Thailand, also known as the land of smiles, is a jewel of Southeast Asia. Developed enough to provide the most comfort yet still wild enough to offer off-the-beaten-path adventure, Thailand is a country ripe with the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences. Whether you start with the world-class beaches of the south or the mountain villages of the north, Thailand will not disappoint.
Cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are bustling hives of activity and commerce, but you haven’t really seen the country until you’ve trekked into the mountains or enjoyed a sight seeing with elephants or the bold monkeys (who steal your lunch as soon as you get to you look). The attractions in Thailand are diverse and offer a rewarding and memorable experience in their own way.
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1 Railay Beach
Krabi province is home to some of Thailand’s most famous beach destinations, and Railay is the cream of the crop. Considered one of the best beaches in the country, Railay offers promises of white sands, clear blue waters and the feeling that you have found a piece of paradise. You’ll need to take a boat to reach the island getaway, with services available from Krabi Town and Ao Nang .
The beaches are the main reason to visit Railay, but it is also a rock climbing spot. Railay’s karst peaks draw adventurers, both experienced and novice, who attempt to climb the swooping limestone cliffs. Among the many other active things to do, you can go elephant trekking, white water rafting, kayaking and snorkelling, or take on some lighter options such as cooking classes and enjoying a massage. There’s also tourist-friendly Diamond Cave , with a convenient walkway for curious visitors looking to do some exploring in between sunbathing.
Official site: https://www.railay.com/railay/intro/intro.shtml
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Krabi Province
Koh Phi Phi
The Phi Phi Islands, also in Krabi, are one of Thailand’s most popular holiday resorts for a reason. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited, with day trips available to surrounding islands. One of the nice places on Koh Phi Phi is Monkey Beach , where you will literally come up against the creatures of the same name. You can hire a guide to take you out on a small wooden boat or rent your own kayak. There is also a small stand where you can buy snacks and fruit shakes, but stick to your treats. If you leave them unattended, the monkeys will shamelessly burrow in and drop in front of you. Long beachis another nice place on the island; it’s not a remote place, but it’s great to watch the sunset. If you’re lucky and the tide is out, it’s a nice walk back to the main part of the island.
Tour operators offer packages for snorkeling and diving trips, as well as excursions to the infamous Maya Bay , where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was filmed. Because Koh Phi Phi attracts so many tourists, there are plenty of tour operators arranging tickets to other beach destinations such as Phuket, Koh Chang , and Koh Lanta . While you’d barely know it from seeing it now, Phi Phi Don was one of the areas hit hard by the 2004 tsunami. Guest houses, restaurants and markets have been rebuilt and crowds of people still flock to the resort island. There’s a small, gloomy memorial park to honor those who died in the tragedy, but the resort areas seem otherwise revitalized.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Phi Phi Islands
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3 The Grand Palace, Bangkok
Even if your plans for Thailand are mainly about frolicking on a beach, cuddling elephants, and eating as much Massaman curry and tom ka gai as humanly possible, you’ll probably be spending at least a day or two in Bangkok. There’s plenty to see and do in the capital, but it might be best to start with the Grand Palace. This is the number one attraction in the city, and it is incredible in historical significance and craftsmanship. The grounds are a maze of royal halls, temples and ancient relics, the main being Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A relic in this temple is said to be a piece of bone or hair from the enlightened Buddha himself. Allow several hours to do the Grand Palace justice, but if you feel like walking more afterwards, you can easily see some of the city’s other major landmarks. The famous Wat Po and Wat Arun , the Temple of the Dawn (a great place to watch the sunset), are also nearby. And because Bangkok is a major hub for international travel, it’s a great starting point for excursions around the country.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Areas and Hotels
4 Sunday Walking Street, Chiang Mai
Every Thailand visitor looks forward to cheap and delicious food, and it can be found in Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street. Vendors sell all manner of treats: pad Thai, chicken satay, samosas, crab cakes, fried bananas, sweet rotees, and fresh fruit shakes—often for less than $2 each. Once you’ve satisfied your culinary cravings, peruse hundreds of stalls selling a variety of unique goods such as all-natural soaps, hand-dyed textiles featuring the unique patterns of local hill tribes, incense and essential oils, musical instruments, paintings, wall hangings and more.
The market gets busy every week, without fail, no matter what time of year you visit, so brace yourself and try to enjoy being part of the crowd. This is a must-do in Chiang Mai, and is an essential part of the Thailand experience. If you’re not around for the Sunday market, or just want to get a taste of other Chiang Mai market experiences, check out the Saturday Night Walking Street or Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road, a daily event. For something less touristy, check out the daytime Warorot Market , near Mae Ping River.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Thailand’s reputation as a country of beautiful landscapes and friendly people is largely due to its world-famous southern beaches. Most people don’t realize that the vast north is also home to breathtaking landscapes, although these are of a different nature altogether. Northern Thailand, especially the western region near the border with Burma, is characterized by mountainous, rugged and beautiful virgin forest. Pai, in Mae Hong Son province, is a perfect place to enjoy the country’s natural beauty as well as renowned Thai hospitality and cuisine. This small town has earned a reputation as a mecca for hippies and backpackers, although you’ll also see locals and families here. There is a small night street market on the street,Pai Canyon . There is an air of cheerfulness and relaxation as you walk through the small center of town, and it is this atmosphere that draws crowds again and again, season after season.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Pai
6 Khao Yai National Park
Elephants are revered in Thailand and images and paintings can be seen everywhere. There are many tour groups and elephant camps across the country so you can spend a day or more with the creatures, walking through the jungle, bathing them and even helping with their morning feedings. But perhaps more exciting is the chance to see them in their natural habitat, and Khao Yai National Park offers a great opportunity to do just that. You’ll see elephants swimming near waterfalls, exotic birds of prey, monkeys, and a host of other tropical creatures that call the park home. If a one-day stay isn’t enough to take it all in, it’s possible to camp in the park and get up early enough to watch the sunrise over the lush landscape.
Accommodation: Where to stay near Khao Yai National Park
7 Sukhothai Old City
This is a favorite stop for history buffs and photography enthusiasts as there are many great photo opportunities in this ancient capital of Thailand. Ruins of this ancient city still stand proud despite centuries of battle and exposure to the elements. The ancient city of Sukhothai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and much has been invested to restore and preserve one of Thailand’s most important historical sites. Attractions here include many wats, which speak of the country’s long history of Buddhist devotion. Each structure tells its own story of ancient society, with relics and influences from other ancient civilizations appearing in the design of each.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sukhothai
8 Historical city of Ayutthaya
Historical city of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya presents a glimpse into the glory of ancient Thailand, where visitors can wander through the eerie yet romantic ruins of the former capital. After the Sukhothai period, the city was the most important in Thailand, and the ancient palaces and temples are proof of that. There are also several foreign settlements, where you can gain more insight into the influence other countries had in Thailand at the time. Ayutthaya is just a short bus ride or train ride from Bangkok, making it convenient for a day trip if you’re pressed for time. If you have a more relaxed schedule, plan on spending a few days in the old capital and rent a push bike to explore both the old and new towns.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ayutthaya
9 Doi Suthep
Perhaps the most famous thing in Chiang Mai sits atop Doi Suthep, a mountain overlooking Thailand’s northern city. In a throng of monks, devout Buddhist followers, and fellow travelers, you’ll marvel at intricate religious carvings, observe worship rituals, and gaze out over the ever-expanding sprawl of Chiang Mai city. Just be sure to bring a bottle of water and your hiking boots – the stairs to the temple are steep. At the foot of the steps, vendors rape everything from tasty local delicacies to handcrafted goods from villagers from the surrounding mountains. There is also a shop selling masks, elephant carvings and home furnishings so you can stock up on groceries while you get up and down the stairs from the tour.
You can combine your trip to Doi Suthep with excursions to Doi Pui , a small Hmong village in the mountains. It’s much more touristy than other villages, but if you’re on a tight schedule, this will give you a taste of Hmong culture and a chance to learn about the region’s hill tribe communities, not to mention purchase of some beautiful crafts. woven textile. The Bhubing Palace , open to tourists, is also en route from Doi Suthep to Doi Pui.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
10 Floating Markets
Visiting one of the floating markets is a fun way to shop and eat while supporting local suppliers and observing local trade in action. Some seem more like the tourist crowd than part of the daily life of the local Thais, but there are also those that make for a fun authentic travel experience. You need to get up early to visit a floating market as vendors are in their long wooden boats early in the morning with their wares, fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and tasty dishes.
There are several floating markets near Bangkok, Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak are among the most popular. You can go it alone or join a guided tour that includes visits to local homes and shops.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Areas and Hotels