Known as ‘The Land of Smiles’, welcoming Thailand has long been a popular destination for travellers. As a diverse country with a well developed tourism infrastructure, visitors often find themselves returning to the Kingdom to explore new towns or revisit favorite beaches. Whether it is exploring ancient ruins, trekking through remote villages, or snorkeling in clear blue waters, Thailand has it all.
With towering skyscrapers pressed up against Chinese shop-houses and brand-new Mercedes squeezing past vendors with pushcarts, this is a city of sharp contrasts. Culture fiends will delight in the dazzling Royal Palace and the city’s countless pagodas, while shoppers could spend weeks sifting through Bangkok’s malls and open-air markets. Entertainment ranges from highbrow (classical Thai music concerts) to low end (go go bars) with everything in between. Dining options are equally varied. Whether you’re eating French cuisine in a plush hotel restaurant or sampling fried crickets on the side of the road, prepare to have all of your senses engaged. This is the place to eat, drink and be merry.
Set at the confluence of the Lopburi, Prasak and Chao Phraya Rivers, the beautiful city of Ayutthaya was the capital of what was then known as Siam from the 14th to 18th centuries. At its height, Ayutthaya was surrounded by a 12-kilometre-long wall which was five meters thick and six meters high and boasted 99 gates, brick and clay roads and canals to transport water into the city. This World Heritage Historical Site was one of the most important trading centers in the region, hosting guests from Portugal, France, Holland and England. In size and wealth, it rivaled most European capitals of the time. Portions of this grandiose past can be re-experienced through its ruins which are mostly gigantic Buddhist temples built in different styles during the long history. But for the relics and records from this period, the Burmese obliterated almost everything in 1767 — even melting Buddha images down for their gold. Some outstanding temples worth seeing are Wat Chaiwattanaram, an excellent example of Khmer architecture in the Ayuthaya period; Wat Na Phra Meru, the only original surviving temple; and Wat Yai with big reclining Buddha.
Getting here: Located 86km north of Bangkok, it is a 1- 1 ½ hour drive or a 4 hour boat cruise to Ayutthaya.
The ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai, a name meaning “dawn of happiness”, was founded in the 13th century and became the kingdom’s first capital. Under the reign of eight Sukhothai kings, Thai arts and culture prospered during this “golden age” period. Although this kingdom had a short life for just around 150 years, Sukhothai was able to produce art which is considered as one of the most unique and beautiful Buddhist art in Asian history. Set in a 45-square kilometer World Heritage-listed historical park, the ruins are spread out and easily explored by bicycle. The key monuments to visit include Wat Mahathat with its royal temple and cemetery and Sra Si Wat with its two stupas, their graceful lines reflected in the water of the towns’s biggest reservoir.
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The northern capital, Chiang Mai is a dynamic and modern city which has successfully managed to combine its rich history and traditions with its increasingly modern side. Surrounded by a ring of mountains, Chiang Mai offers both fascinating architecture and stunning surroundings. An important Buddhist centre since the 14th century, Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend meditation retreats, massage classes or yoga lessons. However, for active travelers, the main interest in Chiang Mai is exploring the hilltribe villages. Visitors can trek on foot or by elephant through the lush countryside, raft down jungle rivers, and meet the residents of isolated ethnic minority villages. Those interested in handicrafts will enjoy visiting centers specializing in silverwork, woodcarving, pottery making and weaving. The Night Bazaar, a series of covered markets, is worth visiting for the bustling atmosphere and to see the variety of hand made products.
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok and direct international flights from Yangon, Luang Prabang, Singapore, Kunming and Tokyo.
Considered by many as a smaller and quieter version of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is both of these, retaining the feel of a small provincial Thai capital without the number of tourists you may see in other provincial centers. Chiang Rai, is a good base to explore the hilltribe villages near the Golden Triangle, the remote area where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet. The ethnic villages of the Karen (long neck), Akha and Yao are some of the popular hilltribe groups to visit. Every house in each village sells hand-made products, particularly textile weaving, since tourism has replaced agriculture as their main source of income.
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok. From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is 180 km and takes 4 hours by road.
Lying off Thailand’s east coast in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui offers everything you could want in a beach retreat: white sand beaches, coconut palms, fresh seafood and clear water. With an area of 247 square kilometres, Koh Samui is the largest island in an archipelago of around 80 islands. The nearby Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao also offer many beach resorts and great diving. Like Phuket, Koh Samui attracts many visitors yet has plenty of out of the way places for those wishing to get away from it all.
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
Located off Thailand’s west coast in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand with an area of 810 square kilometers. The coastal scenery is magnificent, with tropical rainforests, steep limestone cliffs, rocky beaches and picture-postcard beaches of soft golden sand. Inland lie coconut, pineapple, cashew nut and rubber plantations. Clear water and colorful coral reefs make this area the most popular spot to dive in Thailand.
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok to Phuket. There are also several direct flights from international destinations e.g., Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney.
Krabi province, comprised of 130 islands, has grown hugely popular as a resort destination in recent years for its white-sand beaches and spectacular limestone karsts creating postcard perfect scenery. The most notable beaches are Phi Phi, most famous as the set for the movie the Beach, and Railay Beach for its rock climbing. Krabi is also home to the well-known primary rainforest Than Bokkharani National Park, just 30 minutes north of Krabi town
Getting here: There are daily flights from Bangkok to Krabi. From Phuket it is 185 km and takes 4 hours by road.
Thailand is famous for being hot and sunny, but it’s not year-round great weather. The rainy season affects different parts of the country at different times of the year, which means you need to plan ahead to make sure you don’t arrive when it’s pouring with rain.
The best time to visit Thailand is traditionally considered to be from November to February. This is the cool season, when there is little rainfall and less humidity. It’s ideal for sitting on the beach, although temperatures are regularly over 30 degrees celcius. As you might expect, this is also the peak season period to visit the country.
My last visit to Thailand was staying at the wonderful Six Senses Samui. This property is the ultimate in luxury and privacy and fabulous for honeymooners, anniversaries or any special occasion. Having had the pleasure of staying at many Six Senses properties throughout Asia the Six Senses Samui didn’t disappoint. The staff go out of their way to make sure your stay is enjoyable. Your butler will look after any arrangements for you, and although you feel as though you are away from it all – you are in fact only a 10-15 minute drive to Fisherman’s Village or Chaweng for shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Lying by our private pool overlooking the ocean, with cocktail in hand….. bliss! -Kim
Currency Thai Baht
Language Thai is the official language spoken, but the majority of resorts and hotels have staff who speak English.
Why we love it The Thai have such a relaxed way of life, fabulous food, fantastic beaches and is so accessible.
Weather The best time to visit Thailand is traditionally considered to be from November to February. This is the cool season, when there is little rainfall and less humidity. It’s ideal for sitting on the beach, although temperatures are regularly over 30 degrees celcius. As you might expect, this is also the peak season period to visit the country.
When to go The best time to visit Thailand is traditionally considered to be from November to February. This is the cool season, when there is little rainfall and less humidity. It’s ideal for sitting on the beach, although temperatures are regularly over 30 degrees celcius. As you might expect, this is also the peak season period to visit the country.
Social customs and quirks Buddhism blankets much of Thailand, except for the heavy Muslim influence in the south. When in Thailand, respect the monarchy. Any bad talk about the King or his family is strictly forbidden. Touching another person’s head is taboo, as is pointing the feet. Light skin is a symbol of wealth, and as Westerners have tanning salons, the Thais have whitening salons and whitening creams. Spirits are also a large part of Thai culture, which is why almost everyone seems to believe in ghosts. Spirit houses are the norm outside most residences and office buildings. At markets, it is essential that you barter with vendors as there will usually be a lot of room for negotiation – keep a smile on your face and enjoy the experience!
Festivals and events Many of the festivals in Thailand come from the country’s deep seeded Buddhist faith and elaborate culture. Songkran is a fascinating event that welcomes the beginning of the warm season with a massive water fight in April.
Health The government of Thailand requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.
The phrase "trip of a lifetime" is often used but this really was such a trip.
Chris and I loved every minute of our trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Firstly, thank you for telling all the hotels that this was a special 25th anniversary trip. Each hotel did something special for us: the Mandarin Oriental gave us a prime view room, a bottle of wine and spa upgrade, anniversary cake and heart-shaped flower arrangement on the bed! La Residence in Siem Reap upgraded us to a suite. In Yangon we had a suite overlooking the gardens and pool. Not to be outdone, we had a gorgeous river - front suite and flower message on our bed from the resort in Bagan.We were also given VIP treatment at meal-times and they presented us with a specially decorated anniversary cake.
We soon got used to being met and chauffeured at each location! We loved the oasis of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. We had the most fabulous guide in Siem Reap who took us to visit the temple ruins when the crowds were gone - it felt like we were the only visitors!
We fell in love with Myanmar. We were rather apprehensive about our visit there, but the local people are very friendly and desperately want their freedoms to increase. They love having visitors and are so keen to please. Yangon has beautiful parks and wide boulevards (and lovely old derelict British mansions) but of course the crowning glory are the Buddhist temples. So much gold! Our hotel room in Bagan was so lovely and peaceful and the area had so many ancient Buddhist temples. Thousands of them! We managed to do a morning hot-air balloon flight to get a wonderful panoramic view. Our beautiful guide in Bagan even purchased a painting from an artist outside a temple to give to us as an anniversary remembrance! Please do encourage your clients to visit Myanmar - more tourism will hopefully help the freedom process and does help employ people. I would love to do the trip all over again. Our sincerest thanks.