Thailand has a proud record of never having been under the control of a colonial master. Formerly known as Siam, it was brought to the screen in the middle of the last century in the hit film of Rodgers and Hammerstein, ‘’The King and I’’ starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. It told the story of an English governess who went to Siam to educate the King’s children. Audiences marveled at this exotic part of the world which at the time was so remote. No longer! Thailand was the first country in this part of Asia to benefit by the availability of air-flight for ordinary people and it remains an extremely popular destination. Sometimes with development, problems occur but such is the diversity of the country and the number of things to do in Thailand that minor irritants are largely insignificant.
Many independent travellers visit Thailand each year, but likewise many more seek the advice of a good Thailand travel agent in order to put together Thailand tour packages. It certainly makes sense to use an experienced agent if you have never been to Thailand before. In all likelihood, if you make the right choice, you will use that agent another time because there is always more to see in Thailand.
When it comes to the best and worst things about visiting Thailand, here are the things that attract so many visitors.
Thailand is a Buddhist country; there is no escaping the images of Buddha and why would you want to? The answer is you wouldn’t and in Bangkok alone, there are three starkly different Buddhas that you should see while you are in the Capital:
• Wat Pho, the temple complex containing the Reclining Buddha which is so large it is difficult to photograph well enough to do it justice. Even its feet are 5 metres high and it is 46 metres long and 15 high.
• The Golden Buddha in Wat Traimit was only discovered by mistake. Centuries ago, it was covered in plaster to conceal it true value. It was only when it was dropped that people realized that it was 3 metres and 5.5 tonnes of solid gold.
• Wat Pra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace complex. It was carved from a single piece of marble in the 15th Century.
Wat Arun is a temple best access by boat. It faces Wat Pho and its silhouette is regularly used to advertise Bangkok.
Thailand has an extensive coastline but to illustrate the variety of its landscape, perhaps Chiang Mai is a good city to illustrate its wonderful environment. Chiang Mai is in the Northern Highlands which is a great region to explore. Tourists can hike, climb go rafting or mountain biking.
The Mae Sa Waterfall is a highlight while the highest mountain in Thailand is here; Doi Inthanon though be warned, you will need warm clothing even when there are high temperatures in the low-lying areas.
Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and certainly worth some time on a Thailand family tour. There are fertile valleys, waterfalls and caves and it is just 3 hours from Bangkok by road. It is a great place for botanists and has plenty of birds and mammals as well.
There is usually a smile on everyone’s face in Thailand even though life is not always easy. It has been called the land of smiles. Buddhism asks of its followers’ respect and many other positive human traits. It is important that tourists learn the local customs so as not to cause offence. That means dressing appropriately when visiting religious sites, not showing the soles of their feet or pointing. Get these little things right and all tourists will enjoy mixing with the locals.
They are hard-working and that is because they have to be. Whether in the city or the countryside, the day starts early.
It will still be dark when many Thais are already active, and it may be dark once more before they will get home from their work.
They may serve a man first every time when you order food, but the woman often gets a larger portion as compensation.
Stunning coastal locations have been used regularly by Hollywood in major films; ‘’The Beach’’ starring LeonardoDiCaprio is a prime example. There is plenty of choice. Some tourists inevitably head for somewhere there is a well-developed nightlife after a day on the beach and the water sports that are on offer. Others want somewhere quiet where they can simply relax away from the crowds. Thailand has both.
When you decide on an organized Thailand travel package, you have the benefit of the help and advice of someone with plenty of personal knowledge of the country. The result is that you can talk about your preferences and get something to suit.
Thai cuisine is becoming increasing popular worldwide. Thailand has a vast range of herbs and spices and many of its popular dishes are found in other parts of the world. Lemon grass and coconut milk are used regularly and the green and red curries are as hot as you might like them.
With such an extensive coastline, it is natural that seafood plays a prominent role on many menus but you don’t need to sit in a fancy restaurant to enjoy the food. As with many countries in South East Asia, street food is available everywhere. Busy stalls by definition sell fresh food; their turnover starts with breakfast and often continues well into the night.
There is something for everyone in Thailand. If you are in Bangkok for example you will have modern shopping complexes offering the latest fashion and electronics. Much of what you will find will be cheaper than you would get it at home.
The Night Markets are an experience. There are ‘’genuine fakes’’ whose quality is questionable at times but there are also many great bargains. You can spend hours going around the market with street food available if you want refreshment. It is nice just to sit and watch the world go by at times.
A third experience is the floating market. Much of the day’s fresh produce is sold early in the morning by ladies selling from their boats. Thailand has a great variety of exotic fruit and vegetables and even if you have no reason to by these markets are a genuine tourist attraction.
The downside of Thailand?
It is worth considering the worst things about Thailand; they do revolve around tourism, because there is always the danger of over-development. That is especially in resorts that become so popular that there is inevitably more and more building. In addition, where there is a relatively rich clientele, there is always temptation for fairly poor locals. Read on and consider whether these things would actually deter you from going to Thailand. Perhaps, they might mean you leave some things out of your Thailand holiday itinerary but that is all?
The pace of the growth in tourism has in itself caused problems. It was inevitable it would put a strain on the country. Bangkok is a busy city where traffic can clog up on a daily basis; you can always use the waterways to get around if you wish to avoid the worst of it.
The desolate beaches and islands are regularly featured in tourist publications. They still exist but places like Phuket and Pattaya are now crowded and, in many ways have lost the natural charm that was the reason for their development in the first place. A good local agent will have alternatives for inclusion in your holiday package that are far less developed.
While the Thai people are naturally friendly, tourists tend to be seen as rich and perhaps they are in local terms? There is certainly likely to be two prices for everything; a tourist price and a local price. Sometimes, it can be annoying when the tourist price is inflated even further. You need to be aware of such things but with a good guide, you should largely avoid the problem unless you are by yourself with free time.
When it comes to the best time to visit Thailand, it depends on your itinerary. The Country has a tropical climate and the central and southern areas, there is little variation around the year. If you want to visit the north, you need to be aware that it is affected by the monsoon between May and the end of September. The south actually receives most of its annual rainfall in the three months after that while in the north, temperatures fall so you will need warm clothing for the night-time.
A good Thailand travel guide will explain things in more detail though an experienced Thailand travel agent will be only too happy to help. The negatives about Thailand are relatively insignificant and certainly should not deter anyone from enjoying an exotic adventure.