The land of smiles is aptly named. Everyone seems to smile in Thailand and simply being there is grin inducing. Formerly known as Siam, Thailand is one of those countries whose enchanting qualities attract both backpackers and mainstream tourists alike. Subsequently, five star hotels can be found sharing beach space with budget establishments. Millions visit annually not only drawn by palm-lined, white sand beaches, which epitomise the image of a tropical paradise, but also by a culture whose intrinsic beauty is equal to that of the country’s lavish scenery. In many ways Thailand is the perfect holiday destination.
Thailand is the only Asian country never to have been colonised by a western power. Subsequently, even though some of its beach resorts have been developed to appeal to raucous western tastes, you never feel as though you are anywhere else other than in the Kingdom of Thailand with its mainly Buddhist population.
Thailand’s capital Bangkok, sometimes referred to as the Venice of the East, is a prime example of this. The city is renowned for the Patpong red light district where the question ‘do you fancy a game of ping pong’ takes on a whole new meaning. But it is also home to Thailand’s Grand Palace and over 400 Buddhist temples. Traversing the city’s canals by boats of all shapes and sizes is a novel way to view its highlights, stirring up memories of The Man With the Golden Gun as you careen along narrow waterways in a jaw rattling long-boat.
Beach destination options in Thailand come in all shapes and sizes. Phuket in the south of Thailand is popular with mainstream holidaymakers and, although extensively developed for tourism, it isn’t quite as brash as Pattaya in the east. For a beach resort relatively close to Bangkok that doesn’t feel quite as purpose built, Hua Hin is popular with Thais from the city and is also where the King’s summer palace is located. It’s not particularly pretty, but it feels more authentic than a lot of the resorts aimed more at foreigners.
The really desirable beach locations are those found around the Krabi province where the limestone, bullet-shaped cliffs rising above snow-white sandy beaches and cobalt bays create about as exotic a Bond setting as you’re likely to sail your luxury sampan into. This is the place responsible for inspiring a generation to cram a few T-shirts and a couple of pairs of underpants into a backpack and head east. Well Alex Garland’s The Beach was the inspiration to be more exact and the six tropical jewels that make up the Phi Phi Islands still cash in on that vision of a backpacker’s utopia. However, it takes a king of the cynics not to buy into the idea that somewhere around here there might just be the most perfect beach on the planet.
But Thailand isn’t just all about beaches and Buddhist temples (well not beaches anyway). Many visitors to Thailand head north to explore Chiang Mai near the border with Myanmar. It’s another area of outstanding natural beauty, but this time an inland one where remote long necked hill tribes live amidst waterfalls and rivers and elephants are as commonplace as a ping pong ball in Patpong.
Buzz Trips Opinion
Thailand is our idea of heaven on earth. From its lush greenery and sweeping rivers to limestone cliffs rising above empty beaches and golden temples with delightfully elaborate designs, it is a land that captivates. To visit Thailand is to subject your senses to a luxurious treat; from the scent of lilies floating in terracotta pots and the exquisitely perfumed taste of Thai cuisine to the warm embrace of the Andaman Sea. From the first time we visited Thailand it had us under its colourful spell. It is simply the sort of destination that rings our bell…in that hypnotically melodic Thai sort of way.
(Header Photo: Longtail boat in Krabi courtesy of Kasiunia)