Thailand is a country of wonder and enchantment. When you are there you never want to leave and when you leave, you yearn to be back in that place where smiles are infectious and massages plentiful. I don’t know if it is the kindness of the people, the spices in the food or the beauty of the scenery and sites, but this country has it all. These days with the hustle bustle of work, family and fun it is tough to take time to really cover an entire country. Most people pick one main city and get lost in the depths of it. Don’t get me wrong, the hub city of Bangkok in Thailand is an adventure unto itself. Where else can you buy a t-shirt for a dollar, a beer for fifty cents, visit numerous Wats, see the Emerald Buddha and head to the Floating Market all in one day. Having traveled throughout the country it would be a crying shame not to offer our fellow travelers some ideas on escapes outside the city center and into the wonder of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Outside Bangkok: Pattaya
This one-time fishing village became popular with US GIs in the late 50s. Pattaya is a bustling beach resort town about 150km outside of Bangkok. The town awakens late and comes to life when the sun goes down. For the diver at heart, Pattaya offers some of the most easily accessible diving outside of Bangkok. Explore one of the many islands off Pattaya like Koh Samet or Koh Larn. Get to know the local wildlife by getting up close and personal with elephants, crocodiles and tigers. For those looking for something completely different try and catch Tiffany’s Cabaret Show.
Heading North: Chiang Mai
This city is a must see for any journey to Thailand. Chiang Mai is located about 700km northwest of Bangkok. In this cooler city to the north, the pace slows down a bit and the experiences are plentiful. You can take classes in Thai language, massage, cooking, and yoga or get an insider’s perspective at handicraft production. For the adventuresome at heart take a day trip to do some elephant trekking or visit a hill tribe. Chiang Mai also boasts endless shopping and over 300 temples. A visit to the beauty of Doi Intanon National Park also promises to satisfy your senses. Don’t forget about the endless shopping in Chiang Mai.
The Islands: Koh Samui and Phuket
Koh Samui is the third largest island in Thailand and has legendary status amongst the backpacking community. This island has some of the best value in accommodations and meals and radiates a very casual atmosphere that most island cultures proclaim. Exploring the island is a must from both land and sea. Koh Samui is also ideal for day trips to one of the 80 islands that are a part of Koh Samuis archipelago. Take a day trip around the island to get your bearings and end up being pampered. Go sightseeing to the neighboring island of Ko Phangan famous for its Moon Festivals and iridescent plankton. Or take a sea kayak adventure to Angthong National Marine Park.
Phuket, pronounced poo-get, spreads over 800 square km with everything from lush vegetation to sandy beaches. One could pass the days in one of the famous resort spas or explore the various areas of the island. Thailand is known for its elephant population and the islands are no different. A half day safari around Phuket will get you off the beach for half a day and learning about the wildlife on the island. I strongly suggest spending a day on the island of Phi Phi made famous by the movie The Beach. For those that dont want to spend a minute out of the water check out Phukets water activities, you wont be disappointed. On the nightlife front, why not go and see the Simon Cabaret Show or the Phuket Fantasea.
Down South: Krabi
Krabi serves as a jumping off point to many of the islands surrounding it in the south of Thailand. Krabi has much to offer travelers looking for good food, friendly dispositions, and local flavor. The area is famous for rock climbing and has a fascinating geological history. Tham Phi Hua To or Tiger Cave is the most famous limestone cave in the area and not to be missed. You could also discover some of the caves from the water by going on a canoe cave explorer trip. If you want to check out some neighboring islands I would suggest taking the Four Island Tour or Koh Hong Island Tour. If you are looking to learn about the history of trade or discovering the rain forest spend the day exploring hot streams and rain forests with an experienced guide.
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