Thailand’s worldwide reputation is as varied as its geography. The “Land of Smiles” is equally known for its nightlife, beaches, mountains, wildlife, and more. No matter what kind of traveler you are, there’s something unique to do in Thailand that either you’ll only find here, or will not be the same anywhere else. These experiences range from truly novel ways to spend to your vacation to some truly unordinary options.
1 Become a Monk for a Month
Those looking for something a bit deeper in their travels should look no further. Rather than coming to Thailand and quickly visiting a wat (temple) why not get a deeper, behind the scenes look at things? There are a few groups now offering monk packages of various lengths. You’ll live in the temple, practice guided meditation, and learn about the Eight Precepts all while soaking in authentic culture. Some of the participating temples are also homes for orphaned children, so the proceeds from your stay are also going to help out. Check out monkforamonth.com to view different packages and timing options including also visiting hill-tribes as a novice monk along the Thai-Burma border.
There is no shortage of organizations working to help the people of Thailand. Groups exist to help Thais from all walks of life — from orphans to those at risk of trafficking, from prostitutes to indigenous groups, and more. There are even organizations that work to motivate Thai people to help their neighbors. While certainly you can help people anywhere in the world, Thailand has some truly innovative and groundbreaking programs such as the pioneering Rahab Ministries that helps women stuck in the entertainment lifestyle in Bangkok.
3 Care for an Elephant
If you really want a full elephant experience while also giving something back, visit the Thai Elephant Home just outside of Chiang Mai. Here you get the opportunity to not only ride them, but also truly learn about elephants and how they live. You’ll spend time cleaning the elephants and their homes, cut grass to feed the elephants, and hopefully make friends with one of the giants. The best part is that you are assigned an elephant for the day, rather than dealing with different ones through the day, increasing the likelihood of a bonding experience. The Thai Elephant Home is located at 50 Charoen Rd, Chiang Mai. Tel: 089 434-2047; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Get a Bamboo Tattoo
Most people take home a plate, poster, post card, or some other knick-knack from their journeys. A traditional style bamboo tattoo is for those wanting something a bit more personal and permanent. Instead of the dull motorized drone of a modern tattoo, bamboo tattoos are done with a long bamboo “spear” with a metal tip at the end. Your skin will be pierced manually and ink applied. Check out Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Chaisri. Nakhon Chaisri is to the west of Bangkok, just outside of Nakhon Pathom. Here you can find many locals and a few adventurous foreigners receiving a sacred tattoo unique and personal to each person receiving.
5 Downing the Chompers
Thailand has long been famous for its food, but none is more infamous and notorious than its insect cuisine. Long favored by rural Thais, insect eating has become a tourist rite of passage in Thailand. With just a little bit of searching around Nana or Soi Cowboy late at night in Bangkok you’ll easily find a vendor (just look for the foreigners snapping pictures in the street). The vendors will typically serve up silk worms (maybe not the Thai Silk souvenir you thought you’d take away), grasshoppers, bamboo worms, water beetles, and crickets. Super adventurous eaters can sample spiders, scorpions, and you guessed it, cockroaches. Most of the insects have been battered and fried and could pass for anything if it’s dark enough (or the diner is drunk enough).
And those are just a few, mind you!