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What is there to see and do in Thailand?

Must-see sights

Thailand is more much more than just a pretty place, it has a deep history and spiritualism that finds expression in its mesmerizing religious and historic sights. Amid the mountains, jungle and cityscapes, countless temples pierce the skyline, rising in distinctive rounded pinnacles.

One absolute must during a visit to Thailand is to spend a little time getting acquainted with the richly-decorated and gilded temples and palaces of Bangkok. Head for the old town area, known as Ratanakosin, hugging the banks of the Chao Phraya River, for a delightful dose of culture and temples. Highlights include Bangkok's oldest temple, Wat Pho, housing a huge reclining golden Buddha, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Outside of Bangkok, the floating markets on the Mae Klong river are a must-see.

Another top attraction is Ayutthaya, which was the royal capital of Siam between the 14th and 18th centuries. It's the perfect place to explore Thailand's deep and fascinating history. The city is brimming with temples, shrines and ruins, most of them contained within an island surrounded by rivers and canals.

Relax and unwind

Finding your own piece of paradise on a tree-tufted tropical island, sipping coconut water and snorkelling around the coral reefs is one of the simple pleasures of holidays in Thailand. The island of Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand has become one of the country's top beach destinations, but its scenic beaches remain unspoilt. The island is a great place to unwind, with a range of luxury hotels, affordable resorts and spas backing onto wide swathes of golden sand. Be sure to try a famous Thai massage while you are here. Though vigorous, you'll be left feeling blissfully relaxed.

The island is also in close proximity to the beautiful Ang Thong National Marine Park that encompasses little emerald uninhabited islands with empty beaches. Taking a day trip here by boat is both exhilarating and deeply relaxing. After exploring hidden lagoons and stunning panoramas, you can lay back on a beach miles from civilisation and drink in the pristine scenery. To really get away from it all, Ko Kut, in the Andaman Sea is a good choice. One of the lesser-known Thai islands, it features a clutch of quiet resorts and postcard-perfect beaches.

With green humped cliffs towering over white indentations of sand, Phi Phi Don is one of the most pictured places in Thailand. It's a natural paradise where you can kick back and enjoy amazing beaches during the day, doze beneath the swaying palms and watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

Spellbinding scenery

Thailand is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery in Asia and taking a boat trip around the islands is essential to fully experience their natural beauty. The towering rock formations, caves and hidden bays of countless uninhabited islets are irresistible. Phanghan Bay, between Krabi mainland and Phuket island, has stunning limestone karst cliffs indented with untrammelled beaches. Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta are two of the most famous of the islands, but there are more than 150 dotted around the coast that can be easily visited by boat.

On islands such as Ko Lanta, in the Andaman Sea, visitors can get back to nature trekking in ancient rainforests, exploring waterfalls and caves, or diving the coral reefs beneath its aquamarine shores.

One of the highlights of holidays in Thailand is travelling through the lush landscape by boat or train. Try taking a boat trip along the Mekong river and exploring the backwaters or board the luxury Eastern and Oriental Express for a journey through the amazing vistas and tropical landscapes of the Thai countryside.

From elephant treks to ancient jungle-entangled ruins to leopard-spotting in verdant valleys -Thailand's well-developed tourism network has made its areas of tropical paradise easily accessible. The area of Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand has one of the oldest rainforests in the world, where mountains and ravines are shrouded in rich and exotic flora and fauna. Explore the lakes, caves and waterfalls on a nature trek, and take a guided wildlife tour to spot monkeys, tropical birds, clouded leopards, tapirs and sun bears.

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