Thailand has become Asia's primary holiday destination and is a useful and popular first stop on any overland journey through Southeast Asia. The influx of tourist cash has played a significant part in the country's recent development, yet Thailand's cultural integrity remains largely undamaged. Tiered temple rooftops and saffron-robed monks dominate every vista, and, though some cities and beach resorts are characterized by high-rises and neon lights, the typical Thai community is the traditional farming village. Most journeys start in Bangkok. Thailand's huge, noisy, polluted capital has fascinating temples to visit. Popular side-trips from the city take in the raft houses of Kanchanaburi, the infamous site of the Bridge over the River Kwai and the ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. You can visit interesting hilltribes in the vicinity of Chiang Mai, in the northern highlands around Mae Hong Son and along the Mekong River in Thailand's northeast. There you also will find two fine ancient Khmer ruins at Phimai and Phanom Rung, and the country's most popular national park, Khao Yai. Thailand's eastern and southern coasts are lined with gorgeous white-sand shores, aquamarine seas and kaleidoscopic reefs. The most popular of these resorts are the Gulf Coast islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan & Ko Tao, and the Andaman coast idylls of Laem Phra Nang, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta & Ko Tarutao and the southern island of Phuket.
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