The best guide to Thailand, packed with essentials
Palaces, museums, Buddhist wats, and Khmer ruins in Bangkok and the north
National parks, treks to tribal villages, waterfalls, beaches
Floating markets, night bazaars, and craft centers for leather and silk, aniques and amulets, silver and celadon
Thai boxing, classical dance, pubs, bars, and discos
Where to stay and eat, no matter what your budget
Luxury towers, distinctive resorts, simple guest houses
Elegant restaurants and garden cafés, canteens and watering holes for hot Thai fare and western food
Fresh, thorough, practical -- off and on the beaten path
Costs, hours, descriptions, and tips by the thousands
All reviews based on visits by savvy writer-residents
15 pages of maps -- and dozens of great features
Important contacts, smart travel tips
Pleasures & Pastimes
Read an Excerpt
This excerpt, from the Pleasures and Pastimes section, gives you a taste of what Thailand has to offer and the sights and scenes that make it a great place to visit.
No country is an island free from external influence, and over its thousand-year history Thailand, though staving off modern colonial rule, has been the beneficiary of many architectural and artistic styles. It is graced with the leavings of the early Lanna culture and the Khmer empire, and with the classic Thai architecture of its Buddhist temples.
Thailand's two shorelines, along the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, lie slowly steaming below the Tropic of Cancer, a sun-worshiper's dream come true. The beaches come in every flavor: there are lively scenes with bars, discos, and jet skis; quiet coves with luxury hotels; islands with thatched bungalows; resorts for families; and stretches of sands with no footprints at all.
Food to the Thais is a consuming passion: they constantly eat and snack except when they're actually asleep. Throughout the day, a succession of corner food carts replaces one another, each vendor stirring up a different tasty morsel, depending on the time of day. The range of Thai cuisine is vast; no restaurant worth its salt has fewer than a hundred dishes on its menu. There are regional differences and specialties and, of course, seasonal delights. Thais know that eating out can be cheaper than eating in, and inexpensive restaurants often serve food as good as, and sometimes better than, the fare at fancy places. The best roast duck in Bangkok, for instance, comes from a tiny hole-in-the-wall and costs $1.10, rice included. And though some Thai food is as hot as the fires of hell, an equal number of dishes are mild and the hot ones can be tempered. Thai food can easily become your passion, too, if not second to none at least second to one.
In no other country has the visitor such a range of accommodation. On one of the finest beaches in the world, a few dollars can get you a bed cocooned in a mosquito net, in a wood hut under a thatched roof. On another beach of equal perfection you can dwell in such luxury and beauty that five-star hotels on the French Riviera pale in comparison. Though you could become jaded, taking such luxury for granted, you'll not forget the smiling attentive service. In the "smaller" provincial capitals, a clean air-conditioned room with private bath should be your expectation. If you spend only $15$20, you'll get a smaller room with flaking plaster, gurgling plumbing, and instead of air-conditioning a rhythmically wobbling fan.
Every visit to Thailand should include a massage or two and they come in many different varieties. Aside from those which promise lots of bubbles, soap, and full body contact, they range from gentle kneading of the muscles to joint-breaking pulls. The most famous place for a massage is Bangkok's Wat Po; you'll get the most expensive one at Bangkok's Oriental Hotel, the most gentle and soothing at Bangkok's Regent hotel. Those offered at the beach resorts tend to be a cross between soothing and traditional. The traditional massage aims to release blocked channels of energy and uses methods similar to Shiatsu and reflexology. Joint pains and headaches can be eased, but it's also invigorating.
You can get hooked on shopping in Thailand everything is for sale and there are so many places to look. Bangkok has fancy shopping centers and department stores, antiques and crafts shops, markets and street vendors. There are watches with recently affixed "Rolex" or "Cartier" trademarks and T-shirts with a crocodile slightly askew. Negotiated prices are irresistibly low. In many large cities and resorts, visiting the Night Market is part of an evening's entertainment. Except for imported electronics and luxury goods, Thailand's prices, though not duty-free, are considerably lower than Singapore's or Hong Kong's.
The forested hills north and west of Chiang Mai would make for good trekking just for their misty, rugged beauty. But here you can take treks of a day or longer to visit isolated villages that are home to the hill tribes, ethnic groups who migrated from Burma and China, and who have kept their traditions over the last two centuries.
Table of Contents
On the Road with Fodor's
About Our Writers: Each year the Gold Guides are written and updated by more than 500 resident writers.
How to Use This Book: Describes organization, icons, and other key information.
Don't Forget to Write: Tells you how to get in touch with our editors.
The Gold Guide
Smart Travel Tips A to Z: An easy-to-use section divided alphabetically by topic. Under each listing you'll find tips and information that will help you accomplish what you need to in Thailand. You'll also find addresses and telephone numbers of organizations and companies that offer destination-related services and detailed information and publications.
Destination: Thailand: Helps get you in the mood for your trip.
What's Where: Gets you oriented.
Pleasures and Pastimes: Describes the activities and sights that make Thailand unique.
New and Noteworthy: Cues you in on trends and happenings.
Fodor's Choice: Showcases our top picks from special restaurants and one-of-a-kind accommodations to out-of-the-ordinary sights and activities... Let them inspire you!
Great Itineraries: Provides a range of options, geared to the length of your stay, that help ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
Festivals and Seasonal Events: Alerts you to special events you'll want to seek out.
Side Trips out of Bangkok
The Central Plains and I-san
The Southern Beach Resorts
Portrait of Thailand