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Thailand is a collage of animated scenes that comprise bustling modern cities crowded with UK-trucks, Buddhist temples tended by orange-robed monks, hill tribes selling handicrafts, lush landscapes dotted with traditional farming villages and stunning coastlines peppered with gorgeous beaches and blue lagoons. Such a captivating portrait explains why Thailand is Southeast Asia’s most popular travel destination. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Thailand.
10. Chiang Rai
The northernmost city in Thailand, Chiang Rai serves as the main commercial hub of the Golden Triangle, which contains the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. A busy town offering something for everyone, Chiang Rai is often used as a base for exploring the surrounding region. The town itself is quiet during the day, when most of its package tourists are out on day trips, but at night the neon lights flash on and souvenir stalls and restaurants spring into action.
Once just a quiet village in northern Thailand, Pai is now a booming town that is part of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Noted for its picturesque valley and relaxed atmosphere, Pai is a favored destination among backpackers wishing to explore the region. With Pai’s location in the foothills of the mountains there are several options for trekking and visiting hill tribes. Also just outside the city are elephant camps and beautiful waterfalls. Additionally, the Pai River offers tubing and whitewater adventures.
8. Phanom Rung
Sitting on an extinct volcano in northeastern Thailand, Phanom Rung is a Hindu temple regarded for its outstanding architecture. The temple sanctuary was built by the Khmer between the 10th and 13th century as a dedication to the Hindu god, Shiva. Constructed of sandstone and laterite, Phanom Rung was built to represent Mount Kailash, the sacred home of Shiva. The complex faces east, and four times a year the sun shines through all 15 sanctuary doorways. During these events the park extends its hours, and locals celebrate with ancient ceremonies and modern sound-and-light shows.
Railay is a small peninsula that is only accessible by boat due to the high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. These cliffs attract rock climbers from all over the world, but the area is also a popular attraction in Thailand due to its beautiful beaches and quiet relaxing atmosphere. Accommodation on Railay ranges from inexpensive bungalows popular with backpackers and climbers, to renowned jet-set resorts.
6. Khao Sok National Park
Considered by many to be one of Thailand’s most beautiful wildlife reserves, the Khao Sok National Park covers jungle forests, limestone karsts, rivers and lakes in the Surat Thani province of southern Thailand. The reserve is home to some of the most amazing wildlife in Thailand such as Asian elephants, tapirs and gibbons. There are several trails in the park from which visitors can choose to enjoy trekking through the jungle to spot wildlife, photograph beautiful waterfalls, swim in natural pools and admire stunning vistas.
Founded in 1350, the city of Ayutthaya sits on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting it to the Gulf of Thailand. Once declared the most magnificent city on earth, the ancient Siam capital was an impressive site, with three palaces, more than 400 temples and a population that reached nearly 1,000,000. In 1767, the Burmese attacked and conquered Ayutthaya however and the capital was moved to Bangkok. The ruins are now a major attraction for those visiting Thailand. It is just 50 miles north of Bangkok, and is easily reached by train or boat.
Located in western Thailand, Kanchanaburi is best known for the Bridge over the River Kwai that is linked with the historic Death Railway to Burma in which thousands of Asian laborers and POWS died during World War II. Several museums and war cemeteries all present information about the city and its bridge during the 1940s Japan occupation. Outside of Kanchanaburi are several national parks, including Erawan National Park, which offers beautiful scenery, waterfalls and caves.
3. Chiang Mai
Surrounded by the mountains of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a flourishing city often used as a base among both backpackers and tourists wishing to explore the lush landscapes, hill tribes and outdoor adventures of the region. Nevertheless, Chiang Mai itself is a large and culturally important city where historical and modern Thai architecture and traditions coexist. A walk around the historic center bestows views of old city walls and dozens of Buddhist temples. However, the most famous of these temples, lies outside Chiang Mai on a mountainside overlooking the city.
Thailand’s capital city and by far the largest city in the country, Bangkok, is a buzzing cosmopolis of high rise buildings, ancient temples and glittering nightclubs. While the city is sometimes described as a concrete jungle jam-packed with noisy traffic and air pollution, Bangkok is not without its natural beauty that is seen in its remaining canals, green spaces and flowering tropical plants. The famous tourist street, Khao San Road, is a good place to begin with its cheap shopping, dining and nightlife. Also not to be missed is the sacred Temple of the Emerald Buddha on the grounds of the Grand Palace.
1. Thai Islands
The islands off the coast of Thailand are famous throughout the world for their beautiful beaches, others for their gorgeous scenery and some even claim their fame for the party atmosphere. There are three main sets of islands in Thailand. To the east of Bangkok there are Ko Samet and Ko Chang. In the Gulf of Thailand lies the Samui archipelago, while the Andaman Sea is home to Phuket and Ko Phi Phi. Phuket is the country’s largest and most developed island, connected to the mainland by two bridges. Ko Phi Phi is famous for the movie “The Beach”, while Ko Tao is Thailand’s diving mecca. But there are many, many more beautiful islands to choose from.