No question, when it comes to travel to Asia, Thailand continues to be the most popular destination year after year. If you are reading this, chances are you have clients heading for the Land of Smiles in 2020. With so much to explore, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a list of the top things to do for the health and wellness-minded.
1. Get a Traditional Thai Massage
Also known as Nuad Thai, this human pretzel-making practise dates back centuries but only recently made it onto the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. The list gets updated annually to include traditions that are felt in need of preservation. Other notables that made the list this year were Irish harping, the Carnival of Podence in Portugal, and a martial art called Silat founded in Malaysia. If you’ve ever had a Thai massage, sadly, you don’t get to be naked like we are used to. Instead, you don a loose-fitting pyjama and then let the practitioner contort you like a GI Joe doll until you cry out uncle. I love it and think anyone who complains is just a big baby.
2. Go Sea Kayaking
Nothing better than grabbing a sea canoe or kayak and paddling around any of the numerous limestone karsts found in Southern Thailand. One of my fav operations is John Gray’s Sea Canoe Hong by Starlight tour. After being picked up at your hotel mid-day, you board the boat alongside 34 other people from the Ao Po Pier in Phuket and then head out to the heart of Phang Nga Bay. It’s one of the best things you can do in Phuket. There’s one guide for every two people who does the majority of paddling as he takes you through the hongs (the Thai word for room). Hongs have been formed by erosion in the limestone, forming hollowed-out cauldrons inside the karsts. Given the Jurassic Park feel, you half expect to see raptors swooping down to grab your hat, but all you end up encountering are cheeky macaques who jump from canoe to canoe. The full-day trip includes both a yummy Thai lunch and dinner, time for a quick swim in between cave explorations, and, best of all, everyone gets to craft their very own Loi Kratong flower and set it free amidst the bioluminescent plankton that sparkles under the nighttime sky. Hello! Where do I sign up? By the way, what do you call Thai food in Thailand? Answer: food. ☺
3. Go Hiking
There are so many great hikes in Thailand, it’s too difficult to come up with a fair top 10 list especially given I haven’t tried them all. What I will say though is that the areas around both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are the best bet to get started. You can choose from day trips of varying degrees of difficulty to longer overnight ventures allowing you to go deeper into the mountains. The added feature of hiking up near the Laos and Myanmar border is that you are likely to happen upon one of the Indigenous hill tribes that include the Karen, Akha, Lisu, Hmong, Lawa, Lahu, and Mien. Insider note: during the cool dry months between December to March, don’t underestimate just how cool it can get and ensure you pack accordingly or risk shivering all night (warned the woman who did not pack accordingly and didn’t sleep a wink the entire trek).
4. Go Biking in Bangkok
Obviously, there are many places to bike in Thailand and travelling through the rice paddies in the countryside is a great way to spend an afternoon, but you might not think of Bangkok as a place to bike. It is, though! The full-day biking tour takes you through the back sois (soi is the Thai word for side street and something that is described as “deep in the soi” simply means “man, is it a long way off the main road”). Signing up for one of these tours will have you travelling through the real markets of Bangkok, forgetting about the over-touristy Damnoen Floating Market. You’ll get to stop and sample some local treats like maybe some deep-fried crickets if you aren’t vegetarian.
5. Go Diving
If you’ve got the time and you aren’t already certified, Thailand is a great place to earn your dive license. Tropical waters offer bathtub temps between 27 to 31 degrees and much of the marine life is close to the surface anyway. While anytime is good for diving, consider March to April to see giant manta rays off the coast of Khao Lak or adventure seekers looking to spot some sharks will have the best luck between Feb and May. The island of Koh Tao, in the Gulf of Siam, is often considered the best for diving for those just learning the sport due to the calmer waters while the more experienced divers may want to check out the Similan and Surin Islands in the Andaman Sea. Often touted as not only the best dive site in all of Thailand but in the world as well, the area has incredible marine life but also strong undercurrents rendering it challenging for the novice.
6. Try Some Durian Fruit or Rambutan or Dragon Fruit or Papaya or Mangosteen
Well, you get the idea. Fresh tropical fruit is in surplus around most of Thailand and it would be a shame not to try it all. Whether you opt for a fresh fruit salad sprinkled with lime or you toss some chunks into an energy-infused smoothie, you can’t go wrong. Well, you can maybe. I would suggest approaching Durian with caution. The off-putting aroma of the native fruit is not everybody’s cup of tea and, in fact, is banned from most hotels and public places. Consider yourself warned.
7. Meditate with a Monk
There are a number of monasteries that are open to English-speaking travellers in Thailand to choose from and it really depends on how deep into the practice you want to get. You can opt for a day meditation or a multi-day retreat, but a multi-day retreat can be tough as you’ll be expected to live a Spartan lifestyle and awaken every morning at 5AM or earlier. Probably more popular are the many wellness centres around Thailand that feature secular Buddhism along with yoga, detox, and other purifying activities.
8. Take a Muay Thai Kickboxing class
For those who want a challenge, Thailand’s national sport called Muay Thai or “The Art of Eight Limbs” is a fantastic workout. A lot of resorts will offer day classes to get a feel for the sport. Or for fitness fanatics, there are many week-long and even month-long programs to consider. You’ll return from Thailand with rock-hard abs and some serious street swagger.
9. Go Rock climbing in Krabi
With its towering limestone cliffs overlooking the seemingly endless Andaman Sea, Krabi is the undisputed winning location for rock climbers. Whether you own your own climbing harness and carabiners or you are a complete beginner and want to learn, Krabi has climbing options for all levels of expertise.
10. Practise Tai Chi in Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is to Bangkok as Central Park is to New York: an urban oasis of greenery sheltered away from the hum of traffic. For a perfect morning, I recommend clients wake early, head into the park dressed in their most comfortable clothing, and join one of the many Tai Chi classes already in progress. It’s hard not to feel like a local when your arms are outstretched and you are bending out for a deep lunge with the sounds of black-capped Kingfishers singing in the background.
These are my top 10 wellness activities I highly recommend while in Thailand. Feel free to forward this article on to your clients to inspire and help them make the most out of their Thailand vacation. And if you don’t have a client already booked for Thailand, check out goway.com for a full list of travel ideas for Thailand.