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THAI TREASURES

Land of Smiles


Larina Arrowsmith is spellbound by the sheer beauty of Thailand

It is a haven for sun worshippers, magnet for party animals and mecca for culture vultures. Small wonder then that Thailand has become a favourite destination for backpackers and holidaymakers alike over the years.

Starting in the north promises unforgettable experiences. Begin in Chiang Rai and then visit the majestic Wat Rong Khun, which is known as the White Temple, and interact with elephants in an ethical sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

And why not visit Pai, which is nestled in a valley on the banks of the Pai River? This quaint town delights visitors with its hot springs, waterfalls, handicraft shops and traditional clay houses.

Bangkok is one of the most exciting capitals in the world. Avoid the crowds by taking a night tour on an adrenalin filled tuk-tuk ride and enjoy the city sights before stopping at a food market to taste the legendary pad thai and mango sticky rice. Finish with a trip down Khaosan Road to sample Bangkok’s exhilarating nightlife.

For a spot of history, take a trip to the River Kwai and combine it with an overnight stay on a jungle raft for a unique adventure.

Because it is laced with some of the most heavenly beaches in the world, a trip to Thailand wouldn’t be complete without a stint of island hopping. Start your tour in Phuket and sample James Bond Island or hike up to the giant Buddha statue overlooking the coast.

Then head on to Koh Phi Phi Don, jump aboard a party boat and stop to see mischievous monkeys, kayak in the turquoise waters and get back on land for a fire show before dancing into the night.

Move onwards to Koh Lanta Yai and take a speedboat out to sea for a day of snorkelling and exploring hidden lagoons. Finish up in Krabi where you can spend the day on the blissful Railay Beach or swim in the Emerald Pool in Khlong Thom Nuea.

However long your trip to Thailand is, you will soon understand why it’s known as the Land of Smiles. And the best souvenir you can take back with you is a smile – yours – which is guaranteed to last long after you return.

THAI FACTS

  • Official name --- Kingdom of Thailand (formerly known as Siam)
  • Population --- 69.4 million
  • Currency  --- Thai Baht
  • Official language --- Thai
  • National symbol --- Elephant
  • National sport --- Kickboxing
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