Be Free, Be Proud on Your Thailand Vacation 

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Romance, luxury, wellness, culture… food! It’s one thing for Thailand to tempt us from afar, with fresh, complex flavours and the unmatched relaxation that comes from a Thai massage. But visiting for yourself takes the affair to new heights!  

You’ve never tasted Thai food until you’ve hunted down mouth-watering treats from Bangkok’s best street chefs. Thailand has its own soundtrack too, whether it’s the lap of gentle waves on its beaches, the chanting of monks, the busy beeping of tuk tuks, or the ‘croaking’ of wooden frog rasps, a popular instrument (and souvenir) throughout the country. 

Yet underneath all that excitement lies a country deeply in touch with its traditions, identity, and spirituality. You see it in exquisite temples such as Bangkok’s Wat Arun or Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple). You see it in every hall of the majestic Grand Palace and Wat Arun, and in the nation’s heartfelt reverence for its royal family. In Thailand, the past plays a vital role in an always evolving future. 

Best Things to do in Bangkok 

Thailand’s enormous, busy capital can easily overwhelm at first. Don’t panic! It all flows smoothly as the locals settle into the daily rhythms of Asia’s ‘Big Mango.’ At the centre of it all sprawls the Grand Palace, the official residence of Thailand’s beloved royal family. The beautiful Emerald Buddha is a highlight, dressed according to season, while the many other temples, throne halls and museums offer a glimpse of Thailand’s heart. Consider recharging with a massage at Wat Po Massage School just nearby… that’s if you can take your eyes off Wat Po’s incredible reclining Buddha, one of the largest and most beautiful in the world. 

From the dizzying splendour of the palace to the vitality of the street, did someone say street food? Head to Bangkok’s Bangrak neighbourhood for a taste of Bangkok’s authentic flavours, and its local energy. A food tour here is a fantastic opportunity to not only explore Thai cuisine, but to meet some of the locals that give the neighbourhood its unique character. You’ll soon discover why it’s nicknamed ‘the Village of Love.’ 

Chiang Mai: Northern Thailand’s Heart 

Northern Thailand has its own way of doing things, from food to fashion, to culture and transport. The walled centre of Chiang Mai is easy to explore on foot, but so much more fun on a Vespa tour! At night, the evening markets come alive, offering everything from souvenirs to steaming treats. Afterwards, check out some live music, or discover the heart of Chiang Mai’s LGBTQ+ nightlife just near the night market. Chiang Mai is often called Thailand’s cultural capital. This might raise eyebrows in Bangkok, but the northern locals are too busy enjoying their city to care. 

The north is also a deeply spiritual region, and the best way to get to immerse yourself in that is with a private guide. You might even receive a blessing from a local monk. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, easily recognized by its gold plated chedi is one of the most sacred places in Thailand, with magnificent views over Chiang Mai. Wat Umong offers a complete contrast with its complex network of tunnels and caves. You might even receive a blessing from one of the monks here. Northern Thailand can get chilly in its winter months (November to March), so dress in practical layers, and warm up with a bowl of khao soi, the north’s favourite noodle and coconut curry dish. 

It’s not just humans who enjoy their traditions in Northern Thailand. Joining the elephants at Chang Chill Sanctuary on their daily walk gives you a chance to learn all about them, before helping to prepare their lunch and watching them as you enjoy your own. Another defining part of Northern Thailand is its hill tribes. A visit to a local village invites you to meet the Karen people and learn about their unique relationship with the elephants. 

Discover Thailand’s Best Beaches 

If you’ve come to Thailand for some R&R, the southern beaches are where it’s at! Just don’t spend all your time lazing on the sand. Amid all that startling island beauty, Southern Thailand has its own distinct character, ready to sate your curiosity. Spots like ‘James Bond island’ may be touristy, but you won’t have to go far to enjoy a barbecue on a private island, or locally sourced lunch at a sustainable farm. Stay in a treehouse villa for beautiful, secluded accommodation where the forest meets the sea. Take a canoe tour out to some of its most beautiful lagoons, or escape to Phi Phi Island for the day, visiting rock paintings and hidden beaches as you explore. 

Queer and Trans Rights and Gay Nightlife in Thailand 

The freedom to be who you are is almost as integral to Thailand as its reverence for tradition. Thailand has been a leader in LGBTQ+ tourism to Asia for decades, welcoming diverse gender identities and families without batting an eye. No surprise then, that Thailand has long boasted the best LGBTQ+ nightlife in Asia. Same-sex couples swap stories of their day’s adventures over cocktails before a night partying it up in Bangkok’s sizzling Silom district or Phuket’s always eye-opening Patong. In the north, Chiang Mai’s more low-key options near the night market offer a more relaxed night out. Catching a show at House of HEALS in Bangkok, curated by Thailand’s biggest international LGBTQ+ celebrity, Pangina Heals, is a must for Drag Race fans. 

For locals, the nightlife offers more than just a party. It offers security, community, and chosen family. As we’re often reminded at Pride, LGBTQ+ folk have always ‘been here’ and Thailand is no exception. 

Whether it’s a romantic getaway, a luxurious indulgence, an adventure filled with rich cultural discoveries and hidden stories, or all three, your Thailand adventure is waiting in the Land of Smiles.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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