- Angthong national park
- The Erawan waterfalls
- The Death Railway in Kanchanaburi
- Khao Sok National Park
- Bangkok and its temples
- Koh Lanta
Thailand is a big country. Finding out what the best destinations are requires some work and a lot of reading! Travel blogs, TripAdvisor and Instagram are probably my favorite platforms to investigate before I go ahead with a booking; and after my multiple Thailand adventures, I’ve got a shortlist worth sharing myself!
Here is my list of the best spots that you shouldn’t miss out on when traveling around Thailand.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
I’ve been to a lot of places around Thailand – a lot – but this place is definitely one of the highlights of my multiple trips. I can’t recommend it enough. Unlike some other famous natural parks, Ang Thong isn’t as packed and is somehow still preserved – missing it would be a shame. The water is crystal clear, warm and there is an impressive and abundant range of fauna and flora. I’ve dived around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia before, but the corals looked even more colorful in Ang Thong (and you will see plenty of beautiful fish, just snorkeling!).
There are two viewpoints at Ang Thong Marine Park: Koh Wua Talap and the Emerald Lake. The former consists of a 30-40 minute climb (which I did not feel like doing because the weather was too hot and I got a bit too lazy) and the latter is called ‘Emerald Lake’ (also known as The Green Lagoon). Emerald Lake was incredibly beautiful and is accessible after a little 15-minute hike (feasible in your flip flops like most people did but preferable in sneakers).There are some very steep stairs and ladders though, so don’t convince your grandmother to follow you, that might be too hard for her. The signature view is at the top of the hill, where you will be able to admire the lake down below but you can also get closer to it. It is extremely tempting to jump in for a swim but it is forbidden to preserve wildlife. This lake is really mind blowing and I couldn’t help but stare at its color in amazement.
I chose to go there with a company called Mister Tu, which operates from Koh Samui. They were great! The staff was super friendly and the boat and their equipment were good quality. Ang Thong marine park is undoubtedly a must-go place in Thailand.
Just like Ang Thong National Park, not everyone knows about this little paradise. Don’t get me wrong though, it is a popular spot in Thailand, but once again, it won’t be as crowded as Koh Phi Phi for example. The reason why it isn’t as packed is the accessibility of the waterfalls: you need to be in good shape – of course – because some hiking is necessary!
Located in the western province of Thailand called Kanchanaburi – which is packed with lush forests and beautiful rivers – this place is famous for its seven levels of falls. The beauty really begins at the second waterfall where there’s a huge pool of refreshing water to jump in.The first level is not all that much to look at – just a stream with a few picnic tables in the shade. I strongly encourage you to go to the top waterfall, because the more you climb, the more beautiful it becomes! Also, don’t be scared by all of the little fish who will be coming to your feet to eat your dead skin – it’s just very ticklish yet so fun! Just make sure you have some good water shoes to do the 45-min / 1-hour hike to the top waterfall.
If you decide to go to the Erawan waterfalls, I would not recommend a day trip from Bangkok because it might be a little too far and this trip is way too exhausting for just a day. It took me more than 3.5 hours to get there from Bangkok. Instead, book a hotel on the Kwai River for two nights so that it gives you half of the day to relax in your resort and the following day to explore all of the waterfalls. Moreover, know that the Erawan Waterfall is a protected National Park in Thailand so there’s an entrance fee of 200 THB.
The Death Railway in Kanchanaburi
Even if the name doesn’t exude any joy whatsoever, this place will surely impress you and is worth seeing. I strongly recommend you to go for a little stroll on the iron bridge and enjoy the views…
My guide told me there was no train but I realized 15 minutes later that it was potentially a joke he liked to make because there was one coming… Nothing to worry about though since the train is pretty slow and starts whistling from pretty far away – which gives you some time to stand somewhere on the side!
There is a story behind that gloomy name and it is actually one of the most horrendous stories of Thailand’s history… Originally called the Thailand-Burma Railway (as it was connecting Thailand to Burma), it earned the nickname “Death Railway” because over 200,000 slave laborers died during its construction during World War II.
All these laborers were prisoners of war and Asian laborers at the time when the Japanese Army had taken over South East Asia. The bridge was meant to aid the Japanese invasion of India. Poor hygiene conditions, regular beatings from Japanese and Korean guards, inadequate medical supplies as well as intense heat and monsoons made for miserable working conditions, and most laborers died from malnutrition, diseases or exhaustion.
So yes, the story behind this bridge is awful, the views on the Kwai river though… are just beautiful. It is also possible to take a ride in that train if you wish.
The city of Kanchanburi is also known for its large war cemetery where nearly 7.OOO Australians, English and Dutch prisoners of WWII are resting in peace, after they died in the construction of the Death Railway. I personally walked along it and found it was quite impressive but I wasn’t too interested to walk in.
Khao Sok Natural Park and its limestones lake (also known as Cheow Laan Lake)
Khao Sok national park is one of the most beautiful and authentic places I’ve seen in Thailand. It’s something a bit off the beaten track and totally worthwhile if you want to see something that is worlds away from Thailand’s crowded beaches!
You can either opt for a day trip there or a one-night stay over in the park. You have multiple day tours that arrange an itinerary allowing you to trek for a bit, then get a longtail boat or a kayak for an hour or two. The boat ride will probably be one of the most spectacular you’ll ever have in your life – the scenery there is absolutely stunning – with the limestones coming out of the water and the jungle on all sides. If you’re lucky, you might even see some black and yellow snakes hanging from the trees, gibbons or even cute hornbills.
Personally, I chose to go for a day trip and stay in a resort in Khao Lak (called Moracea) because the floating bamboo bungalows seemed a bit too rustic – plus I knew there would be snakes and that the animals were coming out at night… So I opted for what I thought was the ‘safest’ option for my friend and I, as I wanted us to be able to sleep without having to keep one eye open for what might be creeping around. I heard afterwards that they now have some luxury floating villas that seem like a pretty amazing option so if I had to go back, I would definitely give it a try. Being able to jump straight off the walkway into the lake with such a beautiful environment around seems really dreamy. Everything there was so peaceful and quiet… I would do it again without a doubt and call it a new experience with staying the night.
Our guide was very friendly and informative and shared lots of knowledge about the plants and animals we saw. He also had an exquisite lunch organized for us, cooked by some locals and served in the middle of the jungle. We were lucky because they were hardly any visitors when we were there, and that was early April! Seems like it’s one of those last pockets of isolation left in Thailand. Stunning limestone karsts, endless, serene lakeside views, jungle sounds and making coffee in a bamboo cup in the middle of the jungle with a handmade fire is an experience not to be missed.
All that said, get yourself by hook or by crook to Khao Sok National Park. It will be worth the trip.
Going to Thailand without making a stop in Bangkok is a no-no. You HAVE to go! First off, for its night markets that provide an abundance of incredibly delicious Thai food options, but also for its stunning temples. There are so many that it is difficult to choose which one to start with – so here is my list for you:
- Wat Arun for its incredibly beautiful pearly-white mosaics
- Wat Poh and its reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf
- Golden Mount for its stunning views on the city
I also went to Grand Palace and paid 500 THB to come in and out after 5 minutes because there were so many people that it made it impossible to walk a meter without getting a corner of umbrella in the eye (it was during Chinese New Year so maybe that explains the crowd).
Also, make sure to review the temple dress code/s before heading there to avoid being turned away.
You’ll most likely have to buy a proper temple outfit for a few dollars in a nearby store if your legs and arms aren’t covered. Respecting other people’s cultures is important.
If you’re looking for a peaceful oasis with endless beaches and legendary sunsets, and all of that far from the civilized world, then this island is made for you. I stayed on Koh Lanta for three days and loved every part of my time there. Truth is, you don’t really go to Koh Lanta for its crystal turquoise water – I personally didn’t see any – but you go there for its wildness and peacefulness. You have a nice feeling of isolation there that is rare to find. The food there is also what’s to love: it’s fresh and tasty (I became such a fan of their fried black pepper crab that they cook beautifully everywhere on the island!). My friend and I stayed on Klong Dao Beach, the perfect location to admire sunrises, sunsets, nice restaurants and fire shows all around at night time. It was also so fun to see the hundreds of mini crabs hide in the sand while we were walking on the beach every morning. They’re like the color of the sand but if you observe well, you’ll see heaps of them!
The island is big enough for you to rent either a bike or a scooter then hit the road and get lost. You might be lucky enough to stumble on one of their vibrant local markets, filled with colorful spices and a plenitude of fresh fruits. And yes, it is a market for the locals so you will stick out, but with some confidence and a smile you will be fine (we were two tall and blond girls, one from France and the other one from Germany, and we survived!).
My best advice would be for you to download the app “maps.me” on your phone in order not to get lost… for real – this app allows you to download a city map while you have an internet connection then use it even when you’re offline. It’s definitely a must-have app for travelers. It saved me plenty of times!
If you want other practical tips for traveling around Thailand, you may want to click on the link 🙂