Thailand is a very beautiful kingdom in Asia known for its tropical beaches, prehistoric ruins, ornate Buddha temples, and of course, the very vibrant nightlife. Its charm brings millions of tourists to explore the ‘Land of Smiles’ every year. It is even quite an affordable country as a travel destination. Thailand is also considered the heart of Southeast Asia. With its exceptional beaches and beautiful sandy bays, it should definitely be on your travel bucket list. But once you are done with partying and tanning, there are many hidden treasures that are not very popular in Thailand that you can pay a visit to relax. Let’s take a look at secret places to explore in Thailand that is a must-visit for everyone.
Places To Explore In Thailand
1. ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary
ChangChill is Thai for relaxed elephants and is exactly how it sounds. The sanctuary is located in the hills of Chiang Mai and here you can meet the elephant riders or ‘mahouts’ and witness their devotion to taking care of elephants. This sanctuary has even been approved by World Animal Protection. Most of the elephants living here are retired from the logging industry and roam as they please. The elephants here can be seen grazing, bathing, and socializing. It has even been given the name ‘Happy Elephant Valley.’
Here, you can learn how their food is prepared, their history, their culture, and whatnot. You can also learn about the history of the resident elephants and observe them in their natural habitat. What’s unique about this place is that they don’t offer any rides, instead, tourists observe the elephants from a safe distance, learn about traditional herbs, about elephants’ behavior and prepare their supplement food while chatting with the mahouts.
This educational experience is dedicated to promoting the welfare and well-being of the mahouts and the resident elephants. You can also get a chance to meet the local tribe members and learn about their culture which includes clothing and bag weaving.
2. Talu Island
Talu Island is an attractive tourist attraction that includes white sand beaches, and crystal clear water and also offers the best snorkeling experience. Marine life can be observed while snorkeling which includes a wide variety of fishes and corals. Talu Island or Koh Talu Island is an oval-shaped island with resorts, sandy beaches, and coconut trees on the West side and red rock cliffs on the East. Even though the experience will be enjoyed any time of the year, the best time to visit the island is April to May because during this time, the skies are clearer and the waves of the channel are much calmer. The island itself consists of many attractions.
The main one has to be Chong Thalu. Chong Thalu is a large channel that cuts through huge mountains and is surrounded by clear blue waters. There are two very beautiful bays to visit as well, Ao Mook, which is a peaceful one where you can experience island-village-environment, and Ao Yai Koh, which is more touristy than Ao Mook but is still quite secluded. And of course, diving, where you can see the coral life and if you are lucky, you might even spot the Whale shark.
3. White Temple, Chiang Rai
The White Temple, locally known as Wat Rong Khun, is a privately owned art exhibit that was opened to tourists in 1997. It was constructed as an offering to Lord Buddha and is said to be completed by 2070. After completion, it will have nine buildings. Some of the buildings are- an ordination hall, a meditation hall, living quarters for monks, a hall of relics, and an art gallery. The ordination hall or the ubosot symbolizes uncontrolled desire and conveys that the path to happiness is by getting rid of any greed or desire. Its beauty lies in its all-white architecture with pieces of glass in the plaster that reflect and sparkle in the Sun.
It is quite unique as it mixes ancient Buddhist beliefs and contemporary art. At one place you might see flames, historical scenes, mythical creatures, and demons, while at the other point you will see pop culture symbols such as angry birds, Hello Kitty, Batman, and even Spiderman. The temple is even accessible for visitors in wheelchairs. There are also some other attractions such as Akha Hill House, Mae Kok River, Mae Fah Luang Art, and Cultural Park, Oub Kham Museum, and the Hill tribe Museum and Education Centre.
4. Temple of a Million Beer Bottles
It is locally known as Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew. This temple is exactly what it sounds like- made of a million beer bottles. It is built deep in the countryside of Issan out of green and brown beer bottles. In addition to the bottles, even the caps are used as mosaics. The story behind it is that the local Buddhist monks were trying to find a way to get rid of the growing waste and help make the local area greener so that a better lifestyle could be created. So, they used glass beer bottles as a construction material. They are still continuing this practice as it is quite an environmentally-friendly way to put discarded bottles to use and on the plus side, it attracts tourists as well.
It is today the pride of the town and took two years to build and is still expanding as the monks who brainstormed this idea are committed to recycling more and more beer bottles whose supply never seems to end. Even all the townspeople bring their used bottles directly to the temple after consuming them. With so much supply of construction material i.e the beer bottles, everything is made out of these bottles, be it the restroom, the crematoriums, the temple’s water tower, the temple walkways, and the walls of the temple compound.
5. Nong Han Lake
Nong Han Lake is the largest lake in Northeastern Thailand. This lake gives the best experience when visited in October, right after the end of the rainy season when thousands of Red Lotus flowers blossom on the surface of the lake. The lake is also very rich in various species of fish, birds, and marine plants. Foreign and local scholars often visit this place to conduct research and study the unique ecosystem of Nong Han Lake. The beauty of the pink water lilies and Red Lotus flowers can be admired by tourists between 6 am to 10 am. You might also get a glimpse of the local fishermen in small brown wooden boats.
You can hire a longtail boat with a driver that will take you on a tour of 20 small islands that are scattered in the lake and are home to deserted temples and historic murals of Lord Buddha. Another option is to have Thai lunch while floating on the lake and enjoying the scenic beauty of the countryside of Isaan. Festivities can be witnessed on the Lake when the boat race to mark the end of Buddhist Lent is organized every month. But one downside of this lake is that since it is infested by human parasites, swimming is not allowed in the lake. Nevertheless, the peace and serenity that Nong Han Lake offers are worth paying a visit to.
The authenticity of Thailand has diminished due to large crowds of tourists visiting the country every year (more than 30 million). There are food stops at every corner that will serve you greasy continental food. And the large crowd of tourists will definitely give you a real picture of Thailand’s tourist-packed cities. Even though the surge of visitors has caused the originality of Thailand to decline, there are still some unseen highlights that you can go to for spending some quality time and discover an entirely different travel story. Who knows, you might even get an entire island to yourself.