Are you active traveler who looks for fast-paced and exotic experiences? Are you looking for off-the-beaten paths?
Start your journey in Bangkok where you will find mystical temples, magical amulet markets and abandoned skyscrapers that are rumored to be haunted.
Just going around in Bangkok is an adventure on its own. The Thai capital has some of the craziest public transportation in the world. Jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi and have an adrenaline filled ride through the metropolis, zigzaging amongst the lines and against the traffic.
From Bangkok you can head either to the mountainous Northern Thailand or to the South’s islands and rainforests.
Read more: Bangkok’s Weirdest Sights
The Northern Exposure: Adventures in Northern-Thailand
The best way to experience Northern Thailand is to rent a motorcycle and go on your own for a road trip. It is a pure joy to drive the curving mountain roads, which are quiet yet in excellent condition. You will see great sceneries, esoteric temples (Northern Thailand has some of the weirdest temples in Thailand), and meet traveling monks.
The best starting point for a motorcycle odyssey is Chiang Mai. Northern Thailand’s biggest and liveliest city has excellent bike rental shops and pretty nice nightlife too. From Chiang Mai roads lead to every corner of Northern Thailand.
The classic road trip is the Mae Hong Son Loop that goes from Chiang Mai to the top of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, to easy-going Mae Hong Son, party-town Pai and ends back to Chiang Mai. This can be done leisurely in four days.
Another good option are the roads around Chiang Rai, Thailand’s most Northern town. The highlight there will be Phu Chi Fa, “The Peak That Reaches the Sky”.
What about the exotic hill tribes, Northern Thailand’s best-known attraction? Hiking amongst the hill tribe villages is extremely popular, but to be honest, also a very touristy activity. Don’t expect a great, exotic adventure. If you are looking for an authentic hill tribe experience, better head to the remote parts of Myanmar or Laos.
An exciting way to cross the border to Myanmar (also known as Burma) is to go overland through Thailand’s Mae Sot. The border was opened only in 2013. Mae Sot has the feel of an exciting border town, full of smugglers and Karen rebels who still continue to fight against the Burmese military across the border.
A nice side trip from Mae Sot takes you to Umphang to see Southeast Asia’s most majestic waterfall, Tee Lor Su. Umphang is also a great and little visited place to go for hikes to Karen villages if you are not planning to cross the border to Myanmar.
On the way Mae Sot you should visit the atmospheric ruins of Sukhothai, the birthplace of Thai culture. It is a charming, surprisingly little visited place with some of the best value-for-money guesthouses in Thailand. Especially in the late afternoons and early mornings you will have the ruins of the once magnificent city just for yourself.
To the Southern Thailand’s Coral Reefs and Rainforests
No matter what the tourist brochures tell you, there are no rainforests in Northern Thailand. All you find there are evergreen forests, and quite a few of them have suffered badly from illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.
To experience real rainforests you have to go Southern Thailand where you will find beautiful forests. Khao Sok National Park is absolutely stunning. The well-protected national park has well-marked trails that you can hike by yourself or you can hire a guide and go for a several days adventure deep in the heart of the rainforest where tigers lurk.
Khao Sok is only a short trip away from some of Thailand’s finest coral reefs. You have two options: either Ko Similan or Ko Surin. Both are beautiful deserted archipelagos far offshore. The former is best for liveaboard trips for diving or snorkeling, the latter for camping and snorkeling.
Thailand’s Secret Beach Hideaways
If you wish to chill out on a beach, your best bet for an off-the-beaten-path island is Ko Phayam, a beautiful island close to Myanmar’s Mergui archipelago. Ko Phayam is still relatively unknown, even if it is slowly finding more and more visitors looking for a quiet getaway.
Another great option for adventure minded travelers is to go island hopping in Thailand’s beautiful Andaman Sea coastline. You can hop from one island to another all the way from Phuket (with an international airport) to Ko Lipe where you can camp on deserted Ko Adang island with some of the best snorkeling in the country.
On the way you will find beautiful island Ko Bulon Lee one of Thailand’s best kept secret island paradise.
Touring the Isaan, Thailand’s Hillbilly County
If you want to stay completely out of the tourism radar, you should head to the North-East of Thailand, also known as Isaan. Isaan accounts fo one third of the whole country’s land area, but gets almost no tourists at all.
What landlocked Isaan lacks in beaches and major sights, it gains in the atmosphere. Here you will encounter the real charm of unspoiled countryside Thailand.
The highlights are the magnificent national park of Khao Yai, Mekong River and some weird local festivals, like the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, which are held in the summertime.