There’s an ancient Thai proverb that goes, “One shouldn’t just throw water. One should also visit many tourist sites as well.”
OK… fine… I just made that up. It’s true though! No matter your reason for flitting off to one country or another, you should always be open to experiencing more than you planned. So while you may be headed to Thailand for the sole purpose of releasing pent up anger via Super Soaker, don’t forget there’s so much more to see in the Land of Thai than the bottom of a bucket through goggled eyes. There are also people with really, really long necks.
VISIT A CHIANG MAI TEMPLE… OR A THOUSAND
Depending on how long you’ll be visiting, of course. With about 95% of the population practicing Buddhism and the estimated 40,000 temples, that makes Thailand the most Buddhist nation on Earth. It’s such a Buddhi-ful place, really. Many of these temples are open to tourists provided you dress and act like a civilized human being. Come on, I know you can do it!
Wat Chedi Luang
Located in the historic centre of Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang is a striking temple that has stood since the 14th century. It once held the Emerald Buddha, the holiest religious object in Thailand (now located in Bangkok), so that’s a big deal. In the year 1545 it suffered damage by earthquake but is still an active place of worship today. Venture behind the main hall to explore the ruins up close.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai’s most celebrated temple whose monastery is home to 700 friendly monks. Named the “Temple of the Lion Buddha”, this 14th century temple boasts stunning mosaic work, large murals, golden rooftops and a revered statue of the Lion Buddha—but only from the neck down since the head was stolen. Not everyone is capable of acting civilized.
Well-manicured grounds dotted with coffee stands and massage pavilions surround Wat Phra Singh… so yeah, that’s happening. Nirvana, indeed.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
I know what you’re thinking: “Somebody dropped all the Scrabble tiles!” Well, perhaps. In 1383 King Keu Naone built WPTDS to enshrine a piece of bone said to be from the shoulder of Buddha himself. The temple sits atop a mountain requiring visitors to climb 309 steps to reach the pagoda (or cheat and take the funicular, you lazy bum). At the top visitors are rewarded with extraordinary views of Chiang Mai and some much deserved calm and quiet.
GET BACK TO NATURE
Doi Inthanon National Park
If you’re at all like me, you like to get out of the city for a day and climb a really kickass mountain. Doi Inthanon National Park is part of the Himalayas mountain range and is known as “the roof of Thailand”. At 2565m above sea level, Thailand’s highest mountain peak offers spectacular views, waterfalls, caves, and a collection of hiking trails. It’s also great for bird nerds like myself with more than 362 species. Haven’t you heard? That bird is the word? Well, it is.
Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls
I know, the name’s kind of off-putting. But this site, located a bit outside the city, is totally worth the drive because this place is WEIRD. Behind the falls is a wall of porous limestone that feels sticky to the touch, making it very easy to climb—in case you’re still keen on getting soaked. Climbing a waterfall. I mean it.
While most waterfalls create slimy, algae-covered surfaces, Thailand’s Sticky Waterfalls create a surface akin to a pumice stone that grips your bare feet. Park at the top, take the stairs down, and climb back up in the waterfall itself.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Karen Long Neck Villages
The Karen Long Neck Villages are a 40,000-member tribal group living in the hills near the Thailand/Myanmar border. The women in the tribe are known for the traditional brass rings worn to elongate their necks. Having fled Myanmar’s political unrest, the residents earn their living making and selling crafts to visitors so your presence will be more than welcome.
Art in Paradise—Chiang Mai
In case playing with water guns all day isn’t enough to bring out your inner-dork, a visit to the world’s largest 3D art museum will. Nerd out in this interactive museum for some of the best photo ops of your trip. Catch a wave, feed a dolphin, ride a flying carpet, and escape a lava-spewing volcano all in one day.