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Gilded Temples

Land of a Million Temples
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The Siamese City of Angels

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At the heart of Buddhist Siam
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Destinations > Thailand

Thailand Travel Highlights

The Land of a Thousand Smiles has so much more to offer than bucolic beaches and renowned resorts the country is famous for. One night in Bangkok, as Thailand Touring Mapthe song goes, makes a hard man humble for but one example. We promise no such result, but legendary luxury hotels, sprawling night bazaars, pulsing streets, world-class galleries and shopping, infamous after-dark attractions, and the culinary attractions of Bangkok which are like no other city in the world.



In the north, experience the warm welcome of the "lanna" Thai of Chiang Mai, exploring the picturesque mountain valleys and lush landscapes into the legendary Golden Triangle where adventure abounds in jungle elephant camps and exotic hilltribe villages. Here too are sumptuous resorts, including the Four Seasons Tented Camp, and a newer bohemian enclave of artists who have decamped big-city Bangkok for more tranquil Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

At trip's end, a well-deserved break is in order on the white sand beaches of Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Lanta, or the smaller islands of Koh Kood, Koh Mak, or "the secret island" of remote Koh Yao. Read more about these remarkable and exotic destinations below or click for trip ideas.


The Siamese "City of Angels" is an exotic sister city of its California namesake, Los Angeles, in its sprawling size and population of over 12 million people, if the greater Bangkok area is included. The size and density of the population is one that even those from many large western cities may find impossible to fully grasp. The cityscape of Bangkok is vast and complex, encompassing everything from small and poverty-stricken neighborhoods to the towering skyscrapers of a modern metropolis that has so much to offer visitors.

Royal Palace Bangkok

The Grand Palace of Bangkok (above) was built on Ratanakosin Island in 1782 as the home for the Thai king, a gilded attraction attraction not to miss. The palace ceased to be the royal residence around the beginning of the twentieth century, but it still holds an important place in Thai culture and is the venue of many nationally significant events. Among the features of the palace complex are the outer court, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the inner court. Inner court is where the children and consorts of the king lived when it was still a royal residence. Other parts of the palace include Amarinda Hall, which is where the king lived. There is also a reception hall called Chakri Maha Prasat. The palace complex also has a museum for those who want to learn more about the building's history.

The floating markets in and around Bangkok are another excellent way to get an introduction to Thai culture and to sample some of the many varieties of Thai cuisine. The goods purveyed include food cooked on the boats and a variety of tropical fruits among many other things.

Wild Side
As you've no doubt heard, one the world's most spiritual capitals where a Buddhist temples can be found on almost every block, also knows how to party. As the song goes, "one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble." From night bazaars with an exotic variety of goods, to infamous go-go bars where almost anything goes, to world-renowned "lady-boy" shows such as the Calypso Cabaret:

Chiang Mai

Situated the mid-northern part of the country, Chiang Mai offers a considerably different experience from Bangkok. Chiang Mai is the place to discover the "Lanna Thai," a much more tranquil culture than in the south. Here is the place to learn to cook authentic Thai cuisine, buy authentic handicrafts, visit hilltribe villages, mountain bike scenic landscapes, and laze in world-class boutique properties to renowned resorts, such as the Four Seasons.

Doi Wat Suthep Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a great people watching city, from the popular weekend and night markets, street side cafes, to lover's meeting surreptitiously near the gilded hilltop temple, Doi Suthep. The hill tribes in the vicinity also have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming to the travelers who want to trek out to see them and we can arrange less visited ones. Chiang Mai has its own regional style of cooking as well as multiple large shopping markets. Biking? We're always up for a good ride, and can organize a morning spin up to visit Wat Doi Suthep or a half- to full-day trip biking through the verdant dirt tracks Chiang Dao National Park.

If you want less strenuous time on the golf course, Chiang Mai is a world-class destination. There are several popular resorts to choose from most travelers have heard of, but also a handful of some of the finest, most charming boutique hotels in all of Asia—ask us for recommendations.

Read about our unique trip ideas for Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai

The capital of the far north Chiang Rai province is far more known for it's central location in the notorious Golden Triangle of decades past, an area that what was once the nexus of the international drug smuggling trade. In gradients of bliss, Chiang Rai is seen as a laid back version of Chiang Mai, which is turn seen as a laid back escape from Bangkok. It is considerably less busier than either Chiang Mai or Bangkok and most find the atmosphere calmer and more relaxing. most recently, the small town is becoming noted for the resettlement of the country's most famous artists escaping big-city Bangkok.

Thailand Elephant Camp mahout
Chiang Rai Elephant Camp

There are several interesting museums in Chiang Rai, including the Hill Tribe Museum and Education Center which educates visitors on the culture of the hill tribes, and the fascinating Hall of Opium Museum which traces the history of the region's past in drug production and smuggling.

Less known about Chiang Rai are the better elephant experiences to had here at resorts, than in Ching Mai. One of the better reasons to visit Chiang Rai, aside from the elephants and remote resorts is the scenic drive we plan from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, Thailand's most beautiful drive.


Nearby, The Four Season's renowned Tented Camp provides a peaceful retreat in the lush setting of the Golden Triangle where travelers may relax overlooking lush jungle canopy rather than white sand beaches.

Read about our unique trip ideas for Chiang Rai


Immediately apparent to any visitor is that Sukhothai is one of Asia’s most under-rated World Heritage sites. Although not on the scale as Angkor, the historial park filled with striking ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples and monuments.

Sukothai Temple

Sukothai means "rising of happiness" and indeed the best time to visit is by the rising sun. We'll arrive by the morning light, when most beautiful and ahead of the tour buses to explore the main attractions, including Wat Traphang Ngoen, the largest and principal temple of the Sukhothai Kingdom, the massive pagoda, Wat Mahathat, Wat Sa Si and its lovely chedi and giant seated Buddha, sublime shimmering lotus pool at Wat Mahathat, the largest and arguably most impressive single site in Sukohthai, and Sukhothai’s single most awe-inspiring monument, Wat Si Chum,

The Ramkamhaeng National Museum located at the entrance will provide a comprehensive overview and significance of the Sukhothai kingdom, where we can pause before or after exploring the park. Following exploration of the main monuments, taking an optional short hike in the park's western zone to Wat Saphan Hin, a hilltop temple that affords views of the central zone ruins and surrounding countryside.

Before returning to Chiang Mai, enjoying lunch at a local cafe in the "new Sukothai" town. In the afternoon, exploring the design and arts section of Chiang Mai located near the university (read more about Chiang Mai). This evening, dining by choice of restaurant (recommendations and reservations provided).

Thailand Island Paradise

Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Lanta, Phuket, Krabi and Thailand's "secret island, Koh Yao.

Thailand's odd, distinctive shape has been likened to that of an elephant's head. One benefit of the shape is the almost two thousand miles of coastline, much of which is comprised of beaches. There are actually three coasts in Thailand, and each of them has its own set of stunning white sandy beaches.

Many of our travelers finish their journeys relaxing on the islands. These old favorites although highly developed over the years can provide pleasant relaxing at renowned world-class luxury resorts such as the Amanpuri, Six Senses, and the Four Seasons on Samui (below).

Koh Samui Four Seasons beach and pool view
Koh Samui Four Seasons

There are also striking and picturesque limestone cliffs and long expanses of mangrove forest. Along the coastline there is a mix of luxury resorts of the type located all over the world and the authentic traditional fishing villages that most would associate with Thailand. Phang Nga Bay by helicopterKrabi is the home of Railay Beach and is famous for its fine white sand, the texture of which is often likened to talcum powder. There are also large resorts on the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui, each offering clear blue green waters and white sandy beaches.

Off Phuket, a short helicopter ride will provide stunning bird's eye view of one the world's most incredible landscapes.

Parents with older children may want to time their stay with the world famous Full Moon rave parties nearby from Koh Samui on Koh Phangan. The area provides world-class diving, sailing boat charters, kayaking and other water sports, but you should not forgo the amazing views over Phang Nga Marine Park by helicopter.

Koh Nangyuan, Thailand
Koh Nangyuan (off of Koh Tao)

Where and when to go?
The actually islands offer a wide variety of choices based on whether you are looking for the quintessential white sand hideaway, an adventurous family resort, or the world-class diving and water sport.

Andaman Sea (Phuket & Krabi)

Thailand Beaches Travel Map

Beyond the mature destinations of Phuket and Koh Samui, new places have emerged that are more remote and less developed, including Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Chang and Koh Tao and our favorite, Koh Yao. Also closeby are the ancient jungles of Khao Sok, where an abundance of wildlife and elephant trekking is a highlight.

For the timing of your stay, it’s possible to enjoy Thailand’s beaches year-round as there are always a few hours sunshine each day regardless of the month, but there are two weather systems to consider which bring the tropical rain at different times of the year. From January to September the weather on the Gulf of Thailand ( Koh Samui, Koh Tao, or Koh Phangan) will have the best chance on sunny and dry weather. On the Andaman Sea (Phuket, Krabi, Koh Yao) is sunnier from October to April.

Phang Nga Marine Park aerial
Koh Yao beach cove
Koh Tao beach cove
Phuket for relaxing in world-class resorts, range of activities for families and large infrastructure. More »
Koh Yao for a Robinson Crusoe retreat, Thailand's least developed island. More »
Koh Tao offers spectacular diving and quiet setting on a small, pristine island
Koh Samui luxury resort
Krabi beach cove
Koh Lanta luxury resort pool
Koh Samui as a weather alternative to Phuket, Thailand's most developed with plenty of family activities and places to go day or night. More »
Krabi is a more remote, rustic alternative to developed Samui and Phuket, More »
Koh Lanta, a newer destination with broad, white sandy beaches and moderate nightlife


Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park shows up the other side of Thailand's natural beauty. Those who have tired of the urban landscapes and from lying on the white sands of the beach get to explore the vibrant green of the rain forests. From spectacular waterfalls to a lake filled with islands, Khao Sok offers visitors a vision of the true jungle. There are many forms of wildlife for visitors to see in the national park as well including tigers, leopards and a renowned elephant camp. Accommodations vary from rustic treehouses to luxury tented accommodation.

Khao Sok National Park floating bamboo raft

Pre- and Post-Thailand ideas

Time permitting, we always recommend combining Thailand with exceptional destinations close by, including the magnificent Khmer temples of Angkor, sublime Luang Prabang in Northern Laos, the rich jungles and wildlife of Borneo, and across the border, a newly emerging Myanmar.

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