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Bangkok, one of the most populated and fascinating cities in the world, is a must-see when you're visiting Thailand. A mixture of intricate
traditional architecture and a modern, cosmopolitan feel is what makes
Bangkok so interesting. Many of the top things to do in Thailand are in
Bangkok itself: the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po), the Grand Palace,
Wat Arun and more. These wats--religious places like chapels--command a
feeling of awe and respect for not only the intricate architecture, but
the culture and religion in general. If you can, try to set up a meeting
with resident monks at the wats. They can give you a deeper
understanding and story of the life of a Buddhist.
Bangkok offers much more for the common visitor. There are fantastic markets and vendors that offer beautiful clothing, delicious (and spicy) food, and an experience unlike any other. A particularly interesting market is the floating market in the Damnoen Saduak neighborhood. Bangkok also offers a bustling Chinatown that shimmers at night through its commotion. It's a city well worthy of your time and memory.
Another one of the best things to do in Thailand is scale its beautiful mountains. During my trip to the country, we went on a trek through northern Thai hills and mountains, and ended up at a quaint and mysterious village, equipped with a foggy morning, mosquito nets and an unexpected Oasis-singing guitar player. Trekking is a fantastic way to get in tune with Thailand's beautiful nature. If you can, catch a ride on a bamboo raft while you're in the wilderness. You won't regret it. Thailand's wilderness may make you reluctant to return to the beautiful cities, but you'll need to see those too.
Ride an Elephant
A popular thing to do in Thailand and throughout much of South Asia is
riding elephants. Riding an elephant differs from riding a roller coaster
or a go-kart. Feeling each lumbering, slow step is something that
everyone will love--whether you want to feel like a queen or king on the
back of an elephant or you just want to indulge your inner animal lover.
The elephant trip I went on traveled down dirt paths, under green trees
and across land bridges overlooking fog-coated mountains. Buy a few
bananas at the elevated stands on your trip and see your elephant's
capabilities. You'll fall in love with an animal and an experience that
you'll never forget.
Explore Chiang Mai/Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai is the equivalent to Bangkok in the northern regions of Thailand,
and deservedly so. Tucked in the beautiful Thai mountain ranges, Chiang Mai
offers many attractions, from a bustling downtown to quiet religious
areas. Wat Chedi Luang is a historic, towering Buddhist temple that
retained its Thai beauty despite being affected by an earthquake in
1545. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a religious temple that is reached by
climbing a beautiful but steep 309 steps. It's worth the climb, because
the wat offers the beautiful Emerald Buddha and other pagodas, statues
and shrines. Chiang Mai offers fantastic markets
just like Bangkok, and has a great zoo. If your elephant ride left you
wanting more, go to Chiang Mai's Mae Sa Elephant Camp, where the
domestication of the mammals wows any guest.
Experience the Unseen Side
Tourists, when coming to Thailand, often are attracted to visiting the big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Because these cities are rich in
some of the best things to do in Thailand, extend to the countryside
itself. I volunteered at a small village outside of Chiang Mai, and it
was a life-changing experience--I visited orphanages and met people that I
never would have encountered in the big cities. Whether it is taking an
through the countryside or renting a car to take a few days to wander
off the main road, you'll see a whole other world. Don't be afraid to
trek around the country, but be sure to bring bug spray and an open
mind. Seeing everything that Thailand has to offer will help you realize
why this region is so intriguing and appealing to outside travelers.
by Abigail Geiger, Contributing Author