Most people spend a few days in the Thai capital, but many find the pollution, traffic congestion and chaotic street life extremely wearing. There’s plenty to take you off the street, however, including the glittering Grand Palace compound and its beautiful gigantic Reclining Buddha; the comprehensively stocked National Museum; the massive Chatuchak weekend market; with over eight thousand different nightlife that suns the full range from cutting-edge clubs to depressing strip joints.
Thailand’s beaches are among the world’s best. You’ll find the most developed and expensive resorts, and some of the finest sands, on the islands of Ko Samui and Phuket, while backpakers tend to head for the more budget oriented Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao, Ko Lanta and Ko Mook. Krabi’s Railay beaches are nothing short of stunning, Ko Samet makes and easy and economical break from Bangkok and Ko Chang is handy for travelers heading in and out of Cambodia.
Unlike the organized treks in the Himalayas, Thailand’s “hill-tribe treks” focus on the ethnic-minority villages that you walk to, rather than on the walking itself or the scenery. The hill tribes live way out in the sticks, but their villages are connected by tracks, so the hiking is not difficult. Most treks last two to four days and feature nights in the villages, as well as an elephant ride and river rafting. The main trekking centres are the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, but routes out of both are hugely over subscribed, so it’s better to start from Mae Hing Sin, Pai, Kanchanaburi or Umphang instead, where trails are quieter and more rewarding.
The ruined former capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya
Dating from the thirteen century, Sukhothai is a beautiful example og thoughtful city planning enlivened by lakes and elegant statues of the Buddha. The 300-year-old temples and palaces of Ayutthaya display a refined mix of Hindu and Buddhist sculpture and are fun to explore by bicycle. Both sets of ruins are now conserved as historical parks. There are plenty of sobering World War II sights in the town, as well as reasonable range of trekking, rafting and cycle options that make the most or the fine river scenery, plus some appealing rafthouse accommodation too.