Destination in Thailand
Travellers to Thailand are presented with an amazing choice of destinations reflecting the diversity of its landscapes and built environments. The streets and lanes of every village, town and city in Thailand offer scenes of often incredible contrast between old and new, rich and poor modern and antique. Venturing along these streets and lanes to witness this contrast will often bring you within sight of a golden temple spire rising above the rooftops. To enter the grounds of the temple will lead you to world of glittering mirror mosaics and tinkling bells, an escape from the bustle outside.
Thailand’s landscapes vary incredibly also with tropical islands surrounded by azure seas in the South, forested mountains in the North, fertile river plains in the heartland and the Isaan plateau to the Northeast. The land is like an artist’s canvas changing with the seasons. During the rainy season the whole country will be bathed in a blanket of green with rice fields being tended by farmers, rivers brimming with life and the sky often showing natures beauty.
Thailand’s capital city Bangkok has become one of Asia’s most dynamic and exciting places where modernity meets tradition in all aspects. It is a vibrant city which will leave its footprint in the mind of anyone who visits.
Further afield Thailand offers ancient cities such as Chiang Mai the ancient Lanna capital and now handicraft centre of Thailand which sits in a farming valley surrounded by forested mountains; Hua Hin a quiet seaside fishing village which has become a popular setting for holiday makers to visit the beach and eat fresh seafood, explore a national park or have a round of golf on one of several local international courses; Phuket island is the ‘pearl of the Andaman’ and is surrounded by some of Asia’s most amazing scenery and the world’s best scuba diving sites; Samui Island offers a truly tropical scene with coconut palm lined beaches and at times the most calm azure seas to be found anywhere and for visitors seeking laid back rural lifestyles, Angkor period ruins or pre-historic relics, the famed North East of Thailand (Issan) is waiting to be discovered.
There is much more to Thailand for the slightly adventurous traveler willing to ‘get off the beaten track’ and see some of the unknown places that represent the real Thailand where daily life goes on behind the scenes.
MAJOR TOURIST DESTINATIONS
Thailand's capital city, known to Thais as "Krung Thep" (the City of Angels) is one of the world's most exciting cities. It holds the essence of the Thai spirit, and is very much the heart of the country. Without doubt, this fast-growing metropolis of roughly 10 million people has something to offer to everyone. Its lively collection of nightlife venues, markets, shops, restaurants, magnificent "wats"(temples), museums, palaces and parks will assure that you never get bored.
Discovered by American GI's during the Vietnam War, the once sleepy fishing village of Pattaya has become one of Thailand's premier beach resorts. It annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Apart from the fine beaches and lively nightlife, Pattaya also offers excellent dining and shopping opportunities, not to mention the best water sports facilities in Thailand. It truly has all the ingredients to make your stay a memorable one.
Rayong / Koh Samet (Samet Island)
Located just to the east of Pattaya, Rayong and Ko Samet have experienced a dramatic surge in popularity in recent years. Apart from its peaceful beaches, Rayong is also blessed with a variety of natural attractions and sites of cultural and historical interest. Ko Samet, a six-kilometer strip of island with idyllic scenery, clear blue waters, crystalline sand and dazzling coral reefs, is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Hua Hin / Cha-Am
Located some 190 kilometers south of Bangkok on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin is the oldest beach resort in the kingdom and has been the Thai royal family's summer residence since the 1920s. Cha-am, its sister resort, is located just 30 kilometers to the north. These two coastal resorts offer excellent accommodation, fine beaches, a wide range of water sports, shopping opportunities, excellent seafood restaurants, and last but not least, a paradise for golfers. Hua Hin and Cha-am convey a feel of relaxation and are suitable for family vacations.
Looking for the ultimate “unspoiled” Thai paradise, people might say it is Koh Chang (Elephant Island). It is called Koh Chang due to the shape of the island, which resembles a sleeping elephant. Set in the Gulf of Thailand just 315 kilometers south-east of Bangkok, the island is incredibly mountainous and lush. With 75 percent of undisturbed rainforest, Koh Chang is perhaps the best-preserved island in Southeast Asia. Beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs and wildlife abound. Koh Chang had escaped heavy development for so long thanks to its difficult accessible location, some national park protection and the near-then turbulent situation in Cambodia. After Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced his vision for Koh Chang in October 2001, a spree of construction of luxury resorts has erupted. Restaurants, pubs, tour agencies, shops and minimarts are springing up like mushrooms. Land prices have soared more than double those of last year. Moreover, the recent construction of a four-lane highway from Bangkok, plus newly opened airport in Trat will certainly help promoting the island even further. Koh Chang, a 30-kilometer strip of island with spectacular waterfalls, a rich evergreen forest, idyllic scenery, clear blue waters, crystalline sand and dazzling coral reefs, is indeed an ideal place for beach and nature lovers. For snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts, Koh Chang National Marine Park, acclaimed for its incredible corals and aquatic life – should not be missed.
The westernmost province of Thailand has not only gained fame for its strikingly beautiful landscape - characterized by impressive waterfalls and caves, tranquil river scenery and verdant national parks - but also for its tragic history. During World War II Asian laborers and allied prisoners of war were forced to build the Burma-Siam Railway through the province. The most famous reminder of this tragedy is the "Bridge on the River Kwai," which was immortalized in books and the motion picture of the same name.
Phuket / Khao Lak
Dubbed the "Pearl of the South," Phuket is Thailand's largest island and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. It is also the wealthiest province in the country. With its spectacular beaches, sparkling crystal-clear blue waters, picturesque landscape, historical and cultural sights as well as endless offers of all imaginable entertaining amenities, Phuket truly is a "dream-come-true" destination. For those who enjoy tranquility and nature and also like beautiful beaches, nearby Khao Lak is another great option, located some 90 kilometers north of Phuket on the mainland. The nearby Khao Lak National Park offers spectacular scenery including splendid forested hills and valleys, sea cliffs, beaches, estuaries and mangroves. Occasionally, wildlife such as barking deer, hornbills, gibbons, monkeys, and small bears can be seen in the park. For snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, the Similan and Surin Islands - acclaimed for their incredible corals and aquatic life - should not be missed.
One of the rising stars in Thailand's tourism industry is unquestionably Krabi. Many visitors are discovering the picturesque tropical islands, which come in many sizes and shapes, that are located just offshore this southern coastal province. Encircled by lush vegetation and towering limestone outcrops, Krabi is an ideal place for beach and nature lovers. Major attractions include the Susan Hoi (Shell Cemetery), Noppharat Thara Beach and the spectacular islands of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, famed for their unspoiled beaches surrounded by clear blue waters and coral reefs with abundant marine life.
Koh Samui (Samui Island)
Ko Samui, Thailand's third largest island (247 square kilometers), lies just offshore the province of Surat Thani. Dubbed "The Coconut Island," Ko Samui is one of the most popular beach and island resorts in Thailand with over half a million visitors each year. It has come to world fame due to its beautiful, long beaches with powdery white sand and crystal clear waters, surrounded by coconut groves.
Thailand's second largest city, also known as the "Rose of the North," is blessed with rich historical and cultural heritage. Located in the highlands of the North, Chiang Mai offers a pleasant climate all year round. Though a fraction the size of Bangkok, Chiang Mai boasts almost as many "wats" (temples) as the capital. Chiang Mai not only boasts magnificent temples and nice weather, but also a strikingly beautiful landscape, excellent entertainment and shopping opportunities, and the charm of its people.
Chiang Rai / Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, lies in the heart of the notorious Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge. It is well known for its stunning mountain scenery and is home to several different hilltribes. The main hilltribe groups in this region are Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Akha and Mien. These ethnic minorities began to arrive in Thailand at the end of 19th century and some groups may have been here much longer. They were forced out of their native countries, such as Myanmar, China, and Tibet by civil war and political pressures. Each hilltribe has its own customs, culture, religion, clothing and language.
Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat)
Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as "Korat," is the gateway to the Northeast and an excellent starting point for excursions to various famous Khmer ruins in the region. The most important ones are Prasat Hin Phimai, Prasat Hin Khao Phnom Rung and Prasat Hin Muang Tam. The city itself has a historical monument, the "Thao Suranari Monument," that was built in memory of a brave woman (Khun Ying Mo) who successfully defended Korat against an attack by Lao invaders in 1826. Each year a weeklong festival is held in her honor.
Nakhon Phanom is situated on the bank of the Mekong River opposite the Laotian town of Thakaek. The Mekong River is barely 1 kilometer wide at this point and in the dry season a passage becomes exposed, making it almost possible to walk across to Laos. Nakhon Phanom is also known as the "City of the Mountains" due to its outstanding geographical position. It acts as a viewpoint overlooking the splendid mountains beyond the Laotian border. Thanks to the influences of Lao, Vietnamese and other ethnic groups that immigrated to this region over the centuries, Nakhon Phanom has obtained quite unique customs, dialects and cuisine. One of these extraordinary customs is the welcome and blessing ceremony called "Bai-Sri-Su-Kwan." This lovely town is a good place to spend a few relaxing days by the Mekong.