By Jonny Lis
Last year, Bangkok narrowly beat London as the world’s most-visited city. This was a big deal, as it marked the first time in history that an Asian city had garnered number-one status. The same year, Thailand welcomed a record 26.7 million visitor arrivals – a 20 percent hike over the previous year.
Obviously Thailand is doing something right in terms of getting the word out. To be fair, the Thai tourism sector has been successful (and growing) for decades. However, it appears that the industry is achieving critical-mass status. It begs the question: What’s so great about Thailand?
Let’s have a look at seven enticing reasons to visit:
1. Beaches and islands
If it’s an idyllic beach holiday setting you’re after, complete with white sands, fresh seafood and spectacular diving opportunities, Thailand has you covered. Several of Thailand’s islands are famous, including those that that were featured in The Beach and James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun. It’s also worth mentioning that the New York Times singled out Thailand’s Ko Samui island as the top must-see destination in the world a few years ago.
2. Amazing cuisine
It’s no secret that Thailand is famous for its cuisine, but it’s easy to gloss over just how much culinary clout this country enjoys. A few years ago, CNN Travel published a very subjective list of the ‘World’s 50 Best Foods’. Yes, the list included pizza, hamburgers and several other mundane crowd-pleasers. It also featured four dishes from Thailand—including the number-one dish, massaman curry. In other words, the editors over at CNN travel believe that a whopping 8 percent of the best food in the world comes to us directly from ‘the Land of Smiles’. You might not agree with every suggestion on the list but if you’re anything like the many people who visit Thailand, you’re going to love the things you eat.
3. Value for money
Affordability is not a reason to visit in itself (and getting there might be expensive), though it is certainly much more affordable than going on holiday in western countries. Visitors from the west will also enjoy favorable exchange rates in Thailand at the moment, and that means that you can secure good quality rooms at a lower price. You’ll also find competitive pricing on real estate, whether you’re looking for condos for sale in Bangkok or a beach villa in Phuket. Dining out, luxurious spa treatments, tailored suits and lavish wedding ceremonies are all much more affordable in Thailand compared to the west – especially if you avoid the touristy areas.
4. Warm and welcoming culture
You might have heard about the famous ‘Thai smile’. While no place is perfect, there’s no getting around the fact that Thai people are warm, easygoing and friendly in most cases. In fact, Condé Nast Traveler conducted a reader survey in 2013 to determine the ‘Friendliest Cities in the World’. Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai, weighed in at number-eleven.
5. Remote escapes in the north
Speaking of Northern Thailand, it offers the perfect counterpoint to metropolitan Bangkok and the southern islands. To the north, you’ll find jungle-clad mountains, remote hill tribe villages and opportunities for everything from bamboo rafting to elephant trekking. After basking on beaches and clubbing it in the capital, travellers head north to Chiang Mai for a slightly different atmosphere. If you really want to stage an escape, rent a motorbike from Chiang Mai and drive four hours through the mountains to Pai, a remote and bohemian hill station with an eclectic mix of hippies, ravers and straight-laced domestic tourists.
6. Ideal Climate
Climate is a major consideration for any holiday destination, and Thailand has plenty to offer in this category. In this part of the world, there are three distinct seasons; hot, rainy and cool. The hot seasons can get uncomfortable if you’re outside for an extended period of time, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue when you’re lounging in a deck chair on the beach. The rainy season is usually a time to avoid coming here, although the weather usually involves intermittent showers that quickly dissipate throughout most of the country. The peak tourist season coincides with the cool months (November through January), when the weather is comfortable by day and slightly chilly in the evening.
7. Regional Access
Even if Thailand weren’t such a spectacular country to visit, many travellers would still end up visiting for purely logistical reasons. A number of travellers ultimately bound for Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and parts of China are still routed through Bangkok first. With so many attractions and qualities to enjoy in Thailand, it really makes sense to schedule a few days on the ground even if you were only planning to pass through.