Reasons to Visit
For some Thailand is synonymous with beaches and there is no debating that many of the islands and beaches in the south of the county are truly stunning with a dramatic backdrop of limestone casts which literally erupt out of the water. Many of the islands are still relatively undeveloped and the crystal clear water and abundance of marine life make for some stunning diving and snorkelling.
An absolute paradise for food lovers, from the spicy soups of the north to the sublime creamy green curries in the south, Thai food is adored by visitors and locals alike. For those who wish to broaden their palate Bangkok is one of the cuisine capitals of the world with food from virtually corner of the planet represented in the various stalls and restaurants.
"Mai pen rai" is a common expression used by the Thais which means "it's all right". This sums up their approach to life and is reflected in their warm smiles and genuine love for giving warm and friendly service to the farangs (friends) who visit their country. Many people say their main reason for repeat visits is down to the warmth of the people. This warmth permeates through all levels of Thai society from city dwellers to the many ethnic hill tribe people living in the north of the country.
Nowhere does the natural beauty of Thailand shine through more than in the national parks dotted around the country. Thailand has one of the highest percentages of protected land of any nation in the world. Whilst today the larger species such as the Asiatic bear and Asian tiger are rather elusive, there are still great viewing opportunities available including hornbills in Doi Inthanon, wild elephants in Khao Yai and giant manta rays in the Similan Islands.
The majority of Thais are devout Buddhists and this devotion manifests itself in the ornate and wonderfully sculptured temples, or wats, which can be found in every part of the country. The two most famous examples are Wat Pho in the capital, Bangkok and the magnificent Doi Suthep in the northern town of Chiang Mai which is perched on a hill overlooking the city. However a typical journey through Thailand will throw up an array of more subtle but no less interesting wats where the locals can be seen paying their respects to Buddha.
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Our country specialists have travelled the length and breadth of Thailand - here are a few of their favourite things to do
Thailand is known as the land of smiles, and with good reason.
The people of this beautiful country offer a warm welcome and an exquisite sense of hospitality and style.
Over the years it has grown in stature and refinement and you can find resorts and hotels to match the best in the world. Many visitors come here for the beaches and they certainly don't disappoint. The islands and beaches of the south epitomise palm-fringed beauty, with the Andaman Sea at its best through the UK winter and the Gulf of Thailand bright and sunny for the rest of the year. But there’s much more to discover.
The capital, Bangkok, is Southeast Asia’s major city, a fascinating, frenetic place where life only slows in tranquil temples, quiet canals and on the river that flows through its heart. In the north, hill tribe communities still live in small wooden villages, tenaciously hanging on to an age old culture and traditions. Ancient cities date back to earlier Siamese civilisations, national parks are rich with tropical flora and fauna and in small provincial towns you still find gentle Buddhist temples hazed with incense smoke and lit by candles.
To travel to Thailand and see only the beaches is to miss a magical and enthralling experience: Southeast Asia’s spiritual giant.
The ancient, abandoned capital of Ayuthaya is a short distance north of Bangkok. Ayuthaya was the capital of Siam for just over four centuries. Today its picturesque ruins are fascinating to explore.
Bangkok is Southeast Asia’s main hub, around which the entire region revolves; it is a big, working city where you will see real Asian life. Highlights include the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.
Bustling, historic and colourful, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city. There are a number of excellent cookery schools where you can create your own meal under the expert tutelage of your Thai chef.
The Golden Triangle, where the Ruak and Mekong Rivers converge, is serene and picturesque with lush green rice paddies and colourful hill tribes. It is an ideal area to experience the frontier towns of Burma and Laos.
Isaan ia a vast plateau in the northeast of the country that borders Laos and Cambodia. Here, lifestyles, customs, dialect and cuisine are distinctly different from the rest of the country.
Kanchanaburi is home to the Bridge over the River Kwai, and serves as a poignant reminder of the atrocities suffered here during World War II. Also nearby is Erawan National Park.
Koh Lanta is a collection of small islands in the Andaman Sea and is one of the less developed regions. The islands are home to Koh Lanta Marine National Park, as well as many excellent diving spots.
Koh Samui lends itself to exploration and you will find hidden coves and traditional Thai fishing villages as well as a full range of hotels and resorts to suit all budgets.
Krabi province is home to the best beaches in Asia. We recommend hotels with good beachfront locations away from some of the more crowded areas near Ao Nang and Railay Bay.
Linked to the mainland by a narrow road causeway, the island of Phuket has some of the best beaches in the country. It has sophisticated resorts, high quality cuisine and a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
11 1/2 hours (Bangkok)
British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, EVA Airways, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways & Thai Airways
The best time to travel.
A good time to travel, but there may be some factors to be aware of.
Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.
Travel is not recommended.
Snow or ski season.
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Further reading:Tours in ThailandWhen to GoItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout ThailandCountry Guides
Other countries in Southeast Asia:BorneoBurmaCambodiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaPapua New GuineaThe PhilippinesVietnam
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