Street Foods You Need To Try in Bangkok

Bangkok is often referred to the best city in the world for street food and everywhere you look there is something in common; people and food. You can literally wander the streets for weeks, filling your belly until you want to burst, still trying something new every single meal. From fancy shopping malls to outdoor markets to Chinatown, this city is overflowing with street food. There is no bad thing to eat here but we have rounded up the top 8 street foods you have to try in Bangkok.

8. Pork Belly

Depending on whether you want roasted pork belly, or fried pork belly is going to determine where you get this delectable street food in the city. If you go with the roasted pork belly head to one of the Chinese-style roasters, known by the fact they also sell roast duck. The favorite among locals though comes from the Thai vendors who sell the fried pork belly, served up with a tangy and spicy chili sauce.

One of the favorite dishes that involve pork belly is crispy pork with holy basil. Holy basil is unique to Thailand and brings a fiery kick to the dish. Rumor has it some of the best pork belly comes from the vendors at Or Tor Kor market.

Via YouTube

7. Thai Iced Tea

Food isn’t the only thing that visitors can find in the city and if you are looking for something liquid, we highly suggest heading to the streets for some authentic iced tea. This sweet, thirst-quenching, delicious and refreshing drink on a hot day is bound to knock your socks off in terms of flavor and missing out on trying this would be a travesty. Thai iced tea is made from black tea that has been infused with spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and tamarind seeds.

The sweetness in the tea comes from the condensed milk and sugar that is added to the drink. The most common finish is a swirl of evaporated milk and then the tea is poured over ice. There is an abundance of tea stalls throughout the city that often add their own twist to the drink including aloe vera, grass jelly, and macaroons.

Via Edible Cravings

6. Grilled Fish

It’s a familiar scene in early evenings; roadside barbeques begin setting up shop along Bangkok’s busy streets. These makeshift barbecues are where you will find some of the best street food in the city, grilled fish. There are three common types of freshwater fish that are sold at these barbecues; tilapia (Pla Nin), catfish (Pla Duk Dam), snakehead fish (Pla Duk Yan).

The fish is first gutted than stuffed with pandanus leaves and lemongrass, coated with flour and rock salt and then grilled over charcoal. The result is perfection; just make sure to eat the meat and not the skin. The grilled fish is often served with a variety of vegetables for wrapping and chili sauce to add some heat. Head to the front of Central World Mall for some of the best grilled fish in the city and indulge in one of the spectacular street foods in Bangkok.

Via cher-ry.blogspot.com

5. Pad Thai

If there is one thing we can predict, it is that most visitors to Bangkok will head right to the Pad Thai stalls, and that is absolutely okay as this city offers up some amazing choices. Just make sure you try all these dishes on the list, not just the delicious pad Thai. Your basic pad Thai comes complete with fried egg noodles, bean sprouts, egg, lime, chili flakes and ground peanuts.

One of the most popular places to find this dish is in the Khaosan area where a variety of stalls over different choices. The best way to find the perfect Pad Thai is to truly try them all as locals tend to stick with what they know and will only recommend places in their area. Although its cliché, the Pad Thai here is ultimately some of the best you will find anywhere in the world and it’s a definite must when you are in Bangkok.

Via dalinfotour.ru

4. Mango Sticky Rice

It is perhaps the best known of Thai desserts and if you think you have tried it back home and loved it, wait until you get to Bangkok and try the real deal. The fresh mango here is the real winner in the dish, and when combined with coconut sticky rice creates the ultimate flavor. The secret to this dish is that the sticky rice is soaked in coconut milk, sugar and salt, before being soaked in pandam leaves, literally allowing the rice to take on the flavor.

Fresh mango is then sliced and put on top and drizzled with coconut syrup and either sesame seeds or mung beans. For a real treat make sure to head to the stall across the street from Soi 38, a downtown alley famous for food stalls which serves up this dish made with three different colors of sticky rice. Trust us; you will never want to eat it at home again.

Via Entree Kibbles

3. Curry

It wouldn’t be a list of street foods to try in Bangkok without the famous Thai curry on it. There is an abundance of curry stalls in the city serving up everything from red to green to penang and every other variety in-between. The greatest part about getting these curries from a street stall, they are more than likely more delicious than any high-end Thai restaurant will ever serve. Curry stands are easily identifiable in the city, with their rows of pots laid out front.

More than likely the stalls will have numerous options for curry, as well as some stir-fry dishes. Whichever curry you pick, it should come on a bed of rice and to fit in like a local make sure to use a fork and spoon to devour this delicious dish. No chopsticks necessary for this street food.

Via Pinterest

2. Sumtum

Sumtum is one of the most common street foods in the city and it’s no wonder due to its absolute deliciousness. This earthy, green, crunchy salad consists of unripened papaya that has been shredded, tomatoes, garlic, chilies, fish sauce and lime juice. The varieties of somtum vary greatly and the customer is asked to choose additional flavors that are added.  Authentic northeastern sumtum contains pickled crabs, fermented fish and little else besides green beans and tomatoes.

Thai sumtum, on the other hand includes tiny dried prawns, peanuts and palm sugar to give the end dish a much sweeter taste. A plate of somtum will cost you between 30 and 60 baht depending on the variety, and is best enjoyed with sticky rice. You can find numerous stalls selling delicious sumtum beneath Ratchathewi BTS station.

Via YouTube

1. Stir Fry

It is one of the most popular street foods in all of Bangkok, consisting of pork, chicken or seafood mixed with pounded chilies, garlic and plenty of holy basil. It is normally mixed with a fish and oyster sauce creating the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Stack this all on top of a steaming mound of rice, stick a fried egg on top of it and voila, you have yourself the perfect stir-fry.

There is seemingly no bad place to pick up a stir-fry in this city, just look for steaming woks, fresh vegetables on display and an incredible stir fry should set you back no more than 30-40 baht. Simple, delicious and widely available; it is one of the most popular dishes in the city.

Via youtube.com

The Most Amazing Stained Glass in the World

It is an art form most associated with holy places, mostly Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages but stained glass can be found in so many different venues around the world. If you are lucky the sun will hit the glass just right, giving way to indescribable beauty and illumination. Stained glass windows aren’t just there for beauty but they most often tell a story, educate and inspire people. From the largest stained glass window in the world to medieval churches to modern-day takes on this art form, here are seven examples of incredible stained glass throughout our world.

7. Chapel of Thanks-Giving, Dallas, Texas

The most prominent and recognizable feature of the Thanks-Giving Square is the Chapel of Thanksgiving, thanks to the Glory Window; one of the largest horizontally mounted stained-glass pieces in the world. The chapel is a small spiral tower and the window was designed by Gabriel Loire who designed it to feature brighter colors as the spiral reaches its apex, becoming brighter as it reaches the center.

The spiral shape of the window was inspired by the spiraled shape of the chambered nautilus, a squid that lives inside a shell. The spiral is made up of 73 panels of glass and is one of the most unique stained glass features around the world. The chapel is part of a three-acre complex that also includes a garden and museum, dedicated to how Thanksgiving is celebrated around the world.

6. Erawan Museum, Bangkok

There are thousands of temples to discover in Bangkok but if you are looking for incredible stained glass, the Erawan Museum is the place to find just that. This whimsical museum is actually a sculpture of the three-headed elephant, Erawan, from the Hindu mythology and boasts an amazing stained glass ceiling. German artist Jacob Schwarzkopf was in charge of the project and took a traditional approach to the job, asking glass companies to use the ancient procedure of blowing the glass to produce the stained glass.

The stained glass is semi-abstract although it represents the story of the earth and consists of the five continents at the middle with the sun shining to provide energy to all life forms. Surrounding this is the ring of 12 zodiac signs and the human figure depicted in various gestures. Awe-inspiring to look at, don’t forget to explore the rest of this awesome museum.

5. Resurrection Cemetery, Illinois

It is here where you will find the world’s largest stained glass window, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Pickel Studio created this window that sits over 22,000 square feet of faceted glass and contains 2,448 panels. Work on this stained glass started in the 1960’s and since then over 1,000 new and exciting windows and walls of glass have been added. One of the most impressive places in the world to see such an extraordinary amount of stained glass.

Via Waymarking

4. Winchester Cathedral, England

In 1642 the cathedrals huge medieval stained glass West Window was deliberately smashed by Cromwell’s forces following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, a tragedy to the beautiful works of art. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the broken glass was actually gathered up and used again.

But this time there was no rhyme or reason to the design, the glass was placed randomly after it was determined it would be too hard to put back together. What results is a collection of colorful pieces that shine in the sunlight and tell a story of history, tragedy, and rebuilding.

Via Round Tables

3. Chicago Cultural Center, Illinois

Hundreds of thousands of visitor’s flock here each year, not just to marvel at the beautifully stained glass domes but also because of the many free public events it hosts. The landmark building is indeed home to two magnificent stained glass dome though, one that claims to be the largest stained glass Tiffany Dome in the world. In the south side of the building is that claim to fame, the Tiffany dome that stands 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass.

This dome was restored in 2008, bringing even more visitors to gaze at its beauty. The second dome is located on the north side of the building and is a whopping 40 feet in diameter and features over 50,000 pieces of glass designed in an intricate Renaissance pattern. Whether you are coming here for the free festivals, art exhibits or family events, make sure to check out these two incredible stained glass works.

Via City of Chicago

2. Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

This royal medieval Gothic chapel located in the heart of Paris boasts some of the most impressive stained glass in the world. There are a total of fifteen huge 13th-century windows that fill the nave and apse and despite some damage, are still in incredible condition. The windows are practically floor to ceiling and display a clear iconographical program.

A painstaking seven-year restoration of the windows was completed in early 2015, a process that removed centuries of dirt from the thousands of panels. It is best to visit on a sunny day when the deep blues and red stand out best, in images that depict Old Testament scenes and the Crucifixion. One does not need to be religious to appreciate this incredible artwork.

1. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Netherlands

This building features a modern take on stained glass, according to designers the buildings façade is a screen of colored relief glass that depicts famous images from Dutch television. There are hundreds of panels of glass that represent images from all genres and eras and although difficult to see the images clearly from all angles, they can be seen more clearly from the inside. Described as cathedral-like, this is one of the most impressive modern stained glass displays out there.

The building itself is actually housed both underground and above ground, 10 stories’ in total with five of them being below the surface. Inside the building houses the national broadcasting archives which encompass over 700,000 hours of television, film, music and radio footage.

10 Cool Day Trips from Bangkok

Bangkok is an extremely cool city to explore and while we recommend taking the time to discover everything it offers, there are also some pretty epic day trips to take while on vacation. Located just hours away from the city are National Parks to explore, islands to visit, open-air museums to get lost in and history to discover. We encourage you to step off the well trodden path that many tourists travel and explore the amazing regions that surround this wonderful city. Read on for our top picks for the 10 coolest day trips from Bangkok.

10. Samut Songkhram

Arriving here by car only takes about an hour, or take a passenger van or the train in order to reach this small province that is not as well known as the others around it. Make sure to head to the Khlon Khon district along the coastline to visit the swimming monkeys, it is easy to hire a boat to take you there and once you have arrived be prepared for the hundreds of monkeys that swim out to greet you, just make sure to pick up some bananas for them before you head out. Also here is the Amphawa Floating Market, an evening market that operates Friday to Sunday and provides visitors with a more authentic feel than other larger more touristy markets. The Market on the Railway is something to check out as stalls are either on or alongside the train tracks, and when the train comes through eight times a day, the stalls pick themselves up out of the way.

swimming monkeys thailand

9. Khao Yai National Park

It was established at Thailand’s first national park in 1962 and is located about 100 miles from Bangkok, making it a little far for a day trip but absolutely worth it. Hiring a driver to get there gives you the most flexibility but buses are also available from Victory Monument. The national park is home to high peaks which offer incredible birding opportunities, cooler temperatures and the chance to see a variety of wildlife. Some 200 elephants call this park home and if visitors are lucky enough they will have the chance to see them as they gather around the roadside salt licks. Other mammals here include tigers, leopards, bear, various gibbons and macaques and some large and rather scary pythons. One of the best ways to get around the park once you are here is to rent a car or motorbike from Pak Chong and spend the night in the park, if you don’t have your own vehicle it is easy to hitchhike as well.

Khao Yai National Park

8. Ancient Siam

This open-air museum south of Bangkok is one of the largest open-air museums in the world and features replicas of Thailand’s most important historical sites. This is perhaps the best place to come if you don’t have a whole lot of time to visit all of Thailand. There are a wealth of architectural styles, shops and important figures depicted here. Although most of the buildings are replicas there are also real buildings that have been rescued from demolition and placed here instead. Rent a bike or golf cart to get around the area as it is quite large. The models are impressive, detailed and large enough to walk in and tour around. This authentic museum focuses on showing visitors famous buildings, temples and people, all within a serene village like feel.

Ancient Siam

7. Ayuthaya Historic Park

Up until 1767 Ayuthaya was actually Thailand’s capital city but is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is loaded with impressive ruins, beautiful temples and loads of ancient history. The temples here are absolutely magnificent and make sure to check out the Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit, the palace that resembles the Grand Palace of Bangkok. Inside the temple you will find one of the largest sculptures of Buddha in all of Thailand. Also worth checking out here is the area known as the Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol, where hundreds of Buddha statues are located and buildings are wrapped in colorful fabrics. Getting here is easy, either by bus, taxi or joining a tour group. Visitors to the historic park should consider either renting a bicycle, car with driver or tuk-tuk in order to get around as there is about 15 square kilometers of ground to cover.

Ayuthaya Historic Park

6. Kanchanaburi

Most visitors who come to this province, located just a bus ride away from Bangkok, come for the Bridge Over the River Kwai, a bridge that was the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma. In fact pretty much all of the sites here have something to do with WWII making it the perfect place for any history buff. The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre gives visitors a great introduction of the Death Railway and its history, as well as there are two war cemeteries to visit. The most popular is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where 7,000 POW’s were laid to rest after giving their life for the construction of the Death Railway. There are also many notable temples located throughout the province. In the northwest visitors will find waterfalls, caves, lakes and breathtaking scenery.

Kanchanaburi

5. Nakhon Pathom

Just an hour away from Bangkok is possibly the oldest city in Thailand, the historic town of Nakhon Pathom. Take a train or bus to the site and prepare to spend an entire day exploring the sites and indulging in the delicious food. Here visitors will find the world’s tallest stupa, Phra Pathom Chedi that towers over 120m tall. It also claims to be Thailand’s oldest Buddhist temple and dates back to the 6th century AD. Although you cannot enter into the stupa, visitors can marvel at the inner courtyard and admire the giant golden Buddha on the southern side. The famous temple for the god of darkness is also located here. Wat Srisathong is often visited by worshipers who offer up eight black offerings including black jelly, black rice and black pudding. Seeing the blessing here to repel bad luck is most common.

Phra Pathom Chedi

4. Sampran Riverside

Formerly known as Rose Garden Riverside, this family-run property is a place where visitors can come to experience the authentic Thai way of life. Besides the absolutely breathtaking rose gardens there are a number of activities to enjoy here. The Thai village cultural show and elephant demonstration is a favorite among visitors and highlights include sword fighting, bamboo dancing and a Thai wedding ceremony. Other tours that can be booked here include an organic farm tour by boat, traditional Thai cooking lessons and an arts and crafts workshop at the authentic Thai village. The three restaurants on-site provide delicious and fresh choices for lunch and dinner and offer a variety of cuisine options. If you have limited time in Thailand, this is the perfect day trip from Bangkok to get a feel for the true culture.

Sampran Riverside

3. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

It is the country’s most famous floating market and located just 50 miles from Bangkok. Although nowadays the vendors sell more souvenirs than goods bought by locals, it is a good example of how commerce used to be in Thailand. This buzzing market is best in the early mornings before the crowds arrive and the intense heat starts. To get there, hire a boat from any pier that lines the Th Sukhaphiban 1, the land route to the floating market area. Sellers arrive to this market in the wee hours of the morning, with boats loaded with exotic fruits and colorful flowers; a scene that has been widely photographed by photographers all over the world. It is well worth it to hire the boat to explore the nearby more peaceful canals once you are through the market, to gain appreciation of how the locals live.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

2. Ko Kret

It is arguably Bangkok’s easiest green getaway, an artificial island that was the result of a canal being dug nearly 300 years ago. This island also happens to be home to one of Thailand’s oldest settlement of Mon people. Getting around the island is easy as a walking path runs around the entire island and only takes a few hours to complete. The main temple on the island, Wat Poramaiyikawat, is decorated in Italian marble and is a focal point of the small Mon community. The museum located next to it display interesting items such as crystal ware, religious object and exhibits of local pottery. Ko Kret is known for its hand-thrown terracotta pots and throughout the island visitors will see both abandoned kilns and working pottery centers. Order an iced coffee from just about any street vendor and expect to receive a small pot as a souvenir.

pottery ko kret

1. Koh Larn

In just over 2 short hours you can escape the hustle and bustle of the lively city of Bangkok and be on the island of Koh Larn soaking up the sun. There are six main beaches to visit on the island and a handful of smaller more deserted ones, with Tawaen Beach being the busiest and biggest, with tons of activities and restaurants. A smaller and quieter beach is Samae Beach which offers everything you need but with a more peaceful vibe. If you are into water sports there is plenty to do including parasailing and jet skiing. Renting a motorbike is the best way to explore the island as you take in the mountainous region full of lush green vegetation. For most travelers the best part about visiting the island of Koh Larn is grabbing a cocktail, some fresh seafood and relaxing on the beautiful beaches. Just make sure to check the times for the last bus that leaves the island or you will be stuck there overnight at one of the pricier resorts.

Koh Larn Beach thailand

15 Amazing Hotels Around The World For Under $100

While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.

15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand

The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.

Photo by: Chatrium Hotel
Photo by: Chatrium Hotel

14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali

For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.

Photo by: Sri Bungalows
Photo by: Sri Bungalows

13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines

Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.

Photo by: Radisson Blu
Photo by: Radisson Blu

12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain

Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.

Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte
Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte

9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.

The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.

Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel
Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel

8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany

The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.

Photo by: Sana Hotel
Photo by: Sana Hotel

7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada

Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand
Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand

6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.

Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels
Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels

5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France

Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.

Photo by: Realis Spa
Photo by: Realis Spa

4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.

Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.

Photo by: Trip Advisor
Photo by: Trip Advisor

3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan

While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.

Photo by: Jalan
Photo by: Jalan

2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia

Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.

Photo by: Lancaster House
Photo by: Lancaster House

1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives

The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.

Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa
Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa

10 Essential Cultural Tips for Traveling to Thailand

The beautiful country of Thailand is a backpackers dream, a retirees remote paradise, and generally speaking it’s the stuff travel dreams are made of. This exotic land is rich with tropical beauty, lively cities, and cultural history just waiting to be explored by adventurous travelers. It is also a place that is far different in comparison to the Western world, with many different practices and social norms. No tourist wants to make a faux pas on their holiday so to avoid an embarrassing encounter, here are a few things you should know about Thailand:

10. Don’t Talk About the King

Once in Thailand you’ll very quickly realize that the King is highly regarded, as made clear by the pictures of him displayed just about everywhere. Thai people are very sensitive to anything that could be taken as a sign of disrespect so to avoid this, it is best not to mention the King in any way shape or form. Also, never stomp on a coin rolling away or a banknote blowing away as it has the Kings image and stomping on it with your foot would be extremely offensive.

Thailand Coins and King

9. Hands Off the Head

Never ever touch anyone in Thailand on the head (this includes children.) This is probably something you weren’t planning on doing anyway but it’s worth mentioning that the head is considered sacred in this country and should not be touched. Similarly, try to avoid pointing your feet at other people. This is considered disrespectful, so if sitting directly across from someone on public transit, try to point your feet just off to the side a little bit.

child head

8. Cover Up When Visiting Temples

When visiting any temples, monasteries, wats, palaces or other religious places, it’s important to cover up past your knees and wear sleeves as a sign of respect. Long sleeves and pants are the safest bet to avoid any cultural ignorance. You probably appreciate when visitors respect the traditions of your own country so showing the same level of respect is a good idea. Also, when entering a building check to see if others have removed their shoes, if so better take yours off as well.

clothing thailand temple

7. Enjoy a Massage (Carefully)

It’s a great idea to take advantage of the abundance of cheap massages available in Thailand, so don’t hesitate to get a few (or more) during your trip. But beware of any massage parlors that post signs saying ‘happy girls’ or anything mentioning girls or women specifically, it’s almost a sure thing that you’re walking into a brothel.

somdul / Shutterstock.com
somdul / Shutterstock.com

6. Shoes Off Please

When visiting someones home or visiting temples or other religious places, it’s important to check and see if shoes are being removed. If so, do the same as it’s a sign of respect. It’s also important to never step on the threshold of the door when visiting someone’s home as it’s believed that the souls of the deceased live here.

shoes off thailand

5. When to Wai

The Wai is an important part of social behavior and customs among Thai people, used to express gratitude, apologize, greet someone or when departing someones home as well as many other situations. It consists of a slight bow with hands pressed together in a prayer-like fashion in front of your chest. There are many intricacies to using the Wai correctly so it’s advised that foreigners avoid using the Wai as much as possible, even if someone greets you with a Wai. In most cases, a smile or nod of the head will suffice as an acceptable greeting for tourists. Improper use of the Wai by a tourist may put a Thai person in an awkward situation.

thai Wai

4. Eat with Your Spoon

This one will be tricky for Westerners to get used to; eating directly off your fork is considered crude in Thailand. Always eat off your spoon and instead, use your fork to push the food onto your spoon. There’ll be no sideways glances your way if you remember this dining tip.

Photo by: Youtube/myruby123
Photo by: Youtube/myruby123

3. Thai Monks

There are several rules for contact with Thai monks, and it’s very possible that you encounter such a situation as monks are very open in Thailand and it’s common to see them out and about. Women must never touch a monk or their robe, even outside of temples. If contact is made, the monk must go through a cleansing ritual. If a woman must give something to a monk, best practice is to either set it on the floor or give it to a man first to give to the monk.

Monks Thailand

2. Stop at 8am and 6pm

In Bangkok, the Thai national anthem is played out loud every day at 8am and 6pm. If you’re out in a public place during either of these times, show respect by stopping whatever you’re doing and standing still until the song is over. If you’re sitting, stand up for the duration of the anthem. Don’t be that tourist walking around obliviously while every Thai person is standing in place paying their respects.

Artaporn Puthikampol / Shutterstock.com
Artaporn Puthikampol / Shutterstock.com

1. Never Lose Your Cool

Thailand isn’t called “The Land of Smiles” for nothing, Thai people are friendly and will try to avoid conflict as much as possible. Showing signs of anger or initiating confrontation, especially in public, is considered to be poor manners. Always try to keep your cool, even if faced with an aggravating situation.

puwanai / Shutterstock.com
puwanai / Shutterstock.com

Thailand Vacation: 10 Things To Know Before You Take Off

You’ve booked your ticket, made your hotel reservations and you’re ready to enjoy the glorious combination of tropical beauty, lively cities, and cultural history that await the fortunate travelers to Thailand. However, before packing your suitcase and jetting off to this stunning, vibrant country, there are a few things that you should know to ensure a smooth trip. Here are the 10 things you should know before taking off for your trip to Thailand:

10. Currency

In Thailand, the currency used is the Thai bhat (pronounced ‘bot’) which is symbolized as ฿. One Thai bhat is equal to approximately $0.03 USD, or the inverse, $1 USD is equal to about 36 bhat. Also, be wary of street people who offer to exchange money for you, chances are you’ll end up getting ripped of.

Photo by: Flickr/Philip Roeland
Photo by: Flickr/Philip Roeland

9. Tipping

One of the most common and frequent questions while traveling is deciding when and how to tip. As a rule, tipping is NOT customary or required in Thailand, although small monetary gestures are appreciated when great service is received. Tipping at the amount common for North America (around 15%) would be considered extremely generous and. The places where tipping is most common would be high end restaurants, massage parlors and at regular restaurants you may leave your loose change as a sign of appreciation.

tip jar

 

8. Power Conversion

Throughout Thailand, the standard outlet used is 220 volts, though some hotel properties (especially in Bangkok) are wired with the 110-volt outlets common throughout North America. Either way, it is a good idea to purchase a power converter so that you can use your own electronics like chargers and personal appliances without risking damaging them or even risking fire.

220 Volt outlet

7. Visa Requirements

Generally, anyone entering Thailand will need to obtain a valid visa before hand. However the regulations are different depending on your country of origin. Some travelers are permitted to enter Thailand and stay for a period of up to 30 days as long as they are visiting for tourism purposes and have at least 6 months of validity remaining on their passport. To determine the regulations applicable to you and your passport, it’s best to visit the Thailand Immigration Bureau website.

Thai Visa

6. Don’t Talk About the King

Once in Thailand you’ll very quickly realize that the King is highly regarded, as made clear by the pictures of him displayed just about everywhere. Thai people are very sensitive to anything that could be taken as a sign of disrespect so to avoid this, it is best not to mention the King in any way shape or form. Also, never stomp on a coin rolling away or a banknote blowing away as it has the Kings image and stomping on it with your foot would be extremely offensive.

Thailand Coins and King

5. Mind Your Head, and Feet

Never ever touch anyone in Thailand on the head. This is probably something you weren’t planning on doing anyway but it’s worth mentioning that the head is considered sacred in this country and should not be touched. Similarly, try to avoid pointing your feet at other people. This is considered disrespectful, so if sitting directly across from someone on public transit, try to point your feet just off to the side a little bit.

Thai Buddha

4. Cover Up

When visiting any temples, monasteries, wats, palaces or other religious places, it’s important to cover up past your knees and elbows as a sign of respect. Long sleeves and pants are the safest bet to avoid any cultural ignorance. You probably appreciate when visitors respect the traditions of your own country so showing the same level of respect is a good idea. Also, when entering a building check to see if others have removed their shoes, if so better take yours off as well.

Temple Thailand

3. Squat Toilets Are Real

The squat toilet was originally used throughout Japan but is also common in other Asian countries like China and of course, Thailand. Always carry your own tissues or toiler paper and some hand sanitizer unless you’re prepared to use the air dryers and spray hoses offered at some squat toilets. If you think about it, they’re much more sanitary than regular toilet anyway since you’re not actually sitting on anything.

Photo by: Thai FAQ
Photo by: Thai FAQ

2. Massages are Cheap and Plentiful

It’s a great idea to take advantage of the abundance of cheap massages available in Thailand, so don’t hesitate to get a few (or more) during your trip. But beware of any massage parlors that post signs saying ‘happy girls’ or anything mentioning girls or women, it’s almost a sure thing that you’re walking into a brothel.

TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com
TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com

1.  Pad Thai Will be Different

Don’t worry, you’ll definitely find this staple noodle dish in Thailand but be prepared for some different flavors. The pad thai here won’t taste like the westernized versions you get back home but it’s going to be fresh, delicious, and full of flavor none the less. You might even end up liking the authentic versions even more!

pad thai

8 Amazing Family Destinations in Thailand

Thailand is such an ideal destination to visit as a family, no matter what age the kids are. Thais have such a robust, healthy love for children and welcome them—all of them—with open arms. Throw in that genuine national warmth, add in a huge range of kid-friendly entertainment and amenities, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday success. Swaths of white sand beaches, amusement and water parks, dynamic cities, and awe-inspiring national parks indulge families with an enormous number of choices for adventure, relaxation, and “edutainment”, a growing theme across the country.

8. Go Hiking in Erawan National Park

Erawan National Park is less then three hours northwest of Bangkok and most famous for its incredible waterfall, featuring seven cascading tiers to the pool below. This is a wild and wonderful spot for sure-footed kids, who are usually blown away by the natural wonder and love hiking from tier to tier, sliding into the pools off boulders, and making new friends along the 1.5 kilometer trek. There are three nature trails ranging from one to two kilometers, a cave to be explored with onsite guides, and bikes for rent which push distances closer. This is a destination you won’t want to miss and perfect for a day trip from Bangkok. The large population of primates, caves, and interesting flora add plenty of depth to an excursion. Kanchanaburi is a lovely town with plenty of family-friendly accommodations and attractions—stay a few nights and enjoy this mainland gem.

Erawan National Park, Thailand

7. Take Care of an Elephant at Elephant’s World

One of the best places to enjoy a close-up elephant experience—and an incredible organization to support—is Elephant’s World in Kanchanaburi. It’s a farm used as a refuge for injured or old elephants needing day-to-day help. Take your kids and spend a whole day cleaning the elephants, making their meals, feeding them and scrubbing them at their favorite time of day: bath time! There is definite joy in this experience, one that older children will likely never forget. Kids are exhilarated by this rare opportunity and in turn they are taught about authentic care facilities and wildlife conservation. Many of these elephants are “retired” from their “jobs” in the city, used by touts as a source of income, and kept in unhealthy conditions. Here, even though they’re old, most of the elephants thrive with the right amount of space, food, and friendship.

Photo by: Elephants World
Photo by: Elephants World

6. Visit the Hill Tribes in Mae Hong Son

Scenic Mae Hong Son is one of Thailand’s northern treasures, filled with beautiful vistas, friendly hill tribes, and plenty of outdoor fun. Families find the town and area an easy place to be with kids for the activities and outdoor location. Here there are homestays offered by some of the Lahu and Karen tribes where families can sleep on traditional rattan mats in dorm-style rooms. It’s a definite camp-feel and nature experience with plenty of Thai kids around for fun and games. Nearby rice plantations open up for tourists who want to try their hand at planting rice and harvesting it, the Elephant Conservation Center offers a close look at the lovely beasts, and the Karen tribe women often let kids try creating some traditional handicrafts. This is a rich, cultural experience blended perfectly with outdoor pursuits, which keeps both parents and kids happy.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

5. Stay at a Resort on Phuket Island

Phuket has plenty of amusements to offer families with everything from babies to teenagers. There are unmistakable crowds on the island, but that can be a relief for some parents who have no intention of playing Robinson Crusoe with their kids. There are friends to be made, keeping kids busy poolside and beachside, and plenty of attractions away from the water too. Phuket is famous for family-friendly resorts packed with kid-friendly amenities and welcoming luxury for parents too. Day camps, kids’ clubs, and entertainment zones are common among island resorts meaning happy hour is on the horizon for Mom and Dad. Centara Grand Beach Resort is easily the favorite, with waterfalls and slides, a lazy river, and four swimming pools that entertain for hours. Mini golf, surf lessons, a water park, an aquarium, go karts—the fun on Phuket is most certainly enduring.

Phuket Thailand

4. Relax on the Beach in Koh Lanta Yai

Koh Lanta Yai is a large, beautiful island, densely forested and spanning 25 kilometers. It has some of the longest and loveliest beaches in the Krabi province—and lots of them. Just a decade or so ago, accommodation was quite simple, but development has set in and now families can easily find a huge array of small and large resorts along the many Westside beaches and family villas for rent. The main town is at the northern tip and offers plenty of restaurants, markets, and shopping, while the south is blissfully quiet yet does still have necessary amenities. Diving and snorkeling is readily available, along with windsurfing, paddle boarding and myriad boat tours. The beauty of Lanta is that island laws forbid girlie bars and jet skis from popping up anywhere, which maintains the family-friendly vibe and keeps it from transforming into some of the racier, nearby islands.

Koh Lanta Yai, Thailand

3. Explore the City of Bangkok

While many parents want to get out of Bangkok as fast as they arrived, the city can be a really exciting place to explore with kids. Anyone with even a small sense of adventure will find tons of things to do and see. Some of the simplest and most fun outings are riding Bangkok’s Skytrain, local tuk tuks, or taking the Chao Praya River express to explore different city districts. The range in accommodation and diversity in tourist areas is phenomenal and offers varied rates, backdrops, and activities. Kid-centered attractions throughout the city include Siam Ocean World, surfing at Sukhumvit Flow Rider, Art in Paradise Trick-Eye 3D Museum in Ratchada, and ice skating at Siam Discovery Center. Siam Park City is a water/amusement park and the best place to beat the city heat with wading and swimming pools, waterslides, roller coasters, and other exciting rides.

Top Cities 2013 - Bangkok

2. Visit the City of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a northern Thai city that’s busy in a relaxed kind of way. It has kept pace with development, but this means more upgrades than crowding. Families will find a wealthy variation of accommodation choices. There are hundreds of attractions featuring animals, but most are unsustainable and involve unkind training. For wildlife encounters, visit Elephant Nature Park, where animals are rescued from harsh living or illegal logging and continue their lives in the refuge. Kids can cuddle a baby elephant, help with baths and feeding, and learn more about the majestic, social animals. White water rafting on Me Teng River is great for tweens and teens. Zip Wiring and Zorbing (basically hill-rolling strapped into a mammoth, inflatable ball) are two more hugely popular activities for kids. And don’t miss a Thai Cookery class, where you can spend days learning how to make spectacular northern Thai dishes.

TPm13thx / Shutterstock.com
TPm13thx / Shutterstock.com

1. Go to Khao Yai National Park

UNESCO designated Khao Yai National Park is one of Southeast Asia’s premier outdoor attractions and richest landscapes. Stretching over 2,000 square kilometers, Thailand’s oldest and most glorious national park holds scores of waterfalls, mountains, and jungle terrain providing habitats for an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, all reached from a expansive artery of campsites, cabins, hiking trails, and roads. Approaching the park can be a bit confusing; the easiest way is via minibus or bus to Pak Chong, and then arrange your trip from there. The town has all the necessary amenities and more for eating, sleeping, and public transportation plus motorbike rentals, taxis, and buses that will get you sorted (although not as many tour companies as one might imagine) and to Khao Yai without issue to experience night safaris, tours and trails, and a healthy dose of spry gibbons and hornbills.

Khao Yai National Park

 

The 15 Most Visited Cities in the World 2015

We assume some cities to be de facto tourist meccas; we’re told over and over again that places like Paris, London and Rome are places that every traveler must visit in their lifetime. But have you ever wondered just how many people visit some of these cities each year—or, indeed, which cities attract the largest share of international tourists? While some of the tried-and-true destinations have made the cut for 2015, other entries on the list of the top 15 most visited cities might surprise you.

15. Milan, Italy

Perhaps most famous as Italy’s fashion powerhouse, the city of Milan is much more than that. Located in northern Italy, it is also home to Italy’s largest stock exchange, two major soccer teams and numerous theaters, museums and monuments. Milan has something to offer each one of its seven plus million visitors each year. Notable sites around the city include the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage site decorated by Leonardo da Vinci paintings. Although the city itself is entirely flat terrain, the nearby Alps form part of its cityscape, and the city’s proximity to Alpine tourist destinations have positioned it as a gateway community. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the world’s oldest shopping mall and is located on the Piazza Duomo, near the fifth-largest church in the world, Milan Cathedral.

Milan, Italy

14. Rome, Italy

Given Rome’s ubiquitous position as the cradle of Western civilization and European civilization in particular, as well as its unique reputation as a tourist destination, it’s perhaps surprising that Rome didn’t rank higher on this list. Still, with a projected 7.4 million tourists in 2015, tourism to Rome is nothing to sneeze at. Rome is home to some of Europe’s most famous historical monuments, such as the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica. Religious tourism to Rome is still an important factor; although the Vatican is a separate state, it is located inside Rome and many visitors tour through Rome’s churches as well. Under the influence of numerous popes, Rome has undergone a program of patronage since the Renaissance that aimed to make it the cultural and artistic center of the world—a lofty goal and one that has resulted in Rome long being a mecca for people around the world.

eternal city Rome

13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

When The Netherlands first legalized the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, a running joke became that most young North American tourists would hit Amsterdam for one reason and one reason alone. While some of the city’s 7.44 million international tourists might visit for that reason, there are many other things to do and see in the Dutch capital. Amsterdam is, of course, famous for its cannabis cafes and red light district, which attracts many visitors, but other aspects of its nightlife, including numerous discotheques and world-renowned jazz clubs, are equally attractive to tourists. The city’s architecture, historical buildings and many museums are also incentive for visitors. Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum are just two of the many historic sites frequented by tourists. The city is also well-known for its system of canals, which add to its picturesque appeal.

Amsterdam

12. Barcelona, Spain

Capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, in Spain, Barcelona has a long history of tourism: in medieval times, it was an important site for Christian pilgrims. Today, the tourism industry is still an important and growing part of Barcelona’s economy, with more than 7.5 million people expected to visit the city in 2015. Barcelona rivals Madrid, the country’s capital, in terms of major attractions and historic sites; the city boasts no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and many museums. As the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has also become internationally renowned for its many beaches; many Spaniards vacation in Barcelona for the beaches and the practice is catching on with foreign visitors. Notable sites include the fortress at Montjuic and the Basilica of La Merce, as well as the stunning, yet incomplete, Sagrada Familia Basilica.

Park Guell Barcelona Spain

11. Tokyo, Japan

Whether you’re looking for exciting subculture fashion, interested in experiencing the Japanese tradition of kabuki theater, or just want to eat the freshest sushi in the world, Tokyo has you covered. Japan’s capital city is a sprawling urban metropolis littered with skyscrapers, excellent restaurants and renowned museums, and interspersed with parks and greenspace. Various districts of the city are dedicated to nightlife (Roppongi and Shibuya), fashion subcultures (Harajuku) and electronics (Akihabara). Ancient Shinto shrines and historic castles are a testament to Tokyo’s long history as the center of Japanese culture, and now you can mingle with ultra-modern architecture like Tokyo Skytree and the iconic Tokyo Tower. With slightly over eight million foreign tourists expected in 2015, Tokyo continues to be one of the most visited cities in the world, although it remains outside of the top 10.

Tokyo

10. Hong Kong, China

In 1997, Hong Kong became an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Beginning in the 1970s, the city developed into a global metropolis, functioning as a center for trade and finance. Hong Kong also developed an entertainment industry, producing many popular kung-fu action films. Today, more than 8.5 million people visit the city each year, some for business and others for pleasure. The cityscape is decidedly modern, with the number of skyscrapers outnumbering any other city in the world; architecture has blended between Eastern and Western styles, and elements of traditional culture, like feng shui and dim sum, mingle easily with Western influences. Despite this, Hong Kong is also renowned for its geographical features: its deep harbor has made it an important port, nearby Mount Kowloon offers steep terrain and the rugged coastline has many excellent beaches.

Hong Kong

9. Seoul, South Korea

More than 10 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Seoul in 2015. The financial, cultural and political heart of South Korea, Seoul was first designed as a capital city in the 14th century. The city’s lengthy list of historic buildings and UNESCO World Heritages sites includes palaces and temples, as well as the remains of neolithic settlements unearthed nearby. Two old residential districts are now preserved as museums to showcase traditional Korean culture and lifeways, including hanok houses. Seoul has many more museums, such as the Kimchi Field Museum. But Seoul isn’t all about the past; the city boasts some of the world’s most design-forward modern architecture and was named a World Design Capital in 2010. Ultra-modern buildings mingle with numerous parks, creating a unique and attractive cityscape near Mount Namsan.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The capital of Malaysia will attract more than 11 million international visitors in 2015, making it the 8th most visited city in the world. Tourism and shopping are major drivers of the Malaysian economy and nowhere is that more evident than Kuala Lumpur, which functions as the largest retail center in the country with 66 shopping malls. Major attractions include the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the National Palace and the Jamek Mosque. Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is another notable destination for tourists, and the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam and its procession to Batu Caves is a major cultural festival that attracts visitors from many different locales. The city also functions as a hub for entertainment, art and events, including sports and music festivals. Kuala Lumpur is also noted for its multiethnic blend of cuisines and architectures.

Top Cities 2013 - Kuala Lumpur

7. Singapore City, Singapore

Nearly 12 million people will visit the city-state of Singapore during the course of 2015. Over the last decade, the country has garnered a reputation for being a “luxury” destination, with many high-end hotel chains setting up shop, and the legalization of gambling heralding casino tourism. The island country’s biggest draw, however, is said to be its cuisine: Singapore’s multiethnic mix has led to a unique fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines—like the Peranakan style of cooking, a hybridization of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. There are many restaurants and, in fact, dining is said to be one of Singapore’s national pastimes. Architecture in the city-state similarly reflects the fusion of various cultural influences. Water sports such as sailing, scuba diving and water skiing are popular recreational pastimes, while soccer is a popular sport to watch.

Singapore city at night

6. New York City, United States

The only American entry on this list, New York City remains the U.S. destination of choice for international tourists, with over almost 12.3 million people expected to visit in 2015. Attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building continue to draw visitors, while major events like New York Fashion Week pulls in crowds from around the world. Times Square and Broadway also remain popular attractions for international visitors, while shopping, cuisine and nightlife are alluring for many others who choose to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Other notable sites include Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. For many, New York remains the premier American destination, ranking well ahead of other U.S. cities like Los Angeles. As America’s largest city, NYC is likely to remain the country’s biggest tourist draw as well.

New York City Times Square

5. Istanbul, Turkey

With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, Istanbul is both the fastest growing destination in Europe and the 5th most visited city in the world. Located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. Situated at the heart of two historically important empires, Istanbul has a long and illustrious heritage. It’s easily one of Europe’s most multicultural cities, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions. Traditional Turkish cuisine, such as kebabs, are popular and the city is also well-known for a vibrant entertainment industry and nightlife. Its historic center, a partial UNESCO World Heritage site, remains the most popular tourist attraction.

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and has recently emerged onto the global stage through its innovative architecture, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper and its history of hosting major sporting events. A center of world banking, Dubai has earned a reputation for being both pricey and luxurious—as a vacation destination, it’s often lauded as a sort of playground for the rich and famous. Its skyline is dominated by the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building at 828 meters. The Burj al Arab is another iconic structure. Dubai’s attitude is clearly go big or go home: the Dubai Miracle Garden, opened in 2013, is the world’s largest flower garden and the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world. More than 14 million people are expected to visit Dubai from other countries in 2015 as tourism continues to grow.

Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

3. Paris, France

Oh Paris,  the iconic city of love with its grandiose Eiffel Tower ranked 3rd on this list. Being the 3rd most visited city in the world says something about how many people travel here each year. Paris will attract over 16 million foreign tourists in 2015, and it is well behind the first and second-place cities. Nonetheless, Paris remains a top-tier destination for many travelers, often considered a must-take trip or a bucket-list destination. The capital of France is noted for its cuisine, including its many bistros and cafes, along with many 3-star restaurants. The Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre are all popular tourist attractions. Paris is also known as a center of fashion, hosting the twice annual Paris Fashion Week. The city is also the host of several important sporting events, including the finish of the Tour de France and the Paris Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Top Cities 2013 - Paris

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s capital city is on-track to receive more than 18 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the second most visited city in the world. With world-class shopping and dining and a dynamic nightlife, Bangkok offers something for everyone to see and do. Another major driver of travel to Bangkok is sex tourism; Bangkok has actually earned the nickname “Sin City of Asia” as a result of how many visitors it receives on account of the industry. Other visitors are attracted by the city’s mix of historical buildings, showcasing a variety of influences and cultures. Notable sites are Wat Phra Kaew, a Buddhist temple in the Grand Palace, and Jim Thompson House, considered an outstanding example of Thai architecture. As the seat of the Thai government and the royal family, Bangkok is also a hub for major cultural events, such as religious celebrations and festivals.

Top Cities 2013 - Bangkok

1. London, United Kingdom

London is projected to receive almost 19 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the most visited city in the world. The U.K.’s capital ranks among its European counterparts, like Paris and Rome, boasting numerous landmarks, iconic monuments and a host of other tourist attractions. The city has numerous museums and a strong arts scene, as well as a world-renowned shopping district (High Street) and fashion industry, which includes the twice-annual London Fashion Show. Notable sites include Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Shard, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. The city also has a large theater district in the West End, with more than 40 theaters. The British Museum, the Tate Museum and the National Gallery were the top three attractions in 2010. Even the transit system is iconic: the London Underground is the oldest underground railway in the world.

Top Cities 2013 - London

The 10 Most Popular Destination Cities in Asia/Pacific for 2015

Tourism to the Asia/Pacific region has been on the rise for a while now, as travel becomes increasingly affordable to more people, businesses expand into new countries and cities and as young people become increasingly infatuated with exploring. And why not? With a host of colorful cities, storied history and amazing sightseeing, Asia/Pacific destinations deserve to be on your travel itinerary. Not sure which city to visit first (or next)? Take a look at 2015’s most popular destination cities in the region to help get you started on your next trip.

10. Osaka, Japan

Although less frequented than Tokyo on the travel circuit, Osaka is Japan’s second-largest city, with nearly 19 million inhabitants, and has long been an important center in the country. In fact, Osaka was even declared the capital city during the 8th and 9th centuries. In the Edo years, Osaka maintained its economic importance as a major center of the rice trade. A booming economy led to a burgeoning cultural scene, something that continued to develop during the 19th century as Osaka modernized. Today, Osaka has many attractions that can give Tokyo a run for its money—from amusement parks to kabuki theater, from cuisine to historical monuments, Osaka is a destination that offers a little something for everyone, so it’s little wonder more than 4.5 million people will have visited in 2015. Stop by Shitenno-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, or the landmark Osaka Castle.

Osaka, Japan

9. Mumbai, India

Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the most populous city in India. It’s also the most popular city for travelers to visit—nearly five million of them in 2015—which is little surprise as Mumbai is the economic and entertainment capital of India. Mumbai’s cityscape is also impressive, with an eclectic mix of architectural styles documenting the city’s long history. Mumbai has the second-largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world, and skyscrapers now form a major portion of the city’s panorama. Mumbai is the birthplace of Indian cinema and hosts a large number of film festivals; Bollywood and Marathi films can be seen at many cinemas. Mumbai is also home to a well-funded contemporary art movement and has several art museums and galleries. The city functions as a major cultural center and hosts plenty of festivals throughout the year, with Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions all represented.

Mumbai India

8. Shanghai, China

Perhaps more iconic than even the capital city of Beijing, Shanghai is, for many people, the representative city of China, which is how it attracts nearly six million visitors every year. The largest Chinese city and, in fact, the largest city in the world by some counts, Shanghai originally developed as a major center thanks to its strategic position at the mouth of the Yangtze River. It became an important hub during the colonial period, which helped bolster its international reputation. Today, Shanghai is the economic center of China, with major industrial, commercial and financial sectors operating there. Shanghai has long been multicultural, which is demonstrated by its mix of architectural styles, its religious heritage and even in the history of its most famous garment, the cheongsam. Shanghai is also an important hub for sports, being home to several professional soccer teams and the annual Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix.

Top Cities 2013 - Shanghai

7. Taipei, Taiwan

As the center of Taiwan, Taipei is an important hub for economic, political and cultural activity, which is probably why more than 6.5 million people will visit the city in 2015. Taipei boasts many architectural and cultural landmarks, including museums, temples and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Taipei is also remarked for its geography, as it lies on an ancient lakebed between 2 small rivers; the nearby natural hot springs are world-renowned. Taipei also hosts many major festivals, such as the New Year’s Lantern Festival, a Dragon Boat Festival and the mid-autumn Moon Festival. The city is home to Taipei 101, a supertall skyscraper that was the tallest building in the world until 2010. Ximending has become famous for its shopping and entertainment. The city is also famed for its many night markets, street markets that operate during the evening, which are popular with citizens and tourists alike.

Taipei 101, Taiwan

6. Tokyo, Japan

Japan’s capital city is one of those destinations that “has it all”. Whether you’re looking for new and exciting fashion, interested in taking in traditional kabuki and noh plays, want to go shopping or just want to eat the freshest sushi in the world, Tokyo is your one-stop shopping destination. Tokyo is a sprawling city with many museums, temples, historic buildings and, yes, districts dedicated to nightlife, fashion subcultures and electronics. Climb Tokyo Skytree to get a new perspective on the urban sprawl or head out of town to climb Mount Fuji. Visit the castle, where the emperor and his family reside, or take a trip to Akihabara to check out the latest in electronics. After a long day, hit up Shibuya and Roppongi for a taste of trendy Tokyo nightlife. No wonder more than eight million people will stop off in this city in 2015.

Tokyo

5. Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong’s deep natural harbor and turbulent history saw it remain a British colony until near the end of the 20th century. In 1997, the city became an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Before that, however, Hong Kong had developed into a global metropolis, functioning as a center for trade and finance from the 1970s on. Today, more than 8.5 million people visit the city each year. Hong Kong has been described as the point where East meets West, with modernization and Western influences blending easily with traditions like feng shui and dim sum. The city is also a hub for the entertainment industry, producing many popular kung-fu action films. It’s renowned for beaches along its rugged coastline and with Mount Kowloon nearby with its extensive network of trails and steep terrain, which is popular among hikers. The city’s skyline contains the most skyscrapers in the world.

Top Cities 2013 - Hong Kong

4. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul will have received more than 10 million visitors in 2015, which make the city the world’s 10th most visited destination. As South Korea’s most populous and capital city, Seoul is the financial, cultural and political heart of the country. Seoul has been a capital city since the 14th century, and so it has a lengthy roster of historically important buildings and UNESCO World Heritages sites, including palaces and temples, as well as the remains of neolithic settlements. Seoul also has many museums and parks which form an important part of the cityscape. Two old residential districts are now preserved as museums to showcase traditional Korean culture and lifeways, including hanok houses. The Kimchi Field Museum is dedicated to traditional Korean cuisine. Seoul is also renowned for its modern architecture and was named World Design Capital in 2010.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The capital of Malaysia will attract more than 11 million international visitors in 2015; in fact, the city has received at least that many visitors since 2012 and tourism growth shows no signs of slowing down. Tourism and shopping are major drivers of the Malaysian economy and nowhere is that more evident than Kuala Lumpur. Major attractions include the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the National Palace and the Jamek Mosque. Petaling Street and Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is another notable destination for tourists, as well as the annual Thaipusam procession to Batu Caves, a major cultural festival that attracts many visitors each year. The city is a hub for entertainment, art and events, including sports and music festivals. Greenspace is also important in the city, with many parks offering recreational opportunities. The Cultural Crafts Complex demonstrates the traditional processes for textile, ceramic and metal crafting.

Top Cities 2013 - Kuala Lumpur

2. Singapore, Malaysia

With nearly 12 million international visitors set to touch down in 2015, there’s definitely more to Singapore than the infamous Singapore Sling. Singapore is not only a city, it’s a city-state—meaning it’s also its own sovereign nation. Singapore is a global city, with an important financial sector and a busy shipping port. Cuisine is one of the country’s major attractions, with dining said to be a national pastime. Singapore’s multiethnic mix has led to a unique fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines—like the Peranakan style of cooking, which blends Chinese and Malay gourmets. Of course, the multicultural tendencies of the country have also led to mixed styles of architecture and religious celebrations in the city-state. Singapore has also earned a reputation for luxury, with gambling and casinos becoming an increasing part of the tourist economy in the last decade.

Singapore city

1. Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s capital city is on-track to receive over 18 million foreign tourists in 2015, and it’s not hard to see what makes Bangkok so popular. With a mix of historical sites and buildings, shopping and dining and a dynamic nightlife, Bangkok offers something for everyone to see and do. Another major driver of Bangkok tourism is sex tourism—so much so that Bangkok has been nicknamed the “Sin City of Asia”. Among the notable sites in the city are Wat Phra Kaew, a Buddhist temple in the Grand Palace, and Jim Thompson House, an exemplar of Thai architecture. The city’s National Gallery showcases the development of Thai art. As the seat of the Thai government and the royal family, Bangkok is also a hub for the celebration of major festivals and holidays, such as the annual Songkran celebrations every April.

Top Cities 2013 - Bangkok

13 Things to See and Do in Thailand

Thailand presents such a dichotomy of experiences that a single visit would never do it justice. More than 15 million people arrive annually, yet culturally, customs and traditions have remained very much intact. Western influences have made deep marks yet a heritage filled with riches is strongly maintained. One of the best things about visiting is there is no “typical” vacation. Sure, sun-worshippers put Thailand high on their list, but the country has an incredibly diverse number of attractions to enjoy. From sun-soaked beaches to dense, jungle landscapes, there are endless discoveries to make.

13. Phang Nga

Due north of Phuket is Phang Nga, a stunning Thai province filled with flourishing backdrops, incredible islands and exceptional diving. Phang Nga Bay National Park is an earthly wonder laying claim to fascinating rock formations (limestone karsts) jutting skyward, picturesque islets, and recessed caverns. There are small and large boat excursions making the trip from the point of Phuket and from Krabi offering various day trips. The Muslim fishing village of Koh Panyee is an interesting stop and a way to support locals selling handmade souvenirs and fresh, delicious seafood. One of the best choices for exploring Phang Nga is to rent a canoe or kayak and cruise along the bay, checking out ancient paintings in island caverns, natural wildlife, and scenic wonders. The huge, stratified rocks of shallow Phang Nga Bay are really a sight to behold and perhaps the single most dramatic part of a visit.Phang Nga Bay Thailand

12. Khao Yai National Park

As Thailand’s first national park, Khao Yai (Big Mountain) set the precedent for conservation—since 1962, officials have continued protecting the riches of the land. Located mostly in Khorat province, Khao Yai also occupies land in another trio of provinces and is an integral part of San Kamphaeng Mountain Range. The sweeping 2,000+ square kilometer park is a UNESCO natural heritage site home to gibbons, elephants, peregrine snakes, hundreds of exotic birds, and the last of Thailand’s tigers. From evergreen rain forests to arid, grassy plains, the landscape and altitude varies greatly. More than 40 waterfalls are the biggest attractions, including some considered to be the country’s most impressive. Nimble streams, rugged jungle trails, quick rapids and a host of wildlife are seen from observation towers and park lookouts. Overnight in a lodge or camp on the grounds following a nighttime safari and your trip will be complete.

Khao Yai National Park

11. Chao Phraya River Ferry

When in Bangkok, do as the locals do and ride the Chao Phraya River Ferry. This express line travels north and south along the Chao Phraya River, the city’s watery artery, and one that can whisk you off to numerous attractions without being held up on the smoggy traffic. The Orange Flag boat is the best option of the five separate lines. Hop on this line following the chaotic morning rush and you’ll enjoy a ferry that comes along every 20 minutes and runs throughout the entire day. The ferry ride is an attraction itself, offering a peek at everyday life; locals traveling to work, school kids heading to and from class, and vendors selling all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Use the Chao Phraya River Ferry in connection with the metro system and Skytrain and you’ve quite literally got it made in the shade.

Chao Phraya River Ferry

10. WFFT Wildlife Rescue Center

Illegal wildlife trade is ripe in Thailand. Unfortunately, even trusted wildlife outfits can be up to no good or don’t have the proper education to care properly for the wildlife they keep—or both. If you love animals and want to see some of Thailand’s most beautiful, visit a trusted rescue or conservation center. It’s in these places you’ll find the most dedicated people in wildlife conservation, tirelessly rescuing sick and mistreated animals, fighting against illegal wildlife trade, and educating the public. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand is fronted by Edwin Wiek, a man of distinguished tenacity and perseverance. The center in Tha Yang, Phetchaburi province fights for animal welfare, cares medically for, and rescues elephants, lemurs, langurs, gibbons, tigers, baboons, macaques, exotic birds, sun bears, and more. Book a full day visit to the center or volunteer in a live-in arrangement for no less than a week.

Thailand Tiger

9. Koh Chang

Though it’s a challenge to recommend any one Thai island to suit all needs, Koh Chang (Elephant Island) could easily be called the quintessential one, offering a little something for everyone. Arcadian beaches, stunning mountains, holistic resorts, bohemian hangouts, an exhilarating nightlife and time-honored fishing villages are all things to fill most travelers’ needs while visiting here. There are action-packed beaches and quiet ones too. Koh Chang is massive, dwarfed only by Samui and Phuket, yet most of its landscape remains unspoiled. The days of deserted beaches are surely gone, but Koh Chang still has nothing on its larger siblings. Nearby coral reefs lend themselves to amazing dive and snorkeling sites while interior mountain summits, thick jungle, and cascading waterfalls offer activities off the water. If that doesn’t fill your need for adventure, there are more than 50 outer lying islands within the archipelago so it’s easy to find a little piece of paradise.

Koh Chang, Thailand

8. Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets

Buses flock to Ratchaburi, whisking anxious visitors to one of the most popular attractions in the country just 100 km from the capital. This market in Ratchaburi province can be a frenzy of people but it’s definitely worth a look at this old tradition—even if you’re not in the market for anything in particular. Bamboo hat clad Thais navigate narrow, colorful, boats along a network of canals and sell everything under the sun. You might meet the odd Thai who’ll toss a monkey on your lap, snap a shot, and demand payment, but it’s still worth a visit; keep your eyes peeled and it’s relatively easy to avoid this kind of trap. Visitors can hire private boats rather inexpensively, tour the market, and shop, or jump on public transport and ride along with the rest. Either way, there’s really nothing else like it in the country.

somchaiito / Shutterstock.com
somchaiito / Shutterstock.com

7. Krabi Province

On Thailand’s southern stretch along the gorgeous Andaman Coast is Krabi province, gateway to incredible attractions and obscure Thai islands. Sea gypsies, merchants, and pirates sailed the Andaman Sea for centuries, favoring the countless coves and bays providing much-needed cover when things went awry. Here, the archipelago is king, forming a labyrinth of islands and mammoth karst formations, creating otherworldly spectacles of nature’s finest work. Krabi province is as diverse as it gets; families will find an idyllic backdrop on marvelous Koh Lanta, rock climbers head to cloud nine on Railay Beach, and castaways dream away the days along the alabaster shores of Koh Phi Phi Don and little sister Leh. Krabi Town is the fortuitous launching pad to over 150 islands within the province. Night markets, sea kayaking, beach combing, overnight island camping, waterfront dance parties, and world class diving are easy endeavors within this revered southern stretch.

Krabi Province

6. Grand Palace

The Grand Palace was home to Thai kings until the 20th century. In the center of the enormous palace is the Central Court, with points of interest surrounding it; The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Gaeo in Thai) was built to house a massive jade Buddha retrieved from the Laotian capital Vientiane by King Rama I. This personal temple to the Royal family is beyond impressive and elaborately adorned. The outer court is flanked by prominent and remarkable halls. In 1897, King Rama V had Phra Thinang Boromphiman mansion built for his son, the heir to the throne. The foreign designer created a distinctly Western style building, a stark contrast to the surroundings and a genuine stand-out attraction. Although the King rarely uses any palace halls and no one lives there, the odd, lucky dignitary is offered chambers within the venerable Grand Palace when visiting Thailand.

Grand Palace, Thailand

5. Chiang Mai

Tucked into Thailand’s verdant northern province, Chiang Mai maintains a chilled out pace, an array of international accoutrements, and a diverse urban landscape spilling into lush, green hills. The city showcases one of the finest examples of urban living and one that manages to maintain its customs and traditions. Clear of the historic city center is a modern and dynamic city with a ton of easy-going allure and the gateway to some fascinating northern towns and cities. Foreign NGO employees, trendy University students, and talented artisans dusted the city with innovative spaces within pervasive cement shops. A visit could eat into a week but a few days for major sites works well. Don’t miss the renowned Night Bazaar, illustrious Wat Phra Singh, and Saturday Walking Street, a daytime market filled with treasures. Mountaintop temple Doi Suthep illustrates why Chiang Mai is the genuine Buddhist heart of the north.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

4. Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is one of the most impressive ancient cities in Thailand and one deserving of attention. Smallpox was the catalyst for its foundation within the Chao Phraya River valley in the 14th century: King U Thong traveled here to avoid a deadly smallpox outbreak. As the capital of its namesake province, Ayutthaya draws millions of annual visitors who make the easy journey from Bangkok. Ayutthaya was a powerhouse for over 415 years, courted by Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and English merchants and enjoyed diplomatic relations with France’s then-king Louis XIV. The UNESCO Heritage Site (the second capital of Thailand) was devastated by the Burmese in the 18th century. It is so large that when walking around, there is a culminating feeling within, for even though it’s popular, the grounds remain mostly quiet. Notable ruins at this huge archaeological site lay beyond the central area so be sure to explore thoroughly.

Ayutthaya, Thailand

3. Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi has become a major tourist destination, with a focus on the outdoors due to its magnificent landscape and charming beauty. Only two hours from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is accessible by road or rail, and is popular for fishing, rafting, canoeing, mountain biking, bird-watching, star-gazing, golfing, and elephant and jungle trekking. The area boasts several well-known waterfalls, caves that were once inhabited by Neolithic man, national parks, tranquil rivers, virgin forests, and several large reservoirs.

SIHASAKPRACHUM / Shutterstock.com
SIHASAKPRACHUM / Shutterstock.com

2. Mae Hong Son Loop

Northwest of Chiang Mai hugging the Burmese border is Mae Hong Son, a small city in one of the most impressive provinces in Thailand. Here, Burmese and Thai culture collide, creating a mesmerizing fusion of traditions. The landscape is thickly forested and valleys blanketed in mist lie across an alpine landscape. Chiang Mai is the perfect gateway to relaxed Mae Hong Son, with inexpensive flights and daily buses available. Once there, the best way to explore is via motorbike over a few days. Ride through the countryside and mountains, stop at waterfalls on route, and enjoy some pretty amazing small, northern towns. Typically the loop begins in Mae Hong Son: the small, gorgeous, laid back towns of Mae Sariang and Pai are definitely the most impressive. The highest peak in Thailand, called Doi Inthanon is one of the biggest highlights, along with many other scenic points.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

1. Chiang Rai & the Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is defined by captivating hill tribes, misty mountains, and rich jungle forests where peaceful scenes of northern rice paddies offer the perfect, photographic moments. At the northern tip of Thailand, the land converges with Burma and Laos where the legendary Mekong and Ruak rivers converge. There’s promise of diverse itineraries throughout this attraction-filled region where the landscape is as enticing as the people. Hill tribe markets, brilliant wats, museums, sightseeing drives, and river cruises are just the beginning. A visit is as much a cultural experience as it is a sightseeing adventure—and the food! Northern Thai cuisine features some classic Thai dishes, but also a fusion of delicious food resulting from centuries of diverse cultural interaction. With a mere three hours separating Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai, a visit to the Golden Triangle is convenient but most of all unforgettable.

Rong Khun temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand