<i>Courtesy of Six Senses Evason</i> Credits: <i>Courtesy of Six Senses Evason</i>
1. Fabulous food
In most metropolitan cities across North America and Europe, Thai restaurants abound. And the food you'll find in Thailand is quite similar to the dishes you've come to love here at home ... it's just better. It's possible that everything just tastes better because of its authenticity or perhaps it's that the ingredients are impossibly fresh. Either way, food in Thailand is delicious and healthy. Thai meals typically incorporate five different flavours: Spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter. This winning combination makes each meal an exciting adventure for your taste buds. While Thai cuisine has very distinct flavours, it draws great inspiration and influence from the foods of nearby countries, particularly India and China. Commonly used ingredients include shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, tamarind, coconut milk, lime juice, and palm and coconut sugars. Cilantro, oyster sauce and various chili peppers are also used frequently to give Thai dishes some kick.
Massages are notoriously inexpensive in Thailand. An hour-long, full-body massage can cost as little as $6 for an hour. Massage parlours abound (make sure you find one that's offering legit massages and not those "other" kind) and your options are plentiful, from traditional Thai massages to reflexology and foot massages.
3. Beautiful beaches
Thailand's beautiful beaches are one of the country's main draws, luring sun- and sand-seeking travelers from all points of the globe. One of the most popular beach destinations is Phuket. It's the largest island in Thailand and is a major international resort destination. Due to its popularity, Phuket is typically crawling with tourists so it's not exactly the place for escaping. If you're looking to get far from the madding crowd, try the Evason Phuket and Six Senses Spa. The best part is the private island reserved exclusively for guests. Bon Island is a quick 15-minute boat ride away from the resort (the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle long-tail boat) and is a perfect island paradise. The island has an on-site restaurant and bar and it's the perfect place for swimming and snorkeling. Here, the sand is soft, the water warm and the view ... well, let's just say you'll be dreaming about it for months afterwards.
Page 1 of 24. Cultural attractions
There is no shortage of cultural attractions to see in Thailand. Bangkok, in particular, is full of things to do and see. Temples, palaces, museums ... take your pick. First on your list should be The Grand Palace. Built in 1782, The Grand Palace served as the King's residence, home of the Royal Court and the administrative seat of the government for 150 years. Nowadays, it's a tourist attraction more than anything, though it is occasionally used for special royal ceremonies. Visitors will be dazzled by the intricate detail and imposing architecture of the structures that occupy the 214,000 square meters of sprawling grounds. It's open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm.
5. Canal tours
Once known as the "Venice of the East" because of the many canals (klongs) snaking their way through the city, Bangkok is home to an intricate network of waterways. A tour of these canals is a great way to catch a glimpse into traditional, everyday Thai life, as many homes line the canals. Tours are available simply by heading down to the city's main river, the Chao Phraya. You can hire a boat yourself or find someone offering guided tours. The long-tail boats, which navigate the waterways, are a fun and authentically Thai way to explore this other side of life in the city. Here, you'll see an older lifestyle that seems untouched by the modern advances in Bangkok's city proper.
6. Great shopping
Thailand is known for being a bargain hunter's paradise. From high-end shopping options like The Siam Paragon in Bangkok, the largest shopping complex in the city, situated on a whopping 21 acres to more intimate markets that abound all over the streets, offering inexpensive food, clothing and accessories, there's nothing you won't be able to find ... and all at prices you won't believe. Besides the usual like clothing, luggage and souvenirs, look for things like silk, gold and other precious metals and stones. Thai silk is known the world over for its vibrant colours, gorgeous patterns and of course, its price. If you find fabric you love, you can take it to a tailor shop (they're everywhere, especially in the tourist districts) to have clothing made-to-order and often completed within 24 hours.
7. It's cheap
The strength of the Canadian dollar compared to the Thai baht means that your money will go far! At the time of publication, 100 baht equaled $3.16CDN. For example, a night at a luxury hotel in Bangkok might run you $100 a night (check out the Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel), versus the $500 or $600 a night you might have to cough up at a hotel in other major international cities like London or New York. It's seriously cheap – you can find beautiful silk pashminas for $3 at street stalls or a satisfying meal of more food than you can probably manage for $12. To find current exchange rates, visit xe.com.
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An avid traveler, Natalie Bahadur is a contributor to CanadianLiving.com and the editor of StyleAtHome.com.