Overview of Thailand

Turn around in Thailand and you will see another beautiful beach, a traditionally adorned building, and a peaceful mountain. Turn around in Thailand and you will see a lush forest, a graceful elephant, and a junket sailing slowly into the sun. Thailand has been blessed by fascinating places and friendly people. The country is often called the “land of smiles”. Her climate is tropical, and the monsoons start in June after the two hottest months of April and May. The best months to go visit and tour this resplendent natural wonder are November through February.

Thailand is divided into four regions:

1. The Central Plain is a very fertile area of rice and fruit, with beaches of the East Coast, vivid traditional culture, and the capital city of Bangkok.
2. The Peninsular South, where the economy is triggered by tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing, and the beaches and islands are pristine.
3. The Mountainous North, with its multicoloured orchids, juicy strawberries, and peaches are grown in the winter where temperatures are cool enough to allow them to be cultivated.
4. The High Northeast Plateau is the region where Thailand flaunts its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries.

Our goal is to emphasise one place in each region that would hold the most beauty and adventure for a vacation. Our fear is to be limited to only one destination per area.

The Central Plain
Our choice here is Bangkok, Thailand’s commercial, political, spiritual, cultural, and educational centre. It is teaming with attractions and national treasures since the first Chakri dynasty. The first attraction should be on the top of your list. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo is made up of several buildings with delicate architectural details. It houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred in Thailand. Within walking distance is the National Museum, which contains over one thousand artefacts from the Neolithic time to the present. There are literally hundreds of buildings, temples, and palaces that were built or placed somewhere in Bangkok by a king that ruled hundreds of years ago that are all worth seeing. There is also the Planetarium and Scientific Museum, China Town, The Weekend Market at Chatuchak Park (rated as one of the places to visit “before you die” by many guidebooks), The Dusit Zoo, Siam Water Park, and Safari World. Do not miss any of it!

The Peninsular South
Phuket is our choice here in the south, although Hat Yai is a very close second. It is Thailand’s biggest island and holds the shape of an irregular pearl, thus the nickname the Pearl of the Andaman Sea. Looking around Phuket, one would see green hills, coconut groves, rubber plantations, and a bewitching coastline embracing many white sand beaches. The entire west coast of the island has been left untouched. Attractions here include an aquarium, pearl farms, a butterfly garden, and “Thai Village” where cultural shows are presented daily. Of course, there is an old temple, Wat Chalong to visit, and the most beautiful spot on earth, Phromthep Cape.

The Mountainous North
Chiang Mai is the choice here, and once again, another city came very close to winning. Sukhothai, because of its massive statue of Buddha and its extensive restoration, should be visited, if you can pull yourself away from Chiang Mai. This city in northern Thailand is the second largest city and the oldest. Founded during the late 13th century, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand's oldest continuous inhabited settlements. Inside the original centre of the city there is the original moat and supporting gates along with many ancient yet beautiful Buddhist temples, as well as other monuments. As a result, this city's nickname is “Rose of the North”.

Other attractions are Phuping Palace, which is the summer home of the Royal Family, arts and crafts, which are traditional to the region. The skills to make these crafts are passed down through the generations, and are well worth the shopping trip. Another attraction that you cannot miss is an original, natural jungle tour through the North. You can pick your means of travel, those being on foot (I do not suggest this unless you absolutely love trekking), by jeep (this is okay, but can get crowded), by river rafting with overnight stops at hill tribe villages (this would be VERY interesting, but too many mosquitoes), OR by elephant back (the best way). Trips could be from one day to one week, and you will always have a guide with you. Okay, there is another choice. You could take a long-tail boat or raft down (or up) the Kok River. It is only a few hours journey and you can stop and visit hill tribe villages along the way.

The High Northeast Plateau
Our choice for the last region of the Northeast Plateau is Khao Yai. This is not a city but a National Park. Its nickname is ‘Big Mountain’, and it is the most popular national park in Thailand. It spans four vegetation zones; semi-evergreen, evergreen rainforest, hill evergreen forest, and mixed deciduous forests. Its elevation measures from 100 meters to more than 1,400 meters and has an unlimited amount of birds and animals. Attracting over a million locals and tourists each year, Khao Yai is the relaxing getaway for which urbanites long. You can also golf in the park.

If you only have a week to spend in Thailand, then you are going to have a difficult time choosing from our list. If you want to rush around and do everything in one week, well then, good luck. We suggest you take about a month off work and spend some quality time in Thailand, the ‘land of smiles’.