Asia | Destination Guides

7 beautiful and unique cultural experiences you can only do in Thailand

The enchanting Land of Smiles is absolutely packed with rich traditions and cultural heritage. From ancient Buddhist temples and spiritual ceremonies to unique floating markets, delicious cuisine and beautiful arts like silk-making, there are dozens of extraordinary cultural experiences in Thailand you can’t miss on your trip.

Our Thailand cultural tours will show you some of the best, from enjoying a massage at the oldest temple in Bangkok, to meeting local palm sugar farmers and learning how to cook authentic Thai food. 

1. Enjoy a Thai massage in the grounds of Bangkok’s oldest temple

You can’t come to Thailand without experiencing an incredible Thai massage, so we’ll take you to one of the most beautiful massage centres in Bangkok.

First, you’ll arrive at the Grand Palace, the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. Here you’ll visit Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand and home to the revered image of the Emerald Buddha, made of jade and clothed in gold. 

Next, you’ll wander through the Grand Palace complex to Wat Pho, the oldest temple in Bangkok. It’s famed for housing one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand, standing at 15-metres high and 46-metres long. 

The temple is also the site of a traditional medicine and massage school which opened in 1955, one of the first in the country.

You can enjoy a traditional Thai massage in this historic centre – and it’s one of the most soothing cultural experiences in Thailand. With the skilled therapists working out all your travel aches, you’re sure to come away feeling like a new person!

We’ll then top off this amazing experience with a river cruise down the iconic Chao Phraya. Keep watch as we pass by the stunning Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn.

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2. Explore a rural market and learn how to cook authentic Thai food

We’ll leave the gleaming skyscrapers of Bangkok behind and journey into the tranquil scenery and culture of rural Thailand. You’ll meet a Local Specialist and stop by a Buddhist temple, then visit a food market on the banks of the Tha Chin River.

The market is famed for its huge variety of fruit, vegetables and Thai snacks, and you’ll learn all about the local produce with your Thai host leading the way. You’ll even get to meet their favourite vendors in the market where they’ll buy some of the freshest ingredients for your cooking adventure later on. 

Next up, you’ll sail down the river past local homes and lush jungle landscapes, before arriving at your Local Specialist’s riverside home and restaurant. Now it’s time to take to the kitchen, where you’ll learn all about the intricate flavours of Thai herbs and spices with an open-air cooking demonstration.

Once you’ve watched the master at work, you’ll get a turn at making your own authentic Thai dishes using your host’s favourite recipes. Best of all, you’ll get to sit down and enjoy the dishes you’ve prepared. Delicious! 

RELATED CONTENT: 13 yummy street food dishes you must try in Thailand

3. Discover the Jim Thompson factory’s local silk-making community

If you love the Thai arts, you’ll adore this visit to the local community that produces Thai silk for the famous Jim Thompson factory. We’ll take you wandering through the community passing tailor-made suit stores, along with open-air goldsmiths and silver houses. You’ll marvel at the skilled artisans colouring the silk in all kinds of brilliant colours, and weaving the delicate silk fabric into stunning garments. 

You’ll also have the chance to learn the story of Jim Thompson, with a visit to the Jim Thompson House. Here, you’ll find an exquisite collection of Southeast Asian art collected by Jim Thompson himself. Plus the house is one of the most beautiful examples of traditional Thai architecture in the country. 

Discover how Thompson, an American businessman, fell in love with Thailand while working there as an intelligence agent during WWII. Thompson later moved to Thailand permanently in the 1950s and started supplying fine Thai silk to international fashion houses, helping to revive the once-dying industry. 

His silk company and the whole Thai silk industry still thrives today, and Thompson used the proceeds of his business for his incredible art collection, now displayed in his former home-turned-museum. Admire the antique furniture, ceramics, paintings and Buddha images, and wander through the living areas that have been preserved as they were when Thompson lived there before his mysterious disappearance in 1967. 

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4. See the remarkable way of life at the Maeklong railway market

We’ll board a scenic train journey and rumble by lush rice paddies, arriving quite literally, into the Maeklong railway market. As one of the most thrilling cultural experiences in Thailand, you’ll soon discover how this unique market operates.

The stalls are laid out on either side of the railway tracks, but whenever the train comes through, the stalls are moved away from the railway at an astonishing speed. Once the train has passed, the stalls are just as swiftly returned – as if nothing ever happened. The whole experience will leave you scratching your head and wondering whether there was a train at all! 

You’ll also get to explore the treasures of the market, before hopping on a traditional long-tail boat and cruising the small canals into the Mae Klong river. We’ll make our way to another famous Thai market – the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Here you’ll be amazed by all the boats selling fresh produce, tasty Thai food and all kinds of trinkets.

We’ll also take you to an open-air Khao Lam producer, where you’ll learn how this sweet dish is made (sticky rice with coconut cooked in a bamboo tube). You can even try out this sugary delicacy for yourself!

5. Meet a local family for a traditional Thai meal

Sampling the local cuisine is one of the very best cultural experiences in Thailand, and tasting the traditional northern food is an unmissable part of any trip to Chiang Mai. You’ll get to experience a real northern meal when you meet the Saiwangjit family and join them in their classic wooden Thai stilt house.

We’ll sit down together to enjoy an authentic, home-cooked lunch, and learn all about their life in Chiang Mai. Feeling satisfied after the delicious meal, we’ll then get to meet a local monk at Wat Suan Dok, famed for its stunning golden chedi. Here you’ll learn all about Thai Buddhism while relaxing in the temple’s tranquil grounds. 

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6. Explore the local markets and discover the rich history of Phuket Town

You’ll have the special opportunity to see what Phuket is like in the early hours during a walking tour of Phuket Town with a Local Specialist. It’s one of our favourite cultural activities in Thailand, and you’ll get to explore the morning fresh food market and mingle with the locals who come here to enjoy a quick breakfast or do their shopping. 

You’ll then visit the amulet market and learn how the locals wear these metal charms to bring them good luck or protect them from harm. You might even like to pick out a special amulet for yourself, before we continue on to discover the rich trading history of the island. 

colourful buildings Phuket Old Town cultural experiences in Thailand

With a vibrant fusion of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Arabic and Portuguese influences, you’ll get to see everything from the restored shop-houses lining the streets of Old Phuket Town, to the stunning Sino-Portuguese-style colonial mansion of Baan Chinpracha. We’ll also learn about the history of Phuket at the Thai Hua Museum, before fueling up on local snacks in a beautifully restored coffee house. 

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7. Meet a local farmer at a coconut palm sugar plantation

As we cruise down the scenic Mae Klong on our way to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market, we’ll stop by a real working coconut palm sugar plantation. You’ll get to meet the farmer and discover how he creates palm sugar by extracting the sap from the coconut palm trees and boiling it. 

After all the sugary treats you’ve likely indulged in on your trip, it’s amazing to see for yourself how the local palm sugar is made. You might even like to take some home to experience the sweet taste of Thailand long after you’ve left.

Which cultural experiences in Thailand are at the top of your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!

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