Thailand is a stunningly beautiful country filled with lush jungles and azure beaches, and very affordable prices.
But it’s also been a highlight of the tourism circuit for some time, meaning many locations have lost some of their lustre, becoming victims of their own success.
Most long-term travellers, especially those whose hardcore party days are behind us, may find some of the bigger hotspots frustrating. Here are five of the top things not to do in Thailand…
1. Full Moon Party
Wait, what? Why would you want to skip the best party in the world? Well, if you’re on a gap year, or a fist-bumper who wants to stay up all night on the beach with 20,000 people who are high on drugs, while thieves roam the crowd, then by all means!
To be fair, this is a party I might have wanted to go to at age 21, but the descriptions given by the people I met who went and had fun involved terms like “blackout”, “separated from friends”, “Lost my wallet/sunglasses/shoes”, and “well-reviewed but dirty hostel.” Instead, stay on Koh Tao as it totally empties out. I had my own room in a 6-bed hostel.
2. Koh Samui
The main island in the three-island chain in the Gulf of Thailand, and the main airport/transit point to get to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. It has great beaches—if you’re staying in an overpriced resort.
Otherwise, the beaches are overrun with boats, most of the restaurants will charge you 500 BHT (about £10/$14) for slop that costs 50-100 BHT (about £1/$1.4) everywhere else, and it’s impossible to leave your accommodations without being heckled by touts.
Maybe this is great if you’re on a two-week vacation, but even so, why would you cluster with other Westerners? The only thing reasonable about Koh Samui was my $20/night single room. Even the local 7-11 convenience store charged me 200 BHT (about £5/$7) for Corn Flakes.
3. Phuket and Koh Phi Phi
Phuket is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Thailand, and also one of the sex tourism capitals of the world. While you can avoid the debauchery of Bangla Road and Patong beach in some of the outlier areas, extremely high tourist prices plague the entire island.
Furthermore, the islands famous from The Beach and an early James Bond film make Koh Phi Phi Leh and Koh Phi Phi Don extremely popular tourism destinations nearby — if you want to party on a beach that’s filled with a college spring break type crowd and littered with trash.
You can still experience everything the Andaman region has to offer: diving, snorkelling, stunning beaches, and island tours, by staying in nearby Krabi and Koh Lanta. The beaches are far less crowded (nearly empty in low season), and the prices much more reasonable.
4. Elephant Riding
Do not ride elephants in Thailand. Unlike horses, and despite their enormous size, elephants’ spines are simply not built to accommodate substantial weight. If a place offers elephant trekking do not give them your money!
Not only is it cruel to ride elephants, but the process of breaking elephants so that they will allow people to ride them is horrifying: it involves separating baby elephants from their mothers and torturing them. You’ll notice that the handlers will stab (or threaten) elephants with hooks to get them to obey.
Instead, opt to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary, which rescues and rehabilitates elephants with the goal of releasing them into the wild (in a protected wildlife sanctuary). The most reputable one in Thailand is Elephant Nature Park, where volunteers can come for a day, or stay and volunteer for a week.
5. Get a bottom bunk on the train
Getting a top bunk to save money (about $5…) and feel safer from possible attackers was one of the biggest mistakes I made in Thailand. Thai trans are clean and extremely safe. I took the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and it was 4 hours late. Only the bottom bunk has a window.
That means that not only did I have to crawl out of my top bunk every time I needed to use the bathroom, but I missed out on the stunning scenery of the National Parks that the train goes through in its last few hours to Chiang Mai.
Do you agree with these things not to do in Thailand? Have you done any of these and enjoyed them? Let us know in the comments below!