Rice terraces outside a quaint village in northern Thailand

Rural rainbow – three reasons LGBT+ travellers should visit the Thai countryside

Done with Phuket and bored with Bangkok? Just kidding – either seems impossible! And still, a growing number of gay and lesbian visitors to Thailand seek out destinations that go beyond experiencing the Kingdom’s non-stop metropolis and tropical islands. In fact, it’s a trend the travel industry sees across the spectrum of holidaymakers: from backpackers to luxury resort aficionados, heading for evermore remote corners of rural Thailand is all the rage; and events such as the 2020 coronavirus epidemic have only increased travellers’ longing for seclusion and authentic experiences!

Whether you’ve discovered parts of the Kingdom before and you’re looking for deeper immersion in Thai culture, or you’re a first-time visitor with a penchant for seeking out lesser-known destinations, there are many incentives to swap Chiang Mai and Koh Samui for Mae Hong Son or Chiang Khan Loei… Here are just a few.

Experience another side of Thailand

A Thai woman readies a horse for a ride around the countryside, Thailand
Ready, set, go: horseback riding around rural grasslands makes for a splendid day out in the country.

There’s a reason we mentioned Phuket and Bangkok in the introduction: almost all LGBT+ travellers head for those destinations, and it’s not surprising. Both Phuket as well as Bangkok have large queer communities and vibrant nightlife. But when venturing out beyond the typical gay tourist route, you’ll be rewarded with experiencing a slice of real Thailand.

Thais are actually very relaxed and peaceful people, with each of the country’s 77 provinces keeping distinct cultural and culinary traditions alive. Life in rural areas still happens at a much slower pace than anywhere aimed at tourists – think unfussy wet markets, hole-in-the-wall-style restaurants, fishermen spending their days on idyllic lakes and orange-robed monks making flower bouquet offerings at village temples. It’d be a shame to miss the Kingdom’s countless little wonders!

Let yourself be surprised by a warm welcome

Monk is all smiles in a village in Thailand
All smiles: Thai people are proud of their hospitality – everyone is made to feel welcome!

When wanting to visit countryside destinations in countries all across the world, LGBT+ travellers can encounter all sorts of concerns; from feeling uncomfortable about social etiquette to dreading downright hostile treatment. In rural Thailand, however, you’ll see the locals live by the all-encompassing ‘mai pen rai’ philosophy, which is informed by tolerance and respect.

Thai etiquette means PDA is off-limits for everyone, regardless of their sexual or gender orientation. Stick to this simple rule and you’re unlikely to encounter any bad vibes travelling around the Kingdom’s countryside. If anything, some locals might put you in the same category as Thailand’s famous ladyboys, as older generations tend to be less informed about individual groups within the queer community – but then again, ladyboys are both popular and fabulous… Take it as a compliment!

Take some time to unwind and heal

A traveller enjoys magical views of the sunset in rural Thailand
Let it go: sometimes, a bit of silence and a view like this is all you need to contemplate, reflect and move on.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dive head-first into Thailand’s incredible nightlife or taking Insta-pics at a fancy beachside resort. But if you’re looking for longer-term benefits of travel, and you feel the urge to reconnect with nature and yourself, the Kingdom’s rural regions are a treasure of spiritual experiences. LGBT+ people continue to be among the world’s most vulnerable, with many facing discrimination and prejudice – a relaxing stay in a remote part of Thailand can do wonders for one’s mental health.

On top of this, many queer individuals have made the move to bigger cities in their respective home countries, looking for a community. To escape a hectic, cosmopolitan life and feel embraced and welcomed in rural Thailand for a few days offers a rewarding glimpse at peaceful small-town life that might be hard to find back home. And sometimes, all you need for a perfect holiday is a slice of countryside idyll!