Words by Katie Holland
Travel to Kanchanaburi and learn about the history of this region. Home to the notorious Death Railway, which was built by prisoners of war during WWII, the town has several museums dedicated to honouring the soldiers.
There are temples and cafés on either side of the river, and visitors can walk the whole way across the bridge, as trains are infrequent. Closer to the centre of town there is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where 7,000 Commonwealth and Dutch soldiers are commemorated. Laid out in rows, it would be easy to spend several hours here, walking up and down the aisles reading all the names.
Erawan National Park
This national park is famous for a series of waterfalls which visitors can swim in. The seven-tiered falls are set out over a couple of kilometres, and there is a short walk from the carpark to get to the first waterfall, but from there the waterfalls are relatively close together and the pathways are clearly defined but not always paved. It’s a good idea to take drinking water with you, especially if the humidity is high.
Top tip! Watch out for the fish which swim in the pools below the waterfalls. On first entering the water they will nibble on your feet and legs, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!
The old city of Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1350 to 1767, and today it largely stands in ruin. A great way to explore all these historical sites is to hire a bike, or join a cycle tour, and spend time riding through the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Wat Maha That, Wat Sangkhapat, Wat Phra Ram and Wat Phra Si Sanphet are all good sites to start with, and keen photographers will be able to snap away for hours! The Buddhist temple of Wat Maha That is possibly the most famous of the ruins, thanks to several Buddha statues that are still in existence. One in particular appears on Instagram frequently because the body is engulfed by tree roots, leaving only the head to be seen.
Elephant Nature Park
Around 60km outside of Chiang Mai city, there is an elephant sanctuary that every visitor to Northern Thailand should experience. Elephant Nature Park was set up to house ill and rescued elephants and educate the public about the cruel treatment that many elephants experience in Thailand for the sake of tourism.
At the park, visitors have the opportunity to feed the animals as well as bathe them and learn about the animals’ histories. For visitors who have time on their side, the park welcomes volunteers to stay for a week or two and enjoy a hands-on experience of animal rehabilitation.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Leave Chiang Mai city behind and climb one of the windy roads up into the hills to this stunning temple which is famous across Thailand. Originally established in 1383, this temple complex has been expanded and added to through-out history and visitors can easily spend a couple of hours here admiring the architecture.
To get to the temple there are 306 steps to climb, which are quite steep, but it is well worth the climb. There is an emerald buddha which sits alongside numerous golden buddha statues, stunning murals on the walls and, if the clouds aren’t too low, an awesome view of Chiang Mai city spread below.
Travel tip! Practicing Buddhist monks visit the temple complex regularly, so be sure to wear temple-appropriate clothing (shoulders and ankles covered) as a show of respect.