Great weather, extremely affordable prices, and pristine beaches make Thailand the perfect venue for a vacation. You can relax on the southern coast or venture to the mystical tropical jungles to visit the ethereal Buddhist temples. From big bustling cities to secluded resorts, Thailand has exactly what you need in a compact package. Here are my top 5 unique places to add to your bucket list:
Grand Palace, Bangkok
Any Thai excursion should start in the most lively metropolis and capital, Bangkok. The city is an intimidating mixture of old and new. Ancient temples are swarmed by the constant activity associated with any major city. Visit the gilded Wat Pra Kaew temple and Grand Palace for a taste of Thai past. Take in the monolithic 50 meter reclining Buddha at Wat Po and take photos of the sunset behind the stunning Wat Arun. Don’t forget to sample the vibrant street food scene with traditional iterations of all your favorite Thai food exports. You’ll find delicious fried rice (Khao Pad), fresh tropical papaya salad (Som Tam) and an international favourite, fried noodles (Pad Thai). The bustling neighbourhood Khao San offers cheap and delicious options on literally every corner. For excellent noodles, Pad Thai Thip Samai, is widely regarded as the best in the city, and maybe the world. If it’s too crowded, you can always choose one the other stalls in the old city (Rattanakosin) and you just might discover an underrated local secret. After the sun goes down, enjoy Bangkok’s historically wild nightlife. Khao San is also famous for its hopping bars, where you can stumble out directly into a delicious late night snack. The neighbouring Soi Rambuttri has a more laid back, local feel and is better for a (relatively) relaxing nightcap. More serious clubbers will enjoy the options in Sukhumvit, and Silom. After a few days in Bangkok, and a glimpse at the vibrant Thai lifestyle, you will be ready for a relaxing trip to the beach.
Similan Islands and Phuket
The Similans are a small chain of 9 idyllic islands near Thailand’s southern peninsula. These remote outposts are some of the most secluded and well preserved vacation spots in Thailand. As a national park, they receive the necessary environmental protection that helps their natural beauty endure. You will find crystal blue bays, untouched beaches, and thriving coral reefs. Spend your days relaxing on the beach, or actively enjoy your surroundings by hiking, snorkelling, or diving. On your way back to the mainland, check on the iconic rock formations of Khao Phing Kan.
While still technically an island Phuket is so big, that you will feel like you’re back on solid ground. Explore some of Thailand’s most visited beaches and enjoy island life without the remote feel. On Phuket, you can have any experience you like, from exclusive luxury resorts and economical campsites.
Ao Phang Nga
Canoeing in Cave – Ao Phang Nga, Source
Another National Park, Ao Phang Nga shows off Thailand’s incredible limestone coastline. Giant vertical cliffs frame the park’s 42 islands and provide a one-of-a-kind habitat for a variety of local lizards, and birds. You will be mesmerized when entering a variety of accessible waterfront caves. The best way to experience it all is, undoubtedly, to rent a kayak and move at your own speed.
Buddha Statue at Sukhothai
Sukhothai Historic Park puts much of Thailand’s oldest history on display. The center of Thailand’s most powerful kingdom in the 13th and 14th century, Sukhothai is a sprawling network of well-preserved temples and monuments. With almost 200 ruins dotting nearly 70 km of land, the historic park is too big for a simple day trip. In the centre, you will find the remains of the grand palace and 26 individual temples.
Wat Ban Den Temple, Chiang Mai
Far removed from the delightful chaos of Bangkok, in Chiang Mai the commotion is a bit more manageable. It’s medieval city centre offers some of the country’s oldest and best preserved archaeological sites. Dating from the 12th century, these temples were the heart of the Lan Na Kingdom and boast a bit of a different style compared to Bangkok. In general, Chiang Mai is a perfect place for slow strolls, and excellent local cuisine, like delicious egg noodle curry (Khao Soi) or the comprehensive Lan Na sample platter that is Khan Toke. However, modernity is knocking just outside the central area, as new buildings and highways continue to encroach on the city’s antique charm. This is not all bad as it allows you to experience the best of both worlds, including innovative cuisine and a burgeoning arts scene. Furthermore, in Chiang Mai you’re only a short bike or taxi ride away from lush rainforests and picturesque waterfalls. In short, in this northern gem of Thailand, you can have what you like, at your pace.
Abhishek is an avid traveller and budding blogger. For him traveling is about exploring different cultures and experiencing local cuisine. Abhishek is digital content manager at tourHQ, a marketplace for connecting local guides with travellers around the world.