entire areas. Happening throughout Thailand, a large festival is held in Chiang Mai.
Traveler Approved: "I never saw so many lights in the sky! It was a dream come true. We were purposely visiting Chiang Mai to attend the festival, and it was worth it. The colors, the lights, the smells, the music, the people! Wow! Spectacular!" — SusanaPeixoto on TripAdvisor
1. Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai
When in Chiang Mai, visit the night bazaar. When you’re there, be prepared to hold your wallet close as you take in rows of handicrafts, like jewelry and handmade purses. Finish the trip off with some food and music.
Traveler Approved: "Go here for a full night experience. Try lots of food in the main courtyard (including some amazing ice cream). Then you can spend hours up and down the road at hundreds of stalls, into other market malls, which have live music and Thai dancing shows." — Brokenpoppy on TripAdvisor