The land of smiles
From the frantic busy streets of Bangkok to the pretty resorts of Phuket, from lively Pattaya to the fresh mountain air of Chiang Mai or the island tranquillity of Koh Samui, Thailand’s astounding variety has something to offer everybody – shopping, relaxation, adventure, sport, history and romance.
Soaring temples dot the landscape, magnificent beaches stretch for miles, dense jungle covers the northern hills, paddy fields shine in the sun and uninhabited islands invite exploration. Yet, despite this diversity, throughout the country visitors will find a common trait – the courtesy and friendliness of the Thai people. Thai’s enjoy life and no single word in any other language quite equates with the Thai ‘sanuk’, combining the concepts of pleasure, fun and joie de vivre which permeates every aspect of life in Thailand.
Bangkok is known to Thais as ‘Krung Threp’ – the city of angels. It lies on a bend in the Chao Phraya River and possesses an amazing combination of historic sights and up-to-the-minute entertainment from the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a collection of buildings that unite traditional Thai architecture with the style of the Italian Renaissance, to the nightlife of Patpong; from Wat Po, the Monastery of the Reclining Buddha, containing an enormous statue of the Buddha, to the bustle of the Weekend Market.
Away from the capital, the rest of the country invites exploration. You can travel north into the mountains to Chiang Mai, the modern city sprawling around the walled and moated town that was once the centre of an old Thai kingdom long before Bangkok was founded. Treks run from here through the lands of colourful hill tribes and can include elephant-riding and bamboo rafting. Or head south to Pattaya, once a fishing village bordering sandy beaches and an emerald sea but now one of Asia’s liveliest beach resorts; to Phuket, where the warm, clear waters
of the Andaman Sea lap stretches of fine, white sand – yet just inland the forest-clad hills, coconut groves and rubber plantations are centuries away from the entertainment, water sports and modern facilities of the coast; or to Koh Samui, an island off the east coast, with what are probably the best beaches in the country.
Whatever your preference, be it exploring jungle trails, marvelling at treasures of the past, experimenting with the sometimes fiery Thai food, enjoying soft adventure tours, or simply lazing in the sun soaking up an enviable tan, Thailand offers an enormous range of choices for your perfect vacation.
Palaces, temples, exotic islands, tropical jungles, mountains, tribal villages and floating markets.
Luxury beach resorts, city centre hotels, romantic hideaways, mountain retreats, golf resorts and island getaways.
Theme and amusement parks, zoos and cultural venues.
What you can buy – There is an enormous range of beautifully hand-crafted items reflecting traditional artisan skills dating back hundreds of years usually at extraordinarily competitive prices, clothes, textiles, silk, cotton and leather products.
Where you can buy – Modern department stores, shopping malls, boutiques, night and street markets.
Thailand’s nightlife is legendary – classical Thai dancing and drama, often modelled on epic tales from Hindu mythology, discothèques, restaurants, nightclubs and bars.
Sports and leisure
Water sports – Parasailing, diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and deep sea fishing, Thai Kick-boxing, golf, hiking, wellness centres and spas.
Dream honeymoons can be enjoyed almost anywhere in Thailand, with Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga Bay, Koh Samui and Koh Chang being particularly recommended.