I have probably spent almost 9 months in Thailand during the past seven years. Our road trips took us from north to south and from west to east, and apart from all the lakes we have visited, we also managed to see temples, national parks and many other nice places.
Thais are often really surprised when I tell them about all the places I have been to and very few visitors to Thailand know what I am talking about, because few explore Thailand beyond its islands and beaches. Yet there is so much more to see and experience! Here are some of my favorite spots, which are still off the beaten track:
For example beautiful Lake Kumphawapi in the northeast, where pink water lilies cover almost the whole lake during November and December. Watching these flowers from small boats has now become a tourist attraction and provides villagers with some income.
Also in the northeast and around Lakes Kumphawapi and Lake Pa Kho, some people produce salt by cooking the salt-rich soils in water and some make charcoal in clay ovens. These tasks have not yet become a tourist attraction, but maybe in a few years the villagers will realize that money can be made by showing all this to visitors?
When in the northeast of Thailand, why not visit the Sirindhorn (Phuwiang) Dinosaur Museum in Kalasin, where remains from dinosaurs that were excavated in the region are exhibited, together with many reconstructions. A perfect place for children. Further to the west is the large Nam Nao National Park, where one can set out searching for elephants, watch the gorgeous sunset, and sample local delicacies.
Chiang Mai with its many temples, Thailand’s highest mountain – Doi Inthanon, and the border region to Myanmar in Thailand’s northwest are really worth a visit. One can spend days there, walking, watching, eating, admiring!
Another of my many favorites is the historic town of Sukhothai, also in the northwest. Biking around is the best way to explore the old temples!
As to beaches and islands – there I do have some odd favorites: for example Kho Jum, a small island south of Krabi; Kho Tarutao, a marine national park close to Malaysia; and Kho Phratong, on the Andaman Sea coast. Kho Jum is no longer as laid back as it was some years ago, while Kho Tarutao and Kho Phratong let you still experience large, empty sand beaches. Kho Tarutao and Kho Phratong are probably a place only for the more adventurous as accommodation is fairly simple. Just beware of the sand flies and the small jelly fish, should you be allergic to one or both, and the possibility that a tsunami might again hit the islands. The 2004 tsunami was devastating for Phra Thong and remains of it can still be seen in many places.