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The best of Thailand
For pleasure-seekers on a budget, the best things to do in Thailand make this country a paradise on earth. The promise of daily massages, Michelin-starred street food, top-notch nightlife, island-hopping on a whim and top-notch hospitality is all within reach, and just as alluring as the natural beauty (think white sand beaches, hidden waterfalls, lush rainforests, forested mountains and exotic wildlife) and rich culture, from all kinds of festivals and markets to gold-tipped Buddhist temples, Angkor Wat-like ruins and contemporary art. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Southeast Asia’s most visited country—home to the most visited city in the world (Bangkok saw 21.98 million foreigners in 2018), suffers from over-tourism. But don’t fret: there are plenty of ways to experience Thailand like a local, away from big group tours—and even tourists! You just have to know where to go (like Issan, the least developed region in the country)—and which bucket-list items are worth it.
There’s no doubt that Thailand, with its long coastline and 1,430 islands, is Asia’s No1 tourist destination, offering a diverse range of things to do. Buddhists and backpackers, hedonists and the well-healed can all find their nirvana in the Royal kingdom (which is actually run by the military). Despite the explosion of tourism over the last few decades, it is still very possible to find some tranquillity, be it at a meditation retreat in the Northern Highlands or on the massage table of a luxe island resort. A short spell in bonkers Bangkok is a must, but the call of the gently lapping ocean and the lure of getting the white sand between your toes will be strong. You’ll find a dizzying range of hotels across the country suited to every budget, and from eco-intelligent nests and Michelin-starred restaurants to a lemongrass and turmeric compress or a 2000-book library, our pick of Thailand’s best hotels include all manner of tempting Thai treats.
Saying that water lovers are spoiled for choice when it comes to Thailand beaches is an understatement. Beaches of every definition are found in this tropical country (visiting them all is a can't-miss thing to do here), from secluded stretches with only the most basic amenities to bar-lined party destinations crowded with spirited revellers. But wherever you lay your towel, expect sun-drenched sugary white sands and waters in a thousand shades of blue—and a bottle of cold cheap beer. After a day spent under the sun, you'll want to embrace the local nightlife scene... or pass out in a comfy bed at one of the best hotels in town.
After tackling our list of things to do pre-dark, you'll want to uncover the Thailand nightlife scene by following our guide. While Thailand has earned itself a reputation for drunken full moon parties and red light districts, the night scene across the country has matured in recent years with the rise of sophisticated small bars, craft beer havens and trendy beachside hangouts. Whether you’re destined for the country’s many sugar-sanded islands or beaches, the hills of Chiang Mai or big-city Bangkok or you usually prefer to stay in your hotel room, we've got you covered here.