FAMED FOR ITS LOVELY BEACHES AND SUNNY COLOURFUL CULTURE THAILAND IS A MECCA ON THE INTERNATIONAL TOURIST ITINERARY, AND PARTICULARLY WELL-DEVELOPED FOR WESTERN TRAVELLERS
 
Thailand has long been used to welcoming tourists in search of the lure of oriental mystique. From the pioneering backpacker bustle of the flower power generation, to the many luxury resorts and hotels of today, tourism has been in constant development and offers, with practised ease, all the beach fantasies and cultural sightseeing opportunities the modern tourist could possibly desire.

From the northern highland capital of Chiang Mai, one can explore its many National Parks and Ancient monuments, much of whose fascinating history, both natural and human, overlaps with that of its northern neighbours, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and bears distinct cultural nuances from mainstream Thai culture.

The region is also the home to the famously colourful hill tribes, border gem markets and the legendary Golden Triangle. Aside from the wonderful trekking and cultural experiences that the northern forests offer, fun excursions astride an elephant are a firm favourite for visitors to the region, especially families. A little way further south, the ancient city of Sukhothai, Siam’s first capital, is an architectural marvel and a pinnacle of Thai high art.

In central Thailand, Bangkok, in common with many other southeast Asian capitals, exudes a chaotic yet exciting torrent of impressions, the beautifully ornate treasures of its reverential past floating serenely through the crashing present in an unlikely harmony that somehow never fails to appeal. Nearby, the ruins of Ayuthaya, another former capital, provides an inspiring glimpse in Thailand’s historic, cultural and architectural heritage.

A popular, if sobering, attraction in Thailand's central region, especially for veterans or surviving relatives, is the Second World War memorial at Kanchanaburi, which passed into history as the site of the famous 'Bridge on the River Kwai', while for leisure, the coastal regions around Bangkok provide readily accessible beach getaways to Pattaya and Ko Chang to the east, and Cha Am and Hua Hin to the south.

However, it is the sublime and bewitching coastal fringes of Thailand's far south that seductively lures beach lovers from all over the world to their truly magical domain.

With a bountiful array of stunning and spectacular beaches, many of which have imbued their light and graceful beauty on many a Hollywood movie, these gems rank among the finest anywhere, providing not only gorgeous sands and luxuriant clear bright waters, but also the arrestingly dramatic sculptural quality of the natural surroundings within which they are so artfully set.

With the coral fringed islands of Ko Samui, Ko Phagnan, Ko Tao, and Ang Thong Marine park shimmering off the east coast, and Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Krabi nestling in the photogenic splendour of Phang Nha Bay to the west, there are virtually unlimited beach-based experience possibilities, ranging from serene tranquil paradise escapes to watersport heavens, nightlife cacophony and everything between, all supported by facilities ranging from the most exquisite luxury resorts to the modestly humble beach bungalow.