Thailand Travel Articles

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Reasons to Visit Thailand

By Khal Rasdam 

Thailand is a popular travel destination in Asia, receiving 17 million visitors in 2011 (according to Thailand's Ministry of Tourism and Sports) and often the first country for visitors travelling around Southeast Asia. Whether as a backpacker or with a fat wallet, your money goes a long way travelling in Thailand and many tourists stay in the country as long as their visa allows them. Compared to Western Europe, North America, Japan, Korea or even Singapore, the costs for accommodation, food and transport is much cheaper in Thailand. Though a modern developing nation and its people exposed to Western culture, Thailand’s cultural identity and practice of Theravada Buddhism (95% of the 67 million people) remain strong.  

Most journeys in Thailand start in Bangkok, the country’s capital and a bustling city of more than 8 million people. Called “Krung Thep” in Thai, Bangkok is an overwhelming city and best described as crowded, noisy and polluted yet lively and fascinating. There are scores of high-rises, modern shopping malls, convenience stores and American-style fast food restaurants sprouting across the city. But there are also the traditional markets, bazaars, magnificent temples (wats), royal palaces and museums to explore. Bangkok is the heart of Thai cuisine and you can find dishes from the various regions of Thailand here. Getting around Bangkok is relatively convenient with many of the major attractions accessible by using the commuter trains and river boats. 

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 Flower market in Bangkok by eric molina

Travelling 50 miles (80 km) north of Bangkok is Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital founded in the mid-14th century. The old city center is situated on an island surrounded by three rivers and on it are the ruins of Wat Phra Maharat and Wat Ratburana and the well-preserved Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Sukhothai was the capital of the old Thai kingdom for 150 years until Ayutthaya became the capital. Within the city is the walled royal capital, now the Sukhothai Historical Park with its ruins and temple complexes. Chiang Mai is located in Thailand’s northern region and the country’s second largest city. It is a great place for night bazaars, handicraft shopping and the old quarter is the location of several traditional wooden houses and graceful temples. 

Thailand is a fantastic destination for sunny beaches and crystal clear waters and includes destinations on the mainland and islands in the Gulf of Thailand as well as the Andaman Sea. Pattaya is about 75 miles (120 km) southeast of Bangkok and though known for its seedy nightlife, also offers family-friendly holidays and plenty of facilities for water sports. Ao Nang and the nearby islands offer opportunities for kayaking as well as rock climbing and exploring the caves of the limestone mountains. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and a popular destination for scuba diving with its spectacular coral reefs. Koh Samui is another popular island attracting both backpackers and money spending vacationers to it palm tree fringed beaches.

Pattaya Beach by Jeromecole 

The mountains of Thailand's Northern Region offer opportunities for trekking and enjoying the natural scenery. It is also home to several hill tribes, who migrated from various parts of Southeast Asia and China. The Karen form the largest group (around 500,000), followed by the Hmong (110,000) and others include the Lahu, Akha, Mien, Lisu and Lawa. These insular hill tribes live within their settlements or villages practicing their own language, customs and beliefs. Their way of life has changed little over the centuries, though gradually becoming exposed to visiting tourists or trekkers. To begin, there are a plethora of agencies in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offering trekking tours through the mountains and visiting the hill tribes.

Thailand offers other cultural and historical attractions beyond the temples and royal palaces. Khon is a traditional theatre performance based on the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is a combination of drama and dance with performers wearing elaborate costumes and intricate masks. Thai boxing (or Muay Thai) is a popular sport and frequently shown on television. For the best experience, is to see this sport yourself and the best places are the stadiums in Bangkok. It is a vicious yet graceful sport with a traditional orchestra accompanying each fight and the tempo speeds up as the fight heightens. Songkran is the Thai New Year (usually 13-15 April) and celebrated with public water fights on the streets – the festival is liveliest in Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Chiang Mai.

This article is available under a Creative Commons licence. 

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