Memorable Adventures With Locals In Thailand

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Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Hanging Out With Lek from Elephant Nature Park


My most memorable travel experiences usually involve interacting with locals in the country I’m visiting. That’s exactly what happened traveling in Thailand.

International travel can lead to some unforgettable adventures, as it certainly has for me over the past 3 years. Even more so when you see a country through the eyes of local people who live there.

The guys from WithLocals asked me to share some of my favorite local experiences in Thailand. They specialize in connecting travelers with local people for unique travel adventures.

Songkran Festival Thailand

Giant Water Fight at Songkran Festival

Elephant Nature Park

Ever since she was a little girl, Lek was fascinated with the elephants that called Thailand home. These incredibly intelligent and emotional creatures inspired her to save them from the torture and abuse being inflicted by logging and tourism industries. Which is exactly what she’s doing today with Elephant Nature Park. Visiting this amazing elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai and learning about these magnificent creatures from Lek was a very special experience for me.

Songkran Festival

Definitely the craziest festival I’ve ever been to, Songkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year. What started with Buddhist monks blessing people with a splash of water has morphed into an epic 3 day water fight in streets around the country. Armed with water guns and buckets of ice water, complete strangers of all ages team up to drench everyone within reach from sunrise to sunset in what has to be one of the coolest festivals in the world.

Sak Yant Tattoo Thailand

Receiving My Sak Yant Tattoo

Traditional Thai Tattoo

It will be very difficult to forget this particular local experience, especially with a permanent souvenir etched into my upper back with snake venom ink. Visiting the Thai Buddhist temple of Wat Bang Phra, sitting on the ground for hours waiting for a monk to hand-engrave a traditional Sak Yant tattoo into my skin was pretty special. Not to mention sharing that adventure with 40 local people receiving their own magic tattoos.

Travel With Locals

To really experience the best a country has to offer, meeting with local people who are willing to share their culture, food, or natural wonders with you will result in some truly amazing stories that you’ll never forget. ★

Do you have any memorable travel experiences with locals? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This article was written in collaboration with WithLocals. As always, the content & opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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  1. I Readout the whole story and it was really so amazing to travel with locals and what a majestic tattoo never ever seen it before such an incredible one.

  2. I really love animals, including elephants, but not when these huge creatures are interfering with the transport flow) Of course we are just guests in the animal world, but anyway, I’d like to see fewer elephants blocking the way my motorbike rented to Chiang Mai in Catmotors) I think many tourists enjoyed adventures in Thailand. In my heart, I’ll leave the tigers from the temple, and the flowering of the lotus in Kum Pavapi is truly an amazing sight. For this, I’m ready to visit Thailand several times.

  3. Hi Matt. I like that you covered Elephant Nature Park on this post. Too many travellers don’t do their research before going to see elephants and end up going to some of the more publicized tourist villages where they don’t actually own or care for the elephants but instead just rent them from the owners. If there is a problem with the elephant it is up to the owner to care for it and give it medication. And when they can’t (or won’t) that’s when sanctuaries or foundations become the last hope for these elephants.

    We went to Elephant Nature Park a while back and they are a perfect example of what can be done if you have the proper resources and get good coverage. They’ve been smart about it – Lek’s had famous actors and tons of media coverage. They get volunteers (paying volunteers) to do a lot of the work. Because of that they can buy a lot of elephants (the Thai owners will never give them away) and have a lot of available land for them.

    We recently went to another foundation near Hua Hin. They get nowhere near as much funding and are struggling to get by. Many travellers instead go to a nearby “Elephant Village” where the conditions are abysmal. If I may just give them a little plug here: the place tourists should go in the Hua Hin area is the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation. We were impressed by the care they gave the elephants: And if they go they get to see a baby elephant praying :)

    I’m not into tatoos. But that looks painful. Ouch.

    Nice post.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  4. This is awesome, Matt. Of all the places I’ve been, Thailand is one of the least explored for me. I love that tattoo, I’m not entirely sure I could do that. Kudos to you.

    I can’t wait to see what you do next. I have a few of your crazier posts to feature on my site in the coming months. Keep up the inspiring work!

  5. Hi Matthew,

    Awesome! That Songkran pic above, I’ve walked past that same exact spot like 500 times over the past 3 years. We lived there for 6 months on and off, and walked everywhere, from Chiang Mai Riverside condos to the center of town. It brings back so many wonderful memories.

    I recall many experiences in Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Koh Lanta, as well as some fun interactions with locals in Pak Nam Pran.

    In Koh Lanta we met with a Muslim business owner who was the nicest dude. We sat by his catfish farm, in peace and quiet, enjoying a 35 Baht lunch together while we talked about Thailand, the US and Koh Lanta. What a neat experience.

    I also recall taking in soi dogs in Pak Nam Pran, and Koh Lanta, our buddies Biscuit, Bebe, and Penne, as well as Noisy Norman the cat. So much fun bringing joy to these animals, who live such stressful lives.

    We’ve housed 3 stray cats here in Savusavu, Fiji, too. Again, it’s a joy for me and my fiancee Kelli. Awesome experiences with some locals of the 4 footed variety ;)

    Thanks so much for the awesome share Matthew.

    Tweeting in a bit!


  6. Matthew,

    Damn, good job on the tattoo! That looks amazing.

    Seeing and exploring the life with the locals is the best! Fortunately for me, I had the pleasure of visiting my own family in tiny villages across West Java, Indonesia. Those are the days I realized that wow, stress doesn’t have to surround as much as we think it should. I loved the escape of the 9-5 pm jobs.

    Fishing for live eels through the rice fields of Bandung. Making bamboo guns with string and rubber bands for the dragon fly seasons. This was a different take on life and I wanted more.

    That’s a little of my experiences anyway. Australia has allowed me to see the Western world. A world which doesn’t suit tastes. But a great country none the less.

    Cheers Matthew,


      1. Sure do Matt!

        But I don’t blame you for that one. The whole time we were fishing for them they just looked like snakes, as there were hundreds of snakes to jump over as well. Everyone else seemed to act so normal apart from me. Apparently freaking out with the amount of snakes slithering around was a weird thing over there. I guess Australia has ruined how I see snakes as we have some of the most venomous ones around here – which is annoying..

        Also Matthew, I’m sending you an email in a sec.