Open Your Eyes and Mind in the Land of Smiles, Thailand
Thailand is a country of ancient temples and modern urbanization, a rainbow of traditions and cultures mostly affected by Buddhism. The scenic beauty can be ecstatic with its world famous beaches and rocky mountains. The unique architecture of its ancient temples and Buddhist monasteries and the traditional busy street markets make it seem like a totally different world. A world where traditions and religion are still more important than materialistic goods or products.
With its seven century long history, Thailand has been able to absorb a complete blend of cultural influence. It has one of the largest Buddhist populations in the world. However, there are other minorities too like the Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera, Muslims and Christians. Religion has a central place in the society, which is proved by the fact that the Thai temples, apart from being worship places, also serve as hostelries, community centres, hospitals and even schools. Also every Thai male becomes a monk for 3 months in his lifetime to serve the almighty.
Thailand is famous for its classical architecture, but also has a number of modern buildings in cities like Bangkok, which is the economic hub of the country. However, the classical Thai architecture can be appreciated in the temples and royal buildings including the Grand Palace, the Wat Benchamabophit and Wat Suthat.
Thai people, being so religious minded, are God fearing and friendly, so people can fit in easily in the society. One of the most distinctive traditions of the Thais is the Wai, which is much like the Indian Namaste i.e. joining hands to greet people and also as a mark of respect. The Wai can be an important tool for tourists as a gesture of friendly behavior towards the natives. Also revealing clothes and rude behavior in public is frowned upon in the country, especially in the rural areas and should be avoided at all costs. Putting your feet above someone’s head is considered as a sign of great disrespect. So travelers should refrain from stepping on the Thai coin as the king’s head is engraved on it.
The Thai cuisine is famous for the usage of herbs and spices, which blend all tastes of spicy, sour, sweet and salty. The sea plants and animals are an integral part of their food. Thailand is renowned for its spices and it also exports them in large quantities.
Geographically, Thailand is divided in 4 broad regions: the central and east coast, the north, north east and the south. The central area is the most fertile region of Thailand with paddy fields, orchards and greenery all around. The eastern side consists of some of the finest Asian beaches where residents enjoy relaxing weekends and tourists experience the delightful tropical beach life. The Pattaya beach is a major tourist attraction and the area is full of luxurious resorts and hotels.
The north region is where the birth of civilization took place. It’s an ideal place to witness the rich Thai culture and heritage. Most of the ancient archaeological and cultural sites have been beautifully preserved, which gives you an insight of the history of their early civilization. The mountain ranges along the northern border can be breath taking and have sparkling waterfalls and fast flowing rivers which make this area a hub for adventure sports.
The southern part of Thailand extends to form a peninsula with a long coastline full of sandy beaches on both sides and central region of mountains and forests. The coast along the Andaman Sea, with its calm sea and wide bays, has the most marvellous limestone formations and cliffs. The offshore islands like the island of Phuket are Thailand’s most famous tourist attractions. With its fascinating rock formations, they also provide great potential for sailing and water diving in the crystal water.
The central part of the peninsula is becoming a new hot spot of the eco-tourists. The elephant ride safaris of the forests and animal reserves truly bring you close to nature.
The people of Thailand celebrate a lot of festivals with unbelievable zeal and enthusiasm. Most of the festivals are related directly to their religion and have a deep history behind them. The locals and tourists gather in large number to witness the famous buffalo races held in October.
In a nutshell, you can taste the hustle bustle of modern city life, the calmness of sea and colours of ancient traditions and religion all in one place. Thailand will truly spice up your life. Whether you choose to stay for a week, a month or even a year, there is no shortage of things to do, places to go and smiles to see. Make friends with locals and you will be shown some wonderful sights that are off the beaten path. Connect with the culture, enjoy the local atmosphere and break away from the packaged tours and cookie cutter resorts if you really want to enjoy all that Thailand has to offer.
Some of the best parts of Thailand are the ones that are not talked about in the Lonely Planet or on forums. Find your own experiences and enjoy the hidden gems that are abundant in the country. Thailand truly is a country where you can find whatever you are looking for whenever you need it. Head out and enjoy the nightlife until the wee hours of the morning, enjoy the beaches and soak in the sun or hope onto a moped and tour the mountains. The choice is yours and the opportunities to create the truly unique getaway of your dreams are abundant.
The Land of Smiles really is a place where memories are made and travel dreams happen. You can prepare, read and research all you want, but Thailand is a place that you will not truly understand until you experience it for yourself. No one vacation to this country is the same. Come back time and time again and every experience will be different and awe inspiring.