Read how Meredith Burbidge, Director of Client Engagement at Direct Travel, traveled to Thailand and fell in love with this diverse country.
“What is the best place you have been?”
As someone who works in the travel industry, this is a question I am asked frequently. Often the asker is looking to discover a hidden travel gem they haven’t considered before.
My response is always, “I have loved every trip and destination I have traveled to, all for different reasons, sometimes it’s the people I met along the way that makes a vacation stand out, other times it's the newness of the experience that is a highlight. However, if you are looking for a destination that offers great cultural experiences, amazing food, interesting scenery, and fabulous beaches, my recommendation every time would be Thailand. “
When I traveled to Thailand, I admit I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. It was a vacation choice fueled by my love of Thai food and the fact that during my time in Australia a few years earlier, I met a number of travelers who raved about their Thailand experience. Other than those references, until I started planning the trip, I wasn’t sure what the key experiences were for a traveler to Thailand the way I was with other places that are typically more familiar destinations for North American travelers. I certainly didn’t expect that I would end up falling in love with the diversity of what Thailand offers.
Like many travelers, I began my visit in bustling Bangkok. I am glad I had arranged a private transfer to my hotel for the airport, even as a seasoned traveler, coming off a long international flight It was reassuring to have someone take the reins so I could sit back and take in all the sights. As my taxi traveled the highways from the airport to the city, I marveled at the size of the greater Bangkok region.
I spent my first three days in Thailand exploring Bangkok. A colleague recommended that if I was interested in getting any clothing made, Thailand being renowned for its excellent and speedy tailors and that I should visit a tailor before I left Bangkok to explore other areas of the country. That way my clothing would be ready on my way home. Heeding this advice, I got a referral from the hotel concierge to a local tailor.
If you have never had clothing made for you it's quite the experience. The freedom to choose the fabric, and the style, was a lot of fun. Considering these clothes are made to order, I was sure the fit would be the best I ever had plus the cost is very reasonable.
Bangkok is a lot of fun but also can be a bit overwhelming. To get the most out of your visit, if you aren’t doing a fully escorted tour, I strongly recommend pre-booking your day trips with your travel advisor before you leave home. This will save you time and money in figuring out the transport and timing of your excursions.
The top Bangkok experiences include:
- Visit Wat Arun
- Take a Tuk Tuk ride
- Wat Pho: the temple of the reclining Buda
- The Grand Place and Wat Phra Kaew: the spectacular home of the Thai king since 1782
- Take a Cruise on the Chao Phraya River and experience Bangkok from a different point of view
- Visit a floating market: a uniquely Thai experience where vendors pile their boats with goods for trade or sale such as fruit and flowers or even ready-to-eat street food.
The above list only scratches the surface of the incredible experience that is Bangkok. In addition to the amazing views and sights, every meal will be a feast for your senses.
It’s important to note for all temple visits while in Thailand your dress should be respectable; this means covering your knees and shoulders (men and women). Wraps are available but I always carried a simple sarong with me that I could quickly fashion into a skirt or shoulder covering as needed. Temple visitors are also required to remove their shoes.
From Bangkok, I flew north to Chiang Mai, a city surrounded by rainforests and hills, for a three-day visit. This smaller city showed me a very different side of Thailand from Bangkok. The people were just as welcoming, but the pace was a little slower as is common when leaving the main city and moving into the countryside.
The main attraction in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a stunning temple that sits atop a hill whose construction began in 1386! Visitors reach the temple by walking up 306 steps, so be sure to have your walking shoes on when you visit. If the stairs are a bit too daunting, there is a funicular cable car that will take you up to the temple.
Just outside Chiang Mai is the Doi Inthanon National Park and I would make sure your travel advisor pre-books your excursion to this spectacular park with numerous walking trails and waterfalls plus you can learn about the lives of the local Karen Tribe community.
Near Chiang Mai are several elephant sanctuaries you can visit. This is a great opportunity to learn about these amazing animals that are a part of Thai culture. Be sure to speak to your travel advisor about planning a visit as there are number of different ones.
After busy Bangkok and the mountains of Chang Mai, I flew to Koh Samui for yet another view of Thailand. Koh Samui is one of the most luxurious beach resort islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It was the perfect way to round out my Thailand experience.
The beaches are perfection – think white sand, palm trees, and sparkling turquoise water – just like a postcard. For those traveling for a honeymoon or anniversary, Koh Samui should definitely be on your agenda – it exudes romance!
Besides the beautiful beaches, the island also offers diving and snorkeling, waterfalls, temples, and a charming fishing village that calls back to the island’s roots. Fish and seafood lovers will have a hard time choosing between all the amazing cuisine that Koh Samui offers.
Since this magical vacation, I have yet to have the opportunity to return to Thailand but the desire to do so still lingers. I feel like I just scratched the surface of this amazing country, and it surprised me in so many ways. The diversity of Thailand, from the cosmopolitan cities to the rainforest of the north to the luxurious beach holiday in the south, ensures so many different experiences inside one country. I know there are many secrets still waiting for me to discover and I am sure you can now see why I always maintain that Thailand is my unexpected love.
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