I hardly know where to begin when it comes to Thailand! It is warm, welcoming, and in some areas, a little bit weird, but overall it is a wonderful destination to visit, and has much to offer the world traveller.
We, like most people, started our journey through Thailand in the chaotic city of Bangkok, where people, traffic, neon lights, and street vendors vie for their spot on the broken pavements of this overcrowded metropolis – home to an estimated 9 million residents.
Combining elegant temples and hotels with downtrodden shacks and red light districts, there is a real divide between the rich and poor, yet every local we encountered during our trip greeted us with the same welcoming smile and friendly nature.
After three crazy days uncovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Bangkok, we headed north to the historical city of Chiang Mai, recently voted as one of the 25 most popular tourist destinations in the world by Trip Advisor’s list of Traveller’s choice. A title Chiang Mai rightly deserves, it is a large city with a small town feel, and offers numerous attractions such as Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple sitting high up on Suthep Mountain, night markets, tribal villages, and a variety of interactive animal encounters.
From Chiang Mai, we headed south to Hua Hin, a destination favoured by the Thai Royal Family. Small and inviting, Hua Hin is the ideal place to rest and relax after the madness of Bangkok, and is the perfect stepping-stone for those heading across to the east coast islands of Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Samui.
Of the three islands visited, Koh Samui has, in our opinion, more to offer the traveller, and while we ended up stranded on the island for longer than expected due to monsoon rains, we found the entire experience to be a positive one.
Heading across Thailand to the cosmopolitan and colourful island of Phuket, we finally got to experience the white sandy beaches and crystalline waters of the Andaman Sea that we had been searching for. South of the hedonistic capital of Patong, one can really enjoy the beauty of Thailand in the seaside resorts of Karon and Kata Beach, where singles, families, honeymooners, and surfers enjoy the smooth sand, the soft waves, and the sensational vistas.
Daily boat trips to Koh Phi Phi (where the Leonardo Di Caprio filmed the movie ‘The Beach’), Krabi, and the Similan Islands provide plenty of action for those who enjoy snorkelling, surfing, and diving, and there are numerous Buddha’s and temples in the area for those looking for a cultural tour.
Overall, Thailand is a wonderful destination to explore, and if you enjoy great food, beautiful scenery, and meeting friendly locals, you will feel right at home in “The Land of Smiles”.