Thailand. If you yourself haven’t uttered the word, or heard somebody say it in reference to their most recent holiday, then the word has somehow not gotten to you. While this seems almost impossible, this short piece will no doubt enlighten you to the wonders of the country. Get ready to be bewildered by unimaginable landscapes, idyllic beaches, cultural gems and some of the kindest people on the planet.
Bangkok is a city unlike any other. Friendly people, towering buildings, chaotic, bustling streets, the winding Chao Phraya River, ornate temples, colourful, lively markets, endless shopping opportunities and tasty cuisine. Bangkok gives you a feeling that you are a part of something bigger, some unique identity somehow formed from the millions of individual characters that roam the streets. It’s electric.
There are many historical temples in the city. Among the most impressive is Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Wat Phra Kaew. Be sure to bring your camera along to these spots. Shopping opportunities also abound – Chatuchak market, the various markets scattered across non-descript streets of the city, and our personal favourite, Chatuchak Green. Unmissable visuals and experiences include the Amphawa Floating Market, and the view of the city from any sky bar at sunset.
Bangkok is surely a destination for all kinds of people, a place for people who simply want to see, to feel, and to exist in spaces that are new and enticing.
2. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a capital of the namesake province in one of the most northerly territories of Thailand. It is renowned for the laid-back attitude of both locals and expats, where very little is able to disturb the sense of peace. Chiang Mai is somewhat different from the rest of Thailand and will attract, amongst other types, people who have seen the beauty of the beaches and experienced the edge of Bangkok.
The food in the city is simply incredible and definitely a reason to visit. Western food, Asian-inspired dishes and scrumptious street grub are here in abundance. Attracting an array of travellers from different income brackets, Chiang Mai offers accommodation and dining opportunities of varying prices. The influence of the Western world is unmistakable, and yet somehow very non-intrusive and the subtly fusion of both Asian and International blend harmoniously.
There are also many unique outdoor activities in the area. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary will have you writing home about how you bathed an elephant, the birds at Doi Inthanon National Park will have you snapping shots like a member of the paparazzi, and the waterfalls will leave your mouth on the floor. If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand around April, be sure to in be in Chiang Mai for Songkran – the world’s biggest street waterfight!
Ayutthaya is a little slice of heaven for history buffs and those who appreciate culture and tradition. Beautiful monasteries, dilapidated temples and towering statues dot the countryside. The ruins are amongst the most impressive in the world, with a fascinating history and with equally entertaining anecdotes about their ontology. Get into Ayutthaya via a trip up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok and gaze at the rough, but unjaded beauty of the riverside houses. Alternatively, Ayutthaya is only about an hour north of Bangkok if you make the journey in a car.
Among the most alluring of the attractions is Wat Phra Mahthat. The famous shot of Buddha’s head nestled in between the roots of a tree can be captured here. No Instagram filter needed. There are so many highlights in this neck of the woods, many of which will appeal to different people for different reasons. You’ll need a few things to get the most out of the trip – several days to visit all the temples and ruins, a good camera, and an appreciation for things greater than the sum of their parts.
Ah, the world-famous Phuket. While it is not the quaint place it once was, Phuket has developed into something that invites travellers for a whole new reason. It is the shining, bustling, bucket-list island of Thailand. The sounds, smells, and sights of Phuket are enough to leave the first-time traveller with a slightly bewildered, albeit very entertained look on their face.
As such, the island is best enjoyed by younger travellers, and especially those with a tolerance for a high level of stimulation. “Bangla Road, this Friday night, Muay Thai Boxing!” echoes from loud speakers through the teeming streets and there is little peace in Phuket.
Days should be spent discovering Old Phuket Town, exploring the streets and visiting the ever popular Kata Beach. Great day trips can be organised to the surrounding islands, of which, Koh Phi Phi and James Bond Island are amongst the most picturesque!
Krabi is the most archetypal destination of all Thailand holiday getaways. The towering limestone cliffs, the surreal beaches, the extensive jungle and hidden caves, the Emerald Lagoon, the Hot Water Springs. The list really does just go on and on. And on. It sits on the West coast of Thailand, near the southern border. It is a few hours from Phuket, regardless of which transport mode you use.
Krabi is a place for every kind of traveller. The adventurous type, beach-goers, the luxury seeker and the weary backpacker will all find something special here. The province is home to the incredible peninsular of Railay, where you can rock-climb limestone karsts and jump enthusiastically into the sea, or just lie on your back, running the impossibly fine squeaky sand through your hands. It is home to a world-class restaurant inside a cave as well as beach-stands selling THB 60 baguettes.
6. Koh Samui
Koh Samui is the most populated and Westernised of the islands in the Gulf. Getting to the island, and into the Western idea of island life, is easy – a short two-hour ferry away from the mainland is all it takes. Not too dissimilar from Phuket, the beaches are lined with resorts, the souvenir shops are packed with borderline inappropriate paraphernalia, the bars packed with foreigners indulging in beer and cocktail specials, and the restaurants are loaded with attempts at popular Western dishes.
If you’re the kind of traveller who doesn’t enjoy the bug bites, sand in your pants, sometimes dodgy local food, and exploring unidentified local spots, then the amalgamation of west and east, of beach umbrellas and sea views, will have you feeling right at home.
7. Koh Phangan
The island is just a few hour ferry from the Donsak Pier in Suratthani, but feels like an absolute world apart. It is a wonderful collection of natural attractions and bright neon lights advertising cheap beer and afternoon massages. It is strangely good at satisfying the needs of completely different kinds of travellers. Barefoot hippies, bandana-wearing nature enthusiasts, and slick haired party folk with unbuttoned neon-shirts, all find happiness here. Foodies, and especially those who have been travelling the more rural parts of the country are in for a tummy swelling, belt-unbuckling, thank-goodness I’m wearing elastic pants, good time. Chinese, Western, Italian, and of course Thai restaurants are scattered all over the island.
Haad Rin is the location of the world famous Full-Moon Party. It is also the location of the Half-Moon Party. There are so many other parties, too. If you like the party, come party here. Haad Yuan is the more alternative, down-beat side of the island only accessible by a long-tail boat.
Be sure to visit Malibu beach for a unique experience, and Haad Seekantang for a classic, postcard beach. If you visit here at low-tide, there is an awesome sandbank a hundred metres out that you should have a seat and a drink on while the sun slowly dips.
8. Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a tiny island a few hours away from Suratthani. Getting there can be a little laborious with two ferries and a wait between them. Your best bet is to leave on an overnight direct ferry and try and catch some winks on the way. Koh Tao is an island for the adventurous and outdoorsy. Expect to be gallivanting from place to place trying to squeeze the beauty of the island through the tiny holes in your eyes. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and some energy bars. Explore the tiny, steep and winding roads into the depths of the jungle that end up at viewpoints not even on a map.
Koh Tao is the diving mecca of Thailand and there are chances to dive at some of the best spots in the world, beaches to spend your down-time at, and a thriving nightlife for when you’re rearing to go again.
Kanchanaburi is best suited to nature enthusiasts. However, the incredible riverside resorts and restaurants also make this quite the destination for luxury-seeking tourists. Kanchanaburi is around 2 hours of car travel west of Bangkok, around 4 hours if you take public transport.
Erawan falls is easily the most unique series of waterfalls in the whole of Thailand. Its cerulean colour, the perfect composition of both cascading and slow-moving waters, and the luscious enveloping forest make this waterfall something to behold. A very similar waterfall, Huay Mae Khamin, is also well worth your time.
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum is a great spot for those looking to embrace the sombre reality of the Bridge River Kwai. Viewing the bridge itself, of course, is a must. Exploring the Burma Railway itself is something that goes hand-in-hand with these activities.
Dining options are also pretty fantastic round these parts. Grab some local fare and head on down to the riverside. Otherwise, hop on board a floating restaurant with your sailors legs and enjoy the high-end feast that awaits you.
Pattaya has the ability to satisfy the fluctuating impulses of toddlers, heavily pregnant women, and even people with minor personality disturbances. The city, a few hours south of Bangkok, engrosses the tourist with its multifaceted charm and almost impossible composition of attractions.
Walking street stands proud of the more reserved customs of the area, coming alive in the evening with flashing lights, thumping music, go-go bars, street-performances, and an array of street side food vendors. A near full assault on the senses.
Standing in stark contrast to this is the Sanctuary of Truth. After your activities of the night before, it is probably a good idea to visit the one-of-a-kind structure, an ode to philosophical truth and the folly of man in pursuing material wealth. Tiffany’s Cabaret Show promises a fantastic evening of fun for adults and parents alike, while the water parks will be fun for the whole family! An absolute must on the cultural list the Four Regions Floating Market – popularly referred to as the Pattaya Floating market. The market provides surreal exposure to an alternative way of life.
As if this level of diversity wasn’t enough, just an hour off the coast of the thriving city is the tranquil Koh Larn island. Organise a day trip to the beach and to the freshest seafood is town!
Why should you go to Thailand?
Ultimately, it is difficult trying to come up with reasons to not visit Thailand. Between the incredible beaches that have more coconuts than people, the busting streets of Bangkok, the iconic landscapes of the famous southern islands, and of course, the wonderful food, it’s high time you come to terms with your longing to visit and book the ticket!