"The Land of Smiles" is one of the most devoutly Buddhist nations in the world, a community of colorful and peaceful people that are at once spiritual and easygoing, reverent and relaxed. The kingdom is a sunny, fascinating world of ornate architecture, idyllic tropical isles, and mist-shrouded jungles where history, luxury, and adventure combine.
In Bangkok, Southeast Asia's foremost urban metropolis, surreal temples, elaborate palaces, towering skyscrapers, and night-blooming bazaars all cohabitate. The city's ceremonial name is composed in combination of two ancient Indian languages, Pali and Sanskrit, and translates to, "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarm." It's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's longest place name!
Many Thai names, whether of place or person, tend to resemble lengthy, poetic verses fit for royalty, although Bangkok’s probably takes the cake. Almost all Thailand-bound travelers will land here first and should set aside at least a few days to explore the capital’s many monuments, shrines, and after-dark markets filled with exotic street food and tempting handicrafts. Visitors interested in cultural performance should see Patravadi Theatre, Bangkok’s premier modern dance company, which is renowned for its avant-garde interpretations of traditional Thai folk dances.
For those who fancy a serene seaside retreat, Koh Samui is the largest in an archipelago of more than 60 mostly uninhabited tropical islands scattered throughout the Gulf of Siam. Samui’s balmy turquoise waters, powdery white sands, and densely forested hills will serenade the senses of sun-seekers, trekking enthusiasts, and aspiring fisherfolk alike. The outdoor market at Hua Thanon fishing village is a vibrant place to experience the local livelihood.
Homestays with remote mountain hill tribes can provide an intimate glimpse into the rural Thai lifestyle, from sleeping in a traditional stilt house to sharing home-cooked cuisine with an extended family. Kayaking among the majestic limestone formations and secluded sea caves of Phang Nga Bay, along the technicolor southern coast, is an active adventure that would top any list of memories to last a lifetime. Whatever corner of Thailand you choose to explore, you can count on wonder, warm weather, and friendly faces to accompany you.