Thailand has much to offer to the visitor, from cosmopolitan cities with great shopping opportunities to jungles, waterfalls and some the best beaches in Southeast Asia. It would take months to truly explore and understand Thailand, but if you don't have the luxury of so much time, the best-next choice is to visit the top sites in Thailand. According to experts like Lonely Planet, those top spots include everything from sandy beaches to historical sights.
Elephant in nature park, Kanchanaburi - Thailand
Thailand's capital is a cosmopolitan city with both a vibrant nightlife and plenty of culture to keep you entertained during the day. Must-see includes the Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw, a complex of temples built in 1782 by order of the king. The Damnoen Saduak, or Floating Market, is another interesting attraction. Hundreds of boats scurry by through narrow canals, selling fruits and vegetables just as they did a century ago. Visitors can shop while sitting in their own chauffeured boat or simply take a tour of the surroundings.
Hua Hin is a beachside resort three hours south of Bangkok. The king's summer palace is here, a testament to the beauty of the place. Hua Hin's beaches are clean and quiet and several national parks surround the town. The 11-tier Pa La-u Waterfall is one of the most popular day trips from Hua Hin.
Chiang Mai is a city and province in the north of Thailand. Famous for its jungles and mountains, Chiang Mai is the destination for those who want nature and a relief from the heat of the city. The city is home to many temples, or wats, including the famous Wat Chedi Luang, built in 1402. Jungle treks, which can last from a few hours to several days, also are a big attraction in Chiang Mai. The area around the city is home to the Long Neck Karen hill tribe, a local indigenous group with a tradition of elongating its necks using metal rings. Tours to visit the Karen village are available.
Phuket is Thailand's most famous beach town, and Phang Nga Bay has some of the best beaches in Thailand. The area also is home to Koh Ping-gan, or "James Bond Island," where "The Man With the Golden Gun" was filmed. Phuket also is notorious for its active and over-the-top nightlife, which include lots of bars, cabaret shows music and alcohol.
Pattaya has gained a reputation as a "seedy" town over the years, but if you stay away from the bar area you'll find plenty of things to do and see. The beach in Pattaya is not as impressive as those in the south, but it's still worth a visit. The town also is home to some distinctive attractions, such as the Bottle Art Museum, the Pattaya Floating Market -- the largest floating market in the world --- and Mini Siam (minisiam.com), an on-scale recreation of some of Thailand's most important landmarks.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park in northeastern Thailand is one of the few remaining places in Southeast Asia where you can still see wild elephants. Several waterfalls and miles of hiking and biking trails crisscross throughout the park. Nighttime drives allow you to see wildlife you would miss during the day, such as the Asian tiger.
Ayutthaya is a group of ancient ruins dating to 1351, and the old temples, monasteries, fortresses and memorials stand in different stages of destruction. Lots of Buddha statues, including a 39-foot-long reclining Buddha, can be seen inside the temples. The Ayutthaya Historical Study Center is a good stop to learn about the temples and their history. Ayutthaya is just north of Bangkok and attracts many tourists year-round.
Koh Samui is famous for two things: scuba diving and parties, particularly the Full Moon Party, a once-a-month extravaganza that attracts up to 30,000 people every time. The parties are held on the beach and last all night.
No trip to Thailand is complete without a stop in Kanchanaburi and at the site where "The Bridge over the River Kwai" was filmed. The "Death Railway" was built here by prisoners of war under Japanese direction during World War II. Today, visitors can cross over the bridge, visit abandoned trains and half-built railway tracks and stop by the Memorial Walking Trail and the small museum covering the history of the infamous Thai-Burma Railway..
Krabi is a beach town with some of the most impressive seaside cliffs in Thailand. The Phi Phi islands and the many surrounding beach areas attract snorkelers, scuba divers, boaters and kayakers. Krabi has large coral areas and great water visibility, making it a great destination for all kinds of water sports.