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TRAVEL & LEISURE

Four Bite-Sized Adventures for Your Next Trip to Thailand

The stunning Southeast Asian nation has plenty of unexpected adventures to tempt the inquisitive traveller.
By Stephen Heard
December 16, 2019
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Four Bite-Sized Adventures for Your Next Trip to Thailand

The stunning Southeast Asian nation has plenty of unexpected adventures to tempt the inquisitive traveller.
By Stephen Heard
December 16, 2019
  shares

White sand beaches, extravagant palaces and mouthwatering street food are three things regularly mentioned in the same breath as Thailand. Past the obvious well-trodden sights, the stunning Southeast Asian nation also has plenty of unexpected adventures to tempt the inquisitive traveller. From touring the back streets of the bustling capital on two wheels to learning mindfulness with a Buddhist monk, we have rounded up four bite-sized adventures to seek out during your next trip to the land of smiles.

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TOUR THE BACK STREETS OF BANGKOK BY BIKE

If you thought crossing the street in the bustling Thai capital was an adventure, try tackling the pavement on two wheels. Touring Bangkok by bike is a brilliant way to see the inner workings of the city while journeying through back alleys you'd typically never think twice about entering. From the Banglamphu 'Manhattan' side of the river you'll navigate your way down back streets past food stalls, wandering animals and locals aplenty. Crossing the Chao Phraya River to the Rama VIII Bridge will bring you to the Arun Amarin 'Brooklyn' subdistrict where a network of narrow pathways and footbridges pass over centuries-old canals. Then, it's back to visit a selection of the city's extravagantly decorated temples for a dose of culture. On this five-hour journey our guides would literally stop traffic for the safety of the group. Winding your way in and around the holy mess of vehicles can often be a hair-raising experience, but witnessing the groove of everyday life and seeing unexpected sights like giant monitor lizards make it truly worth it. Be sure to refuel along the way with an ice-cool longan drink.

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TAME YOUR 'MONKEY MIND' WITH A BUDDHIST MONK

One sight you'll regular encounter while visiting the many temples across Thailand is Buddhist monks draped in various shades of orange fabric. It's tradition that every Thai male becomes ordained as a monk at least once in their lifetime — whether it be a two-week stand down from the distraction-filled outside world or longer to show their devotion to the faith. Based on The New York Times' 36 Hours travel column, Urban Adventures' Hidden History and Food Culture tour offers an exclusive chance to learn about and practice meditation techniques with an expert Buddhist monk. Taming your 'monkey mind' takes place at the Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit royal temple. After an in-depth question and answer session, the session progresses legs-crossed with mindful meditation where you'll be tasked with blocking out pesky distractions and bringing aimless thoughts back to planet earth. All of your burning questions about mindfulness and enlightenment can again be put forward to the monk upon conclusion — whether you're eager to master the 227 rules of being a monk or simply learn about the origins of the orange garb. Just remember that enquiring about the meaning of life may lead you down an never-ending path.

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GO ON AN OFF-THE-GRID FOOD ADVENTURE

There are plenty of tourist-focused restaurants to grab a bite in Thailand, but going off the grid can introduce a whole host of intriguing delicacies. In the mountainous northern city of Chiang Mai a host of mouthwatering street food vendors await. With your Urban Adventures guide you'll hop aboard a red songthaew pickup truck and make your way through narrow laneways to unassuming road-side stalls. Your first pitstop may well be an alleyway somewhere within the walls of the old city. While every menu item is in the hands of the guide, som tum, or papaya salad, is likely to feature on the list. At one particular stall — in operation for 16 years — the sweet, sour and salty salad is cut, mixed and pounded to order. From there you may well visit a highly regarded stall hawking fried wontons with barbecue sauce, devour bite-sized coconut custards (khanom thuai), or drop by an openair food court for the culture-clash dish of sukiyaki hotpot noodle soup. If not yet bursting at the seams, there'll be an opportunity to finish with bua loi, a curious dessert comprising gelatinous rice balls in warm coconut milk with egg.

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JOIN A THAI COOKERY CLASS THAT SUPPORTS MARGINALISED YOUTH 

American expat Dwight Turner started Bangkok's Courageous Kitchen as a way to educate communities so they have the means to lift themselves out of poverty. The not-for-profit has since helped urban refugees and asylum seekers from 30 different countries, including Myanmar and Vietnam, by offering work and food education. As part of the Courageous Kitchen cooking class, participants work directly with the refugees — some living in hiding with no rights or assets in the country. A tour of a local market kicks off the hands-on experience by introducing local produce — from longan and langsat to rambutan and butterfly pea. After picking up the necessary supplies, the class begins at the undisclosed Courageous Kitchen headquarters where the tutors lead the class through a set menu of dishes. Popular Thai dishes pad krapow and pad se ew noodles make the cut, as well as intriguing creations like miang kham (betel leaf wraps), kratong tong (filled pastry shells) and fried lotus cookies. With a full stomach, you'll have an opportunity to hear about the lives of the asylum seekers directly and discover what it takes for them to become resettled.

To discover more unexpected and bite-sized adventures, visit urbanadventures.com.

Published on December 16, 2019 by Stephen Heard

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