People say Thailand simply offers it all to travellers in a neat, great-value package — whether you’re an independent budget backpacker wanting to explore off the beaten track, or a well-heeled tourist looking for an exclusive slice of paradise.
Rough it while trekking through mist-shrouded mountains; be astounded by teeming aquatic life as you plunge into turquoise waters for a dip; or savour a romantic pool villa for a perfect luxury honeymoon — you can do it all in the Land of Smiles.
Thailand has been on the international backpacker beat for decades now, and while backpackers are making the most of ever-increasing budget flights to Thailand, these days luxury travellers bolster the numbers too.
From the food and spas, to the temples and culture, Thailand is a land steeped in fascinating Buddhist history, catapulted into the present through fast-paced economic growth that kicked off in the 1960s.
It’s true that more than 10 million tourists arrive here annually now, following the well-worn path of those before them. But there’s a reason the crowds keep on coming.
The capital Bangkok offers glittering temples on the majestic Chao Phraya River, with shopping for both bargains and top-range designer items luring the masses as well.
It also plays home to the backpacking mecca of Khao San Road — the epicentre of Southeast Asia’s backpacking universe.
Take an elephant trek or hike to see ethnic minorities in cool, mountainous Chiang Mai, then take a flight down south to sip cocktails and sunbathe on the cococut-palm fringed southern islands of Phuketor Ko Samui.
Alternatively, enjoy the pulsing Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan, or a spot of world-class diving off Ko Tao. History buffs will revel in Thailand’s ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, and enjoy exploring somewhat more obscure Khmer ruins dotted around the kingdom’s north and northeast.
Popular side trips from Bangkok include Ko Samet, just a few hours away by road and boat, while Kanchanaburi is home to the famed Bridge Over the River Kwai, popular waterfalls and the controversial Tiger Temple. Families are heading to quiet Ko Lanta in greater numbers too, while Krabi remains a favourite for island hoppers.
And if you want to find your own patch of secluded beach unmarked on maps during your vacation, or a winding stretch of spectacular, empty mountain highway, with a bit of effort you certainly can.
Sip a Beer Chang or Singha as you watch a sunset over the meandering Mekong in Nong Khai, explore the spectacular national parks of Nan, meditate in a forest wat in Isan, rejuvenate at an upmarket spa in historical Hua Hin, or pick up some of the challenging Thai language at any number of schools — the possibilities are limitless. Thailand’s strife-torn Muslim-majority south remains off nearly all tourists’ itineraries these days, a shame as it’s a beautiful area unique culturally to the rest of the kingdom.
Aside from sights to see, Thailand’s world-renowned fiery cuisine — the perfect antidote to Thailand’s weather — is an attraction in its own right. Savour delicious street food costing next-to-nothing or splurge on high-end royal cuisine, but no matter what you spend, it is always difficult to find a bad authentic Thai meal. Thailand’s spas too are among the best in the world, and you can’t beat wrapping up your day with a Thai massage on a whitesand beach.
Travelfish not only shows you Thailand’s popular spots, but points you in the direction of its best-kept secrets and equips you with the knowledge you need — from getting Thai visas to getting lost off the map — to make up-to-the-minute decisions throughout your holiday in Thailand.