Thailand is one of the most visited countries in Asia. Its buzzing capital, Bangkok, is a frequent landing pad for tourists, attracting over 19 million in 2016. Meanwhile, Phuket and its adjacent islands are huge draws for a tropical holiday. Up north, the enchanting mountains of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai pull in seekers of respite.
Across the nation, Buddhist temples spread tranquillity and evoke admiration for their architecture. And while it might not get the popular vote due to its violent contests, Muay Thai lends a peek into the fearless Thai culture. There’s much more to mention about Thailand, that’s why this treasure trove can easily notch the top billing.
WHEN TO VISIT
In Thailand, the temperature is generally warm throughout the year ranging from 18C to 28C. With that in mind, it’s still imperative to know the country’s distinct seasons: Cool from November to February, Hot from March to June, and Rainy from July to October.
Chiang Mai and the rest of the northern region are ideal places for the cool season with their misty surroundings. In hot weather, the west coast beaches of Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phil Islands glisten, while the streets of Bangkok and Ayutthaya can be unforgivingly humid. The rainy season produces heavy downpour in most areas, but it dissipates fast. Continuous drizzle for days comes few and far between.
Between the BTS Skytrain and the tourists’ favourite ‘tuk-tuk,’ transportation options in Thailand are ubiquitous. Bangkok traffic jams require tons of patience, but roads in towns and rural areas are far less congested. The two main hubs for international and domestic flights are also in the capital: Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) International airports.
Skipping long queues here can restore one’s peace of mind, with international airports in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Ko Samui offering alternatives. All the major cities in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East enjoy direct flights to Thailand. Folks coming from the Americas would have to settle for a connecting flight from Hong Kong, China, or Japan.
Traditional Thai dishes are a balancing act flavours, despite many impressions that they’re all on the spicy side. A lot of herbs and spices can be present in one specialty, which harmonises the sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy tangs. A steamy rice or omelet is a common staple for main viands. Chinese influence is evident in dishes from the north, while Malay infusion prevails down south. The melting pot of authentic foods is in Bangkok with its array of local restaurants.
From a few dollars to a couple of hundred, dining options are plenty across the board. Pad Thai noodles, Thai green curry, and Mango sticky rice make a good introduction for unfamiliar tongues.
Although the country has a diverse mix of cultures and religions, most festivals in Thailand centre on Buddhism. The Candle Festival on Khao Phansa Day (Buddhist Lent Day), Kathina (Annual Buddhist Robe Offering Ceremony), and Flower Alms Offering Festival originate from traditional beliefs.
Among all the celebrations, the two biggest are Loy Krathong and Songkran. Loy Krathong, or Festival of Lights, happens in November. Meanwhile, Songkran, or Thai New Year, drenches thousands of locals and tourists in April. The festivals play an integral part in the lives of the Thais. These show how fun-loving, grateful, and respectful the people are to their ancestors.