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NORTHERN THAILAND'S HIGHLIGHTS

thai romanization
Puzzled about
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By Athena

Just like a restaurant lists many dishes on its menu but recommends only a few, so Thaiways has decided to highlight some of the most amazing activities and attractions definitely all visitors to the kingdom should not miss. Certainly, it is quite difficult to do all these in one trip. But we hope that the list will give you some good ideas for your trip to Thailand, especially those who come for the first time.

1. The Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaeo

The Grand Palace, the former residence of royalty, is the most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok. To be in Bangkok without visiting the palace is like you have not been in the city. Located in the old town or the Rattanakosin Island in the heart of Bangkok, the exquisite craftsmanship and grandeur of its architecture proclaim the true meaning of Bangkok as a "city of angels".

Wat Phra Kaeo or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is located in the Grand Palace compound, is an important Buddhist temple in Thailand famous for its most sacred Emerald Buddha image, the world's longest Ramayana mural painting, and numerous interesting sculptures. It is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Visitors are required to dress appropriately.

2. Khon Masked Drama
 

Khon is the most refined of all Thai performance arts. It is a traditional Thai masked drama which combines gracefulness with masculinity in its dancing. It is believed to date back to the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767) and to have originated no less than 400 years ago. It is a classical dance drama acknowledged as the most sophisticated form of Thai theatre.

Currently, you can watch Khon performance of Hanuman episode at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre in Bangkok. The performance, running about 1.30 hours, is available every Thursday and Friday at 7.30 pm. For details and reservation, contact Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, Tel. 0-2224-4499.


3. Canal Tour & Floating Markets

Bangkok used to be known as the "Venice of the East" for all the water courses connecting to the main vein - the Chaophraya River. Taking a long-tail boat tour of the canals, like Bangkok Noi and Bangkok Yai with breaks at the Temple of Dawn and the Royal Barges Museum is a great way to explore Thai way of life along the canals.

a) Trip along Khlong Bangkok Noi & Khlong Bang Yai

This is the most popular canal tour in Bangkok. A boat service for this relaxing route departs from Tha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace many times daily. The boat cruises through the Bangkok Noi Canal, and takes about an hour to reach Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi. Attractions along the canal include the Royal Barges Museum and some beautiful old temples.

b) Floating Markets

There are several floating markets on various canals in Bangkok and nearby provinces, of which the most well-known are:

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located about 80 km southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi province. Photos of this vibrant market featuring many small boats laden with colourful fruits and vegetables and paddled by Thai women wearing bamboo hats, are among the most often published in travel magazines and brochures of Thailand.



Taling Chan Floating Market
operates on weekends only, and located in front of the Taling Chan District Office in the west of Bangkok. The life of the residents by the canal still retains an old-time atmosphere amidst the natural surroundings.

4. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)

Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It was developed several hundreds of years ago as a form of close-combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon. Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs” as it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes.

If you’re interested in watching Thai boxing in Bangkok, there are two stadiums _ Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, located on Ramintra Road, and Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium, located on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road.

You can also watch Muay Thai performance at Asiatique the Riverfront, on Charoenkrung Road. Muay Thai Live at Asiatique is an exciting theatrical show combining entertaining performances with the ancient martial art of Thai boxing. This show runs Tuesday to Sunday from 08.00 - 09.30 pm. at The Stage, a modern 600-seater theatre within Asiatique The Riverfront night market. For more details and reservations, please visit www.muaythailive.com.

5. Elephant Trekking

One of the amazing adventures you can enjoy in Thailand is undoubtedly the elephant trekking through the jungle. The northern region provides great opportunities for this activity as it is blessed with the natural beauty of mountains, forests, streams and rivers. There are many elephant camps in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang and other northern provinces which provide elephant trekking tours. You can also take elephant rides in Ayutthaya province (60 km. from Bangkok). Anyway, for those who have less time, you may go to Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo (40 km. from Bangkok) to see an elephant show and ride an elephant.

6. Gulf of Thailand

No journey to the Land of Smiles would be complete without visiting some of its globally lauded, tropical islands and oceanfront resorts. Some premier beach resort towns on the Gulf of Thailand are as follows:

Pattaya (120 km from Bangkok) has become famous for its sunny tropical beaches, many tourist attractions, fantastic restaurants and shopping facilities but, most notably, its vibrant nightlife.

Hua Hin (200 km) is the country's oldest beach resort. This long white sandy beach attracts lots of Thai and foreign tourists who seek a nice beach holiday close to Bangkok.

Ko Samui (700 km) is Thailand's second most popular vacation island after Phuket. It is an island of natural beauty and charm, a place where you can have your holiday anyway you like it.

7. Andaman Coast

Consisting of many popular tourist spots, Andaman coast is a real paradise for both beach and water sport lovers. Whether you're looking for hard or soft adventures, from sea kayaking to simply soaking up the sun on a sandy tropical beach, the islands of Krabi province and Phuket are truly amazing destinations.

Phuket (870 km) - Spectacular scenery, stunning tropical sunsets and warm blue sea awaits you at Asia's most popular beach destination. This fun island provides a marvelous combination of white sandy beaches, superb hospitality and great value accommodation.

Krabi (814 km) - The Krabi coastline is dotted with many small limestone islands, palm fringed beaches, mangroves, caves, and strange rock formations. It offers a great opportunity for diving due to its numerous marine resources and a hundred offshore islands.

Phang Nga (800 km) - This province is renowned for a variety of outstanding natural attractions including the stunning Phang Nga Bay, the idyllic Surin and Similan Islands, and the sandy coast of Khao Lak.

8. Diving at Similan & Surin Islands

Thailand has a great selection of dive destinations and offers some of the best diving in the world for all levels of divers. With a long coastline bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the country is full of wonderful diving sites, including the Similan and Surin islands which are often ranked among the top ten dive destinations in the world.

Similan Islands are some of the world's most beautiful and unspoiled islands. Located 65 km off the coast of Phang Nga province, Similan is a group of nine islands extending from north to south.

Surin Islands located some of 50 km off Phang Nga’s coast. This site, consisting of five granite islands and their fringing coral reefs, offers excellent diving and snorkeling.

9. Thai Spa & Massage

No trip to Thailand is completed until you have experienced a pampering Thai spa treatment. Spas of Thailand are second to none because of the distinctive traditional Thai massage and the outstanding Thai hospitality presented through the well-trained therapists. Most clients are impressed by their smiles and tender attention.

Several day spas and hotel spas are scattered throughout Bangkok and other major tourist destinations like Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Samui and Phuket. Most spa facilities offer a wide variety of spa treatments and massage therapy to suit your needs. If you wish to experience the true comfort and indulgence, go for one at a spa near you.

10. Eating Thai Food
   

Thai food is regarded by many tourists as one of the highlights of a trip to Thailand. It has both delicious taste and nutritional value. Some traditional dishes have become globally renowned and are included in the must-try menu of all Thai restaurants. If you are a first-time visitor to Thailand, here are some must-try dishes for you: spicy papaya salad (som tam), green chicken curry (kaeng khieo wan kai), fried noodle with shrimp (pad thai), hot and sour prawn soup (tom yam kung), and stir-fried pork/chicken with holy basil (pad kaprao moo/kai).

11. Golfing

The quantity, quality and diversity of golf courses located throughout the country are key factors attracting the large numbers of visitors coming to play golf in Thailand. There are over 200 courses located throughout Thailand. In major tourist destinations like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Phuket there is a wide selection of quality golf courses to suit every preference. Besides, the rates are often very favorable, especially on weekdays. With modern facilities, internationally designed golf courses, and cost competitiveness, the golf tourism in Thailand has developed significantly.

12. Songkran & Loi Krathong Festival

Songkran and Loi Krathong are two most famous festivals of Thailand. The Songkran festival is the traditional Thai New Year's Day and is celebrated from April 13 to April 15. This is the most enjoyable of all festivals in Thailand. Songkran is widely known as the water festival as people have lots of fun splashing water over each other during the festival.

Loi Krathong festival is probably Thailand’s most beautiful festival. The festival is celebrated on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month when the water level is high. This day usually falls in November of the western calendar. The term “loi” means to float and "krathong" means a lotus shaped container that is made of banana leaves. The krathong is decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks and also has some coins in it. On the festival night, people will gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing their decorated krathongs onto the water.

If you want to experience either of these festivals, you should plan your trip to coincide with it and book your hotel far in advance.



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