The Road Less Travelled: 9 Less-Travelled Destinations in Thailand

So you thought you have visited every possible nook and cranny of Thailand.
You've visited all the temples, ate all the local dishes, and claim Thailand your second home.

But have you really explored it all?
Are you looking for non-touristy travel destinations?
Do you want to go somewhere few can claim they've been to?

Straying away from major cities such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hua Hin, and the likes, I've wandered into the lesser-known realms of Thailand. Here are my 9 alternate destinations in Thailand you have never been to:

1. Udon Thani

Baby steps. You're unsure you're ready to dive into the unknown realm that is "road less travelled". Why not start with a big but less popular city in Thailand?

Gaining traction in its Asian tourists in recent years, I had an airport lady asked me at Bangkok airport during my transit:
"Why are there so many Malaysians flying to Udon Thani?"

I don't know. Could be any of these reasons:
  • Peaceful, friendlier Thai people (if that's possible), a lake with cycling and walking pavements on which you can take your morning strolls.
  • Som Tum - no one does papaya salad better than where it originates from, Isan Province.
  • Attractive hipster cafes found all over the city.
  • A night market that's comparable in size and choices to Asiatique in Bangkok.
  • Clean, less crowded, cheaper

2. Bueng Kan

When you get to this far up north and this rural of a place (right at the Thai-Laos border), expect no English to be spoken nor written everywhere. It's time to buck up some basic Thai, download a translating app, or hire a guide. Even buying things from 7-eleven will prove difficult if you are looking for something that's not blatantly obvious, every label will be written in Thai, believe it (that is, if you find a 7-eleven). What you get in return is a true insight to real Thai living with little to no tourists all around, cheaper price tags and wholesome food from the freshest ingredients. It is the true essence of road less travelled.

With that, there aren't a lot of tourist sights in Bueng Kan, but there is a highlight:
Two words: Phu Tok.

Imagine a rock hill made of ascending wooden stairs, where monks live at the top and make their livelihood with the hill and nature, i.e. collecting rainwater through cracks for shower. It's a temple, made from nature. (Will blog about it next and link it here)

3. Nong Khai

Nong Khai has a bigger township than Bueng Kan, and similarly to Bueng Kan, it is located right next to Laos, separated by Mekhong River.

Looking into Laos from Nong Khai's lookout point.  

Here you find better hotel stays, equally affordable, and maybe stock up on your basic necessity from the nearest 24-hour mart before moving on to the next location. Visit a few temples, walk along Mekhong River, explore the town, etc. Check out the Thai-Lao friendship bridge and ponder if you want to visit Laos for a day.

Stop by any morning market if you see one, because pineapples produced in this region are legendary. Sarawak crystal pineapple and Bangkok/Southern Thailand small pineapples have nothing on the pineapples here. It is still, to date, the best pineapples I have ever eaten, and I used to be in the fruit business. You can also buy pineapples from Nong Khai's farms all across North-Eastern region like Udon Thani. Just keep your eyes peeled. It's big, fat, juicy, orange color and appear almost crystal-like.

4. Loei

While not that high in elevation, the weather in Loei can be quite cooling in the right season. Rainy days in the summer days can go down to 20-23 degree Celsius while winter nights can drop to 16 degree Celcius.

There are a number of resorts in the mountains and life here is ultimately quite relaxing. Spend a day at the wild life reserve or an entire afternoon on Huay Krating Reservoir where you can rent a bamboo raft and enjoy a scrumptious meal in the middle of the dam in total solitude (only 400B for the whole raft per day). Bonus point that despite the small frontal of a run-down shop, the restaurant can serve up a storm with each dish more delicious than the other.

Don't forget to order Isan's famous Lab Moo (pork dish) 
or Nile fish with thai herb dressings

5. Pak Chong

Heading South of Isan Province you will come to Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
Here you can spend up to 5 days going around exploring these three main highlights:

  • Farm Chokchai
  • PB Valley winery and vineyard
  • Thongsomboon club 

Yes, the very same Chokchai milk you see selling in major supermarkets and 7-elevens across the country. Thailand has been producing local dairy products long before any SEA country does. Glamping is a choice at the Texas themed Farm Chokchai, day trips can also be filled with entertainments such as farm animal performances for local tourists (in Thai language).

A royal project by the late king, PB valley produces local wine from their vineyard, has a cellar door where you can sample wines and perhaps enjoy a platter of cheese. Aside from the deadgiveaway of the dreaded tropical weather, PB Valley does not feel out of place inside the wine country in Australia.

Now if you're up for a day's of fun activities on the cheap, then head to Thongsomboon club. Go cart, ATV, flying fox, water log, ludge, tubing, paintball and the likes. Dedicate at least 3 hours here.

6. Suan Pueng

Boutique resorts galore. You won't even feel that you're in Thailand.
Three hours drive from Bangkok towards the West, closing in at Burma's border, is Suan Pueng. A popular weekend getaway for many local city dwellers.

If you plan to stay a night or two, book months in advance or avoid weekends; I highly suggest Scenery for its cleanliness, design creativity, location, hospitality and a westernised farm where you can play with a mob of sheep (and two cows).

For day activities you can try out candle making in a candle shop or dip in an open-air hot spring with a bottle of Chang beer. It's the perfect R&R destination.

7. Doi Ang Khang

The Cameron Highlands of Thailand. Only colder and higher. The drive up is narrower, windier and steeper. Sitting at 1900 meters above sea level, the weather here is a pleasant 17-19 degree Celsius in the summer days and 13 degree celsius in the summer nights. Whereas winter can fall to 3 degree Celsius at night. Avoid rainy season if you wish to see sunrise. Unlike our Cameron Highlands, Doi Ang Khang natural forest is never cleared, there is no vast piece of developed land. It is instead a narrow road worming through the forestry.

Inside the national park, you will find various tribal villages of the Chinese Yun Nam settlers and schools, an insight to the early settlement days. One must-visit is the Royal Project Doi Ang Khang, it is here you will be shocked and educated on the agricultural advancement of Thailand, where they carried out research on how to grow many foreign fruits such as peaches, plums, blueberries, kiwis, pomegranates, etc on Thai soils. The restaurant inside the Royal Project serves up dishes gathered from the Royal Project farms, a true farm to table concept.

8. Pai / Mae Hong Son

Yes yes. So as an avid backpacker you have most probably been to Pai, or you've heard about it, and you did the sunrise/sea-of-cloud visit.

Much has changed since the early days of a backpacker's haven, Pai has evolved from a hipster town to a touristy destination for many Mainland Chinese and Western tourists. Getting to Pai has become an easier affair with more options like chartering a flight into Pai itself instead of driving through 700+ turns from Chiang Mai (not a pleasant experience). Don't expect locality, you get more options of Continental breakfast than you get 'pad thai' anywhere in this town.

If you want a unique experience, Reverie Siam provides quite the luxurious stay. Or simply book a dinner at their restaurant "The Silhouette" and drink a handcrafted cocktail over tunes played from an imported 100-year old vintage English piano.

Once you have finished all the photo-stops in town, head up north, about an hour's drive, to Pang Ma Pha and explore Tham Lod cave. Wear comfy shoes because you'll be exploring a cave in the dark with nothing but a guide holding a kerosene lamp, then you'll take a quick ride on a bamboo raft down the river inside the cave through a shower of swift's droppings. Fun times.

9. Ban Mae Kampong

Dubbed the Asian hobbit town, Ban Mae Kampong is where the famous and first "Flight of the Gibbon" experience started. It's was and still the world's longest zip-line adventure lasting 5km from tree to tree to tree in a tropical jungle of Northern Thailand.

It's about an hour's drive from Chiang Mai (make sure you hire a better car as it's an uphill drive) and you can spend couple of hours strolling the town, or visit a nearby waterfall where you can dip in. The temperature is a comfortable 20 degree Celcius. There are few cafes around you can sit in, but search for Hom Doi Coffee cafe at the corner of the turn and you will be sipping tea in a forest with a stream flowing beneath you as it drizzles, while Heng Heng - the cafe owner's cat, sits comfortably on your lap (they have a dog too).

How many of these places have you been?
Let me know in the comment section.


1 kissed Nicole

  1. Live in Bangkok for 1.5 year for work. Only managed to visit these:
    Pak Chong, Mae Hong Son, flight of the gibbon.
    Khao sok + cheow Lan lake (surat thani)
    Koh Samet (near pattaya)
    Camping in Kanchanaburi & khao yai national park.