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Thailand

Main attractions

Ko Tapu - James Bond Island, Thailand
Ko Tapu - James Bond Island / René Ehrhardt, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Although Thailand is tourist hotspot, most foreign tourists come to this beautiful country to relax and thus: to prepare for another stressful year of work and daily worries. Natural and cultural heritage of Thailand though offers a lot more. The highlights of this country are:

  • Architecture and art values of Hinduist and Buddhist religious structures, which often are found also in exotic, ancient, abandoned cities, such as old Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Kampheng Phet.
  • Limestone karst scenery along the coast of Andaman Sea. This includes many islands which look like stacks of rock rising from the sea, high cliffs, numerous caves and above all - beautiful scenery.
  • Limestone karst in the north of the country. Here are located numerous caves, which often contain unique cave formations and very valuable archaeological artefacts. Notable landmarks in this area are also countless waterfalls and sinkholes.

Natural monuments

Cliff formations

  • Cliffs of Koh Phi Phi Le island - Krabi province, South. Beautiful, impressive island with deep bays and sheer, several hundred metres high limestone cliffs.
  • Ko Tapu (James Bond Island) - Phang Nga province, South. Approximately 20 m high, rocky monolith rising from the Phang Nga Bay. Popular tourist attraction, especially because this island was featured in James Bond movie in 1974. Area contains many more similar islands.
  • Saphan Hin - Tak province, West. Natural bridge, 25 m wide and high, 30 m long, with stream flowing under it.
  • White Hole - Krabi province, South. Beautiful, 52 m wide natural arch formed in white limestone cliff rising above the surrounding fields.
Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
Tham Lod Cave / Andre Carvalho, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Caves and sinkholes

  • Nam Bua Phi (Spirit Well) - Mae Hong Son province, North. One of the largest sinkholes in Thailand, some 200 m in diameter and 90 - 130 m deep. Below, isolated by the vertical cliff falls, grows a patch of jungle.
  • Spirit Cave and also Banyan Valley Cave and Steep Cliff Cave - Mae Hong Son province, North. Important archaeological monuments. Spirit Cave was inhabited 9000 - 5500 BC by people of Hoabinhian culture. Well preserved evidence of human activity has provided much valuable data, including some data which some decades ago rised hot debates about the possible plant domestication in this area earlier than in most other areas of the world.
  • Tham Hua Kalok (Tham Phi Hua To) - Krabi province, South. Cave with prehistoric paintings in black and red colors. Drawings show people and weird animals. Stories about ghost with big skull living in this cave in earlier times - reportedly here have been found giant skulls. Other caves and cliffs in this region also contain prehistoric paintings.
  • Tham Lod Cave (Tham Lot) - Mae Hong Son province, North. 1,666 m long cave system with Nam Lang River flowing approximately 1 km through it. Cave is adorned with beautiful, over 20 m high speleothems but unusual attractions are ornate teakwood coffins made some 1,700 years ago. Cave contains also prehistoric drawing of a deer, unfortunately obliterated. Region contains at least 83 caves with such Iron Age burials, there are at least 12 rock art sites in local caves of this area.
  • Tham Kaew Komol - Mae Hong Son province, North. Cave with gorgeous, unusual calcite and aragonite crystal formations.
  • Tham Mae Usu - Tak province, West. Very impressive cave, 1,586 m long, located in impressive, 60 m deep sinkhole. Stream flows through the cave. It is possible that the water of stream is heated by geothermal power - water is some 30°C warm.
  • Tham Phra Wang Daeng - Phitsanulok province, Central. Longest known cave in Thailand, 13,844 m long. Cave contains also a golden statue of Buddha. Endemic cave fishes.
Thi Lo Su Falls, Thailand
Thi Lo Su Falls / Amir Yalon, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Namtok Mae Ya - Chiang Mai province, North. Beautiful, some 250 m tall and 100 m wide waterfall, flowing down the numerous steps.
  • Namtok Pha Charoen - Tak province, West. Beautiful waterfall flowing through 97 levels - rimstone pools.
  • Thi Lo Su Falls (Namtok Teelorsu, Thilawsu, Umphang Thee Lor Sue) - Tak province, West. One of the largest falls in Thailand, some 200 - 250 m tall and approximately 400 m wide, spread in the jungle.
Field of Siam Tulips in Pa Hin Ngam National Park, Thailand
Field of Siam Tulips in Pa Hin Ngam National Park / FGMB, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Fields of Siam tulips of Pa Hin Ngam - Chayaphum province, Northeast. Extensive meadows of Siam Tulips (Curcuma alismatifolia Gagnep.) on limestone plateaus in Pa Hin Ngam National Park. Pink flowers cover the land in April.
  • Naga fireballs of Mekong - Nong Khai, north-east of Thailand and Vientiane Province, Laos. Unique phenomenon - glowing reddish balls rising from the water of Mekong River and going upwards in the air. Local people even organise festivity at late nights of October to observe this weird sight. Sometimes there are seen thousands of such balls over one night. It is possible that this is combustion of gases emanating from the sediments of river.
  • Pong Duad (Pong Duaed, Tha Pai) - Chiang Mai, North. Hot springs and up to 2 m high geyser located in dense forest.
  • Thung Dok Bua Tong meadows - Mae Hong Son province, North. Vast meadows (1,400 ha) here are covered with Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray). In late November - December these picturesque, hilly meadows are covered with millions of large, yellow flowers.
  • Ton Krabak Yai - Tak province, West. Giant krabak tree (Anisoptera costata Korth.) with circumference of 16.10 m, 58 m tall. This is considered to be the biggest tree in Thailand although it is possible that there are even bigger ones in other tropical forests of the country.

Man made monuments

Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya / Diricia De Wet, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Ancient cities

  • Ayutthaya Old City - Ayutthaya province, Central. Former capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767, when it was destroyed by Burmese. Around 1700 AD this city had approximately 1 million inhabitants - it was one of the largest in the world. The site still contains numerous ruins of Buddhist monasteries and temples, including the magnificent royal temple Wat Chaiwatthanaram (1630) with 35 m high temple spire - prang.
  • Chiang Saen - Chiang Rai province, North. Remnants of ancient fortified city in remote part of Golden Triangle. Supposedly established in the 6th century AD, this city became a capital of Lanna Thai kingdom. Seen ruins of double walls as well as remnants of Buddhist temples with distinctive style of sculptures.
  • Kampheng Phet (Kamphaeng Phet) - Sukhothai province, Central. Remnants of formerly important city, established in the mid 14th century. City includes 6 m high defensive wall with moat and numerous ornate structures overgrown with forest. Includes impressive temples such as Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Chang Rob.
  • Si Satchanalai - Sukhothai province, Central. Remnants of ancient town. Here are located several impressive ancient temples, for example, Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo and some 140 other structures.
  • Sukhothai Old City (Muang Gao, Sukothai) - Sukhothai province, Central. Former capital of Sukhothai kindgom in 1238 - around 1380. Contains ruins of magnificent early Thai architecture from the 13th - 14th centuries. Important structures are remnants of fortification wall and temples - the royal Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Chum and Wat Sa Si (Wat Sra Si).
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun / Sergey Zhatchenko, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Religious structures

  • Ancient Phimai (Vimaya, Vimayapura) - Nakhon Ratchasima province, Northeast. Important Khmer temple, which marks the north-western end of ancient highway from Angkor. This beautiful Buddhist temple represents an enclosed, 1,020 x 580 m large area which contains remnants of buildings built in the 11th - 12th centuries.
  • Chedi Wihan Samphutthe temple at Wat Mani Phraison - Tak province, West. Unusual Buddhist temple consisting of 233 smaller pagodas surrounding the central tower. Temple contains 512,028 Buddha images.
  • Phanom Rung temple - Buri Ram province, Northeast. Beautiful Khmer temple complex built on the rim of extinct volcanic complex in the 10th - 13th centuries AD. This Hindu temple is devoted to Shiva and symbolises the sacred Mount Kailash.
  • Wat Arun - Bangkok, Central. Impressive Buddhist temple with very tall central tower (67 - 86 m tall according to different sources). Construction started in 1809.
  • Wat Benchamabophit - Bangkok, Central. Beautiful Buddhist temple, built as a royal temple. Construction started in 1899.
  • Wat Chedi Luang - Chiang Mai province, North. Buddhist temple, developed in several stages since the 14th century AD. In the mid 15th century the temple was 82 m high, but in 1545 the earthquake destroyed the upper 30 m of the structure.
  • Wat Phra Kaew - Bangkok, Central. The most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. It houses the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand - Emerald Buddha. This sculpture is made of single green jasper piece and clothed in gold.
  • Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat - Phitsanulok province, Central. Buddhist temple, established in 1357. Contains some 700 years old golden statue of Buddha as well as other treasures.
  • Wat Rong Khun - Chiang Rai province, North. One of the most astonishing achievements of modern religious architecture, a lifetime project of artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction of this extremely ornate Hindu and Buddhist temple was started in 1997 and all the structure is made in white color.
Pavillion in Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Pavillion in Grand Palace, Bangkok / Greg Knapp, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Other man made attractions

  • Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall - Bangkok, Central. Very ornate Neo-Renaissance building, completed in 1915. Historically important building, initially built as a royal reception hall.
  • Ban Chiang - Udon Thani province, Northeast. Important archaeological site: Neolithic - Iron Age settlement. This site helped to identify the comparatively well advanced Southeast Asian civilisation. In burials found intact pottery jars and other artefacts.
  • Grand Palace of Bangkok - Bangkok, Central. Royal palace of King of Thailand since the 18th century. Built in 1782 and since then constantly expanded, total area reaches 94.5 ha. Palace has magnificent, opulent architecture with large amount of gold used for adornment.
  • Phu Phrabat historical park - Udon Thani province, Northeast. Visually interesting geological formation with sandstone pillars, often seemingly instable and defying gravity. Site has served as a ceremonial centre and contains multiple prehistoric and historic cliff paintings (45 sites), Buddhist carvings created in several periods by several cultures. In total here are 68 prehistoric structures, interesting megaliths among them.
  • Vimanmek Palace - Bangkok, Central. Beautiful royal palace built of golden teak wood in 1900.

List of described attractions by regions

Thailand is divided into 75 provinces and metropolitan municipality - Bangkok. This is very high number thus Wondermondo divides Thailand in 5 groups of provinces:

Central
East
North
Northeast (Isan)
ArrowNaga fireballs of Mekong Meteorological phenomena, Sites of legends
South

Map of Thailand

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