Thailand offers a whole lot more than Bangkok and beautiful southern beaches. Consider, heading off the beaten track to Kanchanaburi, where you can laze about by River Kwai, explore the ancient ruins of Sukhothai and visit the hill tribe villages of Chiang Rai. Below we've list our favourite places to visit in Thailand, some familiar, some new. We hope you'll love them too.
Straddling the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is a bustling metropolis and the country’s capital. Known by locals as Krungthep, Bangkok is a city which many find at first overwhelming and chaotic. Founded in 1782, the city possesses many highly regarded attractions including the Grand Palace, magnificent wats, museums and parks. For those of you who enjoy shopping, Bangkok offers a plethora of choice from markets to trendy boutiques, as well as an exciting nightlife with trendy bars & clubs. Bangkok will soon get under your skin.
Though Thailand’s second city Chiang Mai is quite different to Bangkok. Thanks to the prestigious Chiang Mai University the city has a young laid back vibe, and boasts an array of wats, temples, restaurants and markets and possesses an enviable location beneath the foothills of Northern Thailand. Food lovers will find respite in Chiang Mai's abundance of restaurants and street food. The Don Phayam Market provides an outstanding example of a Thai Produce Market, and the city teems with quality cooking classes.
Embodied within a historical park, UNESCO listed ‘Old Sukhothai’ is the site of the ancient Thai Capital of Sukothai. Meaning ‘Dawn of Happiness’ its rise in the early 13th century, as the kingdom’s first capital, is a period seen as the golden age when arts, culture and trade flourished. Today the site contains the ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist Temples and the city gates, walls and moats of the ancient kingdom. Well preserved and peaceful, these stunning ruins are steeped in history and look particularly stunning at sunrise.
The hill tribe dwellers are a semi-nomadic people, who arrived from their native China, Tibet & Burma as a result of civil war and political pressure. Though collectively known as ‘Hill tribes,’ this rather generalist description fails to adequately describe the obvious differences between each group. The tribes not only originate from different countries but also have their own culture, religion and language. There are six main groups of hill tribe communities in northern Thailand. On many of our tours whilst in Chiang Rai we visit the Karen hill tribe community. Known as the ‘long neck’ tribe, the native women wear neck rings that cause their necks to lengthen.
Just over 100kms from Bangkok is Kanchanaburi. Surrounded by beautiful limestone hill, majestic lakes, rivers & waterfalls, a trip to Kanchanaburi for many is not about the beautiful scenery but World War II and the Thai-Burma Railway. Sitting along side the River Kwai, the town signature landmark is the rail bridge built by POW’s, this together with Jeath War Museum, War Cemetary and the railway itself are all poignent reminders of the Death Railway.
Founded in 1262, Chiang Rai is an ancient city which has managed to retain its small town charm. Located in the highlands, it enjoys cooler temperatures and a superb reputation as a trekking base. Evidence of the town’s historic past can be seen with monuments such as Wat Phra Kaeo, it also possesses an excellent Hilltribe Education Centre which provides valuable background information for those thinking of trekking.
Chiang Rai province itself is beautiful. This area, more commonly known as the Golden Triangle, is historically synonymous with the opium and heroin trades (hence the ‘Golden’), and where Burma, Laos and Thailand all meet (the ‘Triangle’). Superb vista’s abound, as well as the historical towns of Chiang Saen – one of the oldest in Thailand with a lovely situation on the banks of the Mekong and Mae Sai, the northern most Thai town, on the Burmese border.
Nestled between Lampang and Chiang Mai, the Elephant Conservation Centre is a popular attraction for both travellers and locals alike. Founded in 1993, the centre is home to more than 50 Asian elephants and has made a name for itself for its work in research and conservation. As well as an onsite hospital, the centre also operates a mobile clinic that treats elephants in need of help. Here you can watch elephants bathe in a nearby river, visit the calves at the nursery and enjoy an elephant back ride through jungle paths.
Located in the northern reaches of the country, Lampang is a charming city known for its horse drawn carriages, shimmering Buddhist temples, and laid back vibe. Discover the charms of Lampang’s Old Town, haggle at the local markets, and pay a visit to the ancient Ban Sao Nak teakwood house, a classic example of Thai and Burmese architecture. A short drive from the city is the exquisite Wat Phra That Lampang Luang Temple, surrounded by a picturesque landscape of rolling hills and rice fields.