Once known as a backpacking hot spot, Thailand has since blossomed into a tourist mecca renowned for its affordability, stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches and unique culture. However, gone are the days when Thailand holidays meant flying in and flopping on a beach to work on your tan for the week. Although plenty of people still do this, Thailand is harking back to its early days and offering a more dynamic experience.

Rather than waiting for the real Thailand to come to you in the form of a cocktail, street food, massage or market bargain, more and more people are opting to get out there and really experience the environment, people and culture of Thailand by taking the road less travelled. However, less travelled doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be an intrepid adventurer, in fact there are a fantastic range of experiences that you can incorporate into your holiday to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Cooking Classes

A large part of the Thai culture and attraction to the country is its cuisine. Thai food is an exotic experience and what better way to gain an insight into the authentic sights, smells and tastes than by taking a cooking class? Whether you want to skim the surface with a basic introduction for of all the way with intensive classes, this is a great way to get in touch with the real Thailand.

A souvenir to last you a lifetime, cooking classes are taught by renowned Thai chefs who will help you to discover everything from traditional ingredients to techniques that have been passed on through generations all the way through to the key to all great Thai cuisine – balance of flavour. A great way to ease yourself into Thailand’s road less travelled, cooking classes are a feast for the senses.

Hikes

If you have a reasonable level of fitness or are the adventuring type, there are plenty of hiking trails in Thailand that offer a spectacular insight into the landscape, native flora and fauna and often reward you with breathtaking views. A great way to enjoy the great outdoors and get amongst it, information on hiking trails can be found locally.

Some of the most popular locations for hiking include Chiang Mai and the Phi Phi Islands. Hiking trails are available for day trips as well as extended adventures that can last between 3 to 5 days. A number of National Parks in Chiang Mai provide the perfect environment for hiking while in the Phi Phi Islands, a 2-hour uphill hike along a dirt road through jungle rewards you with amazing views of the entire Phi Phi Island province.

Village Stays

Perhaps the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the culture and traditional lifestyle of the Thai people is with a village homestay. Unlike any of the ‘tourist’ areas of Thailand, a village stay sees you welcomed into real Thai people’s homes to stay and experience their culture. Interpreters accompany you to allow you to effectively communicate with your warm and welcoming hosts.

Made to feel like a member of the family, your hosts will introduce you to the whole village and you will be welcomed to take part in everything from preparing the daily feasts to learning handicrafts, exploring the environment around the village, fishing and more. You will stay in traditional wooden houses that are shared by your hosts and experience a completely unique way of life.

Escape all the usual tourist haunts on your next Thailand holidays and explore the road less travelled. You can be sure you’ll return home with far more interesting stories and memories than your friends and you’ll have some amazing experiences to draw upon.

Author: Jason Kerner is blogger for Travel Online. His work covers travel tips and destinations in Asia, Australia and Europe. When not writing, he turns to his private comfort – spending time on the beach or engaging in outdoor sport.