BANGKOK - THAILAND
Officially known as The Kingdom of Thailand, Thailand borders Myanmar (Burma) to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia to the south. It is a popular tourist destination and with its fantastic food, gorgeous tropical climate, intriguing culture, magnificent mountains and amazing beaches – it’s easy to see why. The locals are friendly and fun, and with a mix of cities and towns, alongside rice paddies, villages and tropical forests – Thailand has the landscapes and activities to suit every kind of traveller.
The capital city of Bangkok has a population of more than 14 million people and is rich in history and culture, with an abundance of activities for the whole family.
Things to see and do
Bangkok is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South East Asia and it is filled with attractions to ensure visitors are busy and happy. From the temples and palaces, to markets and museums, you will find an array of activities that will introduce you to local culture and history.
Bangkok is one of the fastest growing cities in South East Asia and taking a cheap tuk-tuk ride through the city is a great way to see the sights from the perspective of a local.
The city is dotted with around 400 Buddhist temples, palaces and shopping centres. Stop off to explore icons such as Wat Intharawihan, a 32 metre tall Gold statue of Buddha, which saw construction begin in 1867 and finally finish 60 years later; Wat Suthat Thepwararam - a royal Buddhist temple constructed in the early 19th Century; and Wat Ratchanaddaram temple - best known for the Loha Prasat, a one-of-a-kind pagoda which stands 36m high and has 37 metal spires, signifying the 37 virtues of enlightenment.
Another great way to explore Bangkok is to take a boat ride through the canals. With so many canals and Chao Phraya River running throughout the city, Bangkok is dubbed the "Venice of the East" and is a mixture of modern and traditional life. Bangkok's history is closely connected to the waters and it used to have many more canals which have been dried up to make roads.
A one-hour trip will take you past the Grand Palace, The Royal Barge Museum and the colonial-style Thonbury Railway Station, as well as fishing villages and stilt houses. You can even buy some fruit, vegetables and orchards from the locals who pass by in their boats.
If you love shopping, visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest weekend markets covering an area of 27 acres, and with more than 15,000 stalls selling a variety of goods from acrossThailand. Within this market you will also find the lesser known Chatachuk Flower Market where you will find an array of beautiful imported roses and tulips, as well as colourful tropical flowers grown in the northern provinces.
Khao San Road is Bangkok’s best known area among budget tourists and is where you will find vibrant market stalls filled with crafts, paintings, clothes and food, budget hostels and hotels, bars and clubs, restaurants, massage parlours, book shops, tattoo shops and more – all within a 1 kilometre radius. The street was originally a major Bangkok rice market but it is now a mecca for backpackers and young tourists.
Aside from the beautiful Chinese temples and medicine shops and Taoist learning centres, Chinatown is also a great place for shopping with the alleys and streets crammed with market stands and small stores. You will find everything from food and fashion accessories, to herbs and funeral items.
And it wouldn’t be a visit to Thailand if you didn’t do some shopping at Pratunam – Thailand’s largest clothing market. Here you can haggle your way to some fantastic deals on all kinds of clothing and accessories. And if you buy in bulk, you are likely to get your items even cheaper.
Don't Miss in Bangkok
The Grand Palace, former residence of the kings, constructed by King Rama 1 and split into two areas - the Temple of Emerald Buddha and the Court, the king’s residence.
The Bangkok City Pillar Shrine was built in the 1700s and according to the locals, if you make a wish at the shrine you will receive more stability in your life, live longer and be rid of any misfortunes.
King Prajadhipok Museum was built during 1906 and includes 3 levels, each of which tells a story about the King and Queen. The first level is the story of the Queen; the second about the King (his childhood, coronation and death; and the third about the King’s royal duties.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkalaram or Wat Pho, as it is more commonly known, is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and was built in the 16th century. It is one of the largest temples in the city.
If you want to learn about the history of Thailand, visit the vintage styled Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall where you will find a range of exhibitions taking you through time.
OTHER THAILAND - KRABI AND SURROUNDS
Krabi is in the southwest of Thailand and has around 130 islands, the most famous being Phi Phi Island (Ko Phi Phi Lee). Krabi’s coastline is dotted with tropical islands, palm fringed beaches with mountains towering over the sands, and coral reefs. Inland is a jungle, waterfalls, caves, hidden lagoons and limestone rock formations. Most of the area is National Park, including many of the beaches and more than 80 islands.
Poda Island is located near Krabi and most popular for its white sandy beaches, colourful corals and reef fish; and Taloo Island is a tall rock rising out of the sea where you can snorkel and admire the island's beauty from under the sea.
Chicken Island is located near Krabi and is a rock island which, as the name suggests, looks like a chicken. Around Chicken Island you can enjoy fantastic snorkelling opportunities where you will find yourself surrounded by an abundance of colourful fish and other marine life.
PHRANANG CAVE (THE PRINCESS BAY)
Phranang Cave (The Princess Bay) is a well known island near Krabi and houses the Princess Spirit House, dedicated to an ancient fertility goddess and worshipped by locals. It's a popular spot for tourists, and if you're lucky, you might run into someone famous. You can walk inside the cave and look out towards the ocean for a postcard view through the cavern walls to crystal waters and white beaches.