Thailand is one of the most popular touristic destinations on earth! In numbers: In the year 2014 the country had 24.78 million visitors with an average stay length of 9.2 days. Expected count 2015: up to 29 million. Income from tourism is 10% of the GDP, including indirect businesses it sums up to about 20%.
The country’s amazing beaches and warm weather, friendly and tolerant people, great food, diverse national parks and fantastic historical monuments give a reason to visit for everyone.
Because of Thailand’s popularity you can also see the downsides which mass tourism brings: Many frauds walk around the Grand Palace in Bangkok and on the southern islands’ holiday resorts you will not discover much of the culturally rich country except its fine white sand. Maybe you will only know you have been to Thailand because you were offered some westernized versions of a Thai curry and the guy at the spa insisted on selling you a Thai massage.
Anyways, once out of the mass tourism zones, all of the negative sides are easily forgotten: Thai people are overwhelmingly friendly. They know what an individual tourist seeks, and they offer it for very reasonable price.
We revisit our personal highlights of a month of travel from Thailand’s islands in the south up to the Golden Triangle in the north:
Ever wanted to see Neo or Batman painted on the inner walls of a temple right next to a golden sitting Buddha? No? Than you must visit the White Temple! This eccentric masterpiece right at the gates of Chiang Rai is a collaboration work of two artists. Blending Buddhism and pop culture with a humorous, though sinister touch, the bright white outside with millions of mirror pieces added in, make it look overwhelmingly unreal. It is still under construction but already a definite must-see when you stop over in Chiang Rai.
As a counter sketch to the White Temple on the other side out of Chiang Rai, another Thai artist called Thawan Duchanee built up a group of houses whose similarity to a temple complex is just too obvious. Most houses are entirely made of black wood. The houses are stuffed with thousands (or even millions?) of trophies from dead animals. Bones, furs, skins and especially horns. Is this a bitter comment on religion gone wrong and the nature-neglecting history of human life? It’s art, that’s why it’s weird, I guess.
The city of Pai on the northwestern end of Thailand is a laid back place, attracts many individual tourists and offers a great lot to discover in the valley and the hills around. Rent a scooter for cheap and explore on your own the picturesque Pai Canyon. Definitely bring good, stable shoes. Depending on your route this will be an afternoon walk or can involve some climbing skills!
What’s the difference between Panaeng, Red, Green, Khao Soy and Massaman curry? After a cooking class you will know all about the savory Thai food and how to prepare your favorite Thai dishes when you are back home. There are many good schools in the culturally rich city of Chiang Mai. The classes may be more pricy than elsewhere in Thailand, but the quality of the courses is also extraordinarily high, including a market visit, a herb lecture in the local garden or farm and more.
Besides the beautiful Grand Palace Bangkok is a lively metropolis. Explore the Bang Rak district and get lost between chaotic night market stands, beautiful rooftop views and thousands of shopping opportunities. Sit down at one of the many street food stands, enjoy a tasty noodle dish and watch the people. Simply fun!
Koh Tao offers the best value-for-money deals for learning to dive in Thailand. Cheap, friendly, relaxing… just too easy! Diving is an amazing sport. Discover a whole new world under water while moving slowly and breathing steadily. Once you are in control of the equipment and your own buoyancy, what you will see in the underwater world will definitely make you an addict. Koh Tao’s beaches and nightlife and some nice local food restaurants add up to your holiday on the dive master’s island, the most popular diving school spot of the world.
The “Golden Triangle” is a geographically triangular shaped region that spreads over parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. It is known for its vast opium plantations. Because of that the Golden Triangle area has a dark history of drug production, drug trafficking and drug wars, which in some areas still continues until today! The Hall of the Opium is a world class museum giving insights on the history of opium, especially illuminating the role of the colonial powers, provides facts and figures on the plantation and explains the international struggle of mastering the plant’s impact on individuals, society and politics. Absolutely worth a visit!
Rent a bike and explore the massive red brick temple ruins of Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam in the 14th to 18th century. One of many highlights there is the Buddha in the trees: An ancient Buddha head stone sculpture enclosed by huge tree roots, giving it a medusa like touch. Another highlight are the many rows of stone Buddha’s dressed in orange fabric. The bright colors make the statues much more vivid and imbue the place with a warm light.
Vast green hills and picturesque villages wait for your discovery. Away from Chiang Mai’s mainstream “Elephant riding – hilltribe staring” tours, Pai offers cheaper, better and less frequented hikes into the mountains around. Mountain viewpoints, Bamboo forests, waterfalls and a sleepover on a remote and simple farm – you will make new friends and have an unforgettable experience.
The city of Phayao is almost untouched from tourism. Almost. That means you find very good coffee and still have all the sights for yourself. Have a nice bicycle tour alongside the lively, large city lake. Be prepared for old, beautiful temples on the hill and in the lake in bright sunshine.
Did you like this post? Do you have own experiences to share? Please leave us a comment!