Officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a unitary state at the center of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula composed of 76 provinces. At 513,120 km2 and over 68 million people, Thailand is the world’s 50th largest country by total area and the 21st-most-populous country. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, a special administrative area.
Tourism makes up about 6% of the economy. Thailand was the most visited country in Southeast Asia in 2013, according to the World Tourism Organization.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) uses the slogan “Amazing Thailand” to promote Thailand internationally. In 2015, this was supplemented by a “Discover Thainess” campaign.
Asian tourists primarily visit Thailand for Bangkok and the historical, natural, and cultural sights in its vicinity. Western tourists not only visit Bangkok and surroundings, but in addition many travel to the southern beaches and islands. The north is the chief destination for trekking and adventure travel with its diverse ethnic minority groups and forested mountains. The region hosting the fewest tourists is Isan in the northeast. To accommodate foreign visitors, the Thai government established a separate tourism police with offices in the major tourist areas and its own central emergency telephone number.
Thailand’s attractions include diving, sandy beaches, hundreds of tropical islands, nightlife, archaeological sites, museums, hill tribes, flora and bird life, palaces, Buddhist temples and and several World Heritage sites.
Capital of Thailand
A large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Nearby is Wat Pho Temple with an enormous reclining Buddha and, on the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire.
Traditional teak buildings like the grand Vimanmek Palace and the residence-turned-museum Jim Thompson House contrast with the city’s skyline of modern high-rises. Shopping options range from the upscale mega-malls of the Ratchaprasong district to the thousands of tiny stalls at overflowing Chatuchak Weekend Market. The city’s renowned food scene spans traditional street-cart snacks – spicy, sour, sweet and salty – to upscale international restaurants. Bangkok is also known for its exuberant nightlife, with venues ranging from swanky rooftop lounges to basic backpacker bars and nightclubs of the notorious Patpong district.
City in Thailand
Pattaya is a city on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast known for its beaches. A quiet fishing village as recently as the 1960s, it’s now lined with resort hotels, high-rise condos, shopping malls, cabaret bars and 24-hour clubs. Nearby, hillside Wat Phra Yai Temple features an 18m-tall golden Buddha. The area also features several designer golf courses, some with views of Pattaya Bay.
Jet-skiing and parasailing are popular activities on Pattaya’s busy beachfront, which is lined with lounge chairs and umbrellas. Jomtien Beach, to the south, is quieter and popular for windsurfing. Neon-lit Walking Street, which is closed to traffic each night, is packed with go-go bars, discos and massage parlors, while Art in Paradise features 3-D and interactive paintings. To the north, Naklua Bay also has beaches, a village-like vibe and the Sanctuary of Truth, an wood shrine covered with intricate Buddhist and Hindu carvings.
City in Phuket Island, Thailand
Phuket City, on Phuket Island, is the capital of Thailand’s Phuket Province. In the Old Town, Thalang Road is lined with colorful 19th-century shophouses and Sino-Portuguese buildings. Built in 1903 by a wealthy tin merchant, Baan Chinpracha mansion has Italian floor tiles, shuttered windows and antique furniture. Set in a 1930s manor, the Thai Hua Museum has exhibits on Phuket’s culture and history.
The Shrine of the Serene Light is an 1889 Chinese temple with Taoist etchings on the walls and ceramic sculptures on the roof. Dating back at least 200 years, Wat Put Jaw is a Chinese Buddhist temple dedicated to Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy. Next door is the Jui Tui Shrine, with ornate carvings of guardians on the doors. The Phuket Trickeye Museum is an interactive art gallery with paintings that create a 3D effect. Northwest of the center, Rang Hill has lush, landscaped gardens and a summit lookout. On its slopes, Wat Khao Rang temple features a large, golden Buddha statue.
Island in Thailand
Ko Samui, Thailand’s second largest island, lies in the Gulf of Thailand off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus. It’s known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest, plus luxury resorts and posh spas. The landmark 12m-tall golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple is located on a tiny island connected to Ko Samui by a causeway.
The popular beaches of Chaweng and Lamai, on the east coast, have lounge chairs and strolling vendors, while the towns around them are the island’s party centers, packed with pubs, go-go bars and nightclubs. On the north side is the more laid-back village of Bo Phut, which features former Chinese shophouses converted to stylish restaurants, cafes and boutique hotels, as well as a night market selling street food, clothing and souvenirs. Nearby lies tranquil Maenam Beach, while the old capital Nathon lies on the west coast. Day trips to the limestone-cliff islets of Ang Thong Marine National Park offer snorkeling and diving.
Phi Phi Islands
Island group in Thailand
The Phi Phi Islands are an island group in Thailand, between the large island of Phuket and the west Strait of Malacca coast of the mainland. The islands are administratively part of Krabi province. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island of the group, and is the most populated island of the group, although the beaches of the second largest island, Ko Phi Phi Lee, are visited by many people as well. The rest of the islands in the group, including Bida Nok, Bida Noi, and Bamboo Island, are not much more than large limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. The Islands are reachable by speedboats or Long-tail boats most often from Krabi Town or from various piers in Phuket Province. Phi Phi Don was initially populated by Muslim fishermen during the late-1940s, and later became a coconut plantation. The Thai population of Phi Phi Don remains more than 80% Muslim. The actual population however, if counting laborers, especially from the north-east, is much more Buddhist these days. The population is between 2,000 and 3,000 people. The islands came to worldwide prominence when Ko Phi Phi Leh was used as a location for the 2000 British-American film The Beach.