My name is Gabi Klaf and I am the mom behind The Nomadic Family and GabiKlaf.com. My family and I are in our third year of world travel, with no intention of stopping. We’re having too much fun spending ridiculous chucks of time with our kids, getting lost and found (physically and spiritually), and writing books and blog posts to guide and inspire others to make their travel dreams come true. We’re big on unearthing all of the beautiful, colorful, sweaty, and intoxicating shades of real round-the-world life on the road family travel. It’s a huge honor to join in with the Ciao Bambino family to share our family adventure experiences with you.
We’ve spent over a year now in South East Asia, and thus, it makes sense that I begin to share with you our best family adventure travel tips here. The following are five awesome kid-friendly Thailand excursions.
Adventures in Thailand with Kids
Though Thailand means “Land of the Free,” I will admit, upon arrival, I felt like a miserable prisoner to the steaming humidity and the overly-tourist mayhem of Khaosan Road. After eleven amazing Latin American months, we were linguistically-challenged and jet-lagged. Once the shell-shock passed, we absolutely purred through our month there with highlights including our kids being invited to a birthday party, mouth-watering pad thai and Angry Birds sushi, and visited some of the most gorgeous temples in South East Asia.
Golden Buddha and Lucky Palace Temples | Bangkok
No need to take a guided tour when you can rent a tuk tuk for the day and do it yourself. Either pay the higher rate, or go dirt cheap, but know your driver will stop at several travel agencies and jewelry shops to cover the difference (he gets a gas coupon from them for bringing you). If you don’t want to elongate your day and don’t want your driver to dump you (like ours did), pay extra for a driver who will take you directly and stick around while you visit the temples.
Take food, hats, water, and shoes that easily slip on and off. The temples are gorgeous, the art is breath-taking, and the ambiance is amazing. This was our first glimpse at Buddhism and the kids, like us, were mesmerized by the heavy incense, the chanting monks, and the delicious ice cream from the cart right outside each temple. You can buy flowers for a modest sacrificial offering to the temples, and let the kids run around the grounds for free. We were fortunate enough to come to a service in which a monk threw wrapped coins into the crowd and like a good pinata party, all guests ran to pick up the treats.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market | Ratchaburi
This was one of our all-time favorite attractions in Thailand! On your own long-tailed boat, you become part of this majestic orchestra of water vehicles dancing in narrow canals. We loved seeing the local water-front huts and eating food picked fresh from the neighboring boat that just pulled up beside us. This was our first taste of sticky rice and mango, as well as cane sugar candy, both which we, to this day, still lick our lips over. Your personal captain drops you off at one large hut to taste free can juice (so good) and the sugar cane candy, in hopes that you’ll buy some of the super pretty art wares there.
Boat Driver Scam Alert: Note, the pricing there is ridiculously high if you are sucker. We didn’t get a tour, just rented a taxi who took us to a port he was friendly with … There are tons to choose from and you don’t have to use the one where you are dropped off. My husband negotiated our boat driver down to 1/4 of his original asking price. When they tell you they have to pay canal taxes and the like, just smile and start walking to the next stop down the river. If you’re a bit street-smart, you’ll save tons. If hard-core bartering makes you queasy, just pay what they ask for, and have fun. You can negotiate on all goods, art, and food there. It is superb!
Explore the River Kwai Bridge | Kanchanaburi
We actually spent 19 of our 30 Thailand days in Kanchanaburi. Quietly resting on the banks of the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi has great little pubs, one awesome second-hand book store (with kids’ books), and, reasonably priced massage parlors where our kids had their first Thai massage.
The River Kwai Bridge area is awesome! We had a living history lesson reading the inscribed ‘Trail of Tears’ lesson on the plaza wall and took pictures on cool word art at the plaza. There are tons of fresh coconut-water-in-a-coconut, street food, and art booths there. After you read the inscription on the wall, walking on the bridge itself is goose-bump amazing. The kids counted to which section of the bridge was blown up. There is a train ride you can take from right outside the War Museum.
When we were there in May 2012, a gorgeous Chinese temple and gardens were still being built across the river. There is a great Amazon water fish tankery there where the kids can feed the fish. [Note: Do not let your son put his hand in the tank. When the fish jumped out the tank, I was sure he’d be forever be called the one-hand-boy.]
Erawan Falls | Kanchanaburi
We rented motorbikes and hit the countryside with some new backpacking friends we had made at our accommodations, the Sugar Cane Hostel. The weather was perfect and the ride through the countryside was divine. Erawan National Park is one of those spots you just don’t want to miss. The vegetation, the monkeys, and the waters all blend into something magical, a bit passed what words can convey. There are seven falls, each with her own unique mood and feel. We personally loved falls number 1, 2, and 5 but I’m sure they are all really nice. There’s a short hike between each fall and we spent ample time sliding off the boulder-slides, swimming, and chatting with other tourists. Therefore, we didn’t get to stop in each one.
Bring food with you, plenty of water, sunscreen, and a waterproof camera if you have one.
Elephants World | Kanchanaburi
“Wow!” basically says it all. Elephants World is a farm/refuge for old or injured elephants who can’t take care of themselves any more. There was one gentle beast, for example, whose teeth were too brittle to masticate properly so Elephant World made him mashed up softer food daily.
You get to spend your entire day petting, cleaning, making food for, feeding, and bathing with the elephants. The pure joy of touching them, serving them, being near their huge and kind awesomeness is miraculous. Elephant Farm makes you feel very small, while at the same time, filling your heart with the pure joy of experiencing such sweet exhilaration with your children. The work they do here is marvelous!
You can rent a motorbike from Kanchanaburi and get there by yourself or arrange a taxi service through Elephant World themselves. Wear closed shoes, a hat, long-sleeve clothing, and bring plenty of water and your bathing suit.
We adored Thailand, even though the heat did lead to some severe loss of brain cells. We hope our humble suggestions will guide you to loving it too!
Gabi Klaf, now in her third year of non-stop travel with kids, has lived in the Ecuadorian jungles, danced with Vietnamese at weddings, and are now training for the Annapurna Circuit trek where a documentary film crew will accompany them. Gabi proudly contributes her raw nomadic writings on Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding Blog, South East Asia Backpacker Magazine, and AsiaRooms.com. You can find Gabi reading about spiritual healing, strumming her guitar, or listening to the wind.
Photos by Gabi Klaf