Thailand receives more tourists than any other Southeast Asian nation and is world renowned for its beautiful beaches, friendly people and excellent cuisine.
Thailand has coasts on the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand, and shares land borders with Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Thailand is perhaps the ultimate tropical paradise. With its beaches featuring in Bond films and hit movie The Beach, it attracts foreigners from around the world seeking sandy beaches, coconut trees, clear waters and adventure. Colourful temples, golden Buddhas, and the unflinching joie de vivre of 64 million Thais keep the tourists coming back. In fact, some never leave. Thailand has among the highest numbers of Western expatriate residents in the world.
While human habitation can be dated back 40,000 years, Thailand as we know it today was established in 1782 under the Chakri Dynasty with King Rama I as head of state. The successful empire held off European colonisers to make it the only country in Southeast Asia not to be colonised by a European power, although it did conceded land along the Mekong to the French and to the British on the Malay Peninsula.
Since the 1980s, the Thai economy has flourished and democracy along with it. The World Bank has dubbed Thailand one of the great development success stories with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction. In 2011, it was upgraded to an upper-middle income economy.
Thailand’s exports include rice, textiles, fish products, rubber, jewellery, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances.
- Explore Phuket, Thailand’s most famous beach resort.
- Indulge yourself with a health retreat in Koh Samui. While there, scuba dive with whale sharks at Ko Tao, or just sunbathe on its exquisite golden beaches.
- Go rock climbing on sea cliffs in Krabi. The surrounding destinations will take your breath away. Take your pick: Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi, Ao Nang, Railay and Tham Pra Nang all complete the checklist for a perfect beach holiday.
- Spend some time in the political, commercial and cultural capital Bangkok. This chaotic city is as lovable as it is noisy. Colourful tuk tuks compete with temples for your attention and you cannot resist the fragrance of the delectable street food.
- Go 5-star in Hua Hin, where the upscale resorts are among the best in the world. It’s a great place to take the family or get in a round of golf. There’s also a royal palace in the town, where the Thai Royal family spends weekends away.
- Go hiking in the jungle at Chiang Mai and sign up for a soul lifting meditation retreat afterwards. You can also cuddle tigers and train elephants here.
- Take an elephant ride, do some bamboo rafting and pace yourself with some light hiking in Kanchanaburi. The cave temples here are particularly good.