Leave behind the hordes of backpackers in crowded Bangkok and head into parts of Thailand that lots of travellers never see. By the time they’re up and ready to shake off last night’s hangover, you’ll be on your way to Sukhothai, a tiny city also known as the Dawn of Happiness. From there, it just keeps getting better. Sure, you’ll see the vaunted beaches of Koh Samui and the Golden Triangle, but you’ll also meet gorgeous elephants in Chiang Mai and sip tea with locals who live in the hills of Doi Mae Salong. Now THIS is Thailand.

Highlights

Dumbo isn't the only elephant that needs saving. Travel by private minivan to the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital and witness the awesome work these guys do on a daily basis

Bike? Check. Shades? Check. Wind in your hair? Check. Sukhothai's Historical Park is the kind of dreamscape you don't have to wake up from

Swing 'til your winning and zip through the canopies at Flight of the Gibbon, an optional activity that will get your heart racing. This is just another brilliant excuse to act like a cheeky little monkey

Feel like one of the locals on an overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Grab some snacks from the on-board vendors, utilise your phrase book and embrace this unique journey

Obsessed with the Tom Yam Goong at your local Thai joint? Imagine how much better it would be in Thailand, on a beach, with a cocktail, at sunset. Nice, eh?

Koh Samui is a slice of paradise. Cruise the island, go chasing waterfalls and feel peachy on the beach before carving up the dance floor in one of Koh Samui's famous bars

Kick back for a few days in Ao Nang. Plenty of free time to take up optional activities like, cook some food in a Thai cooking class, cook yourself in some hot springs or paddle to a hidden lagoon on Koh Hong island

More fun in kayaks, coves and canyons is to be had in the mangrove forests of Ao Thalane. Don't let the local troublemakers (macaque monkeys) steal your camera

Need more reasons? Here are 7 more why we love it: intrepidtravel.com/adventures/southern-thailand/