The beaches, the nightlife, the amazing hospitality and the exquisite cuisine, it’s hard not to fall in love with Thailand. Friendly and fun-loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue from its glittering temples and tropical beaches to the ever comforting Thai smile. Here are the Top 10 places no traveler should miss on a trip to this vibrant South-East Asian nation:
The Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw
If there is one must-see sight in Bangkok, it’s the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark. Built in 1782 – and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government – the Grand Palace continues to awe visitors with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail – a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people.
Phang Nga Bay
Located north east of Phuket, Phang Nga Bay is an almost unique site in the world (only Ha Long Bay in Vietnam presents some similarity). A distinctive feature of Phang Nga Bay is the sheer limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald green water. A leisurely day trip cruising through the dramatic limestone islands, occasionally stopping to enjoy quiet beaches, is far more rewarding than the standard bus-boat tour.
Derived from the Malay term ‘sembilan’, meaning ‘nine’, Similan refers to the nine main islands in the group. The waters surrounding the Similans are teeming with tropical fish, colourful coral, and offer exceptional underwater visibility. As a result, diving is generally considered to be the best in the region, and compares favorably with some of the best in the world.
Even though transactions are more concerned with tourists rather than locals these days, the floating market boats are still piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. To enjoy the atmosphere without haggling over prices, try relaxing on a guided boat tour of Damnoen Saduak market. Other floating markets to visit are Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market and Tha Kha.
Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are some of the loveliest in Southeast Asia. Just a 45-minute speedboat jaunt and a 90-minute ferryboat ride from Phuket, these picture-postcard islands offer the ultimate tropical getaway. Classic beaches, stunning rock formations, and vivid turquoise waters teeming with colourful marine life – it is paradise perfected.
This regal mountain overlooks the city from the northwest, providing commanding views of surrounding countryside and Chiang Mai from its summit. Aside from its dominating presence on the horizon, Doi Suthep is the home of some of the most deeply loved symbols in the Kingdom and is home to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple as well as Bhubing Palace.
Just south of Ao Nang Beach, around a rocky headland and accessible only by boat, Railay presents a tranquil and extraordinary world. In just one small peninsula you’ll find gorgeous white sand beaches, soaring limestone cliffs, viewpoints, caves and a lagoon hidden inside the cliffs, shaped and fed by the changing tides. And all within walking distance!
Ayuthaya was founded in 1350 AD by King U Thong as the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become one of the largest cities in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. In 1767 the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The city was re-founded a few kilometers to the east of the ruins, which now form the Ayutthaya historical park. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time.
Koh Tao, literally Turtle Island, is a small island located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Around 7000 new divers get certified on Koh Tao each year making it one of the most popular destinations in the world to learn to dive. Diving around the island reefs is easy and fun and you can see an impressive variety of marine species such as coral, turtles, lots of small fish, barracudas and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark. The average visibility is around 15-20 meters.
Khao Yai National Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khao Yai is Thailand’s second largest (2,168sqkm) and one of the most visited national parks. Blessed with a lush, mountainous landscape, with fertile valleys, pounding waterfalls and rich biodiversity, Khao Yai is a year-round getaway destination just three hours’ drive from Bangkok. Khao Yai is also home to a rich diversity of animal life with 320 species of birds, 67 species of mammals and thousands of different types of plants.