Thailand Travel Guide
The cool dry months are once again upon us here in most of Thailand. This is the time of year when it hardly every rains, and temperatures can be almost tolerable outside in the day-time. In other words, it's the “high season” once again. If you plan to travel between now and March of next year, it's important that you start making your arrangements now, since the competition for flights and hotels are always at their highest during this time.
While most of Thailand is at its best at this time, it's worth noting that there are a few places that are still going through their rainy season. Samui, in particular among the popular destinations, gets most of its rain from October to December. So, during the high season, you're usually much better off heading to the Andaman coast, to places such as Khao Lak, Ao Nang or Koh Lanta.
Thailand offers the tourist a somewhat unique experience in all of Southeast Asia. Unlike all of its neighbors, the country was never colonized by Western powers. At least not in the traditional sense. A long history of openness and adaptation means that the capitol of Bangkok in particular is a very western city.
However, you only have to scratch the surface to find old traditions and a style of doing things that isn't seen much any more. A very tourist-oriented economy insures that Thailand has something for just about every one. Explore the main cities and destinations at the top of the page, or read on for an overview.
Regions & Major Cities
Thailand is a huge country of more than 60 million people. With more than 1,000 years of history since the founding of the first Thai kingdoms, and influences ranging from China to India to Portugal, the country's major regions (see map) have each developed their own distinctive culture. Each region also has its own landscape as well. All this goes to make Thailand a varied experience for the traveler who takes the time to get to know the place.
The central plains are dominated by the capital of Bangkok, with its royal temples, immense shopping centers and more than 100 museums. Outside of Bangkok, the central region also has the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya.
East of Bangkok, the coast stretches to the seaside playground of Pattaya. To the northeast, a high flat plateau is a region Thais refer to as Isaan. Here you'll find many ancient remnants of the Khmer empire that built Angkor Wat, such as Prasat Hin Phimai.
The north is something of the cultural heart of Thailand, home to what is thought to be the first Thai kingdom of Yonok. Descendants of this kingdom established the long-lived kingdom of Lanna in Chiang Mai, which remains the capital of the north and a major tourist destination. Other popular cities in the north include Chiang Rai, a popular base for exploring the Golden Triangle, and Mae Hong Son, for those looking for someplace off the beaten track.