Nature has blessed Thailand with many natural treasures guarded in national parks that extend across the Kingdom. They are the habitat of a great profusion of wildlife, and plants ranging in size from tiny forest floor flowers to towering trees.
Northern Thailand is characterized by forested hills and deep valleys that are an invitation to adventures: rafting along fast-flowing rivers, trekking along jungle paths, or discovering waterfalls cascading down cliff faces, like the Ti Lo Su falls in remote Umphang.
Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, was once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. In the countryside around it there are elephant camps where you can see these much loved creatures at work and play, and hire one with a mahout to take you on a trek. There is much to see when trekking in the North, like the orchid farms and botanical gardens along the Mae Sa Valley, the towering splendour of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain, the villages of the hill people and the handicraft centres of Sankhamphaeng where village artisans work in silk, cotton, wood and silver.
Further North, Chiang Rai is the home of many ethnic hill people in distinctive costumes, and they are proud to show visitors their age-old customs and traditions. Thailand's national parks are usually accessible by road, and the most popular of these, Khao Yai, is just a three-hour drive from Bangkok. Khao Yai attracts a large number of visitors with its scenic beauty and abundant plant and animal life.
In the northeastern province of Loei by the border with Laos, Phu Kradung National Park is famous for its pine forests and mountain views.
In the South, Thale Ban National Park is nearly 200 square kilometres of rainforest along the Malaysian border. Hiking trails lead you through spectacular limestone formations and the forest abounds with birds, macaques, and gibbons. Khao Sok National Park in western Surat Thani is connected to the Khlong Saen Wildlife Sanctuary and together they form the largest tract of virgin forest in southern Thailand, with trails to scenic caves and waterfalls.
Shopaholics look out …
Giant markets like Chatuchak and Suan Lum Night Bazaar also sell international brand names, but their fame rests on their diversity. From local fashions and handicrafts at giveaway prices, the range of discoveries to be made there is quite astounding.
Traditional Thailand products are hand made by local artisans: weavers of cotton and silk, wood carvers, potters working in the local clay, silversmiths, basket makers, and cooks making local gourmet specialties.
A relaxing spa treatment …
The Thai secret of relaxation is a secret that can be shared by learning and practising meditation in Buddhist retreats or training centres. The revitalizing Thai massage is an ancient tradition that is another part of the secret visitors like to share, while at the many luxury spas, they can experience the most modern, sensual techniques at the firm but caressing hands of a trained therapist.
Golf in Thailand
Golfers love Thailand and the feeling is mutual. The Kingdom has more than 100 golf courses, most to international standard and located close to major tourism destinations with first-class facilities and friendly fees.
Diving in Thailand
Without a doubt Thailand is home to some of the finest and most beautiful beaches and islands in the world, surrounded by crystal clear water and stunning coral. And that is the main reason why the number of divers coming to Thailand has escalated over the past decade or so.
Even though the best time of the year to dive in Thailand is between October and June, it is still perfectly possible to dive virtually any day of the year. As diving in Thailand is considered one of the safest destinations for diving and snorkeling in the world, it is perfect for first-timers wanting to try these pastimes out.
For the foodie ….
Thailand's cuisine can be found in Bangkok, as well as fine dining at sophisticated restaurants of world-class quality. The city is one of Asia's great shopping experiences, too, with gleaming modern malls and department stores with top international brand and specifically Thai names along with smart boutiques and busy street stalls.
Thais don't normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally a younger person wai's an elder, who returns it.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. Therefore, avoid touching people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object. It is considered very rude. Shoes should be removed when entering a private Thai home.
Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
Airlines operating to Thailand (Bangkok)
1. Sri Lankan Airlines
2. Cathay Pacific airways
3. Thai Airways