7 UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN THAILAND
1-GET YOUR DIVING LICENSE
Koh Tao is a tropical paradise, one of the most beautiful islands of Thailand, and is well known for its diving opportunities. The island is full of diving centers, which makes the price of getting a license pretty low, most places there usually charging an average of 260$ for an open water course (basic diving license). Just for comparison, in Beirut - where I'm based - the price is between 400-500$, and according to Google, the average price of a diving license in the world is anywhere between 350-450$. With prices like these, if you're interested in getting your open water certification, you'd be a fool not to swing by Koh Tao to get certified, plus diving there is actually beautiful and great as the marine animals and coral are plenty, and there's even a wreck dive (HTMS Sattakut) and an underwater park (Buoyancy World).
Who I recommend getting your license with: https://www.roctopusdive.com/book/
MU KO ANG THONG
A lot of people know that you can take a boat tour to Mu Ko Ang Thong national park from the nearby islands (Koh Tao, Koh Phan Gan, Koh Samui, ... ) and spend the day there snorkeling, caving, and hiking. What some people might not know is that you can also spend the night there camping, the park can provide you with any camping-related types of equipment, including tents, sleeping bags, and mosquitoes nets. If you're not exactly the camping type but still want to spend the night there, they also have six simple bungalows for 600 baht per day (2 bedrooms), but you need to reserve them, and you can only do that via this website or alternatively ask your hotel staff/Airbnb host/friend to make that reservation for you. This is one activity that I always recommend in Thailand because it's one of my favorites. The parks cut all electricity at 11:00 pm, and I distinctively remember waking up in the middle of the night because I needed to go to the bathroom: I walked between the palm trees with the sound of the sea and saw fireflies everywhere, it was crazy to look up at the starry sky with big dark palm tree leaves shielding some of it. I recommend doing the viewpoint hike (the longer one) the second day, and also kayaking around the island. Oh, and you also get greeted my monkeys if you're an early bird so if you weren't convinced this is one of the best adventures in Thailand, there's an extra argument.
Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi is a laid-back, unspoiled paradise, and one of Thailand's best kept secrets. The island is relatively small, quiet and underdeveloped, and there's nothing much to do there except for relaxing. I went there with my family, we got a vila in front of the beach, and I would wake up each day at sunrise, have a 5k run along the beach, have breakfast with my family, and take my motorbike (200 bahts a day) to go and explore the island either alone or with my brother. The roads are extremely well taken care of, and traveling by motorbike will give you the opportunity to see beaches, rice fields, water buffalos and every animal in between. The island itself is located near Phang Nga Bay and you can arrange tours from wherever you're staying to it. There are 5 starts accommodations as well as economic hostels available. Check out this post for more unspoiled islands: 10 lesser known islands in Thailand.
4-SLEEP ON A BOAT+camping
Hundreds of tourists flock to Maya Bay, Phi Phi island, every day, to swim and snorkel in its beautiful water, and snap a picture by its stunning rock formations. The trip to the bay is a great experience itself but can be ruined due to the number of people you find there (Thailand tourism is hardcore) when you finally reach the beach. A great alternative is the following: Maya Bay tours. They're basically the only company that has the right to go to Maya bay after closing hours (around 5:30 pm), plus their trip has a maximum number of 20 people per night so it makes it that much more of a unique activity in Thailand that is usually so overpopulated with tourists. The trip includes snorkeling, a BBQ (In the bay! you'll be the only people there), and sleeping (everything is provided) either in one of the ship's cabins or by the starry skies on the top deck (my personal favorite as there is no light pollution). The next day you also have the opportunity to relax by the beach before any tourists hit the spot.
5-VOLUNTEER AT A SAFARI PARK
This is probably one of the best experiences I have had in my life. In December 2015, I volunteered at this safari park zoo with 2 of my friends for 3 weeks, and these weeks contain some of the most amazing memories I have formed. We slept in a room with our own toilet, would wake up at 6:00 am every day, had breakfast together with the other zoo volunteers and each went our separate ways to our assigned tasks of the day. There are several volunteering tracks to choose from: Cubs, where you will take care of baby lions/tigers/leopards (minimum of 1 week required), Big cats, where you will learn to take care and train the 'teenage' lions/tigers/leopards ( minimum of 4 weeks required), General team, where you'll have a combination of taking care of the cubs, the rescue animals, elephants, and other safari animals (minimum of 3 days). I really recommend staying as long as you can, you won't be able to develop a relationship with the animals in just a few days, but going in on 1 week, the cubs were running to me each time I entered their area, they would snuggle up to me and even sleep on my chest. Now, as a disclaimer, this isn't the best zoo in the world, every business has its pros and cons, but I can guarantee that the volunteer program is extremely beneficial to the animals and the park itself, we would sometimes spend up to 15 hours a day to keep everything running and try to improve the current situations, volunteers even sometimes donated some of their own money to construct new and better enclosures, and although the park still has a long way to go, it's on its way to somewhere positive.
6-modern day Jurassic park
Khao sok national park
If you're looking for luscious green pristine jungles, emerald green waters and the adventure of a lifetime look no further: Khao Sok National park is here to fulfill your wildest Thailand dreams. You have a variety of different choices here so I'll state a few: hiking in the jungle, canoeing in Klong Sok river, exploring cave systems, getting close to some elephants, or simply relaxing in your river or jungle hut. There are a lot of ways to explore the park and a lot of different agencies offer their services, you even have the choice to go there alone and book the excursions/activities you want at the park's different entrances. I really recommend booking a hut on the river ( yes on not by), there are different options varying from 1 to 5 stars, there's no wifi/electricity during the night in your a lot of these accommodations and you truly feel disconnected, most of them also offer free canoe/kayak rentals which give you the opportunity to go explore nearby uninhabited lands, alternatively there are also some cool hotels in the middle of the jungle surrounded by tall mountains. This is the best experience I had in Thailand, hands down.
7-NIGHT TRAIN RIDE
BANGKOK TO CHUMPHON
Some people might not consider taking the train like a unique experience, believe me, neither did I before I took a couple of long train rides in Thailand. The thing is, if you're traveling to Thailand, you're probably going to be hopping around from place to place quite a bit. The country is huge, so you're probably also considering booking an airplane ticket or two. Please don't. Unless you're really really really tight with time. Otherwise, you should book a train ride, which you can do, even if you're traveling from the mainland to an island (by combining the train ride with a boat service). I recommend this because the experience itself when I did it was great, my friends and I still talk about that epic train ride we had from Bangkok to Chumphon to this date because it was fun. Now a couple of things to point out: you should book beds if you're taking a long train, as well as the area that has ACs (the fans are fine too though), buying your own snacks beforehand would also be smart because the snacks they sell aboard are more expensive, and either way, you'll want a few items to snack on between your train/bus/boat transitions depending on where you're going. Traveling overnight by train is a great experience and it also saves you a hotel night's stay. The best part is the scenery changes from green to urban jungle, or waking up with the sun shining through your curtains, depending on where you're going.