From bustling cities, serene temples and beautiful relaxing beaches, Central Thailand has something for every traveller.
On the fertile plains stretching north from Bangkok are 21 provinces, sometimes called ‘the rice bowl of Asia’, that are responsible for producing much of the country’s rice.
Ayutthaya was one of the greatest mercantile centres in Asia and its incredible temples and palaces are built around the confluence of the Chao Praya, Lopburi and Pasak rivers. Hundreds of visitors on day trips from Bangkok are drawn to the remains of monuments that stand among more modern buildings.
At Kanchanaburi is the infamous River Kwai bridge and ‘Death Railway’, the Japan-Burma railway built by the Japanese during World War II, when thousands of Asian labourers and Allied POWs died. Nearby are two war cemeteries, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Chong Kai Cemetery and the JEATH (Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland) War Museum is housed in a reconstructed POW detention hut.
Bangkok is a thriving, bustling capital city catering to all kinds of tourists. Taxis or minibuses take visitors directly to their hotel via the convenient new expressway.
Bangkok proper seethes on the east side of the Chao Phraya River and can be divided in two by the main north-south train line. Old Bangkok glitters in the portion between the river and the railway and it is here that most of the older temples and the original palace are located while new Bangkok is east of the railway
For a bustling city, Bangkok surprisingly offers quiet escapes. Step out of the street noise and into the calm of one of the city’s 400 temples and monasteries. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo complex is the city’s premier tourist attraction and home to Phra Kaeo, the small, sacred and renowned emerald Buddha, the most revered image of Buddha in Thailand.
The Grand Palace is a must-see for visitors, with temples and pavilions shimmering in gold leaf, porcelain and glass while not far away is the Marble Temple, considered one of the country’s most beautiful buildings.
The Dusit Zoo is near the Royal Plaza, where the Thai royal family live in the Chitralada Palace. Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn is one of the city’s major landmarks with its central monument symbolising Hindi-Buddhist cosmology.
The Temple of the Golden Buddha houses a unique, gleaming, 18-carat gold, four-metre high, 13th century Sukothai Buddha.
Other sights include the Wat Sai floating market in Thonburi, a boat trip through the city’s extensive network of canals, and the renowned Oriental Hotel. For a shopping indulgence, head to central Bangkok’s Siam Square. This bustling shopping mecca is littered with alleyways jam packed with cheap, independent designer boutiques as well as numerous major shopping malls.
Hua Hin is a favourite coastal destination for Thais who flock there to enjoy its beaches, multicultural buzz and numerous cafés and bistros that offer a wide range of cuisine. It is situated in the southwest of Bangkok and is recognised as Thailand’s first beach resort and extends some kilometres to a headland where Buddhist temples cling to the cliffs. Powdery white sand, resort hotels lining the coastline and visitors enjoying numerous watersports give the beach town its distinctive ambience.
Stunning Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park, 45 kilometres south of Hua Hin is one of the best-managed protected areas in the country. Kaeng Krachan National Park, northwest of Hua Hin, is Thailand’s largest protected area and is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, gibbon and many species of birds.