The Many Faces of Thailand.
It always gets me excited; the prospect of visiting Thailand again. Perhaps it is because each trip is so different; there are so many different faces of Thailand to see. You could spend your time exploring Thailand's dynamic capital city; Bangkok, with its skyscrapers and lively, traditional markets. Or, you can lounge on the stunning beaches of Phuket or Krabi. If you prefer a more adventurous alternative, opt for Thailand's Northern mountainous provinces; Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, where crisp air and towering mountains reign supreme. Although, a personal favorite for me, is Thailand's charming countryside- particularly Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket, and Roi Et- where I grew up. Whatever you're taste, Thailand has something for everyone.
The cosmopolitan capital- Bangkok.
The gateway to the Land of Smiles, Bangkok will most likely be your first experience of Thailand. Thailand's naturally humid climate means that this city almost never gets cold, often reaching 30 degrees Celsius, year-round. Renown for being the capital, and largest city in Thailand, Bangkok is a pleasant shock to the senses. This concrete jungle appears to be at conflict between the old-world and new-world of Thailand. On one hand, the city is still dotted with sacred temples, and ancient historical monuments. A personal must-see is the Temple of Dawn, (also known as Wat Arun) which is situated beside the Chao Phraya river. This beautiful temple is one of Bangkok's prime landmarks, with its elegant spire, and decorative colored glass, it is at its most beautiful at both dawn and dusk. Meanwhile, what is considered as the 'most sacred temple in Thailand' is located within the grounds of the dazzling Grand Palace. This is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a temple that holds within its center, a precious statue of a meditating Buddha carved from a single block of jade. Although, Thailand's dazzling temples tell the story of a rich and unique cultural history, the up-town shopping malls and humming night markets represent Bangkok's modern and cosmopolitan appeal. To enjoy the best of Thai shopping, in air-conditioned comfort, consider Central World; the biggest mall found in South-East Asia. This enormous mall is host to over 500 retail stores, 100 restaurants/ cafes, and 15 cinemas! Whatever you're retail needs, you can be sure they will be satisfied at Central World. Bangkok also offers fun and vibrant shopping experiences in its diverse streets as soon as the sun sets, and night falls upon the city. Visit Khao San Road, Silom Road, or Saphun Phut Night Bazaar, for your choice of yummy street food, quirky souvenirs, cultural carvings, and colorful clothing, all at incredible bargains!
The rural countryside- Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket.
Although Bangkok has its own restless and vibrant appeal, to take a step back and relax, choose to journey out to Thailand's calm and traditional rural countryside. Despite the fact that all provinces in Thailand are partly comprised of countryside, I have decided to center my article around the provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Sisaket, the places where I grew up. The face of Thailand's rural countryside is one of tranquility, where you can leave the traffic and smog of the cities behind, but also of fun and smiles, thanks to the friendly people. For many rural Thai families the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of rice is considered to be some of the most important events on their calendars. The growing of rice is not only a major component of rural Thai culture, but also of the Thai economy, making the selling of rice a literal lifeline for Thai families. The rice is grown in emerald-green rice paddies, that can be found all over Thailand's countryside. Filled with water during the Thai rainy season, the rice paddies certainly make for a tranquil and pretty sight. While you're in the region, a particularly quirky (and environmentally friendly) site to check out, is the Temple of a Million Beer Bottles. Found in the Sisaket province, this Buddhist temple is literally built out of thousands of beer bottles! The temple is artfully patterned with fluorescent green Heineken bottles, Red Bull bottles, and local beer brands such as Chang and Singha! Although this festival is celebrated throughout all of Thailand, the annual Songkran festival is best enjoyed in Thailand's rural countryside. Held during the middle of April, the hottest time of the year in Thailand, Songkran is basically one enormous water fight held over three days, where everybody cools down and has fun! The rural people of Thailand have devised their own techniques to make this festival extra fun. They fill their water guns with ice-cold water, that has been freezing for days, and often sneak around military style, to catch you when you least expect it! No matter what race or age you are, everybody is invited to participate in Songkran!
What to take:
Trust me when I say this: there are ALOT of mosquitoes in Thailand.
Warm clothes (light jacket)
If you're heading up to the mountain provinces, or you're visiting during the rainy season, you may need some warmer clothes.
Thailand has a generally warm and sunny climate, and so always make sure you're sunsafe before you step out.
A big suitcase.
There are so many shopping opportunities in Thailand, (and all for such low prices) that before you know it, your suitcase will be bursting at the seams.
A good Guide Book.
Although the Thai people are very helpful, you may need extra guidance in navigating your way around Thailand, and knowing which are the best attractions.
The travelers Bible to Thailand.
The upbeat and golden beaches- Phuket and Krabi.
While the sun is up, the face of Thailand's most famous sea-side provinces are leisurely and sun-kissed. Beaches of soft white sand stretch out as the far as the eye can see, and are enclosed on one side by the turquoise-tinged waters of the Andaman Sea, and on the other by luxury bungalows and lopsided palm trees. However as soon as the sun sets, Phuket and Krabi turn into lively party centers, with an array of pubs, bars, and nightclubs to be found on every street corner! One of my favorite experiences while holidaying in Phuket, was taking a boat tour around the breathtaking Phang Nga Bay. Phang Nga Bay is defined by the limestone cliffs that loom dramatically from the Bay's emerald waters, within these cliffs you can find 'Hongs' which are practically realms that are concealed within the cliffs. The boat tour you take will most likely take you to James Bond Island; a popular attraction of Phang Nga Bay. The island was named so, because it was where a popular scene of the James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun' was filmed. For lunch, you will most likely be taken to Koh Panyee, a peaceful fishing village, which stands on stilts, this village offers plenty of food stalls, cafes, and shops, for you to refuel. A popular attraction over in Krabi, is to take a ride through the provinces verdant jungle on the back of the World's biggest land animal.... An elephant! After your ride, you can feed and interact with these gentle giants, by offering them bananas, and stroking their wrinkly skin. To relax and unwind, hit up one of Phuket's or Krabi's stunning beaches. Such as Phuket's Patong Beach; which is the provinces most famous and popular beach, or Krabi's pristine Ao Nang Beach. Whether your goal is to unwind, or experience adventure, Phuket and Krabi have the resources for both!
The refreshing mountain provinces- Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai.
As you travel further North, Thailand takes on a different Face; the air is crisper, fresher, the weather turns cooler, and the terrain becomes more mountainous and untamed. Thailand's Northern-most provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, are the bases for some of the country's most intriguing history, and awe-inspiring natural sights. On my last visit to Thailand, me and my family climbed up Doi Suthep Mountain, in Chiang Mai. Winding up the mountain, is a road that takes you to Doi Suthep's summit, (however, you can also hike) on the way up, be sure to check out the stunning views the mountain has to offer. The stunning Doi Suthep Temple crowns the summit of Doi Suthep, and is a sight to behold. The Naga Serpent stairway leads up to the Temple's entrance, where upon entering, you can view the Temples awesome sights, such as the Golden Spire, and a succession of Gongs (which you can interact with!) Meanwhile, Chiang Rai,- one of the former points of the infamous Golden Triangle- offers a sobering cultural experience. The Golden Triangle was of course infamous for being the center of the world's opium trade. Chiang Rai pays homage to this part of its history, with many opium museums to be found in the area, such as the Hall of Opium. Chiang Rai offers another unique experience, in the form of the many hill tribes that can be found, among the wilderness of the surrounding mountains. Tribes such as the Akha people, who are found in small villages at high elevations. Also to be found are the Karen people, whose women are famed for the brass rings that encircle their necks and weigh down their shoulders and rib-cages, giving them the illusion of having 'long-necks'. Finally, for the intrepid adventurers; a trip to Chiang Rai would not be complete without a climb up one of Chiang Rai's mountains. The picturesque Doi Nang Non Mountain was given the nickname 'Mountain of the Sleeping Lady' because when viewed at certain angles ,the mountains silhouette takes on the form of a reclining woman with long hair. There is an enchanting legend enshrouding the mountain, and the mountain is also famous for the many spectacular caves and waterfalls it conceals.