Every time I’ve returned from Thailand, I’ve planned another trip on the flight home. It’s the kind of place you fall in love with, for its natural beauty, buzzing street markets, and exotic culture. From enthralling Buddhist temples to picture-perfect beaches, it’s a literal nirvana for tourists.
Next time you want to travel the world, here are 10 reasons why you need to choose Thailand.
1. To Chill Out in Chiang Mai
The ‘Rose of the North’ has been a favourite of globetrotters for years. It offers stunning temples, laid-back nightlife, and bohemian culture, with a backdrop of mountains in Northern Thailand.
It’s growing fast, so the ancient beautifully coexists with the modern. If you’re a shopaholic, you’ll love the colourful local arts and crafts at markets, to fill your travel bag with souvenirs.
2. To Check out UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Just a short drive from Bangkok lies Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of Siam (Thailand). Once declared the most magnificent city on Earth, you can now visit on a relaxing day-trip with a travel package. After 400 years as a regional power, culminating in its 18th-century destruction by the Burmese, the city was burned to the ground, with most of its shrines and temples destroyed.
But recently, some of the spectacular buildings that survived have been unearthed. Walk freely among the ancient ruins, particularly the Wat Mahathat Temple, where thousands of visitors flock to see the great Buddha-head statue, which serves as the city’s iconic relic.
3. To Shop in Bangkok
A truly cosmopolitan city of the 21st century, ‘The city of angels, as it’s known by the locals, is Thailand’s spiritual, culinary and political capital. Here, people gather to enjoy the cultural riches the charming metropolis offers. After browsing for souvenirs and eating fried bugs at touristic Khao San Road, you can check out the hustle-and-bustle of Chinatown.
A feast for the senses, fishmongers, welders, and artisans exist side by side, along with some of the strangest food you’ll ever find. All you need to do is get happily lost in the streets and alleys amid the sea of Thai and Chinese signs.
Discover history at the Wat Prakeaw and Grand Palace, decorated with golden statues of Buddha. They can get quite busy, though, so get there early to enjoy the vibe. If you want to see the locals go wild, watch one of many Thai kickboxing fights. Muay Thai is the country’s greatest sporting export.
Finally, don’t forget to visit the Emerald Buddha, situated in the sacred temple of Wat Phra Kaew.
4. To Discover Hill Tribes
Right at the northern tip of Thailand lies Chiang Rai, where you can explore the Golden Triangle, find pristine natural spots like the Kun Korn waterfall and explore temples. Go to the outskirts of Chiang Rai and get close to the hill tribe villages to discover the ‘true Thailand’. Here, you’ll see the famous Karen “Long Neck” tribes.
One of the most visually-striking temples in the world resides in Chiang Rai – The White Temple. Known by locals as Wat Rong Khun, this white ornate Buddhist temple is found 20 minutes south of town. Designed and built by a local artist, it contrasts with the typical golden temples of Thailand, to exemplify the pure nature of Buddha.
5. To Admire Natural Wonders
Down the west coast of the Andaman Sea, Krabi province has one of the most famous coastlines in the world, with its towering limestone cliffs. Some of the islands are only accessible by local boats, making ‘off the beaten path travel’ possible. Off the Krabi coast is Phi Phi island; a true paradise for swimming and basking in the balmy temps.
When you want to explore, the Khao Sok National Park is situated further inland, offering easy access to jungle trekking, where you can stay in a stilt-house on top of a jungle lake. Having been visited by sea gypsies, pirates, and merchants for centuries, there are secrets to be discovered in Krabi’s many bays. Recently, archaeologists have found evidence that it may have been originally inhabited as early as 30 thousand years ago.
6. To Find Adventure
Kanchanaburi is a small, charming river city located in western Thailand, boasting beautiful waterfalls, caves, forests and reservoirs, as well as a few National Parks. It also has some major historical significance, related to its World War II occupation by Japanese troops.
Because it’s located just two hours from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi has grown into a beloved tourist destination. It’s become a major hot-spot among outdoor-sports enthusiasts, who go to the region for adventures like rafting, fishing, trekking, and mountain-biking.
7. To Get into the Festival Spirit
Along the banks of the Mekong River is the small but bustling city of Nong Kai, found in the northern river region of Isaan. Every year, dozens of festivals are celebrated in this region of Thailand, with some of the best (and most fun) being the Rocket Festival, the Maekong Fireballs, and Thai New Year. With plenty of picturesque views and strange rock formations, check out the Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, as well as Wat Pho Chai for temple action.
8. To Explore Ancient History
Founded in the 13th century, Sukhothai is located five hours north of Bangkok and is adjacent to what was the first ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam. Its Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be easily explored by foot, bicycle, or on wheels.
Sukhothai translates to “Dawn of Happiness” and once you visit this ancient town, you’ll realise why. Its epic ruins are unique and you’ll feel as though you were living in an ancient kingdom.
9. To Go to Floating Markets
Bordering Myanmar in central Thailand, The Damnoen Saduak floating market is Ratchaburi’s biggest attraction for travellers – and with good reason. It’s close to the capital city, and every morning merchants in wooden boats sell their wares to tourists and locals.
It can get a bit crowded, but for a small price you can hire your own paddling boat and explore the khlongs (canals). For the sports-minded, Khao Ngu Stone Park is an excellent spot for rock-climbing.
10. To Indulge in the Beauty of Phuket
For many travellers, Phuket is their most memorable destination in Thailand. It’s the largest and most widely developed island in the country, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Of the many wonderful things to do on the island, no visit to Phuket would be complete without touring incredible Phang Nga Bay, made famous by movies, ‘The Beach’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
Known for its beautiful limestone rock formations, shining emerald waters and perfect swimming conditions, it is a diving mecca of secluded beaches, lagoons, and hidden coves. Finally, don’t miss the action at Patong Beach, with infamous Bangla Road, arguably, one of the best places for people-watching in the world.