Thailand was the first country in Indochina to get significant tourists. The infrastructure developed as a result and with good transport facilities by road, rail or air even the fairly remote regions of Thailand can expect those on a Thailand holiday to visit. Many people wish to combine the major landmarks of Thailand with the natural environment and the villages where life has changed little over the years.
Bangkok, the capital, is the gateway to Thailand and regularly included in Indochina tour packages for travellers with the time to see the whole region. They will not be disappointed.
This exotic city deserves time. There are many things to see and do, day and night. It is hectic and sometimes frustrating but the rewards for perseverance are clear:
• If you are an early riser the day begins for many locals, and an increasing number of visitors, at floating markets where the freshest of produce is available to buy. One thing you can be certain of if you eat from street vendors who are busy is that the food you are eating is truly fresh.
• The water in fact is important to Bangkok, not to drink but for getting around. It is often quicker to travel on the river ferries than over land. One trip that everyone should take on a Thailand private tour is the journey to see Wat Arun on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is often a visual symbol used by companies promoting Bangkok, and indeed the whole of Thailand. Its style is Khmer and it has been there since the 19th Century.
• The Grand Palace was built when Siam, now Thailand, moved the capital to Bangkok. It was built next to Wat Pra Kaew, a wonderful 15th Century temple. The Palace is now only used for special royal occasions and the whole site is probably the most popular in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is spectacular but there are at least two other Buddhas that will be included in Thailand family tours.
• The reclining Buddha is 45 metres long and 15 metres high. It is in Wat Pho which is directly opposite Wat Arun on the other side of the river. Wat Traimit holds a much smaller Buddha just 3 metres high but it is solid gold.
• Jim Thompson’s house, in reality 6 teak houses, is an interesting museum. Thompson, an American, disappeared in the Malaysian jungle in 1967 but not before he had revived the silk industry that still flourishes today.
• Night time is equally hectic in Bangkok. There are bars, restaurants and markets. Those interested in culture may take the opportunity to see traditional dancing while enjoying the wonderful cuisine available through the Country. A good Thailand tour operator can certainly arrange that.
Bangkok is often the starting point and the closest major attraction is Ayutthaya, the former capital, which is one of Thailand’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. It may be a day trip from Bangkok as one alternative because sometimes travellers may decide to fly to other regions rather than travel overland.
• Phuket Island has become a very popular place where visitors to Thailand can enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and clear warm seas. Inevitably, there has been plenty of development here, especially on the west coast facing the Andaman Sea.
• Chiang Mai and the North is a different area altogether. The northern mountains are great for those keen on outdoor activities; hiking, kayaking, fishing and climbing. Chiang Mai is much quieter than Bangkok with only a tenth of the population. The highlight of Chiang Mai is the 14th Century Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep with its golden dome that can be seen throughout the City because of its elevated position.
• Pattaya to the east of Bangkok is now a very well-known coastal resort. It is very well developed for tourists now though some may prefer something quieter.
• Isaan is another region, in the east towards Laos and Cambodia. It is fairly remote, very natural and there is another UNESCO site here, the Khao Yai National Park. Khmer architecture starts here and head east to Angkor Wat.
Lots to see and do in Thailand it probably deserves a return trip!