Thailand is becoming a bit of a cliché among Brits, its islands and beaches have become a target for the boozing, tanning, holidaymaker, which takes away from some of the amazing things that it has to offer.

Away from the beaches and holiday resorts, Thailand is a fascinating country with rich culture, history and natural beauty. Don’t dismiss Thailand, think about approaching it in an original way instead and you’ll find that there’s more to it than elephant rides and alcohol served by the bucket. Here are my top five, off the beaten-track, Thailand experiences…

Candle-light parade

  1. Khao Yai National Park – Located in the Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Khao Yai is packed with wildlife and thick rainforest that you can explore for days. We camped for one night in a campsite where we could hire all the gear we needed, and then spent a whole day hiking around. Besides the landscapes, which ranged from thick and leafy, to waterfalls and open plains. We saw plenty of macaques, who flock to populated areas in search of easy food, and we even saw a six-foot crocodile, sunning himself on a log. Despite looking in all of the prime areas we didn’t manage to see the wild elephants that live in Khao Yai, but I hear that they are not an uncommon spot.
  2. English Camps – If you already have a TEFL, are thinking of getting one, or are otherwise teacher trained, getting involved in English camps, usually day-long camps with kids or teenagers, are a great way to spend some time with real Thai people, give something back and even make a bit of spare cash. You are expected to speak English with the children, give them conversational practice, be as enthusiastic as you can and make sure they all have a great time. I found these a really rewarding experience as it was all about having fun and the kids always had such a great time. It was great to see their confidence grow as time went on.
  3. Koh Chang – Koh Chang has the same natural beauty as some of the better known islands, but is less popular with non-Thai tourists. You will still find beach bars, fire dancers and gorgeous sunsets, but without the crowds. I would not claim that Koh Chang is undiscovered, it’s not, but it is a good way to have the island experience without completely leaving Thailand behind.
  4. Korat Zoo – I am always on the lookout for a good zoo and this one is top quality. It’s almost a safari it’s so spaced-out, and there’s a hop-on, hop-off bus to help you get around. You can see rhinos, reptiles and elephants, and you can even buy green beans to feed the giraffes with, which is amazing as you can get up really close. I know the jury is out on whether zoos are an ethical animal encounter but this one seems better than most and is 100% preferable over the pose with a tiger photo opportunities, which are apparently very popular with tourists to Thailand, despite the obvious cruelty involved.
  5. Take part in a Thai ceremony or festival – If you do have the opportunity, try to take part in one of Thailand’s many traditional ceremonies, and I don’t just mean Songkran (The Thai New Year when the water fights take place). One of the best I witnessed was the candlelight ceremony, where huge candles were wheeled through the village along with floats representing all sorts of different schools and societies. The Thais love any excuse for a dress-up and this was no exception, the lady-boys in particular were in their element.

Have you been off the beaten track in Thailand? Where would you recommend? 🙂