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From bustling Bangkok to captivating Chiang Mai and lost Lampang, Thailand offers a rich tapestry of experiences and landscapes for travelers ready to journey off the beaten itinerary. The country is a foodie destination, with every restaurant and home giving “classic” Thai recipes their own special twist, plus a well-loved street food scene. Shoppers indulge in designer stores in ultra-modern malls alongside floating markets and night bazaars, while photographers can fill countless SD cards with shots of glittering temples, lesser-visited ruins, lush forests, and vast historical parks.
Visitors often love Thailand’s festive nightlife, from Bangkok’s clubs to Koh Pha-Ngan’s Full Moon Parties. History buffs will be fascinated by Thailand’s rich past and vast array of architecture, from modern working temples to the picturesque ancient ruins of Siam. Luxury lovers and adrenaline seekers are equally at home in the friendly country known as the Land of Smiles. Five-star rooftop bars and world-class spas call to some, while others skydive, zip line, scuba dive, and rock climb to their heart’s content. Explore this well-traveled and world-renowned destination with every kind of tour imaginable, by bike, bus or boat.
Most international travelers arrive at Bangkok’s bustling international Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). From there, you can easily access almost any part of Thailand by plane in less than two hours. Thailand also has a fairly extensive train network which, although not the fastest option, offers some wonderful views of the landscape. Night trains offer one-of-a-kind journeys to the northern and southern tips of the country, and buses are another popular option for those heading in both directions from Bangkok. Within the capital, travelers can take the Skytrain (the city’s comprehensive metro system), taxis, or riverboats. To get among Thailand’s tropical islands, ferries are the easiest option. Car hire is generally not recommended for visitors, as it can be costly and the roads can be difficult to navigate.
Thailand has high temperatures and humidity year-round with plenty of sunshine. The country essentially has two seasons: a dry season and a rainy or monsoon season. Weatherwise, it’s best to travel during the dry season, between November and March, which is the peak time for visitors looking to enjoy up to nine hours of sun a day. The shoulder seasons, from April to early June and late September to October, can offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds. April and May are the hottest months, whereas the months of June through October receive heavy rain, although showers pass quickly, still allowing for plenty of daily sunshine. For diving and snorkeling along the southwest coast, November to February is the best time to travel for clearer conditions and calm seas.
The former capital of Siam is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating from 1350, it’s a hybrid of history and architecture, with its myriad colorful temples rising resplendent above the tree canopy. Take in enormous reclining Buddhas, golden statues, and stupas reclaimed by majestic tree roots.
In the north of the country, Chiang Mai’s somewhat sleepier and slightly less-visited sister city, Chiang Rai, holds its own magic: the intricate and fascinating Wat Rong Khun. The modern White Temple is an architectural marvel, blending pop culture with religion in such an unthinkably delicate structure it requires a whole day to marvel at.
The “Unseen Temples” — (albeit seen by more than a few people now) — nestle in the heart of mountainous Lampang Province. Take a tour for mountaintop views, unrivaled peace, and a peek into the ancient past. The town of Lampang is worth a stop, with its famous traditional teak buildings and modern street art in the local market.