Amazing Places to Visit in Exotic Thailand

Friendly people, grand temples and long-tailed boats plying turquoise waters are part of Thailand's magic and mystique.

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Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Photo By: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Grand Palace

Exciting, exotic Thailand conjures up thoughts of aromatic spices, stunning Asian architecture and floating flower markets. When you visit, don't miss the Grand Palace in Bangkok, built in 1782 and the official residence of the King of Thailand for 150 years. Then explore the palace complex to see the Emerald Buddha (it's actually made of jade) in Wat Phra Kaew, one of the most important Buddhist temples in the country. Before you make your travel plans, visit the U.S. Department of State for information on safety and security in Thailand, documents required for entry and exit and more.

Khao Khanap Nam

When you see two limestone mountains, known as Khao Khanap Nam, you'll know you're in the Thai city of Krabi. To reach them, visitors often hire local fishing boats, known as long-tailed boats, and guides to ferry them along the Krabi River. If you go, ask to be dropped off at the stairs that lead to a cave under the mountains, where you'll find stalactites, stalagmites and prehistoric cave paintings. Look for birds, monkeys and bats there, too.

Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market

Lose yourself in the colors and fragrances at Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s largest retail and fresh flower market, where you can buy roses, lilies, orchids and more. You’ll also find a variety of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables for sale. The market is open 24 hours a day, and when trucks bring new deliveries, tourists and wholesale buyers crowd around to watch the action. Treat yourself to a flower garland, which is believed to bring good luck and symbolize respect.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho, just south of Pak Khlong Talat, is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok. It’s also home to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which houses a giant Buddha covered in gold leaf. In this image, a girl shows respect and gratitude to Buddha by building a miniature stupa from sand (a stupa is a structure that holds sacred relics or otherwise pays tribute to Buddha). While you’re here, visit the nearby Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School for a relaxing treatment.

Loi Krathong

Thailand’s Loi Krathong Festival, also called the Festival of Lights, is always held during a full moon, and usually in November. Loi, sometimes spelled loy, means to float, so festival-goers fill small baskets with flowers, incense, candles and wishes, and launch them onto a river or other body of water. Thousands of brightly lit lanterns are also released into the sky, carrying more wishes for good fortune. The festival is held nationwide, but in the city of Chiang Mai, shown here, it becomes a sort of street party that can last for days. If you go, buy your lantern early. Once they become scarce, prices soar.

Sanctuary of Truth

The all-wooden Sanctuary of Truth sits on the beach in Pattaya, a province of Chon Buri. When it’s completed—it’s been under construction since 1981—it will be covered in carved sculptures depicting Buddhist and Hindu figures and themes. According to its website, the impressive Sanctuary, which stands over 344 feet tall, aims "to use art and culture as the reflection of (an) Ancient Vision of Earth." Visit the workshop to see the woodcarvers in action, and check the schedule to catch a traditional Thai dance performance.

Nong Nooch Garden

The largest botanical garden in Southeast Asia, Nong Nooch (sometimes spelled NongNooch) is also in Pattaya. Its 500 acres are divided into a 17th-century French garden, a bromeliad display, butterfly garden, cycad valley, bonsai garden and many other areas featuring plants like palms, cacti and orchids. You won’t be able to see everything in one visit, but you can rent a bike to get around faster, or climb atop an elephant for a ride and a great view.

Floating Market

Four main areas in the Pattaya floating market sell goods and present cultural shows from the north, northeast, central and southern regions of Thailand. Located in Chon Buri, it features over 100 shops and water vendors, making it the largest man-made floating market in the world. Fill your shopping bags with fruits, souvenirs and handmade items—but remember, you may not be able to take some things through Customs. Catch a boat ride to get around the market, then hop out and walk through the wooden buildings that represent each region. Hungry? Stop for coconut pancakes, green curry with seasoned jasmine rice or other authentic Thai foods.

Chumphon Pier

Travelers go by boat from Chumphon, a city on the coast in Southern Thailand, to Koh Pha Ngan and other islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Chumphon is known for its sandy beaches and fresh seafood, but most visitors use it as a jumping off point for the famous—or infamous—full-moon parties at Koh Pha Ngan, where people meet on the shore after sunset to hear live music, drink and dance under the coconut trees.

Bananas

Bananas are thought to have originated in southern Thailand, and you’ll find varieties here that you’ve never seen in the U.S., like Egg and Leb Mue Nang, or Lady Fingers. (The most common type of banana sold in the U.S. is the Cavendish). There’s even a festival held in Kamphaeng Phet, in north central Thailand, to celebrate bananas. Be sure to sample the banana dessert made there. Called krayasat, it's prepared with sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, sticky rice, coconut milk and other ingredients, and then wrapped and served in a banana leaf.

Tonsai Bay, Phi Phi Don Island

Tonsai Bay, on Phi Phi Don Island, is in the Krabi province. Most tourists come for the outstanding rock climbing in the area, but you can also scuba dive, kayak, sail and snorkel in these waters. Unfortunately, the bay can be nearly inaccessible when the tides are low, or during monsoon season when the waves are high, causing travelers to wade ashore from boats anchored far out in the bay. It’s easier to go to Ao Nang or West Railay if you’re looking for beaches.

Phra Achana Buddha

Thanks to its many temples and historic sites, Sukhothai has been named a UNESCO World Heritage City. Look for the largest Buddha in the city at the Wat Si Chum Temple. This Buddha, known as Phra Achana, or "He who is not frightened," is some 49 feet high and 36 feet wide. It’s housed inside a roofless pavilion with a triangular-shaped opening in front, so visitors standing outside can see the Buddha peeking through.

Ban Salak Khok

Make your way by rental boat to Ban Salak Khok, a quiet fishing village in Koh Chang. This area has one of the best-preserved mangrove forests in all of Thailand. Kayaking is popular here, and many tourists opt to dine on fresh seafood at outdoor tables in the evening, while they watch the local fishing boats come in.