Thailand Tips



David Whitley discovers that, if you’re planning to stay in Thailand for a while, it’s better to pick proper adventures instead of variety pack day tours


When I was in Thailand earlier this year, I headed up to Chiang Rai. I didn’t want to stay in the city for three days, so I decided to look into some day tour options. There were loads with different travel agencies, and I ended up plumping for one that offered a bit of everything – a few hours’ trekking through hill tribe villages, an elephant ride and a ride on a long-tailed boat.


As a day out, it was really enjoyable. It wasn’t one that I’ll be raving about forever, and it’s one that will never be regarded as truly special when I’m sitting on my deathbed recounting my life to sobbing family members.


On a return visit to Thailand in November, I ended up in Kanchanaburi and found myself doing the same thing. I wanted a day trip, had a look at the options with a few travel agencies, and ended up doing a day out that included a trek to the Erawan waterfall, an elephant ride, bamboo rafting and a train ride on the infamous Death Railway.


Again, it was a really enjoyable day out. The waterfall is gorgeous, the swim in the pools created by it was a welcome respite from the heat, the elephant ride was comically entertaining, the bamboo rafting and rail trip undeniably cool.


But I could foresee a problem here if I was planning to spend a few weeks travelling around the country. Day trips like this could soon get boring.


It doesn’t take much web research to uncover that similar day trips are available from many hubs across Thailand. Generally, these trips fit in three or four experiences that come from an increasingly predictable selection box. There’s trekking, visiting a hill tribe, rafting, kayaking, elephant riding, cycling and possibly a visit to a wildlife attraction that has dubious animal welfare credentials.


The problem is that once you’ve done a couple, they become very samey. And no one activity on any of them feels particularly satisfying. In Kanchanaburi, for example, the bamboo rafting lasted half an hour. It was nice, but it didn’t have the feel of an epic adventure that a half day or full day of rafting miles down the river would have done.


Similarly, there’s a massive difference between an hour in a kayak and having properly sore arms by the time evening draws in on a day-long expedition.


So my advice to people heading for a few weeks would be to pick out tours carefully. Research in advance where you can do one thing with a degree of depth – ie. A whole day’s elephant safari or a two day trekking trip – rather than continually plumping for bite-sized tastes of various activities across the day.


It’s better to spread the variety out over the course of the trip rather than taking similar doses of variety on numerous days. And that sense of achievement and epic adventure doesn’t come from small doses.

You can get Thailand included as a stopover on your RTW here