I’ve been to Thailand three times now, for about six weeks in all. Sound like a lot? I know quite a few travel bloggers who’ve been for months on end, or even years – there’s just something about the place that keeps people coming back for more. The food, the prices, the incredible hotels, cheap hostels, beautiful islands, the ease of getting around – any and all could be responsible for why Thailand is so popular, and why last year over 38 million people visited.
They reckon it’ll be a total of 41 million this year.
I’ll try and sum up why everyone loves Thailand so much in one blog post.
Top reasons to visit Thailand
1. The sunshine
The best time to visit Thailand is November to February, although this kingdom has high temperatures and beautiful sunshine pretty much all year round. Even during the wet season, the showers don’t last long and you’re soon back out on the beach, so it really is an all-year-round option.
2. The prices
Flights may cost a fair bit (upwards of £400), but once you’re in Thailand the food, accommodation and transport can all be done on the tightest of budgets. Dorm rooms come to no more than £12, street food can be eaten for £1 and long haul bus trips rarely go over £20. If you’re willing to add a little extra to the money pot then you can expect true luxury for a fraction of what it’d cost back home.
Even once in a lifetime experiences like elephant treks, visiting a hill tribe or exploring the jungle rarely cost more than £50.
3. The location
Sure, it might take around 12 hours to travel from the UK to Bangkok, but one thing that makes Thailand so appealing is that once you’re there you can easily access other far flung places. A two hour flight could have you in Ho Chi Minh, Singapore is just a three hour ride away and Bali’s beaches are calling on a 4-hour flight.
Then there are other neighbouring countries you don’t even have to fly too. Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia are just a border crossing away and with regular bus links, Thailand makes for the perfect place to start an Asian adventure that goes beyond the Land of Smiles.
It’s the ideal stop off as a gateway to other magical destinations.
4. The easy travel
Aside from how easy it is to get to other countries, it’s also really easy to travel within Thailand. You don’t have to choose between the beaches and jungles, wildlife and water activities. You can easily put together a trip incorporating it all.
That’s because there’s incredibly cheap buses ferrying you between places like Bangkok and Phuket, and flights that are still really affordable.
Even if you’ve only got a few weeks, you can definitely pack in the likes of the north’s Chiang Mai, the south’s Ko Lanta and central Bangkok no problem.
5. The history and culture
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the cool activities you can do in Thailand, and the crazy nightlife you’re down to enjoy, but one of the best things about a trip to Thailand is learning about a culture that is so different to the UK. Thailand has a vast history of dynasties and royal families that you can swot up on in places like Bangkok National Museum, National Gallery and Museum Siam.
The culture is also steeped in Buddhism. In fact, 95% of the population is Buddhist and it’s not unusual to see a Buddhist monk on your travels. You can learn more about the religion and absorb some of its meditative effects by visiting some of the temples, shines and pagodas.
6. The food
Pad thai, green curry, satay — some of the UK’s favourite dishes on home turf, but try having them in their homeland. The flavours, and the price, make them taste even better. You can try quality dishes from street vendors or sit down in authentic restaurants for tasty noodles and fresh meats. For those who really don’t want the endless supply of tasty Thai food to end, loads of locations offer Thai cooking classes so you can bring the flavours home.
Plus, if you have any dietary requirements, especially if you’re gluten free, you’re really well catered for here. Rice noodles are a great substitute and staff are always willing to remove any items you may be allergic to as it’s all made fresh.
If you’re going to Thailand, I 100% recommend that you do a Bangkok food tour as soon as you arrive. They’re the best way to learn about the food opportunities of a new country, and to get a good feed.
Then, once you’ve sampled a fair few meals, take a cooking class so you can recreate an authentic curry, noodle dish or spicy soup back home.
7. The people
It can be daunting, visiting an entirely new place, but Thai people are some of the world’s friendliest. Whether it’s saying a quick sah-wah-dee, bowing to you at dinner or offering you local wisdom, it’s easy to feel comfortable around the people of Thailand.
It’s how the country got its nickname as ‘Land of Smiles.’
8. The natural landscape
Thailand has over 1,500 miles of coastline, all with absolutely stunning beaches. But what gives Thailand the extra edge is the fact that you can mix it up with other incredible spots of natural beauty like the Khao Sok National Park, the Mae Klang Falls and Krabi’s Jungle and Hot Springs.
In total, there are 147 national parks in the country, natural forests covering 25% of the country and caves, mountains, rivers and waterfalls to explore. Some of the best places to base yourself if you want to see some of the nature include Chiang Rai, Pai and Mai Hai Song.
9. The adventure activities
These spots also make for epic adventure playgrounds. You can make like a monkey and zipline the Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai, flyboard in Koh Samui, hike Pai’s canyons or rock climb on Railay Beach. Seriously, those are just a few of the adventure activities you can do in Thailand, there are so many but I don’t want this blog post to be too long.
10. The wildlife
Thailand has some of the world’s most wild and beautiful creatures.
It’s home to 10% of the world’s animals.
You can take a boat out on Khao Sam Roi Yot Marine Park to spot Irrawaddy dolphins, tour the Khao Yai National Park to spy an asian elephant or stop by Huai Kha Khaeng to see a leopard.
Then there’s tigers and otters, gibbons and macaques, boars and porcupines, sharks and manta rays. With day trips to one of the natural parks and loads of sanctuaries around, you’re never short of an opportunity to see some amazing creatures up close. Just make sure to do your research so you know that wherever you’re visiting, they’re treating the animals well and not subjecting them to any abuse.
And if you want to find out about the world famous Full Moon Party, check out this post from dreambigtravelfarblog.com
11. The city life
While beaches and countryside are major draws, let’s not leave out Thailand’s cities. Places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya are massive hits in themselves. Bangkok has the crazy vibes of Khao San Road and top attractions like the Grand Palace, Chiang Mai mixes mountains with historical ruins while Pattaya has swanky malls and the famous Big Buddha.
12. The temple
These also are another reason to visit Thailand. Each city has amazing Buddhist temples.
In fact, Thailand has over 40,000 of them and their incredible designs are a big draw.
Catching the sunset over Bangkok’s Wat Arun, snapping the white Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai and seeing the rows of buddhas at Ayutthaya’s Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon are some of the most popular temple visits.
The best one to start off with though is Bangkok’s Grand Palace. One of the most opulent and intricately designed places of worship you’ll ever see, just remember to cover up before checking it out.
If you fancy having a day of temple visits, head a few hours outside of Bangkok to the city of Ayutthaya. Here they have some of the most unique ones and a tuk tuk driver will happily show you their favourites for a good price.
The uniqueness of these temples all contribute to why Thailand is so popular with tourists.
13. The festivals
Thailand hosts some of the most unusual festivals that really make for once in a lifetime moments, like Loi Krathong, the lantern festival in November. There’s also Songkran that marks the Thai new year and means an epic water fight in the streets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok and Phi Ta Khon, a spooky ghost festival held just north of Bangkok.
The most incredible festival though, and the one I want to go to most, is the annual Vegetarian Festival held in Phuket. You might’ve seen the pictures around – the ones where participants pierce metal rods through their ears, faces, and bodies? Don’t look it up. I do kinda want to go though.
14. The nightlife
You’d be forgiven for thinking Thailand never sleeps because a trip here means you get a serious lack of it. Bangkok’s shows, rooftop bars and night markets alone are enough to keep you up all night and heading to the islands makes no difference. Beach parties, like the Full Moon Party, 24 hour massages and beachside bars make it a top spot for party people.
15. The beaches
Thailand has over 1,500 miles of coastline, all with absolutely stunning beaches. Think actual white sands and the kind of water you can clearly see your toes in.
The beaches of islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui are so beautiful they’ve even made it into a couple of movies like Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and The Beach. If they’re good enough for Leo DiCaprio they’re good enough for us.
Over the years, some have got a bit crowded like Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, but if you do your research you can still find quieter spots retaining that Thai magic.
16. The water sports
While no one would judge you for doing nothing but lying on one of the many beaches and occasionally indulging in the odd massage or mojito, the beaches are home to endless water activities.
Boat rides out to secluded caves, scuba diving among tropical fish or jet skiing among the waves, you can’t be bored in Thailand. It’s also a great place to get PADI certified if you’re fancy scuba diving.
17. The shopping
Any traveller to Thailand comes back with a bag full of souvenirs that most likely include a pair of harem pants, fake Raybans and a Chang beer t-shirt. Whether you plan to or not, the markets here, compounded by the cheap prices, make it too difficult to resist.
The Bangkok night market, and Chiang Mai’s Ploen Ruedee night market are two of the best ones for random gifts and quirky souvenirs. Then there’s the spices, fruits and veggies you can’t bring home but will definitely buy there.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market offers a major temptation there. Located two hours outside of Thailand, it’s an amazing experience to go shopping here.
18. The massages
You may well have had something called a Thai massage back home but nothing quite compares to one in Thailand. Using traditional techniques that involve stretching, postures and acupressure, the masseurs have you clicking and cracking in places you never knew could even crack.
The first one can be a little scary just because you might not have been twisted into such a shape before or had someone stand on your back, but after that first one you’ll be making them a weekly part of your trip. And for just a few pounds, that wouldn’t be so outrageous.