Shopping, nightlife, street-food, island retreats and Shangri-La type hillside resorts — Thailand is all this, and more.

It’s one of the most popular destinations for tourists from all over the world, Pakistan included. This time when you take your Thai holiday, opt for a different experience by getting far from the madding crowd and enjoying some novelty.

1. Nan is relatively lesser known in northern Thailand and could prove a better alternative to the tourist-infested Chiang Mai. The hiking trails here will lead you through waterfalls, caves and traditional indigenous settlements.

2. The tiny island of Koh Mak, close to the Cambodian border on the east of the Gulf of Thailand. Compared to the other more famous but crowded islands, its unspoiled beauty is ideal for a private, peaceful retreat.

3. Phimai, in the northeastern region, about three hours from Bangkok, is home to ancient temples built around the 11th and 12th centuries. These were actually the prototypes for the famous Angkor Wat across the border in Cambodia. You can enjoy a day’s exploration, without being jostled by the thousands that visit Angkor Wat, for an experience that is very similar.

4. About 20 km north of the capital city, following the Chao Phraya river, you can get to the tiny, car-free island of Koh Kret, which traces its history back to 1722. The Mon people who inhabit it are skilled craftsmen, making beautiful pottery pieces that you can buy in the island market. Nearby villages and temples offer further exploring opportunities.

5. Head to Kanchanaburi, on the Thai-Burma border, to get a taste of Hollywood and history. The Bridge on the River Kwai, which inspired the classic movie, is a railway bridge constructed by POWs and Asian slave labourers under Japanese control. Kanchanaburi is a three-hour bus ride from Bangkok. The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys is enough of an attraction and reason to visit, even if you’re not a history buff.

(Image credits: Luke Duggleby)