Visitors to Thailand generally make a beeline to Bangkok and the beach. Who can fault them? Bangkok’s bustling eclectic neighborhoods, diverse foodie scene and hedonistic nightlife are second to none, and Thailand’s beaches are some of the world’s most dazzling.
But, Bangkok and the beach aren’t the only reasons to visit Thailand. Read on for six additional highlights:
1. Historical Ruins
The grand UNESCO World Heritage sites of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya are two of the region’s most impressive historical ruins sites.Rent a bike and explore at your own pace.
As the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th centuries, Sukhothai is home to a myriad of partially rebuilt, grandiose palaces and temples. Multi-sized Buddhist statues that adorn temples and walkways particularly stand out, some with expressive, peaceful faces and large, perfectly crafted hands. Colorful gardens and manicured pathways add to Sukhothai’s allure, as do the outdoor food stalls that serve piping hot, spicy Thai soups.
Located only an hour or so away from Bangkok, Ayutthaya makes for an easy, worthwhile day-trip from the city. Founded in the 14th century as the second Kingdom of Siam, the grounds are dotted with massive swirling reliquary towers and an intricate former Royal Palace topped off by a multi-tiered, colorful roof. Follow the crowds indoors to be humbled by grand, shimmering gold Buddhist statues.
2. Street Food
Prepare for a sensory explosion in Thailand’s outdoor food markets where homegrown cooks create delectable, sometimes simple, other times complex local dishes. Aromatic jasmine rice, hot and sour Tom Yam soup, savory meat dishes, curried egg noodles, chilled fruit juices, and sweet mangos with sticky rice—and, that’s only the first row of food stalls. Practically everywhere in Thailand, food is plentiful, good, and cheap. Though, do be leery of raw veggies—weak Western bellies tend not to react well.
3. Great Value for Accommodation
Throughout Thailand there is a wide array of accommodations for all types of travelers. From cheap, party hostels to luxurious resorts, and literally everything in between, Thailand has it all. The US dollar goes quite far as well, so American travelers get a lot of bang for their buck. Backpackers, flashpackers, and luxury lovers: prepare to live it up in style.
4. Motorbike Trips
Almost every adventure traveler in Thailand has a motorbike story. I’m no different. I hopped on a bike in Chiang Mai and spent an adventure packed day exploring the rugged Northern countryside. When I wasn’t getting lost or rained on, I stared in awe at the wild, colorful world around me. From winding roadways completely encased by emerald green forests and vibrant farming communities, to craggy fog-coated mountains, the scenery surpassed my grandest imaginations.
5. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand’s largest, most culturally relevant city. It has all of the amenities of a city (a range of accommodations, a well-known foodie scene, shopping, etc.), but somehow still pulls off a small town, peaceful feel. Perhaps, it’s the hundreds of Buddhist temples and monks that reside in Chiang Mai, or maybe it’s the illustrious rural landscape surrounding the city—life just seems to move at a slower pace than in crazed, booming Bangkok. Spend at least three days exploring all of the temples, including the extravagant Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which sits atop a soaring 5,499 foot mountain. The flashy, gold-spired temple and surrounding murals and shrines are beloved by both locals and tourists alike, so prepare for crowds.
While Chiang Mai’s nightlife scene may not rival Bangkok’s, it’s certainly not lights-out at 9pm either. The sizable university and ex-pat crowd make sure of it. From hippy vegan restaurants and a handful of raucous bars to upscale French restaurants, all visitors will find their niche. Late night food vendors produce some of the best banana pancakes in the country too—yeah, yeah, I know banana pancakes in Thailand are a cliché, but they’re still mighty tasty.
6. The People
The rumor is true, Thai people are in fact, very, very nice. They’re easy going, hospitable, and accustomed to Western tourists. And, they’re phenomenally good cooks. Learn a few Thai words, return ubiquitous smiles, and you’ll be chatting with locals in no time.
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