Thailand conjures up images of elephants, temples, beaches, and of course, delicious food. The Southeast Asian nation is a major regional hub and massively popular travel destination. Lush green jungles stretch through the northern regions. Here elephants roam and monkeys are quick to steal a snack from inattentive tourists. Bangkok’s temples glitter by day while its boulevards shine bright under the neon nightlife. In the south, incredible white sand beaches stretch endlessly along the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand. The country’s diversity and rich bounty make for a truly splendid travel destination.
To get a sense for Thailand, it’s best to visit a few locations around the country. If you’re arriving from abroad, your first stop is likely to be Bangkok. You will want to spend a few days taking in the city’s breadth and diversity. Transportation is possible to anywhere else in the country either by air, road, or rail. Simply decide whether to head north for points inland or south for ocean waters and sandy beaches…or both.
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital as well as the country’s largest and most important city. Temperatures can be sweltering in the summertime so pace yourself and stay hydrated. A principle draw is the city’s many incredible temples. Be sure to visit the Royal Palace early in the day as the crowds can grow quite large. Respectful dress is required to enter, so plan accordingly. There are many waterways branching off the Chao Phraya River. Water transportation is a good way to get around. Find a floating market to explore. When you’ve had your fill of temples, the Sukhumvit area is great for some shopping and seeing Bangkok’s modern side. Additionally, the Siam and Ratchaprasong areas also house some large shopping complexes. At night, take in the city’s seductive nightlife. Khao San Road is a popular spot with tourists and expats. Finally, there are the famous red-light districts, which are worth a look even if that’s not your cup of tea.
If you’re time limited, you should still try to get outside of Bangkok. Pattaya and Hua Hin are not far away and easily accessible as one-day trips. In Pattaya there are several famous water parks, which are great for families or anyone looking to cool off a bit. Consider visiting Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden where you can visit the elephants and see some amazing gardens. Pattaya beach is a good place for some relaxation and also to get a sense of Pattaya’s nightlife scene, which springs up along the beach road after dark. Hau Hin lies across the Gulf of Thailand from Pattaya and is one of the royal resort towns. Here you can sample the luxury lifestyle found in towns further south.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and the economic center of Northern Thailand. It is very different from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Chiang Mai’s fresh and quiet atmosphere has earned it the nickname as Thailand’s “northern rose.” Be sure to visit the many ancient temples including Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and the golden Wat Phra That. If you’re venturing north, you really should experience Thailand’s gorgeous natural landscapes. The Elephant Nature Park is a large conservatory and animal sanctuary where you can see the gentle giants up close. It’s an extraordinary place filled with dedicated staff. Other beautiful parks located not far Chiang Mai include Si Lanna National Park and Doi Inthanon National Park. Both contain spectacular scenery and wildlife and make great day-trips from Chiang Mai. Finally, you might consider venturing up to the famed Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge. This makes for some great pictures and a great story.
The resort destination in Southern Thailand is known the world over for its luxurious hotels, libationary revelers, pristine white sand beaches, and aquamarine waters. Itself an island in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is a tropical paradise. Find some time to relax on the beach, get a massage at one of the many spas, or do some snorkeling off one of the smaller islands. These are the things that make for a dream vacation.
Like Phuket, Ko Samui is a popular resort island. Its lively atmosphere is not as overrun with tourists, however. Visit Ang Thong National Marine Park where you can hike up for an overlook across a beautiful bay beset with smaller islands. If you’re not relaxing on the beach, take a quick trip to see the 12 meter tall golden Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple. During full moons, backpackers and tourists flock to the island for lively parties. Be sure to link up with a dive shop for some snorkeling or scuba diving. The waters around Ko Samui are world class.
Thailand has long drawn travelers from around the world. The welcoming culture and beautiful natural scenery make this an unforgettable destination. Take some time during your visit to explore a cabaret show, or maybe go see some top-notch Muay Thai boxing. In springtime, during the traditional Thai New Year’s festival, the entire country turns into one big water park as people try to outdo each other in the world’s largest water fight. If you want, you can easily spend all your time lounging on fantastic beaches; but there’s so much more to see and experience. What are you waiting for?