Top Ten Experiences in Thailand
Top Ten Experiences in Thailand
There are so many experiences to share with children in Thailand – it’s a very welcoming place to travel with kids. Travelling with children gives us adults a chance to see through the world through the eyes of a child, with all their enthusiasm, imagination and innocence.
Here are my top picks of entertaining and educational things to do with kids in Thailand:
Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre, Phuket
Open daily 9am to 4.30pm
No entrance fee
Meet a gibbon and have a laugh at the human like antics of these amazing beautiful creatures, who are essential to the energy and life of the jungle. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre is loaded with information about them and their habitat and a volunteer is always on hand to give more insight and answer any questions you may have. Gibbons are an endangered species threatened by the loss of their natural environment, illegal hunting and trade in the pet market. They are often put on display for tourists to gawk at and photograph, but at a great cost to the gibbon itself. Once they reach maturity, they are often released and having no survival skills for the wild, they don’t survive or they are hunted. Sometimes their large canine teeth will be removed and they will be chained up or kept in a tiny cage. For every cute little gibbon on display, there is a mother in the jungle that has been killed, destroying its family group. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre is where you can see them playfully interacting with their adopted family unit, in a pseudo natural environment, prior to being released back into the wild.
Surin Islands - National Marine Park - Phang Nga - "Moken Sea Gypsies"
Open - Mid November to Mid May
Getting there: Hire a long tail boat from Kuraburi (approx 4 hours) or organized
tours with one of the tour companies such as Barracuda or Medseye.
You can make this an overnight adventure camping trip in one of the most beautiful places in Thailand - the Surin National Park or a day tour from in Phuket if time is limited. Getting there by bus and speedboat for a day trip makes for an awfully long day, so the overnight camping is highly recommended. But, if you or the kids are prone to seasickness, you might want to give this one a miss.
It’s not just a chance to explore underwater and find ‘Nemo’ hiding out in the sea anemone, but also where the kids can jump aboard a long tail boat and visit the Moken Sea Gypsies village and learn about their lifestyle, which is fast changing post the 2004 Tsunami. Tents are set up on the main island facing the ocean, where at low tide it is a game of spot the baby black tipped reef sharks or snorkel and see a turtle gracefully gliding through the aquamarine water. Watch for the pig tailed macaca (monkeys) that clamor through the trees overhead Truly a great family adventure!
Tiger Kingdom - Mae Raem, Chiang Mai
Open 10am to 10pm
Unlike the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre in Phuket, The Tiger Kingdom is a thriving commercial tourist attraction, despite its claim to being a ‘rehabilitation centre’. A lot of controversy surrounds the Tiger Kingdom as to whether they drug their tigers and whether this is simply a money making venture.
But despite all of that, having the chance to run your hands through the fur of a tiger is an experience that will leave you in awe of these beautiful feline animals. The kids can actually hold cubs, but all of this comes with a price tag, and not just to your wallet, but to the animals as well. So whether to visit or not, is purely one for your own conscience.
Loy Krathong - anywhere in Thailand during the month of November (date varies)
This beautiful holiday provides an insight into Thai Buddhism, and the manner in which different cultures celebrate their beliefs. Loy Krathong is an ancient festival, originating in making offerings to the water spirits in hopes for a successful season ahead. Part of the fun of Loy Krathong is actually making your own floating boat out of banana leaves, and placing the offerings of candle and incense inside. Or, you can buy them ready made. The floating symbolizes letting go of any anger, hatred or negative thoughts you may have stored. It is to cleanse and bring good luck for the coming year. Joining in this symbolic ritual as dark falls and masses of floating specks of light adorn waterways, will be one most beautiful sights your children will experience in Thailand. Paper lanterns are also released into the skies. It is really quite the sight – and one that should be experiences if given the chance.
Explore the Waterways of Bangkok
3 main areas - Khlong Saen Saeb (city centre)
Khlong Phdung Krung Kasem (around the Grand Palace)
Thonburi (west side of Chao Praya)
Since the 18th century, the waterways or khlongs of Bangkok gave rise to the name of ‘Venice of the East’. These bustling, smelly, polluted canals were the lifeblood of the humid, swampy ground on which Bangkok was built. To this day, they are still a constant source of commercial and pleasure activities that reminds us not only of the rich history of this area, but also the daily reality for many Thai people who rely on it as a means of transportation and living. Have a guide book handy so that you can tell the kids what you are passing, such as Wat Arun with its monks and big carp fish waiting to be fed, hawkers selling wares from their canoes from household items to freshly cooked delicacies ready to eat. The kids will be enthralled with the idea of living in a house on stilts sitting high upon the dirty water where local children can quite often be seen jumping into the murky water amidst squeals of laughter. Lots of sights to see that will make for a true family adventure.
Jungle Jaunts - especially from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand
There are so many different jungle tours on offer that it’s impossible to recommend just one. So basically, tailor make your own near wherever you are at the time and do some research on the internet as to what suits you or ask one of the number of tour companies you will come across. There is something to suit everyone.
Try to include the following if possible:
- Visit an elephant camp, preferably one that is interactive and a ‘working’ or ‘conservation’ camp, where the kids have the opportunity to wash and feed an elephant.
- A short trek, possibly to a waterfall so you can experience the exhilaration of jumping into crystal clear water, and to experience the amazing sights and sounds of the animals and vegetation to be found on the walking track in the jungle along the way.
- Plan a homestay in a hill tribe village where you can experience life from a completely different point of view and have the opportunity to romp and play with the local children.
The River Kwai and Kanchanaburi
Organize this through one of many tour companies or go from Thonburi Station in Bangkok
One day, two days or three, this is a must do for budding World War 2 history buffs and to display the fortitude of the human soul. Grab a train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. For a bit of novelty, stay in one of the many rustic and simple overnight bungalows floating on the edge of the jungle so that the kids can have a splash in the river and explore the area around them. Over the next few days take the amazing train ride on The Death Railway from Nam Tok to Kanchanaburi. Kids love trains and the amazing scenery will keep them entertained. The train will cross over the Wang Po creaking viaduct, an engineering feat. Make sure you visit the cemetery to read the inscribed headstones with their poignant words. The museum at Hellfire Pass, is another history lesson for children, as it gives insight into the building of the railway and its history.
Wat Phrathat, Doi Suthep, Chaing Mai
Note* Entrance fee for foreigners
For a religious interaction with local Buddhist people and to arouse the curiosity of the differences between religions, grab a songtaew from Chiang Mai to the sacred site of Wat Phrathat. A twisting, turning ride takes you up the mountain and to the steps of this beautiful and ornate temple built in 1383. Despite being known as Doi Suthep, it is actually the name of the mountain on which it rests. Don't be dismayed by the 309 sheer steps forever going up as it is well worth the climb. Appropriate dress should be worn (knees and shoulders covered) and shoes removed. Apart from the almost carnival ride to get there, the kids will love to be able to gong the massive bells, be amazed at the carvings of mythical creatures and watch as traditional Thai people go about their ritual of paying respects and the giving of offerings. There are also amazing views over Chiang Mai to be enjoyed. Make sure you have a guidebook with you to explain the different aspects of the temple compound and a brief introduction to the teachings of Buddhism.
Bangkok Snake Farm
Where: Thai Red Cross Institute, intersection of Rama IV and Henry Duna, Bangkok
Open: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm weekdays
8:30 am to midday weekends and holidays
Demonstrations: 2:30 pm weekdays and 11 am weekends and holidays
All kids love reptiles in one form or another. Either to squeal at or to gape at in sheer fascination. The Bangkok Snake Farm is actually where the snakes are milked to produce antidote for the whole of Thailand and their large array is amazing. Prior to the snake handling display, you can ogle the collection of slithering snakes in their well-maintained vivariums. Once you are seated in a small auditorium, you will be given a lesson on snake handling, different facts about the different species, their habitats, and whether they are of a poisonous variety and should be avoided or not. Cobras, lime green tree snakes, rainbow snakes, krait and rat snakes are all handled with a lot of care in front of your very eyes. This informative talk of these cold-blooded creatures ends in the display of a giant albino boa constrictor, that kids can't resist having a hold of.
Sea Kayak around Phang Nga Bay
Give a quirky geography lesson and take the kids sea kayaking around Phang Nga Bay, in Southern Thailand. They will almost believe they are on the set of Avatar and expect to see mountain banshee screaming around a limestone crag. There are plenty of tour companies that will happily provide an experience that the whole family can have fun and a bit of exercise doing. Here they will be able to explore the unique enclosed lagoons known as ‘Hongs’. Access can only be gained by silently gliding through narrow tunnels when the tides are right, sometimes having to fully recline on your canoe. The geographical landscape of Ao Phang Nga National Park is breathtaking as numerous limestone formations are scattered amidst the blue ocean, standing like ancient sentinels. You can also learn about where the birds make their nests for the delicacy Bird Nest Soup and to the extent that these nests are protected from poachers. See the myriad of flocks of sea birds and come across local Thai fishermen in their gaily-painted boats. If by some chance sea kayaking does not appeal, then take one of the many day boat trips to explore this rich marine wonderland. Simply an amazing place!
If you happen to be in Thailand during the month of April then you are in for a surprise! This is when the annual Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) takes place. This ‘water festival’ denotes the end of the dry season and the coming of the rains, the monsoon season. It is when you see the whole of Thailand become one massive water fight on a scale that leaves you constantly wet. Water trucks, hoses, water guns, buckets and any form of receptacle that will hold water is thrown, splashed and aimed at whoever happens to be in range. Do not go outside without a raincoat unless you are prepared to stay wet, as no one is safe from this hilarious ritual of fun! What will it teach your children? Well, there is a history lesson behind this festival, but mainly it will teach them how to aim a water pistol!