Top 10 Places to Visit in Thailand
Asia’s most popular tourist destination, Thailand has a reputation for hedonism which attracts thousands of backpackers and its natural beauty attracts an increasing amount of holiday-makers. It’s a mystical country which always seems to leave a lifelong impression on anyone who visits. It offers a rich history, smiling locals, some interesting quirks and of course an unforgettable experience. To help you see the best of the country, here is our list of top ten places to visit in Thailand:
Bangkok is a restless and chaotic metropolis and an essential part of a trip to Thailand. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, the culture-shock inducing capital has some incredible places of interest that you would be foolish to miss. The impossibly bejewelled Grand Palace should really be visited and if you have time, take a trip to Wat Arun (one of the oldest and best known landmarks in Bangkok) and Wat Po which is home to a huge reclining Buddha. The more adventurous head for the notorious backpacker’s road Khao San, Chinatown’s alleyways and bazaars and the infamous Patpong Night Market (located in the city’s red light district).
2. The Floating Market
The Floating Market- made famous by the James Bond classic “The Man with the Golden Gun” – can be found on the Damneon Saduak Canal. Although now a major tourist attraction, the market is a fun and photogenic experience where visitors can get an idea of what trading was like in Thailand before the modernisation of the city. It’s also a unique shopping experience because if you want to buy something here you will have to hail down a narrow long boat piled high with produce. The region also has plenty of vineyards, orchards and thriving local businesses which are great to view by canal boat on route to the market.
3. Chiang Mai
The spiritual city of Chiang Mai is a much calmer city than Bangkok but still an essential visit on the travellers trail if you want to see the best of Thailand. Dotted with temples, craft shops, great restaurants, Thai massage and cooking schools the city has a somehow relaxed and comparatively tranquil atmosphere. Many travellers often mention Chiang Mai as their favourite Thai city and once visited it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Its location high in the north mountainous region of Thailand also makes it a perfect base for the popular mountain treks and organized treks can be arranged very easily here. The trails from Chiang Mai are although interesting are often a well-worn path and many backpackers now head for nearby Pai – a gorgeously located traveller’s mecca popular with artists and musicians. Pai also offers less touristy and more ‘rustic’ treks and visits to hill-tribes.
4. San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
San Kamphaeng is located 36km from Chiang Mai and its popular hot springs set in beautifully landscaped 40 acre parkland are well known for their restorative properties. The springs come from a deep source, are over 100 degrees centigrade and high in sulfur. Here you can camp, dine, bath in the mineral rich waters or if you fancy – boil some eggs.
5. The East Coast Islands
Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are islands on the east side of Thailand which are popular with both vacationers and backpackers. The islands are known for their palm tree lined white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and laid back attitudes. On Koh Phangan you’ll find also plenty of bohemian style bars and cafes and of course the world-famous full moon parties. Nearby, the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are much less touristy due to their more isolated locations and are perfect for those looking for peace and world-class snorkelling and diving.
6. Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son is the capital of Thailand’s northwestern-most province and its close proximity to the Burmese boarder gives the city a very different feel to the rest of Thailand. Very quiet and isolated this mountainous city is often shrouded in an atmospheric mist. Visitors come here for the unusual and beautiful natural scenery, the mountain trekking and to see the local hill tribe communities – one of which is the famous Karen long neck tribe. The Thanon Thongchai range between Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand is popular for trekking and here you can also see the Pha Sua waterfall. Handicrafts and artwork from the hill-tribe people can be purchased at the local night market-great for unique souvenirs.
Only an hour’s journey from Bangkok, Ayutthaya was a Siamese kingdom existing from 1351 to 1767. The ancient city is now ruined but the remains of the extraordinary and once towering temples are now classed as an UNESCO world heritage site and should not be missed. To make the most of this site, allow a full day and of course don’t forget to bring your camera.
Railay and the surrounding coast of the Krabi province (located in the South of Thailand) is a tropical paradise characterised by towering rugged limestone cliffs, turquoise water and powder white sand. From this area it’s also easy to take a trip to nearby Phang Nga to see the iconic ‘James Bond Rock’. Railay is a beautiful secluded beach – accessible only by boat – which attracts a mixture of in-the-know backpackers, well-heeled tourists and enthusiastic rock climbers. Surrounded by dense vegetation and mountains, the area is also perfect for trekking. The beach is unique because it’s completely cut off from the daily grind and visitors kick back and often stay a lot longer than originally planned.
9. Koh Phi Phi
The tiny but idyllic west coast island of Koh Phi Phi is seen by many as the ultimate island paradise. Even though it has now fully recovered from the devastating 2009 tsunami, the island has suffered from rapid tourist growth especially since the release of the “The Beach” (starring Leo Dicaprio). Having said that it still manages to retain a relaxed vibe which seems to keep the backpackers and vacationers happy. Island highlights include climbing a steep viewpoint to watch the sunset and hiring a long tail boat to snorkel the beautiful surrounding waters.
10. Hin Daeng
Diving enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Hin Daeng in Andaman Sea. Literally meaning the Red Rock, this area is often thought to be one of the top diving spots in Thailand – if not the world. Hin Daeng features large underwater pinnacles, incredible carpets of anemone and colorful coral. It’s also teeming with wildlife including large shoals of fish, round batfish, manta ray, barracuda and the odd whale shark or two.
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