Thailand is home to a host of amazing attractions. From floating football pitches to unusual temples and quirky rock formations, you will find something fascinating to visit in every region of Thailand. Some are well-known and easy to reach, while others are off the beaten track. Shown here in alphabetical destination order, check out our selection of 21 of the most unusual attractions you can see in Thailand.
1) Ayutthaya: Buddha head in tree roots
Wat Mahathat dates back to the 14th century but was destroyed when the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya fell to Burmese troops in 1767. Many of the Buddha images were decapitated by the invaders. One theory suggests a tree simply grew around where the stone Buddha lay. Another theory says that the stone head was abandoned by would-be looters (possibly in the early 1900s). Whatever the true story, it is a remarkable sight and one to look out for if you visit Ayutthaya.
2) Bangkok: Cabbages & Condoms restaurant
It’s not every day you get to eat in a condom-themed restaurant. This quirky dining venue in downtown Bangkok features condoms for lampshades, a condom Father Christmas and even the usual after dinner mints are replaced with condoms.
Despite the sanuk nature of the restaurant, there is a serious message behind it. Cabbages & Condoms is the brainchild of Mechai Viravaidya, who wanted to promote better understanding of family planning and safe sex. The restaurant has a slogan that proudly declares, “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy” and helps fund the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). The memorable name of the restaurant comes from Mechai saying that condoms should be as common and as easy to buy as cabbages.
3) Bangkok: Robot building
Many first-time visitors to Bangkok will travel past this unusual building on the Skytrain without giving it a second glance. But if you view it from the ground you can see more clearly that it is designed to look like a robot.
The Thai architect who designed the building was inspired by his son’s toy robot. Originally constructed for the Bank of Asia, the building is now occupied by United Overseas Bank (UOB). When construction was completed in the mid 1980s, this was the tallest building in the Sathorn area. Although it now looks relatively small compared to other high-rise structures in Bangkok, it’s distinctive design still stands out.
4) Chachoengsao: Giant Ganesh statue
To the east of Bangkok, Chachoengsao province is home to a number of large Ganesh statues. Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation, but statues and shrines to Hindu deities can be seen across the country. In Thailand, the elephant-headed god Ganesh is known as Phra Phikanet. The 30-metre high Ganesh in the photo is at Khlong Khuean Ganesh International Park in Chachoengsao.
Phra Phikanet is known as the remover of obstacles and is also known for his love of the fine arts. Thai people will often pray to the elephant-headed deity when about to start something new whether it’s a business venture, an exam or a wedding. Phra Phikanet is also associated with success, wealth and wisdom.
5) Chaiyaphum: World Cup rock and ‘Thailand’s Stonehenge’
Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Chaiyaphum is popular with Thai visitors who come here to enjoy the scenery and admire the unusual rock formations. Situated in North-East Thailand, the park’s name translates as the ‘forest of beautiful stones’ and lovers of football have noted that one of the rock formations resembles the World Cup trophy.
Wind and soil erosion in Chaiyaphum have carved out the distinctive rock formations at Pa Hin Ngam. This Isaan province is also home to another striking natural rock formation, Mor Hin Khao. Known colloquially as ‘Thailand’s Stonehenge’, Mor Hin Khao is a couple of hours drive from Pa Hin Ngam. And if you can’t get enough of these unusual rocks, travel to another Isaan province, Bueng Kan, and admire the viewpoint at Hin Sam Wan (Three Whales Rock).
6) Chiang Mai: Bua Tong sticky waterfall
Located an hour’s drive to the north-east of Chiang Mai city, Namtok Bua Tong isn’t your typical waterfall. The mineral deposits on the limestone rocks means they actually provide some grip and you can walk up them.
Walking up the waterfall still requires some effort, and you will be thankful for the ropes that are there to help you, but it’s not every day you have the opportunity to climb up a waterfall.
7) Chiang Mai: Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park
Did you know you can make paper from elephant dung? Visit the aptly named Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park in Chiang Mai to learn all about the process. From collecting the dung, then rinsing it, and then drying out the fibres in the sun. This eco-friendly attraction in Chiang Mai is educational, but also a lot of fun for all the family with visitors able to try their hand at making the paper.
Elephant Poo Poo Paper products can be bought at the park as well as online or at various shopping venues around Chiang Mai including One Nimman and Central Festival.
8) Chiang Rai: Jungle Bubbles at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort
For accommodation with a difference, stay at the unique Jungle Bubbles at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in the Chiang Rai countryside. Observe elephants in their natural habitat with an unforgettable overnight stay.
The transparent Jungle Bubbles provide amazing views of nature and the resident elephants. And at night you have prime views of the starlit sky.
9) Chonburi: Buddha mountain
The mountain of Khao Chi Chan is the backdrop for a stunning 130-metre tall Buddha image. The golden outline of the Buddha was laser etched into the rock in 1995 to honour the Golden Jubilee of King Rama IX the following year. The project was an initiative by the Supreme Patriarch, the most senior Buddhist monk in Thailand.
10) Kanchanaburi: Wooden bridge at Sangkhlaburi
The longest wooden bridge in Thailand can be found at Sangkhlaburi in Kanchanaburi province. The formal name is Uttamanusorn Bridge, but it’s more commonly known in Thailand as Saphan Mon.
At over 400 metres long, the bridge provides a physical and cultural link to the Thai and Karen people in the main town of Sangkhlaburi at one end of the bridge and the Mon community in the village at the other. Each morning local people gather on the bridge to make merit and give alms to monks.
11) Ko Kood: Treetop dining
At the luxurious Soneva Kiri, guests can enjoy dining in the treetops courtesy of the resort’s amazing bamboo pods. While you enjoy the birds-eye view from the tree canopy, specially trained waiters deliver the food via zipline.
12) Ko Panyee (Phang Nga): Floating football pitch
The floating village of Ko Panyee in Phang Nga Bay is a unique destination in its own right. But what makes it even more unusual is the fact that local youngsters decided to build a football pitch from driftwood and scrap materials.
Remarkably, the team with the floating football pitch went on to establish themselves as one of the best teams in Southern Thailand. The original ramshackle pitch has been upgraded a number of times since it was first built in the 1980s and can still be seen today.
13) Krabi: Cavemen traffic lights
The caveman traffic lights in the centre of Krabi Town are a worthy inclusion in our list of unusual attractions.
The lights pay tribute to the fact that Krabi has the longest history of continuous settlement anywhere in Thailand. Archaeologists have discovered evidence dating back 30,000 years that shows Neanderthal remains in the limestone caves around Krabi.
14) Krabi: Penis Shrine at Phra Nang Cave
Foreign tourists who see Phra Nang Cave for the first-time may be shocked at the sight of a ‘penis shrine’. The phallic symbols are lingams and while it may appear amusing to Western eyes, this is a sacred place and should be treated with respect by visitors.
According to local legend, the cave near Railay Beach is inhabited by the Princess Goddess Phra Nang. There are a number of different stories attributed to Phra Nang. The carved wooden lingams – which are associated with fertility and virility – are offerings to her. Local fishermen still come here to pay respects to Phra Nang and ask for a safe journey at sea.
15) Loei: Phi Ta Khon Ghost Museum
The lively Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival takes place annually in the Dan Sai district of Loei. The exact dates aren’t confirmed until nearer the time, but is usually held in June. If you can’t make it to Loei for the festival itself, the next best thing is the Phi Ta Khon Ghost Museum.
The museum is located in the grounds of Wat Phon Chai and features a selection of the elaborately decorated masks and costumes that are an integral part of the Ghost Festival. Information in Thai and English explains more about the exhibits.
16) Lopburi: Monkey temple
Although you will see monkeys at various locations around Thailand, there is one destination above all others which is synonymous with monkeys: Lopburi.
Situated around 90 miles north of Bangkok, the city of Lopburi is an interesting one to visit with its historic Khmer temple ruins. The most famous temple ruin is Prang Sam Yod and it is in this area where thousands of monkeys roam using the temple as their base. It’s an extraordinary sight for tourists, but one which locals seem to take in their stride. After all, it’s the humans who have encroached on macaque territory. The monkey population was here first and lived around Prang Sam Yod centuries ago when the area was covered in forest.
Not all residents are keen on the monkeys and the problems their growing population can cause. But others are ambivalent towards the simian population and appreciate they bring in tourist revenue. There is even an annual Monkey Banquet Festival in Lopburi to thank the resident macaques.
17) Pattaya: Sanctuary of Truth
The brainchild of a mega-wealthy Thai businessman, the Sanctuary of Truth is part gallery, part religious building, and part museum. And with work still ongoing on the imposing wooden structure, it’s also part workshop. Hugging the seashore in North Pattaya, the Sanctuary of Truth has been carved from wood using traditional techniques.
Work began in 1981 and is expected to continue for a number of more years. The Thai man who created the building, Lek Viriyaphant, died in 2000. His other cultural projects in Thailand include the Ancient City (near Bangkok) and Erawan Museum (see below).
18) Samut Prakan: Erawan Museum
This may be a museum, but as soon as you see it from the outside, you know this is not going to be a standard museum experience. A huge three-headed elephant figure, representing the elephant god Erawan, sits on a pedestal on top of the building.
The museum is another labour of love from Thai businessman Lek Viriyaphant. Along with Ancient Siam (also in Samut Prakan) and the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, the Erawan Museum is part of Khun Lek’s legacy aimed at preserving Thai culture and arts for future generations to enjoy.
19) Samut Songkhram: Mae Klong Railway Market
In many ways, this amazing market epitomises Thailand. Not only is Thailand a land of traders and entrepreneurs, it’s also a country where creativity and a ‘mai pen rai‘ attitude overcomes many problems. Mae Klong Market was already established when authorities decided to build a railway line here. But instead of moving, the vendors adapted in an ingenious way.
When the train approaches, they pull up their canopies and umbrellas and wait until the train has passed before carrying on as normal. Mae Klong Railway Market is known in Thai as ‘Talad Rom Hoop’, a reference to the folding up and down of the umbrellas when the trains pass. The market is located in Samut Songkhram province around 45 miles south-west of Bangkok.
20) Si Saket: Beer bottle temple
The formal name of this unusual temple in Si Saket in North-East Thailand is Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaeo. However, it’s usually referred to as Wat Larn Kuad (‘million bottle temple’). More than a million bottles – most of them green or brown beer bottles – have been recycled and used to decorate the temple buildings. Even the bottle caps have been recycled and used to create mosaics.
Monks at the Isaan temple began collecting the bottles in the 1980s and took two years to complete the main temple building which is set around a concrete frame. Since then, the temple complex has expanded and donations of bottles has enabled other structures to be completed including prayer rooms, a crematorium, and toilets.
21) Yasothon: Giant toad
Erected in 2015, the giant toad statue in Yasothon pays homage to local folklore and the story of the toad prince, Phraya Kankak.
In the story, the toad prince defeats the rain god in battle and in doing so saves the local human population. In return, an agreement was reached that humans would tell the rain god when they were ready for rain by firing rockets into the air. This same folklore is also the origin of the annual Rocket Festivals which take place across North and North-East Thailand.
The giant toad houses an observation deck and museum. An educational centre also explains not just the legend of Phraya Kankak, but the importance of toads to the ecosystem which in turn helps locally grown crops including rice and watermelons. If you visit Yasothon, look out too for the large naga statue nearby.