Surprising Thailand is just that – surprising.
Almost every corner you turn will bring something unexpected, stunning, unusual, or fun.
We’ve put together a little collection of these from across different parts of the country for your enjoyment.
Erotic Garden and Teahouse
A beautiful and thoughtful garden in Chiang Mai displaying erotic sculptures and art, with some suggestive links to local plants! An easy trail takes you from display to display.
It’s tastefully presented, not at all sleazy, and suitable for almost everyone.
The brainchild of Katai Kamminga, the Erotic Garden was inspired by a book about erotic art around the world.
Katai said the garden’s inspiration came from her love of the arts. Her study of erotic arts inspired her to design and decorate her garden with phalluses which she believes represent luck and success.
Her interest then led to her opening the Erotic Garden and Teahouse to the public in 2015 with its many phalluses and other erotica laid out in a pretty flower garden.
Despite getting a visit from the local police not long after the garden opened, the authorities decided that the sexy garden wasn’t breaking any laws.
After a heart throbbing stroll amongst the provocative sculptures you can relax over a cup of something hot and a nibble (of a snack) in the teahouse sala.
Getting there: Huay Sai Soi 5,
Mae Rim, Chiang Mai
Tel: 083-318-4855, 098-584-7662
Red Lotus Lake
This stunning part of Surprising Thailand is best seen during the cool season from December to February.
The lake in Udon Thani can only be visited on a wooden boat belonging to local villagers. Haggle a price with them but keep in mind that this is part of their living.
Passing first through dense elephant grass, a thick carpet of pink lotus blooms suddenly appears stretching away into the distance.
The wetlands are home to around 80 species of bird, including the endangered grey heron, purple heron, black kite, brahminy kite and the cotton pygmy-goose.
We advise avoiding the place at Valentines as it will be heaving with couples having romantic outings. A Lotus Festival is held mid-January which is also pretty popular with Thai visitors.
Getting there: Lake Nong Hao is in Chiang Hae district of Udon Thani province. From Udon Thani airport or city its about 50km by road.
Annual Monkey Buffet
No it’s not a buffet made from monkeys, but rather a buffet made for monkeys!
Lopburi is an ancient city north of Bangkok full of history and this rather bizarre event is held in the ruins of the 16th century Phra Prang Sam Yot temple on the last Sunday of November.
The feast is held to celebrate of the thousands of monkeys that freely roam through the town, thought to bring good luck to the town and its people.
The food is laid out in real buffet style, with local chefs spending many hours preparing delicious choices of fruit salads, fruit carvings, sticky white rice and even traditional Thai desserts made from egg yolk.
The monkeys may look like fun creatures but can get aggressive, so beware if you visit. However they can make for some good selfies!
Getting there: Lopburi can be reached by train from Bangkok’s Hualumpong station, or by bus or passenger van from Morchit (Chatuchak) bus station. It’s about 2-3 hours by car.
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is perfectly situated on the Thai mainland in Surat Thani province, between Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak and Koh Samui, the most popular destinations in Southern Thailand, but remains relatively little visited by foreign tourists.
This Surprising Thailand park is 739sq km in size, which includes the massive Chuew Lan lake at 165sq km, almost an inland sea, created by the construction of the Ratchaprapha Dam.
Khao Sok is reputed to be home to the world’s oldest evergreen forest, and is notable for the huge number of massive limestone cliffs which are a prominent feature of the area, with average heights of 400m. The highest point in the park is 960m.
Despite being one of the wettest places in Thailand, the park has an extraordinary range of wildlife, estimated to include more than 5% of all the world’s species.
Wild mammals include Malayan tapir, Asian elephant, tiger, Asian leopard, clouded leopard, sambar deer, Malayan sun bear, gaur, banteng, serow, wild boar, pig-tailed macaque, langur, white handed gibbons, squirrel, muntjak, mouse deer, barking deer, and quite a few more.
The world’s only known amphibious centipede, Scolopendra cataracta, was first found near a stream here in 2001.
There are of course a wide range of reptiles which make the park their home too, including monitor lizards, and snakes ranging from the more or less harmless rat snake right through to the deadly King Cobra.
The park offers a range of activities for visitors such as trekking, canoeing, bamboo rafting, and of course tours of the lake with it’s mind blowing scenery.
Raft houses are one of the big attractions of the park with beautiful views over the Cheuw Lan lake. There are lots of fascinating caves, viewpoints and trails all accessible only via boat.
The park HQ is pretty easy to get to from the area where most of the hotels are located. There is a camping ground, and visitor center in the HQ area as well as a restaurant and toilet/shower facilities.
Note that many trails can be slippery, and caves can sometimes be dangerous due to the wet conditions. Most trekking can only be done with a registered park guide or ranger.
But it’s a unique environment and more than well worth the small effort to get there!
Getting there: The park is in Surat Thani province. There are regular bus services from Surat Thani city, and just about every tour agency in Surat Thani, Phuket, Samui, Krabi, and Bangkok can arrange transfers and/or accommodation. The nearest airport is at Surat Thani with regular daily connections to Bangkok.
The Black House
Chiang Rai’s The Black House is definitely an eccentric, if not downright weird, place to visit.
Whatever it looks like, it isn’t a temple or any other kind of religious center, but evolved from the vivid mind of artist Thawan Duchanee and serves as a place to exhibit his ideas of a “dark life”.
As you can see in the video, there is not just one house but several huge northern style buildings, decorated liberally with animal bones and skins.
Quite what the artist is trying to convey is not at all clear, and the lack of any signs or other information makes it plain bewildering.
There are several galleries with hung pictures to wander through too. The gardens are lush and serene and in sharp contrast to the mostly black structures around them.
Despite the weirdness, it’s worth a couple of hours of your time to enter a new and bizarre world.
Getting there: The Black House Museum is about 10 kilometers from Chiang Rai city center past the airport. Watch for the Singha brewery on the left, then turn left into Soi 1. Continue along for about 3km.
Tham Lot Cave
Tham Lot is a 1666m long cave system in Mae Hong Son province, with a bit of a difference.
The Nam Lang River flows into the cave on one side of a mountain and flows out the other side. Its possible to ride a bamboo raft along the stream through the cave.
The cave is home to thousands of bats and swifts, but more pleasantly it’s also filled with amazing formations of stalactites and stalagmites, making it a fascinating and fun experience.
In Tham Lot, and numerous other caves nearby, teakwood coffins have been discovered which are thought to be thousands of years old.
It’s believed that the ancient Lawa people used the caves as burial grounds. Human remains found in the cave have been dated back 20,000 years!
Guides with lanterns can be hired and its strongly advised to use them. The cave interior is pitch black and quite slippery.
There are several basic guesthouses near the caves if you want to stay overnight and perhaps explore the many other caves in the area.
Getting there: Tham Lot is between Pai and Mae Hong Son. From Chiang Mai, take the bus from Arcade bus station heading to Mae Hong Son and get off at Soppong/Pang Mapha. From there, it’s a short motorbike taxi ride to Tham Lot.
The cave is open 08.00 to 17.30.
Wat Luang Phor Toh
It’s sad to say, but a fact that many temples in Thailand have surroundings that aren’t always as neat and tidy as you would expect.
The recently constructed Wat Luang Phor Toh in Nakhon Rachasima province (Korat) is an excellent exception to that.
This spectacular temple complex is surrounded by beautiful gardens with exotic trees, bonsai, flowers, ponds, and an artificial lake with a bridge crossing to the main building.
Inside this large main building with multi-tiered roofs is a huge golden statue, under a golden dome, of the revered monk Somdej Toh.
Somedej Toh is properly known as The Venerable Somdet Putthachan, also referred to as Luang Phor Toh. The temple complex was built in his memory.
Sorapong Chatri, a famous actor, bought the land and organised public donations so that construction could go ahead. It started about a decade ago and while most of the complex is complete there is some ongoing work.
If you’re in the area it’s well worth a visit. It can get busy but it’s not seen by foreign tourists much, mostly locals and some resident ex-pats.
Getting there: The temple is clearly visible In Sikhio town in Nakhon Rachasima province at the side of the Mitraphap Highway, which connects Bangkok and Korat city. From Korat it’s about a 30 minute ride by bus or car.
Well, that’s our little roundup of some Surprising Thailand places for you. We will be back with more! Thanks for joining us.
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