7 Extreme Experiences To Enjoy In Thailand

Thailand is a country rich in culture, history and experiences. From sleeping with elephants underneath a starlit sky to attending the magical Yee Peng lantern festival to eating your way through the culinary wonders of Bangkok, here are seven extreme experiences to enjoy in Thailand.
ThailandPhoto Credit: Anantara Golden Triangle

If there’s anything more awe-inspiring then walking side by side with a 6-ton elephant, we haven’t experienced it. That’s the kind of experience you’ll have at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, a stunning, 160-acre, five-star property tucked into the jungles of Chiang Rai. When staying here, soak up every minute by booking the ‘Discovery’ package, which will provide a 360-experiential luxury escapade and all the affluent amenities you can imagine. Guests who choose this adventure who receive return transfers by luxury limousine to Chiang Rai Airport (or a four-house drive by private Mercedes-Benz from Chiang Mai—with its own Wi-Fi, of course), a VIP Regal Elephant Arrival, which includes collection from the airport and a traditional longtail boat on the Mekong River, before venturing down the Ruak River to dock at Anantara’s private jetty, concluding with an elephant trek along jungle paths right up to the hotel lobby.

And that’s just the beginning. For each night stayed, guests who book this package can choose one activity from four categories, though should you wish to fully embrace the nature of Chiang Rai, we recommend dedicating all to the elephant camp.  These ventures include the Elephant Learning Experience, where you’ll learn about elephant composition and biology, as well as get to feed, play with and even wash the gorgeous beats, and Walking with Giants, where guests join the elephants’ free roaming stroll with their mahouts (caretakers) and a resident vet or biologist, as well as enjoy shower time.

The second all-inclusive signature experience category offers luxury pampering at Anantara Spa, with a choice of two 90 minute rituals such as scrubs, wraps, massages, facials, manicure and pedicure treatments. Anantara’s Spice Spoons Thai cooking school offers the third all-inclusive activity option. The experience begins in the former Lanna Kingdom capital of nearby Chiang Saen, with a chef-guided market tour and coffee with the locals, followed by a temple offering and breakfast picnic in the temple grounds. Back at the resort, students tour the resort’s on-site herb garden before donning aprons for the step-by-step cooking class, learning how to recreate Thai cuisine’s unique four flavor balance with a master chef. We’ll get into the fourth excursion a little later. 

The newest addition as of November is—in our opinion—the most majestic. From dusk until dawn, you’ll sleep in a bubble in the jungle as elephants roam freely around you. Guests will be completely safe and protected, though be able to see some of the most breathtaking, unbelievable views in the world. Located in the jungle on the banks of the Ruak river, the two air conditioned Jungle Bubbles will be perched on raised wooden decks. Each will feature a bedroom and living space with bespoke furnishings under the transparent bubble roof, and an enclosed, nontransparent en suite bathroom. The Jungle Bubbles were conceived and custom designed by Eye In The Sky and are constructed with high tech polyester fabric using exclusive Precontraint Serge Ferrari technology to create an milieu in which guests can enjoy an immersive, close-to-nature experience.

If sleeping in a jungle bubble isn’t your bag, needless to say, this luxury resort has every creature comfort you could expect, and then some. There are 40 rooms and 15 suites, including 6 family suites, all perched on a hilltop and designed in royal Thai Lanna style. All rooms and suites feature a spacious balcony with a built-in sofa overlooking the misty hills of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos—the famed Golden Triangle, as it were. Interiors showcase the elegance of Thai culture with silks, textiles and teakwood furniture complemented by a host of modern amenities, such as a terrazzo bathtub for two featuring retractable doors that can be opened for a soak with a view of the breath taking surrounds; a lounging area; a balcony with a daybed; a walk-in rain shower; international satellite TV, DVD and bluetooth; a Nespresso; and a complimentary daily minibar. Plus, who doesn’t love walking into a room with towels shaped like elephants with a spread of homemade elephant-shaped shortbread cookies?  

 229 Moo 1, Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai 57150

ThailandPhoto Credit: Dusadeephan Phajee/Shutterstock.com

The fourth part of the discovery package at Golden Triangle, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, is also one of its most distinctive. The area in which its located, the Golden Triangle, is named as such because it overlooks the fabled convergence of three countries: Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. And when it comes to an experience you’ll remember, Anantara delivers with the ultimate private excursion, an exploration of the unique character and traditions of Thailand and Myanmar, with the option of adding a Laos experience. The cultural trip incorporates market, temple and ancient Lanna experiences, travel by private car, tuk tuk and longtail boat, with an experienced guide easing immigration, providing language assistance and regaling insightful facts and stories.

In Myanmar, you’ll hop in a tuk-tuk and immediately head to a food market, where you’ll meet locals, uncover age old traditions at the Shwedagon Pagoda, find out about the animal corresponding to your birthday and learn how to make merit with a temple offering, photograph the mountain scenery and find spirituality (if you seek it) at the Jade Temple. In Chiang Saen, Thailand, you’ll tour the scattered ruins of defensive walls and sacred temples before boarding a traditional longtail boat to cruise the Mekong. Passing the impressive Golden Buddha statue and the point where three countries converge to mark the Golden Triangle, you’ll saunter off down the Ruak River to reach the resort’s private pier. By adding the optonal experience of Laos, you can opt to continue your longtail boat journey along the Mekong River to Don Sao Island (which, thanks to a loophole in immigration laws, you can visit without a visa). As our final stop of the day, you might also be tempted to try a Beer Laos, and if you’re feeling braver, the potent rice whisky.

There’s a plethora of options for further experiences back at the resort, if you still have energy and time. Early risers can revitalize with a bike ride to Sai Thung reservoir or an al fresco yoga class. Those who simply want to relax can do so in the infinity pool and Jacuzzi while taking in the stunning Mekong, Myanmar and Laos views.Nature lovers can go bird watching, walk or jog along beautiful trails and contribute to Anantara’s conservation work with a native tree planting activity. Those with energy to burn can enjoy the gym, squash and tennis courts. And if you’re really hardcore, personal trainers offer up personal Muay Thai lessons in an epic, professional-grade training court.

Loy Krathong Photo Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock.com

You’ve all seen the magical pictures of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of lanterns floating in the air. This happens for a very specific reason: Every year, the country celebrates its Yee Peng Festival on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, which typically happens every November. This is when the moon is meant to be the brightest, and wishes for good fortune are allegedly the most likely to come true. For a country steeped in superstition, this is everything.  And the very best place—the most fabled place, in fact—to enjoy the Yee Peng/Loy Krathong Festival is in Chiang Mai.

Lanterns and floating kratong (flower offerings) are sold everywhere, and cheaply. You can celebrate literally anywhere in Chiang Mai. But the most VIP event is held at Lanna Dhutanka in Mae Cho in the San Sai district of Chiang Mai. Not only will you take the blessed circular walk around monks, but you’ll enjoy the ultimate VIP seating with important figures from Thailand’s government, a specially crafted inner box and Lanna and Thai cultural performances before letting your own lantern float sky high. Yee Peng is so beautiful it takes your breath away.

During this popular, mystical time period, hotels book up fast and needless to say, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort will be one of the first to go (so book this well in advance!). Reason being: it offers a self-contained, supremely serene oasis smack dab in the middle of the city, just 15 minutes from Chiang Mai International Airport, but most importantly, a two-minute walk from the riverside. The river view, in fact, will be your view during breakfast, as well as during your stay. And this means you’ll be in a prime position for double wishes—you can release your kratong even after attending the VIP Yee Peng Festival and hit up the nearby Night Bazaar. Winning!

Location aside, the resort is a stunner. 84 sleekly designed rooms and suites are housed in an elegant modern building of wood and expansive glass. Private balconies and terraces feature a double daybed overlooking manicured grounds, the colonial house or river. Inside, sunlight streams through floor-to-ceiling windows, illuminating contemporary décor, stylish furnishings and local artifacts. The 32 Kasara Suites (our preference) boast 1130 square feet of space, including a lounge and dining area, a large open-plan bathroom and amenities such as Bose entertainment, an iPod dock and JURA Swiss brand coffee machine. Those in the Kasara suites get all the extras: A private check-in and check-out service, a complimentary laundry service (seven pieces per day), a private indoor/outdoor lounge with a dedicated concierge, WiFi and a laptop computer, as well as evolving culinary temptations.

Chiang Mai is an ideal destination for travelers eager to explore. There almost too much to do. After long days of exploring the city’s quirky café, art and boutique scene, to countless temples, Lanna Kingdom ruins and bustling markets, verdant mountains and rice paddies, lakes, waterfalls and national parks, elephant experiences, bamboo river rafting, the nearby Hill tribes and handicraft village, jungle zip lining, a sunset river cruise and golf by the Himalayan foothill, you’ll definitely need an oasis of relaxation, and Anantara Chiang Mai is the very place to kick back. Guests can sunbathe in quiet seclusion and swim in the 366-square foot riverside pool. Energy is renewed with a workout in the river view gym, restorative yoga or tai chi, or with a Muay Thai boxing class. Culture and wellness go hand in hand at Anantara Spa, where holistic pampering includes unique northern Thai rituals, such as the Lanna ritual: a full-body massage combining healing plai massage oil with Thai, Burmese and Chinese techniques to enhance energy flow and overall wellbeing, ending with a mini pressure point facial, complete with a singing bowl, a clearing of energy and wish-making with a golden heart Bodhi leaf.

123 123/1 Charoen Prathet Rd, Muang Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100

The Service 1921Photo Credit: Antantara Chiang Mai
One of the coolest dining experiences you’ll have anywhere in the world is located in the heart of Chiang Mai, and with the 25th James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” set for an April release, we dare say that it’s the perfect time to spy-themed The Service 1921. What once served as the British Consulate now serves as Anantara Chiang Mai’s heritage, serving up contemporary cocktails and Thai, Sichuanese and Vietnamese cuisines, all with a British intelligence service twist. What now serves as the restaurant’s private dining room was actually a secret spy/war room for British forces that’s accessible through a secret bookshelf door.

The Service 1921 has been respectful of the venue’s storied past, keeping portraits of former British intelligence offers on the walls, and vintage artifacts scattered throughout the restaurant. It also plays up its theme in a fun way: The menus come in top secret envelopes stamped with ‘For your eyes only’. Though it might sound like a concept restaurant, the restaurant has been recognized by the Michelin Guide, and its interiors are posh, not kitschy, with an elegant bar and lounge, al fresco seating on the wrap-around lower and upper verandas, a wine cellar, a cigar area featuring hand-picked Cubans and an exclusive whisky room.

Menu highlights here include the Mala seafood hot pot with mussels, squid, prawns, fresh ginger, scallion, sesame and dry chili; Szechuan black-bone chicken marinated with draught beer, then stir-fried with fresh chili, ginger, garlic, red onion and mushroom; and Bashu long spareribs—Szechuan pork spare rib stir-fried with dry chili, sesame and garlic. Now more than ever, we recommend trying at least one if not all of the cocktails on the Bond-themed Secret Services menu: a classic Vesper martini; ‘Diamonds are Forever’—secret cold-infused vodka with fresh pineapple juice, vanilla syrup, grenadine, and lime juice; and ‘You Only Live Twice’—secret cold-infused vodka, apricot brandy, fresh lime and honey caviar—are the standouts.

123, 1 Charoen Prathet Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, 50100

ThailandPhoto Credit: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Moving on, head to Bangkok, which offers one of the most elegant afternoon teas you’ll likely ever have in the storied Authors’ Lounge of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. The hotel exudes old world charm reminiscent of the early 1900s, with turn-of-the-century-style wicker furniture and hand-painted fabrics, which perfectly accompany framed photographs of many of the famous writers who have stayed at the hotel since the late nineteenth century.

Although the rest of the hotel completed a massive renovation, the 143-year-old Authors’ Wing retains its character and whimsical charm unique through its Joseph Conrad Terrace and the Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and James Michener Lounges. In these newly created salons, images of these literary greats are juxtaposed with scenes at The Oriental during those eras, as well as quotations from their books.

It’s the perfect, quietly-elegant setting for afternoon tea, a traditional affair of delicate finger sandwiches, pastries, freshly-baked scones and home-made jams frequented by fashionably clad ladies who lunch. There is a rotating tea—earlier this year, the hotel crafted an afternoon tea with Parisian fragrance house diptyque, and currently a festive, holiday-themed tea is on the menu. Its Oriental Afternoon Tea Set is the one to beat, with a menu full of locally-inspired, regional treats such as Jasmine Queen Tea and coconut sorbet, crispy perch with tamarind sauce wrapped in lotus leaf, steamed butterfly pea dumplings filled with peppery crabmeat, papaya salad wrapped in a rice sheet, chicken green curry puff pastry, water chestnut rubies in coconut milk and coconut mango sticky rice, in addition to some rare Chinese teas.

As a side note, another cool experience the hotel offers is at its riverside Terrace Rim Naam, which is accessible only by private boat!

48 Oriental Ave, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500

Breeze at lebua

Photo Credit: lebua

For the absolutely most decadent culinary experiences in Thailand, check yourself into lebua at State Tower. The world’s first vertical destination—first made famous by “The Hangover 2″—is a one-stop shop for gourmands, oenophiles and hedonists, offering one-of-a-kind culinary experiences in the ultimate glamorous setting. In fact, the hotel features so prominently in the film that it not only has its own suite—this three-bedroom, 2, 863-square foot behemoth with four city-view balconies, welcome ‘Hangovertini’s and a fully-stocked mini-bar actually hosted the cast when they filmed there—but too of its own craft cocktails as well. These include the aforementioned ‘Hangovertini’—Chivas 18 year, Manchino Chinato and sage maple syrup—as well as the ‘Hangover Too’—Chivas Regal 18 year and Aperol, Dows port as well as maple, rosemary and black pepper syrups at the hotel’s Sky Bar. 

This vertical destination prides itself on being a one-stop shop for a culinary bachanalia, and with good reason. Ten beautiful bars and restaurants fight for dominance at The Dome at lebua, including Sky Bar, which is suspended on a precipice over the city 820 feet in the air, making it one of the highest rooftop bars in the world with some of the best, most breathtaking views of Bangkok (as well as some of the world’s best cocktails); Mezzaluna, one of Thailand’s only 2-Michelin star restaurants; the nation’s first interactive French cuisine eatery, Chef’s Table, which just earned its first Michelin star under the skillful guidance of the wonderfully charismatic and incredible Chef Vincent Thierry; Flûte, A Perrier-Jouët bar; and the lauded lebua No. 3, which provides one of the most unique caviar experiences in the world (including cocktails made of “caviar air”).

Last but not least, make sure to visit the supremely elegant “millennial pink” champagne hot spot Pink Bar. This double-height champagne cellar and grand bronze and gold champagne table are stocked with some of France’s finest and rarest boutique brands: Le Brun de Neuville, Rare Champagne, Champagne J. de Telemont, Dosnon Champagne and the extraordinary but obscure Champagne Comtes de Dampierre—the latter personally sourced by lebua’s CEO, Mr. Deepak Ohri—as well as the bar’s pièce de résistance—a partnership with multi-awarded Rare Champagne; Pink Bar is the only place in the world you can get Rare Champagne by the glass. How’s that for exclusive? 

State Tower Bangkok, 1055 Si Lom, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand


Photo Credit: Shangri-la Bangkok

If you’re seeking unusual/traditional experiences in Bangkok, then dinner at Salathip is a must. Not only does this restaurant have a killer view—it’s located on the Chao Phraya River—the ‘River of Kings’—at the Shangri-La, Bangkok, but it also offers up an exotic Thai dance performance inside its Thai-style teak pavilions every evening from 7:45 p.m…. which needs to be seen to be believed. The dancers flit by every table as you’re indulging in dishes like Phad Phak Boong Kra Tieam Thone—sautéed morning glory with garlic, chili and bean paste—and Goong Hom Sabai Moo Sub—crispy prawns stuffed with minced pork in a Chinese pancake—embracing each diner with the infectious spirit of Bangkok. 

The hotel also offers another unique dining experience in its Horizon II River Cruise. Indulge in a buffet of Thai, Japanese and western dishes as you—more importantly—cruise past historic buildings and famous landmarks that line the river, including The Grand Palace, Temple of Dawn (a Khmer-styled pagoda), Wat Pho, Holy Rosary Catholic Church (The Kalawar Church), Santa Cruz Church, Kiang Au Keng and the Guan Yu Shrine.

Because this hotel is so traditional, that means you’re in store for the traditional Thai massage, performed on floor mat fully clothed without oil, and combining pressure point work with stretching to reawaken your body’s energy flow.

89 Wat Suan Phlu Alley, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500