I have put together a list of useful links for travelling Thailand which cover transport, accommodation, events, tours and news.
Thailand Useful Links: Transport- Trains and Buses
http://www.railway.co.th/checktime/checktime.asp?lenguage=Eng Train timetable website but you cannot book tickets on it. (train ticket bookings coming soon…see kohlife below!)
Koh Life website this is actually a friend’s transport agency that he started last year and it’s going really well so far! They have tons of buses and ferry links on the decent VIP buses (think proper reclining seats and no TV blasting at you all night like some other buses I’ve been on!). They will be adding trains soon. You can get discounts for multiple bookings and group tickets.
www.thaiticketmajor.com also has bus ticket bookings for all of Thailand. I find the website is not that navigable and buses leave from different areas around Bangkok so make sure you know where the departure station is.
Thailand Useful Links: Transport- Flights
I usually find a great deal for domestic flights with either Air Asia or Nok Air. I always use Skyscanner to compare prices.
Thailand Useful Links: Transport- Taxis
I always just use meter taxis but I know some people are a fan of Uber and Grabtaxi. I’ve found both of these to usually be more expensive, but the benefits are taxi drivers with a GPS who will know where they are going!
Thailand Useful Links: Accommodation
I usually compare Agoda and Booking.com to find the best deal for accommodation.
Thailand Useful Links: Events Information
Facebook is a really useful tool for finding events happening in the area and various bars and clubs advertise special events on here.
I enjoy reading BK Magazine for inspiration about where to travel and what to do and see http://bk.asia-city.com/
Full Moon Party Schedule Information
Thailand Useful Links: Tours
If you’re looking for cycling tour then I definitely recommend https://www.covankessel.com/ as I have done several of their bicycle tours around Bangkok. I think they are good value for money and the guide provided has always been very knowledgeable.
For other tours I recommend using local tour agencies around Khao San area or through your hotel, Ask around to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Thailand Useful Links: News
For local news I follow:
Thailand Useful Links: Weather
None! I honestly find weather forecasts to be extremely inaccurate as the weather here is very unpredictable! The best advice I can give is to keep your options open and your travel plan flexible so you can move around if the weather turns bad.
Thailand Useful Links: What to Pack
People often ask me what they should bring out to Thailand so I wrote these two blog posts, aimed at backpackers or flashpackers.
Thailand Useful Links: Travel Books
As always the Bible for travellers is often Lonely Planet or a similar brand. I have find the Thailand one extremely useful and also Southeast Asia on Shoestring. Buy your own copy on Amazon here. I don’t recommend Kindle versions and this is one book where I would rather have a real, paper edition!
I always try and buy the latest version but old versions are dirt cheap and can still be useful for the planning stages of your trip.
Learn some Thai with a Thai phrasebook. I have this and it was very useful when I first arrived here. Definitely get a phrasebook with a CD or MP3 version as Thai is a tonal language and so you need to be able to hear the word to reproduce it. Buy your copy here.
Thailand Useful Links: This Blog!
I’ve got tons of information from itineraries to transport, from wildlife to diving and the top islands to visit. Click the links below.
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So how many islands does Thailand have? Nobody seems to know for sure but it’s safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and/or visit and it is my intention to visit them all! With so many island destinations, it can be difficult to choose which island to visit in Thailand. I often get asked many of the following questions by backpackers and tourists who are looking for Thailand’s best islands and beaches:
Which are the best party islands in Thailand? Where are quiet Thailand beaches? Where is the best place for Thailand island hopping? Which island to choose? Which islands have airports? Where is the best snorkeling in Thailand? The island for the best diving – I have a whole post dedicated to the best dive sites in Thailand here.
Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision about which islands to stay on. Even better, you can visit a few of the Thai islands on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them to make island hopping around Thailand accessible.
Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide on which paradise island to check out first including must-do activities and how to get to each Thai island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.
Thailand Island Hopping
I’ve grouped the islands as to where they are in Thailand which should give you and idea for the best island hopping routes around. The Gulf of Thailand refers to the islands South of Bangkok on the East of the mainland – mainly Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Then we have the Andaman islands on the West with connecting airports such as Krabi and Phuket. Then Southern islands like Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao and Eastern islands towards the Cambodian border.
Best Islands in The Gulf of Thailand
A backpacker island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has beautiful beaches and an obvious party scene but mostly it is known for cheap diving courses, and is often advertised as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. I took my PADI Open Water Qualification here 4 years ago and the prices are still the same. Your Open Water diving certificate can start from around 9000 baht…try and get your accommodation thrown in too. If you turn up at the pier, you can often negotiate prices with the dive shops. Unfortunately Koh Tao is not without its problems and I suggest being careful here, not to get too drunk and never to cause problems with locals, such as getting into fights etc.
Best Thailand island for: learning to dive. Once you learn to dive, head to some of these places for the best dive sites in Thailand
Things to do on Koh Tao: get PADI certified for your Open Water dive course or advanced. Check out beautiful viewpoints and quiet beaches.
Cheapest way to get to Koh Tao: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry. You can book tickets here
Fastest way to get to Koh Tao: Fly to Chumpon/Surat thani, bus to pier and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service. Alternative is to fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry from there.
Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, this party island in Thailand remains one of my favourites. It’s party in the South and tranquil, quiet beaches in the North of Koh Phangan. It is also one of the best islands for backpackers because it is both party and calm and you can find very cheap accommodation, particularly in the north. For the most beautiful beach in the Gulf of Thailand, visit Bottle Beach – a stunning Northern beach only accessible by boat so it’s very quiet. Diving in Koh Phangan here can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites and whale sharks can be spotted here (just not by me…yet!). I love staying in the North and I discovered these cute bungalows last time, right on a lovely stretch of beach. Check out Seaboard Bungalow’s reasonable rates here. The restaurant here did great food and there were more food options further down the beach too. An even cheaper option with basic bungalows that also had a pool but not as a nice a beach was Lucky Resort. Compare their room rates here. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too. Read here for Full Moon Party Tips..
Best Thailand island for: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…Read my post here for more Full Moon Party advice
Things to do on Koh Phangan: Party and the chill out on Bottle Beach (one of my favourites). Read more about Thailand’s quiet beaches here
Fastest way to get to Koh Phangan: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.
Thailand Islands to Visit: Koh Samui
Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. It is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand to have an airport
In all honesty, Koh Samui is probably my least favourite island as a result of this, it can get very crowded over peak season (December – when I went!) and I don’t think it is as idyllic looking as it’s Gulf counterparts. That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct to (the other being Phuket). I stayed in upmarket accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt!) but a friend recently stayed at budget friendly New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!
One thing to be aware of in Koh Samui is that flights are generally expensive because the budget airlines cannot fly to Samui as it is owned by Bangkok Airways. However, the airport looks like the garden of a 5 star hotel and is worth seeing. Occasionally cheap flights with Thai Smile can be found.
Best Thailand Island for: resorts, families and couples
Things to do on Koh Samui: an all round island tour including temples and waterfall visits
Cheapest way to get to Koh Samui: Sleeper train/night bus to Surat thani, bus to pier and then ferry. You can buy all inclusive tickets from this website
Fastest way to get to Koh Samui: Fly direct from Bangkok
Best Thailand Islands: The Andaman
Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an international airport which can lead to extremely busy beaches and very high prices for taxis, which is why it has a bit of a bad reputation among those of us who live in Thailand. However, I don’t feel this is totally deserved and as it is such a huge island there are many less popular places to explore. The busiest area seems to be Patong beach which I have always been urged to avoid, mainly because of its multitude of gogo bars. I’ve mainly spent time in the South at Kata and Karon beaches for surfing during rainy season (June-October). I loved staying at this hostel, it was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.
Things to do in Phuket: learning to surf, you can hire an instructor and then you get the board for the rest of the day (rainy season only when the waves are bigger, July-October approx)
Cheapest way to get to Phuket: Take a night bus to Phuket Town, then songtaew (local trucks) to the beach of your choice. You may need to take two, one from the bus station and then another from Phuket town to the beach. Approx 20 baht.
Fastest way to get to Phuket: Fly to Phuket from Bangkok or international airports and take the local bus further south.
Koh Yao Noi
This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. It felt a little off the beaten track but still has hotels and restaurants around. The beaches are fairly thin strips of sand so there’s not all that much room for sunbathing. Swimming with the backdrop of Phangna Bay behind you felt pretty awesome though. I rented bicycles and cycled around the island – which has a couple of hills so be prepared! (or get off and walk like someone may have done…). This is a great place to rent kayaks from as well and I discovered the small empty island of Koh Nok which this amazing viewpoint. I loved the place I stayed at, Sabai Corner Bungalows, it had tall wooden bungalows set back into the mountain with great views of the bay. It was also very affordable and the owners were helpful with renting kayaks and bicycles.
Best Thailand Island for: non-touristy places in Thailand
Things to do in Koh Yao Noi: If you can’t afford to stay somewhere like the Six Senses Hotel (and I can’t!) then head there for a cocktail to enjoy sunset and the views at this exotic looking hotel.
Cheapest way to get to Koh Yao Noi: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then long tail boat. Book tickets on this useful website…
Fastest way to get to Koh Yao Noi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is the type of island that the first time I went there, I hated it. Lots of young backpackers falling drunk out of bars and overpacked long tail boats pouring into Maya Bay to see the beach from Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ movie. Now I’ve returned there a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I have to admit that Phi Phi is growing on me. I’ve accepted it for what it is : a party island and a great place to meet backpackers. Try taking a snorkelling trip to a few of the less crowded islands and definitely watch some of the fireshows. I personally feel they are the best in Thailand and even after watching a few I still think they are very impressive.
The diving around the marine park is generally of a very good standard for Thailand. I was lucky enough to see a turtle, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark all in one day. I also love that you can walk everywhere and there are no cars on the whole island, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.
Best Thailand island for: parties and beautiful beaches combined.
Things to do in Koh Phi Phi: An island hopping trip to nearby islands
Cheapest way to get to Koh Phi Phi: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Book all your tickets together here
Fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
Serene and stunning, this is a quieter island for a relaxing time. Kantiang beach in the South is huge, wide and empty when I was there in April. There isn’t much of a party scene and not so many backpackers here. The snorkelling and island hopping trip was definitely a highlight for me as it took you to Koh Kradan, a stunning white beach uninhabited island. I went with my parents and we stayed at Alama Sea Village Resort which was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony.
Best Thailand island for: relaxing, couples, families
Things to do in Koh Lanta: The 4 Island Hopping Trip
Cheapest way to get to Koh Lanta: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Tickets can be booked via this website, including ferries
Fastest way to get to Koh Lanta: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
This paradise island is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others! The main beach is kept extremely clean but unfortunately a lot of litter gets washed up around this island’s shores despite local efforts to consistently clear the trash. When I was there, the people were working every day but unfortunately they are fighting a losing battle with the currents. It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling. (I’ve yet to dive here!) It’s close to Malaysia so can fill up if there are Thai and Malaysian coinciding holidays. I suggest you book in advance if this could be the case. I stayed at Gypsy Bungalows and loved these basic but cute bungalows with a garden walk to the beach.
Best Thailand Island for: white sand beaches
Things to do on Koh Lipe: Walk around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach for some of the most impressive sunsets in Thailand
Cheapest way to get to Koh Lipe: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
Fastest way to get to Koh Lipe: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat
This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s definitely worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.
A lesser known island to both tourists and Thais, this is a rocky, wild island which still feels fairly untouched. However, this is not always a good thing as it was extremely expensive to get to from Koh Phi Phi and once on the island it was difficult to get around. My sister and I stayed at the gorgeous Onlee bungalows – pricier than normal but amazing food as the couple who run it are Thai-French. The stargazing was also incredible and so clear as there is not much light pollution nearby. I recommend settling into a resort as there are limited ways to visit other restaurants and if you want to hire a ‘taxi’ it won’t be at a cheap price.
Best Thailand Island: that people have never heard of
Things to do on Koh Jum: Star gazing
Cheapest way to get to Koh Jum: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry
Fastest way to get to Koh Jum: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island
I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat. (And until very recently I thought it was an island!). Lots of snorkelling day trips stop off here so it can get crowded during peak season (Nov-Dec) but you can jump on boats from Krabi to get here at any point during the day. Limited options at night where the boats can charge a much higher price. Watch dusky langur monkeys climb in nearby trees, hike to the top for a sweaty but great view and visit the Buddhist shrine to the penis. This is one of the best islands in Thailand for outdoor adventures like rock-climbing and hikes to viewpoints.
Things to do on Railay: slip and slide your way up the viewpoint for a pretty view of both beaches
Island Hopping Tip: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach
Cheapest way to get to Railay: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to Ao Nang and then longtail boat. Book your bus tickets here now.
Fastest way to get to Railay: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island
This is also not an island but as one of the easiest beach destinations to get to from Krabi I thought it was worth a mention. Ao Nang has two long, wide stretches of yellow sand beaches where a lot of long tail boats depart from, making for some pretty photos. It has a lot of choices of accommodation and restaurants and is a good jump off point to go island hopping to the nearby beach of Railay, and National Park island hopping to nearby uninhabited islands like Koh Poda, Koh Hong and many more.
Best Beach Destination for: breaking up the journey to nearby islands
Things to do in Ao Nang: sign up for some rock climbing nearby at Railay
Island Hopping Tip: Wait for the boat to fill up and take a 20 minute long tail boat to Railay when it’s quieter. At night time only private (read expensive) long tail boats will run
Cheapest way to get to Ao Nang Night bus to Krabi, local songtaew from bus station to Ao Nang Book your night bus tickets here now.
Fastest way to get to Ao Nang: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang (approx 100 baht).
Best Thai Islands: The East
Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some okay diving. This is one of the first islands I travelled to alone and I immediately met backpackers as it has a more intimate feel to it than other islands like Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi. Lonely Beach is the main backpacker area and White Sand beach is a little more upmarket. I have stayed at a few places but none to rave about. There is also one creepy bartender who has followed a few solo females home so be aware and try to always walk in groups or with someone late at night.
Best Thailand Island for: daytime chilling
Things to do on Koh Chang: enjoy the backpacking party scene
Cheapest way to get to Koh Chang: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry. You can book your tickets here
Fastest way to get to Koh Chang: Fly to Trat then ferry
More islands information about Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands can be found here
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When researching a trip I always love to plan outfits and look for recommendations for what I need to pack for backpacking. My first backpacking trip was around South-East Asia and I made many rookie packing errors. I overpacked, everything was far too heavy, it was a nightmare finding things and I didn’t have much room to buy more stuff. Having lived in Thailand and spent a lot of time travelling and packing for South East Asia holidays over the last 5 years, I have created a South East Asia packing list for females. Whether your packing for 3 months or 3 weeks I have a packing guide for you.
For males check out my light packing tips here: 20 Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia then read my blog post here. For my packing guide, read on:
First things first….A backpack – while suitcases might appear easier with wheels and you don’t have to carry them, in reality a backpack is a better idea. South East Asian cities have mostly uneven pavements blocked by street food vendors, restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalks, clothing stalls and people haggling and queuing which makes trying to get a suitcase down the road very tough work. Sand and suitcases also rarely mix and hopping on and off boats and ferries is much easier with a backpack. I currently use a 40L Dry Bag as my backpack, really similar to this Aquafree Dry Bag, 40L – Blue from Amazon. I love that it rolls down so if I have less items I can make it even smaller and I’ve also used this as hand luggage for various trips too.
Backpacking Packing List for Females: South East Asia
Dresses – I love short summery beach ones like this and long maxis like this Floral Print Split Maxi Party Dress for classier nights to sky bars and covering up for temple visits.
Denim Shorts – my summer staple and they go with everything
Elephant/Baggy Trousers – if you want to go backpacking then you have to buy a pair to fit in with the backpacking crowd. I prefer to look less like a backpacker and love styles like these Floral Printed Trousers . They are great for temple visits and bus and train travel when you don’t want to stick to cheap leather seats.
Leggings and a hoody – because it does get cold! I’ve been on many buses, trains and planes where they blast the air con and it is not fun. Come prepared. I also pack socks.
Cover Ups – I love pretty crochet cover ups like this Cover Up Crochet Dress (Off White) for looking good on the beach and a sarong is really useful as a beach towel, covering your shoulders to be respectful or to stay out of the sun and even as a lightweight blanket like this great value Cover Up Sarong.
Maxi skirts – great to mix and match with various tops and good for covering legs to protect from evening mosquito bites and for temples, like this one here Summer High Waisted Coral Print Maxi
Chinos – preferably Khaki coloured so you look the part on those jungle treks! Don’t think about doing it in shorts – one word – Leeches.Buy ones similar to these Belted Casual Chino
Bikinis/swimwear – so these may be my downfall and I definitely have way more than I need. I love sporty styles for water sports like this and strapless styles for avoiding tan lines. I also don’t recommend wearing thong/g-string style bikinis around South East Asia as there are still conservative areas and you could offend people.
Playsuits – I love these casual styles to throw on over bikinis or to wear out at night to party. I like styles like this Bohemian Romper
Packing List South East Asia: Footwear
Flipflops – easy to get in and out of as in many places you should remove your shoes before entering people’s homes, temples and even some shops where people live above it. These Summer Beach FlipFlops are right up my street.
Walking boots – jungles, mountains, national parks, don’t be the muppet wearing converse and falling over when hiking.
Sandals – I personally dislike wearing flipflops all the time and feel it cannot be good for your ankles. If you want to visit posh skybars or clubs in cities like Bangkok then a dress code applies and you will be turned away for wearing flipflops or even Birkenstocks.
Tom-style pumps – I think these are great if you think walking boots are a little extreme. I always wear these for activities like white water rafting, visiting waterfalls and I prefer to use these when driving a scooter as well.Mine are a similar style to these TOMS Women’s Slip Ons
What to Pack for South East Asia: Accessories/Extras
Jewellery – I wouldn’t recommend taking anything valuable or sentimental as you may lose it or risk it getting stolen. I take a lot of stud earrings like these Women’s Stud Earring (6 Pairs) and a couple of bigger pairs for a night out. I usually buy some cheap rings or bracelets for some party nights. There are some great cheap earrings in markets out here so definitely come planning to buy.
Hair bands and kirby grips– anything to keep long hair off your sweaty neck in hot humid temperatures, I always bulk buy 40 Pack Black Hair Ties as out here buying individual ones in markets can add up!
Towel – Invest in a tiny travel towel that dries quickly. I recommend a cheap one as you will probably have to throw it away because of the smell by end of trip. Buy yours RainLeaf Microfiber Towel before you travel as I have rarely seen them for sale over here in South East Asia
PJs– shorts and t-shirt PJs – no sleeping naked in dorm rooms please.I love these Sleepwear Short Sleeve Pajama Set
Smallzipped bag to wear across the shoulder like this one Crossbody Travel Bag and/or a small day backpack– protect your items from thieves and big enough to keep a bottle of water in too , like this Casual Travel Daypack
Dry bag– like this 5L one Dry Bag Sack is great for monsoon seasons, boat trips, desert island swimming…
Packing for Travel – South East Asia: Toiletries
Make up – I only wear mascara and I use a tinted moisturiser which includes a high SPF. I find anything else just seems to slide off your face in the heat and humidity.
Deodorant – obviously but also be aware that many products in South East Asia have whitening in them so when buying more over here read the label carefully.
Tiny bars of soap – Some hostels/hotels provide these and others don’t so I feel it’s really useful to start collecting them.
Hand Wash Gel – small tube, very useful for doing small hand washing when needed or rinsing out swimwear etc, get small packets like Tide Travel on Amazon
Washing Line– best thing my friend bought for me before I went – Go Go Travel Clothes Line which is one long line of twisted string with hooks either end for drying things
Insect Spray containing DEET– Get 50% DEET from Amazon Repel 40% DEET Insect Sprayas over in SEA I have yet to find stronger than 15%
Toothbrush/toothpaste – and gum for when all else fails and you end up without sinks in off-the-beaten-track areas of Indonesia
Baby wipes– these are incredibly useful and very cheap. I use them to remove make-up,sun cream, sweat, dirt and cleaning bags or shoes, buy yours here Wipes Travel Pack
Hand Sanitizer – For those train/bus toilets where they often don’t provide soap, come prepared with Original Hand Sanitizer
Suntan Cream– I never like to go lower than SPF 30. The sun is extremely strong here. Go for a reef friendly brand like Sun Bum that’s an environmentally friendly suncream.
First Aid Kit – after-bite for stings – once out there buy Golden Cup balm – local cure for insect bites!, plasters, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets (and lots), painkillers, the Pill, nail scissors, string (you never know)
What to Pack for South East Asia: Extras and Essentials
Insurance Details (just in case) and visas
Gopro I love my GoPro Hero 4 for all my adventure activities and especially diving. Check out Amazon’s range here GoPro HERO4 BLACK.
Selfie stick – totally acceptable in S.E.A GoPro Selfie Stick
Small purse for all the coins you will collect and then be unable to spend
International driving licence is required in some places to rent scooters. I found this true in Taiwan.
Sleeping bag liner – great for when your accommodation feels less than clean, I love my mummy version with a hood like this Backpacking Sleeping Bag Liner – Mummy
Eye Mask I love the look of this 100% Silk Eye Mask
Ear Plugs like this pack Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs
Mini speakers for parties in the bedroom. I love this mini one from Amazon which is teeny tiny and has great reviews Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Adapter – for all countries buy one like this International Travel Power Adapter
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Is it possible to have ethical animal experiences in Thailand?
Thailand is a place of beauty, adventure and there are so many amazing activities to try here, that after three years of living here, I am still finding new activities and places to visit. Unfortunately there are also a number of activities that have given rise to exploitation, both in regard to wildlife and people. I believe that tourists do have the power to bring about positive change and, particularly in a country like Thailand, where many locals are keen to reap the benefits of tourism, I feel it is important for tourists to do their research into putting their money into ethical activities involving both people and wildlife.
The truth about elephant riding in Thailand
Many tourists want to ride elephants when visiting Thailand but first hopefully they can ask the following questions and do some research into elephant abuse in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Is it ethical to ride an elephant in Thailand? Where can we ride rescue elephants in Thailand? Is riding an elephant bad for its back?
Riding an elephant is animal abuse. Tourists ask me where to ride an elephant in Thailand, where is the best place for elephant riding and about elephant riding costs and please just stop there. The truth about elephant riding is that it is animal abuse. All elephant riding with seats is a widespread form of animal abuse in Thailand, it deforms the back of the elephant and elephant riding is cruel. Alternatives to elephant riding include visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary (my recommendations for no riding, ethical elephant sanctuaries are here)
Ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand
When I first visited Thailand in 2013 I could only find 2 elephant sanctuaries that refused to offer elephant riding. Nowadays many sanctuaries are refusing to offer elephant riding and it is the tourist demand that has made this change. Your actions can make a difference so let’s make decisions that will help protect elephants rather than harm them. My favourite alternative to elephant riding, and I recommend as even better than a sanctuary is to see wild elephants in Thailand which is, after all, where they belong. Seeing wild elephants in the jungle is one of my bucket list experiences and you can see them in a national park just a few hours from Bangkok – Khao Yai National Park. Read here for more details about Khao Yai National park – one of my favourite national parks in Thailand that has a good chance of seeing wild elephants in the jungle.
The truth about tigers in Thailand
Is it ethical to visit Tiger Kingdom in Thailand? Where can I take photos with tigers in Phuket or Chiang Mai? Are tigers drugged in Tiger Kingdom?
The cruel truth is that there is no such thing as an ethical tiger experience. Tigers are wild, dangerous animals and belong in the jungles of Thailand, not in some sort of petting zoo. Visit a tiger temple in Thailand or take pictures with tigers means you are participating in animal abuse. The infamous tourist temple “Tiger Temple” fortunately has now been closed down but there are many other “sanctuaries” appearing. When Tiger Temple was investigated, they found dead tiger cubs in a freezer and allegations of missing adult tigers thought to have been sold on the black market to China for tiger bones. This scandal is on top of the commonly held assumption that these tigers are drugged in order for tourists to take photos with them. I personally feel that the claim that people can get close to them because they are domesticated tigers brought up around people does not have any ground. Getting into a cage with a grown adult tiger is dangerous, no matter how the animal was raised and therefore I believe the drugging theory is likely. Read more about the truth about Thailand’s tiger temple on the BBC website.
The dark side of Thailand’s sex tourism industry
I strongly recommend avoiding going to a pingpong show, sex show or participate in any activities relating to the sex industry. Aside from my personal feelings about female exploitation, Thailand is a hub for human trafficking and there is no knowing how the women, men and even children in these industries are treated. 425,500 people are thought to be enslaved in modern day slavery in Thailand. (Source https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/thailand/ ) and some of these unpoliced, illegal industries have been found to ‘employ’ underage prostitutes, indicating child abuse and exploitation. Is this really where you want your money going? This article is an interesting and eye-opening read from the BBC website.
Dos and Don’ts in Thailand: Respecting Thai culture should be an important consideration when visiting on vacation or backpacking. Sunbathing in the nude, women going topless on a beach and males riding around on scooters without shirts is not considered appropriate or respectful behaviour by the majority of Thai people. Spain this is not. Most of Thailand is fairly conservative, whether the locals are Buddhist or Muslim and getting your baps out on the beach is not acceptable here. I have always felt it is important to be respectful when visiting other countries where the culture is very different to our own.
- Another important rule in Thailand is about being respectful to the ocean. Standing on coral reefs damages them and coral reefs are already under severe pressure from climate change and rising ocean temperatures. Coral is extremely fragile and if you touch it, not only could you end up injured, but you are killing this vital eco-system that the ocean relies upon. Please be extremely careful of where you are stepping in the sea and inform any other visitors of the same. I feel many tourists stand on coral because they are ignorant of the fact they are damaging it. Please spread the word and don’t be shy about letting other tourists know not to stand on coral! I also think tour operators should be informing tourists so make sure to include them if their boat of tourists are not behaving respectfully towards the ocean.
- Dos and Dont’s in Thailand: Touching wild animals- There are regular news stories in local papers here in Thailand about people touching turtles and I am frequently frustrated by the number of Instagram photos of people holding up a starfish. That is a wild animal and you are disturbing it. Remember to always be respectful of wildlife.
- Taking photos in the markets or streets with ‘pet’ monkeys or gibbons. These are animals that belong in the wild and should not be used in the tourist industry in this way. Often teeth are painfully removed to ensure the animal does not bite people and they are often wearing nappies and chained up.
· Fishing and squid fishing. This is more of a personal thing as I am super into scuba diving and would prefer to see the fish underwater rather than kill them. However, I think it is important to be aware that Thailand has a massive problem with over-fishing and unfortunately very little is done to stop this. As a result of corruption many fishing boats can still be seen in marine parks which are supposed to be protected and I often sea fishing nets while scuba diving in supposedly protected areas. Don’t add to this problem.
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