There is something for everyone in Thailand – a country that has always been synonymous with western backpackers. Setting the Scene If you mention… tropical island paradises; white sand deserted beaches; sumptuous resorts; spectacular waterfalls; tropical rainforests teaming with flora, fauna & exotic wildlife; centuries-old ancient ruins from past civilizations; colourful hill tribes; floating markets; pristine coral reefs; atmospheric Buddhist temples; Buddhist monks; rave parties; yoga retreats; massage parlours; opulent palaces; immaculately manicured gardens and parks; …. you can only be talking about Thailand. Partly thanks to the 19th century King Rama IV, who loved all things western, this never colonised unique nation, has been enthusiastically welcoming visitors to its shores since the mid nineteen-sixties when the intrepid western backpackers first discovered the "Land of Smiles." Much has changed since those far-off days; when the population was steeped in poverty in a largely agriculture-based economy, and the military was enmeshed in the US-led catastrophic Vietnam War. Year by year and decade by decade, this now well-developed nation has made tourism one of the cornerstones of its economic policy. In 2016 alone, over 32 million foreigners, visited Thailand and there is no sign of this number peaking anytime soon. So just what is it about Thailand that makes it second only to China as the top tourist destination in Asia? The backpackers undoubtedly led the charge back in the 70s and early 80s. They discovered little 'paradises' all over Thailand that have subsequently been transformed into fully-fledged tourist spots; with many of them now accessible to one and all – from budget backpackers to the high-end luxury tourist. Thailand has a population of 68 million, and it is the largest Buddhist country in the world, with 85% of them devout Buddhists. It has a land mass that is more than double the size of the UK, and despite its meteoric development over the past 30 years; you can still find many areas with laidback lifestyles that have hardly changed in hundreds of years. What’s to See? Trek through the lush green terrain of Doi Inthanon National Park – the home of Thailand's highest mountain - with its riot of wild flowers and blossoms; discover the spectacular caves at Soppong; chill out in the 'Little Tuscany' of Chiang Dao; take a spiritual break in the picturesque town of Mae Hong Son; visit the infamous 'death railway' in Kanchanaburi; take a walk through the stunning national parks of the Northeast (Isaan), with spectacular mountain scenery and thundering waterfalls. Alternatively, rest up in the sleepy border town of Nong Khai with its views of Laos across the mighty Mekong River; go full on partying at the Full Moon parties on Ko Pha Ngan; or go diving in the underwater wonderland around Ko Tao. There is so much to see and do across this spectacular country that it's difficult to know where to start… or end. Provincial cities are scattered across this far-flung nation, with at least one major city stop-off for each of Thailand's 76 provinces. Many of these can provide enough interesting places to visit to keep you engrossed for several days - or weeks. In the north-west, we are talking about Chiang Mai, the bustling and historic northern city and former capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. While the central region gives us Sukhothai, the centre of the vast Khmer empire with its magnificent historical park, full of antiquities that rivals Angkor Wat; Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital with so many ruins and temples dating back to past dynasties and Burmese occupations; Lopburi, with its troops of monkeys walking the streets; Nakhon Pathom, Thailand's oldest city which is the site of the tallest Buddhist stupa in the world. And that's only five… still 71 to go! In Thailand, you are never far away from a local festival, as every province promotes its own festivals and special events, many that are distinctive for their little corners of Thailand, such as buffalo racing, rocket festivals, kite flying, Loy Krathong and flower festivals. We have yet to mention Thailand's capital – the massive, frenetic city of Bangkok which is home to 6.4 million Thais. Bangkok is a city of fascinating heterogeneous skyscrapers; impressive historical buildings; canals that criss-cross the city that support floating markets and long tail boats for local transport; air-con sky trains and modern subway systems; world-class hi-tech shopping malls; infamous red-light districts; street markets; thousands of street food stalls, eateries, and upmarket restaurants; and of course, the backpackers mecca of Khao San Road. And then there is the Thai food, which in itself is a good enough reason to visit this fascinating country. World famous for its variety of culinary delights, Thai food can be as cheap and easy to cook as a bowl of fried noodles for 25B, or as complex and expensive as a multi-course culinary delight for 4000B, served by a top chef in a 5-star hotel. Your taste of paradise awaits!