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Fantasies come to life in Thailand, shimmering like gold under the hot equatorial sun. At once a kingdom lost in time and a modern, busy Asian nation, Thailand’s mix of old and new is irresistible to world travelers. Buddhism is prevalent and heavily integrated into daily life, which accounts for the proliferation of shining gold icons and exquisite wats (temples). The Thai adhere closely to the principles of harmony and balance in all things, which accounts for the unofficial national philosophy of mai pen rai—never mind, or no worries!

Thailand is a country that begs one to explore. There are a thousand ruins to trek, untold coral reefs to dive, hundreds of winding rivers to wend down on drowsy afternoons. All this trucking around is sure to work up an appetite, and luckily, Thailand has you covered in this department! The food is delicious and readily available from any street vendor. Don’t shy away from catching some sidewalk cuisine—this is where you can find some of the most heavenly delicious meals imaginable. Get to know the locals … the open friendliness of the Thai is why this is called “the land of smiles.” Local tradition is colorful in more ways than one: you might notice lots of folks wearing a certain color on any given day, as pre-Buddhist Hindu legends ascribe auspicious shades for each day of the week.

The diversity of experiences to be had in Thailand is matched only by the range of people living them. Locals and visitors blend in the ever-shifting crowds, making for some world-class people-watching opportunities. Expats on bikes, students, bargirls, young professionals, oblivious honeymooners, and dazed-looking farangs clutching children and travel plans mill here and there on these global crossroads. Each is on their own journey. You will appreciate the profundity of your own path in Thailand, where the sacred meets the sensual. 

Top Thailand Attractions

Bangkok

With over eleven million residents, the bustle of this thriving metropolis will shatter your preconceptions about a sleepy, backwards city. Bangkok has everything you’d expect from a cosmopolitan Western hotspot … and then some. Where in Europe, for instance, can one lay an offering at the feet of a fifty-foot tall Buddha (at Wat Kalayanamit), take in a traditional Thai dance-drama performance, enjoy a lengthy massage at a holistic spa, and catch a khlong down the canals for a backstage tour of a major world capital all in one place? Not only is Bangkok a microcosm of everything quintessentially Thai, it also boasts the best of big city life. A wild, no-holds-barred nightlife, luxe spas and hotels, and countless museums and galleries are all yours to discover here.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is known as “the rose of the east” and is the historical home of the Lanna Thai people. It is home to over three hundred temples, which makes it perfect for those looking to explore. Bamboo rafting down the Mae Taeng River is a unique way to discover the beauty of nature around you and catch a glimpse of local wildlife! Unlike whitewater rafting, this isn’t an exhausting feat of athleticism—you’ll be able to relax while your guide poles you down the river. Another novel experience to be found … riding an elephant! Whether you opt for a bareback ride or perch within a basket saddle, it’s a guarantee that no trek will ever feel as amazing as the one you take high atop one of these gentle beasts. There are many local festivals based here throughout the year, affording visitors the chance to immerse themselves wholly in Thai culture.

Ko Samui

Living is, as elsewhere in Thailand, exquisite in Ko Samui. For those with experience and a healthy dose of fearlessness, the submerged Samran Pinnacles are known to house barracudas and other seldom-seen fish. The more remote islands of Ko Losin and Ko Kra don’t get much traffic due to their location, and are therefore absolutely perfect for viewing rare sights like sharks, manta rays, and loggerhead turtles. Ko Samui has taken pains to ensure its many visitors have cozy nests in which to bed down—resorts, luxury villas, and snug bungalows have sprouted like coconut trees among the island greenery. Add in world-class shopping and dining, and you may find yourself never wanting to leave! The tailors of Ko Samui are renowned as well. For those who pride themselves on looking sharp, consider getting fitted for a bespoke suit.

Phuket

The very touristy island of Phuket is a treasure trove of fun. Visitors flock to Phuket, and the resulting boom in entertainment opportunities has ensured that you will never want for things to do. Activities involving the crystalline water and wide beaches are popular—enjoy parasailing, swimming, yachting, and snorkelling! If you like to dive, whether scuba or freediving, there is no better location in Thailand to do it. Phuket has become a popular destination for wedding celebrations, and it’s little wonder why. Gorgeous vistas are everywhere, from the stunning shoreline to the airy panoramas of oceanview luxury hotels and villas. Romance is definitely in the air here. Bring your love for a long, relaxing couples massage or for a lingering cruise on a longtail boat. If you fancy a bit of shopping, take a look at the cultured pearls for which this area is known.

Cycling Tours

Cycling between cities is a fun, efficient way to get around Thailand. As the lush landscape speeds by, you’ll enjoy not only an exhilarating workout, but an insider peek into Thai culture as well. Many temple ruins and other landmarks are located off the beaten path, and bike is the perfect way to access them. When you book a bike tour, knowledgeable, helpful staff is there to attend to your needs—you won’t have to worry about the condition of your bike, timetables, carrying luggage, or obtaining food or lodging. It’s all covered! Cruising the verdant jungle pathways to uncover the remnants of ancient kingdoms will bring you closer to the heart of Thailand than you could imagine; an authentic experience you’ll forever treasure.

Krabi

This popular beach province is located directly on the sparkling teal waters of the Andaman Sea. Prehistoric artifacts suggest that this was the site of one of the oldest tribal settlements in Thailand; today it is a much-visited haven for international tourists. From cave trekking to ecology education, your experience in Krabi is bound to involve the breathtaking outdoors. You can explore waterfalls or relax on the shore, charter a boat to one of the more secluded beaches or shop for local handicrafts in the Krabi Town markets. As is the case in many Thai locales, diving here is spectacular! At nighttime, the streets come to life with the sounds of music and revelry from the many beach bars.

Quick Facts

Capital: Bangkok
Primary Airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Phuket Airport (HKT), Don Mueang Airport (DMK)
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Currency: Thai baht (THB)
Population: 63,038,000 (2007 est.)
Language: Thai, various ethnic and regional dialects
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European and/or American plug)
Time Zone: UTC +7 (UTC)
Thailand

Thailand Travel Reviews


Visiting Bangkok and the Land of Smiles

Jeanee

After falling in love with Thai Massage while getting licensed as a massage therapist, I decided to have the character from my Between Boyfriends series travel to Thailand to study at Wat Pho in Bangkok. Of course, this meant that I had to go check it out too. I spent three weeks in Bangkok visiting different temples, including the birthplace of Thai Massage, Wat Pho, and getting massages every few days for "research." I loved Bangkok. The rooftop "sky bars," the incredibly friendly people, the unbelievably affordable hotels and restaurants. Getting around Bangkok was easy. Visitors can get almost anywhere, from the luxurious malls to the fun bazaars, on the monorail, called the Skytrain, or by boat along the Chao Phraya River. A cheap but arguably dangerous way to travel off the beaten path is by tuk tuk, a three-wheeled taxi of sorts. I took one once but stuck to boats, trains, buses, and walking after that. Some of my favorite places included the largest park in Bangkok, Lumpini Park, Wat Arun, the "temple of the sun," and the Bangkok National Museum. The city can be quite busy, but stepping into a park or temple brings immediate peace. I also traveled up to Northern Thailand to spend time in Chiang Mai, which was cleaner and even more affordable. I rented a bicycle and rode almost everywhere in the Old City. The night bazaar in Chiang Mai is not to be missed. I enjoyed chanting and meditating with monks everywhere I went. A few places had monk talk programs where English-speaking tourists could talk to monks about Buddhism to help them improve their language skills. Generally, I had no difficulty being understood and understanding people. The Thai people are welcoming to Westerners and go out of their way to help you. There are some things though that are not up for debate, such as wearing long sleeves and long skirts or pants in many of the temples. It is also rude to point your feet at anyone or any statue of Buddha. I enjoyed my trip so much I went back again a few months later, but I recommend visiting during the warm season as the hot season is very hot and the rainy season often leads to floods that make traveling around the country challenging.

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Destinations Visited: Thailand

Don't miss Thailand

SueMN

Thailand is a very inviting country with wonderful people, amazing sites and so much to do. Go to a street market, ride an elephant or hold a monkey. The temples are amazing. I had wonderful food and you can treat yourself to the best foot massage so you can just keep exploring.

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Destinations Visited: Thailand

My Visit To Thailand

Anonymous

In April, 2008 I took my only trip to Thailand. My friend from the Philippines was thinking of relocating to Thailand and she wanted me to accompany her for six days. I flew from New York to Bangkok, a rather long journey of 19 hours.

We stayed at a great four star hotel in Bangkok. We did not venture outside of Bangkok during our stay.

One of the memorable places we saw was the Wat Pho temple. This Buddhist temple houses the 140 foot long statue of the reclining Buddha. We were very impressed with the serene beauty of the place. A little known fact I found out while I was there is that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been occupied by a foreign power. It's culture has been free from foreign domination- purely Thai.

Dining in Thailand is a wonderful experience. Thai food is rated among the world's best. In one restaurant we ordered something we never had before- ostrich steak! It was delicious.

April in Thailand is very hot and humid. My advice to tourists is to go out in the morning and evening. Stay indoors to avoid the heat in the afternoon if you can.

During our stay, we took a tail boat ride on the Chao Phraya river winding through Bangkok. It was wonderful taking in the sights while a cool breeze from the water blew in our faces.

My friend did not want to relocate to Thailand. My impression of Bangkok is that the people are great, the cost of everything is low. Maybe someday I will return to explore this country more. Thai culture is fascinating.

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Destinations Visited: Thailand

Thailand Beach Hopping

Asta

After finishing up my job in Hong Kong, I embarked on a long extended wander through southeast Asia. My first stop was Thailand. I spent a few nights in Bangkok where I stayed in the wonderful Glur Bangkok Hostel and Coffee Bar. I explored the city along the Chao Phraya River and enjoyed visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. After Bangkok, I was ready to get out of the city for a while and made my way down to tropical Koh Samui where I basked on glorious Chaweng Beach. From Koh Samui, I took a ferry to Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is truly party central for visitors of all ages. Its famous Full Moon Party is a monthly beach party that draws up tens of thousands of revelers. I danced on the beach from sunset to sundown! Needing some quiet and solitude after all that partying, I went to Koh Tao where I also earned my advanced SCUBA certification. Koh Tao is a wonderful island to learn how to SCUBA dive because its dive sites are very forgiving and the beaches are pristine. After spending a couple of days in Koh Tao, I embarked on a night ferry followed by a bus ride to reach Phuket. I spent a month in Phuket learning muay thai (Thai kickboxing) at Tiger Muay Thai. For anyone wanting to get fit while learning practical self defense skills, I would highly recommend learning muay thai at Tiger. I made many good friends during my month of training.

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Destinations Visited: Thailand

Life Experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Heather Ann

My cousin and I traveled to the extraordinary destination of Chiang Mai, Thailand for spiritual encouragement, an unusual life adventure and well needed vacation. It had been on my bucket list to do for years and I was excited to finally be taking the long journey to explore this beautiful spot on the Earth. We stayed only a couple of days in the busy chass of Bangkok in order to see the top listed sights for the city. We stayed at the Phranakorn-Nornlen Hotel which was locally flavored and adorable. The staff was amazing here. While in Bangkok my favorite sites were the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Once we got our fill of the busy city of Bangkok we headed to our main destination of Chiang Mai where we stayed at the Butterfly Resort and were pleasantly happy with it. Chiang Mai turned out to be a wonderful haven of spiritual stimulation. There 30 temples in this amazingly quiet city and all are unique and sensational in their own way. We also had the chance to do an fun and giggle filled elephant ride while we were in Chiang Mai which was also on my bucket list. This city was by far my favorite with a little more of relaxed and calming atmosphere but with unique experiences to fore take in. I definitely wish we had more time there and would definitely recommend this location to anyone I know going to Thailand.

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Destinations Visited: Thailand

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