10 Non-Touristy Attractions in Thailand to Visit for a Taste of Local Life

10 Non-Touristy Attractions in Thailand to Visit for a Taste of Local Life

Go off the beaten path in Thailand and blend in with the locals.

Shopping? Check.
Temples? Check.
Beaches? Check.

It seems like Thailand is fast becoming a ‘been-there-done-that’ destination, and everyone’s had their fair share of exploring this tropical country. However, it’s time to give the Land of Smiles a second glance, and discover it in a novel, unconventional way. Veer off the path of typical touristy-destinations, and head off to undiscovered territories for a true blue Thai experience.

Here are 10 of the best attractions you should stop by. Live, breathe and sleep among the locals for an adventure in Thailand you’d never see coming.

1. Baan Don Kai Dee, Samut Sakhon

Baan Don Kai Dee, Samut Sakhon, Thailand

Image credit: Experience Thailand

Look no further than Baan Don Kai Dee to get your hands on Thailand’s famed Benjarong porcelain. This quaint village is home to the finest ceramic goods, and collectors from all over the world flock to purchase these stellar wares.

Walk the breezy market grounds to have a feel of the warm village hospitality, and witness first-hand how the expert crafters mould their beautiful pieces – it truly is a work of fine art. As you interact with the locals, they might even invite you for a homestay at their traditional house (chargeable)! Now that’s taking the local experience to a whole new level.

2. Baan Bang Plub, Samut Songkhram

Baan Bang Plub, Samut Songkhram, Thailand

Image credit: (left) (right) The Village Explorer

If you’re an eco-tourism enthusiast, Baan Bang Plub is just the place for you! As an outdoor research centre for chemical-free agriculture, farmers utilise organic materials for fertilizer and seek to create a self-sufficient cycle. Not only does this reduce cost, but the reduced use of artificial chemicals also helps to protect the environment. What a win-win!

Take an orchard tour to learn more about local produce, and how to ‘re-born’ bitter fruits and vegetables into traditional sweets that all can enjoy. The local community is extremely close knit, and gathers once a month to share food, discuss ideas and collectively decide on future actions for the village. Why not be a part of this revolutionary group for a day, and find a second home in Baan Bang Plub?

3. Mae Kampong, Chiang Mai

Mae Kampong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Head off the beaten track and make your way to Mae Kampong, a hidden gem that guarantees a slice of village life. As you leave the hustle and bustle of busy metropolises, also leave behind your inhibitions and let yourself be free! Swing across the sky with Flight of the Gibbon (zipline tour); trek through the jungle and cross charming creeks; and have a drink with the locals at their many home-owned coffee shops.

The kampong is also renowned for its production of mêeang (pickled tea leaves), so go behind the scenes and see the harvest for yourself at the forest highlands. If you’re feeling sociable, join a local guide group and let them take you on a wild adventure around the village. You can listen to traditional music, get hands on and try bamboo weaving, and of course, dig into their culinary treasures. It’s the kampong getaway you never knew you needed!

4. Phu Pha Yon, Sakon Nakhon

Phu Pha Yon, Sakon Nakhon, Thailand

Image credit: (left) Tourism Authority of Thailand, (right) Chaiyathat

Discover how the locals lived, more than 3,000 years ago! At the Phu Pha Yon Monastery, be intrigued by hundreds of petroglyphs (a carving or incising of rock to leave an imprint) that denoted and recorded events from everyday life from the past. Sounds like a rock-art version of a diary! Expect to see basic carvings like people and animals, but also landscapes of crop fields and geometric shapes. It’s the most historically accurate description of prehistoric life.

While you’re here, also visit the Phu Pha Yon National Park, an enchanting compound with a myriad of landscapes and diverse wildlife. It was first established in 1988 to celebrate His Majesty the King, and has remained a popular outdoors destination for both locals and tourists alike. Do drop by for fresh air, calming serenity and definitely, the picturesque views.

5. Dinosaur Footprints Park, Tha Uthen

In the same vein of going back in time, head to the Dinosaur Footprints Park at Tha Uthen. This mysterious site features enormous footprints that date back more than 100 million years, printed on reddish-brown sandstone. Given that there are hundreds of prints and multiple patterns, it has been deduced that dozens of dinosaurs, ostrich dinosaurs, iguanodons, and more prehistoric animals once roamed the area.

Feel like a kid again as you explore this outdoor classroom, and learn about the local techniques used to classify and date these footprints. This might not be your conventional local experience, but it still gives you the opportunity to interact with Thailand and local people in a brand new way. By the end of it, you’d have gained new knowledge about these extinct giants, and a deeper appreciation of Thailand altogether.

6. Ban Nong Bong Plant Market, Phu Ruea

Experience a taste of Europe at the Ban Nong Bong Flower Market, the biggest plant market in Phu Ruea. Lose yourself in this gorgeous flower paradise, and get up and close with an exotic range of cold-climate flowers. These blooms are planted and sold directly by local farmers, and the beautiful buds certainly testify to their hard work and dedication.

Most of the visitors are locals looking to spruce their homes with a touch of green, you can be sure that this isn’t just another tourist trap. To complete your experience, shop around for handmade products by the local housewives’ group – it can’t get anymore authentic than this!

7. Chiang Saen Lake, Chiang Rai

Chiang Saen Lake, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Saen Lake, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Image credit: (top left) Nok’s Garden Resort, (top right) Tourism Authority of Thailand (bottom) North Thailand Birding

Connect with nature at Chiang Saen Lake, a stunning water body encircled by swampland and marsh. Due to its geographical location and abundance of food, the lake is an ideal migratory hotspot for a large flock of avifauna, such as the Chinese Pond Heron and Greater Coucal. One of the locals’ favourite pastimes is birdwatching, an activity you should definitely try once in your life.

Just imagine a peaceful afternoon by the pristine lake, and inexplicable excitement when you glimpse a sight of majestic birds on the move. You can even make conversation with the friendly locals to learn more about the birds and birdwatching techniques; just remember to keep your volume down! Who knows, you may just leave with a brand-new hobby.

8. Hat Saeng Chan Beach, Rayong

In Thailand, there’s no question that there are beaches aplenty. But don’t just head to the typical overpopulated areas, and check out Hat Saeng Chan Beach instead! This unique coastal landscape is not like any other – there are a series of man-made lagoon-type harbours that offer protection for small fishing boats, and acts as a barrier against erosion.

Consequently, the shallow and calm waters are perfect for swimming and paddling. Aside from sunbathing and water-activities, the beach also offers one more attraction! You’ll get to catch the local fisherman in action as they set up shop, and sun-dry their catch of the day. This form of preservation helps to remove water from the fish, and allows it to be stored more efficiently. It’s definitely not something you’ll see on the beach everyday.

9. Mae Hong Son, Mae Hong Son Province

Mae Hong Son, Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand

Image credit: (top left) Stephanie Ecate, (top right) John Shedrick, (bottom right) Mark Lehmkuhler

Be transported to a whole new world at Mae Hong Son, a charming mountainous province in the north-west. Find peace in this tranquil sanctuary, and take the opportunity to learn more about the local hill tribes. Not only are there the Hmong, Karen and Long Neck Kayan, but there are also tribes influenced heavily by the Shan people from neighbouring Myanmar.

You’ll get to immerse yourself in their local language, culture and food. Keep an open mind to these diverse practices, and remain respectful of people and customs that might be different from your own. It’ll be a learning journey like no other!

10. Kanchanaburi, Amphoe Mueang Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, Amphoe Mueang Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Image credit: (left) Spotter_nl, (right) Paul Trafford

Tucked away in west Thailand, Kanchanaburi is an enigma just waiting to be explored. Take a hike up the misty mountains, or spend a night under the stars at one of their eclectic campgrounds – there’s no question that you’ll be captivated by the vast expanse of untouched nature. However, the beauty of the luxuriant landscapes do not suffice to conceal the town’s dark and sombre past.

During WWII, prisoners of war were tasked to build the Burma-Siam Railway (Death Railway), which crosses over the River Khwae Yai via the Death Railway Bridge. To this day, the bridge stands as a painful reminder of the countless prisoners of war who died under those horrific conditions. On top of this, locals continue to commemorate and honour the thousands of Allied soldiers buried at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. While this seems morbid, the locals recognize the significance of remembering the past and work towards creating a better future for tomorrow.

Aside from these enchanting destinations, there is still so much more that Thailand has to offer! The next time you’re thinking of planning an exotic tropical getaway, avoid the usual haunts and give these non-touristy attractions a shot. It’ll certainly be the most unique, inspiring and memorable visit to Thailand you’ve ever had.

For more information about offbeat places and things to do, visit Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) official website and their Facebook Page – it’s time to start planning!

Brought to you by the Tourism Authority of Thailand Singapore Office.

About Author

Lydia Lee
Lydia Lee

A linguistics student, Lydia suffers from the occupational hazard of thinking too much about the quirks of language. She yearns to see more of the world and its people, and cannot wait for her next adventure to soak in more beautiful sights and sounds. Before she can do that again, her perfect day would include taking a slow walk, having a warm cup of coffee, and being immersed in a good book.