Bordered by the Andaman and South China Seas, diving in Thailand is a popular pastime. But with so much on offer topside, every diver should plan at least a few days of sightseeing while visiting “the Land of Smiles.” From temples to tee-offs, here are some perennial favourites that cover the best of Thailand’s topside adventures.
Thailand’s 40,000-plus temples play an important role in the lives of the country’s Buddhist population. Many are breathtakingly ornate, with magnificent architecture, colourful murals, and impressive images of Buddha. Visit Bangkok’s Grand Palace to view Thailand’s most sacred temple - Wat Phra Kaew - and its marvellous emerald Buddha. Then step back into the 13th century at Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai province.
Bangkok’s Giant Buddha
There’s no shortage of “Big Buddhas” in Thailand! Every resort town boasts at least one, although no two are exactly alike. The most popular is the giant Reclining Buddha at the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok. Decked out in gold-leaf – and adorned with striking mother-of-pearl feet - this 46-meter long image is a definite must-see. Built in 1832, the figure represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana.
The islands of Phuket and Koh Samui offer white sand beaches, sparkling waters, and nodding coconut trees. Whether you want to laze under an umbrella, enjoy a massage, or check out the watersports and night life, Thailand’s beaches promise it all! Phuket’s stunning Bang Tao is understandably popular, but Mai Khao is your best bet for downtime. Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with Chaweng, Bophut, Maenam, or Lamai for beach-day retreats on Samui.
The Chang Mai Region
In the north, visitors to the city of Chang Mai discover ancient temples and markets overflowing with local pottery, wood carvings, and silverwork. Chang Mai province is renowned for its jungle treks and incredible national parks. But one of the most fascinating destinations is the Padung Village. Here, wrapped in gleaming gold coils from chest to chin, long-neck women of the Kayan tribe demonstrate their impressive weaving skills.
Pad thai, green curry chicken, sticky rice mango – is your mouth watering? Anyone looking to bring the best of Thailand home with them need look no further than Thai cooking classes. Dozens of schools in Bangkok and Phuket make half-day courses available to visitors. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit local produce markets, collect new recipes, and prepare and sample dishes that showcase the best of exotic Thai flavours.
If golfing is your ideal way to relax between dives, you won’t be disappointed by Thailand’s 250-plus courses! Chiang Mai Highlands is regularly ranked as the best golf course in the north, while Pattaya City, south-east of Bangkok, offers more than twenty courses within an hour’s drive. Two of these - Siam Country Club’s Old and Plantation Courses – have hosted LPGA events. But for your chance to walk in Tiger Woods’ winning footsteps, be sure to book a tee time at the internationally-acclaimed Blue Canyon course in Phuket!
So next time you are planning a dive trip to Thailand don't forget about Thailand’s topside adventures as well.