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Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

7 min read
Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

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Discover the real Thailand with our destination expert Kyle Abrell, who spent several years in the country living like a local and traveling like one too.

The Kingdom of Thailand is a wondrous and beautiful place which has a wealth of opportunities for travelers from every walk of life. As a former expat of the country, it holds a special place in my heart. You can expect top-notch hospitality, beautiful wildlife and nature, bustling markets, and world class beaches and resorts.

Buzzing Bangkok

In Bangkok, the Thai capital, walk amongst the glistening temples and ancient palaces that coexist with a modern, developed city that has all of the amenities one could ask for. A major highlight of Bangkok is its renowned street food scene. Michelin stars have been awarded to several street vendors, which is a unique accolade for this type of dining experience. We can guide you through these narrow streets on our evening food tour, which also lets you experience the traditional taxi- a tuk tuk. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride!

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Cultural Crossroads at Chiang Mai

The capital of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, is another must-see. The city is at the cultural crossroads of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. This means that you will notice variations in the culture of the hill tribes as well as the area’s cuisine.

I personally enjoyed experiencing the elephant sanctuaries, which is highly recommended when traveling to this region. These animals have mostly been rescued from abuse in all parts of the world and have returned to their natural habitats in the jungles. Here, you can help feed and learn about the elephants. If you are willing, you can take a nice mud bath with them as well!

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Beach Bliss in Krabi

Thailand boasts some of the world’s best beaches, but Railay Beach in Krabi stands out.

Heading down south, my favorite beach in all of Thailand is Railay Beach, located just off the Krabi mainland. This magical strip of land is only accessible by boat, and once the sun sets, you feel as if you have the place to yourself. My most memorable experience was a nature hike down to the Blue Lagoon, and for the more adventurous, the area boasts some of the best rock climbing in Southeast Asia.

I also highly recommend the Rayavadee resort here, which features unique two story villas dotted throughout the jungle. An awesome bonus is access to The Grotto restaurant, which is exclusively for guests staying at the resort. This beautiful restaurant is located underneath ancient limestone cliffs and sits upon a beach overlooking the Andaman Sea.

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Here are my Top Tips for Traveling in Thailand: 

  1. Temple wear – A majority of the people are devout Theravada Buddhists. While visiting temples, be sure to cover your knees and shoulders at all times.
  2. Local food – There is a huge discrepancy between local food and food meant for tourists. A good rule of thumb is that if a restaurant is full of locals and offers English and Thai menus, eat there!
  3. Spice levels – Thai food in general is spicier than what you might be used to. If you want to turn down the heat, simply say “Mai Ped”, meaning “not spicy” in Thai. 
  4. Language – Thai is the main language but people from large cities and the younger generations speak English. It’s a great idea to learn basic Thai phrases; locals will be impressed and appreciative.
  5. Currency – The Thai baht is the national currency, which can easily be obtained at ATMs. You will need to carry some baht as small vendors may not accept cards.

Read more Thailand travel tips from our experts.

My Top Thai dishes to Try

Food in Thailand is very regionalized, depending on the ingredients and protein available in those particular areas.

No trip to Thailand would be complete without trying Pad Thai, the national dish of the country.

Pad Thai is a complex rice and noodle dish commonly found at street food stalls around the country. Bear in mind the dish is perhaps a bit different from your local Thai restaurant, so if you don’t like a more traditional seafood flavor, tell them to hold off the dried shrimp!

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Northern Thai cuisine combines the flavors of the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand) which results in a fragrant, herb-infused dining experience. Local dishes that are must-haves are Khao Soi (a coconut cream based noodle soup) and Larb (spicy minced meat with regional herbs).

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Across Central and Southern Thailand, you will notice that there are a lot more seafood based dishes, due to their proximity to the water. Eat like a local and try grilled snapper, which is a whole fish that is salted, stuffed with herbs and cooked over an open fire. A plethora of herbs and greens accompany this dish, as well as spicy sauces to top it off.

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

In Southern Thailand, curries are king. I recommend trying all of the flavors, but Panang Curry has the most wonderful flavor profile, in my opinion. My personal favorite Thai dish is Pad Krapow Gai, which is minced meat combined with shallots, bird’s eye chilis and a healthy helping of Thai holy basil.

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Recommended Tours in Thailand

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Meander Down the Thonburi Canal

Away from the bustle of the city center and main tourist attractions, is another Bangkok with quaint, rural suburbs, tree-lined gardens and peaceful temples. A traditional longtail boat can take you up the meandering canals for a different perspective from the water. As you sail off the beaten path on the tranquil Thonburi canal, you can see traditional wood houses and modern homes side by side, and stop to explore temples such as Wat Khun Chan and Wat Paknam. Guests also have the opportunity to visit a farmstead, and gardens and plantations to see authentic local culture from up close.

Into the Wild at Kui Buri

Thailand Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide

Far off the beaten path, the Kui Buri region in central Thailand is a haven for wildlife. This sprawling expanse of forest is teeming with langur monkeys, gaurs, leopards, jackals and more. It is also the best place in Thailand to view the majestic Asian elephants in their natural habitat. The local community of farmers and villagers receive few visitors, and welcome you warmly. Here, you can unwind and soak in the lush natural beauty of the region, while discovering the traditional Thai way of life. 

Explore more tours to Thailand.

Where To Stay in Thailand

Intercontinental Khao Yai

Nestled amid the wild greenery of a UNESCO-listed national park, the Intercontinental Khao Yai has been designed to blend seamlessly with its surroundings by celebrated architect Bill Bensley. The unique interiors are inspired by the golden era of trains such as the Orient Express, offering luxurious rooms and suites, plush spa and wellness facilities, and French-inspired cuisine. Outside, tranquil lakes, lush forests and tinkling waterfalls invite you on wild adventures with a signature tour or two.

Anantara Koh Yao Yai

If you’re looking for the perfect Asian island resort to get away from it all, this is it. Sprawling across the lush green Koh Yao Yai island, just off the coast of Phuket, the luxurious Anantara Koh Yao Yai resort is the epitome of serenity. With the long, golden beach on one side and a lush green jungle behind, the rooms and shared spaces offer gorgeous views of the Phang Na Bay interspersed with limestone karsts. True to its name, the resort offers superlative facilities, be it dining, entertainment or wellness.


Tucked away in a quiet corner of Krabi’s pristine Railay Beach, the Rayavadee is a nature lover’s paradise. Here, luxurious thatched roof pavilions and villas are dotted across the lush green property, some with their own private pools. In addition, there is the main swimming pool, and a plush spa offering a host of wellness therapies and salon services. Guests can hire speedboats to explore the surrounding bays and visit nearby islands such as Phi Phi, apart from kayaking in the mangroves, watersports, and hiking.

Kyle Abrell

Kyle worked at a ski resort in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, before taking up a teaching job at an international school in Thailand. He lived there for several years, during which time he traveled extensively across the region and delved deep into its culture, cuisine and history. If you are looking to travel to Asia, rest assured that Kyle and his team have the knowledge and expertise to craft the trip of a lifetime for you.

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