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10 Interesting Places in Thailand

1. Khaosan Road
Come Down to the Crossroads

The crossroads for any young traveler coming to or leaving Southeast Asia are at Khaosan Road. This lively strip is a multi-nationality experience, with dozens of street vendors, artisans, fancy bars and restaurants galore. Ever since Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, and the movie version starring Leonardo DiCaprio, appeared, the road’s reputation has been on the up and up. Nowadays, there may be a Boots pharmacy, a Burger King, a McDonald’s and more upscale accommodation, but Khaosan still attracts many young travelers – and even their one-time hippie parents.

Near to Khaosan, Phra A-thit Road is Bangkok’s Little Bohemia, with arty restaurants, chic bars and a riverfront park that hosts festivals of theatre, dance and music from time to time. The beautifully preserved old wooden buildings around here are a portal into Bangkok’s past. And the nearby pier for river-taxis makes arriving and departing a breeze.

2. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Break Your Budget at this Mammoth Bazaar

For a truly Thai shopping experience, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is guaranteed to appease both the thrifty bargain-hunter and the moneyed antique collector. From home decorations and artworks to exquisite Thai handicrafts and exotic pets, you’ll find them all – and much much more – in this sprawling behemoth of a bazaar. When you’re on that final shopping spree for souvenirs or presents for your loved ones back home, this is the place to shop until your bank balance drops.

With more than 15,000 individual stalls spread over 35 acres, the Weekend Market (which is on the Skytrain line) can seem overwhelming at first. Just remember that the outer rim of the market usually features plants, gardening equipment and some used clothing, while the stalls in the inner sections deal in clothing, souvenirs, jewellery and household décor.

Towards the back and northends of the market is where most of the exotic plants, fi sh and other animals are contained. The Nancy Chandler Map for the market is a handy time-saviour.

3. Gulf of Thailand
Make a Big Splash in the Gulf of Thailand

No journey to the Land of Smiles would be complete without visiting some of its globally lauded, tropical islands and oceanfront resorts. Dip into Hua Hin (the country’s oldest beach resort) for golf and horse-riding on the beach. Try Ko Chang for its abundance of eco tourism activities. Rock up to Pattaya for its raucous nightlife or savour all of these different delights on Ko Samui.

But there are many other natural treasures with some sandy fringe benefi ts where serenity reigns supreme. Ko Tao is popular with families and also certifies more rookie scuba-divers each year than any other destination in Southeast Asia. To really get away from it all, try Ko Mak in the Ko Chang National Marine Park. For a more Thai-style experience, close to Bangkok, head for Bang Saen, which boasts some of the cheapest and most succulent seafood in the country.

4. Pai, Maehongsorn
Call of the Wild

Pai, The pastoral town in Mae Hong Son province nestled in the northern mountains of Thailand, has become a base camp for eco-explorers of all ages, with trekking and staying over at hill-tribe villages, whitewater rafting and mountain biking being some of the most attractive options. Close to this town are waterfalls and rolling green hills. And the town itself offers a wealth of classes in everything from Reiki to traditional massage to various New Age disciplines. A favourite haunt for young travelers, Pai is slowly moving more up market thanks to its new airport.

But its increasing popularity has yet to sully the town’s tranquil charm, art galleries cum-coffee shops in century-old wooden dwellings, and riverside bungalows in very price range.

5. Pak Khlong Talad & Yaowarat
Let Yourself Bloom

Pak Khlong Talat, the leading flower market in Bangkok, comes in a painter’s palette of colours – orchids of every hue, garlands of marigold, birds of paradise, bouquets of roses from Chiang Mai, chrysanthemums, and the florid, ceremonial ornaments known as Bai Si, constructed from banana leaves and crowned with flowers.

What many travelers do is buy a special flower box there, spray the flowers before boarding, put moist tissues around them, and carry them on as hand luggage. It’s a great way to save money and make a dazzling arrival.

The market is busy during the day and at night, but it’s really blooming in the early morning hours when vendors are setting up shop and the streets are filled with carts and trucks full of flowers.

This area, near the Chao Phraya (the River of Kings), is a wonderful way to cool down after a day of overheated shopping in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, famous for its gold shops, street markets, and Chinese-style temples. Some tours of the canals in the vicinity also include the market as a sweet-smelling stopover on their itineraries. After a visit here, you’ll feel fresh as a daisy.

6. Sukhothai
Biking Tour in World Heritage Sites, Time Traveling on a Bicycle

Sukhothai, which means “Dawn of Happiness,” also marked the dawning of the first Siamese Kingdom and the birth of the Thai language. Once an outpost of the Khmer empire, they were driven out by the Siamese who established their first Kingdom here in 1238. It was a golden age for classical art, architecture and Buddhism. To traverse these magnificent ruins in the Sukhothai Historical Park – Thailand’s equivalent of Angkor Wat – rent a mountain bike for a pittance.

You can also cycle leisurely past dozens of remnants from the next Siamese empire, Ayutthaya, in its “Ancient City,” or scattered around the town, and hugging the banks of the rivers, which form a natural moat around what was once considered the most glorious town and trading port in Asia. And well-appointed museums in the city give an overview of the Kingdom’s 400-year-plus reign.

There are not many towns in the world where you can drive by the ruins of a 15th century pagoda, just down the street from a modern convenience store, but that’s the magic of Ayutthaya for you.

7. Khao Yai
On Top of Thailand

Imagine climbing down a cliff face with a gushing waterfall on both sides of you. That’s the thrill of abseiling in Khao Yai National Park, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its diverse eco-systems and 800 different species of fauna. The park is also renowned for its waterfalls, ranging from 15 to 50 meters high. Abseiling (or walking backwards) down them is a thrill sport that will make you feel like Spider-man.

But there are more than just chills and spills to fill out a day in the park. To get to some of the waterfalls requires kayaking across a lake, or trekking through some of the most luscious greenery in the Kingdom. And the jungle is a lair for wild elephant herds, gibbons and hornbills.

8. Similan & Surin Islands
Explore Sunken Treasures

Some of the world’s most bedazzling spots for scuba diving and snorkelling are in the archipelagos of the Andaman Sea’s Similan and Surin Islands. Below the emerald-green and sapphire-blue surface, you’ll see manta rays, whale sharks, lionfish, schools of barracuda and around 75 percent of the coral species in Thailand. But that’s only rippling the surface, for there’s also leatherback turtles, squid, octopus and giant Gorgonian sea fans.

For the upscale option, book a liveaboard (which means you sleep and eat on a boat for several days) from Phuket to explore the Similan Islands and their multitude of dive spots, awash with the colours of what people call the “rainforests of the sea”: coral reefs teeming with marine life. You’ll sleep in comfort and wake up to smell the salty breeze and then plunge into the wild blue yonder beneath the waves.

If you’re not a diver, don’t worry, because you won’t be left high and dry. Many snorkellers opt to stay on the Surin Islands in accommodation provided by the National Park service, or put up their own tents. The park also runs its own daily snorkelling trips to some fantastically beautiful reefs. Even if you’re not a strong swimmer, they will provide you with a life jacket so you can get into the swim of things.

9. Andaman Coast
Be Adventurous Like James Bond

Whether you’re looking for hard or soft adventures, from sea kayaking to simply soaking up the sun on a sandy tropical beach, the islands of Krabi province (renowned as the setting for The Beach) and Phuket (close to where The Man with the Golden Gun was shot), are truly amazing destinations.

The symbol of Krabi, which is the oldest continually inhabited province in Thailand, is the limestone crag. Nature’s exclamation marks, these towering monoliths punctuate Krabi’s inland geography, and make for dramatic cliff faces framing seaview sunsets. For water sports aficionados, there are lots of ways to get a high tide of adrenaline fl owing, from jet-skis to banana boats, and parasailing to marine fishing.

But softer tours of beauty are available in the area, too. One of the most scenic trips is visiting Phang-nga Bay, studded with limestone crags rising hundreds of meters out of the sea. Most of these tours throw in a stopover at James Bond Island, while “paddling guides” also take you in kayaks through sea caves that open up into lagoons, overflowing with placid aquamarine water that’s surrounded by limestone cliffs.

10. Floating Market & Khlong Tour
Cruising the Canals, Rolling on the River

Bangkok used to be known as the “Venice of the Far East” for all the watery arteries connecting to the main vein – the River of Kings. Taking a long-tail boat tour of a few of these canals on the Thon Buri side of the river, like Bangkok Noi (little) and Bangkok Yai (big) with breaks at the Temple of Dawn and the Royal Barges Museum is a great way to immerse yourself in Thai and Siamese history. And buzzing down the waterways in a long-tail boat, past canal-side houses and floating petrol stations, inspires a real buzz of excitement you won’t find anywhere else.

Another historic voyage is along the canal of Khlong Om to the island of Ko Kret, home to a thriving community of Mon artisans, who sell the fruits of their labours, like sandstone sculptures, for very reasonable prices. To get there, take the river taxi to the last station, Nonthaburi, and charter your own long-tail boat from the pier.

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