This is one of the best months to visit Thailand as the weather is cool, dry and yet sunny enough for beach-lounging. If you had a gruelling end of year, this could be the perfect, relaxing vacation for you to bring the Gregorian New Year in with. Be warned though, other tourists have the exact same thought, so plan in advance!
As always with Thailand, there are incredibly diverse offerings from the different parts of the country, but before we get into that, let’s discuss the Chinese New Year. This is a festival in which Thais with Chinese ancestry bring in their new year with a week of house-cleaning and fireworks. Ancestors are appeased, worshipped and then, with their conscience clear, people take to the streets to dance!
The best place to check this out is Bangkok, where the streets are buzzing with celebration of the year past and anticipation of the year to come. Make sure to keep your eyes open for the Dragon Dance parade.
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Central region (Bangkok)
This area is mostly flat, with humidity almost year round. So even in January, all you need to carry is a light sweater for the occasional chill.
Do not miss the floating boat markets in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand and epicentre of the Central Region. The most popular of these is the Damnoen Suduak market, full of tempting foods and ripe, revitalizing fruits.
If you want to get a jump on the crowd, make sure to arrive early as January is the busiest season for these floating marvels. An alternative for the crowd-phobic is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market, which is less busy than other floating markets but packed with lots of delicious food and fun activities, as well as artsy riverside villages.
Also near Bangkok, you have the rare opportunity to visit Buddhist hell. Yes, we’re as surprised as you are. Tucked away in a close-by village, Wang Saen Suk hosts imposing yet grotesque sculptures warning of the consequences for people that act against their Buddhist religious beliefs.
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North (Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi)
Up North in beautiful Chiang Mai the pink Wild Himalayan Cherry Blossoms are not to be missed. If you thought you need to pay Yen through your nose to see these in Japan, not to worry, Thailand has you covered. The first place these “Tiger Queens” or wild cherry blossom trees flower in Chiang Mai is at Doi Angkhang.
Doi Angkhang is also known as the Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station. At 1400 metres above sea level with impeccably maintained gardens, the location lives up to it’s official name, especially when the sakura bloom.
This is the rare Thai experience that requires more than a light-weight sweater, hitting temperatures as low as -3 degrees at night, so bundle up!
Chiang Mai Best Sellers
North-East Thailand, known as Isan, borders Laos to the right and is culturally rather different from the rest of Thailand. Culture vultures, do make the trip. The area features northern highlands and gorgeous plateaus.
You cannot leave without encountering the Mekong River, an artery of trade and commerce that runs through the area. Popular places along the River include Amphoe Chiang Khan in Loei Province, Tha Sadet Market in Nong Khai Province, Indochina Market in Mukdahan Province, and Sam Pan Bok Grand Canyon in Ubon Ratchathani Province.
As you can guess, we’re most excited about Sam Phan Bok. Located in Isan’s Ubon Ratchathani, Sam Phan Bok is one-of-a-kind natural wonder that you can only marvel at in the dry season. Why? Because it’s a bunch of holes across the length and breadth of this massive river!
It can be a fun pastime to sit by the riverbed, gaze at the shapes and see what you want in them. Like nature’s Rorschach test, only fun, and calming.
For a different kind of thrill, check out the Khon Kaen International Marathon held on the 8th of January since its inception. There are 4 categories for the fit or fit adjacent – marathon (42 km), half marathon (21 km); mini marathon (11.5 km) and Walk – Fun Run.
The run starts and finishes at the Golden Jubilee Convention Hall of the historic Khon Kaen University. The route will take you through areas not only academic but also cultural and ethnic. Everyone who finishes gets a medal, runners get a certificate on top, and, the first 5 men and women get trophies and cash prizes.
East (Pattaya, Koh Samet, Koh Lan)
To the East, you have the visit Koh Samet, one of the driest archipelagos in Thailand with verdant, lush forests. At this time, there are no more than two days of rainfall, and water and the wind are about the same temperature with plenty of sunlight. So banish all excuses to enter the water and go soak like a beach baby.
Need a little more adrenaline than that? Hat Sai Kaeo (crystal sand beach) is great for snorkelling, swimming, jet skiing and sailing all year round. Grab grub at nearby joints and end the night with dancing by the beach-side.
Some family/group friendly snorkelling trips to consider are “Adventure trip to 7 islands” and the Coral island trip where you can explore the coral reefs around the island.
Finally, Thailand has you covered for scuba diving too! For beginners, head to Koh Samet Dive School, at Ao Prao. Advanced divers, head to Samed resorts diving centre at Ao Prao for diving equipment on hire by the day.
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South (Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, Hua Hin)
As in most of the country, you’ll find dry weather here, with zero rain or humidity. This makes it excellent trekking weather, so head to the national parks.
Kaeng Krachan offers 2915 sqm of glimmering rainforests, waterfalls, granite mountain ranges, caves and even a reservoir lake. Bird watchers, bring your binoculars! Also watch out for wild and endangered animals, including Asian elephants, barking deer, black-and-yellow broadbills, tapirs, Asian elephants, wild dogs, Asiatic leopards and tigers.
Need to fuel up after the trek? Please note that the park-run restaurants close around supper-time, and the little cafe at Pala-U Waterfall shuts even sooner, around tea time. No other food options are available inside the park, but you will find restaurants a few kilometers out.