Thailand for first timers: Quick intro to the country's top tourist destinations

For the global traveler seeking new experiences, Thailand beckons. Discover idyllic islands, vibrant markets, stunning temples, and the Grand Palace among its many attractions.

With an area of over 500,000 sq km, Thailand presents a plethora of destinations for exploration. Let’s delve into some of the remarkable places to visit during your sojourn.


Locally referred to as Krung Thep or the City of Angels, Bangkok possesses the capability to heal your heart and soul with the colorful journey it can take you on.

From scrumptious street foods and the largest outdoor market in the world to mesmerizing temples and palaces that have seen many shades of human civilization, the multifaceted capital of Thailand has plenty to offer. 

The Grand Palace 

The Grand Palace was constructed in 1782 when King Rama I decided to crown Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. The palace serves as both a residence for the royals and an administrative office. The palace grounds consist of the Halls of Residence, Throne Halls, administrative buildings and the Chapel Royal. 

The Chapel Royal, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is located northeast of the Front Court. King Rama I installed the Emerald Buddha in the Chapel Royal and accorded the temple Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, which translates to the Temple of the Auspicious Buddha. 

The figurine of the meditating Buddha is made from a singular piece of green jade and is clothed in gold and diamonds. The Royal family and Thai nationals greatly herald it as Thailand’s most precious religious icon.

The Grand Palace and the Chapel Royal are open daily from 8.30 am– 4.30pm. The entrance fee is 500 bahts. 

Mahanakhon Sky Walk

King Power Mahanakhon, home to the Mahanakhon Sky Walk, is a must-visit destination in Bangkok. Standing at 314 meters, it offers a panoramic view of the city that’s nothing short of breathtaking.

Upon entering, you’re greeted by digital walls leading to Thailand’s fastest elevators. You’re whisked to the 74th floor in less than a minute, where a 360-degree indoor observation deck awaits. The 75th floor serves as the boarding area for a hydraulic glass lift, offering another stunning view.

The pinnacle of the experience is the 78th floor, with two unique viewing experiences. The Glass Tray Experience lets you stand on a glass tray at 310 meters, capturing the skyline below. The Outdoor 360-degree Observation Deck, Thailand’s highest outdoor observation area, is located at The Peak at 314 meters.

The complex also houses the Mahanakhon CUBE, a seven-story mall featuring retail shops, restaurants, cafes, and services. It includes a skywalk to the tower, a rooftop garden, and the Thai Taste Hub, a food hall showcasing Thai street food and Michelin-starred restaurants. Coffee shops, dessert bars, and international cuisine round out the offerings.


IconSiam is a bustling hub of opulence and glamour, offering an experience akin to stepping into a lively Renaissance painting. 

From popular brands like H&M and Uniqlo to exclusive boutiques such as Hermes, Dior, and Louis Vuitton, IconSiam houses a mix of Thai designer outlets and international haute couture. It also hosts over 100 restaurants, offering a culinary journey through more than 30 different countries.

A visit to IconSiam is incomplete without exploring Siam Sook, the ground-floor floating market. This vibrant market features temples, long-tail boats, Thai pavilions, and stores selling traditional Thai snacks and regional handicrafts. 

Em-Sphere Mall

Em-Sphere Mall, a recent addition to the retail landscape, opened in December 2023. 

The mall is segmented into various zones, each serving a distinct purpose. Em Galleria is a haven for fashion aficionados, featuring high-end brands and Thai designers. Em Mercado, the heart of the International Food Market, tantalizes food lovers with street food and global cuisines.

Em Wonder, a vibrant nightlife hub in the heart of Bangkok, offers a spectrum of entertainment for locals and tourists alike, including a beach club, bar, nightclub, and 24-hour lounge. Em Park, a pet-friendly green space perched high above the city, provides visitors and their furry companions with a relaxing retreat. Em Innovation introduces Thai people to pioneering products from world-class brands.

Safari World 

A 45-minute drive from Bangkok’s heart takes you to Safari World, Asia’s largest open-air zoo. 

Safari World is divided into three distinct sections. Section 1, the Safari Park, offers a drive-through experience where guests can observe a variety of animals, including giraffes, zebras, ostriches, camels, crested cranes, lions, tigers, antelopes, and Canadian bears, in their natural habitats.

Section 2, the Marine Park, is a haven for aquatic life.

Section 3, the Jungle Walk, is an interactive area where visitors can feed different animals and enjoy exhibits like the sun conure parrots, a Russian walrus show, and several rare species such as the Victoria crested pigeon, Amazon snakehead, and capybara giant rat.

Safari World is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission tickets range from 450 to 750 bahts for adults and 350 to 650 bahts for children. 

Thai Food Bus Tour

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to experience meals prepared by Michelin-star chefs while on wheels, then your curiosity has a destination.

The Thai Food Bus Tour is a unique way to experience Bangkok seated in a comfortable, top-graded bus equipped with modern amenities, moving across the inner city while gorging onto gourmet food cooked by 3-michelin star chefs.

This tour encompasses more than 18 attractions around Rattanakosin Island. Please note that the Thai Food Bus Tour is fully booked for 2024. Stay tuned for the opening of bookings for 2025. 

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Before departing from Bangkok, it’s a must to explore the world’s largest outdoor market, the Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as JJ Market. With 15,000 stalls, it offers a vast array of items, from street food, souvenirs, and artwork to home decor, off-brand designer clothes, and a variety of baubles and oddities. 

The plant section of JJ Market welcomes visitors on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7am to 6pm. The wholesale section operates from 6am to 12pm on Fridays. For a full market experience, visit on Saturdays and Sundays when the entire market is open from 9am to 6pm.


Known as the Pearl of the Andaman Sea, Phuket stands as Thailand’s largest island. Its name, translating roughly to “mountain jewel,” is aptly justified by the island’s majestic hills and sweeping vistas.

Phuket, renowned for its array of over 30 spectacular beaches, invites us on an imaginative journey.

Nai Harn Beach

Nestled between verdant hills and petite islands in the south of Phuket, Nai Harn Beach is a serene retreat. A leisurely stroll on the soft, white sands of Nai Harn Beach could be a soothing balm for the weary, and if not, it certainly offers a tranquil sanctuary and an ideal escape.

Kamala Beach

Kamala Beach is a prime tourist attraction on Phuket’s west coast. This expansive beach is adorned with soft, pale sand and lined by casuarinas and coconut trees. During the high season, its shallow waters are crystal clear, adding to its allure.

Kamala Beach is also a gastronomic hotspot, boasting a variety of restaurants serving both Thai and international cuisines. This blend of natural beauty and culinary delights makes it a favoured destination among tourists.

Café Del Mar

Nestled on the northern side of Kamala Beach, this iconic beach club offers the ultimate blend of relaxation and luxury. As the sun sets, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views while enjoying delectable cuisine and handcrafted cocktails. Resident and guest DJs and a live saxophonist provide the perfect soundtrack.

The diverse beverage selection includes classic cocktails and unique concoctions, complemented by a fusion of Thai, Japanese, and Italian cuisines. Café Del Mar welcomes guests daily from 12pm to 10pm, with extended hours on select days. 

The Great Buddha of Phuket

The Great Buddha of Phuket, or Phuket Big Buddha, is 45 meters tall and sits atop Nakkerd Hill (also spelled Nagakerd). The official name of the Buddha statue is Phra Phutta Ming Mongkol Eknakakiri, which can be translated as “the Cherished Auspicious Lord Buddha atop the Naga Hill.” 

The Big Buddha statue is made of marble and is a marvel to behold from anywhere in southern Phuket. A striking stairway of 94 stairs leads to the statue of Big Buddha, and a few steps to the west leads to another short staircase that leads to the terrace.

From the terrace, you will get a marvelous panorama of Karon Beach and a bird’s eye view of Kata Bay, Kata Noi Bay, Promthep Cape, and Nai Harn Windmill. 

Shopping centers & nightlife in Phuket 

Before we wrap up our journey in Phuket, it’s essential to highlight a few must-visit places.

Central Phuket 

Central Phuket offers a refreshing break from the beach, providing a cool, air-conditioned haven. This bustling piazza caters to every desire, from retail therapy at over 500 stores to a gastronomic adventure at top-notch restaurants, cafes, and buffets. Wellness centres add to the mix, ensuring a holistic experience.

Central Phuket is also home to some of Phuket’s premier attractions. These include Aquaria Phuket, an immersive aquarium, Tribhum, a magical forest with an enchanting show, and Su Va Na, the world’s largest underwater restaurant.

The Central Phuket Mall welcomes visitors from 10am to 10pm, offering a full day of exploration and enjoyment.

Phuket Weekend Market

The Phuket Weekend Market is a must-visit for those who love a great deal. Known locally as the Naka Market or Chaofa Variety Weekend Market, it’s a treasure trove of second-hand goods, souvenirs, and everyday items, all at reasonable prices. It’s the perfect spot to find unique items to remember your trip.

If you’re a foodie, the western part of the market is a culinary paradise. You can savor delectable Thai street food here and enjoy a chilled beer.

The Phuket Weekend Market is open every weekend from 4pm to 11pm. To beat the crowds, it’s recommended to arrive around 4pm. This vibrant market is sure to enhance your Phuket experience.

Bangla Walking Street

For a unique experience on your Thai vacation, make sure to visit Bangla Walking Street. This pedestrian-friendly street, a rarity in many parts of the world, ensures a safe and peaceful stroll.

Spanning 400 meters, Bangla Road is dotted with various alleys, or ‘soi,’ such as Soi Freedom and Soi Hollywood. Each soi boasts its unique character, hosting an array of go-go bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.

Bangla Walking Street comes alive as the sun sets, greeting ‘bonsoir’ to the evening. Neon-lit restaurants and bars open their doors, welcoming guests to enjoy the vibrant nightlife.


If we were to choose a picturesque spot in Thailand for a postcard or Polaroid, Krabi would be the top pick. This dreamy port town, nestled in southwestern Thailand along the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca, is a treasure trove of marine wonders. 

Your Krabi adventure can encompass everything sea-related — from shell reefs, subterranean streams, and caves to diving hotspots, limestone cliffs, and historical elephant kraals.  

Phi Phi Island

The Archipelago of Phi Phi Islands comprises small islands open to tourism. The most popular ones are Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, and Bamboo Island.

Phi Phi Ley

Phi Phi Ley houses the famous bay that graced the silver screen as the setting for “D” beach from the movie The Beach. Visitors to Maya Bay will find a white sandy beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and coral reefs.

Monkey Beach

Located Northwest of Phi Phi Island, Monkey Beach is a strip of land covered in pearlescent sand and surrounded by emerald waters that presents gorgeous scenery for photography. A steep limestone cliff covered with lush vegetation completes the idyllic scene. The crystal blue shallow water makes it seem like you are taking a dip in your own personal aquarium. 

As the name suggests, Monkey Beach is home to monkeys who leave behind a lasting impression on tourists. 

Bamboo Island

Bamboo Island is tucked away on the utmost northeastern island of the Phi Phi archipelago. It is shaped like a heart and is almost entirely surrounded by a reef that extends up to 500 meters from the shore.

Bamboo Island offers great snorkeling opportunities and a rare chance to respectfully interact with the indigenous communities living in the nearby Tonsai Village or Sea Gypsies Village. 

Railay Beach

Railay Beach calls for your attention if you want to climb a mountain and witness the most beautiful sunset standing on an equally divine, serene beach. Limestone cliffs and caves harboring shrines add an adventurous thrill to the air. 

Hong Islands

Located off the coast of Krabi in southern Thailand, Hong Islands are a group of rocky glitches in the Andaman Sea. The islands are painted with white sandy beaches, rainforests, and hidden lagoons for one to uncover with a boat ride. 

Krabi Night Market at Ao Nang

Before bidding farewell to Krabi, don’t miss the vibrant Krabi Night Market. Located on Nopparat Thara Beach, this lively market springs to life every day at 4pm. Here’s what awaits you.

At the market, you can enjoy live music as local musicians perform. Savor a variety of culinary delights, from seafood to traditional Thai street food. Embark on a global culinary journey with Indian, Japanese, and Korean dishes. Explore stalls selling clothing, electronic gadgets, and unique knickknacks you won’t find elsewhere.

Koh Samui  

Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island. It is located off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus and is a part of the Surat Thani Province. White sandy beaches, coconut trees, flowers, and coral reefs bedazzle the island. 

Chaweng Beach

On the eastern coast of Koh Samui, crystal blue waters and fine white sand create a symphony to behold at Chaweng Beach, the island’s largest beach.

There are two small islands near the reef. One can be reached during the day by walking through the shallow water; the other can be visited when snorkeling or kayaking. 

Despite being one of Koh Samui’s popular beaches, Chaweng Beach maintains a rare level of serenity. It is renowned for being ideal for the exuberant, youthful crowd, with parties at the beach clubs featuring DJ bars and fireworks.

Ang Thong National Marine Park

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is an archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It was only established as a marine national park in 1980. Ang Thong means ‘golden basin’. 

Ang Thong National Park houses rare gems, including the Ang Thong Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum Ang Thong), an endemic species found only in Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park. The park is home to a varied range of animal species, including dusky leaf monkeys, leopard cats, and many more.

Many tour companies offer both group and private tours to the islands, which can easily be arranged upon arrival. Canoes or kayaks are not available to rent on the island, and they must be arranged via a tour operator before arrival. 

Samui Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary

Samui Elephant Sanctuary provides a caring home to rescued elephants so they are safe yet can live more naturally. The elephant sanctuary experience opens up a gate where visitors can safely be in the presence of elephants for half a day, witness them, learn about their history and personalities, and safely feed the elephants from a respectful distance. 

Fisherman Village 

One of our last destinations in Koh Samui is the Fisherman Village. Contrary to its name, the village is not inhabited by fishermen now; however, it once was a community of thriving fishermen. This revered nook is now lined up with restaurants, bars, and shops, making it an ideal destination for a fun-filled day or a leisurely stroll.


While Pattaya is widely recognized as Thailand’s vibrant party hub, it offers much more than its lively nightlife. This dynamic beach resort city boasts a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered.

Columbia Picture Aquaverse 

Located a stone’s throw from South Pattaya on the Eastern Seaboard, this dreamlike waterpark invites you to step into a fantasy world. As you pass through the moon gate, you’ll find yourself immersed in beloved Columbia Pictures universes, including Hotel Transylvania, Ghostbusters, Zombieland, Jumanji, Emoji Movie, and more.

At Aquaverse, your inner child can run wild. Be a Ghostbuster, mingle with fun monsters at Drac’s castle, or feel the adrenaline of driving a race car for a day! The waterpark offers a plethora of exciting activities. It’s not just about riding waterslides; you’ll also interact with characters from Columbia Pictures.

Aquaverse operates daily from 10am to 6pm. Explore their various packages available for purchase on the official website, with prices starting from 1,390 bahts (S$51.35) per person. Dive into a cinematic adventure like no other! 

Koh Larn – Coral Island

Koh Larn has six main beaches and several other small beaches for you to pick from and enjoy. You will be surrounded by little mountain peaks and the beautiful sea as you make new memories of swimming, sailing, parasailing, kayaking, and motorbiking your way through this island. 

Koh Larn is located at the southeastern end of the Bay of Bangkok and on the east side of the Gulf of Siam. A ferry or speedboat from Pattaya takes you to Koh Larn, Coral Island. 

Terminal 21 Shopping Mall

Find your way to Terminal 21 for your portal through some of the world’s grandest cities while still staying in Pattaya. Mirroring an airport, Terminal 21 welcomes its guests with a dupe passport of its own that serves as a guide through the nine storeys of the mall. Each storey is designed after a famous city, e.g., Paris, London, Italy, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Hollywood. 

The visitors are also given a “tourist privilege card,” which contains information about special discounts and offers in the various stores. 

Sanctuary of Truth 

Set in the north of Pattaya, this wooden castle — known as the Sanctuary of Truth — reflects the tales of world wisdom in the form of sculptures and carvings. Owing to its ancient Thai carpentry style, it is the largest wooden building in Thailand, which is made solely of wood. 

In addition to admiring this work of art, visitors to the Sanctuary of Truth can also tour via carriage or ride an elephant, take a boat trip around the coastal line, attend the art and tradition show, martial arts show, or dolphin show, and more. 

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is nestled in the northern region, a 700-kilometer journey from Thailand’s heart. With a history spanning over 700 years, it was once the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom in the late 1200s. 

While ample development has taken place in Chiang Mai, the heartbeat of the old city can still be found all over the city. The Old City area still retains remnants of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. Chiang Mai is home to over 300 Buddhist temples; hence, it is also known as the Temple Capital of Thailand.  

The ancient heart of the Lanna Kingdom now lives with the symphony of modernity blended with its traditions. A trip to Thailand will not be complete without a visit to the following two destinations. 

Doi Inthanon National Park & Waterfalls

Known as the “roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Thailand’s most popular national parks. It is 70 kilometers from the heart of Chiang Mai towards the southwestern side.

The national park is adorned with various kinds of evergreen trees and several kinds of birds and animals, such as wild boars, gibbons, and deer. Over 500 species of birds live in the park, which sets the record for the highest number in Thailand. 

The only waterfall accessible by foot from the camp headquarters is Sirithan Waterfall. There are also a few waterfalls embellishing the road to the headquarters, a very short stroll from the main road. Most waterfalls have a good flow of water all year round, but the monsoon season from May to November brings forth the best view of the waterfall, with the rain adding to its already natural beauty. 

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar & Walking Street

Chiang Mai gives its tourists many night bazaars and market experiences. One such market is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. It comes alive every day at 5 pm and goes on till midnight. It takes place at Chang Khlan Road and Loi Kroh Road intersections and stretches for about two blocks in every direction. 

Tha Pae Sunday Walking Street is another example. It is one of the most famous in Chiang Mai because it’s being hosted only once a week. Every Sunday, from 4 pm to 10.30 pm, the one-kilometer-long road stretching from Tha Pae Gate towards Ratchadamnoen Road in the west is closed off for vehicles to make way for pedestrians to enjoy the market on foot. An assortment of handicrafts, souvenirs, and accessories are available at the market. 

Pongyang Zipline & Jungle Coaster

The Pongyang Zipline allows visitors to play through 36 stages over a luscious green jungle, a unique jungle liner, and an exciting jungle bicycle adventure.   

Don’t miss out on the Jungle Coaster. This rollercoaster is in the heart of the jungle, and travelers are driven in twin-bounce sledges through a railed sled at a speed of 40km/hour at varying heights — between one and six meters off the ground.

You can choose from several packages, with prices ranging from 2000 baht per person for Package B to 3000 baht per person for Diamond Package. Package B includes  Zipline 12 station, Jungle Coaster, lunch or coffee and cake, etc. The Diamond Package includes Zipline 34-station, Jungle Coaster, t-shirt, coffee and cake, lunch etc.

ALSO READ: Discover your dream itinerary: Inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s finest culinary journeys in No Reservations

This article was first published in Wego.


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