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Exotic, tropical, historic, friendly, atmospheric, cultural, modern, ancient, buzzing, sexy, smiley… From glittering temples to vibrant cities, from tropical beaches to lush nature, crazy nights to relaxing afternoons, Thailand is a pure treasure for any kind of visiting tourist.
Going all around the country, Bangkok capital city, historically rich central provinces, natural northern jungles or southern beach paradise, Thailand takes you through its many different regions to savor its own atmosphere, bringing you incredible sensations and impressions.
Thai food and sand between your toes are not the only things you can dream about this wonderful country. Making your way out of the over popular Bangkok Pattaya and Phuket will bring you a lot of surprises in the forms of temples, ruins, rice fields, tastes, beaches, jungles, islands, colors, food delicacies, markets, parties... Thai paradises offer excitement such as playing in the surf of Koh Lipe, diving with whale sharks off Koh Tao, scaling the sea cliffs of Krabi, partying on Koh Phangan, chilling on Koh Samui.
Most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, everything is possible in Thailand: crystal clear beaches, thick jungle, great food, cheap beach front bungalows and some of the best luxury hotels in the world. There is something for every interest and every budget.
The only inconvenient with planning a trip to Thailand is narrowing things down to a few sights, including the most popular tourist attractions you can find from North to South and East to West.
Let’s start with the stereotypes. Hot and humid weather, pollution, overcrowded, crazy traffic, politically unstable. Yes! All these are completely true. And once these clichés admitted and you start to explore the Thai ‘City of Angel’ (Krung Thep), you will understand there is so much more that makes it amazing.
Founded in 1782, the city grew (and is growing) so rapidly that ultra-modern districts stand just next to old fashioned streets. Bangkok is made of contrasts and contradictions. Old fashion charm and very modern facilities. Skyscrapers sitting side by side with century old village houses, fancy international restaurants competing with traditional street food carts, temples neighboring Red light districts… The huge size of the city is impressive, but there is always something to discover when turning at a corner as the attractions are scattered all around the city.
Bangkok streets are a big hustle and bustle. Cars, taxis, bikes, people, boats… Everyone’s daily life is conducted in the streets. The Bangkok street experience is unique in the world. Unique as the city’s urban exploration gives you the impression to travel off the beaten and sanitized tracks of any other capital city, both in time and space, using such a big variety of means of transports. Whether it is strolling down the old Bangkok Banglamphu’s district, a boat ride to the Hidden Market, taking a walk in the maze of Chinatown narrow streets… Whether it is golden palaces including the Grand Palace, floating markets, impressive temples such as the Wat Arun temple or the reclining Buddha of the Wat Pho temple… You must also, at least once in your life, see the khao San Road or visit the Pratunam or the Siam Square for premium shopping, go to the European Style Gardens of Dusit, the BTS Sky train leading you to the dynamic and animated Sukhumvit’s nightlife area or to the sultrier red-light district of Soi Cowboy.
You will experience through all your peregrinations the city’s charm and soul ‘as it used to be’ as well as the city ‘as it will be in future’ with all its exuberance, its madness and modernity until you realize there is no other city like Bangkok.
How to talk about Bangkok without talking about the delicious Thai food you can find everywhere in the street. Food stalls and carts are indeed the best choice you can make when it comes to eat something. In the air is floating an intense perfume of mixed spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavors. No tablecloths here nor climate regulated restaurant rooms. As strange as it can appear reading this, probably one of the best food experience of your life gonna be in a buzzy Thai street (try Sukhumvit Soi 38 which is the best spot for street food) overwhelmed by the noise, the exhaust gases and the heat while your sweat is mingling with your noodles or your rice. And… You Will Love It!
From Bangkok, you also have the possibility to escape the buzz of the city taking some daytrips to Ayutthaya and its spectacular ruins, to the Damnoen Saduak ‘Floating Market, to the Wat Saen Suk ‘Temple of Hell’ or to go chill on the beach in Hua Hin or visit the stunning caves of Phraya Nakhon at Khao Sam Roi Yot Marine Park.
Bangkok is a metropolis where old and new are blended in a cocktail of a unique savor. Tradition and modernity mixed together in a vibrant combination of tastes and smells and colors, of historical palaces and ancient temples and old districts, of brand new air-con malls and huge skyscrapers, of scrumptious traditional street food and international cuisine, of insanely provocative districts and nightlife spots… So yes it is hot and polluted, but the most thrilling thing about Bangkok is its diversity, and when the familiar meets the exotic, you just have to let the magic be.
North of the country is standing Chiang Mai, the ‘Northern Capital’ and former seat of the Lanna Kingdom.
Chiang Mai offers a rich history, some wonderful street food scene, a multitude of attractions as well as a huge variety of cultural sites and an amazing natural diversity, along with an incredible welcoming hospitality.
Much more old than it appears, Chiang Mai, literally meaning ‘new City’ celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai The Great made Chiang Mai the capital, and the cultural epicenter of Buddhism in the Lanna Kingdom (Northern Thailand) founding many of the temples and monasteries still remaining nowadays. With over 300 Buddhist temples scattered around, temple hopping will constitute one of the major activities. The must-see temples are the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on the hilltop offering a spectacular view of the valley, the imposing Wat Chedi Luang within the old City’s walls, the 700 years old Wat Umong and its monks wandering around the forests or the Wat Suan Dok where the Lanna royal family s buried.
To keep with cultural exchange, you can take part in a ‘Monk Chat’ organized by the Buddhists Universities of the city or attend a meditation retreat.
Tired of temples, don’t worry, you could spend your whole vacation strolling down the ancient backstreets, roaming around the alleys of the famous Night bazar, visiting the National Museum for a bit more of History and the Botanical Garden for some delicate orchid’s fragrances.
Not only you will be going around the city from temple to temple to museum to iconic streets… You will be tempted to stop (and you will) every time your smell will impose you to. Each and every food stall, food cart or restaurant worth a stop, a look, and most of all, worth to give it a try, keeping for you some tasty surprises. There is probably no better place than Chiang Mai to taste the peculiarities Northern Thai cuisine. Food crawlers will taste some Moo Tod (fried pork tenders with a sweet, nutty flavor), some Laab (fried beef, pork or duck dry-rubbed with local spices), some Nam Ngiao (tangy tomato soup with rice noodles and pork), some Nam Prik Ong (spicy Thai dip made with tomatoes and minced pork) or the Chiang Mai’s specialty, the Khao Soi (thick Burmese-style coconut curry soup, topped with fried noodles).
Nested in the lush rainforest of Northern Thailand amongst forested foils, it is a blissfully calm and laid back place ideal to relax. A short ride away from town, in any direction, will take you to untouched rainforest reserves, waterfalls, hot springs, elephant sanctuaries, peaceful traditional villages…
Not far away from Chiang Mai, you will reach the famous Golden Triangle, location where you can easily go from Thailand to Laos and to Myanmar in a single day. If you are out of visas, just stay in the astonishing city of Chiang Rai to enjoy scenic views over a splendid hilly landscape, to spend some time at the Night Bazar or to pay a visit to the stunning White Temple, Wat Rong Khun, a masterpiece of local art.
Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a unique place in its kind in Thailand. Fine weather, an awesome mountainous scenery, an unbelievably rich culture and history, some scrumptious food delicacies, Chiang Mai and its vicinities are the paradise of those in search majestic nature and outdoors activities in a pure and traditional environment away from the buzzing Thai cities and islands.
Here we enter in the historical and cultural part of Central Thailand.
Temples, ruins, monkeys…This is what you will find in Lopburi. In the central province of the country, it is a wonderful stop on a way to Chiang Mai. Lopburi is a laid back city standing in the jungle and offer you a cultural heritage break on your way North. It is one of the oldest city in Thailand dating back to the Dvaravati period (from VIth to Xth century) which left behind some incredible Khmer and Ayutthaya architecture and artworks. Ruins and temples are now guarded by hundreds and hundreds of monkeys making the show and attracting visitors. If you want to spend some ore time around Lopburi, many activities are awaiting you around some bat caves, sunflower fields and rock climbing.
The kingdom of Ayutthaya once hosted what was considered to be the most spectacular city on Earth. Now the capital city, from 1350 to 1767, of the kingdom of Siam is attracting loads of tourists from Bangkok for some daytrips or overnight excursions around its numerous palaces, temples monasteries and statues, all creating a spectacular complex of ruins. The World Heritage Historic city and the neighboring towns features some incredible pieces of history such as the Bang Paine Palace, and the Bang Sai folk arts and craft center.
Bordering Myanmar, deep in the dense rainforest of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetchaburi is another capital city of an ancient and long gone kingdom. While the city offers to visit its palaces and ancient temple complexes, the surrounding verdant nature features lots of hiking trails and camping.
North and West of Bangkok, in the central province resides the historical heart of Thailand’s glorious past. This region is more dedicated for those in search of the real soul of Thai History through ages. Ruins of ancient cities and temples erects in the middle of the jungle to offer the visitor an impression of being a XIXth century discoverer.
After going through the capital city and the central and northern provinces, their nature, historical and cultural attracts, lets head now South to the beaches.
Stretching on a wide crescent shaped bay, Pattaya was the very first beach resort in Thailand, back in the 60’s when American GIs came for some rest during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, if Pattaya remains a nice place for beach lovers, its reputation changed dramatically.
2 hours’ drive from Bangkok, Pattaya is the recreation center of the East coast and a wonderful way to explore the beaches along the Gulf of Thailand. Beach goers will prefer in the North Pattaya Neua, more up marketed, and Nakula more quiet, or in the South Jomtien, more laid back and family friendly offering numerous watersports activities and massages huts on the beach. The best beaches around Pattaya are located South, Koh Samae San which is a splendid island with great snorkeling spots or Hat Nahng Ram. They all offers fine sand and nice warm waters but the cleanliness of the sea is not what you would expect from Thailand as you will end up swimming around some plastic bags.
Cultural attraction around Pattaya will mainly be religious, temples such as the beautiful wooden Wang Boran Sanctuary of Truth mixing Buddhist and Hindu architecture, the Wat Khao Phra Giant Buddha overlooking the city or Khao Sam Muk where is the revered Chao Mae Muk Shrine.
Tourists, locals and foreigners, also like to pay a visit to Pattaya for its modern malls, shops, restaurants and the different cultural and action activities the city try to develop.
The real Pattaya truly come to life at night time, when the neons are lit up, giving Pattaya its the worldly famous reputation of sex capital. When the sun is down, Pattaya totally turns into an adult-only friendly place. Tons of bar, beer bars, go-go bars, night clubs, strip clubs, ++ massage parlors and much more. Walking down, then up, then down… the streets in each and every direction, Pattaya is a festival of sexy girls dressed one could say provocatively, of eccentric laid boys and mouthwatering tourists looking for sensations, roaming around this senseless piece of Thailand.
Bangkok’s closest seaside location, Pattaya is a renowned location for locals and tourists. If some are looking for relaxing time by the sea even if it can be dirty, or for some cultural break away from the capital city, Pattaya remains principally a nightlife hub dedicated to adults’ entertainment.
Located on the coast of the Andaman Sea, the biggest island of Thailand is amongst the best known seaside resorts of the world and a fascinating destination for sea loving tourists since it was popularized by the James Bond movie ‘The man with the Golden Gun’ in 1974.
Sea, sand and sun could be a very good description of Phuket. Numerous beaches, each of them different than the others, are stretching all around the island. Karon, Kata, Surin, Bang Tao or Nai Harn are as much paradise beaches where you will want to go to soak up under the sun and in the sea.
Long time ago, merchants gathered on the island, and most specifically in Phuket Town, giving it a truly unique identity and atmosphere, blend of Arabian, Chinese, Indian and Portuguese cultures. Aside from the Sino-Portuguese colonial architecture, the Chinese Taoist temples and the cheap restaurants giving the island and the city a ‘back in the days’ impression, Phuket Town is also up to date with many newly built resorts, trendy cafes, fancy art galleries.
When the sun is down, The attraction you cannot miss is the famous Bangla Road in Patong. Strolling down an avenue of glowing neon and loud music, girls and hostess from beer bars and go-go bars will make everything to take you in their venue. This is the craziest place on the island, and for sure a meeting point for all the party goers.
If Phuket was first made popular by James bond, another movie, ‘The beach’, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, turned the Koh Phi Phi islands into a top tourist attraction. A forest of limestone rocks improbably arises from the emerald green waters into a magical and unreal seascape of offshore islands. If above the water is a show of a stunning beauty that you can fully appreciate from the ‘viewpoint’, you will also discover an underwater paradise where you can dive alongside whale-sharks (harmless giants), reef-sharks (small and harmless as well) and manta rays.
Most popular seaside destination, the Andaman Sea and the numerous incredible islands surrounding Phuket makes it a number one destination for travelers looking for some fantastic and exotic sceneries. Relaxing by day, offering all you can need, a plentiful of food venues, massage and beauty salons, the island will show you its craziness and party mood when the neon lights will take over the sun light.
Located South of the country, in the province of Surat Thani, known in Thai as ‘The City of Good People’, was the seat of the Srivijaya Empire. Today, people visiting the area are not in search of remains of this ancient empire (actually there is not much left and the cultural sights would be some Chinese temples scattered around), but prefer the surrounding island of Koh Samui as well as the nearby Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan.
Smaller, more intimate, more laid back, Samui is a paradise for the one searching a genuine mix of beach and nature with some culture and some fun at night in between.
The center of the island is dominated by mountains and jungles home to wonderful flora and fauna. Great adventures await you, elephant-back rides in the forest, zip-lining down the canopy, Jeep safaris in the verdant nature. Don’t miss the fantastic Paradise Farm, its colorful birds, funny monkeys, and most of all its swimming pool with view over the ocean.
Taking the road going around the island you will find, sparse along the coast, empty beaches will show you what real relaxing means. Maybe the most immaculate beach in Samui is Silver Beach, white soft powder sand, warm turquoise waters, a very nice small beach bars serving refreshing cocktails and tasty food… A Paradise in Samui.
Nearby Samui are floating some amazing islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan.
Koh Tao and its marvelous marine biodiversity offers one of the best and cheapest diving spot in Thailand and is a great place to get your PADI certification. Whales sharks and barracudas swim around Chumphon Pinnacle, a vertical cave in Sail Rock or White Rock and its shallow waters ideal for beginners. All are extraordinary sites either for their conservatives and eco-diving concepts (coral planting and underwater cleanups) as well as for their experienced and friendly dive-masters. Don/t forget, for the less adventurous or the more lazy ones to chill on the pristine beaches or enjoy the activities around.
Koh PhaNgan is worldly famous for its Full Moon Parties. Or any kind of Moon Parties, whether they are full moon, half moon, jungle or new moon parties, are The main attraction of Koh Pha Ngan and are something not to miss if you are travelling to Thailand. Because Koh Pha Ngan is mainly but not only about beach or jungle frenzies, you will also discover temples and untouched beaches, mainly on the east coast.
Mixing a laid back island’s atmosphere, pristine beaches, a verdant nature, cultural heritage and some crazy nights, Samui and its neighboring Kohs are an ideal spot to visit in Thailand and differs from other beach destination by the impression of intimacy the island is offering.
Also located South of the country, on the Andaman coast, Krabi is a lush region of impenetrable jungles, majestic limestone cliffs welling from the sea, sumptuous islands and secluded pristine beaches only accessible by long tail boats. A myriad of bay and coves served as shelter for pirates and merchants, and are now a diving paradise with places such as Koh Lanta or Koh Hong while quiet beaches where hammocks sway in the breeze are a heavenly place for sunbathers.
Ao Nang, a former backpackers’ hotspot up scaled thanks to tourists flow, is the most popular beach town. Compact, not really charming or especially beautiful, it is a very good base camp for touring the region. It offers a wide quantity of guesthouses, hotels and travel agencies. Taking tours around or travelling the province, you will understand that there is also a real provincial scenery, Buddhist shrines, and Tiger caves will be the top things to see in town, while when taking a tour out of town you will enter a more provincial scenery. Krabi Town is also the departure point to some extraordinary scuba diving spots near Phang-Nga or to some extreme adventure rock climbing at Rai Le beach.
So far, Krabi is not as famous as nearby Phuket or Samui, thus it is more untouched, more natural, more quiet and less busy with crowds. In this astonishing landscape of limestone cliffs surrounded by jungles hiding amazing secret beaches, attractions are both on land and in the sea.
Thailand has a lot more to offer than what the newcomers think about. With its tropical location near the equator everybody is thinking about sumptuous beaches bordered by palm and coconut trees casting their shadow over turquoise waters. And it is for sure that you will find in Thailand, in Phuket, in Samui or in Krabi some of the best beaches and islands in South east Asia.
Once you get used to this beach holiday life a bit too much and want to diversify your activities, no need to go further than Thailand. If you are up for some beautiful and verdant nature the North will be your next destination, direction Chang Mai, a historical city surrounded by untouched rainforest and mountainous hills. On the way to Chiang Mai take a historical heritage break in the ancient cities of Lopburi Ayutthaya and Phetchaburi, standing in the central plains, to discover centuries old temples and palaces and some ancient capital of the kingdoms which ruled over what Thailand formerly was.
For the most vibrant city life and night life, of course you will head directly to the hustling and bustling Bangkok, where you will be able to enjoy a full mix of Thai discoveries during the day going around temples, palaces, garden, street and floating markets as well as some of the most modern malls and ultra-modern neighborhoods, before going out in all the arty places and red light districts at night.
The most sulfurous night life will be host in Pattaya where aware adults (and better adults only) will crawl down the glimmering streets from bars to beer bars to go-go clubs, guided by their instincts, the lady boys populating the streets and the neon lit signboard.
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