Most tourists who visit Thailand come to the capital Bangkok or Phuket Island, where indeed there is quite a bit to do and see, but if you want to explore the local rural culture or the amazing ancient temples around, there are many other destinations you may have missed, simply because they are less known.
Thailand is one of the places that is always fun to come back to, and although the accommodations you’ll find in the following places are not as prestigious as you can find in other areas of the exotic country, they will provide you with a vacation and adventure you won’t experience anywhere else in the world without being surrounded by throngs of tourists.
Ko Yao Noi is an island that even in terms of Thailand is considered almost untouched by humans and is a 30-minute boat ride from Phuket. There are several luxury resorts on the island but also more modest cabins if that’s more your taste. The island's name means "a small long island", and despite its size, it isn’t lacking in things to do- on the eastern part of the island you go snorkeling at the beach alongside the mountains, while on the western side you can take a walk through mangrove forests and rice fields. You can also take a scuba diving course or a cruise, but the best thing about this island is the quietness of it, meaning you can just relax on a hammock and enjoy a perfectly relaxing retreat without other tourists surrounding you en masse.
If you want to see local animals in their natural habitat, you should visit the Khao Yai Nature Reserve, which is a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. It is the first nature reserve of Thailand and is home to elephants, deer, macaque monkeys and bears. Along with them, it is also home to 300 bird species, including Thailand’s largest population of impressively beaked hornbills. If you want to catch the reservations reptiles, the best time to do this would be between March and April. The bat cave is also worth visiting as it has over 3 million flying creatures, and you should also see the amazing waterfalls in the area and just enjoy this beautiful piece of nature.
If you like sweet foods, it is highly recommended that you get to the town of Phetchaburi located in the province of the same name. This Thai town is known for its desserts, the most famous of which is khanong mor gaeng, which is very reminiscent of custard, made with eggs, coconut water and shallots. In addition, the town of Phetchaburi is one of the oldest in Thailand, and the province of Phetchaburi also has a royal palace and a large temple next to it. It is also recommended to explore the large caves in the province, one of which contains a large number of Buddha statues between large stalactites, and another which hides a huge ancient tree in its center.
Ko Kradan is a narrow island that is considered part of Had Chou Mai’s national park. The island’s sunset beach is a great place to snorkel, as here you’ll be able to take in some amazing coral reefs. Another beach on the island is called "Paradise", although it isn’t perfect for snorkeling, its golden sand is perfect for just laying back.
As everyone knows, Thailand has many amazing islands, and Ko Mak is one of the most beautiful. It can be described as a tropical paradise, with pampering beaches with clear crystal water. The center of the island is a forest where there are coconut plantations, and on this island, you can take a dive and snorkel your way around coral reefs. You can even take some lessons in Thai boxing or cooking. Just make sure to bring enough cash for these activities, as there is not a single ATM on the entire island.
About 150 km away from Bangkok is a city that, unlike other places on this list, is considered very popular among tourists, and is known for its macaque monkeys. The "Urban monkeys" have a special festival held for them every November, and you can see them in large numbers around the sanctuaries that are worth visiting themselves, but know that these urban monkeys are also known to be quite the bandits and may even attack you if they think that you have food for them that you are not sharing.
If we’ve already mentioned the Temples, Phimai Historical Park is the recommended place to see the best preserved in Thailand. The temples in the area are very reminiscent of those you can see in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but the significant difference is that you won’t have to fight the crowds to see them. The temples were built by members of the Hindu religion, however, they were built in the style of Buddhist temples along with principles from Khmer architecture. Most of the temples were built during the 11th and 12th centuries.
Arriving at one of the largest islands in Trang Province, Ko Muk, requires some planning in advance: there is only one ferry per day between the island and the mainland, but once you get there you can enjoy the calm on Farang Beach, which holds a cave that can only be explored during low tide. The cave has clear turquoise waters and is one of the island's main attractions. You can also see fishing villages on the island where the residents live simple lives, but keep in mind that most of the local residents are Muslims, and visitors are required to dress accordingly when they are not at the beaches.
On the banks of the Mekong River lies a city with a unique charm and friendly residents, which together make it a particularly pleasant stay. There are many points of interest to visit in the area, such as Wat Pho Chai Temple. It is also recommended to visit the Phu Phra Bat historic park, which has amazing rock formations. There are many festivals in the city that take place throughout the year, such as the Fireball Festival in late October, where a spectacular natural phenomenon of glowing balls rising from the water to the sky, occurs.
100 kilometers from the eastern coast of Thailand, close to Cambodia, is the island of Ko Kut, where there isn’t much to do except to lie on a hammock and enjoy the scenery and tranquility of the surrounding area, so this island is considered one of the most perfect for just laying back in the middle of Thailand's beauty. There are sandy beaches and waterfalls, and you can go snorkeling, go on a fun kayak cruise or just stroll around the jungle. Along with these, there are also some fishing villages worth visiting, such as Ao Salat and Ao Ya.
Do not immediately reject the idea of taking a 5-hour bus ride from Bangkok to reach Phetchabun province, because even the trip itself will bring you with stunning views. However, when you arrive at your destination, you’ll forget all about the long journey, when you see yourself surrounded by waterfalls, mountains, lakes and national parks, which are all highly recommended to explore on a motorbike ride. Apart from its rich nature, Phetchabun is also home to one of the most impressive temples in Thailand - Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, also known as the "Temple on the Glass Cliff", due to its excellent location overlooking all the surrounding landscape, and inside the temple you can admire impressive mosaic art and many sculptures.
Clancy's comment: Yep, all places are worth a visit. Trust me. I've been to all of them and many more. Thailand is a wonderful place to experience. The people and the food are wonderful.