Thailand’s diverse terrain includes both developed and pristine areas that allow for a variety of outdoor land activities. Extreme activities such as paintball and bungy jumping exist closer to the centers of tourism, such as Samui and Pattaya, but there are many outdoor land activities that utilize the protected and still unspoiled regions of Thailand. Activities such as horse riding, elephant trekking, cave exploration, and rock climbing allow visitors to have fun while exploring the beautiful Thai countryside. 4x4 off road driving, mountain biking, and jungle trekking can take visitors into the most remote areas of Thailand in order to visit hill tribe villages and spot exotic and endangered wildlife. No matter what your level of activity, there are many opportunities for you to experience the great natural attractions of Thailand.
Thailand has abundant natural resources, including a variety of flora and fauna, as well as a diverse natural environment. There are more than 100 national parks, including over 20 marine parks, and the animals in Thailand include more than 1,000 different mammal species, numerous birds -both native and migratory, and spectacular marine life.
Each Thai National Park is inhabited by unique flora and fauna, from the northern mountain’s temperate forests and central Thailand’s expansive plains to the northeastern savannahs and the southern coast’s mangrove forests. The diversity of wildlife includes monkeys, gibbons, elephants, bears, and even whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
Eco-activities in Thailand include trekking, kayaking, snorkeling, nature photography, river rafting, bird watching, and spotting other wild animals in Thailand, such as elephants and gibbons.
Thai plants and animals are both unique and diverse, with a variety of climates suitable for various plant and animal species.
Natural forest covers nearly 25% of Thailand, with woodlands consisting primarily of monsoon forest and rainforest. Monsoon forests consist primarily of deciduous or hardwood trees, which shed their leaves during the dray season in order to conserve water. The rainforest zones are covered by evergreen trees. In the in the coastal lowlands, in addition to more predominately rainforest cover, mangroves and rattan abound. Trekking, horse riding, mountain biking, and even kayaking are great ways to get out into Thailand nature and make the most of your experience in the kingdom.
Thailand is famous for its variety of fruit and flower bearing trees and plants, the most iconic of which is the orchid, Thailand’s national flower which appears in over 27,000 different varieties.
While encroachment on their habitat has reduced the numbers of exotic animals in Thailand, there are still a great variety of indigenous species. The most iconic of these is the Elephant, of which roughly 1,000 remain, mostly within the National Parks in Thailand. Among the larger mammals are the tiger, leopard, Malaysian sun bear, sambar deer, otter, and civet cat. Climbing animals include the gibbon and many species of monkeys. There are also sheep, goats, oxen, tapirs, wild cattle, wild hogs, and a wide variety of snakes, including cobra.
There are over 900 breeding bird species indigenous to or migrating to Thailand. Birdwatching tours are particularly popular in Sam Roi Yot National Park and Khao Sok, which is home to six species of hornbill. Crocodiles, lizards, and turtles are numerous. Fish abound in the rivers and coastal waters.
Hiring a car and exploring Thailand on your own is an outstanding way to see the real Thailand, as hiring a Thai car is a cheap way of seeing rural areas and meeting everyday Thai people. Whether you hire a car to explore around Phuket or to see the countryside around Chiang Mai, renting a car is generally an easy and fairly inexpensive proposition. One way rentals between destinations (e.g. Bangkok-Chiang Mai) are also a possibility, though you should expect to pay a drop-off fee.
Avis, Hertz and other international car hire agencies are well represented in Thailand, although many rental companies will not rent a Thai car or provide insurance to drivers who do not have an international driving license. While it is technically legal to drive in Thailand with a valid foreign driver’s license, having an international license will make renting and driving a Thai car potentially less problematic.
Furthermore, Thailand has an excellent network of well maintained roads and highways between all the provincial capitals and major towns and cities in between.
Most roads and highways are in good condition, and have two or three lanes on each side, including a majority of the north-south route (from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to the southern beaches). Road signage follows international convention and is in both Thai and English, though some are only in Thai (like 'Stop' and 'Give Way'). Buy a decent road map before you set off, though it’s well to remember that Thai words aren't always romanized consistently (e.g. Petburi road on the map and Phetchaburi road on the street sign are one and the same).
As a Buddhist nation, Thailand is full of spectacular temples, the purpose of which is for Thais to devout themselves to the principals passed down by the Buddha, nee Siddhartha Gautama. As Thailand is such a welcoming country and Buddhism is a non-restrictive religion, it is easy for visitors to study Buddhism and learn meditation at a number of temples and meditation retreats around the country.
While those simply curious about Buddhism can attend “monk chats” at Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai, these and other temples allow visitors to check themselves in for a week or longer of intensive meditation study.
While certainly intriguing, these meditation retreats are not for those unprepared for serious self reflection: the purpose of meditation is to clear the mind and achieve clarity and inner peace; consequently, most meditation programs do not allow students to talk during their stay, with the exception of meditative chanting and discussions with senior monks to help their meditation techniques. Furthermore, by its very nature, meditation can be somewhat mundane, and so visitors are expected to follow the routines and procedures quite thoroughly if they wish to genuinely learn to meditate properly and achieve the most from their experience.
For those unable to commit to a remote meditation retreat from which they cannot easily leave, Wat Mahatat, near Bangkok’s Grand Palace, allows visitors to study meditation no less strictly, but with more flexible time requirements.
Because of its reasonable prices, outstanding weather, and warm hospitality, Thailand is a top destination for those looking to learn something on their holiday. Thai cooking, Thai massage, and Muay Thai boxing are popular cultural subjects of study that can be undertaken in a day or over an entire holiday. Flight schools, golf lessons, rock climbing instruction, and scuba certification are other popular holiday activities that benefit from Thailand’s rich natural resources, high standards of professionalism, and inexpensive pricing.