Guidebooks can only take you so far. Sometimes you need to leave the book in your room and head out for something a little more local and a lot less touristy. Thailand, like most places, has plenty of opportunities to get off the crowded path. Try navigating the floating markets in Bangkok, or pet a playful tiger in his pen, ride an elephant through the forests and even explore the caves off of Phang Nga Bay. The possibilities are endless, so pick an adventure and start making memories!

Navigate the Floating Markets in Bangkok

There are floating markets located throughout Bangkok and its surrounding provinces, and they are extremely popular to visit on the weekends for tourists and locals alike. Boats are piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. If you’d prefer to be a part of the market from the water instead of the sidewalk, sign up for a boat tour and get up close and personal with the vendors and their local fare.

Chiang Mai: Elephants, Flying Foxes & More

Chiang Mai is an adventurer’s dream come true. Zip through the lush and ancient forests of Chiang Mai on a flying fox and walk over two Sky Bridges while experts point out the wildlife and vegetation that call Thailand home. If you prefer a more out-of-this-world experience, head to the Elephant Training Centre, where 32 elephants and their mahouts live peacefully. Opt for the joyRide progamme so you can help feed the elephants, bath the elephants in the river and paint pictures with the elephants as well—you’ll be surprised at how dexterous that massive trunk is!

Explore Caves in Phang Nga Bay

Day trips leave from Phuket every day to offer visitors one full day journey into the scenic world of the mysterious caves and hongs , or ‘room’ in English, by kayaking through the amazing landscape of Phang Nga Bay. Made famous by the James Bond movie Man with a Golden Gun, these tours are fun, informative and the guides are experienced and witty.

The guides point out the sights and propel the kayak through the extraordinary scenery of Phang Nga Bay. Only discovered in 1990, the tours take you through the newly discovered caves and their rooms, provide a tasty Thai lunch and share the rest of this remarkable beach’s scenery with you. It all adds up to a memorable day in one of the most unique locations in the world.

Up Close & Personal with Tigers

We’ve talked about temples in Thailand, commonly known as ‘wats’, but this one stands out from the rest. Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua is a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand that was established in 1994 as a sanctuary and forest temple for wild animals. Among their animals are camels, water buffalo, Hoolock Gibbons and a number of tigers. Recent numbers reflect the popularity of the temple; there are now close to 100 tigers living at Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua. When you visit the temple you learn about the tigers and can watch as the monks work with them, even walking them around the property. Visitors can even take photos with a grown tiger or a small cub!

The Leaning Buddha

Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok that has a pretty spectacular sight within its walls. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, this space is home to an enormous sculpture of Buddha, but instead of sitting in his normal meditative pose, Buddha is stretched out on his side with his body reaching the full length of the temple. A brilliant gold colour with small details all around, the leaning Buddha is 15m high and 43m long. There are 108 bronze bowls in the temple to symbolize the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. Visitors often drop coins into these bowls as they are believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.

Thailand is beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. See this travel insurance testimonial of a Thailand mishap:

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sebastien Bertrand.