Bangkok & Central Thailand
Most visitors to Thailand will at some stage pass through Bangkok and first impressions of the Thai capital aren’t always positive. The city can be difficult to navigate and the heat and humidity can be a shock to the system. But with a bit of patience and a willingness to explore and scratch beneath the surface, Bangkok can be a fascinating place to visit. Lying to the north and west of Bangkok, the central plains of Thailand are an important agricultural area nourished by three of the kingdom’s most important waterways. The Nan River and Ping River flow down from the mountains of the north and converge in central Thailand to form the Chao Phraya River which extends to Bangkok. The fertile landscape of the central plains was a key factor in the establishment of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.
East Coast Thailand
To the east of Bangkok extending to the Cambodian border, Thailand’s eastern seaboard incorporates the popular beach resort of Pattaya and the scenic islands of Ko Samet and Ko Chang. With easy access to and from Bangkok, the east coast is as popular with holidaying Thais as it is with overseas tourists.
The north of Thailand is an area rich in history and culture. Over 700 years ago the ancient kingdom of Lanna (land of a Million Rice Fields) was established by King Mengrai who built Chiang Mai as the new capital of the region. Today, Chiang Mai remains as the most important city in the north, but the Lanna heritage is still prominent in other places including Lampang and Chiang Rai. The north of Thailand is distinguished by hills, mountains and valleys and for much of the year the climate here is slightly cooler than Bangkok and the south of the country. Visitors come to the north to enjoy the scenery and take part in pursuits such as elephant riding, trekking and visits to hill-tribes. The north of Thailand is also famous for the enthusiasm with which festivals are celebrated, particularly the Thai New Year Water Festival (Songkran) and the festival of light known as Loy Krathong.
The south of Thailand extends right down to the Malaysian border and is bordered by the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west. Home to some of the best beaches in South-East Asia, southern Thailand is a popular choice for those seeking to just kick off their shoes and relax. Temperatures throughout the year remain quite consistent on both coasts, but the rainy season is different. The Andaman Coast (e.g. Phuket) is impacted more by the south-west monsoon which can bring rain from May to October. The Gulf Coast (e.g. Ko Samui) on the other hand is impacted by the north-east monsoon which tends to bring rain from October to January.