If you’re looking to enjoy a healthy mix of relaxation and active adventures on your holiday, Thailand has got you covered. Whether you want to tone up with a spot of Muay Thai training, cycle around historic sites, play one of Thailand’s championship golf courses or witness the marine life at some of Asia’s best dive locations, Thailand has it all.
Thai boxing, known as Muay Thai, is the national sport of Thailand. The country has a long association with the sport dating back to the times when it was used by soldiers as a form of unarmed combat and the sport is so ingrained in Thai culture that it is celebrated annually with March 17 designated as National Muay Thai Day. Most Thai cities and resort areas in Thailand have at least one Muay Thai gym where visitors can pay a daily fee to go and train. A Muay Thai training session is a superb aerobic workout and has all the advantages of getting fit without getting hit!
If you’re passionate about Thai boxing and the fitness advantages it brings, check out what’s on offer from UK-based Muay Thai Holidays. And don’t miss the ‘Awesome Muay Thai’ ebook produced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Bangkok. The free guide is packed with practical information for Muay Thai enthusiasts and includes details of gyms where you can train, where to find a coach, where to buy equipment and where to watch fights.
Cycling is a great way for the whole family to keep active and see more of Thailand at the same time. Not all of Thailand’s roads are ideal for cycling, but there are some fantastic options for those who want to enjoy the quiet lanes and scenic beauty of the country. Hiring a bike is one of the best ways to explore the Historical Parks at Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.
To see another side of Thailand, take a look at the tours offered by specialist companies with half-day trips through to multi-day adventures available. In Bangkok, the well-respected Co Van Kessel run trips that avoid busy roads and make use of quiet lanes and paths that allow you to experience life in local communities. Serious cyclists should check out the amazing multi-day tours on offer from Spice Roads and Grasshopper Adventures. Both companies also offer shorter half-day tours and the option to tailor-make a trip for your individual requirements.
Diving & snorkelling
Thailand is home to some of Asia’s best diving and snorkelling sites. From relaxed half-day trips to immersive live-aboard experiences, there are plenty of options to keep divers and snorkelers happy. On the Gulf Coast, Ko Tao has a good reputation with divers while over on the Andaman Coast, Khao Lak is a great base to explore some of the outstanding diving sites around the Similan Islands and Surin Islands. Take a look at the Dive Worldwide website and Andaman Discoveries for more ideas of where to go. And check out the expert advice and top tips from The Dive Academy on Ko Samui.
Fun on the water
Thailand might not be a famous surfing location but there are opportunities to indulge in some surfing action. Phuket is one of the best locations in Thailand to enjoy the surf with the island celebrating the ‘Phuket Surf Fest’ from June to September. There are also a few places that combine sanuk with your surfing in the form of flowboarding. You don’t have to wait for perfect surf conditions and can enjoy this exciting activity in urban locations too. Check out Surf House in Phuket and Flow House in Bangkok.
Kayaks can be rented on an hourly basis at many of Thailand’s beach resorts. In southern Thailand, book a trip with the highly respected John Gray Sea Canoes. With a strong focus on responsible tourism, John Gray Sea Canoes offer trips to some of the most beautiful locations in southern Thailand including Krabi, Phang Nga Bay, and Khao Sok National Park. On Thailand’s East Coast, travel to Ko Chang and the village of Ban Salak Khok where you can enjoy the calm waters and explore the mangroves by kayak. Or just relax on a traditional Thai boat known as a reua maad where your own personal oarsman will do all the hard work.
There are more than 300 golf courses in Thailand with golfers from around the globe attracted to the kingdom to play the world-class courses here. The seaside resorts of Hua Hin and Pattaya are both wonderful locations for golfers to base themselves and enjoy the plethora of courses nearby. And both locations have the advantage of an excellent range of accommodation to choose from and plenty of things to see and do away from the course. Pattaya also plays host to the prestigious Honda LPGA tour event which features many of the best female golfers in the world including home-grown talents Ariya ‘May’ Jutanugarn and her sister, Moriya ‘Mo’ Jutanugarn.
In the north of Thailand, the scenic highland courses in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provide a different challenge for golfers and both destinations also offer plenty of choices for sightseeing and relaxation away from the course. Find out more from Coco Golf and Thailand Golf.
Hiking and trekking
From gentle hikes to multi-day treks, there are plenty of choices to enjoy the scenic Thai countryside. In the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai both have a well-established trekking scene and a variety of routes including the mountain trails at Chiang Dao and Doi Inthanon. Some trekking trips provide the chance to experience hill-tribe culture. Do use a qualified guide when visiting any hill-tribe community and do make sure to adhere to the trekking code of conduct that all responsible tour operators should have in place. Green Trails are one of a number of responsible tour companies in the north of Thailand who can arrange treks for you. And if you’d like to enjoy a hike and make friends at the same time, there is an active community of hikers in Chiang Mai that welcomes newcomers.
In the south of Thailand, Andaman Discoveries provide the chance to experience the sublime beauty of Khao Sok National Park. There are also various viewpoints on the southern Thai islands that afford stunning views like the John Suwan viewpoint on Ko Tao which can be reached via a relatively easy hike. And if you’re visiting Ko Lipe, take a 10-minute boat ride across to Ko Adang and hike up to the viewpoint for glorious views of Ko Lipe and the turquoise waters below.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an advanced climber, there are some excellent locations to test your skill. In southern Thailand, the cliffs and stunning views in Krabi make this a fabulous location for rock climbers. Beginners can literally learn the ropes at Tonsai Beach while more advanced climbers can enjoy the breath-taking views of Railay Beach, Phra Nang Beach and beyond.
Thailand has a burgeoning reputation amongst runners with the country hosting popular fun runs, mini-marathons and full marathons. Most of these runs commence before sunrise to take advantage of the cooler conditions and in Bangkok, there is even a midnight marathon. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is supporting the ‘Amazing Thailand Marathon’, an annual series of running events in locations including, Bangkok, Buriram, Chonburi (Pattaya), Phuket and Ratchaburi. In southern Thailand, Chumphon is the location for a unique mini-marathon that takes runners through the sea. The LangSuan Mini Marathon takes advantage of the low tides in June that allow competitors to run along the sand to an offshore island.
There are frequent running events at locations around the country, although not all are advertised. One of the best resources to find out about running events in Thailand is the excellent Runlah website.
Yoga and pilates
Thailand is a wonderful destination for yoga and pilates enthusiasts. Frances Geoghegan, the founder of the specialist tour company Healing Holidays, provides a number of recommendations. On Ko Samui, learn yoga at Samahita or go on a pilates bootcamp at Absolute Sanctuary. If you’re visiting Phuket, ramp up your fitness at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort. And as part of an all-round way to maintain your health and fitness, treat yourself to an inexpensive traditional Thai massage.
Many of the bigger hotels in Thailand have their own gyms and some will also provide fitness classes and aerobic sessions for guests. But don’t worry if your hotel doesn’t have those facilities, because you can visit any of the many public parks in Thailand. A lot of parks in Thailand have some form of running track and basic exercise equipment that is free to use. And at many, you will also find a sanuk aerobic class taking place (usually at around 6pm). Visitors are made welcome and it can be a great way to have fun with the locals and also work off some of that holiday overindulgence. And if you’re an early-riser, join in with any of the morning Tai Chi sessions hosted in parks across Thailand including Lumpini Park in Bangkok and Buak Hat Park in Chiang Mai.
At many parks in Thailand you may also see locals playing one of Thailand’s most popular sports, takraw. This acrobatic sport is a form of kick volleyball which uses a lightweight rattan ball and is fascinating to watch and admire the dexterity and skill of the participants.
If you like sport, but would rather watch the professionals do their thing than take part yourself, there are some big events to look forward to throughout the year. Motorcycle fans should head to Buriram in the north-east of Thailand for the Moto GP. Marc Marquez sealed his World Championship here in 2019 and the next Grand Prix of Thailand is scheduled to take place in Buriram from March 20-22, 2020. And in Chonburi (near Pattaya) the street circuit at Bang Saen hosts an annual motor racing event. The Motor Sport Fans website is a useful resource for race events in Thailand.
Muay Thai is the national sport with a number of venues around the country hosting fights. In Bangkok, the historic Rajadamnern (also written as Ratchadamnoen) Stadium is one of the best places in Thailand to watch the action and fights are also hosted at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium (located in the northern suburbs of the Thai capital in Bang Khen district).
Although Muay Thai may be the national sport of Thailand, football is hugely popular here too with many Thais taking a keen interest in the English Premier League. Look out for fixtures involving Thailand’s national team nicknamed the ‘War Elephants’ with home matches usually played in Bangkok at the Rajamangala National Stadium or Thammasat Stadium. There is also a thriving domestic league in Thailand with the opportunity for you to take in a game during your visit. Matches are played around the country with professional teams of varying standards playing in cities including Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Trat.
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