The country of Thailand welcomes around sixteen million visitors each and every year, making it the most popular holiday destination in the whole of Asia. One of the reasons for the popularity of Thailand for westerners in particular is that, despite this huge influx of tourists, the country as a whole maintains it cultural integrity. Visitors to Thailand are able to experience the particular blend of traditional Buddhist lifestyle, rice farming and bustling inner city life which has long existed in this historical country. Gavin Manerowski took a trip to Thailand recently to explore the cultural heritage typical of this Asian gem.
Bangkok is both the recognized capital city of Thailand and the cultural center of the country. It is here that western influences can be most readily seen, with high rise buildings and gaudy advertising slogans proliferating. This said, Bangkok still manages to retain much of its old world charm, with both roadside and floating markets selling a combination of fresh produce and traditional dishes prepared to order, a preponderance of ancient Buddhist temples and street theater, dance and puppetry shows aplenty. Rice farming has always been and remains the backbone of Thai industry, and the Khao San Road, possibly the most famous street in Asia, literally translates as ‘milled rice road’, located as it is in what was once the central rice district of the country. The Khao San Road today offers tourists a heady mixture of traditional and contemporary Thai experiences, with everything from budget to gourmet eateries, massage parlors, cheap accommodation, and plenty of places in which to drink and dance the night away.
For a quieter, more authentic Thai experience, heading out of Bangkok and into the countryside very quickly takes visitors into the heart of the paddy fields, where the majority of the population of the country work and live. The Thai landscape features astonishing diversity, with vast tracts of tropical jungle and rain forest giving way to high mountains and dry lowlands, mangrove swamps and acres of unspoiled beaches. Visitors to Thailand are advised to sign up for one of the numerous guided tours which take in vineyards, wildlife sanctuaries, rice fields, ancient temples and sanctuaries and much more. As Gavin Manerowski soon found, a single trip to Thailand is not nearly enough tie in which to explore all the wonders the country has to offer.