Last year’s HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, released in late 2013, placed several Asian nations high on the list as the best countries for expats, after analysing the results of a survey quizzing 7,000 people on their life and times in their new home country.
Thailand stood above the rest for overall experience, thanks to top scores for a tasty, healthy diet, an enjoyable working environment, great social life, good local shops and markets plus a vibrant, exciting culture.
Thai expats experienced a very good quality of life, finding it easier to integrate and make friends than in many other countries. In fact 76% remarked how easy it was to make friends in Thailand, one of the most important factors for a happy expat life.
As Heather Van Deest says in International Living magazine:
“Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad. And there are lots of reasons why. For pennies on the dollar you get a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high quality medical care.
I’ve lived here with my family for eight years now and there’s something special about this corner of the world. It’s an exotic place—orange-robed monks collect alms at dawn—yet it’s easy to live a comfortable lifestyle, similar to that of the West, but without the headaches and extra expense.
We dine out on delicious Thai food, go to the cinema, or, at a moment’s notice, take off for a beach weekend. And the Thai people are some of the most welcoming in the world. As expat Godfree Roberts says: “Happiness is a priority. Thais live much more in the moment than we typically do. And it’s to everybody’s benefit. The country’s greatest accomplishment is its sophisticated culture.””
So what is there to do in your spare time if you move to this spectacularly beautiful and exotic country? We thought it would be useful to take a look at the fun side of living in Thailand: things to do in Thailand, where people from Thailand go on holiday and more.
Where do Thai people go on holiday?
Looking for Thailand tourist information, it’s clear Thai people are home-loving and tend to spend their vacations in their home country, often visiting their relatives. During the cold season many people flock to the north of the country, especially Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and in the summer holidays the south is popular, with its breathtakingly lovely beaches.
If you’re wealthy there’s the small fishing village of Hua Hin, a royal resort since the 1920s, the Thai King’s residence and about two hours from the capital Bangkok. It’s famed for its mellow, laid back feel, remarkable seafood cuisine and world-class spas.
Perhaps you love peace and quiet. Another destination that’s far from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, a couple of hundred miles to the east near the border with Cambodia, lies the little island of Koh Koo, rich in deep rainforest, coconut and rubber plantations and mellow fishing villages, home to fewer than 2,000 people. You’ll find a mix of budget hotels and luxury resorts, something for every budget. Here’s what Gemma Bowes said about it in an article in The Guardian newspaper:
“There are no landlines, little internet access, and few cars. Electricity is minimal – homes and hotels rely on generators or solar power. All is slow, warm tranquillity.
I disembarked at the jetty of Away, a quietly luxurious resort with a cluster of bungalows overlooking a bay. There’s plenty of warm and graceful hospitality here, as well as a spa and one of Koh Kood’s best diving centres, but no one jostles you into a hike or a snorkelling excursion.
Mostly this makes for a fine place to do nothing; slow and calm and unruffled, you can feel Koh Kood subtly working its way into your bones. On an average day here I did little beyond loll about in the hammocks and deckchairs along the boardwalk, beneath the palm trees, and strategically positioned on the jetty to take in the sunset. I took a kayak across the clear blue sea to a small golden curve of beach; I took a quiet boat ride over to it the next bay. I swam, I slept, I read some Per Petterson, and amid the cool rooms and quiet corners, I felt my mind gently unwinding.”
You could easily just lie on a magnificent, empty Thai beach for a week or two. It’s the perfect way to unwind. But if you prefer your holidays active, because the country is such a tourist and backpacker hotspot there’s an amazing variety of things to do.
The Lonely Planet website contains an impressive 600 plus activities in Thailand, including scuba diving, learning to cook local dishes, learning to fly trapeze, sea canoe trips with eco-friendly itineraries, massage and spa, elephant rides, river cruises, meditation classes, hill tribe learning centres, bike tours, dinner cruises, floating markets to browse and even visits to the country’s notorious jails.
3 breathtaking Thailand tourist attractions
- Railay Beach – The best tourist attractions in Thailand include the astonishingly lovely Railay beach, a remote peninsula cut off by massive limestone cliffs and only accessible by boat. The cliffs themselves offer world class climbing but the area’s beautiful beaches, unspoiled scenery, peace, quiet and laid back atmosphere attract all sorts of people. There are plenty of low cost bungalows to stay in, popular with climbers and travellers, as well as one of the smartest resorts ion the country, Rayavadee.
- Phang Nga Bay – Find the tourist haven of Phuket, then head for the dramatic scenery at Phang Nga Bay, one of Thailand’s top attractions rich in magical caves, underwater grottos and unbelievably pretty islands. The best known island is a massive stack of rock called Ko Ping Kan, AKA James Bond Island since its famous appearance in The Man with the Golden Gun. Sea kayak is your means of transport, the only way to access the wonderful caves and grottos.
- Koh Tao – Koh Tao means Turtle Island, and for good reason. It’s a tiny place to the east of the Gulf of Thailand and a haven for divers. More than seven thousand new divers are certified there every year, making it one of the world’s most popular destinations for learning to dive, a place of spectacular reefs stuffed with exotic marine creatures including the turtles themselves, barracudas and even the occasional whale shark.
Sport for fun and typical Thailand sporting events
Sporting events in Thailand are very popular, and the Thai people love gambling almost as much as the Chinese. You’ll find a host of exciting sports to join in with, including Bamrung Sport Club, Chon Buri, for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, catamaran riding and canoeing, horse riding and paragliding, with instructors if you need them. Plus the Lakeland Water Cable Ski, Pattaya, for non-stop cable ski fun on a fresh water lake. The Pattaya Kart Speedway, Pattaya, for go karting fun for adults and children. And the Kitesurfing and Windsurfing Club, near Pattaya, where you can learn kite surfing and windsurfing on a lovely beach complete with a friendly beach bar.
There are plenty of sporting events to watch, too, especially in and around Bangkok, including:
- Regular rugby matches involving expat and local teams
- Muay Thai Boxing at the New Lumpini Stadium every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday
- The Bhira International Circuit, Pattaya, the nation’s top venue for international motor and motorcycle races
- Horse racing at the Royal Turf Club every Sunday, and also at Royal Bangkok Sports Club every Sunday
- The Asian Beach Polo Championships at Hua Hin
- Samui Regatta – In late May
Top 3 places to visit in Thailand
- Ko Tarutao – One of more than fifty gorgeous islands that maker up the Tarutao National Marine Park archipelago, head for southern Thailand if you love wildlife. You’ll find an incredible variety of amazing creatures, everything from turtles, whales and huge monitor lizards, crab-eating monkeys and tiny deer. Plus completely unspoiled beaches, huge waterfalls, some of the country’s very best hiking opportunities and views you’ll remember forever.
- Ayuthaya, the second capital of Siam – Ayuthaya dates back to 1350, when King U Thong built a city designed to be the second capital of Siam, sister to Sukhothai. In a strategically important location with China, India and the Malay Archipelago all accessible, it soon became Asia’s main trading capital. Roll time forwards to 1700 and Ayuthaya was one of the world’s greatest cities, with around one million inhabitants. But the Burmese army flattened the city in 1767. It was eventually rebuilt just east of the ruins, which now form the wonderful Ayuthaya historical park, a magical place of fantastic ruined temples and once-magnificent palaces.
- Chiang Mai is a top Thailand attraction, with its world famed Night Bazaar which covers multiple city blocks, indoors and outdoors. You’ll find local arts and crafts, imported goods of every kind plus several big shopping centres. Originally owned by Chinese merchants, these days most of the shops are owned by Thai people. Thrilling stuff, vibrant and bustling, crowded, friendly and noisy, a real insight into Thai life.
Expat activities in Thailand
Thailand has a thriving expatriate community, and they arrange regular events. In and around Bangkok, for example, there are swing and salsa evenings, traditional British Sunday roasts and a St George’s Ball, all designed to keep expat Brits happy. Although there are adventurous people from all over the world living in the country including Chinese, North American and mainland European.
What’s your top recommendation for expat leisure in Thailand?
We would love to know which attraction or experience you would most recommend to expats new to Thailand, and why. Please comment and share your experiences with our community.