By: Isaac Olson
Thailand has been a tourist’s dream for decades. It’s difficult to narrow down the best things about Thailand. Nevertheless, below are five highlights.
People and Culture
Thais are known for freely flashing their smiles making visitors feel welcome. Not only is the smile a common expression, but Thais have a non-confrontational ethos and suppress anger. They also try to be helpful and usually display a mellow demeanor.
Much of the Thai attitude comes from Buddhism. This religion has shaped so much of Thailand’s culture from architecture to holidays. There is something distinctive about Buddhism in Thailand though. Traditionally, the country was heavily influenced by the culture and religions coming out of India. What we now call Hindu gods can be spotted in Buddhist temples and in spirit houses throughout Thailand.
Don’t forget to practice your wai (Thai bow) before coming.
Thailand’s well developed tourism industry keeps on adding more choices. Adventure activities such as rock climbing and wakeboarding are popping up more and more. Thailand has world class dive sites in places like the Similan Islands. Canopy Walks sporting zip lines have sprung up, and mountain biking and river rafting are available in the North.
Eco and cultural tourism has a strong presence in places such as the North and Northeast. Home stays and volunteer projects can be arranged. Interacting with humanely treated elephants in sanctuaries is an experience not to be missed in one of a number of locations in the country.
From scenic mountain passes to beach sunsets on stunning islands, Thailand serves up a diverse taste of tropical nature. The Andaman Sea offers islands and shorelines galore. For mountain highs, head to Thailand’s West, North, or Northeast. Here you will find plentiful waterfalls with perfect pools to take a dip in.
Jungle rivers are a highlight of any visit to Southeast Asia, and Thailand has plentiful examples. The mighty Mekong River is a site, and temple viewing by boat on the Chao Praya River is a great pleasure. Staying in a floating guesthouse or visiting a river market are other ways to enjoy Thailand’s scenic bodies of water.
Strong flavors and spiciness dominate most Thai foods. The sheer variety of dishes is impressive with distinct influences from India, China, and ethnic groups throughout Southeast Asia. The cuisine has been growing in popularity throughout the world. Cooking courses and culinary tours are popular and offered by travel agents, hotels, and guesthouses.
Fresh herbs and spices are a trademark of Thai food with Thai basil, mint, lemongrass, or cilantro found in nearly every dish. Multicolored curries are common and often contain coconut milk. Thai salads are usually based on green papaya. Soups, such as tom yum, are spicy and sour with a fusion of herbs and spices. Fried noodle dishes like pad thai, are sweet and salty.
Temples and Palaces
Thais have a saying, “To be Thai is to be Buddhist,” so it’s hard to go anywhere in Thailand without stumbling upon a temple. However, not everyone in Thailand is Buddhist, and the country houses a handful of unique churches and mosques.
The shiny gold covering Thai temples and the attention to intricate detail make the structures a fantastic site. Palaces are done in a similar style. One of the most exciting aspects of the many Buddhist houses of worship is the fact that they are alive with monks and religious visitors. Adding a great deal of mystique, there are also many ancient sites in ruins. Not all of the architecture is distinctly Thai either, since the country contains fine examples of Khmer and Chinese style temples.