CENTRAL & EASTERN THAILAND
Thailands capital city -- Krung Thep, the City of Angels -- is one of the worlds most exciting metropolises. It holds the essence of the Thai spirit, and is very much the heart of the country. Without doubt, this fast-growing metropolis of roughly 10 million people has something to offer to everyone. Its lively collection of nightlife venues, markets, shops, restaurants, magnificent "wats"(temples), museums, palaces and parks will assure that you never get bored.
Discovered by American GIs during the Vietnam War, the once sleepy fishing village of Pattaya has become one of Thailands premier beach resorts. It annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Apart from the fine beaches and lively nightlife, Pattaya also offers excellent dining and shopping opportunities, not to mention the best water sports facilities in Thailand. It truly has all the ingredients to make your stay a memorable one.
HUA HIN / CHA-AM
Located some 190 kilometers south of Bangkok on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin is the oldest beach resort in the kingdom and has been the Thai royal familys summer residence since the 1920s. Cha-am, its sister resort city, is located just 30 kilometers to the north. These two coastal resorts offer excellent accommodation, fine beaches, a wide range of water sports, shopping opportunities, excellent seafood restaurants, and last but not least, a paradise for golfers. Hua Hin and Cha-am convey an air of total relaxation. They are both suitable for family vacations.
RAYONG / KO SAMET (SAMET ISLAND)
Located just to the east of Pattaya, Rayong and Ko Samet have experienced a dramatic surge in popularity in recent years. Apart from its peaceful beaches, Rayong is also blessed with a variety of natural attractions and sites of cultural and historical interest. Ko Samet, a six-kilometer strip of island with idyllic scenery, clear blue waters, crystalline sand and dazzling coral reefs, is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Looking for the ultimate “unspoiled” Thai paradise? People might say it is Koh Chang, an island named after its shape, which resembles a sleeping elephant. Set in the Gulf of Thailand just 315 kilometers southeast of Bangkok, the island is incredibly mountainous and lush. With 75 percent of the island being undisturbed rainforest, Koh Chang is perhaps the best-preserved island in Southeast Asia. Beaches, waterfalls, coral reef, and wildlife abound. Koh Chang had escaped heavy development for so long because of its not easily accessible location, national park protection, and a once turbulent situation on the border with Cambodia. After Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced his vision for Koh Chang in October 2001, a spree of construction erupted. Restaurants, pubs, tour agencies, shops, and minimarts are springing up like mushrooms. Land prices have more than doubled in just a year. Moreover, the recent construction of a four-lane highway from Bangkok and the recently opened airport in Trat have helped to promote the island even further. Koh Chang, a 30-kilometer island with spectacular waterfalls, a rich evergreen forest, idyllic scenery, clear waters, soft sand, and exotic coral reef, is an ideal place for beach bums and nature lovers. For snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts, Koh Chang National Marine Park should not be missed.
The westernmost province of Thailand has not only gained fame for its striking landscape -- impressive waterfalls and caves, tranquil river scenery, and verdant national parks -- but also for its tragic history. During World War II, Asian laborers and allied prisoners of war were forced to build the Burma-Siam Railway through the province. The most famous reminder of this tragedy is the "Bridge On the River Kwai," which was immortalized in books and a motion picture of the same name.
PHUKET / KHAO LAK
Dubbed the "Pearl of the South," Phuket is Thailands largest island and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. It is also the wealthiest province in the country. With its spectacular beaches, sparkling blue waters, picturesque landscape, historical and cultural sights, as well as endless offers of entertainment, Phuket truly is a "dream-come-true" destination. For those who enjoy tranquility and nature alongside beautiful beaches, nearby Khao Lak is another great option, located some 90 kilometers north of Phuket on the mainland. Khao Lak National Park offers spectacular scenery, including splendid forested hills and valleys, sea cliffs, beaches, estuaries, and mangroves. Occasionally, wildlife such as barking deer, hornbills, gibbons, monkeys, and small bears can be seen in the park. For snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, the Similan and Surin Islands - acclaimed for their incredible coral and aquatic life - should not be missed.
KOH SAMUI (SAMUI ISLAND)
Ko Samui, Thailands third largest island (247 square kilometers), lies just offshore the province of Surat Thani. Dubbed "The Coconut Island," Ko Samui is one of the most popular tropical getaways in Thailand, with over half a million visitors each year. It owes its fame to its beautiful sweeping beaches, with powdery white sand and glassy waters surrounded by coconut groves.
One of the rising stars in Thailands tourism industry is unquestionably Krabi. Visitors are falling in love with the picturesque tropical islands, which come in many sizes and shapes, that are located just offshore this southern province. Surrounded by lush vegetation and towering karst formations, Krabi is an ideal place for beach and nature lovers. Major attractions include the Susan Hoi (Shell Cemetery), Noppharat Thara Beach, Phra Nang Beach, and the spectacular islands of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, famed for their unspoiled beaches surrounded by bright blue waters and coral reefs.
Thailands second largest city, also known as the "Rose of the North," is blessed with rich historical and cultural heritage. Located in the highlands of the North, Chiang Mai offers a pleasant climate all year round. Though a fraction of the size of Bangkok, Chiang Mai boasts almost as many "wats" (temples) as the capital. Chiang Mai not only offers magnificent temples and nice weather, but also a stunning landscape, excellent entertainment, great shopping, and the charm of its people.
CHIANG RAI / GOLDEN TRIANGLE
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, lies in the heart of the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge. It is best known for its stunning mountain scenery and the several different hilltribes that make their home in the province. The main hilltribe groups in this region are Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Akha, and Mien. These ethnic minorities began to arrive in Thailand at the end of 19th century, although some groups may have been here much longer. They were forced out of their native countries, such as Myanmar, China, and Tibet, by civil war and political pressure. Each hilltribe has its own customs, culture, religion, clothing, and language.
NORTH-EASTERN THAILAND (I-SAN)
NAKHON RATCHASIMA (KORAT)
Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as "Korat," is the gateway to the Northeast and an excellent starting point for excursions to various famous Khmer ruins in the region. The most important ones are Prasat Hin Phimai, Prasat Hin Khao Phnom Rung, and Prasat Hin Muang Tam. The city itself has a historical monument, the "Thao Suranari Monument," that was built in memory of a brave woman (Khun Ying Mo) who successfully defended Korat against an attack by Lao invaders in 1826. Each year, a weeklong festival is held in her honor.
Nakhon Phanom is situated on the banks of the Mekong River, opposite the town of Thakaek in Laos. The Mekong River is barely 1 kilometer wide at this point, and in the dry season a passage becomes exposed, making it almost possible to walk across to Laos. Nakhon Phanom is also known as the "City of the Mountains" because of its outstanding geographical position. It acts as a viewpoint overlooking the splendid mountains beyond the border. Thanks to the influences of Lao, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups that immigrated to this region over the centuries, Nakhon Phanom has acquired some unique customs, dialects, and cuisine. One of these extraordinary customs is the welcome and blessing ceremony called "Bai-Sri-Su-Kwan." This lovely town is a good place to spend a few relaxing days by the Mekong.