Here at Culture Trip, we love Thailand, and given that Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, we’re certainly not alone in having this opinion. From its world-famous cuisine to its warm, friendly people, here are the things we love the most about the Land of Smiles.
Thailand’s islands need no introduction. Sure, Koh Phi Phi isn’t as quiet as it once was, and Koh Samui might a bit too developed these days, but they’re still great places to hang out, and there are gorgeous, undeveloped beaches to be found all over. Thailand’s islands have a wonderfully laid-back feel and incredibly friendly locals. These features, coupled with the islands’ soft sand and clear seas, illustrate why they’re so popular.
It may be cliche to say that the people in Thailand are lovely, but that’s because it’s true. Whether they’re selling food at the markets across the country or having a drink alongside you in the bar, they’re a passionate, hard working and fun bunch, and it’s easy to see why their country has earned the title of the Land of Smiles.
Temples are a big part of Thai culture, and there are plenty of jaw-dropping temples to be found wherever you visit. From the imposing white walls of Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, to the historic ruins of Ayutthaya — not to mention the lavish Wat Phra Kaew, or the Grand Palace in Bangkok — if you love temples and culture, you’ll love Thailand.
Thailand’s major cities are well-equipped in the mall department, making the country the perfect place for those in need of some retail therapy. Malls carry all the usual designer labels, as well as some seriously cool Thai brands too, but they aren’t the only places to shop. Thailand’s night markets often feature a mix of high-quality handmade clothes as well as the regular tourist couture, and a lot of souvenirs. It might not be known as a fashion capital of the world, but it’s well on its way to being one.
Thai festivals are often like Western festivals on steroids. Sure, some can be a little more reserved like Loy Krathong, where people sail boats made from leaves and candles down rivers, but others can be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The Nine Emperor Gods Festival sees people impaling their faces with swords, knives and needles, while the New Year celebration of Songkran is a huge water fight. While it’s perfectly fine to join in with the locals splashing water at Songkran, it’s probably for the best if you leave impaling yourself with spiky objects to the professionals…
The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand and, while they are incredible creatures, they’re just one of many amazing animals to be found here. Tigers, bears, snakes, manta rays, gibbons and pangolins can all be found living freely in the various national parks of Thailand, making it a paradise for lovers of nature and exotic creatures.
After a trip to Thailand, a visit to your local Thai joint back home will never be the same again. Thai cuisine is as rich and diverse as any on the planet; with its sour soups, spicy salads and delicious rice and noodle dishes, every bite is bound to tantalise the tastebuds and leave you wanting more. Thai cuisine extends far beyond pad Thai and tom yum, and varies region to region, giving you even more of an excuse to travel and experience everything it has to offer.
Airfare to Thailand might be a little expensive, but the prices when you get here are so cheap that is makes a splurge on tickets justifiable. Pad thai and a beer are unlikely to set you back more than $4 at any night market, and these low prices make it affordable to try all the weird and wonderful foods that you’ll come across. On top of that, accommodation can be found at ridiculously low prices, especially in low season, leaving you with more money to spend on tours, excursions and experiences. What are you waiting for?
In Thailand, people of various faiths, backgrounds and sexual orientations live side by side in relative harmony. Muslims work and socialise among Buddhists, Christians walk around temples respectfully and transgender people are readily accepted all over the country. Of course, nothing is perfect, but when it comes to tolerance and inclusion, the West could certainly learn some lessons from Thailand.
The Thai language is a beautiful one, often poetic and melodic sounding, and not as harsh as some of its Southeast Asian neighbours’ tongues. Inherently respectful and expressive, while it may be difficult to pick up a few phrases, the locals will love it if you do. And if you don’t? Mai pen rai — or “don’t worry” — one of the most important phrases you’ll need here, and a great mantra for your travels around the country.
The Nightlife in Bangkok
Bangkok is a city like no other. A sprawling metropolis, Bangkok can be anything for anyone; it truly is what you make of it. From hanging with the hipsters drinking craft beer in Ekkamai to getting down and dirty with the buckets on Khao San Road, Bangkok’s nightlife is as rich and varied as the people who visit it. Friendships can be forged in an instant, and memories are created that will last forever.
The image of a secluded beach, with clear, blue waves lapping at the shore and a row a palm trees isn’t just a fantasy — it’s an everyday reality here in Thailand. There are few better feelings than to truly leave your troubles behind and to melt into your surroundings, and Thailand’s beaches help to facilitate that feeling. As well as scenic and peaceful beaches, there are also more party-orientated ones to be found in places like Patong and Pattaya, for those who wish to dance the night away.
The National Parks
Sure, Thailand’s beaches are great, but its national parks? They’re in a world of their own. Often consisting of huge swathes of rain forests, mountains, rivers and lakes, they’re the perfect representation of Thailand’s rich and diverse natural features, and are perfect places to get lost for a few days. From trekking and kayaking, to simply relaxing in the peaceful tranquil surroundings, Thailand’s beautiful national parks are a welcome change from beach after beach, and captivate anyone who sets foot in them.
The Full Moon Party
Even if you feel your all-night partying days are long gone, it’s worth making an exception for the Full Moon Party, which is one of the most famous events in the country. What was once a small gathering of travelers has evolved into an event which sees thousands dance the night away on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Beach, complete with fire shows, great music and copious amounts of alcohol. A party on the beach in the middle of paradise? Count us in.
While many flock to the south of Thailand to enjoy a spot of island hopping and beach breaks, the north of Thailand has just as much, if not more to offer. Situated in the mountainous highlands amidst rice terraces and ethnic minority groups, cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer an authentic glimpse into what life is like for ordinary Thai people, as well as having great markets, a top coffee culture and a cooler climate — which, after getting sunburnt in the south, is a welcome relief.