A land where the past overlaps with the present and tradition harmonizes with modernity. A place where old Buddhist monasteries are framed by glossy skyscrapers, touching someone's head is a deadly insult and tourist trade has created a side-industry populated by confidence tricksters. Here progressive lifestyle, blinding city lights and tantalizing music blend with traditional rites, devout spirituality and meditation. That's Thailand in all it's glory.
The country's capital, Bangkok, is a major tourist gateway and it is here that you are probably in for a bit of a shocker. The city boasts some of the country's most appealing historical venues such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, but the hectic lifestyle and rather unremarkable modern architecture somehow do not rise up to majority's expectations of exotic Siam. Don't take it for granted, though. After all, beauty lies in the eyes of a beholder, and despite the slight concrete jungle feel, Bangkok is an unquestionable must-see. However, if you're discouraged enough, choose the city of Pattaya around 160 km southeast from the capital. As regards this sun-caressed hub of blissful indulgence, we have no doubts you're going to love it.
Yet it is Chiang Mai that makes a trip to Thailand complete. Cleanse your spirits in countless Buddhist temples, have your bodies treated with a heavenly Thai massage, spoil your stomachs with unearthly cuisine, and reunite with nature trekking up Doi Inthanon or watching 30 rescued elephants in a nearby nature park. Polish it off with compulsive shopping at a famous nightly bazaar for counterfeit products of all descriptions, get a taste of bohemian nightlife and when the day starts to dawn, take a flight to the divine island of Phuket, where you're bound to regain balance after a dose of urban adrenaline.
Before you readily believe in the widespread reputation of Thailand as the land of smiles and picture Thais as a happy-go-lucky mob, bear in mind that a smile here is a universal reaction to all sorts of feelings and circumstances ranging from joy and cordiality through disappointment and embarrassment to belief in favorable fate and deluded optimism that things will somehow work out. It's just that Thai gentleness makes them unwilling to flaunt their problems and this apparently ambiguous facial expression helps them stand above adversities. But doesn't it make them even more admirable?