Having finally settled down in Thailand after twenty years of toing and froing, our author, Paul, has plenty to write home about. Here are some of his favourite experiences from the new Rough Guide to Thailand.
1. Get a traditional massage in Bangkok
A good pummelling at the massage pavilions amid the historic, kaleidoscopic architecture of Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s unbeatable experiences. Excellent massages are available on the east side of the main compound – allow two hours for the full works and come prepared for queues.
2. Catch a performance of Khon
It’s hard to catch these days, but if you come across a performance of Khon – a form of traditional Thai theatre – sit down and soak it up. The haunting music, beautiful costumes and exquisite gestures of Thailand’s highest dramatic art are spectacular.
3. Mess about in boats
Messing about in boats is a big part of island life, and it’s hard to beat a short, richly diverse circuit of Ko Tao. Make sure to visit the beaches of Ko Nang Yuan – this close-knit group of three tiny islands provides the most spectacular beach scenery in these parts, thanks to the causeway of fine white sand that joins up the islands.
4. Let yourself go at a festival
5. Explore Thai cuisine
“Deliciousness” is never far away in Thailand, be it fluffy deep-fried catfish with a tangy mango salad, toothsome beef green curry, or mango with sticky rice and coconut milk. Not sure where to start? Try our ultimate foodie itinerary for ideas.
6. Buy a memorable souvenir
Among dozens of highly skilled, good-value handicrafts in Thailand, one that’s especially appealing is celadon, elegant stoneware subtly glazed in green. Look for it in Chiang Mai, one of the top places in the country to buy souvenirs, where several kilns specialise in the art.
7. Discover Thailand’s most remote province
The three thousand bends of the Mae Hong Son loop reveal the pick of Thailand’s upland landscapes. Hire a motorbike or jeep for this rollercoaster journey through the country’s wildest mountain scenery, and make sure to leave time for a chill-out break in laidback Pai.
8. Take a road trip from Chiang Khan to Nong Khai
You’ll get to know the mighty Mekong River up close and personal along the Chiang Khan–Nong Khai road in Isaan. The scenery downstream from Chiang Khan is still relatively wild, with just a couple of small towns dotted between the stretches of lush vegetation. Stopover in the peaceful town of Sang Khom, about 60km east of Pak Chom, which has some basic amenities and a smile-inducing location by the water.
9. Drink in the views
It’s impossible to pick Thailand’s best view, but a few of our favourites include the godlike panorama of the concrete jungle from Bangkok’s Sky Bar, wave after wave of forested mountains from Doi Chang Moob arboretum at Doi Tung, or the implausible limestone turrets in Phang Nga bay.