Thailand Travel Guide

Long tail boat, Leonardo Bay © Rukis
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Each year Thailand is discovered by millions of visitors, drawn to its pristine beaches and aquamarine seas, as well as its rich culture, glitzy shopping malls, chic boutiques and colourful markets crammed with bargains.

With its enticing mixture of established destinations such as Phuket and Hua Hin, and out-of-the-way palm-fringed islands, Thailand appeals to the most varied of travellers, whether they are craving barefoot luxury or hippy chic. From staying on a converted rice barge, clambering into a jungle tree house or bedding down in a hill tribe village, Thailand offers a wealth of choice for every taste and budget.

Pampering is an art form in Thailand, and throughout the country spas offer authentic treatments whether it's in a 5-star luxury resort or a beach-side hut. If it's pulse-raising excitement you are after, head to the hectic sprawl of Bangkok's futuristic high-rise buildings.

Early morning is when the saffron-robed monks leave the sanctuary of their wats (temples) to receive alms from the people, be it in a dusty village or on crowded city streets. Buddhism is a way of life here and the Thai's are also strong supporters of their monarchy. In fact, His Majesty King Bhumibol is the longest reigning monarch in the world, since coming to power in 1946.

Following the end of absolute monarchy, Thailand moved towards democracy, but this was thwarted by the military, which has often staged coups in protest at government policies. The most recent was in September 2006 when a bloodless coup overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and replaced him with an interim prime minister until elections at the end of 2007.

For all this, Thailand has risen above the economic collapse of 1997, SARS and avian influenza as well as the devastating tsunami in December 2004, to become a hugely popular destination on the long-haul tourist trail.
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