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Thailand - Culture, Beaches and Jungle Trekking

Updated on January 16, 2015

Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand: Culture, Riots and Jungle Trekking

Thailand is a wonderful vacation destination with amazing sights from the architectural beauty and lively nightlife of Bangkok to the jungles and trekking opportunities near Chang Mai and beach resorts on the many islands - the most famous of which is probably Ko Samui (the location used for the film: "The Beach" starring Leonardo DiCaprio).

My first trip to Bangkok was marred by a military coup, described below, but Thailand is generally a safe place to visit and certainly a memorable place. Here is my travel tips and recommendations for this stunning vacation destination.

See the full Photo Gallery Here...

Bangkok, Thailand

(or is that Krung Thep Nakhon?)

Bangkok is a large city of over eight million inhabitants with a fascinating history, which retains much of its beautiful architecture, making it one of the most important destinations on any keen traveler's lifetime itinerary. The name Bangkok was used from the eighteenth century and is still the official English name for the capital city of Thailand, but it is known locally, in Thai, as Krung Thep Nakhon.

Buddha

Buddha
Buddha

Getting To Thailand

Bangkok has one of Asia's most important airports so getting there from almost any major city in the world is easy. As a tourist destination Bangkok offers a lot to see and do and also has a low violent crime rate, compared to other large cities, although theft and scams are quite common and the city does have a reputation for its sex industry. Thailand is politically quite stable and generally considered to be a safe place to visit.

Map of Thailand - Map of Bangkok (official name Krung Thep Nakhon)

Where is Bangkok?

show route and directions
A markerBangkok, Thailand -
Bangkok, Thailand
get directions

B markerChiang Mai, Thailand -
Chiang Mai, Thailand
get directions

Getting Around

Getting around in Bangkok is quite easy and certainly fun, with river taxis, various other tourist boats, normal taxis or noisy smelly open-air tuc-tuc (or tuk-tuk) taxis. There are also river cruises which make a great way to see the city.

The many Temples (Wats) and royal palaces are quite stunning architecturally and could occupy your time for several days. There are too many to see in one visit, but the Grand Palace should not be missed, although once I'd seen about ten Wats I decided I never needed to see another. Unfortunately I didn't get to see any of this until over a week after arriving due to a military coup, followed by virtual house arrest, before being advised to leave the city. I did however get to see some of these delights that Bangkok has to offer on my return.

Jungle Transport

Jungle Transport
Jungle Transport

Temples (Wats) Royal Palaces and Stunning Architecture

The many Temples (Wats) and royal palaces are quite stunning architecturally and could occupy your time for several days. There are too many to see in one visit, but the Grand Palace should not be missed, although once I'd seen about ten Wats I decided I never needed to see another. Unfortunately I didn't get to see any of this until over a week after arriving due to a military coup, followed by virtual house arrest, before being advised to leave the city. I did however get to see some of these delights that Bangkok has to offer on my return.

Transport

Transport
Transport

Military Coup in Bangkok

My first experiences of Bangkok, in May 1992, were rather mixed. I was on one of the last flights into the city, before all flights were cancelled because of violence erupting in the centre of the city. I knew nothing of the ensuing riot as I enjoyed the delights of bars and restaurants in the notorious Patpong district. We set off back to our hotel in a little tuc-tuc taxi, came round a corner and found ourselves in the middle of the action with unarmed student protestors on one side, on motor bikes or standing with banners and the army on the other side with guns. I didn't know what was happening, nor what had preceded it, but water cannons appeared to have been deployed and the guns were being fired actually into the crowd and not just above their heads.

A bullet whistled past us and hit a protestor who was standing nearby in the neck. I still have vivid memories of the young man in a white T-shirt which turned instantly crimson, slumping onto and being supported by the people either side. Our driver didn't hang around to see how it would all turn out and he expertly negotiated his way through the panicking crowds into a smaller street and dropped us at an Irish Karaoke bar to wait until things calmed down. I gave him the equivalent of an extra few dollars and he seemed extremely pleased with the tip, despite the fact that he may have saved our lives.

Several hours later we emerged from the bar and found our way back to the hotel, where we were advised to stay inside for a few days. After just one day of being confined to the hotel we ventured out, but the ominous sight of soldiers with guns lining the streets convinced us to make it a short excursion. Locals came up to us and tried to describe what had happened to them the previous day and how many of their friends and relatives had been killed.

A coach arrived at the hotel the following day and most of the backpackers staying there were bundled on to it and we found ourselves on our way to Chang Mai, in the north of Thailand, where the violence was rather more contained. We chartered an elephant and driver and headed into the jungle for a week or so of trekking, by which time the whole affair had blown over.

There was a similar flare-up in 2006 and another at the airport in 2008, albeit not as serious and this does highlight the importance of being cautious, when in foreign countries, to check the political situation before you go and avoid large protests. I would like to visit Bangkok again and this time, experience the wonderful architectural and cultural wealth of the city in a calmer political climate as I do feel that it has a lot to offer tourists with an interest in culture, architecture and history.

Always check the political situation before you go away

Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand - Trekking

Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is an excellent base for jungle trekking. Many backpackers go there to find a guide before heading into the jungle for a fews days trekking and touring the fascinating hill-tribe villlages. There are plenty of other tourist attractions in the area too, such as the Elephant Nature Park where you can watch elephants and their handlers demonstrating what they do best.

When embarking on a trek it is vital to take enough water; it can get very humid. Some of the journey can be done on elephant-back, but it can still be a hard journey.

Hill Tribe Villages

Hill Tribe Villages
Hill Tribe Villages

Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai

Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai
Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai

The Bridge Over The River Kwai

River Kwai Museum

River Kwai Museum
River Kwai Museum

Train Trip over the River Kwai

Train Trip over the River Kwai
Train Trip over the River Kwai

The River Kwai

The River Kwai
The River Kwai

Monkey

Monkey
Monkey

Ko Samui - Beautiful Island

Compact Digital Camera

Me with a large snake

Me with a large snake
Me with a large snake

Big Buddha

The Big Buddha on Ko Samui is ... Big. One of the more cultural things to do on this enjoyable party island with excellent beaches.

The Beach (filmed on Ko Samui)

Please Leave Some Feedback

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    • profile image

      webscan 5 years ago

      Great pix.

    • SueM11 profile image

      Sue Mah 5 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      Great lens with some super photos. I love going to Thailand and especially sampling Thai food. Blessed by an Angel and featured in my Travel lens on South Asia.

    • SueM11 profile image

      Sue Mah 5 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      Great lens with some super photos. I love going to Thailand and especially sampling Thai food. Blessed by an Angel and featured in my Travel lens on South Asia.

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 5 years ago from London, England

      @Bill Armstrong: Hi Bill. Yes I have just been reading your Thailand lens too. Good work. It does indeed look like we followed a similar route.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Andy great lens, did you see my Thailand lens? looks like our paths crossed in most of these locations, love Thailand, was on phone last night to friend, going again fairly soon :-)

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Andy great lens, did you see my Thailand lens? looks like our paths crossed in most of these locations, love Thailand, was on phone last night to friend, going again fairly soon :-)

    • travelinasia lm profile image

      travelinasia lm 6 years ago

      Great Photos .. Gotta love Thailand .. Northern Thailand in particular. I live in Chiang Mai.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I loved Thailand! One of my fave places in Asia.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Amazing

    • profile image

      pomme99 6 years ago

      Love reading this lens :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Another great lens Andy. I researched to see if someone has done Thailand and saw your lens. It is really well done.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Another great lens Andy. I researched to see if someone has done Thailand and saw your lens. It is really well done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This lens is awesome. I love it. I am going to tell my editors on my Thai News website to write something about this lens and probably feature it.

      I will comment here again once we do.

      Great Work

    • profile image

      SamitKumar 7 years ago

      hi andy. great lens. thanks for the info. How u put so many photographs there?

    • profile image

      oxynom 7 years ago

      Thai News

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

      Sounds like an interesting place to visit.

    • profile image

      Dilasari 7 years ago

      I would really like to visit Thailand. Thanks for the beautiful posts and photos.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Thailand would be a very interesting place to visit. Your experience was certainly frightening but not something I hadn't thought about.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      WoW...I have been using this camera from last 2 weeks and the pictures are amazing. I was never interested in DSLR HD video but it is nice to have. If you can spend couple of hundreds i would suggest u should go for D90 instead in D3000. It works really well with nikon 16-85mm lens and 35mm lens for indoors. www.moonsmiles.com

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Great lens!

      Lizzy

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Had to drop back by -- after hearing of David Caradine's death in Thailand last week. How very sad.

    • profile image

      digitalgirlsunite 8 years ago

      Thailand is one of my all-time favorites! So I keep on returning. Thanks for this nice lens.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Ah, another monkey! And, you with a snake -- yikes. What about you on an elephant -- did I miss that picture. Looks like a remarkable place to visit.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Great lens Andy and I love the photos. 5***** This brought back memories of my trip to Bangkok in 1988. I love the Grand Palace, Floating Market etc, but the most epic part was the Bridge On The Kwai and the museum there. I have a signed book written my a good friend of my grandmother, who worked on the railroad as a prisoner of the Japanese. There in the museum was a whole section about him and the book, with photos of a return visit years later. He passed away some years ago I understand.

    • Rich-H profile image

      Rich 8 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Another great lens, Andy. I always enjoy your wonderful photos and the journey of your lenses. 5*s.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 8 years ago from PA

      I love those elephant pictures! Awesome lens. This was beautiful!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      Wow... what an exciting story. I'm glad your driver saved the day. Wonderful travel lens, as usual. The elephant ride perspective is especially interesting. Thanks for adding this to All Things Travel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I'm so glad that your life was saved Andy. It would be impossible to forget what you witnessed, but I hope that you have learned to accept it and allow those thoughts to pass by. - I love elephants and would love to get a ride on one someday, or just to be able to becomes friends with one or a bunch. - Thank you so much for sharing this adventure in your life. - Those Nikons take nice photos, which I totally enjoyed seeing.

      You are our journeyer and seer who brings a very nice report. - I love this lens!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I just love all the photography that you put in your lens. I'm envious of the life that you have led. Nice lens and Zazzle shop.

    • The-Bard profile image

      The-Bard 8 years ago

      Another outstanding lens with stunning images!