Thailand has always had plenty to offer tourists, whether they be old favourites that continue to reinvent themselves or hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here are five of the best.
Chiang Rai Province
The determination of national artists such as Chalermchai Kositpipat, whose White Temple is world famous and bustles with tourists every day, have helped Chiang Rai become a remarkable city of art in recent years.
Chiang Rai is truly a city of culture: home to the ancient arts of the Lanna Kingdom as well as renowned national and talented local artists, who create and present their works in various mediums. This melting pot of styles, influences and talents is creating a unique cultural identity for the province.
Phayao is a small province which people generally think of as a place to simply pass through, on the way to somewhere more exciting. There are no direct trains or flights from Bangkok and the provincial capital lacks the modern bustle of a big city. Those who take the time to stop and explore this northern town, however, are grateful that its authentic charm is generally overlooked by the throngs of travellers heading further afield. Life is lived slowly and peacefully under the influences of Eastern Lanna culture and Buddhism. There are also many beautiful natural attractions to check out.
In Phayao City, there is a wide, artificial lake which is a source of livelihood and a local fishery. Tourists can take a boat to see the submerged temple in the middle of the lake and witness the ‘underwater candlelight procession’. Going further outside the city, the province offers national parks, with lush forests, stunning waterfalls and spectacular views. If you long to discover a beautiful jewel, off the beaten track and hidden from the modern world, Phayao will not disappoint you.
Khon Kaen Province
One problem that tourists often encounter while travelling around Thailand’s provinces is with the local public transport service. Visitors to Khon Kaen needn’t worry about this, however, because this large city in the Northeast of Thailand has made much progress in developing and improving its infrastructure. It is justly proud to be a role model for urban public transport systems.
Using public transport like the Khon Kaen City Bus means enjoying a quality service with high-tech solutions through the whole payment system. You can use a travel card or pay by coin operated ticket machine. Staff dress neatly and free wi-fi is offered. The vehicles are also equipped for passengers with disabilities and the GPS system lets you check the location of your bus at any time. Therefore, it is not just easy, but a delight to travel around Khon Kaen. What’s more, the province doesn’t want to stop there - it has plans for an inner-city train, too!
Songkhla Old Town
The old town of Songkhla, often called the Singha Nakorn District, contains plenty of archaeological and architectural evidence of its distant origins, from when the city was called Zingora and was ruled by sultans, through the era of Chinese immigration, the birth of international trade and the subsequent creation of the town’s multicultural (Chinese, Thai, Muslim and Western) identity. Remains of fortifications, pagodas, monuments, the old city wall, the sultan's grave, etc. are all reasons why Songkhla is being pushed to become the next Thai World Heritage City.
Interest in the city achieving world heritage status has sparked a revival along the three old roads on the other side of the city - Nakhon Nok, Nakhon Nai and Nang Ngam. The centre of trade and commerce for a long time, these thoroughfares fell into decline for many years. Today, however, they are bustling obce more. There are new stores, local museums, art spaces, food stalls, street art, tourist trams, guided tours, and more!
Tarutao Island, Satun Province
Of all the islands in Thai waters, Tarutao arguably has the richest history and folklore: a former Japanese prison during World War Two, it is also the setting for legends of the pirates of the Andaman Sea. It is exquisitely beautiful, with sandy beaches, clear water and stunning wildlife habitats that have been well maintained ever since it became the 8th national park in the country.
This national park is well worth the trip to experience the natural beauty and absorb the history. Back in June 1938, this remote, deserted island was officially designated to be used as a prison and settlement for vocational training of prisoners, marking the beginning of the island's tales of terror, to which were added the stories of Tarutao’s pirates and sea gypsies just a few years later.
Today, this beautiful island is a must-see item for tourists visiting nearby Lipe Island - they must spare some time for Tarutao so that they can take in all that the beautiful seas of Satun Province have to offer.
Thai Smile offers direct flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport To Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen And Songkhla Province (Hat Yai Airport)
To get to Phayao Province, you can travel from Chiang Rai Province (1.5-hour ride)
To Satun Province, you can travel from Hat Yai, which also takes about 1 and a half hours.