Seven Reasons to visit Thailand

The political trouble in Thailand has brought the country into the news a lot lately. Because of the trouble, tourists are fleeing the country and not coming back, despite all the great reasons to visit Thailand. Tourist bookings are way down, with some hotels reporting an occupancy rate as low as 20%. December is normally one of the busiest months in Thailand because of the holidays. Yet even the backpacker area of Khao San Road was deserted this weekend during a time when it’s normally bustling with people. (As of 2012, these issues are no longer relevant, but the reasons to visit haven’t changed. Thailand is one of my favorite countries, and you should visit if you can.)

Don’t let the news scare you. The protests never seep into the daily life of Thailand. Prices are being slashed, but if cost wasn’t reason enough to come here, here are seven things to do in Thailand that give you plenty of reason to come visit:

Bangkok Skyline at sunset
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is a crazy city that moves at a lightning-fast pace. I didn’t like the city when I first came here, but after living here, I see how wonderful it really is. There’s always something going on, the food is great (make sure you eat the street food), and the parties are amazing. The locals are very friendly, and because of all the travelers and expats living here, it’s a very international city. You’ll never be bored in Bangkok.

Tropical Beaches
Ko Lipe
Thailand’s beaches and islands are some of the best and most beautiful in the world. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and this photo proves why you should visit Thailand better than any words I could say. Some of my favorite islands in Thailand are Ko Lipe, Ko Lanta, Ko Samet, and Ko Phangan (where you’ll find the famous Full Moon Party).

Lush Jungles
Chiang Mai Jungle in Northern Thailand
Trekking in northern Thailand gives you great views of the lush tropical jungles, the wildlife, and the hill tribes, and an appreciation for the landscape. There’s nothing like slushing through a tropical jungle to nurture your inner explorer. Some of the best trekking can be found way up north near Chiang Rai, in Khao Yai park, and in Khao Sok, which is famous for its caves and limestone.

Amazing Animals
Thai Elephants on a tour
You’ll see animals all over the country. From fish in the sea, to elephants on the ground, to birds in the air, Thailand has a wide variety of animals. Most people come here to go diving and see tropical fish, but there are plenty of great animals to see on land, too, especially if you like birds. Exploring the jungles in parks like Khao Yai or by diving in Ko Tao is a great way to see all the main species. Up north, you can even ride an elephant. You can also help save them from abuse by working at the conservation camp near Chiang Mai.

Delicious Food
Thai Food
Thai food is known around the world to be delicious, and you can bet it’s even more delicious in Thailand. The best food comes from the street vendors, who serve up the tastiest, spiciest food in the country. Just find the stalls where the locals are crowding around for the best of the best. Thailand without the food would be like France without the wine. I highly recommend the pork noodle soup. It’s one of the few Thai dishes you won’t find elsewhere in the world.

Historical Ruins
Sukkothai historic ruins
The sites of Sukothai, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya are windows into Thailand’s historic past, with ruins dating back centuries. Visit ruins from when Thailand was ruled by the Khmer and the Burmese and when Thailand ruled them. These cities dot the center of Thailand, so they’re a perfect way to hop, skip, and jump your way to Chiang Mai and see the rural countryside.

Great Diving
Diving in Thailand
Thailand has some of the best dive sites in the world. The diving near Phuket, Ko Tao, the Similian Islands, and the Surin Islands is famous for brightly colored fish and coral. Thailand is also one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to dive. I find the diving near Ko Lanta and in the Similian Islands to be the best, as the reefs are better preserved.

So don’t worry about the recent unrest. Thailand has a lot to offer travelers. There are plenty of good reasons to visit Thailand now and tons of things to do here.

  1. Wow, that beach shot is making me hate North America right now.

    I planned a trip to Paris in 2005 before the riots in the suburbs broke out. It garnered a lot of comments from people (mom, this means you) such as “but isn’t it dangerous there?” “now isn’t a good time to go to Paris” and “be careful!” But unrest is sometimes limited to such a small area of a city/country that visitors really shouldn’t be frightened away at all. Sounds like that’s the case in Thailand. I hope the tourism industry can survive this bout of bad publicity.

  2. Coming from (orginally) an Asian Country where there’s always “bad PR” on political instability, I agree with your post that that it shouldn’t scare the tourists. Once in the country, they will know it’s not that bad.

    You did a good job on this post!

  3. If you listened to every government advisory on travel, you wouldn’t go anywhere.

    I know many people aren’t put off by violence, but the airport closure messed up a lot of people’s travel plans. If you had only 2 weeks a year to travel you don’t want there to be a chance of delays, lost tickets etc.

    People should still go to Thailand, but I can understand it if they decide to go somewhere else.

  4. It is a great time to save money on a trip to Thailand. I thought it was very inexpensive before but now I can only imagine…

    If one stays away from the main government centers you won’t run into any problems and I believe the airport situation has been resolved.

    Time to go…

  5. Pokin

    Yup. Those are 7 pretty good reasons and I’m definitely hoping to visit early in 2009. I love thai food, and like you mentioned, so many people say it’s way better in the country and that nothing compares to it outside (except I heard the thai version of pad thai is crazy). I feel like I will be the last person on earth to go tho’! With Thailand in the news so much it’s an especially good time to visit. As you say, travellers are being scared off, meaning that it will be so much less crowded. :)

  6. NomadicMatt

    @Tanya: It will take years for the tourist industry to recover. Especially since there is bound to be some more political turmoil.

    @skylab @a maui blog @quickroute THANK YOU!

    @Mike I agree. People just wont come back.

    @pokin @ray so we’ll see you here soon then? great!

  7. I had a cousin that traveled to Thailand this summer and couldn’t not saying just how beautiful that area of the world is. And she noted how inexpensive spa treatments are over there, as well (what a bonus!)

    I found a great post on the new Peterman’s Eye Travel today and I thought I’d share…


  8. Bill

    Yeah! I’m excited to travel to Thailand. I’ll be there in March and April–my first time.

    Do you think flight prices will go down? I’m looking at buying a one-way ticket for March 1. On, the price is about $618.

    FYI, I’m buying one-way because I’m going to explore SE Asia for the rest of the year.

  9. NomadicMatt

    @neil: totally come. we will cause havoc.

    @bill: it will depend on how good the holiday season is. if it is bad, it will go down. if not, it will stay the same.

    @everyone else: yes, that beach sold me too lol

  10. Matt, I went to Tanzania just three years after the embassy bombing, during a time when Dar es Salaam was still considered a major cell of Al Qaeda activity. About a month after I left Africa, the 9/11 terrorist attacks hit America… not Tanzania. So, in some ways I was almost safer there.

    You make a very tempting argument. Thailand is beautiful, and tourist businesses often lower prices at times like this… a perfect situation for a budget traveler. If I didn’t already have plans for a book research trip to Mexico, I just might go for it!

  11. We’re hoping to travel to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in February and some think we’re nuts. They’ve said that about other places we’ve traveled too yet these same people don’t have a problem with downtown Toronto or Winnepeg, murder capital of Canada. Just because it’s in Canada we Canadians think it’s safe. Sheesh.
    We’re doing a GAP adventures tour and are hoping to spend a few days after the tour on a nice beach in Thailanf. Which would you visit if you were in Bangkok and had 4 or 5 days?

  12. Kathleen M.

    Hi there! My husband and I are headed to Thailand beaches for 8 days this November for our honeymoon. We are interested in Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta and Railay beach. What would be the best itinerary from Bangkok? Fly to Phuket or to Krabi? How much time should we spend on each island?
    thank you!

  13. Leanne

    Hi Matt,

    I will be heading to Thailand in September, I am worried about it being Monsoon season and it spoiling my planned trips to some of the islands. How bad does the weather get?

    My itinerary includes- Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi.

    thank you and I love your blog!

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