Not only is Thailand one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, it also has an incredibly high rate of repeat visitors. Around 30 million foreigners visit each year and, according to the Tourism Minister, 60 to 70 per cent of these have been before.
Last autumn, I visited Thailand for the first time and, like so many before me, I've been bitten by the bug to go back.
This got me thinking: just what is it about Thailand that gets people so hooked? The hot weather, beautiful beaches and affordable prices certainly play a part but, for me, this doesn't seem enough for multiple repeat visits – you could tick the same boxes in Malaysia, Indonesia or Sri Lanka.
When I asked friends and family who had been before, it seemed that everyone had their own reasons for returning, whether it was a favourite beach or luxury resort, the fantastic nightlife or the far flung islands.
For me, there are five key factors that have me hankering to go back
The endless adventures
Deciding where to visit on my first trip to Thailand was incredibly tough, and asking friends for advice only made it worse. Everyone insisted that they'd been to the best bits, whether that meant the Ko Samui or Andaman islands; and the Chiang Mai hill tribes or the backpacker hub of Pai. It's impossible to see it all, so I made a short list to tick off on my first trip, and a long list of places to return to.
I now have more than a decade's worth of islands, provinces and hill country adventures to work through, and the list keeps getting longer. For a return trip, islands are my top priority, with popular spots like Ko Tao and Ko Phi Phi still to discover, as well as lesser-visited islands further south towards Malaysia. I'd also love to climb some of the country's highest peaks, experience more of Bangkok's nightlife, and travel to the seldom-visited northeast provinces.
The incredibly kind locals
Ever-smiling, full of kindness and with a wicked sense of humour, the Thai people I met were incredibly easy to get along with, and my tour guides were genuinely good company. With a long history of tourism, most Thai people are very accustomed to foreign travellers and western culture, so they're likely to understand your needs and be tolerant as you adapt to theirs.
On my recent trip, I was travelling alone yet I never once felt lonely, afraid or uneasy. From reminding me to take my shoes off at temples, to handing me a poncho in a monsoon downpour, and asking how spicy I wanted my curry, the help and kindness I experienced on my visit is a big part of my desire to go back.
The fantastic food
I'm yet to meet someone who doesn't like Thai food but, while we've all tucked-in to takeaways at home, it tastes far better when eaten at a Bangkok street stall or a bamboo beach hut.
Along with Thai classics like green curry and pad Thai, I discovered exotic new dishes like yellow catfish curry, Nan-style pork and a whole world of soups, stir-fries and curries. Even just thinking about the delicious balance of sweet, spicy and salty flavours gets my mouth watering!
The outdoor activities
Outdoor activities are high on my priority list whenever I plan a trip somewhere. In Thailand, I hiked to the hill tribes in Nan province and trekked through the jungle in Khao Sok National Park. Both were incredible, and worth going back for alone but I merely scratched the surface in terms of the activities Thailand has to offer.
There's so much to experience here, whether you're into biking, hiking, kayaking or climbing, or want to do something different every time. For my next trip, I'd love to go scuba-diving off the Similan Islands or free-diving in Koh Tao, and rock climbing in Krabi, rafting in Phang Na or caving in Mae Hong Son.
The direct flights
Finally, its the flights: the sheer convenience of boarding a plane in the UK, dozing off in front of a film, and waking up in Thailand eleven hours later is a big factor in Thailand's popularity.
Thai International, British Airways and Eva Air offer direct daily flights from Heathrow to Bangkok, or you can fly from most other major UK airports if you don't mind making a stop along the way.
Thailand comes up trumps
Since returning from Thailand, I've recommended it to everyone. This country comes up trumps for every tourist type, whether you're an intrepid explorer, or a young family. The low prices, great value and impeccable service appeal to a whole spectrum of budgets, from shoestring backpackers to luxury tourists who like the finer things. And, with endless opportunities for fun, relaxation and adventure, there's enough to keep you coming back for a lifetime.