PMGY volunteer in Thailand participants are based in the suburbs of Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital city. It’s a city of contrasts. Modern yet cultural, chaotic, traditional and bizarre – you will never get bored in Bangkok we can assure you of that!
Here air-conditioned megamalls sit side-by-side with 200-year-old village homes; gold-spired Buddhist temples share space with neon-lit, bar lined streets; slow-moving traffic bypassed by long-tail boats plying the royal river; streets lined with food carts are overlooked by restaurants on top of skyscrapers.
Participants generally volunteer on a Monday-Friday basis and the weekends are free to relax or travel further afield. As our volunteers will testify, the wider travel opportunities are extremely important to the whole experience and it is something we certainly recommend. Our local team are able to arrange activities, transport and accommodation but please note this is usually an independent experience outside of the core program.
The Grand Palace, located at the heart of Bangkok, was a former residence for King Rama I to King Rama V of the Rattanakosin Kingdom. Today, the place is used for hosting royal ceremonies and welcoming the king’s guests and other foreign dignitaries. The Grand Palace is divided into two main zones, which are the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) and the Royal Residence. Wat Phra Kaew is home to a 45cm Emerald Buddha carved from just one piece of jade is the holiest and most revered religious object in Thailand.
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It’s one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46m long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s an easy 10 minute walk between here and the Grand Palace. It’s also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho is often considered the leading school of massage in Thailand, so you really are in good hands here.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is among the largest in the world and has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally shop ‘till you drop’. It seems to unite everything buyable, from used vintage sneakers to baby squirrels within its 15,000 stalls. It is well worth a full day here as there is a plethora of things to see and do, but make sure you’re there early to beat the crowds and the heat.
KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK
Cool and lush, Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s oldest reserve and an easy escape into the jungle. The 2168 sq km park, part of a Unesco World Heritage site, spans five forest types, from rainforest to monsoon. The centrepiece is Nam Tok Haew Suwat, a 25m-high waterfall that puts on a thundering show in the rainy season. Around 200 elephants tramp the park’s boundaries. Other mammals include tigers, leopards, bears, gaur, barking deer, otters, gibbons, macaques, some rather large pythons, plus an impressive 392 species of birds.
AYUTTHAYA & BANG PA
The temple town of Ayutthaya, formerly Thailand’s capital, and the nearby Summer Palace compound of Bang Pa-In are both popular day trips from Bangkok and easily accessible. Ayutthaya’s temples are magnificent. Both Khmer and Thai-style ruins lie along the rivers here, in what was once Thailand’s greatest city. It’s also an excellent place to rent a bicycle and enjoy a boat trip. Nearby Bang Pa-In is home to some whimsical mid-19th-century royal palaces, set amid splendid gardens with topiary elephants.
FLOATING MARKET AT DAMNOEN SADUAK
The most famous of Thailand’s floating markets, Damnoen Saduak is the one you’ll have seen photographed thousands of times. This 100-year-old market is full of sampans laden with colourful fruits and flowers with vendors dressed in traditional costume. The market consists of a maze of narrow khlongs (canals) navigated by boat. Female traders, often wearing traditional mo hom apparel (blue farmers’ shirts) with wide-brimmed straw hats (ngob) use sampans (small wooden boats) to sell their wares, often produce coming directly from farms.
Popular Chaweng has dazzling aquamarine water and five-star resorts; find a quiet cove between Lamai’s striking granite boulders; escape the crowds on palm-fringed Bophut, or snorkel on secluded Mae Nam and Bang Po. To really get away from it all though, head to the south or the west of the island where you’ll find authentic Samui family-run seafood restaurants, tourist-free towns buzzing with descendants of the original Chinese merchant settlers and long stretches of refreshingly wild and shaggy coconut palms.
The remote beaches of Krabi are considered to be some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. This lush region is studded with limestone massifs, velvety beaches and the warmest waters imaginable. For the more adventurous you can see some of Thailand’s exotic wildlife while canoeing through mangrove forests and ancient caves. Be dazzled by luminous schools of fish while snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters or work up an appetite by clambering up jungle hillsides for amazing views over this tropical wonderland.
Phuket is most definitely a party island with Patong its biggest town and busiest beach. It has morphed in recent years into an artsy, culturally rich capital, while Rawai on the island’s southern tip remains blissfully laid-back. The good thing is you don’t have to be an heiress to tap into Phuket’s style-packed to-do list. With deep-sea diving, high-end dining, luxury shopping, fabulous white beaches and some of Thailands swankiest hotels at your fingertips, you might forget to leave.