Thailand is a country I have dreamed of visiting for years, so when Tourism Authority of Thailand reached out with the opportunity, I couldn’t help but prepare to throw myself completely into the authentic Thai culture. I couldn’t believe I was finally visiting a country I had only dreamed of ever seeing, and to top that, I was visiting it with the knowledge and guidance of a Thailand local! Now, when we think of Thailand I am sure what first comes to the minds of many are the beautiful beaches of Phuket and Krabi, or the amazing hotel properties and resorts throughout the country. However, this trip had me much more excited because we were going “off the beaten path” to visit local hotspots of Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beachside resort with endless ocean views, but traveling is about experiencing, and more importantly experiencing the culture of the place you are visiting.
So we set off from Los Angeles to our first destination, Bangkok, which is the capital and the most populated city in Thailand. Once we landed, we were greeted by our guide from Tourism Authority of Thailand, and then we were off to see some of the hidden gems of Bangkok! Something very special about Thailand is the diversity in attractions and sights to see. We started with visiting a few different markets just south of Bangkok. The Maeklong Railway Market is a must see whenever in Bangkok. Imagine a market with hundreds of fresh foods and Thai goodies on an active railroad track, where the train fits perfectly in between the stands, and there are little alleyways for people to stand while the train goes by. It’s a one of a kind sight that you have to experience!
Another market that makes Bangkok so special is the Amphawa Floating Market, which is about thirty minutes south of the railway market. This is a floating market where boats serve food and drinks while you browse the market tasting local foods, or finding some authentic souvenirs to take back home. Amphawa Market is perfect for a special weekend afternoon, and stick around until it gets dark to hire a boat to take you out on the river to see thousands of fireflies light up along the water. It’s an amazing sight to see!
After a long day we wrapped it up with a dinner at Bangkok’s famous “Khao Man Gai Pratunam” (chicken over rice) right in the heart of Bangkok. It’s simple, inexpensive, and more importanty, it’s taste so good!
Back in the inner city of Bangkok there is so much to explore from Chinatown, the flower markets, and the temples, so you’ll have a few days of sights cut out for you. If you love temples and the historic value of culture, a must see is Wat Traimit (Temple of the golden Buddha), Which holds a Budda image made entirely out of gold!
Another temple to see is Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple)! This temple was one my favorite sights in all of Thailand. It is so beautiful and houses an amazing image of Buddha inside.
If Buddhas really fascinate you like they do me, you’ll definitely want to see Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha). This temple houses the largest collection of Buddha images, including the famous 46m long reclining buddha. This is definitely a sight to see for yourself! It is insanely beautiful and really gives you the feeling of authentic Thai culture.
Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to explore the flower markets and the chinatown neighborhoods. It is the perfect place to get authentic Thai souvenirs and goodies to take home. Pop into some of the small places to get food or Thai iced coffee, which come in a bag! Two places I recommend to eat are Hong Kong Noodle and Krua Apsorn.
Leaving Bangkok we set out and hit the road for a three hour drive to the town of Kanchanaburi, where we explored the natural beauty of Thailand at the Erawan National Park. If you like hiking, swimming, waterfalls, and natural rock water slides, then you will love Kanchanaburi! Get lunch at the Erawan Nation Park entrance and then hit the trials climbing to seven different levels of waterfalls and pools to enjoy a nice dip in the crystal clear water!
Something very special about Kanchanaburi is that is houses the Bridge over the River Kwai! This is a must see attraction in Kanchanaburi because of the famous Death Railway that runs along it, which was built by WWII prisoners to connect Thailand to Myanmar. There is a great Floating restaurant next to the bridge to enjoy dinner or lunch right along the water. Visit the Death Railway museum to see actual artifacts from the war and to learn all about the process of the railway and the prisoners who lost their life building it.
Leaving Kanchanaburi we drove about two and a half hours to Ayutthaya to see some of the amazing ruins from when the city was set on fire back in 1767. The first temple ruins we visited was Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. It’s truly breathtaking to see these ruins from such a devastating destruction so lung ago.
Another to see is Wat Chaiwatthanatam.
Get lunch at Wat Yai Noodle in Ayutthaya!
After lunch we got to see the amazing process of making Roti Saimai (Thai Cotton Candy) at a local factory in Ayutthaya. From boiling sugar, to letting it harden, and pulling it apart. It tastes similar to American cotton candy, but they roll it into cannoli like shaped desserts, which were to die for!
My favorite part of the entire trip and something very special to Ayutthaya is visiting the Elephant Kraal Pavilion to see all the rescued elephants in a loving habitat. You can learn all about the elephants, pet them, and the best part, you can feed cucumbers to all the elephants right out of your hand.
In Ayutthaya there is a one of kind “home stay”, which is similar to a hotel, called Pludhaya Resort & Spa Home Stay, and this place was an image from a movie! Sitting on miles of open rice fields, this small boutique cabin style resort is truly one of a kind. It’s quiet, peaceful, and makes you feel like a local Thai resident.
We left Ayutthaya and set out for our final destination, but on the way we stopped at this incredible restaurant called, The Chaba Lagoon for an authentic meal. The place looked like something I have never seen before. With small hut like dining areas spread out around the property to give you a private dining feeling. They served authentic Thai with beautiful touches like flowers and fruits to up the presentation. The food was incredible and I will have to find my way back to this amazing place!
Our last destination is a four drive north to the town of Sukhothai. There is so much to see and do in Sukhothai, whether you like relaxing at a nice resort or bike riding through the historical park, you will find something fun here! An amazing sight to see is Wat Si Chum, which is an old 13th century temple with the largest Buddha image in Sukhothai inside the temple.
Make sure you visit the amazing ruins in the Sukhothai Historical Park. There are plenty of places to rent a bike around the entrance to the park. Grab one and enjoy the day riding around the park seeing some of the most beautiful sights in all of Thailand. Through Tourism Authority of Thailand you can set up a dinner along the water in the park to enjoy the sunset and celebrate the beauty of Thailand.
I want to thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for an amazing trip! They made my Thailand trip so much more than I had ever thought it could be. I learned and experienced so much from the Thai culture, and I would have never been able to experience these amazing things without them! I can’t wait to get back and experience even more!! Browse their site and find some amazing places that you’d like to visit in Thailand!
Tourism Authority of Thailand