If this is to be your first visit to the ‘Land of Smiles’, be prepared to fall in love. Situated in South-East Asia, Thailand continues to draw millions of visitors from around the world year on year.
Not just a country of romantic palm-fringed beaches and magnificent islands, scuba diving and water-sports, Thai culture includes ancient ruins, grandiose palaces, giant Buddha’s and glittering temples. Rainforest and wildlife treks will take nature lovers into the heart of the country’s interior. While devout foodies have the chance to sample the subtle aromatic flavour changes and the searing spices of Thai cuisine. With so many places to go and things to do in Thailand, let’s start off in the capital, Bangkok.
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Things to do in Bangkok
With a population of over eight million people, Bangkok is a vibrant, bustling metropolis that showcases some of the country’s most famous landmarks and attractions. A big Thailand must-see is the Chao Phraya River, and its population of boat people living and working on the canals that flow through the royal district of Rattanakosin.
Visit the Grand Palace flanked by the sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Close by is the Wat Pho Temple with its massive horizontal Buddha, while on the opposite bank you can enjoy the Wat Arun Temple with its 12th-century Khmer-style spire.
A trip anywhere in Thailand, wouldn’t be complete without sampling the atmosphere and aromas of a local street market, and Bangkok has plenty. Sampeng Market, in the city’s Chinatown, is probably one of the best. Full of trinkets, jewellery, and fabrics; it’s a great place to pick up a few souvenirs while sampling the delights of real Thai street food. Other markets worth a look are the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the Saphan Phut night market, Pratunam Market, the Khlong Toey fresh food market, and the Wang Lang Market.
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If the suicidal tendencies of Bangkok’s drivers, riders, and pedestrians get too much for you, seek out the Sky Trains. Air conditioning will relieve the heat and humidity. While riding high above the traffic affords some great views across the city. With stations liberally scattered close to all the main attractions, getting around is fast, comfortable and stress-free.
While street food is great when the evening’s entertainment is visiting the many bars in the city, a couple of nights fine dining should also be on the itinerary. One of Bangkok’s most popular establishments is the Cielo Rooftop Sky Bar & Restaurant. Situated on Sukhumvit Road, and above the 46th floor of the Skywalk Condominium, this rooftop bar and restaurants give the highest point in the city to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic sunset or night-time vista, across the city’s twinkling skyline.
Enjoy a romantic evening for two, or book a special occasion meal for family, friends or work colleagues. With its sumptuous 60s décor, friendly service and an extensive menu of Thai and international cuisine, it’s a venue that will have you returning time and again.
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Some of the most popular places to go in Thailand are the islands. Whether you prefer to relax in a hammock, engage in water sports, enjoy a spa holiday, or to visit a detox retreat, Thailand’s islands can supply it all. Here are a few of the most popular.
Koh Samui, the first, and still one of the most popular islands for all ages and tastes. From glamorous luxurious spa retreats to family hotels, to backpacker hostels, Koh Samui caters for all. Enjoy modern shopping centres, local markets, water-sports, and vibrant nightlife. Or just relax when the sun goes down, on one of the romantic, secluded beaches.
If scuba diving is your thing, or you have ambitions to learn to dive, then Koh Tao is calling. A great island where you can stay in budget hotels, share a villa with friends, or take a boat ride over to Koh Nang Yuan, and holiday with other divers on the Nangyuan Island Dive Resort.
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One of Thailand’s most popular tourist islands, Phuket has been drawing the beautiful people and party animals for decades. You can be pampered in an exotic spa resort such as Kata Rocks, before heading off for an evening of uninhibited partying in Patong.
Although not totally adults only, Koh Lanta attracts more 30 to 60 somethings than it does young families and backpackers, and it does have a selection of adult-only resorts as well as good budget hotels. Made up of two islands, Koh Lanta Yai, and Koh Lanta Noi, and connected by a bridge, it is popular with snorkelers and scuba divers. Motorised sports are not allowed, which makes for quiet relaxing days which can be spent on the beaches, or exploring the interior.
Once just a little known gem of a Thai island, Koh Phi Phi shot to prominence when it was used in the Leonardo di Caprio film, The Beach. Now they can’t keep people away, and it’s causing concern with many conservationists. Nonetheless, if you do your partying on the larger of the two islands, Koh Phi Phi Don, an excursion trip to have a closer look at ‘The Beach’ is well worth the time and effort.
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If you’ve heard of ‘full moon parties’, but always wondered what they are, it’s time to visit Koh Phangan. Held on the Haad Rin beach, the monthly all-night full moon parties means everyone dresses scantily in anything neon while practising their body art skills on their friends using neon paint. You can get to Koh Phangan by ferry from the surrounding islands, but if you want to stay on the island, accommodation is hard to come by from the week before, to the week after any of the full moon parties.
Whether you are an 18 to 30 party animal, a culture vulture, nature lover, water sports enthusiast or scuba diver, there is so much to see and do in beautiful Thailand and its islands, you will never cover it all in one trip. Booking a holiday that has you spending a couple of nights here, and a couple of nights there is a great way to get a taste of this holiday paradise. But be warned, it will have you coming back again, and again, and again.