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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.