Thailand is considered to be among the most beautiful countries in the world. Surrounded by Laos and Cambodia to the north, Myanmar to the west and Malaysia to the south, its location in the heart of South East Asia made Thailand a major gateway to the entire region. Moreover, the country lies along spectacular coastline of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, which together with sunny weather throughout the whole year make it an absolutely perfect spot for holidays.
Kingdom of Thailand is also known worldwide for its delicious cuisine. Excellent choice of rice and noodle dishes as well as oriental soups with touch of chilly and curry, all of which are heaven-in-mouth recipes, not to be missed! Try Fried Rice (Khao Pad), Fried Thai noodles (Pad Thai), spicy red curry (Geng Phet) and extravagant taste Tom Yum soup.
Thailand has an exotic and captivating culture. As a country deeply devoted to Buddhism, tremendous amount of Buddhist temples (known in Thai as “Wat”) are to be found throughout the country. It is estimated that at least 95% of Thais are followers of Theravada Buddhism, which a lot of people consider to be more of a philosophy than religion. Nevertheless, all Buddhist customs are strictly followed in Thailand and Buddhist holidays are always pompously celebrated.
There are many people choosing Thailand not only as their holiday destination, but also as their country of residency. Thailand is being selected to study and work by many people, attracted to this country for various reasons. Exquisite white sand beaches, blue see-through oceans, world best diving spots and tropical jungles teeming with abundant wildlife, to name a few. Whatever the reason is, one thing is certain: Thailand is a truly marvelous and enchanting country, offering some of the best landscapes on the planet Earth. It is easy to enter Thailand; however, leaving this paradise country does not come easy at all.
Thailand is often referred to as “the land of free”, which signifies national pride in the fact that unlike other countries in South East Asia, not only it has never been colonized by any of the western powers, but also managed to avoid communism.
Thailand’s geography is diversified with mountains and jungles in the north, central plains of endless rice fields and long coastlines of excellent beaches in the south, along with hundreds of paradise islands. The majestic Mekong River separates Thailand from Laos and Cambodia, providing these counties with abundant fish and water for both drinking and irrigating rice fields. There are also some mountains in the west of Thailand, separating the kingdom from Myanmar (also known by its former name, Burma).
Located nearby equator, Thailand is among the most humid and hot countries in the world. The temperatures are warm all year round with climax in April and March, when mercury can easily hit 40C. The best visiting period is in December and January, when temperatures tend to be not so drastic. May through November is Thailand’s rainy season, with daily heavy showers. However, monsoon season does not mean that it is pouring nonstop. Tropical rains normally hit once or twice on daily basis with a heavy shower eligible to stop traffic on the streets and flood districts within an hour, then it stops as quickly as it came and sun comes up again.
The mountains in the north are covered with dense jungles, teeming with exotic wildlife and are famous for number of Hill Tribes living on the slopes, whereas mountains to the west tend to be rather mild. The highest peak is Doi Inthanom, rising 2566 meters above the sea level.
Central Thailand is abundant in endless rice fields spreading along great distances. Being world’s number one rice exporter, Thailand has three rice crops per year, most of which comes from this region. The famous Chao Phraya River in Bangkok starts flowing in Central Plains.
The Issan province is located in the north east of Thailand, covering nearly third of the entire kingdom. Taking into consideration its size, it is no wonder that this part of Thailand is most populated. The great Mekong River flows here, separating Thailand from Laos and Cambodia. Some major cities of Issan include: Khon Kaen, Korat, Udon Thani and Nong Khai. Issan region has its own dialect, which is a mix of Thai and Lao languages, and which is not understandable to other Thais; however, everyone in Issan also knows the official Thai language spoken in Bangkok and do not hesitate to use it whenever communicating with Thais from other provinces.
The south of Thailand is a narrow strip of land, surrounded by Andaman Sea on the western side and Gulf of Thailand to the east. This unique location certainly makes it a perfect destination for holiday makers, having plenty of marvelous white sand beaches on each side of the shore as well as paradise islands nearby. The Malaysian Peninsula is perfect for any beach lover. Some of the most popular islands include: Phuket, Ko Pho Phi and Ko Landa on the Andaman Sea and Ko Samui, Ko Phangan as well as tiny Ko Tao on the side of the Gulf of Thailand. The scenic views and oceans will satisfy even the most demanding tourist. There are also plenty of less known islands, for all those who like quite destinations, away from the crowds.
Bangkok Metropolitan Region is Thailand’s capital and main hub of commerce and education. There are 75 more administrative regions in the kingdom, with Chiang Mai being the second biggest metropolis and Had Yai in Songkla province the third. Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it is known by Thais, is way bigger than any other city in Thailand and still rapidly increase in numbers each year. It is estimated that that Thailand’s capital grows with the rate of 100.000 people per year.
Islands and beaches
For many, Thailand’s number one attraction is its wonderful coastline along with adjoining tropical islands. Millions of tourists come to Thailand every year to enjoy its spectacular white sand beaches, crystal see-through oceans and exotic islands. Thailand is absolutely perfect for all beach and sun lovers. It is no less perfect for diving and snorkeling fans, with some of the best coral reefs in the world. The natural beauty of Thai beaches is overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Some of the most popular beaches are located on Phuket, with Patong and Karon being the most visited. Chaweng Beach on Ko Samui is another choice, together with Ko Phi Phi and its Maya Bay as well as nearby Ao Nang beach in Krabi province. For quieter spots away from crowds, Ko Chang and its Lonely Beach is the choice, alternatively Samila beach in Songkla province, along the border with Malaysia, or Chumpon province, with kilometers of completely empty beaches. The Thais prefer beach resorts in Hua Hin, which is more local oriented. Moreover, there are still plenty of undiscovered beaches remaining in Thailand.
There is a multitude of choices when it comes to beaches in Thailand. Literally everyone will find something suitable. There are places appealing to backpackers as well as great family spots. Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta and Phuket are normally preferred by single travelers, whereas Phuket or Khao Lak is normally choice of families. For beach holidays, tourists must head south, as all beaches and islands are located there, with the nearest one being merely 100 kilometers away from Bangkok. Whatever place is selected, everyone experiences an exquisite time, not to be forgotten.
The eastern coastline has some of the greatest diving spots, with Ko Tao being number one choice for snorkeling activities. The biggest and most popular island on the Gulf of Thailand is the Ko Samui, with many beach resorts and famous night life scene. Having an airport, alternatively to using a ferry, some people choose to fly on one of the daily charter flight from Bangkok. Not far away from Ko Samui, is the small island of Ko Phangan, where infamous Full Moon parties take place, not only every full moon when Hat Rin beach squeezes up to 20,000 ravers, but technically every other day, too.
Thais usually prefer to stay closer to Bangkok at quieter Cha Am or aforementioned Hua Hin resorts. Other popular destinations within Bangkok’s proximity include: Ko Shamet Island and Ko Chang, which is Thailand’s second biggest island, although it is far from being as developed as the islands of the south.
The Phuket Island is by far the most popular destination with excellent infrastructure, including airport and bridge connecting the island with the mainland Thailand. Many busy resorts and bustling night life scene with never ending parties attract great numbers of tourists from every country in the world. Being the largest island of Thailand, it offers full range of accommodation, from dominatories for backpackers, all the way through middle range accommodation to upscale five stars hotels. Phuket is the most expensive island in Thailand, although it is still cheap by western standards. Located on the Andaman Sea, the island’s main source of income comes from tourism; therefore all western goods are easily available. Contrary to other places in Thailand, finding western food or English speaking personnel is not an issue here. The biggest, most bustling and pricy resort in Phuket is Patong Bay, with endless number of bars, clubs and food options. However, it is not necessary the best place for families, which tend to prefer staying at one of quieter resorts, such as Karon or Kata. As for visitors desiring luxury, the best option is Kamala beach with its very sophisticated facilities. The inland part of Phuket also offers many attractions for tourist, which are accessible by widely available for rental motorbikes.
Another great place for beach escapades is Krabi province. Only two hours away by ferry to the south from Phuket is the scenic island of Ko Phi Phi. Considered by some to be the most beautiful island in Thailand, Ko Phi Phi has stunning beaches and great choices for scuba divers. One of the James Bond series was filmed on nearby Ko Tapu Island, which results in thousands of tourists flocking to this splendid place. On the mainland, there are two famous beaches in Krabi province, Ao Nang and Railey Beach. Both extremely beautiful and well developed, with plenty of resorts and possibility to book one-day trips, diving equipment or motorbikes.
For those seeking more remote or less crowded experience, a good choice is Ko Tartuo Island, with its unexplored, beautiful beaches. The catering and accommodation facilities are far from what is available on Ko Samui or Phuket, nevertheless, non-fussy tourists will easily find something suitable.
The Ko Samui Island, located on the Gulf of Thailand, is another famous destination. Similarly to Phuket, it is easy to access and offers wide range of accommodation facilities, from cheap bungalows, to expensive posh hotels. The Chaweng beach is the most popular one, with many delicious food options, for booth Thai and international dishes. The island offers all popular in Thailand activities. Diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, to name a few. Rental of motorbikes, water scooters or diving equipment is widely available, which makes the island as convenient as Phuket; however, Ko Samui prices tend to be lower.