Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured, and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches. Outside the cluttered cities and towns lies Thailand's rural heartland, a mix of rice paddies, tropical forests, and villages where life is dominated by the rhythms of the agricultural clock.
Culture & History
An enchanting archipelago brimming with cultural history, Thailand is steeped in rich tradition and spirituality that is heavily influenced by ethnic groups from India, Cambodia, China, and Southeast Asia. Important to national identity, Theravada Buddhism is the national religion and includes Hindu spirituality such as worshiping ancestors and animism.
The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, and religious devotion is colorful and ubiquitous. Gleaming temples and golden Buddhas frame both the rural and the urban landscape. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honor the resident spirits, fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble homes as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents. Visitors can join the conversation through meditation retreats in Chiang Mai, religious festivals in northeastern Thailand, underground cave shrines in Kanchanaburi and Phetchaburi, and hilltop temples in northern Thailand.
Thailand has unique cultural norms and etiquette that tourists may be unaware of. For example, pointing with your feet or touching a person's head are taboos in Thailand, as the feet are considered the dirtiest body part while the head is most sacred. It is also important to remove your shoes when visiting a temple or entering someone's home.
Adored around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous, warm, refreshing, and relaxed. Thai dishes rely on fresh, local ingredients – pungent lemongrass, searing chilies, and plump seafood. A varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, and sour. Indeed, most Thai dishes are not considered satisfying unless they combine all five.
When eating out, or making a meal at home, a group of Thai diners would eat a variety of meat and/or fish dishes, plus vegetables, a noodle dish, and possibly soup. Everything is shared, except the soup each person might order, or each person gets a personal bowl to get a serving of the soup. Dessert may consist simply of fresh fruit, such as pineapple or any of the thousands of tropical fruits that are common in the country (guava, durian, mangosteen, papayas, bananas, tamarind, or mangoes, amongst many). Or it could be something more elaborate, like colorful rice cakes, rice dumplings coated in coconut, grass jelly, or a bean dessert.
Thailand’s beach parties are legendary – dizzying neon lights, throbbing music, swaying palm trees, delicious food and drink, and soft sands that act as the dance floor. You can watch the sun go down and come up the next morning, with party-goers from different parts of the world.
Besides the beaches, parties, and stunning scenery, shopping in Thailand is a major pull factor for tourists. Everything from clothing to souvenirs is available at throwaway prices, and you can stock up on some eclectic items that are only available in Thailand. Street shopping by day is a given, but Thailand’s night markets are chock-a-block with clothes, shoes, handicrafts, accessories, beachwear, knick-knacks, and food and drink.
Travel fans and culture lovers often find themselves awed by the country’s rich art, music, and literature, which goes hand in hand with its temples and religious sites. Stage shows are a prominent part of Thailand’s nightlife, and these flamboyant performances are thoroughly enjoyed by all ages. Actors, dancers, and singers in colorful ensembles take the stage and put on a spectacular show that takes the audience through Thai history and tradition by way of talented performances, special effects, and interesting acts.
Outdoors & Adventure
Thailand's coast is one giant playground, with plenty going on wherever the sand meets the sea. You can snorkel the gentle waters off Koh Lipe, diving with whale sharks around Koh Tao, scaling the sea cliffs of Krabi, kiteboarding in Hua Hin, party on Koh Phi-Phi, and recuperate at a health resort on Koh Samui.
Thailand’s most spectacular beaches are the ones at Railay in Krabi province. The impressive limestone rocks, stretching out hundreds of meters from beyond the surface of the water, are popular among rock climbers the world over. Ton Sai Beach is especially popular among adventurous backpackers that are interested in learning rock climbing or those who are looking for a slightly more challenging stay.
From April until November, the beaches on western Phuket are deserted. For the average tourist it’s low season, but not for surfers! Kalim Beach, Kamala Beach, Kata Beach, Nai Harn Beach, and Surin Beach are the surfing hotspots, with Surin Beach being the only one suitable for more experienced surfers. Rent a surfboard on the beach or take private lessons!
Pai has surprisingly much to offer to adventurous people. There’s a huge number of waterfalls to visit that you can have all to yourself, but also impressive caves, Lod Cave being the most famous. And what about all the different hot springs? There’s also a big canyon where you can walk around for hours. Rent a motorbike and go on an adventure!
Take a look at all the amazing destinations we have selected for you and your group, read our experiences and advice in our blog, and check what’s people saying about us too!