How to experience Thailand in Sydney | A couple of travel makers
What to do and where to go to transport yourself to Thailand without leaving the city.
State and international borders are still closed. But if lockdown has taught us anything, it's that you can still travel far and wide without physically going anywhere.
We had our sights set on Thailand this year. But since that's probably not going to happen, we've nutted out a few ways to have a Thai escape in our home city of Sydney.
We're Stef and D, a pair of married jet setters. Together, we've visited 55 countries and we're determined to see even more – all while working full-time and paying off a mortgage. We count our dollars at home and while away, and we're here to share our tips on how you can travel on a budget.
Eat Thai cuisine
Good Thai food is a dime a dozen in Sydney. In the CBD, there's even a dedicated neighbourhood of Haymarket called Thai Town. It's a hub of Thai restaurants, groceries and video stores.
Yes, they are touristic, but they're heavily authentic and you'll quickly find yourself over-ordering to try it all – even if you are sharing with your partner. Don't resist. It's worth it and you can take any leftovers home.
Famous venues worth booking a table at and that we personally recommend are Chat Thai, Capital Thai, Peppercorn at Civic (the deep-fried ice cream is famous) and Jarern Thai Grocer and Boon Cafe (also great for Thai ingredients to cook at home).
For Thai dishes at Thailand prices (alright, they're not as cheap as you'd find in Thailand, but they're miles cheaper than in Thai Town), set your sights on Ultimo and Central Park. Along Harris Street is Red Lemon Thai and, if you feel like crossing the border, Malaysian hawker joint Kopitiam is directly across the road and serves a mean laksa.
For Thai food in a hawker-style setting, head to Spice Alley in Central Park for Bang Luck's mouthwatering pad see ew.
Want to up your date game and make it an interactive one? Why not try a Thai cooking class? You'll learn to cook an authentic dish together, eat it and take your learnings back home. So your other half won't have an excuse next time it's their turn to cook.
Visit a Buddhist temple or Thai monastery
The gilded temples that line the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok are an enchanting statement of beauty in architecture. While Sydney's temples are much more modest, often in the guise of renovated homes, there are forest monasteries south of Sydney and Buddhist temples in Sydney's west that are all set to impress.
Of the forest monasteries, the most beautiful is Sunnataram Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, which is almost two hours out of Sydney. This working monastery is a sprawling property filled with pagodas and surrounded by forest, ponds and meditation rooms.
It's currently closed due to coronavirus and the 2020 bushfires. However, you can donate to the template and keep up to date with when it reopens here.
Another option is Bodhisaddha Forest Monastery in Wilton, around an hour out of Sydney. It too offers a relaxing forest surrounding and outdoor spaces for meditation and prayer.
Closer to home, a trip to Bonnyrigg offers a treasure trove of beautiful Buddhist temples.
Minyue Lay Buddhist Temple is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, spanning an area of 16,000 square metres. It's a Chinese temple but does house Buddhas from Thailand in its main shrine.
Wat Phrayortkeo Dhammayanaram is also a stunner. It's a Lao Temple with a staircase decorated in ornate golden dragons and a golden buddha that stretches three metres in height.
Shop at the markets
In my humble opinion, there are two main things you have to do in Thailand: eat and shop.
Once you've ticked the former off of your list, it's time to hit the stalls. The market stalls, that is.
In Bangkok, it's all outdoor markets and sky-high shopping centres. For markets with a similar fast-paced, haggling atmosphere, head to Paddy's Markets in Flemington. Yup, skip the touristic Paddy's Market in the CBD for its local Flemington counterpart. After all, if you're a Sydney-sider, you won't want to head all the way into the city to shop for souvenirs.
At Flemington, there's stall after stall of food, homewares, flowers and more. Elbow your way through crowds of shoppers and haggle your way to a bargain. It's how we roll, too.
Looking for a great Saturday date night idea? Paddy's in Flemington hosts a night food market on the first Saturday of the month. Food trucks abound for you to twist your tastebuds around in a cosy setting.
At the time of publishing, the Night Food Market is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.
Meet Thailand's native wildlife
The Asian elephant, the sun bear and the binturong are just a small handful of animals that are native to Thailand.
In Sydney, you'll find all these and more at Taronga Zoo.
Whether you're animal lovers or you're just after a sweet date idea, the zoo is a fabulous way to spend a day out and learn about creatures from Thailand and around the world. Hot tip: bring a picnic and eat it on the lawn while catching views of Sydney Harbour.
Those with more time on their hands can head out to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. It offers a safari experience where you can get up close and personal with the creatures.
It's also home to elephant calf Kanlaya, which means "beautiful" in Thai. She was born in June 2018 as part of an extensive Australasian conservation breeding program and celebrated her 1st birthday with a traditional Thai blessing from a Buddhist monk.
Get a Thai massage
Thai massages are relaxing, rejuvenating and a wonderful way to end a long day. Cap yours off with anything from a head massage to a full-body experience.
We've tried and can highly recommend Varda Spa, which has couples massages and often offers deals on Groupon.
What are your favourite Thai restaurants or experiences around Sydney? Let us know in the comments below.
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