Luxury Asia tour operator Remote Lands has announced five new off-the-beaten path itineraries in Thailand in conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The two have partnered up to to promote the lesser-known areas of Thailand beyond Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui.
All new itineraries may be booked as is or customized to suit individual travelers’ interests. Itineraries range from snorkeling off Koh Kood Island and strolling through Buriram Night Bazaar in Isaan, to visiting elephant sanctuaries and exploring temples.
Added itineraries include:
An Exploration of Temples and Ancient Relics in Northern Thailand (Nine Days)
Travelers will explore this history Northern Thailand through visits to the Hill Tribes of Ban Rong Hi, the remnants of the Lanna Kingdom, ancient stone ruins of Phra Nakhon, and a royal temple believed to hold relics of the Buddha.
Also included in the itinerary is an entire day working with Asian elephants helping care for them, learning commands in Thai from the trainers, and aiding in feeding and bathing routine.
Temple Hopping and Elephant Excursions in Northern Thailand (Seven Days)
The tour begins in Ayutthaya where travelers will explore what was once the capital of Siam before heading north to Uthai Thani and stopping in Angthong to see the 164-foot-long reclining Buddha. The tour will also stop in Sukothia to explore the three most famous temples. Also included is exploring ancient ruins, visiting and caring for elephants in their natural environment, and walking through the Chiang Mai’s famous night markets.
Cambodia & Soneva Kiri: Connecting Ancient Culture with Island Charm (Eight Days)
This itinerary not only explores some of the best spots in Thailand, but also makes stops in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Travelers stay four-nights at the Soneva Kiri resort in Koh Kood with a variety of activities to choose from including the resort’s experience Cinema Paradiso, where visitors can watch classic movies in an open-air theatre with specially made cocktails. Guests can take a sea safari to Koh Kradad Island, visit the local fishing villages, or make reservations at the Mushroom Cave Lunch.
Also included in the itinerary is a boat cruise to Prasat Chrung before exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, and enjoying a private Cambodian dance performance at the Conservatoire d’Angkor.
Nature, Culture and History in Isaan (Six Days)
Travelers journey though the jungles of Khao Yai, the Angkorian sandstone temples, an elephant village, and Pha Taem National Park on the Mekong River. Also included is a wine-tasting tour in Khao Yai, a night safari, a visit to the new, 32,600-seat I-Mobile Stadium, and a food tour of the Buriram Night Bazaar.
Floating Elephant Camps and Island Paradise in Thailand (13 Days)
This ultimate tour takes travelers to the country’s top lesser-known islands. It begins with a long-tail boat cruise on Cheow Lan Lake, which is followed by treetop dining in a bird’s nest-style pod suspended in the air while waiters deliver an array of dishes via zipline at Soneva Kiri resort; and a stay at one of the only floating tented camps in the world at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in Khao Sok National Park. The itinerary also offers opportunities for participants to get up close and personal with wildlife as well as eat at a restaurant that feed wild eagles at a location only reached by bicycle.
Perhaps going along a recent trend, travelers are craving more authentic, cultural travel experiences. An Expedia survey from 2016 showed that 76 percent of baby boomers and 62 percent of Gen Xers rated local culture as the “most important” part of travel – only 52 percent of Millennials agreed it was most important; however, 31 percent of Millennials said it was tied with social media response (for a total of 83 percent).
For authentic, immersive experiences, mark Thailand as the next travel destination on your bucket list. Here’s a compilation of the top 10 things to experience while visiting.
1. Explore historic sites
This includes Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which can be found about one hour from Bangkok. Never reconstructed after being attacked by the Burmese, this property is considered an extensive archaeological site. The Great Buddha in Wat Muang is also worth a visit, located about an hour and a half from the capital city. It is the tallest statue in Thailand, and the eighth tallest in the world. Not far from here is “Hell Park,” where there are smaller – though more gruesome – statues that depict the fate of sinners.
2. Visit some of the nation’s ancient temples
While in the north in Chiang Mai, a must-see is the Buddhist temple of Wat Phra Singh. Dating back to 1367, this is the Rose of the North’s most revered temple, and dominated by the mosaic-inlaid “wí·hăhn,” or sanctuary. It is home to Phra Singh, the Lion Buddha and elegantly decorated by gilded serpents and golden stenciling.
In Bangkok, tourists can visit the Grand Palace, located along the Chao Praya River and constructed after the destruction of Ayutthaya. The palace was built for the new capital and houses a royal residence, throne halls, government offices, Buddhist temples and works of art.
3. Play with elephants
Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park can also be found in Chiang Mai, and was established in the 1990s as a “sanctuary and rescue center” for elephants and other endangered or rescued species. With a few different options to choose from, visitors can pet, feed and even bathe the elephants during an insightful and rewarding day. All proceeds from admission go toward feeding the elephants, some of which consume nearly 100 pounds of fresh produce per day, plus general upkeep of the park.
4. Come eye-to-eye with a tiger
Travelers can visit Tiger Kingdom, located in the town of Mae Rim – not far from Chiang Mai’s city center; there is also a second location in Phuket. At these centers, guests can interact with tigers of all ages and sizes, ranging from three months to full grown adults. The center is a wildlife preservation, though rumors have been spread otherwise. There is no threat to visitors, as these tigers are hand-raised. According to the center’s website, there are only an estimated 120 tigers that continue to inhabit the wild, and all proceeds from the centers go toward the investments of captive breeding of tigers.
5. Go on a boat tour of Phang Nga Bay
Depicted in movies such as Roger Moore’s “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “The Beach,” starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio, the bay is recognizable by its limestone rock formations that jut out of the emerald green Andaman Sea. This is a perfect excursion for those visiting the islands of Phuket or Krabi as well as beach and nature lovers, as they can explore the caves, lagoons and secluded beaches along the way. This is also a perfect opportunity to snorkel or swim.
6. Relax on Thailand’s pristine beaches
Ko Samui and Ko Phangan are usually the places to go to soak up some rays but for those looking for a little extra seclusion, head across the peninsula to Koh Lanta. Known for its luxury, the beach is home to miles of unpolluted waters, nearby dive spots include Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Ko Haa, and five-star Pimalai Resort & Spa offers rooms with stunning views of the bay. There will be fewer tourists found here than on the other two islands, providing for ultimate tranquility and relaxation.
7. Eat like a local
Tourists can find pretty much any traditional Thai dish on the streets of Bangkok. There is everything from stir fries, mango sticky rice, roast pork belly, steamed crab, sausages, curry, mangosteen, among other local delicacies. One of the best places to find local street foods is on Rama IV road in Sathorn, between Lumpini and Klong Toei Station.
For a more organized experience, consider booking with Bangkok Food Tours, an award-winning food and culture tour operator that has been recognized by such publications as CNNgo, Travel+Leisure and Lonely Planet. There are over a dozen food tours to choose from, between the Eat with Locals Tour, Bangkok Bites & Bike Tour, Central Thailand Rice & Spice Trail, Yaowarat Street Food Tour in Chinatown, including a few others that are organized in Chiang Mai and Phuket.
8. Drink like a local (whether virgin or alcoholic)
As the capital city, Bangkok is not only the place to eat, but the place to drink. Some traditional Thai drinks that are a must-try for travelers are: Cha Yen (Thai iced tea), a popular sweet, orange beverage made with brewed tea leaves and condensed milk that can be made both iced or hot and found on the street for cheap; Nom Yen (iced milk with syrup), popular among Thai kids and teenagers and is made with hot milk, green or red syrup and ice and can also be found on the street or at local bakeries; Thai beers such as Singha and Chang, which are both known and enjoyed worldwide; and Mekhong and Sangsom, the two most popular Thai whiskeys.
For a night out, there are guided tours such as the Bangkok Bar Crawl, that takes travelers to four bars and one club where they receive welcome shots and discounted drinks from a special menu. For those who want to explore the city at night for themselves, some popular bars are Maggie Choo’s, The Iron Fairies, Brown Sugar, which doubles as a venue for live music, Tuba Bar, which doubles as a thrift shop, and Moon Bar, located on the roof of the Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel and offers mesmerizing panoramas of the city from a bird’s eye view.
9. Visit Thai markets
About an hour and a half drive from Bangkok is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, something of a staple in Thailand. Only accessible by long tail boat, there are souvenirs, clothing, fresh produce and food such as noodle bowls, coconut pancakes and stir fries being sold. This market fills up quickly with tourists, so make sure to get there in the early morning to beat the rush.
Back in Chiang Mai, travelers can explore the Sunday Night Market or “Walking Street” – the largest market of the week. Locals come to sell arts and crafts and handmade goods at this market, such as lanterns, wooden boxes, masks, paintings and string lights.
10. Watch and learn Muay Thai
The traditional art of Thai boxing has been around for centuries and is Thailand’s national sport. Becoming increasingly popular, many tourists go to watch Muay Thai matches – but there are also opportunities to learn this fighting art, whether in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket offers a beginner level training program where trainees can learn from instructors who train the pros. There are other similar opportunities at facilities such as Kombat Group Pattaya and Fairtex Bangkok, where instructors have sufficient English skills and can easily communicate with travelers.