Thailand’s best-kept secrets
KNOWN FOR ITS STRONG AROMATIC AND SPICE-ENHANCED CUISINES, WORLD CLASS SPORTING ACHIEVEMENTS, AND PRISTINE GROUNDS FOR NATURE AND WILDLIFE SPOTTING, THAILAND HAS A LOT MORE TO OFFER THAN JUST SHOPPING AND TEMPLE VISITATIONS
Most travellers to Thailand tend to visit the same places over and over again – Bangkok for its food and shopping, Chiang Mai for a little culture and history, and to Krabi or Phuket for its beach resorts. But discerning travellers to Thailand know that there is so much more to this Southeast Asian kingdom. There are countless things to do and we’ve handpicked the best of what Thailand has to offer in this handy guide:
THAI COOKING CLASSES
Beloved not just by locals but the world as well, Thai cuisine has reached far flung corners of the world. It is characterised by its use of spice, fish sauce, kaffir limes and sugar to create dishes that increasingly whet the appetite and gets diners reaching for seconds and even thirds. Many might think that Thai cooking is complex or might use ingredients that are hard to find at your local grocer’s but any novice cook and easily pick up Thai cooking. Thai cooking classes have been around for a while and it is a popular activity for first-time visitors to Thailand to try out.
• Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant
This school was set up by Chef Nooror and her husband, who both set up the popular Blue Elephant restaurants in Europe. The duo decided to open the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant in hopes of developing and training chefs to understand Royal Thai cuisine. Classes here involve a trip to a local market to learn more about local ingredients before a head chef conducts cooking demonstrations back in the kitchen. Guests will then be able to try their hand at preparing the dishes they’ve learnt just
minutes ago as well. The popularity of the school in Bangkok spurred the couple to open a second school in Phuket as well, which specialises in Baba Phuket cuisine – Thai food influenced by the Thai Peranakans in the area. blueelephantcookingschool.com
• Silom Thai Cooking School
The classes here follow a similar format to that of Blue Elephant but the emphasis is placed more on creating the dishes from scratch so that travellers can take home the recipe and add them to their repertoire. There are seven courses to choose from that cover a diverse variety of familiar Thai dishes and the basics of Thai cooking. For those with a keen interest in cooking, the school also has an intensive sevenday course where students would have learnt a total of 40 recipes by the end of the week. bangkokthaicooking.com
THAI BOXING CLASSES
Instead of heading to your hotel’s gym and fitness centre to work on the same, boring routine, why not pick up the traditional Thai combat sport of Muay Thai instead? Known also as ‘the art of eight limbs’, the mental and physical discipline is a full body workout that will prove stimulating and challenging to all.
• Tiger Muay Thai & MMA
Considered the Number 1 training facility in Phuket, Tiger Muay Thai has become the training ground for the world’s most elite athletes. But despite its portfolio of top Muay Thai fighters, Tiger Muay Thai caters to all levels of boxers – for the holidaymaker to professional fighters who would like to learn the basics of the sport or hone their skills in the ring. The trainers take the tradition of Muay Thai seriously and hope to impart the same respect for the sport in all who join them. Tiger Muay Thai also has other MMA, fitness, yoga and body conditioning disciplines as well. tigermuaythai.com
• Rawai Muay Thai Khao Lak
This training camp that faces the Andaman Sea was set up by Tuk, who fought professionally in the spot for 15 years. Its new Khao Lak facilities are best suited for serious trainees of Muay Thai who would like to work on individual moves. There are two two-hour classes daily that work on specific techniques like Clinching, Low Kick, and Wai Kru. Apart from trainings, guests can also make use of the swimming pool, massage and restaurant facilities for a break. rawaimuaythai.com
The Chao Phraya River is where life meets in Thailand. The river cuts right through Bangkok and goes past some of Thailand’s most majestic temples. It may be most well-known for its floating markets where vendors on long boats sell fruits, vegetables, souvenirs right on the boats. Experience another side of the Chao Phraya River with a dinner cruise for a relaxing time of enjoying the sights while tasting fine Thai cuisine.
• Apsara Dinner Cruise by Banyan Tree
This luxurious dining experience by Banyan Tree Resort will make for an extra special night out and is perfect for couples hoping to add romance on their trip to Thailand. Guests get to enjoy elegant restaurant cruising along the river on a converted vintage rice barge through the night. The barge comes to rest in front of famous sights, such as Wat Arun Temple, the Grand Palace and the golden Rama VIII Bridge while guests dine on Royal Thai cuisine prepared fresh onboard. banyantree.com/en/ap-thailand-bangkok/apsara
• White Orchid River Cruise
Be entertained on this two-hour evening cruise along the Chao Phraya River onboard the White Orchid River Cruise. Feast on a Thai/western buffet and enjoy ‘live’ music, as well as watch performances of Thai classical dancing as the boat cruises from Si Phraya Pier towards the Rama VIII Bridge. Guests can also head up to the open-air deck to soak in the warm atmosphere and catch the sun setting in the distance. whiteorchidrivercruise.com
Bird-watchers new to the activity should head to Thailand to catch the many bird varieties at Thailand’s national parks. The country’s diverse climates and environments, from thick jungles to the offshore islands and cooler climates up north, makes Thailand one of the places to easily catch rarer species of birds in action.
• Doi Inthanon National Park
This national park in Chiang Mai is 300m above any other mountain in the country, which gives it a cooler environment. There are a wide variety of birds here and it is a favoured spot among novice bird watchers as birds like the Chestnut-tailed Minla, Green-tailed Sunbird, and Rufous-winged Fulvetta are in abundance here and can be easily spotted. Down the mountain are also the highly sought after Green Cochoa and Yellow-cheeked Tit. Nearer the rivers and waterfalls are also rarer birds like the White-capped Water Redstart.
• Kheng Krachan National Park
The largest national park in Thailand can be found in Petchaburi and Prachuab Kiri Khan provinces, which is just three hours from Bangkok. The forest here is in excellent condition and shares ground with the border of Myanmar as well, which makes it a great refuge for some of Asia’s rarest mammals and birds. Some of the bird species spotted here can often not be found anywhere else in Thailand and is therefore a place to visit for bird enthusiasts. One of the rarest bird to have been spotted is the Giant Pitta that makes an appearance once every few years at most.
NATURE & WILDLIFE
The diverse landscape of Thailand has created some of the most beautiful national parks where rainforests, limestone karsts, mountains and crystal blue lakes can be found. These make great settings for many different types of wildlife as well. Take a day trip to these national parks for a fun activity for the whole family.
• Erawan National Park
Set in west Thailand in Kanchanaburi province is Erawan National Park. The park’s major attraction is Erawan Falls, a seven-tiered waterfall with pools at various heights of the falls. Visitors can easily climb up the waterfall to bathe in the pools to cool down in the afternoon. The park also has several caves that can be explored, and several trails into the forest.
• Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest reserve. It was established as a national park in 1962 and is just three hours from Bangkok. Khao Yai is part of Dong Phayayen-khao Yai Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As part of the Sankamphaeng Mountain Range, the park is popular with hikers and mountain climbers but it is also appealing to animal lovers. Some common animals that can be spotted include elephants, bears, deer, otters, gibbons and macaques.
FARMS & WINERIES
A large percentage of Thais work in agriculture as farming is a significant part of Thailand’s economy. The country has a strong history in rice production, as well as tropical fruits as well. In recent years, Thailand has been increasingly become popular for wine production too.
• Vanich Farm
Designed to be agro-edutainment, Vanich Farm aims to teach visitors where food comes from through various activities and attractions. The corn farm plants many herbs and vegetables that are used in its restaurants. Visitors who come to Vanich Farm can learn more about rice planting in the farm’s paddy fields, watch corn production and even train young cows to plough fields. vanichfarm.com
• Silverlake Vineyard
Founded just 15 years ago, Silverlake Vineyard has now become a destination for oenophiles looking to try tropical wine from Thailand. The vineyard bears both wine and table varieties and boasts the latest wine making and juicing technology from Italy. The vastly different soil conditions and use of pure water from the vineyard’s lakeside has allowed the vineyard to grow a number of different grape varieties that produce wines that have a fresh edge to them with fruity and bold notes of spice and smokiness. Visitors can tour the facilities and have a wine tasting at the Cellar Door. silverlakevineyard.com
MOUNTAIN BIKING / TREKKING / HIKING
Adventure awaits in Thailand with its mountain biking, trekking and hiking trails. Whether looking for a day trip or a longer one that covers more ground, the undulating and wild landscapes of Thailand is sure to excite the adventure traveller.
• Khao Pom, Ko Samui
Take a chance on the almost uninhabitable jungle mountain, Khao Pom in Ko Samui with this short trek of about four to five hours. Catered to all skill levels, the trek can cover walks around the island to a more strenuous ones deep into the jungle and mountain for a fresh look of the island in a lush and preserved environment. samuitrekking.com
• Cross-country Downhill Chiang Dao
Mountain bikers ready to cross terrains should definitely try this route on Chiang Dao, the last tooth of the Himalayas. The bike trek takes place mostly downhill in a thrilling ride that goes past a 200-year-old bamboo grove, Mae Tseng Valley and uninterrupted panoramic views of the mountain. Elephants in the river greet bikers at the last descent of the trip. mountainbiketoursthailand.com
• Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Soon
This is a hike not for the fainthearted. This remarkable journey that takes place over eight days will allow hikers to traverse an ancient trade route while indulging in cultural programmes for a deeper insight into Thailand’s rich customs and history. The route moves from Chiang Mai to Lor Cave and makes its way to various Thai villages and a truly spectacular stop on the highest summit in Mae Hong Soon before flying back to Chiang Mai. worldexpeditions.com
Wat Pho Bangkok
Phuket Governor Mansion
Chef Sombat Prongthong teaching the class about Phuket cuisine
Chao Phraya River
Khao Yai National Park
Vanich Farm Vanich Farm