If you’re considering a trip to Southeast Asia, you have a large number of options to choose from. You can explore the 18,000 islands of Indonesia, admire the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, or witness the transformation of Vietnam with its rapidly expanding economy and luxurious South China Sea resorts. Of the Southeast Asian destinations, Thailand is among the best choices you can make.

Many of the countries in the area share certain attractions, such as natural beauty and exciting wildlife. Food all over Southeast Asia is tasty and varied. What is it that sets apart Thailand from the rest?

Thailand: The Land of Smiles

Any country that earns a nickname like The Land of Smiles is probably deserving of a closer look. In the tourist-heavy areas in Bangkok and Phuket, life is frantic and self-absorbed, as it is in any exceptionally crowded city. Get to know the people as individuals, though, and the picture changes. The Thai are a friendly people, and are happy to share their culture and their cities with you. As you travel outside the bustle of Bangkok, you will find those smiles coming more and more often.

In the mountain province of Chiang Mai, you will find a laid-back lifestyle with plenty of entertainment variety and a large expat population. The eastern coastal town of Pattaya offers a mix of exciting night life and unique attractions, such as the Sriracha Tiger Zoo. The slow-paced Hua Hin offers elegant beach living.

Variety

Thailand has oceans and rivers, islands and mountains, fishing villages and modern metropolises. Home to some of the most impressive and famous Buddhist architecture, Thailand’s many temples offer statuary, tapestries, and beautiful gardens. The night bazaars have locally produced foods, handicrafts, clothing, and artwork. Movies and music from the west and neighboring Asian countries play in the theaters, bars, and restaurants. An entire visit could be dedicated to food, another to architecture, and another to nature tourism, and still only the surface would have been scratched.

Amenities

Reliable electricity, running water, high speed internet, and western style toilets are widely available. If you spend your time on a butterfly farm in rural Thailand, you may have to sacrifice some of these amenities, but if they are important to you, you will have no problem planning your travel to include them.

Value

Your money goes a long way in Thailand. A short-term apartment rental with hot water, electricity, and internet, may set you back $200 USD per month, even in the city. Filling street foods can be had for around $1 each. Taxis, buses, and trains are available for a handful of Thai Baht. A value-minded traveler will find plenty of ways to find big fun without a big price tag.