Travel opens up your eyes to a variety of different experiences. It offers the opportunity to learn about various cultures and their history. Wouldn’t it be great to have the option to expand this experience even more during a trip?
Disclaimer: Participation in these excurisions was provided complimentary from Gate 1 Travel. We thank them for their generosity! This post also contains ads and affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we might make a little extra travel money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are our own.
Recently, we visited Thailand for the first time. We went on a group tour with Gate 1 Travel. It was a wonderful experience and the tour was the perfect fit for us. You can read more about it HERE if you are looking for an excellent group tour for yourself.
Many forms of travel offer the opportunity to add on various activities and excursions. We are no stranger to participating in these extra ventures. Signing up for two optional items on our Thailand trip only enhanced our experience and offered completely different views of this country!
The Grand Palace and Temple of The Emerald Buddha
Prior to visiting Thailand, I never felt much of a connection with much of Asia’s art. I was excited to see everything with my own eyes for the first time.
Spending the day at Wat Pho was my first experience with really exploring Thai art and architecture. It was fantastic. I loved the intricate tile work, bright jewel tones, and shimmering golds.
Wat Pho was just an appetizer to what we would see the next day!
The Grande Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) nearly blew Wat Pho out of the water. This palace much grander in scale with over 100 buildings to take in. Rounding every corner holds something more spectacular than the last!
Visitors here see impressive structures, deep colors, intricate work, and multiple statues representing different characters from Thailand’s past. The grounds even hold a replica of Cambodia’s Angor Wat However, most impressive statue on premises is the Emerald Buddha.
This Buddha is sure to catch onlookers off-guard. Carved from a single piece of jade, it is mesmerizing! Depending on the time of year, the Buddha will be wearing different costumes. We saw it cloaked in its full gold shawl, representing the rainy winter season. Not only is this Buddha stunningly beautiful, but also surprisingly small! The Buddha is only 25 inches tall, but absolutely stands out in the crowds.
To navigate this top temple more easily, get there early to beat the lines. Be sure to dress appropriately to ensure admission. Make sure everything is properly covered! Plenty of people are turned away or made to don additional clothing items prior to entry.
This temple left a lasting impression on me as we departed Bangkok and headed west for a new adventure. We traveled on to something very opposite from the grandeur of the palace we just explored.
Hellfire Pass and Death Railway
The visit to Hellfire Pass and the Death Railway actually began a day early. Making our way west across Central Thailand, we started to learn about some of the country’s dark history in times of war.
A stop in Kanchanuburi led our group to the Thailand-Burma Railway Center and adjacent cemetary. Visitors see the struggle the men involved with the death railway endured. Continuing on took us directly to the bridge spanning the River Kwai Noi, made famous in the movie Bridge Over The River Kwai. The craftsmanship was remarkable! Tourists covered this bridge, all whistling that same Colonel Bogey tune that forever gets stuck in your head!
The actual excursion to Hellfire Pass and Death Railway museum began the following day. The museum was somber and immaculate. It is easy to see the pride the Thai people of the region share in maintaining this important place.
Get ready to head outside
After spending time learning more about the plight of the POW’s we headed out explore the area. Seeing the landscape these men were forced to work in under deplorable conditions was harrowing. The trenches the men were force to dig were inconceivable. But the time in the Kwai Noi Valley wilderness gave us a great look at another side of Thailand. The journey didn’t end there.
We made our way to a roadside lunch of traditional Thai food. Experiencing this local flavor is key to having a great travel time. With a few spare minutes, we found ourselves alongside the locals, climbing a nearby waterfall in the rain. It was a spectacular moment!
Finishing off our day-long excursion was a trip down the State Railway of Thailand. While much has changed in its modern day operation, this was a great way to reflect on what happened so many years ago. As the train pulled away, we were able to snag a great photo opp!
Just when we thought this day couldn’t get any better, it did! Before heading back to our hotel, we made one last stop. In Thai culture, the monks believe in taking care of animals. We visited an old Buddhist temple that was home to hundreds of monkeys!
Without participating in these optional excursions, we would have missed some great experiences. These two activities allowed us to see a broader spectrum of Thailand. We experienced a bit of bright and superior Thai royalty, as well as the dark atrocities of the past, natural landscapes and animals. Could you ask for more during a trip?