To travellers around the world, Thailand is a dream escape: its sandy beaches and glistening pagodas lure families, friends and couples alike. But one group of visitors has taken a special liking towards the Southeast Asian kingdom: solo-travellers.
Countless wandering souls explore all that Thailand has to offer every single day, some on a prolonged journey of self-discovery, others to refuel for a week or two, before it’s back to the office. Whichever group you belong to, here are our favourite things to do when visiting the ‘land of smiles’ for some much-needed me-time!
10-day silent meditation retreat at Wat Suan Mokkh, Surat Thani
The classic. Meditation is arguably one of the best ways to recharge the batteries and reconnect with oneself. The ancient Vipassana technique, which focuses on breathing and concentration, is taught throughout the world, but Wat Suan Mokkh outside Surat Thani is an especially popular place to learn it – 25.000 people have meditated here since its inauguration in 1989. Participate in their monthly retreats, surrounded by the lush nature of the forest monastery, and enjoy living simply for ten days: there is no talking, no technology, basic accommodation and simple, vegetarian food (which is not to say it’s not delicious!). While it’s not guaranteed you’ll find yourself here, you’ll certainly find some peace and quiet.
They say volunteering goes both ways because by lending a hand to others, you’re helping yourself in reverse. And we couldn’t agree more! Thailand offers almost unparalleled opportunities for willing volunteers and there truly is something for everyone: whether you want to teach English, care for animals in a shelter or do your part in restoring a damaged coral reef, there’s a way to make it happen. Although long-term volunteers often deliver the most meaningful work, even a two-week stint at an animal sanctuary can go a long way in providing much-needed assistance – let alone help travellers touch base and give them a chance to re-evaluate.
Go off the beaten track in Isan state
Spirituality can be found in places where you least expect it, though as a standard rule, chances to let the mind unfurl seem to be higher in places others don’t go. For a truly meaningful experience, consider ditching Thailand’s famous islands for its lesser-visited territories! Bordering both Laos and Cambodia, the enormous Isan state sees little tourism and retains many of its original charms. Here, solo-travellers can still witness rural Thailand: from early morning alms-giving ceremonies in off the beaten track villages to the Bun Bungfai Rocket Festival or the Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani. Looking to get spiritual in a temple? Visit the little-known Khmer ruins of Phimai and Buriram.
Get lost in Bangkok’s backstreets
We know what you’re thinking: this looks a bit out of place. But truly, it’s not! The staggeringly vast Thai capital is in many ways a giant labyrinth made up of thousands of thanons (streets), sois (side-streets) and troks (alleyways). No two paths are alike and yet they all seem to burst with life. It’s here that Bangkok is at its most authentic and perhaps, tastiest – the food carts hidden away in Sukhumvit’s countless sois offer cheap and cheerful Thai fare, often alongside good conversation. We’ve had many a memorable encounter here and the casual atmosphere makes it easy making friends with the locals. Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet someone to join you on your travels – not that you needed to.