Thailand is a multi-faceted destination known for its cultural and historical heritage, along with its spectacular islands and beaches. Most holiday itineraries in this tropical paradise feature a beguiling mix of both, usually beginning with the capital city Bangkok, known for its thrumming nightlife, beautiful river, and arresting Thai temples. The tour will then move on to mountainous Chiang Mai, replete with elaborate relics of its ancient history. Some may, in contrast choose a seaside haven like Phuket, Koh Samui, or the more romantic Krabi. It is fair to say that Thailand is tailor-made for families, couples or a groups of friends making memories together. Here is our Thailand travel guide.
Getting There & Getting Around
Obtaining a visa to visit Thailand is fairly easy, and depending on your nationality, you may be eligible for a visa-free stay or a visa upon arrival. You are likely to fly into Bangkok or Phuket. The national airline Thai Airways, is very well-regarded. Within Thailand, there are many ways of getting around, including by taxis or rental cars, two wheelers, and buses. Similarly, there are boats and tuk tuks (local autorickshaws) available as well. But the easiest and fastest way to travel between cities, islands, and regions is by domestic flights. Bangkok Airways and a few low-cost airlines cover these routes.
Where to Go
Most of the beautiful island getaways lie on the coast off southern and eastern Thailand. Bangkok sits pretty in the centre, and the mountains of Chiang Mai lie to the north. Isaan in the north-east is relatively unexplored but no stranger to historical attractions.
Phuket: Thailand’s best known island getaway is the perfect destination for beach parties, watching spectacular sunsets, and witnessing the lush biodiversity of Thailand. Go sailing from Chalong Bay, and try sea canoeing at Phang Nga Bay.
Chiang Mai: With mountains forming an arresting backdrop, the historical city of Chiang Mai is a must-see for its walled city. The city houses over 30 temples reflecting Lanna, Burmese, and Sri Lankan architectural styles.
Krabi: A getaway to this island paradise known for its crystal clear waters and white sand beaches will not be easily forgotten. Ko Phi Phi is a beautiful marine national park, and served as the shooting locale for The Beach.
Koh Samui: This island enchants visitors with its virgin rainforests and numerous snorkelling sites. The beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are popular with tourists, as is the Big Buddha Temple and the Jackie Muay Thai martial arts training school.
Bangkok: The capital city lends itself to wonderful explorations of grand temples, palaces, and historical monuments. Must-visit attractions in Bangkok include the Dusit Palace, the Siam Niramit show, the Chatuchak Market, Lumpini Park and Art in Paradise 3D museum. Nearby Kanchanaburi, with its famous River Kwai bridge and the Death Railway makes for an excellent day trip from Bangkok.
Where to Stay
There are many tempting luxury hotels in Thailand. In Bangkok, we recommend The Siam or Mandarin Oriental, both top-rated five-star properties. Four Seasons Resort and The Ritz Carlton offer all the comforts you require in Koh Samui. Rayavadee Krabi is a wonderful wellness resort, while Anantara Chiang Mai is ideal for families. Finally, honeymooners won’t regret staying at the mesmerising Soneva Kiri in Phuket.
What to Do
Things to do in Thailand include shopping, trying water sports, and visiting historical and cultural attractions. Learn to cook Thai, go snorkelling in secret locales off Koh Yoa Island in Phuket, take private luxury tours of Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi Islands in Phuket, and visit the elephant sanctuary. In Chiang Mai, explore Doi Inthanon National Park, go on a temple tour, and visit picturesque Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the weather is relatively cooler. The rainy season lasts from July to October. It gets really warm between March and June, with temperatures reaching 40°C at times.
What to Eat
Thai cuisine is an irresistible blend of spice drawn from garlic, galangal, and chillies, sweetness from coconut milk and lemongrass, and saltiness from peanuts and fish sauce. Fresh salads, mouth-watering gravies with steamed long-stem rice, fruit-based desserts, and invigorating soups characterise the world-famous Thai cuisine. Above all, you must try the phad thai, tom yum soup, red and green curries with rice, green papaya salad. Most noteworthy, try the odd but delicious combination of sweet mangoes with rice and coconut milk. Finally while many dishes feature seafood and pork, vegetarians can look forward to sufficient variety as well.
What to Pack
Thailand’s diverseness means that you may have to pack a variety of items depending on your itinerary. However, the fact that is a shopper’s paradise means that you can always resort to local stores as well. In general, pack loose and light clothing that is not too revealing (as that would be a problem at places of religious interest) and will keep you comfortable in hot and balmy weather. You may also want some beach dresses for grand dinners at your resort or cruise parties.