Get off the beaten track in Thailand (dreamstime)

Hidden Thailand

Nothing awakens the senses like getting beneath the surface of a country and uncovering something overlooked by other travellers.

Thailand may be on the well-trodden tourist trail, and it may feel as though every inch of the country has already been explored, but there are still some exciting and unique experiences to be had – you just need a bit of imagination. Look beyond the commercial sights, the cramped beaches and the crowds of tourists and you won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve seen the dazzling beaches, ridden an elephant through the dense jungles and haggled at the markets in the frenetic city already, then it’s time you booked flights with Emirates to Thailand and experienced some of the hidden treats the country has to offer.

Rock climbing

Thailand is blessed with some stunning rock formations, the most beautiful probably being at Krabi (particularly at Railay and Tonsai). The towering limestone rocks attract climbers from all over the world.

There are lots of courses for beginners through to more experienced climbers and you can book a half-day climb or try out a longer course depending on how much of your holiday you want to dedicate to it.

Thailand offers numerous climbing opportunities with many beginning right off a sandy beach or even from a long-tail boat. It’s an amazing adrenaline rush to climb a cliff and look down at the spectacular azure water and strip of white sand beneath you. Climbing jungle crags brings you into monkey and gibbon territory and climbing by the coast lets you see impressive marine life such as turtles swimming in the water below you.

If you have a fear of heights, climbing can do wonders for your confidence – holidays are the perfect time to step out of your comfort zone.

Caves

There are many tourist boat trips to caves which include a snorkelling tour and beach lunch. A trip to The Emerald Caves is a popular tour where you swim through a dark tunnel to get to a hidden arc of white sand. These sorts of excursions tend to get packed with boatloads of tourists in life vests, which takes some of the beauty away from the experience.

For a more authentic adventure, approach a local climbing company for advice on the less crowded caves to visit and find out if they can recommend any trips.

It’s easy and fairly inexpensive to hire a long-tail from the beach to take you on a private tour. Just be aware of safety and remember that it’s safest to go in an organised group if the cave involves swimming underwater or in fast flowing water.

If you’re a qualified diver, why not give cave diving a try? You can take a cave diving course on Phuket so you can explore places most other tourists haven’t even dreamed of!

Butterfly watching

There are numerous forests, jungles and gardens in Thailand, and the wealth of flora and fauna attracts an abundance of colourful butterflies. Over 1,200 species of butterfly thrive in the country and you will find them at all times of the day and night, as there are plenty of nocturnal species too. Butterfly watching is a lovely eco-tourism pastime and all you’ll need to enjoy it is comfortable clothing, a butterfly book, magnifying glass and a notepad to log what you see. Wherever you are staying in Thailand, there’ll be somewhere close by to find butterflies; although the lush national parks, wetlands and mudflats are great places to go butterfly hunting. Find out more at World Wildlife Adventures.

Free-diving

Thailand may be a famous open water diving destination, but it’s also a fantastic place to learn to free-dive. Imagine how incredible snorkelling will be when you master the skill of free-diving and can plunge down to see the coral with one breath?

This challenging sport can be learnt at Blue Immersion. They teach SSI and AIDA courses from their base on the pretty island of Koh Tao. After the course you will have plenty of opportunity to practice your skills as you snorkel straight off the beach.

Muay Thai

Where better to learn the Thai martial art than on a tropical beach in Thailand? It’s an intense fitness system that takes both physical and mental discipline. Immersing yourself in the training is an amazing mental experience – it allows you to let everything around you go and focus on nothing but your technique, breathing and your senses.

Learn about the roots of the sport and get lost in the culture as you are trained by former Muay Thai champions. Courses take place all over the country, no experience is necessary and you might just find a new passion.

Fruit carving

If you’ve been on a cruise or a tropical holiday to a large resort, the chances are you’ll have seen huge pieces of fruit and vegetables carved into unbelievable shapes on a buffet table. Have you ever wondered how it was done? Now you can visit the Carving Institute in Bangkok and take a course!

Whether you’re an aspiring chef or a passionate amateur, this is an art form that is sure to impress your friends. Everything you need is provided on the course, along with a Thai lunch.