We all know there’s a myriad of reasons for visiting Thailand – it is usually one of the go-to destinations on the backpacker’s checklist. The beaches, the weather, the people, the food, the culture, the temples – there’s so much on offer – and it’s cheap. You probably don’t need any more reasons to visit, but here’s 4 that Thailand does particularly well that won’t cost you the earth!
Thailand is steeped in tradition, and these cultural festivities highlight the diversity of Thai culture and its eccentric charm. The Thai’s love a festival, and with a full calendar of local and national festivals taking place throughout the year you’d be hard pushed to miss out on these entertaining and awe-inspiring events.
The most popular and famous one is Songkran, The Water Festival. It is celebrated at Thai New Year, which lasts for 2 days around the 13th April. Traditionally, the sprinkling of water on Buddha statues and family members was seen as a symbol of cleansing and renewal; a way of ushering out the bad luck and impurities of the old year and starting afresh with the new.
The modern interpretation has escalated into giant water fights where everyone takes to the streets armed with Super-Soakers, water pistols and anything else they can use to dispense water, merrily drenching everyone in their path. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to keep cool in the sweltering summer heat!
One of the most captivating festivals is the sky lantern release at Mae Jo – a short drive away from Chiang Mai. Thousands and thousands of lit lanterns resembling swarms of fireflies are released into the dark night to offer respect to Buddha. It is an awe-inspiring sight and this free event is now so popular that there are now two – but for the ‘tourist’ one you have to pay an entry fee. There are other things going on at Mae Jo prior to the event so it’s worth getting there early so you can still get in free.
Incredible Thai Landscapes
Thailand is renowned for its stunning beaches and islands, but there are beautiful landscapes and spectacular views that are far and away from the mass tourism of the Kingdom’s most popular destinations.
Pai Canyon, in Tambon Wiang Tai province the north of the country near Chiang Mai, is a narrow ridge with steep 50 metre drops either side that winds its way around the tree canopy of the forest below. It’s not for the faint-hearted and there is a viewing platform if you’d rather not risk traversing the ridge, but it’s a spectacular place to watch a sunset.
Another one is the Lotus Lake at Wiang Kham in Chiang Rai province in the northeast. Hidden from view by tall grasses, this stretch of water is smothered in pink lotus blooms as far as the eye can see. It is best visited in the cooler months from December to February, but can only be reached by wooden boat belonging to the locals.
Yep, you read correctly…It’s to be hoped you don’t have a dental emergency, but if you do there’s some high-quality, low cost facilities available across Thailand. Dentists can offer you a white filling for as little as $14 (£9), but you don’t have to visit just for an emergency.
Just because you’re backpacking it doesn’t mean you should neglect your dental health and forego your recommended 6 monthly check-up – and you’ll be surprised that even Bangkok dentists often don’t charge for an initial consultation…
You should, of course, always do some homework – check out clinic and dentist credentials, or book with through a reputable dental tourism company who have already done these background checks already. There are some great facilities that Westerners travel specifically to Thailand for! When faced with a huge dental bill at home, the cost in Thailand is often 50% less and well worth the trip, especially as they get to experience a great holiday too.
Massage parlours are ubiquitous in Thailand,but in Chiang Mai you can get a foot massage at a fraction of the price at the Women’s Correctional Institute. Part of the rehabilitation program to integrate prisoners back into society, it’s popular so you may have to wait a little while – but there’s a nice café with wifi to help pass the time.
You’ll never be stuck for things to do in Thailand – so make the most of it and drink in its unique culture and pastimes for a memorable experience.