Thailand has emerged as a tourist hot spot for honeymooners, backpackers and young people looking for some fun. This beautiful country never ceases to amaze me with its colorful culture, captivating beaches and charismatic nightlife. On my last visit, I discovered that confining myself to the lovely beaches of Phuket, as spellbinding as they can be, would be a sin. If you have to truly experience the culture of Thailand, you have to delve deeper into its history, arts and food. Here are some of Thailand's top cultural attractions.
Food of Thailand
Thailand is nothing short of a food paradise and culinary tourism is a rage here. One of the basic Thailand attraction is the Thai food which is a perfect blend of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. The spices of authentic Thai food can make your ears steam up but you can always balance it out with other flavours and aromatic herbs. There are numerous kitchens offering cooking classes and in the end, you get to eat your own creation! My personal favourites are Khao Niaow served with grilled meat and the spicy Som Tam. And let's not forget the oh so delicious street food! The genial street food vendors are friendly and ever-so-attentive to your requests, just try to learn a few catch phrases in the local language if you can.
Spiritualism in Thailand
A Thailand trip is incomplete without a visit to Wat Arun which is one of the most beautiful Thailand’s tourist attraction. Sitting in an isolated corner of the Wat Arun in Bangkok, soaking in the early morning sunlight, I wondered how beautiful the world was and how much there was to love and treasure. The peace and serenity that descended upon me was an influence of the beautiful temple and the monks dressed in saffron. There is something about Buddhism that helps you connect with your inner self. Buddhism being the primary religion, Thailand has over forty thousand monasteries. Many of these offer meditation centers and spiritual guidance for foreigners. One of the other popular Buddhist temple in Bangkok is Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
History and Heritage of Thailand
Thailand’s rich heritage is obvious in the numerous temples and monasteries as is the influence of Indian, Burmese and Chinese cultures. Siam Niramit, one of the largest stage productions in the world, colourfully depicts the history of Thailand through song and dance. Siamese history talks about three Kings from the dynasty named Rama I, Rama II and Rama III. The Siamese folklore also incorporates many themes and scenes from the Ramayana.
Wat Pho was restored by Rama I, after an enormous image of Buddha was destroyed here in a Burmese invasion. The temple now houses a gold leaf covered reclining figure of Buddha so colossal that it barely fits the space. Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn is an imposing structure standing majestically over the Chao Phraya River. It was here that the famed Emerald Buddha was first housed before it was shifted to the awe-inspiring Grand Palace, which was the seat of power for the Kings of Siam until 1925.
Urban Culture of Thailand
One of the many things to do in Thailand comprises of venturing the beautiful culture it offers. The urban culture of Thailand comprises a modern, fast-paced, chaotic city life married to the traditions of the past. Bangkok is a stunning modern city steeped in Siamese History. The illustrious past of the city is evident in the glistening temples and resplendent palaces while modernity can be witnessed in the colorful nightlife and world class infrastructure. There is a beauty that emerges out of the chaos too as you witness places like the Floating Market on the klongs (canals) that once earned Bangkok the name “Venice of the East”. The waterways are full of sellers on their long tail boats, tourists on joy rides and regular shoppers.
Thailand, however, has a lot to offer beyond Bangkok. Chaing Mai is a culturally important city in northern Thailand circumscribed by old crumbling walls and a moat in the old world style. The city is built along the picturesque Ping River and has the highest mountains in the country. The rich culture combined with scenic beauty and colourful festivals make it a must visit for one touring Thailand.
Rural Culture of Thailand
The rural culture of Thailand can be best experienced by spending some time with the Hill Tribes of the far north. I observed people going quietly about their lives in quaint villages. The people there are neither disturbed nor overjoyed by the presence of tourists. They do like a bit of company though. If you do not fancy living in a village, I would suggest Kanchanaburi for you. This quaint little town is surrounded by lush sugarcane fields gently willowing in the winds and the rolling limestone hills. The hills are home to several interesting deep and winding limestone caves and underground temples. This laid back town is the perfect retreat for the adventurous as well as those seeking to unwind in the midst of nature.
Festivals in Thailand
Still confused on What to do in Thailand? Head for theme festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in Thailand with great pomp and show. Nakhon Sawan Chinese New Year, Mae Hong Son Winter Feast and the Sweet Tamarind Fair are all worth witnessing. The most popular of them however are the Chiang Mai Flower Festival and the Loi Krathong. Chiang Mai blooms into colourful flowers during February every year. They fill the city with beauty and fragrance that is unforgettable; and the enchanting Loi Krathong festival in November is equally fantastic and celebrated across Thailand. The beautifully lit lanterns transported me to the fairy tale world of Rapunzel’s floating lanterns, making my visit worth every penny.
But we can never round off a trip without some retail therapy, right? The Night Bazaar of Chiang Mai is a shoppers’ paradise. The best part being, it is open every day of the year. Here you will find all kinds of real and fake designer ware at astoundingly low prices, if you know how to bargain. For the seasoned shopper, this is the place to be.
As immortalized in the words of J.R.R Tolkein,
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”
Come wander into Thailand and live a golden experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Book Your Thailand Holiday Now!