A marvellous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands, Thailand is a jewel of Southeast Asia. Also known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand features a modern capital city and friendly people who exemplify Thailand’s “land of smiles” reputation. Thailand is a destination ripe with opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences; developed enough to provide most comforts yet still wild enough to offer off-the-beaten-path adventure. Whether you start with the unmatched beauty of the beaches in the south or the mountain villages in the north, Thailand will never disappoint you!
With its ever-comforting Thai smile, friendly and fun loving people around, cultured and historic places to visit, Thailand glitters its attractions to the world, inviting approx sixteen million foreigners flying into the country each year. Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country and the 20th-most-populous country in the world, with around 66 million people and a total area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi). Cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are bustling hives of activity and commerce, but you haven't really seen the country until you've trekked in the mountains or enjoyed some face-time with elephants or the bold monkeys (who will steal your lunch as soon as look at you). Thailand's attractions are diverse and each provides a rewarding and memorable experience in its own way.
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The Grand Palace, Bangkok
Probably the most visited and remembered landmark of Thailand, The Grand Palace in Bangkok is where every visitor must pay a visit at least once in their lifetime. The construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I, the founder of Chakri Dynasty, to become a royal residence, and it has been the utmost architectural symbol of Thailand ever since. The Grand Palace served as a significant royal residence until 1925 and is now used for ceremonial purposes only.
The Grand Palace is divided into three main zones: The Outer Court, home to royal offices, public buildings and the Temple of Emerald Buddha; the Middle Court, which is where the most important residential and state buildings are; and the Inner Court, which is exclusively reserved for the king, his queen and his consorts.
The major attraction of the Outer Court is the Temple of Emerald Buddha, the residence of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist sculpture: Phra Kaeo Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), which was carved from flawless green jade, situated amid gold-gilded sculptures and ornaments, and fresco paintings of the main ordination hall. The interior sees sophisticated decorations inspired by European renaissance era, adorned with royal portraits of Chakri Dynasty’s monarchs. The building now only serves state functions and royal ceremonies.
Sat between Sivalai Garden and Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall is Maha Monthien Prasat complex, home to the Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where royal ceremonies usually take place. While on the far left is Dusit Mahaprasat Thone Hall, which is an ideal archetype of traditional Thai architecture.
Visitors are required to dress appropriately. Some clothes are strictly not allowed as outer garments for both ladies and gentlemen like Shorts, mini-skirts, short skirts, See-through shirts, Rolled-up-sleeved shirts, Sweatshirts and sweatpants, etc.
Chiang Mai Zoo
Over 200 types of Asian and African mammals can be found in this striking landscape, here at Chiang Mai Zoo. This family-must-visit attraction can be found at Doi Suthep foothills, just next to the beautiful Huay Kaew Arboretum. Say hello to the China Panda Family Ambassador to Thailand, Linping, Lin Hui, and Chuang Chaung at the Panda House. Follow by immersing yourself in Asia’s longest 133-meter underwater tunnel at the newly aquarium where you will discover rare sea and river fish from northern regions including Khong River Basin, Amazon River Basin, the mangrove. Don’t miss, Nakhon Ping Bird Aviary, the spacious walk-in aviary named the largest one of Thailand where you will explore the vast array of more than 132 local and international bird species with the scenic view of the waterfall. Don’t have the whole day to spend here? The zoo offers tram service for a sightseeing trip with an informative live guide about the zoo and its highlights. Or traverse the zoo with the bird’s eye view of the monorail which stops in the 4 highlight attractions. Enjoy family meal time with open-air deck seating restaurant right by the stunning waterfall.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
A national park in Chiang which covers a 262-square-meter verdant forest and mountain ranges in three districts of Chiang Mai. Attractions in this national park include Huai Kaew Waterfall and Kru Ba Sri Wichai monument tribute to a Buddhist monk who successfully initiated the construction of a road to the peak of Doi Suthep, which was completed in 1935. Among the major hills: Doi Suthep, Doi Buak Ha, and Doi Pui, Doi Suthep is perhaps the best known as its peak is the location of a sacred Wat Phra That Di Suthep and the golden pagoda that shines against the sun.
National Museum of Royal Barges, Bangkok
The Royal Barge Procession, a royal ceremony that involves more than fifty gold-crafted barges, is one of the most spectacular events in the world. With a long-run history since Ayutthaya era, the procession aims to transport the king and/or member(s) of the royal family during special events, such as when delivering the new robes to the monks after a Buddhist Lent period.
The museum houses a precious collection of historic barges, some of which were built during the reign of King Rama I, more than two hundred years old. These barges are made of high-quality wood and beautifully decorated with vivid colours, mirrors and gold leaves. Each barge’s figurehead was crafted to represent a different kind of animals, which are vehicles of Rama god according to the Hindu belief. (This is a belief that the kings are avatars of Rama god). Probably the most remembered barge as its part of the logo of Tourism Authority of Thailand, the figurehead of the 46-meter-long Suphannahong royal barge features the shape of a mystical swan. It was built in 1911 during the reign of King Rama VI and is one of the four main royal barges which are the vehicles of the king. The other three, which are also the highlights of the museum, are Ananta Nagaraj with naga-shape figurehead, Narai Song Suban with Rama god on a garuda figurehead and Anekchat Puchong. Today, each royal barge procession consists of 52 boats, propelled by more than 2,000 rowers.
Mu Koh Hong Islands
As one of the most striking rock formations, Hong Archipelago is a composition of 12 islets that vertically stretching from the North to the South of Krabi sea, near Phang Nga province. The islands are blessed by its shady silhouettes and Mother Nature’s charm, though they feature only a few reachable beaches and an overnight stay is not permitted. The highlight is a large lagoon embraced by surrounding mountains at the archipelago’s main island.
The best time to pay a visit is during November-April when you can try kayaking for sightseeing nearby attractions. The kayak route usually starts on the beach close to National Park Ranger Station (rental spot), then sail by the majestic limestone cliff and head to the lagoon at the opposite end of the island. The total trip can take up to 30 minutes to one hour.
Bangkok’s Chinatown, Thailand’s largest Chinese community is commonly known among Thais as Yaowarat, according to the name of the road where it is located. The Chinese community dominated trades between Siam (ancient Thailand) and China since the reign of King Rama I, centered on Ratchawong Pier, while the construction of Yaowarat Road hadn’t begun until 1891 during the reign of King Rama V. Today, Yaowarat is widely known as the kingdom’s largest center of gold trade and a great foodie destination. Yaowarat simply has two faces: If you visit Yaowarat during the day, what you see along both sides of this one and a half kilometre road are shops selling gold, Chinese herbs, fruits and Chinese restaurants serving authentic cuisine. But if you visit Yaowarat after sunset, the road turns into a street food heaven where a number of food trucks prepare you marvellous food, from Chinese fried noodles to iced Chinese dessert, you hardly find elsewhere.
Floating Markets in Bangkok
Almost every traveller has a visit to a floating market in mind on his first trip to Bangkok. Some will succeed, but the large majority will be discouraged by the distance, the price of the tour and definitely the ludicrously early wake-up time... who wants to get up at 5 a.m. while on holiday? But why even bother waking up so early when there are actually more than five floating markets around Bangkok open all day. You can be there before lunch without having to sacrifice your sleep! Damnoen Saduak has been Thailand's best known floating market for a very long time but it is also the touristic one. It's huge, lively, full of boats selling food and fruits, and it's colourful - exactly how people imagine a floating market will look like - with the opportunity to capture the perfect photo to show off once back home. Amphawa, the second most popular market in Thailand, is very authentic with many little wooden houses neatly lined up along the canal, selling souvenirs and of course a lot of snacks and sweets. The third most visited market very near Bangkok is Taling Chan which is open all day and has just enough boats to be called a floating market, plus a large local market attached to it. Khlong Lat Mayom and Bang Nam Pheung floating market are other small attractive markets that one should explore while in Bangkok.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
Located as part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Chiang Mai Night Safari, spread over 819 rai or 328 acres of Tambon Mae Hia and Tambon Suthep is one of its own experiences. Traverse the exciting Thailand’s first night safari in the 50-seat open-air tram to meet elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, Asiatic black bears, tigers, hyenas, crocodiles, and much more. Many activities are lined up, especially if you are ready to have a direct contact with the animals, including bathing elephants, feeding hippopotamus and rhino horn. Enjoy the Night Safari in 3 different zones, North Zone is a 25-minute trip with the carnivorous animal (Tram with English guide depart at 20.30 and 10.10), South Zone is a 30-minute trip with the animal from African savanna (Tram with English guide depart at 19.25 and 21.30), and Walking Zone which is a walking trail wrapping around Swan Lake for 1.2 kilometers.
Wat Pho Temple
Wat Pho is not only one of the most visited Buddhist temples in Bangkok but it is where history, medical science and educational institute are combined. Officially named Wat Prachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam, Wat Pho was believed to be founded during the 16th century and was later served as The Royal Temple of King Rama I of Chakri Dynasty. Laid inside the main ordination hall is the sacred 46-meter Reclining Buddha whose feet are beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, carved with holy signs. Wat Pho, among Thais, also known as “the nation’s first public university,” thanks to 1,360 marble inscriptions about medical, historical and liberal sciences places all around the temple where the people can read and learn anytime. Marble inscriptions about medical sciences, anatomy and orthopaedics are the origins of Wat Pho Thai traditional massage principles, which has made Wat Pho a world’s famous site. The traditional service, nowadays, is also available at the nearby pavilion. In 2008, Wat Pho has been listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MOW) as a documentary heritage for Asia and Pacific Region.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Perhaps the most famous and important temple in Chiang Mai, every visitor must pay a visit. On top of Doi Suthep Hill, at 3,520 feet above sea level, finds the revered golden Phra That (chedi) of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep rises against the sunlight. The temple was built in 1383 to enshrine Buddha’s relics. You can actually drive uphill to the higher platform but a lot of devout Buddhists choose to pilgrim by walking 290 steps up to the hilltop. After praying the Phra that for good lucks, do not forget to proceed to the terrace to soak up panoramic views of Chiang Mai town and surrounding countryside.
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Celebrate festival of light in Thailand
Yi Peng, popularly known as the Lantern festival or the festival of lights is celebrated throughout Thailand with much zest. You can see sky lanterns floating the air in huge numbers making it a jaw-dropping view in the night. The festival is celebrated to show respect to Lord Buddha. Yi Peng usually coincides with Loi Krathong, which is celebrated by floating lights in the water. Intricately shaped paper lanterns are used during Yi Peng, which are launched in the sky. According to the tradition, only Monks could release the lantern in the sky, but now everyone can float a lantern. The light of the lantern signifies moving away from darkness towards light. The festival is celebrated with additional fervour in Chiang Mai because it was the erstwhile capital of the Lanna kingdom. Special parades are carried out throughout Chiang Mai during the festival. Locals decorate temples and their houses with flowers and coconut leaves in a traditional way. Spectacular fireworks are also an integral part of the festivities. The festival usually falls in the month of November. So if you are planning to visit Thailand in November, grab the opportunity to soak in the local traditions of the country.