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Activities To Avoid 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 people 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 enterprises.

Activities to avoid in Thailand include:

·         Riding an elephant. Read here for more information on why riding is a form of abuse and how you can enjoy an ethical elephant experience instead

elephants Thailand
Feeding the ellies some sugarcane at Hug Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand

·         Visit a tiger temple or take pictures with tigers. The infamous tourist temple was closed down last year. When it 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. Read more about the truth on the BBC website here

 

 

  • Go 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 and men 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.

 

  • Sunbathing in the nude, women going topless on a beach and males riding around on scooters without shirts. 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.

 

activities to avoid Thailand
Enjoy beautiful beaches in Koh Lipe
  • Standing on coral reefs. 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.

 

 

activities to avoid Thailand
Make sure you don’t touch control…but definitely take some snaps
  • 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.

 

activities to avoid Thailand
Whale Watching in Thailand from a respectful distance
  • 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.

 

activities to avoid in Thailand
Spotting wild gibbons in Khao Yai National Park – they can be heard all around Thailand, especially at dawn and dusk

·         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.

activities to avoid in Thailand
Every time I go snorkelling or diving I usually find Nemo, help protect him and his habitat

And for things NOT to miss in Thailand check out this blog post

For more information regarding Thai culture and how to be respectful read this post

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Top Activities to Do in Bangkok, Thailand by a local!

I am not quite a local but three years here isn’t nothing! I also love tourist time and have lots of visitors passing through (you suddenly become very popular when you live in Thailand!) So I am always looking for activities to do here that isn’t the Grand Palace yet again…

Bangkok…gateway to hell or Southeast Asia or whatever Dicaprio says in The Beach! Crazy, overwhelming, polluted, noisy, hot, sticky, smelly, crowded, this is the place that I have called home for the last 3 years.

If limited on time, visit:

  • Temple Time – Wat Pho with the reclining Buddha is my favourite and only 100 baht entry. Get the river boat to Tha Thien!

Bangkok Thailand

  • Party on Khao San road – you haven’t been to Khao san if you haven’t drunk a bucket. Check out Golf Bar and then Lava/Da Club for dancing. They do charge entry but are open late!
  • Massage – if you’re brave enough to get a Thai massage, do it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you… Soi Rambuttri has lots of shops near Khao San that offer relaxing oil massages instead 😉
  • Jim Thompson’s House Museum – Visit the house belonging to former CIA agent who revived the Thai silk industry, small but worth doing. Near MBK. 100 baht entry. BTS National Stadium or short walk from Siam BTS.Bangkok Thailand
  • Chatachak Weekend Market – Everything you could possible want to buy and more. You’ll need an extra suitcase (you can buy that here too!). BTS Mochit/MRT Chatachak
  • A bike tour – Get a guided tour around Chinatown on a bicycle, see the flower market and cycle along the Chao Praya river. CoVanKessel company are your guys! Depart: Chinatown

Bangkok Thailand

  • A skybar – my personal favs are Octave and Vertigo. Lebua from the Hangover 2 movie has a fantastic view too but prices to match! Above 11 is also a winner!

Bangkok Thailand

  • Street food – Pad Thai, Noodles, Spring Rolls and fresh fruit or smoothies from the street and the ultimate dessert Mango Sticky Rice!
  • Rent bicycles and cycle around Bang Krachao/Prapadaeng. Take a small wooden boat across the river, rent your bikes and head into one of Bangkok’s last green areas, known as the Green Lung. Narrow elevated paths snake through the jungle and even on the main roads there are very few cars around. Avoid Mondays as most things are closed.

If here for longer and can explore more:

  • Wat Pra Kaew or the Grand Palace. 500 baht entry but it also includes the Ananta Throne Hall with a lot of gold and bling inside!
  • A manicure&pedicure for 300 baht on Soi Rambuttri
  • Vimanmek Mansion – museum, an interesting insight into how the Royals lived. Near Victory Monument
  • Lumpini Park – a green area of Bangkok and great place for spotting the impressive Monitor Lizards that roam around…don’t get too close!
  • Chinatown – large main street to stroll down, avoid the shark fin restaurants and go for some ‘sala pao’ buns by the side of the road!
  • Party like a local at RCA (Royal City Avenue) where a collection of bars and Thai clubs are. Route 66 is a popular one!
  • Explore Asiatique. Take the free boat from Saphan Taksin and eat at fancy restaurants, shop and go on Bangkok’s wheel!

bangkok thailand

  • Drink at a fancy interior designed bar such as Maggie Choos or Iron Fairies. Not backpacker prices but this is where you can find the hi-so’s of Bangkok.
  • Shop at MBK if you can’t make Chatachak’s weekend market. Similar idea with reasonable prices if you haggle! Great for technology but be warned of the fakes! BTS National Stadium or walk from Siam.
  • Try Muay Thai boxing. Take classes at RSM and be prepared to get sweaty! BTS Asok
  • Go wakeboarding at Thai Wake Park at Lake Taco. BTS Bang Na then a taxi

Any activities or places you think are missing from my list?

For exploring beyond Bangkok if you have longer and fancy a day trip or weekend getaway, check out beaches and national parks here

For the Ultimate List of 50 Things to Do in Bangkok, read more here

Thailand Islands: The Best Islands To Visit

Every article I read about Thailand islands seems to quote a different number of islands.  It is safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and visit and it is my intention to visit them all! With so many to choose from I often get asked which island is the best to visit. My answer is usually it depends what you’re after, party islands? relaxed and uncrowded? islands for snorkelling or diving? Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision. Even better, you can visit a few of the Thai islands on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them.

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 island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.

Islands: The Gulf of Thailand

Koh Tao

Koh Tao Thailand Islands
Learning to dive on Koh Tao

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 it’s 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.

Don’t miss: learning to dive

Cheapest way to get here: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: 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.

 

Koh Phangan 

bottle beach 2
Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan

Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, this island remains one of my favourites. It’s party in the South and tranquil in the North.  For one of my favourite beaches check out Bottle Beach – a stunning Northern beach only accessible by boat so it’s very quiet.  Diving 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. 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. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too. Read here for Full Moon Party Tips..

Don’t miss: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…

Cheapest way to get here: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.

 

Koh Samui

Koh Samui Thailand Islands
Koh Samui during an island day tour I took to see temples, beaches, monkeys and waterfalls

Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. 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.

Don’t miss: An island tour

Cheapest way to get there: Sleeper train/night bus to Surat thani, bus to pier and then ferry. You can buy all inclusive tickets at the train station.

Fastest way to get there: Fly direct from Bangkok

 

Andaman Islands

Phuket

phuket thailand islands
Stunning sunsets while surfing at Kata Beach, Phuket

Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an ever-growing 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.

Don’t miss:  learning to surf, you can hire an instructor and then you get the board for the rest of the day

Cheapest way to get here: 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 here: Fly to Phuket and take the local bus further south.

Koh Yao Noi

koh yao noi thailand islands
Stunning Views of Phangna Bay from Koh Nok, a small island I kayaked to from 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.

Don’t miss:  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 here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then long tail boat.

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Thailand Islands
Views of the beach

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.

Don’t miss:  An island hopping trip to nearby islands

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Thailand Islands
Lunchtime with a view!

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.

Don’t miss:  The 4 Island Hopping Trip

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Koh Lipe

koh lipe
Mango smoothies and banana pancakes breakfast on the beach! Yes please!

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.

Don’t miss:  Walking around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.

 

Koh Jum

IMG_2868

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.

Don’t miss: The stars

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

 

Railay

Railay Beach Thailand Islands
Swimming around limestone karsts in Railay

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. I love that this place has beaches, views and jungle.

Don’t miss: 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 here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to Ao Nang and then longtail boat

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island

The East

Koh Chang

koh chang Thailand Islands
Lonely Beach in Koh Chang

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.

Don’t miss: the party scene

Cheapest way to get here: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Trat then ferry

Read here for Bangkok’s closest islands and beaches 

More islands information about Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands can be found here

 

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