Last updated: 04:39 PM ET, Mon February 13 2023
Chiang Mai, Thailand at Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park. (photo via SeanPavonePhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Chiang Mai, Thailand at Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park. (photo via SeanPavonePhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
PHOTO: Chiang Mai, Thailand at Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park. (photo via SeanPavonePhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

It is difficult to pigeonhole Thailand, as it has many facets. The intensity of Bangkok, where very serene people manage to live frenetic urban lives; the world class island resorts in the Andaman Sea and in the Gulf of Thailand, the Hill Tribe cultures of the Golden Triangle, the temples that can be found throughout the entire country, the best shopping in Asia, the cuisine or the wellness traditions and techniques that are copied throughout the world are all united by a people who are among the most welcoming in the world.

Thailand challenges adventure seekers with its mountainous north and its hill-tribe villages; it warms sun seekers with some of Asia’s finest beaches and resorts on islands in the Andaman Sea islands and the Gulf of Thailand. It also relaxes sensualists in the very spas that pioneered indulgence; it satisfies gourmets with its signature cuisine, and it energizes city-lovers in its frenetic capital, Bangkok. The glue holding it all together is the natural hospitality and serene warmth of the Thai people. Though three types of travel complement each other in Thailand (beaches, Bangkok and adventure) there’s plenty of nuance in such experiences as cooking classes, meditation retreats and spa.

In Bangkok visitors explore temples, palaces and museums along with such other big city pursuits as fine dining, great value shopping, classical dance performances and gritty Thai boxing matches. In Northern Thailand travelers pursue eco-tourism activities from elephant trekking and visiting hill tribe villages to zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Beaches on such islands as Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi, sunworship combines with diving and partying.

Thailand is also a perfect gateway to such Indochinese countries as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, as well as to its Golden Triangle neighbor Myanmar. Thai history, reaching all the way back to when it was the kingdom of Siam, was intimately entangled with the Khmer Empire in Indochina and the Burmese kingdom to the north. Thus Thai culture is intimately tied into the cultures of its neighbors, making all of those countries complimentary when it comes to traveling in the region.

The fact that cooking tours and classes have become so popular in Thailand testifies to the role Thai food plays in the country’s popularity with Americans. Relying heavily on the hot spiciness typical of Southeast Asian cuisine, Thai food features a wonderful aromatic quality. While Thailand parades its cuisine in many five-star restaurants, you won’t be disappointed in even the humblest of establishments.

The temperatures in Thailand are tropical and hover in the 80s and 90s throughout the year, so the real issue is dryness. The winter months are Thailand’s dry season. The rainy season runs from May and climaxes in September. Continental, United, Delta and Thai all offer service to Bangkok’s new Suvarbabhumi’s International Airport, as do a host of other international carriers. From Europe and Asia it’s also possible to fly directly into Phuket. Thailand is home to a splendid bus system that can take country travelers to destinations throughout the mainland.