Thailand trip report

 

Thailand



Known as the 'The Land of Smiles', Thailand offers visitors plenty to smile about — a cheap cost of living, tropical climate, culture that respects people. Formerly known as Siam, it's the only Southeast Asian nation not to be colonised by a Western power. The French waged war with the country, but didn't succeed in annexing it. The result is that the core of Thai culture has very much remained uninfluenced by foreign powers. From full moon parties to elephant sanctuaries, Thailand has some unforgettable stuff to experience.

 

Krabi

Krabi is blessed with white sandy beaches, stunning islands, and awesome sea cliffs. The main highlights are the limestone-cragged postcard beaches of Railay and Ao Nang.


 

Khao Sok National Park

Most tourists only pass through the province of Surat Thani to reach one of the popular islands – yet Khao Sok national park is home to the biggest virgin rainforest in Thailand. With gorgeous limestone karsts that are best viewed by boat and thick, dense rainforests providing the perfect backdrop to a trek, it is one of the most beautiful areas in Thailand.


 

Kanchanaburi

About three hours west of Bangkok is Kanchanaburi, is a great place for nature lovers and history buffs.


 

Chonburi

Chonburi is a town about 100 km southeast of Bangkok. The name means "city of water", which explains its love affair with the water buffalo. Every year in October, the city hold the water buffalo racing festival, a thrilling display of the hefty animals making a short dash for glory. Not all of them reach the finish line. Some never even start and some of the precariously perched riders fall off along the way. Best experience is when you're watching from the finish line, as soon as the buffalos cross the white line, the riders jump off and let the buffalos run into the crowds who frantically disperse. In addition to the race, there's also a buffalo beauty contest where the great mammals are dressed with coloured cloths and decorated with bouquets of flowers. There's also a beauty pageant with one lucky lady clinching the highly coveted Miss Buffalo title.


 

Koh Chang

Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand. The serene white sand beach, together with the dreamy blue seawater, makes Koh Chang a perfect place for a weekend excursion from Bangkok.


 

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is a city in the Northern region renowned for rugged mountains, lush jungles and hill tribes. The two most famous sights are the White Temple and Blue Temple. The Golden Triangle - the border between Laos, Thailand & Myanmar - makes for an interesting daytrip, to delve into the history of opium smuggling.


 

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a premier scuba diving destination but the island offers just as much beauty above the surface. Actually, I did not even need to scuba dive there, the snorkelling was fantastic with an aquarium worth of sea life near the shores. Nearby Koh Tao is Koh Samui for the more luxurious travellers, and Koh Phangan for the infamous Full Moon Party.


 

Pattaya

Pattaya is a seaside resort infamous for its sex tourism reputation. The catalyst for the sex tourism industry was the passing of the 1966 Entertainment Places Act. The act was part of a broader agreement with the USA to provide "entertainment" to the American troops stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. This lead to the creation of one of the largest red light districts in the world, a seedy reputation that still pegs Pattaya to this day. Whilst there are many gogo bars and massage parlours, there are also plenty of family friendly spots such as the Cartoon Network waterpark, or the islands of Koh Larn & Koh Kham.


 

Hua Hin

Hua Hin is where the old westerners buy villas and retire with their young Thai wives. There's a few nice resorts nearby, but the main draw is Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park where the stunning Phraya Nakhon Cave is.


 

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the most touristy of Thailand's floating markets. You will see boats selling all kinds of street food, beverages, fruits etc. It can get very crowded with tourists.


 

Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the most fascinating capitals in the world. A hot and humid megalopolis, it's a mix between sophisticated westernisation and traditional values. You'll find everything from colourful Buddhist temples, golden towers, street markets, eclectic architecture, swanky shopping malls to sky bars with great panoramas. Bangkok was once labelled "Venice of the East" because the majority of its houses stood stilted in canals. Over the years, most of the canals have been paved over to accommodate the rising population. The remaining canals nowadays provide a quick way out of the traffic jams, which are absolutely horrendous in Bangkok.
Bangkok is where I got my first ever Thai massage. Thai massages are actually quite painful, I almost needed a wheelchair at the end of it. Be sure to remember the word "bao gwaa nee" {softer} if you ever get a massage.


 

Rangsit

Rangsit is a city in Pathum Thani Province, north of Bangkok. It's home to many universities, but more importantly for visitors several theme parks.


 

Aoon Ai Rak Klay Kwam Nao

Aoon Ai Rak is a one-month-long festival for Thai people with the main theme of wearing historical costumes from bygone eras. It was inspired by a mega-hit historical TV soap opera call "Bupphesanniwat" {Destined Love}.


 

Songkran

Songkran is the Thai New Year, on 13 April. Thai people believe that water is spiritually purifying, cleansing you of any bad luck from the past year. And what better way to cleanse than having a huge nationwide water fight. Grab yourself a flowery shirt, a cannon sized water gun and head to Kao San / Silom / Siam / RCA.


 

Phra Pradaeng

Phra Pradaeng is a district in southwest Bangkok. Although Phra Pradaeng is far from a tourist hotspot, there are a couple of attractions but the main draw there is the Songkran celebrations in April, which includes a snazzy parade.


 

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. One of the best places to watch the festivities is Bangkok's Chinatown, with Yaowarat Road the main artery.


 

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is a cute island in the Andaman Sea that is more relaxed and less touristy than its famous neighbour (Koh Phi Phi). It's blessed with beautiful beaches and shrubby palm groves.


 

Koh Phi Phi

Located in between the bustling tourist hubs of Phuket and Krabi, Koh Phi Phi is the go-to island for years now because of its nightlife, laid-back vibe and because of the stunning Maya Bay. Maya Bay is actually on an inhabited island, expect it to be packed with Chinese tourists.


 

Amphawa Floating Market & Maeklong Railway Market

About 2 hours away from Bangkok, Amphawa is a floating market i.e. locals selling food from their boats along with many land based cafes and vendors. There are also clothes and gift stores along the waterfront. Nearby is Maeklong Railway Market, where you can witness an oncoming train passing through a busy market. The stalls all pack up when the train arrives and you can stand right next to it when it pulls in (it's very slow and the stall keepers will show you where it's safe to stand). It's a very unique experience.


 

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is an easy daytrip from Bangkok. It was the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, a Thai kingdom that existed from 1350 to 1767, when it was razed by the Burmese. The ruins of the old city are still visible, mostly palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues.


 

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand's largest city, located in a verdant valley. It's known for its misty mountains, colourful hill tribes and elephant sanctuaries. It's famous for being the best place to watch Loy Krathong {'festival of lights'}.


 

Nakhon Pathom

Nakhon Pathom, located 50 km west of Bangkok, might not be a familiar name but claims to be the oldest city in Thailand. Its close proximity to Bangkok makes it practical for daytrips to discover its many sights.


 

Lampang

Not far from Chiang Mai, Lampang is a charming and somewhat unusual town. Famous for its horse-drawn carriages, it's home to some outstanding temples and traditional wooden houses.


 

Korat

Nakhon Ratchasima is a city in Issan {north East Thailand}, better known as Korat. Korat comes from an older name the city was called many years ago. Every year in July, you can see a cool candles festival.


 

Bangkok's birthday

The history of Rattanakosin dates back to the year 1782, when Rama I established Bangkok as the new capital of Thailand. The King held a ceremony to install the "city pillar" on 21st April 1782. Every year at that time, celebrations are held to commemorate the modern birth of Bangkok. This includes cultural performances, a food fair, folk games, kite flying and a grand parade.


 

Nonthaburi

Nonthaburi is a province north-west of Bangkok, though it still counts as part of the Bangkok metropolitan area. In Nonthaburi you can find the only island in Bangkok, Koh Kret, known for its artisanal pottery.


 

Hello Kitty Run

Hello Kitty fanatics get the chance to "run" with the beloved Japanese cat. The run is actually more like a slow stroll along a dazzling pink coloured route. There's all sorts of Hello Kitty paraphernalia on sale and don't expect to feel healthier after the run because Sweets, cupcakes, ice cream and more will be on hand for the "Sweet Wonderland" themed event.


 

Phitsanulok

Phitsanulok is a city about halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It was once the capital for a quarter of century but there are only a few traces of its glorious past. Generally, travellers just spend the night here on the road to Sukhothai 60 km from the city.