Author: Catherine Bodry

10 Reasons to Visit Thailand Now

Winter is on its way in the northern hemisphere, and if you’re plotting a tropical escape make certain Thailand is on your short list. This country has it all, from luxury retreats to palm-thatch huts; from mountaintops to world-class scuba diving.

Following is our list of top ten reasons why you should travel to Thailand; feel free you leave your own!

1. It has some of the best food in the world.

Thai cuisine may be Thailand’s most well-known export, but there’s more than pad thai and stir fry. A rainbow of curries as well as regional cuisine that makes the most out of local ingredients means you have lots to sample. Even better, top-notch meals can be had for pennies in Thailand’s street stalls and night markets; whether it’s salted fruit smoothies, mangoes with coconut and sticky rice, or tom kha, your taste buds are in for a holiday of their own.

2. It’s packed with unbelievable beaches and islands.

From nearly deserted postcard shots to some of the biggest party scenes on the planet, Thailand’s beaches and islands are a main draw to the country. White smiles of sand complement aquamarine waters, and many beaches are fringed not only by clichéd swaying palm trees, but also dramatic limestone cliffs. Bring sunglasses and a good book, and get ready to chillax.
» Discover THE BEACH, the setting for the movie adapted from the legendary book.

3. It’s a budget destination, but also a luxurious one.

Thailand knows luxury, but it also knows backpackers. All budgets are catered to, so if it’s a romantic escape, a spa experience, or just a bamboo hut on the beach that you’re craving, you’re in luck. Often a single beach will host the full spectrum of accommodation, and services such as Thai massage are available at incredible prices.  And remember, your dollar goes a long way in Thailand, and luxury can come at an incredible discount here.

4. The shopping is divine.

Here, you can shop for textiles in weekend markets, or have a silk suit made in Bangkok. Knock-off designer wallets and “Frauda” sunglasses are available anywhere, and in some markets (such as Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market), you can find absolutely anything you want: live fish, umbrellas, stock pots, pillowcases, mobile phones – you’re only limited by time and budget.

5. Thailand has amazing culture.

Picturesque hill tribes in the north vie for memory card space with golden wats, but it’s not just pretty pictures: the Thais are notoriously friendly (they don’t call Thailand “The Land of Smiles” for nothing), and exude a positive, optimistic attitude. In fact, the philosophy of “sanuk,” which generally translates to “fun,” is an everyday part of a Thai’s life; that’s why you’ll see people performing even the hardest labor with a smile.

6. Travel is as easy as you need it to be.

Nervous about traveling to Asia for your first time? Not sure how complex, or even safe, it might be? Fear not. You can book bus, plane, and train tickets from any hotel or guest house, and for any level of comfort. A first-class, air-conditioned, VIP bus full of travelers just like you is a decent decompression chamber on your first long-haul trip across the country, while a bumpy, second-class ride is a great way to immerse yourself in Thai culture. For short distances there are always motorbike taxis, tuk tuks (see above photo), regular taxis, public buses, and songtheaw (a truck with benches in the back). Trains are comfortable and clean, while domestic flights are widespread.

7. It’s a great jumping-off point or base.

Because it’s so easy to travel in Thailand, the country acts as an excellent middleman between home and more difficult traveling. It’s a baby step for wary (and weary) travelers adjusting to Asia, and since it borders Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia, it’s easy to leave and return. Bangkok is a major Asian hub, and guest houses will store your bags for as little as $1 per day. Trains connect to Kuala Lampur and Vientiane, while flights to countries such as India, Nepal, and China are relatively cheap and easy to come by.

8. It’s cheaper than ever to visit

It’s not nice to capitalize on others’ pain, right? But after Thailand’s political unrest earlier in 2010, tourism has been down. That means prices are lower and services are better as Thailand recovers. The country is very safe; riots and protests did leak into a couple of tourist sectors in Bangkok, but save for those incidents life went on as usual. We’re not making light of the situation, but pointing out that 2010 wasn’t the best year for tourism… which is good news for tourists.

9. Adventure tourism is awesome and versatile.

Fancy riding an elephant? What about kayaking around tropical islands? Or trekking in the jungle? Or trekking to hill tribe villages in the mountains? You can do it all Thailand.

10. It’s a divers’ paradise.

Glass-clear water, as blue as the sky above…. With so much coastline, Thailand is a magnet for divers (and snorkelers, for that matter), who take advantage of a whole other underwater world.  It’s also a good place to learn how to dive; courses are inexpensive and located everywhere.

Keep in my mind that these are only ten reasons to visit, and that there are dozens more. Ready to see for yourself? Check out the WhyGo Thailand site to book cheap flights to Thailand and find accommodation in Thailand. Or get started planning a long-term stay in Southeast Asia.

Photos by: Maggie Hoffman, Rene Ehrhardt, Dennis Wong, antwertenR, christine zenino (chrissy575), sandyapple, AnnieGreenSprings, reeveb, plusgood, .thana