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A First-timer’s Guide to Thailand

Published 05 May 2016

Claus Gurumeta

Claus Gurumeta

When dreaming of Thailand, most travelers will imagine beautiful paradise islands, great food, and bustling cities. Yes, Thailand has all this, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find the country has much more to offer: endless temples gilded with gold; vast rainforests filled with exotic wildlife; picture-perfect vistas in the mountains and by the sea; world-class restaurants and bars. And of course, lets not forget friendly hospitality, always delivered with a smile – after all, it is popularly known as the 'Land of Smiles' for a reason!

Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand extensively, Claus Gurumeta shares some tips on experiences not to miss during your first trip to this, Southeast Asia’s most popular destination.

Bangkok river view

image: Claus Gurumeta

Bangkok

The capital of Thailand is sure to surprise even the most experienced travellers with its irresistible sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. Start exploring Bangkok by cruising down the Chao Phraya River and the city’s surprisingly lush canals onboard a typical longboat. Admire the ornate architecture of the breathtaking Grand Palace and visit Wat Pho, Bangkok’s most famous temple, to see the massive 43-metre-long statue of the Reclining Buddha. Walk around busy Chinatown to shop for souvenirs and try the famous Cantonese-style roast duck and yellow noodle dish at Prachak Pet Yang restaurant. As the sun sets, indulge in typical Thai cuisine at one of the many street-side night markets before having a nightcap with a bird’s eye view of the capital from Sky Bar, the rooftop lounge on the 63rd floor of the Lebua Hotel.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

image: Claus Gurumeta

Chiang Mai

Take things a little slower in beautiful Chiang Mai, the biggest city in Northern Thailand and undoubtedly the country’s capital of culture. With over 300 temples to explore, you can take your pick, but make sure to visit Doi Suthep, the city’s most beautiful temple known for its glistening golden chedi, perched atop a hill with beautiful views over the entire city. If you prefer natural surroundings, Chiang Mai is the perfect hub to explore the mountainous region of Northern Thailand, and even visit secluded hillside villages. Food lovers will also rejoice in Chiang Mai, where you can join a cookery class to learn how to make your favourite Thai dishes – and perhaps try some new flavours in the process.

Sukhothai, Thailand

image: Claus Gurumeta

Sukhothai

The ancient city of Sukhothai now lies in ruins, but its legacy is still felt throughout Thai culture to this day. Sukhothai was the capital city of the first Kingdom of Thailand, and it was in this historic city that the Thai alphabet and many aspects of classical Thai art were invented. Today, the ruins of Sukhothai are a UNESCO World Heritage site with an impeccably preserved ancient Grand Palace and 26 temples in total, as well as various statues depicting Buddha in unconventional poses. You can hire a bicycle to move between sites faster or make the journey by foot.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

image: Claus Gurumeta

Chiang Rai Province

Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province is full of wonders worth seeing. Located in the North of Thailand, Chiang Rai is home to the infamous Golden Triangle, the point at which Thailand borders Laos and Myanmar, with its dark past as one of the most notorious routes for the illegal trade of opium. Today, the Golden Triangle is known for its beautiful views of the three lush countries separated by the Chao Phraya River, and is recognized for its traditional tea houses. Chiang Rai’s most impressive highlight is the unusual Wat Rong Khun, a contemporary Buddhist Temple with surrealist architectural features, popularly known as the White Temple due to its glistening white and silver exterior – really a sight to see!

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

image: Claus Gurumeta

Phuket

Home to some of Thailand’s most visited beaches, leafy Phuket often gets a bad reputation for the rowdy nightlife of its main town, Patong. However, if you look beyond Patong, you will discover Phuket has a lot to offer – with over 30 different beaches to choose from, vast mangrove forests, and small fishing villages, Phuket is sure to impress. During my visit I stayed on the beautiful golden sands of Karon Beach, a town with a laid-back atmosphere only five miles but worlds apart from the craziness of Patong. Karon Beach has great restaurants, sophisticated cocktail bars, and various massage parlours in which to get a traditional Thai massage, and is the perfect base to explore the island.

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

image: Claus Gurumeta

Thai Islands

Most first-time visitors to Thailand will have a vision in their heads of idyllic islands with white sand beaches and beautiful azure waters – and Thailand will not disappoint! Whether you choose to visit just one island or hop from one island to the next in search of your favourite spot, you will love discovering Thailand’s paradise beaches. My personal favourite is beautiful Phi Phi Island, with large glorious beaches, alluring seaside restaurants overlooking giant rock formations, and a verdant hill you can climb for spectacular views over the entire island and the surrounding ocean. Add an island or two at the end of your Thailand itinerary, or spend your entire holiday discovering the diverse islands of Thailand – either way, get ready to see some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.


Tempted to try Thailand? Chat to your Expert today about our range of tailor-made Thailand Journeys and to book. 


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