Forget any notion you had of Thailand being just a beach destination; there are tonnes of hiking trails to do all over the country, from shorter distances to gruelling, multi-day treks that’ll prove a challenge for anyone.
For beginners, islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Phuket often have shorter treks with glorious viewpoint payloads at the end of them, which can be completed in an afternoon by even the most unfit of travellers. The thrill of completing a simple trek can’t be overstated; the sense of achievement from a simple trek can change your whole outlook and inspire you to push yourself to more difficult treks. For harder trails, the north of Thailand and its stunning highlands provide both an authentic and challenging way to experience Thai countryside. A trek from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son or Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai can take anywhere between one and two weeks but provide unforgettable experiences meeting villagers and seeing unrivalled mountain views. Thailand is also home to stunning national parks that have trekking, kayaking and much, much more.
Diving offers a unique experience — that of being a guest in a world that isn’t your own. Thailand has a number of fantastic diving experiences, with a tonne of dive shops dotted all over the country that provide both discovery dives for total newbies and options for seasoned veterans. The Similan Islands off the Andaman coast provide are home to some of the best dive spots in the country. Here, you can see colourful coral reefs, curious rock formations and a whole host of marine life, including sharks, turtles and, if you’re lucky, giant manta rays and whale sharks.
If the thought of running, climbing over obstacles, crawling through mud and dodging barbed wire doesn’t strike you as something you’d like to do on holiday, then you might want to look away now. All of these activities and more can be found at the Spartan Race. A gruelling race of over 13 kilometres, the distance will be the least of your worries as you push your body to its limits under the hot, Thai sun. But it’s not all bad news, the camaraderie of the competitors and the spirit of togetherness will drive you further, and, whilst the venue for 2018 isn’t confirmed yet, it was in Pattaya in 2017, so there’s the motivation of a gorgeous beach and a crazy party that night to get you over the line.
Known as the sport of eight limbs due to the incorporation of the elbows and knees into its fighting style, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and Thailand is the best place to learn a thing of two about this brutal but fun martial art. Whereas many simply choose to enjoy the spectacle of a Muay Thai fight, there’s nothing quite like lacing up the gloves and being put through your paces by an instructor who’s more than likely knocked out a few guys live on Thai television. Whilst it may seem daunting, the coaches are more often than not humble and gentle, and they welcome students of any level to their gyms. If you train for a while, you may even get to fight in a stadium, though its more than okay simply to train for fun and fitness. There are gyms up and down the country, and you can train for as long as you like, from one introductory lesson to staying for half a year on an education visa.
Anyone who has ventured down to the south of Thailand will know it’s littered with imposing, limestone karsts and sheer cliff faces lining the beaches and the islands. Where there’s a rock, you can count on the fact that someone has climbed it. Thailand offers some wonderful rock climbing adventures, and perhaps none more amazing than at Railay beach in Krabi province. The rocks around Railay provide simple, beginner 5a climbing routes and challenging 8c grades, so travellers regardless of their level will find a route that’s just right for them. Not only is the rock climbing fun, Railay is also one of the most beautiful locations in Thailand, with several gorgeous beaches and deep blue seas to enjoy and a number of bars and restaurants to recuperate in.
You could just choose to get around the Land of Smiles on a slow, stuffy coach or on a budget airline, but where’s the fun in that? With some of the most dangerous roads in the world, travelling through Thailand on a motorbike is certainly thrill seeking, but as long as you’re obeying the laws of the land and have enough experience to feel comfortable riding or renting a motorbike, you should be fine. The north of Thailand has some particularly awesome roads for motorcycle tours, such as the Mae Hong Son loop taking in Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao and other locations on the way. The highlands off the road offer stunning forests, inviting curvy roads and scenic mountain vistas that will have you pausing to take it all in more than you’ll care to admit.
Much like in any popular tourist destination, Thailand is home to several companies offering activities such as zip-lining, bungee jumping and sky diving, for those among us who prefer to live with a high resting heartbeat. For zip-lining, the Hollow Mountain Extreme Adventure Park offers the unique experience of swinging and zip-lining through a hollow limestone mountain, with pleasing natural rain forest views to keep you company and try to keep you calm. Bungee jumping and sky diving are also proven to get the heart racing, with bungee jumping popular in tourist-heavy islands such as Phuket and Koh Samui, and sky diving a hit in Pattaya.