To quote the Lonely Planet, "Friendly and fun-loving, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue, from its glittering temples and tropical beaches through to the ever-comforting Thai smile."
If every second person you come across greets you with a smile on their face, you know you are in Thailand! And soon as you'll walk out of the airport, you'd know why it is known as 'The Land of Smiles'.
This Southeast Asian country is popular for a myriad of unique qualities - the immense love for elephants, dedication towards Buddhism, endless scintillating beaches, lip-smacking food, a plethora of shopping arcades, and the happy-go-lucky people living in the country. Thailand is a country in the whole of the Southeast Asian region which has never been colonized by any European power, and thus, they use the phrase ‘Land of the Freedom’ to express their pride.
While all these qualities set Thailand apart from any other country in the world, there are a lot of things to see and experience in Thailand. However, the three key factors of the country can provide a consolidated overview experience - the 3 ‘B’s of Thailand; viz., Buddhism, Beaches, and Barbecues.
Thailand has the most number of people following Buddhism in the world. The religion makes a very integral part of a common Thai’s life and people of Thailand have immense dedication towards Buddhism. One can find a series of beautifully structured monasteries and Bodh Temples (aka Wats), almost at every corner. Few of the popular ones include the likes of Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Singh, and so on. The world’s largest solid gold statue of Buddha, The Golden Buddha, is also placed in the temple of Wat Traimit in Bangkok.
Buddhism is believed to have come to what is now Thailand as early as 250 BCE, in the time of Indian Emperor Ashoka, and has played an important role in Thai culture and society. The Theravada school of Buddhism is the most popular in the country, with about 94.6% of the population following this.
To speak the truth, from meditation to mindfulness, to yoga classes and retreats, the Western world seems to be yearning for answers from Thailand!
Thailand accounts for as much as 175 distinct beaches within its regional territory; what else would you expect from a country with half of its borders touching the ocean space! And this is just the account of the beaches which are officially known and burgeoned with heavy tourist footfall. There are many beaches within the Thai territory that are still untouched, unexplored, and unknown to the travelers!
The options for some scintillating beaches to attend in Thailand are aplenty. Most of the people would flock to Koh Samui, as it's known to be one of the best beaches in the world. Apart from Koh Samui, there is Ko Lao Liang, Railay Beach in Ao Nang, Koh Kood, Koh Tao, Krabi and many more such outstanding beach locations. While one can choose to be at any of the more known and popular beaches located in close vicinity of the capital city Bangkok, it’s much advised to take the raw trail to some of the less explored beaches if looking for a time of solace and tranquility.
And if you are craving for some wild parties, then of course - it has to Koh Phangan! Known for the Full Moon parties, this island is a paradise for backpackers from different corners of the world, who wish to experience the madness throughout the night, under the base sky, drinking and dancing to the tunes of life!
No! This is not to say that you would find world’s best barbecues in Thailand, or this form of cooking was originated in Thailand, or that this is the most commonly used form of cooking in the country; all these credits goes to the American states, certainly. But, when it comes to food (barbecued or not barbecued), expect your taste palates to go for a sumptuous ride. The preparation of any local Thai cuisine is done with the utmost focus on minuscule aspects of the dish; such as its texture, smell, color, distinctive taste of each ingredient, use of ingredient with medicinal benefits, and where it would fit in with rest of the meal.
No wonder that in an online survey of ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ conducted by CNN International, a total of 7 Thai cuisines made it to the list, out of which 4 made it to the top 10. To state the fact, Thai cuisine can be classified into four sections for the sake of simplification - Central Thai cuisine, Isan (or Northeastern Thai Cuisine), Northern Thai cuisine, and Southern Thai cuisine. One can easily figure out the overwhelming use of fresh herbs and spices in each of the Thai dishes.
Thailand is, certainly, one of the most exuberating tourist hot spots and has a lot to offer to its overseas guests. No matter whether you wish to spend a few months in the country, with the aim to engage yourself with a meaningful volunteering project or just a couple of weeks to hop around the beaches - Thailand will keep calling you back!