Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Why not explore Thailand at a more leisurely pace, taking in the vastness of its ever-changing, endlessly exotic and always beautiful landscape from aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express. You can journey from Bangkok to Singapore with itineraries of up to 2 and 3 nights, allowing you time to explore all corners of the country off the train too!
2. Chaing Mai is one of the largest and most vibrant cities in Thailand, and one of its key attractions is the famous Night Bazaar, which spreads itself far and wide through the city when evening falls, winding through footpaths, backstreets, inside buildings and through temple grounds. The stalls sell everything, from handicrafts and arts to clothing and a vast array of imported products.
3. The ancient city of Ayuthaya was founded thousands of years ago in 1350 AD as the second capital of Siam, and has a rich history as the trading capital of Asia. Partially destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese army, today the magnificent ruins of ancient temples and palaces can still be viewed Ayutthaya national park. It is just a short bus or train ride from Bangkok, and is an ideal destination for a day trip – although you may find you want to stay longer to explore!
4. Ko Phi Phi was the shooting location of Danny Boyles 2000 movie The Beach, and with its pristine shores and crystal waters, its easy to see why it has exploded in popularity as a diving destination recently. Divers and snorkelers are rewarded with undersea landscapes that are every bit as stunning as those on the shore, and a diverse range of diving trips and packages are available to suit you.
5. Undoubtedly the crown jewel at the heart of Bangkok’s thriving metropolis, the Grand Palace was the home of Thai royalty for 150 years; although only used for ceremonial functions today, it continues to dazzle visitors with the intricacy of its design and the sheer scale of its beautiful architecture.
6. Khao Sok National Park comprises the largest area of tropical rainforest in southern Thailand. Believed to be over 160 million years old, large lakes, cascading waterfalls and plenty of beautiful flora and fauna are among the many sights to discover along the trails of this sprawling tropical paradise; you can even choose to extend your stay at the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, where you can learn the skills of an elephant trainer, enjoy excellent Thai cooking, and kick back with other intrepid travellers at the Jungle Explorers bar.
7. Of course, no trip to Thailand would quite be complete without experiencing one of the country’s infamous full moon parties! Taking place every month when the moon is at its fullest (surprisingly), these all night beach parties are the height of Thai revelry and tourist hedonism. These parties take place at beach resorts across Thailand, with Koh Phangan boasting what is generally agreed to be the liveliest scene.
8. Phang Nga Bay is widely acknowledged to be one of the most scenic areas in Thailand – quite the accolade in a country where beauty already seems woven into the very fibre of the culture. With quiet caves, grottoes and limestone islands threaded through its crystalline waters, it’s no surprise that this stretch of paradise was featured as a location in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, earning it the nickname James Bond Island.
9. Thai food is increasingly popular and always delicious, so a visit to Thailand wouldn’t be complete without trying your hand at cooking some authentic Thai cuisine! The Thai’s are eager to share their skills, and there are cooking courses and classes available in most major cities and resorts
10. A visit to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet, is an experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Chiang Rai is the gateway to this spectacular region , and a trek through the hills surrounding Chiang Mai provides a unique chance to meet the hill tribes, who have made their homes on these slope and live simply, without modern conveniences.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. Bangkok boasts a thriving ‘edutainment’ scene for kids, and the pinnacle of this is Kidzania, an expertly constructed mini-town that provides interactive education and fun for children aged four to fifteen. Operating like a real life town on a smaller scale, your little ones can try their hand at up to 80 different jobs, from fire fighting to reading the news in a real TV studio!
2. The Andaman sea is ideal for family snorkelling trips, with the clear, calm waters being perfect for kids and beginners. Conditions will be best from December through to March, and it is worth taking a boat out to the choice spots.
3. Monkey Mountain, just 6 kilometres south of Hua Hin, provides a fantastic day out for everyone. Kids will be able to see the resident macaque monkey population up close, and even feed them bananas if they’re feeling brave, while adults will enjoy a visit to the mountains ornate Chinese temple and the astonishing views from the mountains peak.
4. The Elephant Experience at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in Khao Sok National Park will be like to top the whole families holiday to-do list. You will be able to truly interact with Thailand’s most majestic creatures, feeding them daily meals, planting some of their food for next years crop, scrubbing and cleaning them and generally assisting with their wellbeing.
5. The FantaSea theme park in Phuket will not fall short of anyone’s expectations, with plenty of wet and wild rides and a remarkable stage event every night – prepare yourself for performing elephants and a dazzling light show.
6. If you’re feeling adventurous (and why else would you have come to Thailand?), Treetop Adventure is a thrill-seekers paradise and has facilities throughout Thailand, in Krabi, Pattaya and Koh Chang. It offers an innovative way to explore the Thai jungle from the treetops, via rope bridges, swings and zip lines.
7. The stunning Sampran Riverside is an eco-cultural landscaped park roughly an hours drive from Bangkok. It has its own organic farm, hosts colourful dance and martial arts presentations and offers a diverse array of activities for everyone to try, from bamboo pole dancing to garland making and food tasting!
8. Siam City Park is Bangkok’s biggest theme park, with enough to see and do that an entire day will slip away without you noticing. There’s a water park with a seemingly endless range of slides, a separate amusement park and of course, plenty of shows and spectacles for all.
9. Hua Hin Beach on the Gulf of Siam is a popular choice for families with young children with its gentle, shallow waters, wide stretches of sand and ease of accessibility from Bangkok.
10. Safari World is a sprawling open air Safari Park near Bangkok, where animals wander freely and humans are simply their little-acknowledged guests, driving slowly through to gaze in awe. See zebras, camels, antelopes, rhinos and what is supposedly the largest herd of giraffes in the world!
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. The Sarojin, located on a secluded stretch of sandy white beach in Phang Nga, is surely one of the most romantic locations Thailand has to offer. With guest residences scattered through ten acres of lush tropical garden, the beach a stone throw away and a hotel ‘Imagineer’ on hand to fulfil your wildest wishes (whether that’s a request for a candlelit dinner in the jungle or a cruise to a private island), there is no better place to transition blissfully into married life than this paradisiacal resort.
2. Explore what lies beneath the translucent waters of Thailands preeminent diving destination, Ko Tao. Known for its wonderfully warm waters and abundance of colourful marine life, it is favoured by veteran diving duos and first time couples alike.
3. The largest and most vibrant of the island trio, Koh Sumui is known for its wealth of world class spas – in fact, it’s widely regarded as one of the best Spa destinations in the whole of South East Asia! Pamper your bodies and minds with a range of traditional Thai treatments designed to optimise your relaxation levels in supremely beautiful island surroundings.
4. Many couples are looking for maximum privacy on their honeymoon, and Thailand manages to cater to this perfectly without cutting you off from civilisation completely, with a widely available selection of in-hotel villas with their own private pools. Newlyweds can hide away from the world all they want in comfort and luxury, only emerging as and when they please for hotel spa treatments or exquisite five star dining.
5. Fondly nicknamed ‘the Venice of the East’ by some for its plentiful waterways, Bangkok should not be overlooked as a honeymoon destination. World class cuisine, cultural hotspots and a lively nightlife all abound here , and your days will be filled with a never-ending list of things to do: peruse the famous floating markets, shop for precious gemstones or explore its thriving metropolis by bike.
6. For an exotic honeymoon adventure that you’ll remember for years to come, stay at the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp for an immersive elephant experience; you will be able to join in feeding and washing them, and even learn the skills of an elephant trainer!
7. If you want a beachside honeymoon without the beachside crowds, Krabi could be the ideal destination for you – the striking Railey Beach is only reachable by boat! Less touristy than Samui and Phuket but no less beautiful, the soaring cliffs, crystal waters and immaculate white sands make this mainland destination a perfect hideaway for couples.
8. With ancient temples and pulsating street life, wild mountainous areas and luxurious resorts, Chiang Mai is the perfect destination for couples who’d like to mix it up a bit. Indulge your adventurous side with river rafting or hill trekking one day, relax by the poolside with a good book the next – there is no better place to set your own pace and keep your options open.
9. Another secluded beach pick but an essential one, Koh Lanta is an island only accessible by boat from the southern Baan Hua Hin Pier; your extra effort will be amply rewarded however, with an immaculate island and remoteness that provides an atmosphere that feels less commercialised and more traditionally Thai than many other resorts. Many private villas are available, and Koh Lanta leads the list if you are looking for prime relaxation at an out of the way location!
10. Get back to nature in tropical luxury at the Four Seasons Golden Triangle tented camp! See stunning wildlife and explore the raw, wild beauty of the Thai rainforest with what promises to be an unforgettable stay in this exquisite jungle hideaway.
Thailand's Festivals and Events
From the world-renowned hedonism of its full-moon parties to the riotous colour and pageantry of the yearly Buddhist Phi Ta Kon festival, Thailand is a country that often appears to be in a permanent state of joyous celebration that all its visitors are inevitably swept up in
Just nine kilometres from the northern city of Chiang Mai, in the third week of January the normally unassuming town of Bo Sang unfurls itself like a butterfly from a chrysalis to host one of the most picturesque festivals anywhere in the world. Local artists and craftsmen proudly parade a dazzling display of exquisite hand-painted fans, lanterns, parasols and handicrafts, and the colours are kaleidoscopic even by Thailand’s explosive standards.
February explodes into colour with the famous Chiang Mai Flower Festival on its first weekend, a family friendly occasion attended each year by tens of thousands of Thais and tourists alike. The streets are bedecked with breath-taking floral displays, and there is usually a street parade featuring marching bands and enormous, elaborately decorated floats. The Chinese Lunar New Year, which often falls in February, is also not to be missed. Although not an official holiday, it is nonetheless celebrated throughout the country in exuberant Thai fashion; celebrations are particularly high-spirited in the Chinatown districts of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, as well as Phuket and Trang.
Every second year, the skies above the northern beach town of Hua Hin erupt into life at the Thai and International Kite Festival. Growing steadily in popularity with every passing year, the kite festival is longer just for the local Thais but draws in contestants, competitors and kite enthusiasts from as far afield as New Zealand, France, China and Canada; it is the only place to see a truly spectacular array of kites of all shapes and sizes, from intricate traditional Thai kites to remarkable stunt kites – and to give it a go yourself!
The 13th of April marks both the Thai New Year and the scorching height of the hot season, and the Thais have expertly incorporated tradition with revelry (and an ideal way to cool down) in Songkran Festival - or what is arguably the largest water fight in the world! Water is used as a symbol of cleansing as the Thai’s pass from one year to the next; while in the smaller towns and provinces this still manifests itself in a more traditional way with temple activities and the sprinkling of water on elders, you’d better be armed with a sturdy super soaker and plenty of stamina if you plan to celebrate in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or any of the more tourist populated areas, where the chaotic water warfare can last for up to a week, and water cannons are not uncommon!
May brings with it one of Thailand’s most unusual celebrations ; the rocket festivals herald the start of the rice-planting reason, and although traditionally held in Thailand’s rural north-east region of Isaan, the largest celebration of its kind now takes place in the town of Yusothon, home to the infamous Bun Bag Fai Rocket Festival. The purpose of the festivals is supposedly to encourage the gods to send enough rain for a successful rice season, and involve plenty of revelry over the weekend with parties, beauty pageants, street parades, fun fairs and concerts, before beautifully decorated rockets are launched into the sky on the final day.
In the north-eastern province of Chaiyaphum, the Dok Krakhiao Blooming Festival begins in June and continues throughout July. Regarded as an important cultural tradition, it celebrates the blossoming of the Siam tulip, an exceptionally beautiful flower which explodes dramatically into bloom in the rolling fields throughout the region.
Asia’s fastest growing regatta, the Phuket Raceweek, takes place annually on the lively island of Phuket; it promises four days of spectacular world-class boat racing, as well as a vibrant social scene of endless beach side parties. July is also the month of the Buddhist Tak Bot Dok Mai festival, a celebration that is inspiring to witness: hundreds of monks in traditional dress parade through the streets as the locals offer them gifts of food, incense, candles and the distinctively beautiful yellow and violet Dok Khao Phansa flower.
In August, the Chinese community of Phuket begin their month long Por Tor, or Hungry Ghost, festival. The festival is rooted in the belief that families can help ease the suffering of deceased relatives by laying out an elaborate meal and burning incense alongside it: when the incense has burned out, the spirits have been satisfied and the living are then free to gather and enjoy the food. Several events will also usually take place at Chinese shrines during the first ten days of the festival.
Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music is a spectacle not to be missed if your visit to Thailand falls in September. The country’s largest performing arts festival, it presents artists and theatre companies from around the world in performances that range from classical concerts and operas, to ballets and contemporary dance.
The Buffalo Racing festival in Chonburi has taken place annually for more than a hundred years, although informal races date back even further than that. Although colourful and exciting to watch, many of the races are taken very seriously by the competitors for whom prizes and personal prestige are at stake. Of course, as always in Thailand, a festival atmosphere prevails – many rides and amusements are available for children, while music concerts take place in the evenings.
November marks both the end of the rainy season and a particularly busy month for endearing and uniquely Thai festivals, with Chiang Mai’s Yi Peng Lantern Festival and the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival. Yi Peng celebrates the end of the monsoon season, and you will see hundreds of coloured lanterns arranged in displays around Chiang Mai, while households and temples decorate their entrances with coconut leaves and flowers. Meanwhile, on the last Sunday in November, Lopburi (aptly dubbed ‘Monkey Town’ by many Thais) thanks the tame monkeys that have bought tourism to their town by leaving offerings of fruit and other treats on banquet tables laid out especially for them.
In Surin, the elephant round up occurs on the third weekend in November and is a truly mesmerising spectacle. Make sure you get there in time for the opening ‘elephant breakfast’ on the friday, in which a procession of 300 elephants majestically make their way through streets of Surin, accompanied by musicians and dancers in traditional dress. The weekend is dedicated to entertaining displays of strength and skill from the elephants and their handlers, accompanied by music, games and many traditional games and attire.
Culture in Thailand
Thailand is known as the land of smiles for a reason – it has a cheerful, laidback culture heavily influenced by the main religion of Buddhism (practised by over 90 percent of the population). The Thai phrase ‘Mai Pen Rai’ means ‘never mind’, and epitomises the carefree tolerance of the Thai people.
Beach Holidays in Thailand
With its sun-soaked tropical climate, impossibly clear blue waters and endless stretches of soft white sand, the beaches of Thailand are world-famous for a reason. From the coves of sleepy fishing villages to the infamous parties at the buzzing international resorts, Thailand has a beach for all occasions, whatever kind of holiday it is that you’re looking for.
Thailand Multi-Centre Holidays
From the mysterious, misty hills of the north to the lively beach culture of the islands and the cosmopolitanism of the cities, Thailand is country full of fascinating contrasts and endless surprises. As the gateway to Indochina, pairing Thailand with a neighbouring country is a great way to further experience the rich culture of the Far East – why not explore Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos during a Far East Holiday, and fully absorb the unique atmosphere of this magical part of the world.