If you’ve never been to Asia with the kids, Thailand is arguably the best place to start. Paradise beaches, wildlife-packed jungles, friendly people and delicious food are just some of the reasons for its popularity; the fact that Thailand has been welcoming western tourists for so long and has a well-developed infrastructure also makes it appealing to the family traveller.
We’ve scoured the country from the mountainous and lush green north to the tropical, white sandy beaches of the south for the best things to do with kids. Here’s what you could be doing – and soon.
1 – Exploring Bangkok, visiting floating markets & Buddhist temples
If the first thing to strike you about Bangkok is its size, then the second is its buzz. There’s just so much going on here, narrowing down what to see and do can be a challenge. Whilst it might be tempting to drag the kids around to every market and temple, they won’t thank you for it. Instead, we suggest a handful of must-sees: taking a river taxi to the floating flower market at Pak Klong Dalat; jumping on a tuk tuk to the Grand Palace; visiting Wat Pho, famed for its reclining, golden Buddha (and where you can enjoy a rigorous Thai massage) and hopping on a long-tail boat down the Chao Phraya River for a different city perspective and a slower pace of life.
2 – Flying through the jungle on zip lines near Chiang Mai
This zipline isn’t just an utterly thrilling experience for the whole family, but a great conservation success story, too. Rehabilitated gibbons were released into the wild in 2007 and are now breeding, the colony established within sight of the zipline course itself. By swinging through the forest canopy, you’re not just mimicking their flight through the trees but amongst these lovely creatures’ habitat, too. A definite Thailand with kids must-do.
3 – Swim by waterfalls in Erawan National Park
Near the Burmese border, Erawan National Park is famed for its waterfalls. These cascade down 7 tiers, collecting in turquoise pools, the lowest of which are popular for swimming. The park itself is one of the most famous in Thailand, packed with caves to explore and wildlife to spot – birdlife, muntjac, wild elephants and more, although these are found deep in the forest trails and not around the waterfalls itself.
4 – Spend the night in a traditional hill-tribe homestay built on stilts
For a completely different experience whilst exploring Thailand with kids, visit the hill-tribe region in the mountains to the north of Chiang Mai. Here you can walk between villages, trekking 3-4 hours a day. You’ll meet the local Karen tribe, learning more about their culture and day-to-day living by staying overnight, eating and drinking local dishes and sleeping in a traditional bamboo hut built on stilts. Fascinating and for many, the cultural highlight of the entire trip. We love this recent National Geographic Travel article about The Spirit of the Hill Tribes for its inspiration and insight.
5 – Sample tasty treats in a night-market
Thailand’s cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious. An inexpensive but fun way to dine out is by sampling one of the many dishes on offer at nightmarkets throughout the country. One of our favourites is the night bazaar in Chiang Mai, where you’ll sample a smorgasboard of offerings – Thai, Chinese, Lao and Japanese. Dishes range from fried pork kebabs to noodle soups, from mango covered in spicy sugar, to deep fried grasshopper – tastier than it sounds!
6 – Cycle through the ruins in former royal capital, Ayuthaya
You may not have heard of Ayuthaya, but this historic site was once the Royal Capital of Siam, from 1350 to 1760. Formerly replete with golden temples and palaces, it’s now in ruins, having been sacked by the Burmese in the 18th century. However it is a wonderful and atmospheric place for kids to explore. If they’re old enough, we recommend exploring by bike, taking in Bang Pa In, the old summer palace, taking a long tail boat trip down the Chao Phraya River and ending at Phananchoeng Temple.
7 – Pole down a river on a bamboo raft
White-water, hang-on-for-dear-life rafting this is not, but younger children absolutely adore this first activity during their time in the hill-tribe area. Here you can raft downstream on a traditional bamboo raft, propelled by a pole (think Cambridge punting!). It’s gentle enough to be able to enjoy the scenery but engaging enough for kids to be wholly absorbed. You’re also accompanied by a local guide who points out flora and fauna en route.
8 – Take a cookery class in Kanchanaburi
Food is a large part of any trip but particularly here in Thailand, where rich coconut curries, hot and spicy soups and zingy salads are ubiquitous. In a place more famous for its ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, Kanchanaburi, we recommend taking a traditional cooking class where you’ll not only master green curry, tom yum or som tam, but get to eat the results too.
9 – Go mad for monkeys in Khao Sok National Park
It’s southern Thailand’s most famous national park, a place covered in mountains and the world’s oldest evergreen forest. The forest here is home to an amazing 5% of the world’s species, from butterflies to hornbills, langur monkeys and gibbons to macaques. Although the larger species (tigers for example) withdraw to the very heart of Khao Sok National Park, kids love hiding behind giant creepers, bamboo groves and tropical ferns – true jungle stuff.
10 – Go snorkelling in paradise
Travel to southern Thailand with kids and you’ll discover picture postcard paradise: azure clean waters flanked by jungle and coconut palms, dramatic karst limestone scenery and sand so white it could almost be snow. There’s a whole host of activities available at many resorts, whether you stay on islands to the east or west of the country, from snorkelling, boat rides, kayaking or simply swimming. If that sounds too exhausting, simply swing in the hammock and enjoy paradise.
Thailand with kids – next steps
For the low down on the best way to explore Thailand with kids, see our example Thailand itineraries or check out our Thailand Family Holidays section. To start planning a trip, call us on 01728 752751 or get in touch via our contact page.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
We’d love to hear about your experiences holidaying in Thailand with kids, so do send us your reviews and photos. Thank you – [email protected].