These days, travellers are increasingly on the lookout for authentic, immersive experiences with local communities. If you’re after a trip to Thailand that goes beyond the classic sun-and-sand beach holiday, here are a few simple ways to discover unique local Thai experiences:
Taste local food and learn how to cook it:
Thai cuisine is renowned the world over, and no visit to Thailand is complete without trying some of its flavoursome food. Sample street food in a night market, sign up for a cooking class at one of the numerous schools found all over Thailand to discover the delicate balance of herbs and spices and take you through the process from marketplace to dinner table, or go off the beaten track with a Best Eats Midnight Food Tour by tuk tuk. The famous Floating Markets on the outskirts of Bangkok are also worth a visit to experience the culture of riverside shopping.
Visit a village:
There’s no better way to experience the local way of life and learn about the local culture than visiting a village community. Stay at a fishing village in Ko Yao Noi in Phang Nga or catch shellfish with your toes at Ban Nam Chiao ecotourism community in Trat. You can also unleash your creative power at the various handicraft workshops throughout the country, trying your hand at porcelain painting, silk weaving, or jewelry making, for example. Perhaps you could take an indigo-dyeing workshop at Khram Sakon in Sakon Nakhonpaint Batik fabric at Ko Klang community in Krabi.
Shop like a local:
While there are obviously enough big department stores in Bangkok to satiate the most rabid shopaholic, for a more authentically Thai experience, explore local markets and walking streets. Try Amphawa and Tha Kha floating markets in Samut Songkhram, Tha Pae Sunday Walking Street in Chiang Mai, the Talad Rot Fai night market in Bangkok, Bo Phut Walking Street in Ko Samui or the night market in Hua Hin.
Take a cultural tour:
Baan Silapin or Artist’s House is one of Bangkok’s hidden cultural gems. This wooden house is more than 200 years old and acts as a community hangout where you can discover beautiful local artworks and handicrafts, sample some great Thai food and watch a traditional Thai puppet show.
Take part in a local festival:
Another great way to experience “Thai-ness” is to attend a local festival. In mid-November, Loi Krathong is celebrated throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of ornately decorated Krathong (flower-shaped floats) are set adrift in waterways to pay respect to the river goddess. The Songkran festival, the traditional Thai New Year’s celebration, takes place nationwide in mid-April. Be prepared to get wet, as the festival involves three days of fun-filled water fights. In Bangkok, the largest Songkran celebrations can be found on the Silom Road, Khao San Road and Royal City Avenue. For something more traditional, join the festivities in Chiang Mai.
Do some volunteer work:
A great way to connect with the locals is to join a volunteer project. The options range from teaching English in a rural village to working at an animal shelter, or even building a small house or a school.