The past is never far behind in central Thailand. Cycle around the temple ruins in Ayuthaya and you can imagine how grand this former capital must have once been. Visit the memorials and Death Railway in Kanchanaburi and you'll find new empathy for the WWII prisoners of war who suffered there. Central Thailand doesn't just do history, though.
What can’t you do in northern Thailand? The region’s premier draw is its nature, and northern Thailand’s rugged geography is a playground for outdoor pursuits ranging from a rafting excursion in Um Phang to a hike among wild orchids in Mae Hong Son. For those drawn to the human side of things, there’s also northern Thailand’s buffet of cultural attractions and experiences.
The island of Phuket has long been misunderstood. Firstly, the ‘h’ is silent. And secondly, Phuket doesn’t feel like an island at all. It’s so huge (49km long, the biggest in Thailand) that you rarely feel surrounded by water, which is probably why Ko (‘island’) was dropped from its name.
The northeast of Thailand, or Isan (pronounced ee-săhn) as it’s usually known, stretches from the wild Mekong River (Mae Nam Khong in Thai) down to the edges of the Khorat Plateau, and is home to Thailand's best national parks and most ancient temple ruins. Rich in religious significance and influenced by nearby Cambodia and Laos, it has a culture and food all its own.
Ko Samui & the Lower Gulf
The Lower Gulf features Thailand’s ultimate island trifecta: Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao. This family of spectacular islands lures millions of tourists every year with their powder-soft sands and emerald waters. Ko Samui is the oldest sibling, who has made it big. Here, high-class resorts operate with Swiss efficiency as uniformed butlers cater to every whim.
Hua Hin & the Southern Gulf
The upper gulf has long been the favoured playground of the Thai elite. Following in the footsteps of the royal family – every Thai king from Rama IV on has spent his summers at a variety of regal holiday homes here – they in turn have inspired countless domestic tourists to flock to this stretch of coast in pursuit of fun and fine seafood.