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10 things to do in Thailand
1. The Grand Palace
Relish a Regal and Religious Experience
Thailand’s most sacred statue, the Emerald Buddha, resides at the grandiose Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), right next to the former residenceof royalty, the Grand Palace. The murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana, a magical epic, are otherworldly. But so are the gilt-covered pagodas and Buddhist images in the country’s number-one tourist attraction. What is also fascinating is how many everyday Thais come here to pray. Watching them observe age-old Buddhist rituals is a genuine slice of Thai life, served fresh every day.
The temple and palace, located in the historic Rattanakosin Island, are only a short walk from other marvels, such as Wat Pho (home of the Reclining Buddha and a traditional massage school), as well as the National Museum, the City Pillar and the National Gallery.
It is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. except on special days. Visitors are advised that polite and modest dress is essential. For more information, please visit http://www.palaces.thai.net/
2. Khon, Hun Lakhon Lek and Siam Niramit
Be Wowed by Yesteryear’s Theatrical Traditions Today
Now visitors to the capital can time travel back to 15th century Siam through performances of khon (Thai Classical Masked Dance) at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre (for reservations call 0 22244499, or visit http://www.thaiticketmaster.com/), the art-deco venue that was the first air-conditioned cinema in all of Southeast Asia, and hun lakhon lek (Traditional Thai Puppet) at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre (Tel. 0 2252 9683-4, http://www.thaipuppet.com/) in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. These exciting shows are packed with traditional Thai music, bedazzling costumes and dancing mermaids. Once performed exclusively for the Royal Court, now visitors can enjoy these regal forms of entertainment.
These extravaganzas are based on the mythical Ramayana. At the nucleus of the story is how Hanuman, the white monkey warrior, came to serve the good King Rama, in his quest to defeat the demoniac overlord Thotsakan and his green-masked minions. During performances of Khon at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, English subtitles are fl ashed across a screen above the stage. And before the show even starts, there’s a fi lm explaining the signifi cance of certain movements the dancers perform and details about their elaborate masks.
One of the newer venues to add a zesty, cultural dimension to Thailand’s nightlife is Siam Niramit (Tel. 0 2649 9222, http://www.siamniramit.com/). They offer a nightly dinner show package that uses hi-tech special FX to spotlight highlight heaven, hell and the enchanted Himapaan Forest, which lies between them. The other two acts of the show give the audience previews of some of the country’s most colourful festivals and take them on a whirlwind tour of its four distinct regions.
Tee Off on Tropical Greens
Tons of pros and amateurs have a ball in Thailand every year during their golfing vacations in scenic settings like Hua Hin and Phuket. The country’s courses are not only world class but they sport some of the cheapest green fees in Southeast Asia and excellent local caddies.
So many tourists come to the Kingdom every year to indulge in their favourite sport that a number of tour companies have sprung up to cater to these afi cionados. This means you can choose from a variety of packages, from VIP golf holidays to more inexpensive variations, or even stay at a resort with a course on site. Let the tour operators take care of the details so you can concentrate on your game and take in the splendid scenery.
You don’t have to be Tiger Woods to get the ball rolling.
4. Muai Thai
Jump in the Ring
When it comes to martial artistry, everyone knows that Muai Thai kick-boxers are the lords of the ring. Professional bouts provide plenty of punchy entertainment in Bangkok. But more and more people are getting their kicks in Thailand by taking lessons at the many schools across the country, for fitness reasons, self-defense, or to become professional boxers.
And there are gyms all over the country which welcome foreigners and give classes in English. What’s even more thrilling are the Muai Thai resorts and training camps opening near beaches on Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Pha-ngan. There’s nothing more soothing for those aches and pains than some downtime on the beach or a swim in a tropical sea after a hard day’s workout, learning pugilistic moves like “breaking the elephant’s tusks.”
5. Elephant Trekking
Riding a Jumbo
Siamese soldiers rode elephants into battle as the tanks of ancient battlefi elds. Now tourists can ride one, too. Though you can go for an elephant trek on many Thai islands, the most scenic outings are up in the great green north. Atop the elephant’s back you can climb hills, ford streams and lumber through the jungle. Some of the camps also put on shows. For an incredible display of the animal’s might, just watch them hauling logs.
At the National Elephant Institute, in the northern province of Lampang, tourists can also sign up for courses on how to be a mahout. Learn how to ‘drive’ the beast, how to take them to the river for a bath, and even sleep with your own elephant out in the jungle. Please bear in the mind that these intelligent and endangered creatures, which have the same lifespan as a human being, are sacred to Thai people and that a white elephant once graced the flag of Siam. Even today, you can still see Thais walking under the elephant’s belly, like ancient Siamese warriors used to do, in order to bring themselves good luck and strength.
6. Medical Tourism Best Places to Go
Affordable Surgery Abroad & Medical Tourism
The focus of “Medical-Tourism-in-Thailand” is to inform you and other medical tourists seeking affordable surgery abroad that Bangkok, Thailand is your destination of choice. We can also provide medical escort and concierge services if you decide to come and want our help. We do not mark up the medical care, surgeries or dental care we recommend. Except for highly specialized procedures that may not be listed, we quote from price lists published by the hospitals and doctors or from quotes they provide to us. Ask them or ask us, the price of any particular surgery will be the same always.
Medical tourism in Thailand is a great idea because “The Land of Smiles” is already one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. You probably already know Thai food is great and have heard that Thailand is a fantastic place to vacation.
7. Beauty Spa & Thai Massage
Take a Dose of Healthy Tourism
Thailand has become the fountainhead of the spa business in Southeast Asia. Most of the country’s major hotels have a spa, where you can opt for everything from facial treatments to holistic treatments, based on traditional Asian methods of healing, which strike a balance between the physical and spiritual. Many of these spas are opulently appointed with art and antiques to help rejuvenate all of your senses.
What’s more, plenty of people come to Thailand to get their teeth done (yes, there’s even a dental spa in Bangkok, too) because, for the fraction of the price in the West, they can enjoy quality dentistry and then use the savings to bankroll the rest of their vacation.
As obesity, stress and a lack of physical exercise claim more and more lives each year, good health has become a matter of life and death. No wonder so many tourists are choosing health-conscious holidays. These might entail a week-long fasting and colonics program on a tropical island; or working in some spa treatments after doses of sightseeing; or making sure your hotel has a decent gym and pool to keep yourself in good shape.
These days, holidays are not just exercises in gluttony and sloth.
8. Tom Yum Kung, Phat Thai, & Cooking
Savour the True Spices of Thai Life
Now that traditional dishes like Tom Yam Kung (a spicy broth laced with lemon grass and fresh shrimps) and Phat Thai (Thai-style noodles) have become globally renowned, more and more people want to learn the basics of the one of the world’s most popular culinary arts. Forget the thousands of cookbooks and experience authentic Thai food preparation with a distinctly local flavour.
Better still, you can choose your own kitchen. Would you like to study aboard a converted wooden rice barge? How about in a humble wooden abode? Or would you prefer the gleaming kitchen of a five-star hotel?
Whichever you choose, you can take a day-long course – or longer – and learn the secrets of preparing your favourite local dish from a real Thai chef. And then you get to join in the feast along with your fellow cooks.
Fancy a sweet green curry with chicken, or a spicy papaya salad? How about a mouthwatering grouper steamed in lemon and ginger?
They’re all on the menu at these cooking classes, along with outings to buy ingredients at local fresh markets.
9. Songkran & Loi Krathong Festival
Make Memories at Amazing Festivals
As night falls, the country’s waterways are illuminated by tiny fl oats fi lled with flowers, incense and a candle. This tribute to the Water Goddess takes place on the full moon night of the 11th lunar month. Loi Krathong is a romantic festival, too. Couples go to fl oat their Krathongs together. While you can see – and participate in – this festival all across the country, wherever there’s a river, stream or canal, the most unforgettable place to catch it is in the atmospheric ruins of the Sukhothai Historical Park, where it originated many centuries ago.
The festivities prove how important water is in a society with such agrarian roots. During Songkran, the Thai New Year held in mid-April splashes down with water wars on the streets; the ritual bathing of Buddha images; and endearing displays of the young pouring water over the hands of their respected elders.
Both of these uniquely colourful festivals show off the spiritual and mirthful sides of the Thai people and will surely deposit some scenes in your memory banks that will not soon be forgotten.
10. Travel by Rail
Ride the Rails in Splendour and Comfort
When it comes to railway journeys of a lifetime, the true fans of luxury and history have a one-track mind for the legendary Eastern and Oriental Express. Get your dream vacation on track by booking the eight- day/seven-night package with stopovers at the history-rich cities of Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi (http://www.orient-express.com/). These sightseeing breaks include guided tours with a cornucopia of attractions, from religious ruins to the remnants of the World War II “Death Railway” and the Bridge Over the River Kwai, as well as river cruises.
From the privacy of your immaculate compartment on the E&O, you’ll have your own window on some of the most cinematic scenery in Thailand (both pastoral and urban). Into the bargain you’ll be pampered like a prince. The range of intercontinental dishes available in the dining car is to drool for. And how many other trains have their own well-stocked library?
After seven days of traversing Thailand, the Eastern and Oriental Express makes tracks through Malaysia to reach the end of the line in Singapore.