A Bountiful Table
Adored around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous, warm, refreshing and relaxed. Thai dishes rely on fresh, local ingredients – pungent lemongrass, searing chillies and plump seafood. A varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavours: spicy, sweet, salty and sour. Roving appetites go on eating tours of Bangkok noodle shacks, seafood pavilions in Phuket, and Burmese market stalls in Mae Sot. Cooking classes reveal the simplicity behind the seemingly complicated dishes, and mastering the market is an important survival skill.
Fields & Forests
Outside the cluttered cities and towns lies Thailand's rural heartland, a mix of rice paddies, tropical forests and villages where life is dominated by the rhythms of the agricultural clock. In the north, the forests and fields bump up against toothy blue mountains decorated with silvery waterfalls and honeycombed by deep caves. Down south, scraggy limestone cliffs poke out of the cultivated landscape like prehistoric skyscrapers, or emerge dramatically out of the turquoise sea. The usually arid northeast turns an emerald hue during the rainy season when tender green rice shoots carpet the landscape.
The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, and religious devotion is colourful and ubiquitous. Gleaming temples and golden Buddhas frame both the rural and the urban landscape. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honour the resident spirits, fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble homes as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents. Visitors can join the conversation through meditation retreats in Chiang Mai, religious festivals in northeastern Thailand, underground cave shrines in Kanchanaburi and Phetchaburi, and hilltop temples in northern Thailand.
Sand Between Your Toes
With a luxuriously long coastline (actually, two coastlines) and over 1400 jungle-topped islands anchored in azure waters, Thailand is a tropical getaway fit for everyone, whether hedonist or hermit, prince or pauper. The country's coast is one giant playground, with plenty going on wherever the sand meets the sea. You can snorkel the gentle waters off Ko Lipe, dive with whale sharks around Ko Tao, scale the sea cliffs of Krabi, kiteboard in Hua Hin, party on Ko Phi-Phi and recuperate at a health resort on Ko Samui.