Thailand is not only beaches, temples, and giant Buddha statues. There are many more exciting places to visit and activities that are worth a try. Here are seven ideas to help you take a fresh look at your vacation in this country.
To look after elephants.
In the province of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand in the tropical jungle is located Elephant Nature Park. Orphaned elephants, wounded and old elephants, from whom their owners got rid of, took refuge here. Park staff and volunteers care for animals, treat and prepare babies for life in the wild, and then let them out in the so-called Elephant Harbor. There they live freely in a large area. The park advocates ecological tourism without keeping animals in captivity without using physical force (on regular excursions, elephants are often adjusted, hitting the head with a stick or a sharp spear).
Resident Lek Chailert created the elephant nature park. It was included in the list of “Heroes of Asia 2005” of Time magazine, and about the park made documentaries National Geographic, BBC, and Animal Planet.
The park offers one-day and two-day educational tours and week-long volunteer programs. Paying for a week from 12 to 15 thousand baht (the price depends on the program), you will get a transfer from Chiang Mai and back, three meals a day vegetarian food, accommodation in a park hotel or a village hut, training, and constant communication with elephants. But volunteering also involves a lot of work. Together with the park staff, you will feed the animals, clean up after them, bathe them, help in treatment. And at the end of the shift (i.e., at the end of each week), volunteers organize a walk with elephants through the jungle to the top of the mountain.
Live in a yoga center.
Thailand is the perfect country to start doing yoga or improve your level.
Many hotels offer yoga classes – and you can check in advance when booking whether there is such a service. But if you want to immerse yourself in practice, it is worth staying in a specialized yoga center. They are particularly popular on the islands of Koh Samui, Pangan, Phuket, Koh Yao-Noi, Koh Ngai, Malakka (peninsula), and Chiang Mai and Pai village in the north of the country – a favorite place for yoga and vegetarians.
As a rule, yoga in such places will take most of your day – from 4 to 6 hours. Classes are often held in areas surrounded by nature or overlooking the sea or ocean. In addition, you are offered a healthy diet and create a motivating environment around you.
When choosing a yoga center, pay attention to the qualifications of teachers. They must have certificates and provide them at the first request of the customer.
Take Thai massage courses.
The capital of Thai massage is called the city in the north of the country – Chiang Mai and its surroundings. There are dozens of salons and schools of this ancient art. There are also famous and eminent schools in Bangkok.
According to legend, Thai massage 2.5 thousand years ago was invented by a doctor from India named Jivago Kumar Bhakka, and he treated Buddha himself. Today there are a vast number of varieties of Thai massage. But the essence of it is the same: the impact is directed to specific points throughout the body (including on the heels and face), and the master works with his palms and forearms, and feet.
Once Thai massage was taught only in the local language. Today, the basic knowledge can be obtained by everyone – schools work in English (and some in Russian) on standard schemes with schedules of classes, teachers, textbooks, and exams. Successful students receive certificates.
It is better to choose from those that have state accreditation. Amateur courses last from 5 days to two weeks, and professional courses last at least a month.
Learn Thai food
Culinary courses in Thailand are in all popular tourist destinations, but different countries have their specifics. In the north, less spicy dishes are cooked, often with the use of pork. In the southern regions, where many Muslims live, spicy dishes of chicken and seafood are common. Almost any school adapts the program for vegetarians.
The courses teach not only to cook but also to choose the right products – for this you will be taken to the local market. Thai chefs pay special attention to spices and herbs. Thanks to them from an uncomplicated set of products (rice, noodles, seafood, chicken, meat), Thais prepare many different dishes. Each dish should harmoniously combine five primary flavors: sharpness at the expense of chili peppers or curry, sweetness at the expense of coconut milk, acid at the expense of lemon, lemongrass or lemon sorghum, bitterness – at the expense of fresh herbs.
Culinary express courses for one day are standard in tourist areas. During this time, you will go to the market for groceries and learn to cook five popular dishes, including usually Tom Yam soup, fried rice and noodles, several types of curry, and salad with papaya. But there are also more professional courses lasting 5-7 days.
Go to the jungle trekking.
Trekking through the jungles of Thailand is an affordable and safe entertainment, if not to climb into the thickets of vines and giant ficus. Popular national parks have trails with signs. More often than not, they do not exceed 20 kilometers. There are cafes, hotels, and bungalows near the national parks. You can get there by public transport or a rented bike. If you want to delve into the jungle away from the paved trails, it is better to contact travel agencies, which will provide a guide and tents.
In the southern regions of the country, the most popular national parks are Khao Sok in Surattani province, Sirinat in Phuket, Khan Bencha in Krabi Province. Here you can find thickets of vines, banyan with powerful roots, flying everything in its path, lakes with lotuses, mangroves, mountain rivers, canyons, caves, and rocks, and if you are lucky – gibbons and deer. But be prepared – even on hiking trails near the reservoirs, there is a risk that your feet will suck leeches. It’s not dangerous, but it’s not very pleasant. Therefore, in the jungle, you need to wear sneakers and pants that are better tucked into socks.
In the north of the country, popular national parks are Doi Inthanon, the famous mountain peak of Thailand (2,565 meters above sea level), and the Obluang National Park.
Trekkings depart from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Hong Song on public transport, bike, or travel agencies. Tour companies like to offer organized tours to parks with visits to the “lost jungle” villages of ethnic tribes in the north. For example, the Padaung tribe has the custom of pulling women’s necks with metal hoops. But most likely, you will be brought to a village full of tourists and show a view that has little to do with reality. Think about whether you want to pay for it.
When choosing a travel agency, please note whether it has a TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) license. The minimum price for a quality group tour to the jungle starts from 1000 baht per day. If you are offered a time of the hotel, most likely, it is the intermediaries who will have to pay interest. It is better to walk along the central street of the city and find the direct organizers.
Learn meditation in a Buddhist monastery
In Thailand, several Buddhist monasteries accept Europeans for meditation training. The most affordable and therefore popular is the Tam Wua Forest Monastery in the north of the country in The Province of Mae Hong Song. It is the international meditation center of Vipassana. This is believed to be the same meditation that Gautama Buddha taught in India 2,500 years ago. Translated from the ancient Indian language, Vipassana means to see things as they are. That is, without the prism of your own emotions.
Tam Wua is one of the few meditation centers that accept without pre-registration. You can come here at any time and at any time. Accommodation and vegetarian meals are free. At the end of their stay, students leave a donation as much as possible or see fit. It is on donations the monastery exists and receives guests.
Meditation in the monastery takes up most of the time: three times a day for about two hours. Before the beginning of meditation, the monks in good English give lectures, and in the evening, they arrange a collective singing of songs in the ancient Indian language with students. Students help with monastic affairs (most often, mark leaves), read (the monastery has its library with books in various languages), do personal experiences, or just walk. The monastery’s territory is large and beautiful: flowering trees, lawns, rocks, caves, ponds with large carp, mountain rivers.
You can stay in the monastery for any time, but the monks recommend spending at least 10 days with them to feel the effect of meditation.
Climbing with an instructor
The place of attraction of climbers worldwide is the Ton Sai Peninsula in Krabi province. On the shores of the Andaman Sea in a compact territory fit more than 500 rocky routes of different levels of difficulty, with rich terrain: from flat walls to winding passages and huge hanging stalactites. A diverse landscape has allowed many simple ways for those who have never tried this unusual sport. Right under the cliffs, there are climbing schools that offer all willing instructors and equipment for rent.
Classes occur in the early morning and afternoon until dark (dark in the tropics as early as 18 hours). The rest of the time, you can walk on the peninsula, explore a mountain lake or caves, swim on the nearby beaches with white sand and azure water – Raly and Pranang. The latter is considered one of the most beautiful in Thailand – mighty rocks hang over the water, forming many grottoes.
In the evenings, the sports Ton-Sai turns into a party – open bars and fish restaurants, one fire show is replaced by another, and between palm trees, climbers practice in balance on slacklines.