Long known as the “Land of Smiles” for good reason, Thailand is a beautiful and welcoming tropical country of beaches and jungles. In 2019, these natural riches made it the eighth most visited country in the world, with almost 40 million arrivals.
For many visitors, the focus is on the country’s long coasts studded with hundreds of beautiful beaches, and the islands that lie just offshore that offer more secluded spots. A rich array of resorts has grown up to meet the demand from visitors from all the world, along with thousands of tourism businesses offering everything from speedboats to spas, dive trips to cooking classes.
Land of smiles
There’s also an intriguing Buddhist culture to discover, seen on a daily basis in graceful ‘wai’ greetings and ready smiles, or at any of the temples or festivals you run into everywhere. Underneath its charm, there is a steely resilience too: the country has for decades now defied what at times is a turbulent political scene, to remain a safe and peaceful place for foreigners to travel and live.
Another enticing side to the country is its food. Now found all over the globe, it is one of the world’s favourite cuisines but at home the full pungency and freshness of the tastes are available on every street corner – and you can always ask them to tone down the heat if you have to
Thailand's favourite island
The most popular of the tourist-friendly islands on the east-facing Gulf of Thailand coast is Koh Samui, halfway between Bangkok and the Malaysian border. Relatively large, it offers far more than ‘just’ a lovely coastline, with a forested and hilly interior adding another dimension to its charms.