Thailand is a beautiful country close to Australia and cheap to get to, and is definitely a common place for young Australians to travel to. You hear a lot about Phuket, Koh Samui, and even Bangkok, but there is more to Thailand than the island life and bustling city. The north area of Thailand, however, is absolutely stunning and should definitely be added to your Thailand bucket list. There is so much to see and experience that I feel you are really missing out on the full Thai experience by not exploring there!
Visit the most sacred site in Thailand
You can easily get in to Chiang Mai by the overnight train from Bangkok and it isn’t too costly at all – but be prepared, it isn’t a luxury experience, but it is easy nonetheless. Chiang Mai is the home to the most sacred site for Thai people, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (or Doi Suthep for short), which is a beautiful temple located at the top of a mountain. You are able to be blessed by monks – when you climb the 309 steps to the temple – can experience beautiful views over the countryside.
Eat a ‘condom salad’ and support local charity
Cabbages and Condoms is a fantastic place to stop on your way to Chiang Rai. They sell touristy knick knacks, condoms, and meals – including their signature ‘condom salad’, which doesn’t actually contain condoms just for the record, and all profits made go to purchasing condoms and sexual education for the surrounding hill tribes. How amazing is that? You can enjoy a great meal AND support a local charity!
Visit a tiger conservation
Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai is a conservation park for tigers where you are able to interact with them and get up close and personal. It isn’t like other tiger parks you hear about as the tigers are active and not sedated, and aren’t with human contact 24/7 each day. The tigers are exposed to humans for only their first year of life to encourage interaction and then they spend the rest of the life in conservation in the surrounding rainforests, protected from hunters and other dangers. It is a pretty cool experience to come face to face with a tiger!
Visit the local markets
Sure there are markets that you can experience in Phuket and Bangkok, but you won’t have markets like Chiang Rai. Not as touristy as down south, the markets offer more local foods and rafts without the pestering from the locals and the crowds from tourists. You might even meet a local who is happy to show you around and explain the different kinds of foods available!
Visit one of the world’s greatest art exhibits
Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, is one of the most phenomenal art exhibits in the world designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai local with a huge vision. It still hasn’t been completed, but I can guarantee you it that you have never seen anything like this before.”Every detail of the white temple carries meaning and encourages the visitor to reflect on the Buddhist teachings that show the way to escape from the worldly temptations, desires and greed and focus on the mind instead.”^ In the design of a buddhist temple, it incorporates modern comics, art, and architecture. Inside you can spot comical characters like Batman, Astro Boy, and Superman on the beautiful artwork inside the temple.
Visit the hill tribes and travel back in time
There a small communities living in the rainforests of Chiang Rai which still adhere to the traditional ways of living in tribes such as the Karen, Akha, Hmong, and the Lisu people. The tribes open their doors to tourists in order to sell their handmade crafts to support their families, but they still live in a traditional sense without electricity and modern technologies. Speaking with some people in the controversial Karen Tribe (the ‘Long Necks’), the practice of the rings on the neck used to be mandatory for all women, but now it is by choice and there are now many children running around without the rings. The people were happy and excited to show you around their homes and schools, and it is an experience that has stuck with me ever since.
Do you have any ‘non-tourist’ spots that you love in Thailand?