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Every year, more and more tourists visit the Land of Smiles – Thailand. From white sandy beaches and terrific hotels to historic temples and mouthwatering food, there's simply too much on offer in this tropical paradise for visitors.
If you're still not sold on the idea of visiting the country, and if you find yourself wondering what it is that truly distinguishes Thailand from other tropical getaways around the globe, here are ten reasons why the Kingdom is such a popular spot among travelers.
Thailand's most impressive natural feature has got to be its beaches. With over 1,500 miles of coastline to choose from, guests are never too far from white sandy beaches made of coral shells.
While there are some beaches, like Bang Saen in Chonburi and Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, that have been overrun with crowds of tourists in recent years, there remain numerous incredible stretches of sand that are tranquil and secluded. Some of these quieter beaches include Freedom Beach in Phuket and Lamai in Koh Samui.
Further reading: Top Beaches in Thailand
The history of Thailand is long and complex. The earliest Thai kingdoms date back to the Paleolithic period, some 20,000 years ago. The country, however, experienced great splendor during successive kingdoms between the 10th and 14th centuries, after the Sukhothai kingdom was established. The Chakri dynasty is the current ruling royal house of the Kingdom of Thailand, and has been largely credited with reviving the economy of the kingdom from the time it took over.
About 95 percent of the population in Thailand is Buddhist. The city of Chiang Mai, in the northern part of the country, holds a deep root of Buddhism in many denominations. If you wish to experience a day in the life of a Buddhist, do make sure you visit Chiang Mai and spend a couple of days in the city. There, one can see young Thai men being ordained as monks and offering leaves made of gold to Buddha images.
There are over 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand. So no matter which part of the country you find yourself in, there have got to be temples, shrines, and pagodas for you to visit so you can better understand Buddhist culture.
A temple's architecture is representative of the construction style of the era it was built in, and since most date back to the different dynasties, their architectural features are of significant importance.
Each province has its fair share of ancient temples, though the most unique and abundant ones are found in Bangkok. One of the most spectacular temple attractions is Bangkok’s iconic Grand Palace. In Chiang Mai, one ought to visit the Temple of Emerald Buddha and Wat Chedi Luang Varaihara.
Further reading: Temple Guide for Thailand
Thai people love festivals. Festivals take place all over the country and are frequently held in temple grounds. Many festivals are planned according to the lunar calendar, so the exact dates vary each year.
One of the most important Thai festivals is the Light Festival (Loy Krathong) held on the full moon night in November every year. It is celebrated nationwide by releasing lotus shaped baskets, decorated with candles and flowers, into the rivers. Chiang Mai and Bangkok are the best places to celebrate this festival when visiting the country.
Held in April, another culturally significant Thai festival is Songkran, during which a three-day, nationwide water fight takes place. It is the Thai New Year and serves as a symbol of renewal in Buddhism. Wild scenes of exuberance can be seen throughout the Kingdom, with people singing and dancing while being drenched from head to toe.
Thai food is delicious and diverse, differing greatly based on the location. Hot and sour dishes can be whipped up in seconds by street vendors, adding fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and galangal. You can recognize these unique flavors that dominate Thai dishes immediately.
Must-try dishes include Tom Yum Goong, a bright red, spicy shrimp soup prepared using lemongrass; Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles, stir-fried with eggs, tofu, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, and seafood; and Som Tam, a salad originating in Laos, made by combining unripe papaya, palm sugar, hot chili sauce, savory fish sauce, and sour lime. Learn more about 30 must-try dishes in Thailand.
The price is quite affordable. One can have a complete meal from street vendors for about US$ 5, or for around US$ 15, if one chooses a nicer, more comfortable restaurant.
There is luxury accommodation in Thailand that costs a fraction of the price spent on any standard commercial hotel in Europe or the US. Only in Thailand does high-quality accommodation range from US$ 60 for a 3-star hotel to about US$ 300 for a posh, 5-star hotel. Even better: Stays at many luxury hotels usually feature traditional performances during dinner, world-class cuisine, pampering at the spa, and Thai cooking classes.
So if you think that a trip to Thailand is out of your reach, think again. Some of the best hotels and restaurants are really quite inexpensive, and so is a lot of the entertainment.
Further reading: Top Hotels in Bangkok (7 Best Areas to Stay in Bangkok)
Thailand is a year-round destination. The country is busiest during the dry season, when temperatures do not normally exceed 32°C (90°F). The beaches are the most popular during the hot season, while the capital city of Bangkok, and the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, are most popular during the monsoon season.
Regardless of the season one visits Thailand, it's never cold and there's plenty of sunshine. Learn more about best time to visit Thailand.
Further reading: The Best Time to Visit Thailand
Thailand is home to more than 10% of the world’s animals, as natural forests cover approximately 25% of Thailand’s total land area. There are more than 285 mammal species, including elephants, tigers, leopards, Malaysian sun bears, deer, and otters, as well as a variety of primate species including gibbons, monkeys, and macaques. The country currently has 147 national parks.
Khao Sok National Park is perfect for birdwatchers, and for spotting some rare apes like the white-handed gibbon. A trip to Khao Yai will mix sightseeing and wildlife watching.
Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand, located just 200 kilometers from Bangkok, is home to tigers, wild boars, elephants, porcupines, and gibbons. A 1-day tour of the park includes hiking and safari drives, mixing wildlife watching and natural exploration.
Always remember to be a responsible traveler and not to feed the wildlife, as well as steering clear of any tourist attractions you think are abusing animals for profit.
The markets in Thailand are like no others in the world. Each has its own distinct character, from the crowds they attract to the items that are for sale. The floating market is one of the most iconic. If you want to be closer to the lifestyle of the people of Thailand, the night market is one of the must-go places.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market used to be a market for locals, but has now become a tourist attraction. It is very crowded, but this makes it all the more fun. You’ll be amazed at how people are able to maneuver boats through the jammed canals.
It takes about 2 hours to get there from downtown Bangkok, but if you can get there early in the morning, you will not only avoid the water traffic, but also enjoy the most authentic market atmosphere. The floating market is a great way of immersing yourself in local culture.
Further reading: Local Markets in Bangkok
With over eight million people residing in the city, Bangkok is usually the first stop for many travelers embarking on their journey of Southeast Asia.
It’s important to tour Bangkok from a different angle. Avoid getting stuck in traffic, by opting to take the Skytrain to visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha. A walk to the Amulet Market is also recommended if you’re looking to buy souvenirs.
If you have heard of Thailand, then you have no doubt heard of the famous Thai smile and Thai wai. This is a big part of their culture. Thais are, in general, some of the politest and most well-mannered people you will ever meet, and this is why so many people love visiting Thailand.
One of their mottoes is mai pen rai, which means ‘never mind’. Thai people’s carefree attitude is one that many Westerners envy. As opposed to many Westerners that tend to worry and live stressful lives, Thais tend to take stress and emotions with a pinch of salt. Even when Thais are losing in sports events, you rarely see them lose their temper and, instead, they just smile their frustration away.
It is this side of Thais that people fall in love with. It is also a big reason why so many people say that they cannot wait to go back to Thailand again after their first visit. People tend to go home and miss the welcoming and friendly nature of the Thai people.
Although there is a very small percentage of scam artists and bad eggs, in general, if you befriend a Thai, you have a friend for life. What is also amazing is that Thais never tend to forget a face. When you return to the same place, even after a couple of years, they always seem to remember you.
Other aspects of Thai culture that are interesting include their respect for elders and their devotion to Buddhism. All male Thais are encouraged to become a monk at some point in their lives.
Sport is a surefire way to bridge culture gaps and break the ice. Luckily, Thais are big on sports and pretty much everywhere you go in Thailand, sports games are on the television or there is a sports event happening. Most Thais love soccer, which suits many Europeans because it means they get to watch their favorite sports team with Thais who also support the same team.
Another sport that is very popular is Muay Thai (Thai boxing). There is no shortage of Thai boxing gyms or stadiums in Thailand. If you want to get fit, then Thai boxing is a great sport to make a start. At the same time, if you are looking for something to do, then there is nearly always a Thai boxing event going on somewhere.
Further reading: Diving, Snorkeling and Water Sports in Thailand
Some transport systems in Thailand are best described as an organized mess. Others are very well organized. All in all, the great thing about Thailand is that when you put your mind to it, you can get to any place in the country for a very reasonable price.
Traveling by Air
The many airports provide the most organized transport system. You can fly to all corners of the country using domestic airline services for as little as $20 in some cases.
Traveling by Bus or Minibus
If there isn’t an airport, then there are buses and minibuses, which are a little more chaotic than traveling by air but worth it for the price and experience.
Traveling by Train
Thailand also has an established rail system. There are three classes of travel with sleeper cabins available for long-distance journeys and, once again, the prices are very reasonable. There are also private taxis, limousines, and vans for hire.
Traveling by Boat or Ferry
Getting from one island to another, to the other side of an island, or from the mainland is easy in most places. There always seems to be a boat for hire or a ferry. Even in Bangkok, you can travel up the Chao Phraya River or klongs (canals) via river taxis that cut out all the traffic.
More localized transport inside cities and towns makes life even easier for tourists when it comes to staying cool and not having to walk in the heat. Metered taxis, tuk tuks, songthaews, and motorbike taxis are all easy options.
Thailand is not just famous for its tropical beaches — the country is also famed for its amazing rural locations that cater extremely well for tourists despite seemingly being in the middle of nowhere. Whether you are looking for somewhere quiet to stay or a rural adventure, you can easily find accommodation and tours.
One of the magical sides to Thailand away from beach life is the country’s many farming villages, hill tribes, caves, mountains, national parks and nature reserves, forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and its wildlife. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mai Hai Song, and Pai in the north are some of the most popular tourist destinations for rural adventures.
Even though Thailand is classed as a developing nation, the country boasts a high-tech banking and communications infrastructure. Internet and cellular access are available almost anywhere in the country. You can easily pick up afor as little as 599 baht (US$20) with high-speed 4G Internet access and 8 GB of data that never seems to run low.
4G signals are prevalent on all the islands and high-speed Internet access is also available even in faraway rural areas and remote islands, such as Koh Chang, Koh Rong, Koh Wai, and Koh Lanta.
One creature comfort that most people love about Thailand is having constant access to communications, such as messaging apps via the Internet, as well as access to their favorite movie websites via high-speed Internet despite being in the middle of nowhere.
Aside from 4G Internet access, Thailand also has an array of modern shopping centers. Central is the most well-known one and can be found in all the major cities as well as many of the smaller cities and towns. Fast food, kids’ playgrounds, and cinemas with the latest movies can all be found there.
Thailand’s central location is perfect for accessing other less established countries close by. It is easy to get over to Cambodia for a short visit and then return to Thailand. Cambodia does not exactly have a reputation for being one of the safest places to visit but there are some appealing sites, such as Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
There is also Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, which people tend to visit to see its historical temples, the Royal Palace, and Silk Road markets. The Killing Fields and S-21 prison are also popular tourist destinations for those who want to get a close look at the Khmer Rouge era, which devastated the country.
Access to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is easy and relatively cheap. Buses run regularly from all over Thailand and there are also several flights per day from Don Mueang International Airport in the north of Bangkok. The appeal for tourists is that Thailand makes an ideal base to leave from and to return to when planning a visit to Cambodia.
Thailand is a beautiful tropical getaway all year round, and you’re bound to have a good time whenever you visit. Asia Highlights takes everything, including the weather, into consideration when designing the best possible itinerary for guests.
Tours typically start and end in Bangkok, and last approximately 13 days; visiting Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.