Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a sprawling metropolis known for its ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to the opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Emerald Buddha temple. Nearby is Wat Pho with its enormous reclining Buddha and, on the opposite shore, Wat Arun with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire.
Pattaya is a town on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast known for a wild nightlife scene that attracts international visitors, weekenders from Bangkok and expats. A quiet fishing village as recently as the 1960s, it’s now lined with resort hotels, high-rise condos and a large seaside mall. Jet-skiing and parasailing are popular activities at Pattaya’s busy beaches.
Phuket, a rainforested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea, has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mostly situated along the clear waters of the western shore. The island is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants. Patong, the main town, has a more casual vibe and is filled with wild nightclubs, bars and discos.
Chanthaburi is a province in southeast Thailand, fringing the Gulf of Thailand and known for gem dealing and tropical fruit. It has dense forest, waterfalls and mountains in parks like Namtok Phlio National Park and Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. On the coast, sandy Chao Lao Beach is lined with coconut trees, while Khao Laem Sing Forest Park sits on a forested peninsula near the mouth of the Chanthaburi River.
Hat Yai, a city in Thailand’s far south near the Malaysian border, is a sprawling commercial hub and shopping destination. At the Khlong Hae Floating Market, vendors sell local foods and handicrafts from traditional boats docked in a canal. The Wat Hat Yai Nai temple is known for its 35m-long reclining Buddha. Outside the city center, Hat Yai Park is a hilly green area with a standing Buddha statue and a cable car.