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With its many strong attributes readily apparent, exotic Thailand has remained a top choice amongst holidaymakers worldwide. Frequently winning awards from travel agencies and international surveys, the Land of Smiles and its broad variety of accommodation and activities has something for everyone. While the first image that comes to mind may be simple guesthouses and humble bungalows on the beach, there is a large and growing luxury segment of the market as well, with state of the art private villas and opulent hotels aplenty.
For the adventurous, Thailand is a true paradise. Activities such as exploring the many islands or going on jungle treks appeal greatly to some, but those less keen might find Thailand’s cultural highlights tough to top. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is truly awe-inspiring, and Thailand’s famed ancient temples are plentiful and moving. For those interested in the culture, a visit during one of Thailand’s many festivals and holidays might be the best way to truly see the culture first hand. As a Buddhist nation, many of Thailand’s cultural holidays are religious in nature, although some are historic moments as well, such as birthdays of previous kings. Whatever the reason for the holiday, they are uniformly celebrated with great vigour and excitement.
Songkran is perhaps the most famous of Thai holidays, and is celebrated in April each year. It is for the Thai New Year, and the party reaches every corner of every province. The celebration is famous for the pouring water and placing powder on the faces of participants (though it must be noted that if you are present you are assumed to be a participant!). A visitor in 21st century Thailand will hear music blaring from pick-up trucks as Thais and foreigners young and old drive around, armed with squirt guns and buckets of water. The tradition behind this comes from the older practice of washing Buddha figures at the start of the New Year, and then pouring the washing water onto one another as a gesture of respect. It has now evolved into the fast paced and animated scene seen today. April is the peak of the hottest days in Thailand, and getting soaked by cool water is a great way to beat the heat.
In addition to Songkran, its less famous cousin Loy Kratong is an equally inspiring time to visit. Every November, friends and family members get together to float Kratongs, floats made out of banana leafs and other items, and filled with flowers, incense sticks, sweets and sometimes even money. These are then sent down a body of water, to send away bad luck. This takes place in the evening and night, and is accompanied with impressive firework displays and plenty of food and drink. While traditional festivals are no doubt captivating, the absolute variety of activities on offer means there is always something for everyone in Thailand. Over 15 million tourists came in 2010, and many more are sure to follow in the years to come.