Thailand is encouraging visitors to look beyond the usual hotspots in favour of some emerging destinations instead.
Thailand is expected to receive 40 million international visitors next year and in an effort to promote sustainable tourism, Thailand's Tourism Authority is pushing tourists towards a variety of less-explored regions. It launched a new campaign to highlights 55 emerging destinations throughout the country that have something special to offer but with less crowds and more surprises. If you're keen to visit Thailand and curious to explore a 'new' side to it, here's a taste of what's on offer:
The foodie experience: Nakhon Sawan
Dubbed as a gateway to the Thai North, Nakhon Sawan is fast becoming a popular foodie destination. It sits on the Ping river so fresh fish is plentiful. Restaurants champion local delicacies such as fish balls made from kneaded featherback fish (usually served with noodles in a broth) and sweet ‘sawan angel cake’ (pui fai sawan). It's also a great base from which to explore Wat Kiriwong temple and Mae Wong National Park.
History: Bang Khlang at Sukhothai Historical Park
The historic town of Sukhothai and surrounding region are a Unesco World Heritage site. Translated as "The Dawn of Happiness", the expansive site encompasses more than 29,000 acres. It's already popular with tourists but within Sukhothai, there's a new spot to discover: the hidden and ancient town of Bang Khlang, which was recently discovered to be even older than the Sukhothai empire. Come discover its hidden history and ancient treasures.
Coffee and the great outdoors: Nan
Shrouded in mist and mystique, the province of Nan is one of the least explored regions of Thailand by foreign visitors. It's rich in natural beauty with lots of national parks offering excellent hiking trails. Nan is also known for specialty coffees and many plantations offer year-round farm-stay accommodation. Perched high at Bo Kleua district is the Arabica-Cartimor coffee plantation that - during the rainy and cooler months - is covered with dreamy mist, making it a great spot for camping.
Art and festivals: Roi Et
Roi Et - a once sleepy city in the Isan region - likes to put on a show. Every October when the rivers are full, locals take to their traditional long-tail boats for the run-filled (and raucous) "Suk Sai Nam" race. There's also the Bun Bung Fai or the famous Rocket Festival, a rice festival and even an annual candle procession festival (which is really a celebration of collective faith and local craftsmanship). Roi Et also boasts Isan’s longest street art display on the west Ku Mueang Road that features murals from 50 artists from all over Thailand.
The prehistoric experience: Satun Geopark
In April 2018, the province of Satun was listed as Thailand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark. Taking visitors back some 550 million years, it features an abundance of fossils, prehistoric limestone mountain ranges, marine parks and a network of beautiful, palm-fringed islands. Visitors can discover more about the province's geological heritage at the new Satun Geopark Museum.
The new hotspot: Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is the most visited "new" destination, made more popular recently by the famous 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue of the young Wild Boars soccer team. Visitor numbers to the area around the cave and park have soared since it reopened, while work is underway on a museum to commemorate the rescue.
The floating village: Uthai Thani
In the floating village of Uthai Thani, every house sits on rafts upon the Sakrae Krang River. Visitors can enjoy river cruises or rafting tours to observe the village's unique way of life and make a stop to visit ancient Wat Uposatharam - the sacred sight of the river and the spiritual centre of Uthai Thani’s people for centuries.