The Thai tourist board slogan states ‘amazing Thailand’ and certainly the Land of Smiles offers endless opportunities for amazement. Here we take a look at seven of the Land of Smiles’ most extraordinary draws – some big-ticket and well-known, others overlooked except by locals and the adventurous.
1. White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), Chiang Rai
Talk about minimalism. The most striking fact about this temple is simple: its colour. As its English name spells out, Wat Rong Khun is white, pretty much from top to bottom. One of Thailand’s most dazzling sights, the temple, which mixes Buddhist and Hindu influences, resembles a fairytale palace. A sidelight is the pop-art interior mural that visitors are barred from photographing.
2. Wat Pho, Bangkok
Thailand has a wealth of eye-catching temples in the capital alone. Bangkok’s Wat Pho is especially cool because it contains a giant reclining Buddha about the size of an airliner. The gold-plated behemoth that stretches 46 meters is designed to embody the Buddha’s transition into nirvana (heaven). The reclining Buddha’s feet and eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl. The Wat Pho site includes a Thai massage school where you can be bent and flexed by the hour. You can also enrol in massage classes.
3. Phu Kum Khao, Kalasin
This north-eastern museum’s remarkable lost-world line-up includes life-sized skeletons of the abundant dinosaur species found in the neighbourhood. Besides, the museum displays the archaeological dig-site where fossils of six dinosaurs were uncovered. Phu Kum Khao is said to be the most complete and biggest dinosaur museum in Southeast Asia.
4. Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi
Erawan Falls is named after the erawan: the three-headed white elephant of Hindu myth. And the liquid landmark has elephantine proportions. Erawan Falls consists of no less than seven tiers. Reaching the top tier takes mountains of stamina and a solid sense of balance. Beware slippery muddy patches and tripwire roots.
The remote Thai village of Pai is enchanting. Pai feels like a slice of Switzerland, set at the end of an unrelentingly snaky uphill road, which is well worth it. Despite what you read online, only some travellers get motion sickness. The destination dishes up succulent food, lovely views and a wealth of wildlife, with butterflies whizzing merrily over the hills.
6. The robot building, Bangkok
No attraction in this list of marvellous Land of Smiles lures is simpler or more arresting than Bangkok’s Robot building. Yes, it is a building in the shape of a robot, towering over the Sathorn business district. You have to see the slice of sci-fi set in stone. You can see the robot building clearly from the sky train's Silom line between Sala Daeng and Saphan Taksin stations. On the other side of Bangkok is the Chang Building – kind of like a giant Lego elephant.
7. Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Seua), Krabi
Not to be confused with Tiger Temple, which boasts real tigers, this provincial oddity has no imposing predators strolling around and yet is far cooler – a uniquely eccentric spiritual complex. Tiger Cave Temple’s base is honeycombed with caves containing a wealth of morbid religious relics. The temple’s platform peak, reached by a giant staircase, hosts a dream-like collection of giant Buddhas and towers. Besides, the platform offers captivating views across the lush ‘enchanted province’. Just remember that, as with Erawan Falls, you must be fit to climb the 1237 steps. Go early in the morning with a litre of water per person.
More info: www.amazing-thailand.com