Having spent several years in Thailand, I can certainly see the attractions for visitors to this tropical kingdom. People come to visit for many reasons and go home with great memories and souvenirs of their trips. The following ten reasons are among the most popular from a Western perspective so won't apply to everyone, depending on where they live and on their personal interests.
Sunshine is guaranteed. In the cool dry season, from November to February, you're unlikely to see a drop of rain at all. It's also called the cool season because the temperatures drop from the high nineties of the hot and rainy seasons to the low to mid 80s - or what most of us in western countries would consider perfect summer temperatures. Even in the rainy season, there are still lots of dry and sunny days to enjoy. It doesn't rain every day, and often the rain showers last only an hour or so before the sun comes back and quickly dries up every trace of the recent rain.
Cheap and Cheerful
Not everything, but a lot of things are considerably cheaper than in western countries or highly developed eastern countries such as Japan and South Korea. Dining, travel and accommodation are much cheaper. Restaurants are everywhere and prices are very reasonable. Long distance bus and train tickets can take you all over Thailand for a fraction of what you'd pay in Western countries. Taxis are also a lot cheaper for getting around locally. Accommodation is cheap, too. For around $20 per day, you can have a comfortable air-conditioned room in a guest house or budget hotel with fridge, wifi, cable TV and bathroom with hot shower. For the extremely budget-conscious backpacker, even $5 can get you a small room with a bed and fan.
Islands and Beaches
The islands around Thailand's coasts are a major attraction. Sun-drenched, safe, sandy beaches and warm tropical seas make a very appealing combination. Some islands have a lot going on with all sorts of exciting watersports and a nightlife to match. Others are remote, quiet and natural. Tuition is available for various activities such as scuba diving.
Thailand's reputation for a vibrant nightlife is well known. There are late night bars with live music ranging from reggae to hard rock. For those, whether male or female, straight or otherwise, who are attracted by the lure of more erotic entertainment, there's no shortage of that either, especially in places such as the seaside town of Pattaya or Patpong in Bangkok.
Thailand is blessed with some great natural attractions. Apart from the sunshine and white sandy beaches, there are fantastic limestone rock formations, thickly forested mountains, waterfalls, caves, wildlife and 'interesting' plants. National parks such as Khao Yai and Doi Inthanon (containing Thailand's highest mountain at 8,000 feet) are worth spending time in. Organised treks with knowledgeable guides are a good way to see nature up close and to know what you're seeing.
If you like Thai food, where better to find it at its most authentic but in Thailand. Fresh and tasty and as spicy as you like, there's a huge variety of Thai dishes with regional varieties available for connoisseurs. You can also take a short Thai cookery course in some guest houses that offer it. If you don't like Thai food or need a break from it, there's a huge variety of foreign food in all the tourist resorts and major cities, including: Indian, Mexican, European, Chinese, McDonalds, Pizza, etc., and a bewildering array of succulent, tropical fruit is always available
Like every country, Thailand has its fair share of crime, but you're far less likely to be mugged or be the victim of random violence when walking around alone after dark than in London, Los Angeles, Paris or countless other places. Thailand's type of tourist-related crime is mostly by stealth and deception. Look after your belongings and don't believe any smooth-talking stranger telling you that you can buy gemstones and sell them back home for a handsome 200% profit. There are English speaking 'tourist police' who can help you if you need it. Tropical diseases can be prevented by having inoculations before you leave home.
Thailand has a very rich and ancient culture, closely tied with Buddhism, the predominant religion. There are many festivals celebrating Thai culture throughout the year. There's the traditional Thai new year in April, which is best known to visitors as the crazy water-throwing festival. Thai dancing displays and Thai boxing (Muay Thai) are commonly staged events throughout the year in cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There's also the colourful non-Thai cultures of the hill tribe people who live in mountain villages in the north of the country. These tribes, such as Akha, Hmong, Lahu. Lisu, Karen and others have migrated to Thailand from China over the centuries and brought their own cultures and languages. Organised treks in mountain areas usually include overnight visits
to one or two hill tribe villages.
On the whole, Thais are genuinely friendly, welcoming and helpful. Of course, there are those who are extra pleasant for the purpose of making a sale, but that's to be expected in every country. English is widely spoken everywhere that tourists go, so language isn't usually a problem.
Geographically, Thailand has four adjoining neighbouring countries: Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar - and you can visit any of those fascinating countries quite easily for a couple of days or longer. If you're going to travel half way across the world to visit Thailand, this is your chance to squeeze in a few more countries. Some require visas, but those are easily arranged by travel agents in Thailand or obtainable at the point of entry. The travel agents can also arrange transport to those countries' borders by private (tourist) bus or minibus, or by public bus if you want to go it alone. Just remember that your Thai visa will expire when you leave unless you request a re-entry permit at any Thai Immigration office or major airport. Alternatively, you could apply for a new Thai tourist visa from any Thai consulate or embassy in the country you're visiting.
Thailand and neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia.
If those ten reasons aren't enough for you, I'm sure you can find plenty more if you look for them. Whatever your reasons for visiting Thailand, you can expect to have a fantastic time and for those who think it will be a 'once in a lifetime' trip - don't bet on it. You'll probably be back again... and again. It's that kind of place.