The Kingdom of Thailand is one of–if not the most—popular and beautiful destinations for travelers in all of Asia. So much so, that oftentimes, visitors go for a vacation, but end up staying a lifetime. From its numerous sun-filled beaches, to the hectic sophistication of Bangkok, and the serene spirituality of the Buddhist temples, Thailand is sure to impress, inspire, and awe with its friendly people, fantastic food, and beautiful scenery.
When traveling to Thailand, all roads (and flights) lead to Bangkok, the kingdom’s sprawling, high-rising capital city. Official population reports put the population at around seven million inhabitants, but many say that the population is really much higher, and even rises to around fifteen million during working hours as commuters make the daily trip from outlying towns and suburbs. Bangkok is a major financial center for Asia, and many high-tech companies, banks, and multinational corporations employ many workers. The city’s infrastructure is very good, offering the brand-new Sky Train metro, which serves most areas of the city efficiently and safely. Unlike many cities in the world, Bangkok is a bit milder in regards to the hectic “city life” that is found in many of the world’s capitals.
Many getaways, green spaces, and seaside resorts are nearby, which are frequented on the weekends, and help to give Bangkok a fairly relaxed atmosphere. Bangkok features numerous palaces, wats (temples), and museums which reflect not only the unique architecture of Thailand, but also house the important cultural, historic, and artistic artifacts of the Thai Kingdom.
Phuket is the name of the largest island in Thailand, and is home to many of the most popular beaches for foreigners. Patong is the most popular and best-developed of these beaches, and offers great nightlife, cheap shopping, and wide, sun-drenched beaches. The island offers beautiful mountains in the north, which house the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary protects 20 square kilometers of rainforest.
There are also many unspoiled and secluded beaches all over the island for those wishing a more relaxed, private atmosphere. Although the island was hit hard by the Tsunami in 2004, Phuket has almost completely recovered, and most traces of the destruction were cleaned and repaired within a year.
As is many parts of Asia, Thailand boasts some of the most sophisticated and delicious food on the planet. Thai food is heavily influenced by its bigger neighbors, China and India, and many dishes aren’t complete unless the diner is sweating after a few bites. A trip to any market will soon explain the occasion for the sensation: Thai chilies. Red ones, green ones, yellow ones, dried, fresh, powdered—no Thai dish is complete without this essential and powerful ingredient. Of course, the Indian influence is responsible for the variety of spices used in the food, and Thailand’s plentiful coastlines, oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes provide many different types of seafood that makes its way into such dishes as Crispy Catfish Green Mango Salad (Yum Pla Dook Foo), Clams in Hot Basil (Hoy Pad Prig), Fried Fish with Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prig), or the classic Pad Thai. So cheap and ubiquitous is a good, quick meal in Thailand, that many apartments don’t even come with a kitchen! On every street, and in front of almost every building is a food vendor in a cart selling wonderful, cheap eats.
Of course, the main drawing point to anyone considering traveling to Thailand is the people. Foreigners who live there, say that the Thai people are among the most open, friendly, and hospitable in the world. Of course, crime does exist, and any place that is a top destination for tourists will have an element that looks to take advantage of foreigners, so care is always advised. On the whole though, the Thais are well-educated, with a 93% literacy rate, and very polite. Modern Thai culture places a heavy emphasis on school and work, and for many people, Saturday can be considered a work day, or a day to study.
Thailand is a very affordable destination, with hotels, hostels, and apartments to fit any budget, and cheap food and entertainment everywhere. With everything it has going for it, it’s no wonder that visitors come for a vacation, and stay for a lifetime!