Thailand, the Land of Smiles, is one of the few countries to have not been colonized. Formerly known as Siam, Thailand literally means the land of freedom. Famous for stunning beaches, gorgeous temples and palaces, luxury resorts and spas, markets galore, a delicious cuisine and the friendliest people, Thailand boasts a truly unique culture and is an Asian destination not to be missed. With a long, rich heritage and abundant natural resources, from the verdant limestone islands of the Andaman Sea, to its mist-covered mountains in the north rising up to the Myanmar border, the tranquil villages along the Mekong River and the vibrating energy of Bangkok, Thailand is a fascinating destination for travelers of all types.
What to See and Do in Thailand
Visit the Capital Bangkok
Southeast Asia’s greatest urban metropolis has been the capital of Thailand, formerly Siam, since the 18th Century. Known in Thai as ‘The City of Angels’, this resilient city of contrasts has resisted centuries of foreign meddling and influence to maintain a uniquely strong Thai identity. Bangkok is a city built on water and the Chao Phraya River forms the snaking backbone of the city. The varied facets of Bangkok life are displayed right on the water’s edge with bustling markets, compounds of worship and areas of contemporary commerce.
Explore the Ancient Siamese Capital Sukhothai
Sukhothai, which poetically and suitably translates as ‘The dawn of happiness’, was the first great Siamese Kingdom and a crucial stop for any discovery tour of Thai history. Little remains of the once great Kingdom, which existed from the 13th to the 15th Century, save the spectacular old capital which sits just 12km from the new city. The ruined city is often associated with King Ramkhamhaeng, one of Thailand’s most revered monarchs and generally considered the founding father of Thai culture. The old city of Sukhothai has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
Discover the Northern Culturally Rich City of Chiang Mai
Founded in the 13th Century as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai is northern Thailand’s most politically and culturally significant city, while being a quiet and pleasant place to live. It is also the preferred base from which to explore and unravel Thailand’s various northern delights.
The long history of the city is evident in its layout and architecture. Largely due to the constant threat of invasion from the Burmese, Chiang Mai was built as a walled city with a moat for added protection. Many parts of the ancient wall can still be seen today and some sections have even been restored to their former glory. The city is dotted with colorful temples, some of which are made of wood conforming to the original architectural style.
Soak Up the Pristine Beaches of Phuket
Wash away your worries at Thailand’s largest island with its exquisite white sandy beaches, clear emerald sea water and bright sunlight. Over time, the island has shaped itself into the distinctive Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine.