Most travelers worth their complementary in-flight headphones have read The Beach, a seminal work of fiction about a late 20th century pilgrimage to Thailand. Showing the need to escape as both a blessing and a curse, the book describes a somewhat paradoxical paradise, a place to which so many people have traveled seeking solitude that is has become destroyed by a collective wanderlust.
It’s true that there are some schoolboy errors to be made on a first trip to Thailand, but this extraordinary country remains a popular first choice with travelers for good reason: as a destination it is exceptional. Travel agents, like First Choice, create great packages to give you the best possible chance to have crazy fun in Thailand.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your stay.
Avoid the Bangkok tourist traps
By all means, enjoy the heady neon commercialism of Khao San Road, but with the understanding that the novelty will soon wear off. Then, carve out a more serene path through Bangkok. Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn and Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha will astonish Westerners with the grandeur of their execution, while the Floating Market will justify often being referred to as ‘the Venice of the East.’
Beginner’s tip: On a temple visit, show respect by dressing with modesty, in clean, ironed clothes and shoes that are easily removed.
Have a howling good time at a full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan
Every month, on the night of the full moon, hedonists flock like neon moths to the beach at Haad Rin for dance music, body paint and alcohol by the bucket. One of the world’s biggest parties, they attract tens of thousands of revelers.
Beginner’s tip: The penalties for drug use in Thailand are rigorous; never risk eating, drinking or carrying anything from someone you don’t know.
Explore the north from Chiang Mai
More chilled and cultural than its rowdy southern brother Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the perfect base from which to head for the hills and experience the bright culture of the Thai hill tribes. First, enjoy the Northern Thai cuisine with a dish of khao soi, indulge in a spa day, and visit the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep.
Beginner’s tip: Attend a Monk’s Chat, where young monks meet with visitors to improve their English for some unique cultural insight.
Thailand is nothing short of enchanting for a first time traveler, but its extraordinary range of experiences will test even the worldliest visitor to its shores. For its winning combination of natural beauty, exotic culture, and the warmth of its people, Thailand is, as a destination, unrivaled.