Despite the modern skyline, some districts retain their old-world charm. The Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew have dazzled visitors for over 200 years, and no visitor should miss a tour around the teak masterpieces of Vimanmek Mansion, Suan
Pakkard and Jim Thompson’s House.
The Chao Phraya River hosts a number of inspiring sights. Long-tail boats take sightseers past famous landmarks like Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and through adjacent canal communities.
For shoppers, large department stores
offer VAT refunds for tourists, and market traders bargain with grace. Narayanaphand stocks beautiful handicrafts, Pratunam Market is great for garments, and Patpong Road and the Weekend Market (beside Chatuchak Park) sell almost everything imaginable.
Of Ayutthaya’s many notable ruins, Wat Phra Meru is one of the best preserved. The temple houses two Buddha images, one of which is reputed to be over 1,300 years old and thought to have originated in Sri Lanka.
Wat Phra Meru, which was one
of the few temples to escape destruction by the Burmese also has beautifully carved wooden ceiling.
Wat Phra Si Samphet was the largest temple in Ayutthaya, a favorite of royalty and used as a palace by several kings of Ayuthaya. The temple was built
during the 14th century and once housed a 16-metre-high Buddha image coated with 250 kilogrammes of gold. The gold was removed and melted down by the invading Burmese forces.
In the temple grounds, three classic Ayuthaya-style chedis contain the ashes
of former kings of Thailand.
These days, Chiang Mai is Thailand's northern capital. Various countries have consulates here, and visitors have an excellent choice of accommodation. The climate is pleasantly cooler than Bangkok's, even cold at night around New Year.
Still, the days are hot, and along with the city’s public pools, big hotels open theirs to non-guests. The nightlife here is good and varied, as is the array of international restaurants. There are plenty of Muay Thai, meditation, yoga and massage centers for
anyone seeking something unusual.
Best known as the site of the “bridge on the river Kwai”, this quiet town is also a great hub for exploring the lush jungle scenery that surrounds it.
This former capital and World Heritage Site had its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries,
leaving a rich legacy of ruins and temples.
Thailand’s northernmost city is small and quiet, providing the ideal launching point for treks through some of nature’s more spectacular settings.
Though in modern times it is a developed industrial town, there is much to see of historical
Mae Hong Son
This quiet town by the Burmese border makes a great base for nature treks and visits to hill tribes such as the long-necked Padaung people.
This major center of the Northeast has changed hands many times over the centuries and has the
artifacts to prove it.