A general survey has shown that nearly 70% of gap year travelers from different parts of the world consider Thailand to be on the top of their travel bucket list. That's perhaps the reason why more than 8 million travelers set out to explore this Southeast Asian nation.
If you are also planning to set sail and spend your gap year in Thailand, then here are 51 amazing things that you just can't afford to miss!
1. Explore the Grand Palace in Bangkok
Well, you just can't miss exploring the Grand Palace, Bangkok’s most famous landmark. Built during the 18th Century, the Grand Palace is home to Thailand’s King, the Royal court, as well as the administrative seat of government. Make sure to cover yourself properly (dress moderately) while visiting the Grand Palace.
2. Visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram) is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. The figurine of the meditating Buddha seated in yogic posture is made of emerald, a precious stone, clothed in gold, and about 26 inches tall.
3. Visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
And the list continues. Located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, you will find the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, or Wat Pho, which houses an impressive massive golden Buddha over 150 feet long.
4. Shop till you drop at Chatuchak Weekend Market
One of the largest weekend markets in the world, Chatuchak market covers an area of approx 27 acres and has over 15,000 stalls selling goods ranging from antique wooden furniture to Thai silk clothes, tribal art to Chinese souvenirs, fancy handmade flowers to ceramic wares etc. Basically, you'll find everything that you can think of.
5. Go wild on Khao San Road
Your gap year experience in Thailand would remain incomplete if you don't do certain things, and enjoying the nightlife at Khao San Road tops that list! Described as ‘backpacking center of the universe’ in Danny Boyle's famous movie 'The Beach' - Khao San Road is the life of Bangkok.
6. Go on a long tail boat ride
The Chao Phraya River flows through Bangkok, and there can be no better way to absorb the city's vibes than taking a long tail boat ride. For an even more glittery experience, go for the ride in the evening when the city lights up.
7. Take a day trip to Ayutthaya
Located at a distance of about 80 km from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is an archaeological site recognized by UNESCO that contains palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries, and ancient statues. The historical park is situated on an island between 3 rivers and a perfect destination for a day trip.
8. Explore the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Located at a distance of about 100 km from Bangkok, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a place to experience the exotic Thai culture and taste the delicious local cuisine. Sit on a boat with a bowl of rice and green curry, and float while observing the people. If you want my suggestions, then the best thing to eat here is seafood. You will find gigantic crabs, enormous river prawns, and all kinds of delicacies in between!
9. Test your food limits with Durian (a typical Southeast Asian fruit)
A favorite delicacy among the locals, durian isn't that popular among the tourists! But if you are there in Thailand, you must at least try it for once. To warn you, the fruit has a stinky smell, but it doesn't taste that bad either! A creamy custard-like taste, durian is sold at every corner of Thailand and you'll find shakes and ice creams made out of this fruit as well.
10. Take a Ferry Ride to James Bond Island
Whether you are a James Bond fan or not, you just can't miss visiting the gorgeous island named after the famous character. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) was shot in the north-western region of Phang Nga Bay, and a ferry ride would be the perfect way to explore and enjoy the surreal sightings.
11. Be a tourist at the Safari World
We know you are a gap year traveler, but there's no harm in spending a few bucks and be touristy! The Safari World in Bangkok is one of the most favorite places of the tourists, and if you go by my words, it isn't that bad either! Covering an area of 170 acres,
this drive-in zoological park is divided into the Safari Park where you'll find a large variety of animals including zebras and giraffes, lions and bears and more. The other part is the Marine Park that is popular for the Dolphin Show it hosts.
12. Amaze yourself by spending a day at the King Cobra Village
The Ban Khok Sa-nga Village is popularly known as the King Cobra Village, after a local doctor introduced a dangerous show and taught the skills to the villages, back in the year 1951. Since then, most of the villagers here have started keeping this bizarre pet to organize snake shows consisting of different demonstrations including snake dancing and snake boxing. Most of the shows take place at Wat Si Thamma in this village. It's absolutely worth witnessing one such show! Moreover, you can interact with the villagers and know more about their interests relating to the reptiles.
13. Go for a historical tour of Kanchanaburi
Take a scenic ride on the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi - no, it's not gonna kill you! The name is due to the fact that several prisoners of war died during the construction of this railway connecting Myanmar and Thailand. The Death Railway Museum holds a harrowing history of the work done by prisoners of war held by the Japanese, who were forced to build the railway.
14. Dance all night at the Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan
Who doesn't know about the party capital of Southeast Asia? Every month during Full Moon, the otherwise quaint island of Koh Phangan turns to a place of celebration, where backpackers flock to get drunk and party hard! Doesn't matter whether you are on a solo trip or with a gang of friends, the Full Moon Party Trip in Koh Phangan is something that you can't just miss out.
15. Take a tuk-tuk ride
The most popular means of transport in Thailand, tuk-tuk rides are something that everyone enjoys. It's the cheapest and most fun-filled way to explore and hop from one place to another. While travelers usually opt for a ride, you can stretch yourself a little more and learn how to drive the tuk-tuk as well - no kidding there! Go Discover Abroad has an amazing program for gap year travelers in Thailand where you'll be guided about the hacks of driving this amazing vehicle, and then you can take your tuk-tuk to the hills towns of Northern Thailand.
16. Explore the street food scene in Bangkok
If there's one thing that keeps travelers coming back to Bangkok, it's the street food! Your trip to Thailand will be incomplete if you've not gorged on some delicious fish ball noodle soup, pad thai noodles, pork trotters rice, crab bee hoon, noodles with shrimp, sour Issan sausage. and more! Well, the list is endless and you gotta make sure that you don't miss out anything!
17. Go to a fish spa!
Well, it's something that you can try anywhere in the world, but the experience in Thailand would be absolutely worthy! Getting your feet nibbled by tiny fish is a genuine spa treatment that will make you feel fantastic. You'll get rid of all the dirt from your feet and can relax for some time - what more can one want?
18. Pay a visit to The Tiger Kingdom
You must have seen those endless photographs where people pose and click photos with tigers - well, if you thought that they have been given drugs and sedatives, then you are totally wrong! The tigers here are brought up in a human surrounding from an early age. The Tiger Kingdom is a great combination of tourism with wildlife preservation, and totally worth a visit.
19. Experience a relaxing Thai massage in Phuket
Phuket is a traveler's paradise for several reasons, and one of them is that it's the best place to enjoy a relaxing Thai massage. Trust me when I say this, you would never get to experience such a blissful massage anywhere in the Western countries. The cost of the massage mostly varies from $7 to $20 and it'll be worth every penny!
20. Soak in Serenity at Khao Chi Chan (Buddha Mountain)
And when you are there in Pattaya, do for a day trip to Khao Chi Chan, a mountain known for the huge 130 m tall Buddha image sculpted on it. The surrounding area is steeped in natural beauty and at the foothills, you will surely spot several saffron-robed monks.
21. Get a bicycle and explore Sukhothai
Containing more than 197 historical ruins, Sukhothai is the cradle of Thai Civilisation and is also marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hire a cycle and paddle down the lanes of history, exploring the Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Pai Luang, Wat Sri Sawai, Wat Sri Chum and more.
22. Attend Thai cooking classes
Imagine how wonderful it would be when you return back home and prepare an authentic Thai dinner for your friends and family! Sounds impossible? Well, not really! You can attend Thai cooking classes for a week or more, and learn how to make delicious Pad Thai, fishcakes, Tom Yam Goong and much more!
23. Go for a jungle trek at the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
Located in the Chiang Mai Province in Thailand, this national park would be the best place to breathe in some fresh air, away from the chaos and cacophony of the cities. Doi Suthep (1676m) and Doi Pui (1685m) are two of northern Thailand's most sacred peaks located within this area, and it's a perfect place for hikers and trekkers who are in search of adventure!
24. Volunteer at the elephant village in Chiang Mai
To make your gap year in Thailand more meaningful, spend a few days volunteering for the friendly beasts in Chiang Mai. Live with mahout (caretakers) community folks and learn how they have committed their lives in taking care of the elephants. It'll be an incredible experience to look after the elephants, take them for walks, cook their food and feed them, clean their shelters and much more.
25. Explore Chiang Mai's night markets
The Night Bazaars of Chiang Mai are one of the city's main night-time attractions, where you'll get to shop & eat till you feel content! Especially the Chang Khlan Road which transforms from an ordinary daytime road to a bustling night-time bazaar will offer you everything from country relics to old town fashion.
26. Pay a visit to Wat Rong Khun
Popularly known as the 'White Temple', Wat Rong Khun is one of the most gorgeous temples you'll ever visit in life. The magical ambiance and the serenity will soothe your senses, and you'll surely feel that you're in paradise. The construction of this temple began in 1996 and still continues. It is said that the project would be completed in 2070, making it the perfect place for Gods on Earth! This is the brain-child of Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai Buddhist painter-turned-architect, who'll surely not live till his project finishes!
27. Visit the Wat Chedi Luang
This massive temple in Chiang Mai was once home to the Emerald Buddha (till 1475), which now is in Bangkok. Built in 1441, this gorgeous temple was damaged by an earthquake in 1545 and later, by cannon fire during the recapture of Chiang Mai from the Burmese in 1775. In spite of everything, this is still the tallest and one of the most beautiful ancient architures in Chiang Mai.
28. Visit the fascinating Karen Tribes of Northern Thailand
You must have seen those endless photos of women with brass rings around their neck, and while in Northern Thailand, you can't miss having an encounter with them. A friendly community living in seclusion for years, the Karens form the largest hill tribes in Thailand, having their own set of culture & lifestyle.
29 - Visit the Bor Sang Village known for their umbrellas
This unique Thai village has created a record in making umbrellas! From tiny cocktail umbrellas to large parasols, each of their umbrellas are carefully crafted from paper, produced from the bark of a mulberry tree. You can buy some amazing souvenirs for your friends and family.
30. Zipline over the tea plantation at Singha Park
Get a panoramic view of the vast Thai tea plantations at the Singha Park, absorbing the lush greenery of the surrounding. It'll be a thrilling ride that'll be equally soothing. And don't miss out enjoying a cup of freshly brewed tea!
31. Admire the beauty of the murals at Blue Temple
If the White Temple wasn't enough and your heart is longing for more, Chiang Rai has it all for you! Head towards the Blue Temple, also known as Wat Rong Sua Ten, and get awed by its magnificent blue interior with a large white Buddha. The Blue Temple of Chiang Rai is not very known among tourist, but if you are there for your gap year, who definitely deserve exploring the hidden gems!
32. Soak your feet in Mae Khachan Hot Springs
If you are traveling from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, then you gotta stop at the Mae Khachan Hot Springs, to soak your weary feet in the natural hot water and rejuvenate yourself. Apart from that, you can also get a basketful of eggs and simply boil to eat them! What a classic picnic idea!
33. Spend the day visiting the Golden Triangle
Rightly, as the name suggests, this is the place where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet and form a physical triangle. Take a boat ride on the Mekong River to see the foreign lands closely.
34. Venture to the famous Maeklong Market
It's not like the other markets that you've visited all your life! The Maeklong Market is set on the railway track, which is operative! Yes, you read it right! The shops pull in when a train passes, and everything is put back in place once it's gone! Be there to experience the uniqueness of this market.
35. Attend a yoga class
Go for yoga sessions and find your zen! Thailand is popular for the yoga classes which you'll find at almost every big & small town in the country. Absorb the natural sounds and beautiful landscapes to relax your inner soul.
36. Go cave exploring in Krabi
One of the most popular destinations, explore the deep caves of Tham Klang on Krabi. It's gonna be an adventurous exploration!
37. Catch a live match of Muay Thai boxing
You must have seen it on television, but the fun to watch a live Muay Thai boxing would be absolutely unparallel. In Bangkok, you can head to Ratchadamnoen or Lumpini Stadium to witness “The Art of Eight Limbs,” which is also the national sport of Thailand.
38. And learn Muay Thai as well!
Sprinkle some extra dose of adventure on your gap year journey, and attend classes to learn Muay Thai. Thailand has more than 60,000 professional Muay Thai fighters, providing lessons on the same! So you'll have ample scope to learn and master the art.
39. Explore Khao Yai National Park’s Bat Caves
More than 2 million bats live in the Khao Yai National Park in Hin Tung, Thailand. At twilight, these bats come out of the caves in search of food, and it's truly a sight to behold, which also has helped to mark the park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
40. Witness the beauty of the Erawan National Park
Located at a distance of about 64 km towards the north of the town of Kanchanaburi, the Erawan National Park is filled with wildlife and the pristine beauty of the place will make you feel out of this world. Get drenched under the waterfalls and soothe your senses, amidst the eerie silence of nature.
41. Teach little monks in Bangkok
Be a volunteer teacher and help the little monks in Bangkok to brush up their English skills. You can also talk to them about your country, and know more about their thoughts on life. It'll be an amazing experience to interact with young adults who have a completely different way of life.
42. Try snorkeling in Koh Phi Phi
Tick it off your bucket list! Take a local boat out from Koh Phi Phi to the clear waters and get a glimpse of impressive marine life. While there are several snorkeling spots in Thailand, the ones around Koh Phi Phi are undoubtedly the best.
43. Attend Tai Chi classes on Koh Tao
Guessing the fact that Muay Thai wasn't just enough, then go ahead and attend Tai Chi classes! Learn this Chinese martial art form while living on this island and add an extra piece of zen to your gap year journey!
44. Explore the ruins of Lop Buri
Located at a distance of about 150 kilometers to the northeast of Bangkok, this place is known for the ruins which date back to 1,000 years. The Khmer-style ruins are ruled by the primates now, and thus, Lop Buri is also known as the 'Monkey City'.
45. Learn scuba diving and get certified
What can be better than becoming a certified scuba diver during your gap year in Thailand! Yeah, you read that right! join a course (preferably with PADI) and get closer to the marine world. Push yourself a little while experiencing the other-worldly goodness and gain a skill that'll benefit you in the long run.
46. Visit the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya
Popularly known as the Prasat Sut Ja-Tum, translating to Sanctuary of Truth, this all-wood building filled with sculptures based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs is located on a rocky point of the coast just north of Pattaya, in the small town of Naklua. The building has been under construction now for more than 20 years, and it might take another 15 years before it is finished. This gorgeous architecture is definitely worth visiting!
47. Board a bus and travel to Cambodia!
How about adding another stamp to the passport? I know you can’t say ‘No’ to that! So just buy the tickets and travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap, to explore the ruins of Angkor! What could be better if you can carry on with your gap year journey, covering Cambodia as well!
48. Spend a night in a floating bungalow at Cheow Lan Lake
Amidst the Khao Sok National Park lies the Cheow Lan Lake which is one of the most scenic places to visit in all of Thailand. Get lost in the pristinity of lake, and spend a night in a floating bungalow. You can also go kayaking, get back in touch with nature and relax amidst aquatic beauty.
49. Explore the Ko Tarutao National Marine Park
Get down at the port of Pak Bara, and head towards the main island, Ko Tarutao, which offers a variety of government-issue accommodation and adventurous things to do, while Ko Adang to the west is much more low-key and a springboard to some excellent snorkelling. It's definitely worthy to pay a visit to this not-so-touristy place!
50. Opt for a meditation retreat and cleanse your soul
your gap year in Thailand will be filled with several adventurous, meaningful, and exotic experiences, but at times, you might also feel like putting a pause, and in case you are looking for enlightenment, self-realization and an escape from the stresses of your daily life at a meditation retreat in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
51. Make friends with strangers and create bonds for life!
Of course, this goes unsaid that you’ll get to meet some crazy, adventurous, enthusiastic travelers and backpackers during your Thailand trip! Whether it’s your beer-buddy or dive guide, you’ll cherish these encounters for the rest of your life!
So if you have always been wanting to feel the madness that Thailand has to offer - then the wait is over! Go Discover Abroad will give the opportunity to experience the best that "The Land of Smiles" has to offer you, and the best part is that you'll get to travel with a bunch of other equally fun-loving souls from different parts of the world.
Come and join us to make your gap year journey more thrilling & fun filled. You can simply write to us at [email protected] and we shall soon get back to you with amazing plans for Thailand!