Thailand was the first country in Asia that I visited back then. It wasn’t the first place I’d ever been to outside of Europe, but is was the first country where I really felt like I was traveling. I have been exploring the toothy blue mountains and rich wildlife in the north, the radiating golden hue from the tropical beaches in the south, the vibrant life on the many islands, surrounded by scraggly limestone cliffs and the cultural life in the bustling capital.
I decided to dedicate this post to my friends and readers, to show you the various faces of this ancient nation, living in the heart of Southeast Asia. Thailand may be popular among tourist, but there are still many untouched beaches in this tropical paradise, which showcases emerald rice paddies and tiny villages.
Where is Thailand and how do I get there?
The Kingdom of Thailand is at the very center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It borders with Burma, Laos and Cambodia by land, and Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and India by sea.
The good news is that with so many different options from where to enter the country, there are many cheap flights. The most famous budget airlines that fly to Thailand are AirAsia, JetStar, TigerAir and Scoot. Other means of transportation include direct buses from Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia and there is even a train that connects Malaysia and Thailand.
10 Photos of Thailand that will make you pack your bags and go
Between the cluttered cities in the rural heartland, a mix of tropical beaches, emerald rice paddies and ice cold jungle waterfalls form Thailand’s natural landscape. When tired scaling the sea cliffs, diving with whale sharks and feasting on the perfect beaches, the north part of the country offers a cold and refreshing welcome.
Driving in Thailand is sure to make your heart race. The sight of a motorbike packed with a family of 5 plus their dog zooming by, or a man on a bike balancing a washing machine on his handlebars, is business as usual on Thailand’s roads. Despite this rather crazy atmosphere, Thailand has one of the best highways I have come across during my travels. And it is up to you if you decide to enjoy the road on the back of a motorbike or in a bus, listening to country music (because Thai people love a good country music).
You may read that Thai people are lazy or selfish or impolite, but the matter is that Thai people are just like everybody else. You will meet kind and warmhearted people, that genuinely want to help you and then you will meet people that won’t be as polite and nice. The Thai people are generally kind and always greet you with a smile. They are the most welcoming nation, compared to other ethnic groups found in Southeast Asia.
A varied national menu is built around the five fundamental flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. Each Thai dish is infused with many, locally produced herbs – fresh lemongrass, aromatic pandan, spicy coriander. Luckily for all of us who love sweets, the Thai have a sweet tooth too and this can be felt by their extensive list of national desserts, with mango with sticky rice and Kanom being the most famous. Kanom is the generic word for snacks, often referring to sweets or desserts. Sweet khanom are usually made of certain ingredients: powdered rice, sugar, flour and coconut milk or cream. There is a huge variety available: khanom dtaan – palm sugar, khanom gluay – banana, khanom faakthong – pumpkin, khanom phueak – taro depending on the season.
Once known only for its controversial tiger temples, nowadays Thailand makes way to organizations that work purely towards the conservation of the Kingdom’s wildlife. Many of the rescue and rehabilitation centers in the country work with abused animals, that have been saved from illegal traders and poachers. The best way to get engaged in preserving the wild life as well as to get closer to it, is by volunteering or making a small donation to these centers. Many of them offer animal friendly programs, which educate the visitors, as well as help them sustain their work.
I have seen the most beautiful sunsets in Thailand. You know, this type of sunsets which showcase all shades of orange, red, yellow and purple. The combination of the sea and the limestone cliffs, as well as the reflections in the crystal water leads to breathtaking views.
The Underwater Life
Where can you walk on the beach and marvel at the underwater life without even going into the water? Ko Lipe, the small island in the Andaman Sea is surrounded by coral reefs, that attracts a vast majority of sea life. You don’t even need to put a snorkel to be able to explore the colorful fish and sea clams, or even to be able to hold an octopus in your hands. Koh Tao is another famous spot, where the divers get to swim with wild whale sharks and dolphins.
A visit to Thailand won’t be complete if you don’t catch a ride on one of the famous long-tail boats. These wooden, banana-shaped boats have been used in Thailand for hundreds of years, with today’s versions usually featuring a diesel engine connected to a thin, lengthy rudder that resembles a long tail.The boat builders use no plans – the techniques are still handed down from father to son, and each builder has his own distinctive style. They are very solid and seaworthy, and give a surprisingly smooth ride, even in rough weather.
Tuk-tuks or ‘sam lor’ (three-wheeled) used to be everyone’s favourite way of getting around the different parts of Thailand before the minivans and colorful taxis took over. Originating from an old-fashioned rickshaw during the second World War, a tuk-tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a small engine fitted in.
Why I love Thailand
Enjoying a hot meal at the roadside sea food joint, climbing aboard the songthaewes, jumping off long-tail boats into the fine sand and warm water, swimming in ice cold lakes and caring for wild animals. This is the pulse of Thailand. The one that will charge you with positive experiences and will enrich you in ways you haven’t even imagined. A lifetime won’t be enough to discover everything this country has to offer.
The images in this post are taken with Nikon. Please give credit to Lifeswanderlust when using these images.