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How to Venture Off Thailand’s Beaten Path

Discovering Thailand off the beaten path has been a huge joy for me as I’ve explored the Kingdom, both during ordinary trips and also while I was living in Bangkok. The magic of Thailand, as is the case in many other countries, usually resides in places where you’re not looking for it.

To be sure, it’s not just about the Thailand destinations you visit, although those play a big part. Certainly, you’ll want to have at least a general idea of where you’re going—wandering aimlessly is not something I’d advise.

You say you don’t have a long time in the Kingdom? Not to worry. I’ll answer questions such as “what is there to do off the beaten path in Bangkok?”, in case you want to enjoy unique experiences without venturing far afield.

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Defining Thailand’s Tourist Trail

Before I get to recommending destinations for you to explore Thailand off the beaten path, let’s delineate Thailand’s tourist trail. As I’ve said in many other articles, you can roughly divide this into three segments: Bangkok, “The North” and “The Islands,” the latter of which can be further subdivided into “Phuket/Krabi” and “Everywhere Else,” respectively.

Beyond this, of course, there are some places to visit in Thailand that sit between the zone of being tourist traps and obscure. I’m thinking specifically about the Chumphon archipelago, which sits near Koh Samui, and includes islands like Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao, which are popular but not crazily so. I’d also say Pattaya is a rather mainstream destination, though not one I’m personally crazy about.

Where to Go Off Thailand’s Beaten Path



Whether you choose to visit the relatively mainstream Thailand Red Lotus Sea, or travel to underrated cities like Ubon Ratchathani and Korat, Isaan is an experience. Although many expats live here with their Thai partners, it eludes most tourists, and even a good number of less adventurous farang who make their homes in more mainstream areas of the Kingdom.

Chiang Rai


Now, some of you will criticize me for listing Chiang Rai as Thailand off the beaten path, given that it’s a somewhat mainstream destination. For first-time Thailand travelers, however, who may consider even Chiang Mai to be “alternative,” cozy Chiang Rai and the nearby Golden Triangle are downright exotic, to say nothing of the wild destinations within day-trip distance. Have more time in the former Lanna Kingdom? Another underrated city in northern Thailand is Lampang.

Nakhon Si Thammarat


Rural Southern Thailand bears some similarities to island destinations like Krabi and Phuket, but it’s very different in other ways. Some are interesting, such as the greater conspicuousness of Islamic culture, while others (the aggressiveness of maybe-rabid dogs) can be downright intimidating. At any rate, I find Nakhon Si Thammarat to be a great entry point into what Stuart from Travelfish calls “unadulterated Southern Thailand.”

Nakhon Pathom


Who says Thailand off the beaten path has to be far off it? You can ride a train from Bangkok to Nakhon Pathom, for example, in just an hour. But this small city feels a world away, whether as you walk amid authentic, local street scenes, or visit Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest such structure in the world. The best part about Nakhon Pathom is that you can choose to visit as a day trip, or stay over night and have a truly immersive experience!



For a long time, I was convinced that the Trang archipelago in the Kingdom’s far south was where you found the best islands in Thailand. That—my love for islands such as Koh Kradan and Koh Mook—hasn’t changed. What is different now, however, is realizing that the specialness of Trang isn’t only in the quality of its beaches. It’s in how its relative isolation has kept it relatively un-developed, even compared to, say, Koh Lipe farther south.

Other Unique Places in Thailand

As you read through my list of where to go in Thailand, it might not initially appear that a lot of unique destinations are mixed with the mainstream ones—that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Within the environs of Bangkok, for example, you have strange temples like Wat Pak Nam in Thonburi and Pathum Thani‘s Wat Phra Dhammakaya, which is less than 30 minutes away from Don Mueang Airport by Grab or Taxi.

Other examples of Thailand off the beaten path sit within day- or weekend-trip distance of mainstream destinations in Thailand’s south. The Koh Yao islands, for example, sit about halfway between Krabi and Phuket, and are actually quicker to reach the Koh Phi Phi. In spite of this, they see very few visitors, and have a decidedly castaway feel—all the better for you.

Plan Your Trip to Thailand

In reality, you probably want to mix a journey into Thailand off the beaten track with more mainstream destinations, regardless of how many times you’ve visited Thailand. The Kingdom is about balance, after all, wherever you go. A rough-and-tumble day of sightseeing in Bangkok followed by a relaxing massage; roughing it in the mountains of Mae Hong Son province, then lapping up luxury at a resort in Chiang Mai.

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Other FAQ About Thailand Off the Beaten Path

Where can I go off the beaten track in Thailand?

My favorite places to go off the beaten track in Thailand include the northeastern Isaan region, the lost city of Sukhothai in north-central Thailand, the far-southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and “alternative” island groups such as Trang and Trat.

What is there to do off the beaten path in Bangkok?

One way to go off the beaten path in Bangkok is to spend time on the Thonburi side of the river, as opposed to Rattanakosin. Both are historical and old, but Thonburi (which is on west bank of the Chao Phraya) has many fewer tourists. Another way is to explore nature in Bangkok, such as at Bangkachao, aka “Bangkok’s Green Lung.”

What should I avoid in Thailand?

I try not to speak badly of anywhere in Thailand, although I must admit I’m not a huge fan of Pattaya. Likewise, when it comes to beaches in Thailand, I much prefer Railay or even Ao Nang in Krabi, as compared to most any beach on the island of Phuket.

The Bottom Line

The topic of Thailand off the beaten path sounds intimidate, but such destinations and experiences can be surprisingly accessible. From unique cultural experiences within day-trip distance of Bangkok, to island paradises that simply aren’t Phuket or Krabi, the most unique places in Thailand are sometimes not as far from the tourist trail as you would expect. Nor are they only available to seasoned veterans. Many first-time travelers incorporate obscure places in Thailand into their itineraries, alongside Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the islands.


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