8 underrated treasures in Thailand and Singapore for those who want to get off the beaten path

8 underrated treasures in Thailand and Singapore for those who want to get off the beaten path

Thailand and Singapore are some of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia, so we wouldn’t blame you if you thought that pretty much every inch of each country has been explored and talked about.

But what if we told you that there are still some lesser-known destinations that you probably haven’t heard of or haven’t thought to visit?

If you’re looking for experiences that are different than the usual tourist attractions, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top picks for Thailand and Singapore:

Thailand

Sala Kaew Ku
Fantastical statues at Sala Kaew Ku near Nong Khai.

Nong Khai

Nong Khai is a picturesque city set right at the northeastern border of Thailand on the banks of the Mekong River. Compared to other Thai cities, it takes a much more languid pace.

The Mekong acts as the border marker between Thailand and Laos, with the latter’s capital of Vientiane sitting on the other side of the river. Connecting the two cities is the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, spanning 1.2 kilometers across the river. You can easily take a shuttle bus or train between the two countries.

Sala Kaew Ku, located in a meadow near the Thai-Lao border, is a popular stop. The park is filled with over 100 gigantic religious sculptures displaying Buddhist and Hindu symbolism, with some measuring up to 25 meters tall.  

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat
The temple atop the mountain.

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat

Not many people know of Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat, and that includes the locals. But the reason is likely due to the fact that the temple is hidden away atop a limestone mountain in northern Lampang province.

There’s no public transportation to the temple, so the best way to get there is by renting a car or motorbike. Getting there may be a challenge, but the view from the top is surely worth it, as you’ll take in stunning panoramas of the rice fields below.  

The temple grounds are also a sight to behold – the buildings have a strong Chinese influence, particularly in its murals and mosaics. Its gardens are also a wonderful spot to take a stroll.

Santikhiri
Portrait of an unidentified Akha tribe woman in a traditional dress selling handmade fabric at Mae Salong market. Source: Blanscape / Shutterstock.com

Santikhiri

For those who long for cooler climes, the village of Santikhiri, also known as Mae Salong, is just the place, as it’s located in the highlands on Doi Mae Salong Mountain in Chiang Rai province.

The village was originally founded by Chinese troops from Yunnan who refused to surrender to Chinese communists after the Chinese Civil War and found their way to Thailand, deciding to settle there.

Be sure to try the local oolong tea – the fragrant roasted tea is famous around the region and is the village’s main export. And you can also find delicious Yunnanese dishes to dig into.

As you wander around the village, you’ll also notice people in colorful traditional garb from various hill tribes such as the Akha and Lisu tribes selling produce and handmade handicrafts.

Sangkhlaburi
Sangkhlaburi in springtime, as the blossoms are blooming. In the background is the wooden Mon Bridge.

Sangkhlaburi

Visitors to Kanchanaburi province usually come to see Erawan Falls or to learn more about the dark history behind the the Thai-Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

However, Sangkhlaburi is an idyllic town in the western part of the province that’s also a cultural crossroads between the Thai, Karen, Mon, and the Burmese due to its proximity to the Thai-Burmese border.

The town sits right next to Vajiralongkorn Lake, so you can take a dip into the lake, visit the nearby sunken temples (best visited during dry season) or walk across Saphan Mon, a 400-meter wooden bridge known as the longest handmade wooden bridge in Thailand.

Singapore

Joo Chiat Road
Colorful Peranakan heritage houses on Joo Chiat Road. Source: jumoobo / Shutterstock.com

Joo Chiat Road

You’ve probably heard of Singapore’s famous ethnic enclaves: Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam. But it’s also got a little neighborhood where the Peranakan community thrives.

Now a residential conservation area, the neighborhood works hard to preserve the Peranakan culture. Its rainbow-hued heritage shophouses are taken up by chic boutique shops and trendy eateries selling well-loved Peranakan delicacies, such as laksa, Nyonya chang (glutinous rice dumplings), and kueh (bite-sized snacks or desserts).

If you want to learn more about Peranakan culture in Singapore, visit The Intan, home to a private collection of Peranakan relics from all around the world.

MINT Museum of Toys
The museum’s vintage cartoon figure collection. Source: Artorn Thongtukit / Shutterstock.com

MINT Museum of Toys

Tap into your inner child and visit the MINT Museum of Toys. This quirky museum houses a world-class collection of over 50,000 vintage toys from over 25 countries.

It comprises five levels, including a rooftop level, and each level has its own theme, from old-fashioned enamel signs to famous characters we grew up with.

The museum also regularly hosts special exhibitions and monthly featured exhibits that will have you leaving with a childlike glow of wonder and nostalgia.

The extensive collection belongs to Singaporean Chang Yang Fa, and you’re welcome to drop by the museum’s shop to bring home your own little blast from the past.

MacRitchie Treetop Walk
The suspension bridge on the Treetop Walk path.

MacRitchie Treetop Walk

If you want to work up a sweat or you’re simply a nature lover, hike up the Treetop Walk, which overlooks MacRitchie Reservoir.

The TreeTop Walk itself is a 250-meter suspended pathway, and at its highest point, it’s up to seven stories high. You’ll get to see unparalleled views of the surrounding nature reserve’s canopy and the Upper Peirce Reservoir.

A round-trip on the entire six kilometer trail takes about two to three hours and has steep slopes, so do wear appropriate footwear, such as track shoes or sneakers.

Lazarus Island
The beautiful, secluded beach on Lazarus Island.

Lazarus Island

One of Singapore’s best-kept secrets is Lazarus Island, located to the south of the island republic. It’s one of the eight islets that from Singapore’s Southern Islands.  

Its clean, secluded stretch of white sandy beach offers gorgeous scenery that can rival famous island paradises in Thailand and the Philippines. However, because it’s so undeveloped, there are are little to no amenities such as restaurants and toilets.

How do you reach this little slice of heaven? Just take a ferry from Marina South Pier to St. John Island. From there, you can walk over to Lazarus Island via a link bridge connecting the islands.
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Now that we’ve spilled the beans, we’re sure you’re itching to discover these gems for yourself! So be sure to check out Traveloka to grab some awesome flight and hotel deals to Thailand and Singapore.

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