Thailand is pretty much the most popular gap year destination in the world, and for good reason. There’s so much to do there, you could easily spend a year getting to know the country’s intricacies and quirks.
Take a tuk tuk
Check out Saunders and Ollie’s guide to getting around Bangkok and it’s pretty clear that it’s the tuk tuk all the way. A snug sofa with a small engine and a colourful hood, the tuk tuk is perfect for dodging lorries, swerving sidewalks and jamming taxis. They are the cheapest and by far the most fun travel option in Thailand.
Visit the Grand Palace
As one of Bangkok’s main tourist attractions, it can be tempting to dodge the throngs of cheery snappers in the afternoon heat but it is worth the sweat-breaking agro. The collection of intricately painted white and gold temples offer religion and history that give you a quick burst of Thai culture in a 30 minute whip a round. Just don’t forget to ply on the layers as a sign of respect.
Go wild on Khao San Road
Described in ‘The Beach’ as the ‘backpacking centre of the universe’ it’d be criminal not to pay Khao San Road a visit. After all, if Leo DiCaprio’s been there then it’s good enough for us. The kilometre long stretch offers a continuous overlap of bars, hostels, travel agents, clubs, restaurants and massage parlours all crying out for backpackers to take advantage of their low prices.
Fried grasshopper? Spicy locusts? Do like the locals and munch on the crunchy delicacies of Thailand. Ignore the hard shell or weird pincers and try to enjoy the taste of some sweet and savoury bugs. You can find insects for sale on most street stalls in a number of places around the city so don’t be afraid to try.
The Temple of Dawn rests on Bangkok’s riverside and makes for a pretty picture when sunset comes and the entire temple begins to glow. It is said to be a representation of Mount Meru which is otherwise known as the centre of the universe.
Take a long boat through Bangkok
As an alternative to the tuk tuk, the long boat down Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is another way of soaking up the city’s culture. On the open, and pretty murky waters, you can make a few purchases, watch the locals at work and see the city’s epic monuments in the background. Saunders and Ollie show how it’s done right here.
Try some street food
Nothing beats a bit of pad thai or spicy green curry cooked on the street corner by your favourite two-toothed man. Forget the horror stories and indulge in a strange-looking snack or bizarre-smelling beverage from a vendor. The Eating Thai Food blog lends a few tips on how to decide what to eat while offering up a few cooking tips so you can recreate the Thai magic in your own kitchen.
Take a day trip to Ayutthaya
The capital of the Ayutthaya province is located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, just a short train ride from Bangkok. The once royal city now overflows with crumbling temples and religious ruins, which is why it is protected as a World Heritage Site. Grab an all-day chauffer, aka tuk tuk driver, and visit just a few of the temples to see some pretty sites and golden buddhas.
Visit the reclining Buddha at Wat Po
Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan, or The Temple of the Reclining Buddha as it’s more commonly known, does what it says – it is the resting place for the reclining Buddha. The golden statue is 43 meter long so pretty impressive. Located just opposite the Grand Palace it’s easy to get to and one to be crossed off the list.
Slingshot to Heaven
At 27 metres tall, Bangkok’s Giant Swing stands amidst the city’s other skyscrapers. It previously played an integral role in annual swing ceremonies – yep they exist. Teams of Thai men would compete to launch themselves off the swing to try to catch a sack of coins fastened at the top of the pole. Not surprisingly many men died in this fierce comp and today it sits as a big, giant even, piece of history.
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