Thailand has long been known for the rich diversity of its attractions, but the continuing development of the Kingdom’s tourism product means that there are still more waiting discovery.
A land of golden temples, tropical beaches and forested hills, Thailand is truly a veritable oasis in an increasingly hectic world.
For sightseeing and travel, Thailand has few equals. From dazzling temples and palaces, to awe-inspiring World Heritage Sites, from timeless rural settlements to vibrant resort towns; from idyllic beaches to national parks where wild nature rules, the choice of where to go and what to see is limitless.
Soft adventure options blend with eco-tourism in mountainous jungle terrain, with trekking on foot or elephant back, 4-wheel drive safaris, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and meeting with remote highland communities. Away from the upland forests, the blue waters of Thailand’s extensive coastline beckon, offering the relaxing joys of beach life as well as diving, sailing, windsurfing, and sea canoeing, all with expert tuition provided.
Golfers love Thailand and the feeling is mutual. The Kingdom has more than 100 golf courses, most to international standard and located close to major tourism destinations with first-class facilities and friendly fees.
The Thai secret of relaxation is a secret that can be shared by learning and practicing meditation in Buddhist retreats or training centers. The revitalizing Thai massage is an ancient tradition that is another part of the secret visitors like to share, while at the many luxury spas, they can experience the most modern, sensual techniques at the firm but caressing hands of a trained therapist.
Thailand’s cuisine is recognized as one of the world’s healthiest. A profusion of fresh produce, fresh-caught fish and seafood with a balanced complement of aromatic herbs and spices, wok-fried or grilled for a dish that is light, nutritious and bursting with flavor.
Dishes from all of Thailand’s regions can be found in Bangkok, as well as fine dining at sophisticated restaurants of world-class quality. The city is one of Asia’s great shopping experiences, too, with gleaming modern malls and department stores with top international brand and specifically Thai names along with smart boutiques and busy street stalls.
Giant markets like Chatuchak and Suan Lum Night Bazaar also sell international brand names, but their fame rests on their diversity. From local fashions and handicrafts at giveaway prices, the range of discoveries to be made there is quite astounding.
Everywhere in Thailand traditional products are hand made by local artisans: weavers of cotton and silk, wood carvers, potters working in the local clay, silversmiths, basket makers, and cooks making local gourmet specialties.
Thailand is blessed with natural beauty and its islands are amongst the most scenic and beautiful in the world. Likewise, its beaches are simply stunning - clean sand, clear water, and wonderful scenery. Each of Thailand’s islands has its own character and identity drawing specific types of visitor.
Ao Nang Beach
Ao Luk (Deep Bay)
Ao Mae Yai
Hat Bang Sak
Hat Khao Lak
Hat Kalim Beach
Hat Kamala Beach
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Ao Mae Ramphung
Ao Kai-Laem Tan
Hat Laem Charoen and Hat Sang Chan
Hat Mae Ramphueng
Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach)
Laem Mae Phim
Suan Son Park
Hat Samila (Laem Samila)
Hat Chao Mai
Ao Tan Khu
Thailand’s cultural heritage was influenced by ancient India when the Indian merchants and scholars set foot and gradually settled in Southeast Asia some 2,300 years ago. It continued for several centuries. Buddhist religion and popular myth are the most obvious examples. Much of Thailand’s royal tradition is also rooted in Indian culture.
Buddhism is thought to have first come to Thailand at Nakhon Pathom, While Indian concepts of divine kingship first took root in the Khmer empire. By the 6th century AD, many independent states were flourishing in the region now known as Thailand. One of these was the Mon’s Dvaravati kingdom. Mon dominance over central Thailand has been diminished by the power of an expanding Khmer empire. Eventually, The Khmer became so powerful that they ruled the entire area. Only the southern isthmus where the Srivijaya civilization had taken root was unaffected.
Towards the end of the 13th century, Khmer power in this area waned and new kingdoms dominated by the Thai race developed, including the northern Lanna kingdom. Beginning by nibbling away at the perimeter of the Khmer empire at Sukhothai and in Lanna some 700 years ago, the Thai race later established the glorious court at Ayutthaya, and eventually Bangkok. Over the past centuries, many peoples, among them the Chinese, Arabs, Malays and Westerners, have contributed to Thailand’s cultural heritage.
Thailand’s majestic cultural heritage inherited over the past centuries was dominated or influenced by many kingdoms encompassing the area including the powerful Khmer. The remains of their cultural heritage can still be seen in many places throughout the kingdom.
If you are taking a family vacation in Thailand and your children are getting tired of visits to the temples and museums, they suggest a few places catering to children which sure to bring a smile to their faces.
Located beside the Royal Plaza, Bangkok’s oldest zoo contains a collection of popular African and Asian mammals and birds in an ornamental garden. Exotic animals range from local wildlife such as deer, elephants and tigers to imported African lions and giraffes. There is also a big pond in which you can hire a boat to paddle around. The zoo is also an oasis of nature and greenery among Bangkok’s bustling city life.
This large amusement park houses a European style plaza, miniature land of major world legends, and offer exciting rides, shows and games.
Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre
It is located within the same area as Suan Lum Night Bazaar and presents the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. The establishment of this theatre was inspired by the intention of Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot or Joe Louis, a National Artist of 1996, who wishes to preserve the art of operating Hun Lakhon Lek puppets. In operating the puppets, the puppeteers require basic skills of Khon performance as they will have to also move their footsteps and hand gestures to coincide with those of the puppets. Each puppet is operated by three puppeteers, lending its lifelike movements. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs the story of Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand. The troupe received the Thailand Tourism Award presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 2000 in the category of Recreational Attraction.
There is 1 daily show of Hun Lakhon Lek at 7.30 p.m. There is also a corner inside the theatre where Khon mask making is demonstrated, with a gallery of the Hun Lakhon Lek puppets and their background.
Thai food is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as fish sauce.
Thai food is popular in many Western countries especially in Australia, New Zealand, some countries in Europe such as the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, and Canada.
Instead of a single main course with side dishes found in Western cuisine, a Thai full meal typically consists of either a single dish or rice khao with many complementary dishes served concurrently.
Rice is a staple component of Thai cuisine, as it is of most Asian cuisines. The highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice is indigenous to Thailand. This naturally aromatic long-grained rice grows in abundance in the verdant patchwork of paddy fields that blanket Thailand's central plains. Its aroma bears no resemblance to the sweet smell of jasmine blossoms, but like jasmine flowers, this rice is precious and fragrant, a small everyday delight. Steamed rice is accompanied by highly aromatic curries, stir-fry’s and other dishes, incorporating sometimes large quantities of chilies, lime juice and lemon grass. Curries, stir-fry’s and others may be poured onto the rice creating a single dish called khao rad gang, a popular meal when time is limited. Sticky rice khao neow is a unique variety of rice that contains an unusual balance of the starches present in all rice, causing it to cook up to a pleasing sticky texture. It is the daily bread of Laos and substitutes ordinary rice in rural Northern and Northeastern Thai cuisine, where Lao cultural influence is strong.
Noodles, known throughout parts of Southeast Asia by the Chinese name kwaytiow, are popular as well but usually come as a single dish, like the stir-fried Pad Thai or noodle soups. Many Chinese cuisines are adapted to suit Thai taste, such as khuaytiow rue, a sour and spicy rice noodle soup.
There is uniquely Thai dish called nam prik which refers to a chili sauce or paste. Each region has its own special versions. It is prepared by crushing together chilies with various ingredients such as garlic and shrimp paste using a mortar and pestle. It is then often served with vegetables such as cucumbers, cabbage and yard-long beans, either raw or blanched. The vegetables are dipped into the sauce and eaten with rice. Nam prik may also be simply eaten alone with rice or, in a bit of Thai and Western fusion, spread on toast.
Thai food is generally eaten with a fork and a spoon. Chopsticks are used rarely, primarily for the consumption of noodle soups. The fork, held in the left hand, is used to shovel food into the spoon. However, it is common practice for Thais and hill tribe peoples in the North and Northeast to eat sticky rice with their right hands by making it into balls that are dipped into side dishes and eaten. Thai-Muslims also frequently eat meals with only their right hands.
Often Thai food is served with a variety of spicy condiments to embolden the dish. This can range from dried chili pieces, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, to a spicy chili sauce such as the nam prik.
Thailand with many natural treasures guarded in national parks that extend across the Kingdom. They are the habitat of a great profusion of wildlife, and plants ranging in size from tiny forest floor flowers to towering trees.
From the fertile Central Plains watered by the Chao Phraya River, the land rises to the northeastern plateau, then north to the forested mountains of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. Along the southeastern coastline and the long southern peninsula, rain forests and coastal mangroves predominate. Below the central hills, wetlands extend to the Gulf of Thailand on the western side and the Andaman Sea to the east.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves during the six-month dry season in the North. On high hills there are pine and maple forests; in the South, there are evergreens, freshwater swamps, rubber trees, fruit trees, palms of all kinds and tropical hardwoods. Northern Thailand is characterized by forested hills and deep valleys that are an invitation to adventures: rafting along fast-flowing rivers, trekking along jungle paths, or discovering waterfalls cascading down cliff faces, like the Ti Lo Su falls in remote Umphang.
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second city, was once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. In the countryside around it there are elephant camps where you can see these much loved creatures at work and play, and hire one with a mahout to take you on a trek. There is much to see when trekking in the North, like the orchid farms and botanical gardens along the Mae Sa Valley, the towering splendor of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, the villages of the hill people and the handicraft centers of Sankhamphaeng where village artisans work in silk, cotton, wood and silver.
Thailand’s national parks are usually accessible by road, and the most popular of these, Khao Yai, is just a three-hour drive from Bangkok. Khao Yai attracts a large number of visitors with its scenic beauty and abundant plant and animal life. It covers four vegetation zones: evergreen rainforest, semi-evergreen, mixed deciduous, and hill evergreen forest, at altitudes from 100 meters to 1,400 meters. Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s largest park with 3,000 square kilometers of evergreen and mixed deciduous forests.
It is recommended for its long-distance hiking trails, though few hikers and campers have ventured into the interior where the wildlife is most abundant. In the northeastern province of Loei by the border with Laos, Phu Kradung National Park is famous for its pine forests and mountain views. A nine-kilometer trail leads to the flat summit of a mountain where tents can be rented for the night. Chaiyaphum’s Nam Nao National Park has dry forest, bamboo groves, and rolling sandstone hills, and it adjoins Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the South, Thale Ban National Park is nearly 200 square kilometers of rainforest along the Malaysian border. Hiking trails lead you through spectacular limestone formations and the forest abounds with birds, macaques, and gibbons. Khao Sok National Park in western Surat Thani is connected to the Khlong Saen Wildlife Sanctuary and together they form the largest tract of virgin forest in southern Thailand, with trails to scenic caves and waterfalls.
Thailand is a great place to shop -- particularly in Bangkok. Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise where you can find just about everything from expensive brand name goods to cheap knockoffs all within easy walking distance. Daytime shopping can be hot and sweaty if you do it outdoors and can leave you absolutely exhausted afterwards.
A series of excellent shopping malls are located between BTS (elevated train) stations Chit Lom and Siam, where you can find just about anything under the sun. After sunset, check out the outdoor shopping arcades of Suan Lum Night Bazaar and Patpong Night Market for some serious bargains and unique products. For the brave hearts, check out Chatuchak Weekend Market, a bustling weekend bazaar unlike any place on earth. It is hot, humid, but loads of fun. Be prepared to literally rub shoulders with the locals.
CentralWorld Shopping Complex
With 550,000 square meters of retail space and a total area size of 830,000 square meters that is 30% larger than any other shopping center in central Bangkok, CentralWorld is now officially the largest lifestyle shopping complex in Southeast Asia, with an unrivalled mix of products and services at prices that put the fun back into shopping for Thai consumers and tourists.
This shopping and entertainment complex is an upmarket, five-story colossus with 500,000 square meters of retail space. The gleaming, modern mall opened in December 2005 at a cost of 15 billion baht (US$ 375 million), and is home to more than 250 famed international and local luxury brands. There is also Underwater World on the Basement floor, another popular tourist attraction.
MBK Shopping Centre
The multi-story MBK, or Mah Boon Krong, is very popular with both tourists and locals. Its 2,000 shops sell everything from food, clothing, accessories, handbags, leather products and luggage to furniture and various electrical gadgets. MBK is especially crowded weekends, when holiday shoppers combined with holiday makers converge on MBK for some serious bargain hunting.
The Emporium is like a glossy magazine come to life. Behold the seven layers of shopper’s paradise, where the first three floors are dedicated solely to fashion. Exclusive world-class brand names dominate the ground floor, hot international designer items, leather and jewelry the first floor, and glamorous garb for the young and trendy, the second. Fashionistas, this is your playground.
Siam Center is one of the oldest malls in Thailand, constructed in 1976, this original looks good for her age, thanks to the panoply of bright and playful shops and the ever-younger and fresher clientele, expending their reeling energies and pocket money. Having gone through a few revamping exercises, this mall targets adolescents, and has a loyal and fashionable following. Siam Centre contains about 300 shops, 20 restaurants and a cheerful and spacious food court.