Getting to know Thailand
Southeast Asia’s “Land of Smiles” is a hidden gem. Thailand is a well-developed tourist destination, but it’s also wild enough to offer unique travel experiences and off-the-beaten-path adventures thanks to a thriving tourism industry. Thailand will not let you down, whether you come for the world-class beaches in the south or the quaint mountain villages in the north.
If you haven’t been to the mountains or met elephants or bold monkeys who are always ready to steal your lunch (or your camera, if you’re not careful), then you haven’t seen Thailand. Cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are bustling hubs of activity and commerce. In Thailand, there is a wide variety of attractions, all of which offer a unique and rewarding experience.
Koh Phi Phi Island
With its crystal-clear waters, powdery sand, and seemingly endless views, the Phi Phi Islands are one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations.
Rental kayaks or a small wooden boat can get you to Phi Phi Don, the largest island and the only one that is permanently inhabited.
Monkey Beach, on the island of Koh Phi Phi, is a unique experience because it brings you face-to-face with a swarm of hungry macaques.
Even though it’s not the most secluded spot on the island, Long Beach is a great place to watch the sun set. It’s a lovely walk back to the main part of the island if the tide is out.
Railay, Thailand’s most beautiful beach, is located in Krabi province, which is home to some of the country’s most popular beach destinations. Railay, Thailand’s most popular beach, is renowned for its white sand, turquoise-blue water, and the feeling that you’ve found a slice of paradise even before your feet touch the sand..
From Krabi town or Ao Nang, you can take a long-tail traditional boat to get to the island, which is just as magical as what awaits you when you arrive.
Railay’s karst peaks attract rock-climbers of all levels, from novices to experts, who are eager to scale the cliffs’ towering limestone pillars.
In addition to rafting, kayaking, and snorkeling, Railay is known for its cooking classes and massages, making it a popular destination for tourists.
Additionally, the Diamond Cave is a popular tourist attraction, accessible via a scenic trail and ready to host curious visitors in between sunbathing sessions.
Sunday Walking Street
Everyone who travels to Thailand wants to eat cheap and delicious food–and Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street provides just that. From pad Thai and satay to samosas, sweet roti, and fruit shakes, vendors at this market offer a wide variety of delicacies for under $2.
There are hundreds of stalls selling a variety of unique goods, including all-natural soaps, hand-dyed textiles, incense and essential oils, musical instruments, paintings, wall hangings, and more after you’ve satisfied your appetite.
Brace yourself for crowds at the market every week, no matter what time of year you’re there, and try to enjoy yourself in the commotion. If you visit Chiang Mai, don’t miss out on this must-do activity. Check out the Saturday Night Walking Street or Chang Klan Road’s Night Bazaar, both of which take place on a daily basis, if you can’t make it to the Sunday market. The Warorot Market, near the Mae Ping River, is a less-touristy option during the day.
The Grand Palace Bankok
Even if you plan to spend most of your time relaxing on a tropical beach and chowing down on as much Pad Thai and Massaman curry as possible, you’ll have to spend some time in Bangkok. The Grand Palace is a must-see when visiting the capital, even if you have plenty of time to spare. This is the city’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s impressive for its historical significance as well as its quality of construction.
Wat Phra Kaeo (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which is said to contain a piece of the enlightened Buddha’s hair or bone, is the most important temple on the grounds.
If you’re up for a bit more walking after visiting the Grand Palace, you can easily see some of the city’s other major landmarks. You’ll be within walking distance of the world-famous Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn (a great spot to watch the sun set).
The country’s southern beaches are largely responsible for its global renown as a destination with stunning scenery and welcoming locals. As a result, many people overlook the vastness of the north, which is home to a diverse range of sights, all of which are equally stunning.
The mountainous jungle terrain of northern Thailand, particularly in the western region near the Burmese border, is both rugged and beautiful. It’s a great place to begin your exploration of Thailand’s natural splendor, as well as the country’s renowned hospitality and cuisine.
Despite its reputation as a hippie and backpacker hotspot, you’ll also find plenty of families visiting this sleepy town. With a variety of local and Western foods on offer, as well as easy access to nearby Buddhist temples and waterfalls, Pai is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The small town center exudes a sense of happiness and relaxation that draws visitors year after year despite its remote location.
Khao Yai National Park's
Many temples and the royal palaces of Thailand feature numerous statues and paintings depicting elephants, which are considered sacred in Thailand. There is no better way to experience elephants in their natural habitat than by visiting Khao Yai National Park, where you can see them in action.
Here, you’ll see elephants roaming around the rivers, as well as monkeys and a wide variety of other tropical animals. As well as the 150-meter-tall Haew Narok and the even more famous Haew Suwat, which appeared in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, The Beach, the park is home to a number of waterfalls.
You can camp out at the park if you don’t have enough time to see everything, and get up early enough to catch the sunrise over the beautiful scenery
The Old City of Sukhothai
Sukhothai is a popular stop for history buffs and photographers because of the smaller scale of the site compared to Ayutthaya’s. Despite centuries of warfare and exposure to the elements, the ancient ruins of this city stand proud. One of Thailand’s most important historical landmarks, Sukhothai’s Old City, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has received a great deal of attention.
Wat Mahathat, one of many temples in Sukhothai, is particularly impressive. An ancient temple was built to house Buddha relics in the 13th century. Its surroundings are filled with large Buddha images, stucco sculptures, and more.
Ayutthaya's Historic City
Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital, offers a fascinating look into the splendor of ancient Thailand through its haunting but romantic ruins.
Old palaces and temples are reminders of the importance of Ayutthaya in Thai history. The park is dotted with hundreds of temples, chedis, prangs, and thousands of Buddha statues in Thai style. There are a number of stunning sights, including the temple that houses the 12-meter long reclining Buddha and the tree roots embracing a Buddha head.
An easy day trip from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is just a short bus or train ride from the capital city of Thailand. Spend some time in the ancient capital, and rent a bicycle so that you can see both the old and new parts of town in one day.
The beaches of Koh Samui
The island of Koh Samui, Thailand’s second-largest, is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful golden beaches. Koh Samui’s beaches are diverse, with some ideal for quiet solitude and others brimming with activities, water sports, and throngs of people.
Chaweng is the largest and busiest beach on the island, and it’s also home to some of the best shopping, attractions, and dining options. Some of the island’s best resorts may be located here because of the area’s beautiful turquoise waters and swaying palm trees.
Lamai Beach is a smaller and more affordable alternative to Chaweng Beach, but it can still get crowded in the middle of the day as day-trippers arrive.
Tourists looking for an authentic Thai experience should head to Bophut Beach (also known as “the Fisherman’s Village”), while backpackers should head to Maenam Beach (also known as “the Pearl of the Orient”). Wooden Thai-Chinese shophouses line the streets of Bophut, where boutique hotels and tourist attractions are all within walking distance.
At the top of Doi Suthep, a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, sits one of the city’s most famous temples. If you want to see monks praying, witnessing rituals, or take in the view of Chiang Mai’s ever-expanding cityscape, Doi Suthep is the place to go.
To get to the temple, you’ll need to climb a narrow stairway at the top of a hill. Bring water and good walking shoes. There are vendors selling everything from local delicacies to goods made by villagers in the nearby mountains at the bottom of the stairs. To help recuperate from the stairs, there is also a shop selling masks and elephant carvings, as well as home furnishings.
Doi Suthep and Doi Pui, a Hmong village in the mountains, can be combined into a single trip. You’ll still get a taste of Hmong culture and a chance to learn more about the hill tribe communities in this area, as well as a chance to buy some beautiful hand-woven textiles. Doi Suthep leads to Doi Pui via the tourist-friendly Bhubing Palace.