Top 10 destinations
What not to miss
Explore Bangkok’s temples by day and nightlife when the sun drops. Go hilltribe trekking in the mountainous north. Bask on one of the many islands in the south. Introduce your tastebuds to chilli and your limbs to Thai massage.
When to visit
The most popular time to go is between November and February. There is little rain and it isn’t too hot. The southern islands are affected by different monsoon cycles, so be sure to check the weather before picking a coast. The hottest period is April to May.
Around 12% of Thais have Chinese heritage, but the Sino-Thai community is the best integrated in the region.
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People say Thailand simply offers it all to travellers in a neat, great-value package — whether you’re an independent budget backpacker wanting to explore off the beaten track, or a well-heeled tourist looking for an exclusive slice of paradise.
Rough it while trekking through mist-shrouded mountains; be astounded by teeming aquatic life as you plunge into turquoise waters; or savour a romantic pool villa for a perfect luxury honeymoon — you can do it all in the Land of Smiles.
Thailand has been on the international backpacker beat for decades now, and while backpackers are making the most of ever-increasing budget flights to Thailand, these days luxury travellers bolster the numbers too.
From the food and spas, to the temples and culture, Thailand is a land steeped in fascinating Buddhist history, catapulted into the present through fast-paced economic growth that kicked off in the 1960s.
It’s true that more than 20 million tourists arrive here annually now, following the well-worn path of those before them. But there’s a reason the crowds keep on coming.
The capital Bangkok offers glittering temples on the majestic Chao Phraya River, with shopping for both bargains and top-range designer items luring the masses as well.
It also plays home to the backpacking mecca of Khao San Road — the epicentre of Southeast Asia’s backpacking universe.
Get to know an elephant or hike to see ethnic minorities in cool, mountainous Chiang Mai. then take a flight down south to sip cocktails and sunbathe on the palm-fringed southern islands of Phuket or Ko Samui.
Alternatively, let loose at a pulsing Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. or enjoy a spot of world-class diving off Ko Tao. History buffs will revel in Thailand’s ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. and enjoy exploring somewhat more obscure Khmer ruins dotted around the kingdom’s north and northeast.
Popular side trips from Bangkok include Ko Samet. just a few hours away by road and boat, while Kanchanaburi is home to the famed Bridge Over the River Kwai, popular waterfalls and the controversial Tiger Temple. Families are heading to quiet Ko Lanta in greater numbers too, while Krabi remains a favourite for island hoppers.