Explore Thailand

Thailand rolls such an array of experiences and destinations into one easy-to-explore country. White beaches and turquoise waters provide the most famous image, discovered on archipelagos in two different seas. Spirituality abounds in this highly Buddhist nation, providing an entirely different perspective. Unique hill tribes dot the jungle, ancient monuments delight in their originality, while cuisine and culture is found at every turn. And best of all, you don't need to choose one paradigm or destination. Thailand is compact enough to explore them all.

Thailand map Bangkok Chiang Rai Chiang Mai Sukhothai Khao Sok National Park Phuket Krabi and Raillay Koh Yao

Bangkok

One night in Bangkok, as the song goes, makes a hard man humble. We promise no such result, but you can find legendary luxury hotels, sprawling night bazaars, pulsing streets, world-class galleries and shopping, infamous after-dark attractions and culinary attractions. All this makes Bangkok like no other city in the world. The cityscape of Bangkok is vast and complex, encompassing everything from sublime local neighborhoods to the towering skyscrapers of a modern metropolis that has so much to offer.

Floating markets in and around Bangkok are another excellent way to get an introduction to Thai culture, as well as sampling some of the many varieties of Thai cuisine. The Grand Palace of Bangkok was built on Ratanakosin Island in 1782 as the home for the Thai king, a gilded attraction attraction not to miss. As you've no doubt heard, this is one of the world's most spiritual capitals, where a Buddhist temples can be found on almost every street. Yet the city also knows how to party and there's so much to explore after dark. From night bazaars with an exotic variety of goods to infamous go-go bars, local guides can tailor your discovery of this thrilling city.

Chiang Rai

In gradients of bliss, Chiang Rai is the even more laid-back version of Chiang Mai, which in turn is the tranquil escape from Bangkok. This gem of a northern city is considerably quieter than either Chiang Mai or Bangkok, with most finding the atmosphere calmer and more relaxing. More recently, the small town is becoming noted for the resettlement of the country's most famous artists, who have escaped big-city Bangkok to set up boutique galleries. The capital of the far north, Chiang Rai is also known for its central location in the notorious Golden Triangle of decades past. A private day tour has you gazing into Myanmar and standing on the river looking across at Laos.

There are several interesting museums in Chiang Rai, including the Hill Tribe Museum and Education Center, which introduces the complexities and cultures of the surrounding hill tribes. Hill tribe experiences are very immersive here and you'll come to understand the contrasts between alternative cultures. For something different, the fascinating Hall of Opium Museum traces the history of the region's past in drug production and smuggling. We'd also point you towards elephant experiences here, which are better than those close to Chiang Mai. It's worth a visit just for the journey, the beautifully-scenic drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai one of the finest in Indochina. For escapism on arrival, the Four Season's renowned Tented Camp provides a peaceful retreat in the lush setting of the Golden Triangle.

Chiang Mai

Experience the warm welcome of the lanna Thai of Chiang Mai, exploring picturesque mountain valleys and lush landscapes. The experience is considerably different from Bangkok, the atmosphere dictated by an old-world spirituality and tranquility. Here is the place to learn authentic Thai cooking, buy all your handicrafts, visit hill-tribe villages, mountain bike scenic landscapes, and laze in world-class boutique properties to renowned resorts, such as the Four Seasons.

Chiang Mai is a great people-watching city, from the popular weekend and night markets to street side cafes, then an hour or two of lovers' meeting surreptitiously near the gilded hilltop temple, Doi Suthep. We'd recommend giving the city time, because it's a great place to relax and settle into the local rhythm. For a day trip, the hill tribes in the vicinity are very friendly and welcoming to visitors. We can arrange visits to the lesser-visited villages.

Sukhothai

Sukhothai is one of Asia's most underrated World Heritage Sites, a fabulous park filled with the striking ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples and crumbling monuments. Sukothai translates as "rising of happiness" and indeed the best time to visit is with the rising sun. We'll take you in the dawn light, a beautiful time that's ahead of the tour buses.

At this time you're almost alone in the main attractions. Wat Traphang Ngoen impresses with its flamboyance and size. The massive pagoda, Wat Mahathat, is etched in intricate details. Wat Sa Si has a lovely chedi and giant seated Buddha. A sublime shimmering lotus pool welcomes you to Wat Mahathat, the largest and arguably most impressive single site in Sukohthai, although many visitors will argue that the most awe-inspiring monument is Wat Si Chum.

The Ramkamhaeng National Museum, located at the entrance, provides a comprehensive overview of the Sukhothai kingdom, a place to pause after exploring the monuments. We've identified Sukhothai's best guides, adding their narrative to your exploration. To continue the day, take a short hike to Wat Saphan Hin, a hilltop temple that affords views of the central zone ruins and surrounding countryside.

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park unravels the forgotten side to Thailand's natural beauty. While it's the urban landscapes and white sandy beaches that most entice visitors, Khao Sok envelopes you in the vibrant green of thick rainforests. From spectacular waterfalls to a lake filled with islands, this national park creates a pure vision of the jungle. To sail through the jungle on a rustic craft is one of Indochina's great pleasures, the silence and solitude as escapist as any island beach. Along the way there's a great chance to encounter wildlife, with the very lucky seeing a tiger or leopard. Don't expect to see these big cats, but definitely prepare yourself for tropical birds and primate species. Accommodation varies from rustic tree houses to luxury tented accommodation; we will tailor the tour to your preferences.

Phuket

Phuket, Thailand's largest island and premier resort area has been built up in recent years with a large amount of haphazard development. However, the picturesque white sand beaches and lush feeling of escapism remains, with world-renowned resorts providing luxury and tranquility. To the east, stunning Phang Nga Bay offers newer, exceptional properties such as the Six Senses Yao Nai. A multitude of world-class diving is just off shore and other activities are easy to arrange, including golfing, wind surfing, kayaking, and mountain biking.

Fringed with long sandy beaches licked by the turquoise and emerald-green waters of the surrounding Andaman Sea, and covered in rubber tree plantations, fruit orchards and patches of untamed rainforest, Phuket has always been the jewel of Thai tourism. More recently, the focus hasn't been whether to go, but how to get away from the mushrooming crowds. We recommend a small handful of properties that have stayed true to Phuket's dreamy original appeal.

Krabi and Raillay

Krabi is a serene getaway, ferries taking you out to beaches without footprints and the craggy cliffs of nearby Raillay. It's the furthest-flung beaches that really enchant, where waves lap softly against the white sand and indulgent spas take you through the afternoon. This isn't a destination with a lot to do, but a place where you encounter the serene ambience of a beach escape. Our luxury Thailand tours often culminate at a boutique island resort like those on Krabi, where you rest amidst the charm of untouched beach paradise.

Koh Yao

Koh Yao is Phuket's secret island, a pair of pristine and peaceful islands that feel far removed from the crowds of Phuket. This is the fourth largest island in Thailand yet only has a handful of resorts. For those wanting to escape the Honolulu-type development of Phuket, and feel the original allure of Thailand, Koh Yao is the country's last unspoiled island.

In 2002, Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention for receiving a World Legacy Award from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine. It was awarded for the eco-friendly homestay programs offered by its local residents. Islanders here are more interested than their mainland cousins in preserving traditional ways asking visitors to dress modestly and not engage in the wilder behavior typical in Thailand's other beach destinations.

Indochina's Recommended Luxury Trip Ideas to Thailand

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INDOCHINA Travel Company

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1283 12th Avenue San Francisco, California
Phone: (415) 680-3788