Everybody knows what Thailand is famous for its endless white-sand beaches, perfectly warmed waters, delicious traditional meals and unforgettable cultural experiences.
But do you want to know a secret? We'll tell you there's more to Thailand than what you find on the back of a postcard.
It may be hard to believe, but Thailand is full of incredible stuff that isn't just beaches and pina coladas (not that there would be anything wrong with it if it was).
Once you've given that a minute to sink in, take a look at these four travel experiences that you never knew you could find in Thailand - let alone how epic they can be.
1. Hot air ballooning
There are plenty of places in the world known for their famous hot air ballooning - Cappadocia in Turkey, Napa Valley in California, and the Loire Valley in France to name a few.
Thailand isn't in the least bit famous for its hot air ballooning, but don't let that stop you. One of the many things Thailand is actually famous for is its rice fields, so can you imagine a better way to see them stretching out into the distance below you?
Head to Doi Saket, a little north east of Chiang Mai, for a hot air balloon ride that will make you wonder why it's not Thailand's number one attraction. The area is largely rural, with farmland, waterways, rice fields and verdant hills as far as the eye can see. A relaxing ride in the basket is a phenomenal way to spend a little time with the family away from the hustle and bustle of Thailand's major cities and crowded tourist areas.
Bet you never thought you'd see that word in a Thailand travel article, did you? But hey, learn something new every day and all that.
Despite the fact that Bangkok only recently reached its coldest day on record in 30 years (a balmy 15 degrees Celsius), you can actually ski, snowboard, and settle family feuds with a well-placed snowball in this tropical city.
Not outside of course, but on a massive indoor ski field in 'Snow Town' on the fifth floor of Gateway Ekamai Mall. The field is part of a larger wintry development that lets you shop and dine in a space decorated with pictures of polar bears and penguins, and is where the restaurants are named after world-famous ski areas. And all of this no matter how high the mercury is outside.
3. Wine tasting
When you think wine tasting, you might typically think of places like the Barossa Valley in Australia or the Marlborough region in New Zealand, so who would have thought that Thailand has a little something something for the vino aficionado, too?
And the best news? There are wine hot spots all over the country, so you can sneak a day of tasty touring in no matter where you're based on holiday. One of the most popular areas is by the Khao Yai National Park, which is just a couple of hours from Bangkok. Its proximity means you'll easily be able to make this a quick day trip, but its quality means you'll likely want to do it all again the next day.
There are also many spots up in the north by Chiang Mai, and even a few more that you can reach on a day trip from Bangkok. As a bonus for those travelling with young ones, many organised tours also include additional (and more traditional) experiences such as tribal village visits, elephant rides and beach breaks.
Here's a little unknown fact about Thailand: it's got more stunning gems and gemstones than the Queen's private collection of these little sparklers.
Unfortunately, the country's reputation as a gemstone capital comes with a common scam whereby a well-dressed (and seemingly very professional) young Thai person will approach tourists with an offer to purchase these jewels that's just too good to be true. If someone approaches you like this, don't be afraid to kindly decline.
That said, it would be a shame to miss out on seeing these beauties for yourself. Bangkok is considered the world capital for jewellery and gemstone trading, so take the time to visit one of the many stores in the area. The kids will love all the bright stones and there's no denying the beauty of so many of them in the same place.
If you do wish to purchase something, be sure to research the item and its approximate worth before making an investment.
Of course, it is Thailand, and you will no doubt love all the usual attractions such as beaches, markets, temples, beaches, food, beaches, shopping, and more beaches, but if you'd like to add something a little unexpected to your Thailand travels, be sure to make time for one (or all, we won't judge) of these surprising, and surprisingly wonderful, Thai experiences.
- Posted in Thailand